—Interview by Bianca Betancourt @ByBiancaBee
We don’t settle for bad movies, so why settle for bad porn?
With the endless inspiration that the internet and its avid users provides, no one needs to suffer watching ill inspired and plotless porn anymore. The growing emergence of “lady porn” or essentially, adult cinema not shot through a solely male point of view, has grown popular with young women for it’s cheeky stories, realistic depictions of sex and gorgeous cinematography. One of the people who has created the ultimate collection of porn for women is director, Erika Lust.
Inspired by the ultimate erotic fantasies that her fans write and submit via her website, Lust has created adult films that have not only focused on inclusivity, diversity and consent, but have single handedly changed how success is achieved in the adult film market. Instead of women viewing films and seeing actresses that have unattainable bodies and being objectified, women in Erika Lust films are celebrated for their imperfections and differences that are not only relatable, but beautiful.
We spoke with Erika herself to discuss her start in adult filmmaking, what inspires her, and what young people need to know about sex.
BB : We know you started creating adult films because you saw a lack of representation in pornographic cinema from the female perspective (and that weren’t just downright offensive). Did you always want to venture into adult filmmaking? How did you become the Erika Lust that we know?
EL : Not always. I was studying Political Science and wanted to work in the U.N... But then I moved to Barcelona and started a career in audiovisual... I knew that I wanted to work with films, but I didn't know what kind.
When I was at university, I started thinking more seriously about the discourse of pornography. I disagreed with the mainstream industry's films but I had nothing against watching sex on film per se. All mainstream porn I had seen was just not for me. So much was missing: the female perspective, context, narrative, cinematography, nice lighting and the sense that you're seeing real pleasure.
So instead of just complaining, I decided to make the films I wanted to see myself. Films that fuse explicit sex with cinematic storytelling and really show the beauty and joy of human sexuality. And I've been making adult cinema for over ten years now. Time flies when you're having fun, as they say!
BB : What makes a story compelling enough to be turned into an XConfession? What do you look for when seeking inspiration for your next film?
EL : What I look for is spark, something interesting that makes you feel a connection, the excitement of the erotic story. I like to be surprised, to go "I never thought of that!"—but it's also great to be able to relate to something, when someone writes something that makes you go "that's exactly how it is!"
So it doesn't have to be anything crazy for me to pick it. And it doesn't have to be written perfectly. It's not a short story competition, but a collection of very different fantasies. The films are extremely varied in terms of content and setting. I wish I could shoot more of the confessions into films, but two short films a month is a very heavy production output as it is so there's just no time for more.
BB : A lot of women first experience watching porn later than men do. Were you always comfortable with the concept of adult film and erotic material? If not, how did you grow accustomed?
EL : Like most young people, I was very curious about sex. Me and my girlfriends found a VHS tape with porn and we decided to watch it. Of course we were excited, we were giggling like crazy and couldn't wait to unveil the great mystery of sex. But then when we pressed play, it wasn't long until I felt uncomfortable because the scenario was the typical mainstream film aimed towards men. The woman was just being used as a sex doll, and she was screaming unconvincingly in fake pleasure... Of course I felt aroused as well—I think most people who watch people have sex have that carnal reaction. But mainly I felt cheated... so I have not always felt comfortable with adult material. It's the opposite. It was my unease with the genre that led me to make my own films. I wanted to make erotic films that wouldn't leave that feeling of unease. I wanted something that left a positive feeling!
BB : What were the initial reactions from people who viewed your films when you first got started? How did you handle critique when you were shaking up a largely unchanged industry?
EL : The reactions were mixed for sure! Of course, as a woman doing something like this, you will get shrieks of horror and some will think you're a crazy pervert, haha! But that didn't bother me much—I was very aware of the perceptions about women speaking their minds and being creatively in charge with sexual themes. So those reactions were to be expected. Part of the package so to speak.
The positive feedback was what mattered the most. Before I had released my first film The Good Girl, that was when I was nervous. I was wondering if there really was a market for what I was doing. But then after the release, it had millions of views online, people really connected with it and sent me such nice emails telling me they had longed for a film like that. So having that support made all the difference. Because of that positive feedback, I knew there were lots of people, both women and men, who felt like I did. That it was time for modern adult films to take the stage.
BB : Do you think the taboo of porn and adult cinema has dissolved over the years? What comes next for the genre?
EL : Yes, I definitely think there's a shift. Young people today, and women especially, are not scared to talk about porn. What they don't like and like about it for instance. Like Vex Ashley of A Four Chambered Heart, she's amazing! And A New Level of Pornography from Sweden, they're two eloquent young women making adult films, knowing exactly what they want to do and how they want to subvert the mainstream industry.
The mainstream porn stigma I think is harder to budge because people are aware about a lot of the questionable values that go into them. So it's more shameful. But I think it's important people can talk openly about mainstream porn too. Regarding the future for the genre, there's virtual reality coming, but I think that the more important shift is that the content has to be more sex positive and inclusive with female pleasure.
BB : If there’s one thing that young people should understand about sex, what should it be?
EL : Oooh, I don't know if I could say just one thing! Young people deserve to understand loads of things about sex. I think children should have the right to a thorough sex education through school, one that touches on many themes, like self-esteem, sexuality, consent and critical discussions of sexual representations in culture including porn. Where there is good sex ed, there are young people who are healthy, happy and make informed choices about their bodies.
—see more from Erika Lust and her films on her website.