The female orgasm isn't regularly depicted in films or on TV but when it is, the woman either seems to be having slightly too much of a good time (Meg Ryan-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally style), or seems to be performing solely for the male gaze and not truly enjoying herself. But the reality of female climax is – shock horror – far more diverse.
Now, photographer Marcos Alberti has tried to set the record straight with The O Project, a photo series depicting the moments before, during and after 20 women's orgasms. Alberti was the man behind the charming and highly relatable 3 Glasses Later, a series of photos of people looking increasingly tipsy after a few glasses of wine.
The aim of his new project, the Brazilian photographer said, was to "break down barriers" around female sexuality and encourage more of us to talk about it. The series features more than 20 women and is admirably diverse, including a range of ages, ethnicities and nationalities, from sexually liberal countries like France and the USA to more stereotypically traditional societies such as China and Singapore.
Alberti also wanted to make up for the way the female orgasm is usually portrayed in culture. "On television, actresses are usually trying to look good all the time for the camera in an unrealistic way and when we look to internet, porn in particular, it's very fake. The sexual positions, expressions, the bodies with a lot of make up... this is unreal," he told Refinery29 UK.
"Women feel pressured to achieve what they see on these channels and they're looking for something that doesn't exist," Alberti continued. "I want that this project to open a discussion about freedom and female sexuality. Women shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies and shouldn't be pursuing something that's unreal."
The O Project was created in collaboration with women's sex toy brand Smile Makers, which helped to recruit the women by posting a callout on its Facebook page. The brand's vibrators were used to bring the women to orgasm. Like Alberti, the company also wants to normalise female sexuality and encourage women to celebrate their desire, which is so often "shrouded in shame and secrecy".
One of the women who took part, Camille, said the project's message was "to let every woman know their sexuality is not a taboo and that enjoying a full sexual life is a good start. Women should not be afraid about taking pleasure. It can bring happiness, well being, it’s an important part of everyone’s life," reported HuffPost UK.
“I’m happy I did it, because it was quite a challenge for me, and I feel myself more entitled to explore my own sexuality,” she added.
The O Project shares some parallels with Hysterical Literature, a video series which debuted in 2012 and shows women reading passages from books while an unseen assistant brings them to orgasm beneath the table.