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The Fresh Face of Porn: The Erika Lust InterviewArticle by: Veronica Baesso

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ErikaLust

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Erika Lust, an award-winning Writer and Erotic Film Director, who has revolutionised the porn industry.  She is a pioneer in feminist pornography and I love her fresh take on eroticism. If mainstream porn is not your thing, you should definitely check her out!

Can you tell us about your background?

I’m a Swedish filmmaker, born in Stockholm in 1977. After graduating from Lund University with a degree in Political Science and a focus on Feminism, I moved to Barcelona. I made my first short erotic film, The Good Girl, in 2004 and founded my own production company, Erika Lust Films, two years later. My four award-winning, explicit feature films are known for their intimacy and aesthetic, as part of my humanistic approach to sexual imagery. I’ve also written four books both fiction and non-fiction. Part of my production company also includes an erotic boutique, and an online cinema, where I’ve gathered the very best in indie adult film for streaming.                      

How did you get started in pornography?

This is kind of a long story, so I’ll pare it down! While in university at Lund, I was inspired by the works of Linda Williams and the idea that porn could be empowering to women’s sexual liberation. But the porn I’d seen up to that point didn’t really fit the theory, so though I still believed in the value of it, this dichotomy really bothered me. After graduating and moving to Barcelona, I started working in production houses, and got the practical knowledge of how to make a film. So I began taking directing classes and considering making the kind of erotic film I’d never seen before, but always wanted. When my first film, The Good Girl, was downloaded over a million times, I began to consider a career in the adult industry more seriously.

Given that porn is everywhere and so widespread why is it still a taboo?

I think the root of this conflict is that sexuality as a whole is still kind of taboo. There is still this pervasive puritanical attitude that deems a lot of what we do in our private lives as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. And this doesn’t really encourage honest conversation, though I think it’s desperately needed in this day and age – not just for societal perception, but for health education, and especially for porn education. And people really DO need to be educated about porn, especially since the consumption of it is at an all-time high. The simplest example of this is when you know a couple who’ve been together for a decade: both partners share an incredible level of intimacy, one or both watch porn, and yet can’t seem to share this with each other for fear of judgement. I can’t tell you how many times I come across couples who blanche when I suggest they watch some together, and I think this really reflects their own issues with sexuality and the horrible idea that even your most intimate relations would think any differently about you for this. Open, honest, candid communication is the only remedy I foresee for this problem … and it’s actually something I’m addressing in my upcoming film.

How do you differ from the typical mainstream male dominated porn?

Where to start? I guess with the visuals, which is the most readily apparent. As part of my commitment to production values, I use high-quality equipment (HD nowadays), put months of effort into locations and casting, and then pick a wide variety of performers. Lighting and music are also extremely important. There’s no excuse for production values to be bad just because the film features explicit sex. And then of course there is my identity as a director, and the philosophy behind my work. I am a feminist filmmaker who wants to show all of the beauty, fun, passion and intimacy of sex. I want to excite both people’s minds and bodies: inspire them to realize and pursue their own pleasures. I firmly believe that I DO NOT have a duty to represent women’s sexuality as a whole, but only my own, which hopefully adds more to the industry. Because if more people were doing that, instead of just trying to recreate the popular (and often misguided) perception of sexuality, there might actually be a chance to change porn so that it DOES represent the kind of sex people have. So I guess the main way I’m different from mainstream porn is that I’m actually trying to change it, not just recycling the same boring, stilted images.

What does feminist porn look like? Do women filmmaker shoot porn differently?

It’s not necessary that feminist porn looks different, but there will certainly be a different feel. Normally, the first thing people notice about the genre is that it employs a wide variation of performers, whereas mainstream is decidedly homogenous in that realm. In fact, there is a pretty great amount of variety in every sense in the genre, I think because there is no single female fantasy or perspective on sex. What DOES exist in every film though, is the commitment to showing female fantasy, desire and pleasure, whatever their forms may be. An example of a feminist production that may not at first appear any different from mainstream or male-oriented porn might be one depicting rough sex. The woman’s hair is being pulled, perhaps she is bound, perhaps in turn a woman is practicing domination and hurling insults at her lover. The actions might be the same as some mainstream films, especially here on paper, but the visualizations are wildly different. You can actually see the excitement these things brings to the women in a feminist production, you can see her desire escalating, understand her satisfaction even if you would never be interested in these actions yourself. Her sexuality is palpable, whereas in a mainstream film you rarely see it at all.

