Fruit, by itself, is not all that provocative. But when someone like Stephanie Sarley decides to sexualize fruit as an artistic expression, it becomes controversial. There’s absolutely no doubt the art of Stephanie Sarley is erotic. Her 12-second art videos with fruit being gingerly finger fucked are mesmerizing. It’s worth watching strawberries, melons, kiwi, oranges, limes and lemons being milked of their delectable juices.
Sarley ‘s inspiration for producing erotic fruit art videos came after buying blood oranges. She felt a sudden desire to stick her fingers deep inside the oranges to explore the juicy pulp between the crevices. On a whim, and with the help of her boyfriend, she filmed the first Blood Orange episode and posted it to Instagram. And bam! The visceral imagery of hands manipulating fruit went viral.
Hailed as a “genius” by New York Magazine, Sarley’s Instagram following skyrocketed. Within weeks, she went from a handful of followers to well over 150,000 fans. The audiences love for Sarley’s work eventually made “Blood Orange” the most-liked visual art piece on social media. It even caught the attention of Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. Riding high on the success, Sarley released more her forbidden fruits.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for copycats to post their own cheap versions of fruit sex. Incensed, Sarley started filing copyright infringement grievances with Instagram. And this is where the story gets weird.
As Sarley’s social media stardom began rising so did the angst. Not only were people stealing, but hateful internet trolls were leaving reprehensible comments and threats. The haters, on a daily basis, inundated Instagram with complaints that Sarley’s work violates community standards and was entirely too sexually suggestive.
Her clips continue receiving plenty of positive attention. But there is a bizarre twist to this tale. It’s how overwhelming social censorship can lead platforms like Instagram to shut down accounts like Stephanie Sarley. Go figure!
Visual artists have a difficult time protecting their copyright, especially if the work is on social media. Anyone can blatantly steal, copy and post a similar version of the work and take credit. That’s partly because platforms like Instagram and Facebook have some really messed up terms when it comes to posting content. It’s not so much about protecting the artist but about protecting their own interests.
The Juice is Worth the Squeeze
There is something personal, sensual and extremely intimate about Sarley’s artistic expression. Yes, seeing strawberries, lemons, papaya, and oranges in compromising situations may be jarring at first. But take the time and you will see how Sarley gently caresses and then extracts the juice within each piece.
It appears anchored within each of her clips is a message about female empowerment. Whether that’s her intention or not, these in-your-face clips resemble the delicate beauty of female genitalia. Maybe the subliminal message of treating women with nurturing fingers is what’s making the haters so angry.
However, it’s evident the internet trolls are not as in-tune with the deeper message she is presenting. Instead, they are focusing more on the literal and seeing her work as gross and offensive which makes them even more determined to have the work removed from the internet. They hide behind the curtain of anonymity and hatred while complaining instead of coming forward publically.
“Most of my online bullying I’ve noticed is done by young girls or women who think I’m disgusting, and publicly voice it to me. I’ve learned that censorship of art is just as much of a problem as ever before, and I’m glad my experience with Instagram and censorship can shed light on the topic.”
As I See It
Sarley’s approach in choosing fruit cleverly illustrates an important topic which our culture continues to avoid: female genitalia. Her experience with trolls highlights a significant problem within society. People still want to censor the vulva and vagina.
Perhaps her original idea of sticking fingers inside fruit wasn’t an accidental whim. It’s quite possible her subconscious impulse is meant to point out the way women are viewed and treated. Or perhaps it’s all just a funny social experiment.
One thing seems certain: Stephanie Sarley’s artwork is a call to action. It serves as a reminder to be kinder to ourselves and our bodies. That, as women, we are more than compartmentalized body parts meant for someone else’s pleasure or censorship. Through her art, Stephanie Sarley gives women permission to finger fuck their own beautiful fruit and let the creative juices flow.
“Vaginas are the center of life, yet considered an obscenity still by many. For centuries the phallic symbol of the penis has been comfortably displayed in all forms of art but not the vulva as much. It’s time for society to stop viewing women’s bodies as a threat, something to censor or exploit.”
Stephanie Sarley is a contemporary American artist. Her famous fruit fingering video series appearing on Instagram started in late 2015. In addition to her videography, she is an illustrator and painter. Recently she has been creating a series of flower-themed and talking vaginas known as “Orcunts” and “Crotch Monsters.” She is also the author of the adult coloring book Dick Dog and Friends, published in 2013 and distributed by Last Gasp.