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In general, I’m not especially forgiving of tacky composition in erotic imagery.

At first glance–with the young woman’s left index finger and genitals positioned dead center–my gut reaction is to scream BULLSHIT.

That I’m not only willing to give it a pass but to actively engage it has less to do with my profound preoccupation with the politics of depicting masturbation and more to do with the fact that unlike the claims by Gregory Crewdson about his own work– the above is a narrative image (albeit a crude one).

Note: the active workspace, school uniform and skin pricked with sweat. I think we all can remember a time when the heat makes focusing on work impossible and high on hormones, the ache of lust is more than one can endure; so in assumed privacy, one pushes aside various clothing blocking unfettered sensual touch–oh but what that twist in her knickers inside her left ankle doesn’t make me shiver– and sets off in search of release (however temporary).

Things run a little deeper than that though. The room in which this occurs is–in the Japanese style–open to a courtyard which not only contributes a lush and verdant green to the proceedings it also insinuates questions of public vs. private that perhaps not completely but at least tangentially implies a cast aside explanation of the ridiculous framing: someone of whom the young woman is unaware is watching her. (This does raise questions w/r/t consent–invariably experiences in life where we can watch others unbeknownst to them occur and how one responds speaks to personal integrity; however, this is too posed, the lighting orchestrated for me to believe the young woman is entirely unaware of her audience.

What the image does exceedingly well is presenting a carefully manicured fiction that invites suspension of disbelief. Two things I notice is that their is a picture of what appears to be a pop star pinned over her desk. You can’t see enough to determine who that pop star might be. In my mind–always hungry to fill in the blanks–it’s a female pop star on whom she has a crush.

Also, the picture in her hand is tilted at an angle that reduces the glare for the camera but not for the young woman. I’d like to think it’s a picture of her and a girlfriend and that the angle is explained by the fact that she’s already orgasmed–the beaded sweat on her legs (which almost certainly is water from a spray mister)–and is exploring the mostly sated, hyper-sensitive perhaps a little horny again already ecstatic afterglow body high that comes with being young, alive and tragically longing for life, as it were, to begin.

The thing this does best is to show that using the frame edges to decapitate a body for the sake for the sake of preserving anonymity is the worst thing you can do. There is almost always a way to preserve anonymity in such a fashion so as not to disembody the subject.

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