What are the most common misconceptions in the porn industry?

Well the one I face frequently is this idea that my office is just a perpetual porn set, with naked and fornicating performers running around 24/7. Sorry people, it’s actually a professional place of work in an office building. Another misconception which isn’t really aimed at me would be the stereotype of the tragic adult performer: doing things they don’t want to do for money they have no other way of attaining, possibly due to a drug habit or childhood issues. This is something that makes me, and obviously the performers, really annoyed. I think the stereotype just serves to alienate the viewers from the performers, who can then remain objects. Anyway, the people I work with are incredibly bright, talented, charming and funny – and are truly remarkable in their love and appreciation of sexuality. They are more secure with themselves and their desires and bodies than I could ever aspire to be, regardless of their looks and preferences, and when this is transmitted in the film, I hope it inspires people to be the same.

What do you think is missing in the porn industry and how do you want to fill those gaps?

I think porn today lacks a message. I think most internet porn is the essence of pornography in it’s most basic sense (that it seeks to arouse the viewer), but its purpose starts and ends there. It’s like the fast food of sexuality, built for (primarily male) masturbation, shut off as soon as the person has finished cumming. And, like fast food, sometimes there are bad feelings after the consumption, which in turn could be why no one wants to talk about their habits and fantasies and masturbation! At this point, the majority of imagery in porn is so far removed from a true human experience, that this lack of a message leaves confusion and shame and generally bad feelings in its wake. The modern woman in me has experienced this, and the political science student in me can’t stop looking at things critically, so maybe not everyone feels this way. But I want to make movies that show all the important parts of sexuality: the fantasies, the arousal, the exploration, the thrill and the satisfaction. This means developing stories and characters, making settings and situations real. I want to make the kind of films that leave people feeling better after watching them – the slow food movement of porn. I love it when people tell me that they were inspired by my films, or that they gave one to their friend, or watched it with their lover, because it tells me that my films can make some kind of impact on sexuality on a personal level and maybe even greater. And that is something that mainstream porn does not inspire.

You are a porn filmmaker and also an erotic writer, what is the difference in your creative process between exhibiting sex and writing about sex?

In essence, both my films and my novel represent my own sexuality. So the creative processes in both cases is really about just taking the time and introspection to explore my memories, fantasies, and those of my close friends. However, the actual physical process of crafting a film versus book is like night and day. It’s really difficult to shoot sex, and to shoot it well! Obviously, since there’s so much bad porn out there. The perfectionist in me has a hard time with this aspect of filmmaking, because you have to mediate between your vision of what it’s supposed to look like, and the reality of the subject matter. Both in real life and on set, sex isn’t really predictable, and shouldn’t be if it’s natural and passionate. So even though I’m always convinced the end product is beautiful, it is a struggle to walk that line. But when writing La Cancion de Nora, I didn’t have to! It was so different and really introspective and challenging in it’s own way, just me and my vision and the words. The creative and imaginative process simply lies between your brain and the paper. The only person I had to manage was myself, and my editor did a lot of that anyway. So in short, it was very refreshing and very rewarding, since I’ve wanted to write a novel ever since I was little!

What should we look for from you in the future?

Now that I have an erotic novel published, I’m ready to jump back into film. My upcoming production, called X-Confessions, will be released towards the end of this year. It’s all about opening up a dialog about, fully exploring, and hopefully enacting, your sexual fantasies. I think it’s the right time for a film like this, encouraging people to embrace these aspects of their sexuality, especially those aspects that feel taboo. What’s unique is that the project really involves my fans and followers, who submit their own confessions and who participated in the open casting call.  

 

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