After Erika Lust directed her first porn movie in 2004 she realised that there was room for a different kind of porn. Titled The Good Girl, it was the final project of a directing course she was enrolled on. Just a few days after having uploaded it onto her website, two million people had downloaded it. With her own means and based on her own ideals, Lust decided to found an independent production company. Fifteen years on, she has become a major reference in the adult film industry.
Her movies have an aesthetic element and portray sexual encounters in a much more realistic light than mainstream porn usually does. The relationships between the characters are respectful and non-violent, established on desire and mutual pleasure. “Because porn is how we connect with each other sexually and the roles we play,” said Lust.
Viewed as an outsider making independent movies, Lust had to face a backlash from the adult industry, which was not so welcoming at the beginning. “The typical porn studs were quite aggressive and called me ‘feminazi’,” she told Speak Up.
But despite this initial reaction, Erika Lust has proved that she can make our hottest dreams come true. Her main project – begun in 2014 – is called XConfessions. It consists in a web series based on real people’s fantasies and adventures. Among thousands of anonymous stories she receives regularly, she picks the most interesting ones and then shoots them.
She has also created an XConfessions app, a game designed to play either solo or with a partner that helps players discover what turns them – and their partner – on, and spice up their sex life.
While studying political science and gender studies, Lust watched porn for the first time and felt an uncomfortable pleasure. She later concluded that this was something quite common among women.
Erika Lust (Swedish accent): It all started when I was kind of young. And I had this typical boyfriend, he wanted to watch porn, we did ... and I did get turned on by watching these sexual images, but at the same time I never really liked what I was watching. There was this huge discrepancy between how I felt and how my body reacted. And I guess that back then I had just started my education at university, I was studying political science. And I was trying to figure out, you know, the world and myself and my own sexuality. And when I started to watch this genre called ‘porn’, and I started to talk to other people about it, it became quite clear to me that most women had the same feeling that I had. That something was not clicking [a] hundred per cent for them.
A MEN’S WORLD
While most mainstream porn offers the archetypal, sexist image of a large-breasted blonde secretary or housewife longing for a passive male figure, who is comfortably sitting on a couch, Erika Lust aims for something different.
Erika Lust: Then I started to investigate and it became very clear to me that this whole genre was basically made by men. There were so few women actually making it, producing it, directing it, active behind the cameras. Then it’s kind of obvious that, if the ones who are making it are all men, then they are going to show us their vision of sexuality.
Erika strives to convey her principles in her movies. Her ethical and feminist porn is based on authenticity and diversity.
Erika Lust: The core value[s] is that pleasure matters, that female pleasure matters. That sex should be about fun, having, you know, a wonderful time together. That it’s a wonderful way of connecting with other human beings. And then the core value[s] has to do with how we actually portray women and men also, how we portrayed people in our films. For me, it’s important to portray people as authentic people. Showing people from different ethnicities, people with different body types, different ages. But more than that, maybe, showing people behaving in a realistic sexual way.
Even though her movies focus on women’s pleasure, Erika Lust believes they are for everybody. Actually, according to her website statistics, sixty per cent of the people who subscribe to her website are men.
Erika Lust: My movies are absolutely for everyone. I think that when I started to make them, I had very much this idea that they were for women somehow, but then I realised during all these years that it’s just the female perspective behind the camera that I am really adding. And I definitely think that a lot of men can learn lots of things about women and about our sexuality if they watch this kind of indie adult cinema instead of, you know, online cheap porn.
NEED FOR A CHANGE
In a 2014 TED Talk, Erika Lust claimed that porn had to change. We asked her if it has improved since she’s been in the business.
Erika Lust: I think that porn is changing little by little. I think that what we are experiencing at this moment, especially the indie genre that is starting to grow a few years ago, there was almost none of it and today I see new directors, new production companies, new film festivals, many more films coming up all the time. So, I see a huge interest out there from people who want to get involved and who are starting to dare to take on this film genre.
A mother of two young daughters, Lust is aware of the importance of sex education and the need to show more realistic and authentic sex. Together with her husband, she has also created The Porn Conversations, a non-profit website to give advice to parents on how to talk about sex to their kids and educate the younger generations.
Erika Lust: Porn has become one third of the internet, it’s out there, it’s very present. It was never meant to be sex education, but it has become sex education, whether we want it or not. In most countries, sex education is just not good enough, just not good enough. They don’t talk to our kids about the things our kids want to learn about, to know. So, what happens is that the kids turn to the internet, of course, because they want to know what it looks like when people have sex. And then they find this chauvinistic porn that’s out there, that’s most of the porn that’s out there, that is not only chauvinistic but also many times racist.