Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Friday, 5 February 2016

Erika Lust On What\\\\\\\'s Happening To Porn In 2016

Erika Lust On What's Happening To Porn In 2016

The Debrief: Big bushes, amateur porn and diversity are what Erika Lust says her audience wants from their porn

When you think of women in pornography you, normally, automatically, think of them in their roles in front of the camera, as performers. Erika Lust, a Swedish director, based in Barcelona, however, spends her time behind the camera.

Erika describes herself as a ‘sex-positive feminist’. The majority of staff on her films, made by her company Lust productions, are female; she says, when she started her career over a decade ago (with her first film The Good Girl, 2004), ‘female voices were practically nonexistent within the porn industry’ and she found it ‘outrageous’ that ‘the most important discourse on gender and sexuality’ was ‘in the hands of men…who were definitely total strangers to that exotic idea of women having the same rights as men.’

Erika studied political science at university and didn’t set out to get into porn, she says ‘but then…life kind of happened.’ She started as a runner, working on commercials for advertising agencies, ‘you know…driving cars, picking up actors from the airport those kind of things.’ And then she realized that she ‘liked the idea of working in audiovisual, in production, in filming and shooting so I started to take directing classes so I could make my own work and that was the moment where it all came together somehow.’

She was making a short film as the final piece of work for her directing course and, she says, ‘I just felt that I wanted to do something which had to do with sexuality and eroticism, I wanted to explore the limit between pornography and erotic story telling with a very strong female character as the main character.’

‘It was never intended to be a bigger project’ she says ‘but then, what happened to me was that I put it out on the internet and suddenly I had 2 million views. That was the eureka moment and I realised that people were interested – they were writing to me – I realized that I was not alone, in the feeling that pornography was very limited and that we could do something different.’

She says that her work is ‘necessary as an alternative. There are a lot of people who feel this sense of frustration and alienation when it comes to what pornography has become. If you go back to the 60s and 70s actually I feel that many of the directors who were active at that time were creators – who had an idea, who wanted to express it. But it turned into a moneymaking factory– it became about nothing more than bodies, positions, penetrations, fluids and money basically. It lost it’s soul.’

Normally, when we read about the Internet and pornography in the same sentence, it’s negative. We read about how the Internet has made extreme, often misogynistic material, easily available for young people. We hear about how bad pornography is for us, about how it’s had a negative impact on our relationships and our sex lives. And, of course, while there’s certainly cause for concern, do we overlook the positive role that pornography can play in our explorations of our bodies, sexualities and fantasies? Do we forget that the Internet has made feminist, sex-positive porn like Erika’s available too?

‘I could never have done what I have done without the Internet’, Erika says. ‘I think that the internet has been super great for all independent movements, because it has been an answer to the mainstream industries out there, whether it’s music, art or pornography. It’s a way for people who are like-minded to fine each other. It’s a distribution tool.’

We don’t speak about female fantasy often in society, although most of them have our own private fantasies in some shape or form. So how do women respond to Erika’s work, what sort of things do her viewers write in to XConfessions about?

The most popular categories on XConfessions are: group sex, infidelity (without your partner knowing or finding out) and men/women sharing their girlfriends/boyfriends with another person either involved or watching.

‘It’s always so difficult to talk about women’s taste as a whole idea because we are all obviously very different’ says Erika. However, she says, ‘there are a few things that many of us seem to appreciate, and that is to watch other women who feel real and are experiencing a moment of real pleasure, because you don’t get that so much in mainstream porn. It’s very plastic; women who are making men come. I think women are interested in stories, in other women’s stories: what turns them on, why are they attracted to that man or woman, they want to know more about the context to sex.’ Erika also notes that people really like to watch amateur films, made by real people, having real sex.

It’s stories, tales of fantasy and titillation that draw people in; Erika points out that it’s not only women who want to watch the more narrative-led, female-focused porn that she makes. ‘The modern men who want a different sort of porn are coming to me as well, and appreciating these kind of films too. They are sensitive to the fact that our films are ethically produced and that everyone involved feels good.’

What marks her films out from much of the readily-available mainstream porn out there is not only all of this but, also, the fact that many of the narratives for her films are effectively crowd sourced, hand-picked by Erika herself, from anonymous confessions and fantasies submitted by her fans and viewers to her website online. Her website header reads 'XConfessions, by you and Erika Lust'.



‘I do listen to my viewers’, she says, ‘they tell me what they want’. Something that’s been coming up a lot in submissions to XConfessions recently, she says, is female public hair. Apparently ‘the bush is back’.

‘It’s obvious to me that this is an audience who want diversity, people from different backgrounds, different colours, different bush styles…they’re into the feeling of more personality in what they watch.’

It’s actually a bit of a problem, Erika says ‘some actresses tell me they can’t grow their hair longer because they’ve already had laser treatment…’I’m already out of fashion’ they say!’

The general consensus that seems to be emerging, Erika says, is a desire for choice and variety, but, also exploration and fantasy. Fantasy is an important part of human nature, it starts when you’re a child and you fill in the gaps between your knowledge and experiences, and when you’re an adult it becomes an important way of coping with day to day life – we all day dream, think about our hopes and imagine our futures, it’s escapism. However, it's not only escapism but also, a way of thrashing out problems and exploring ideas that we come up against in our lives.

Erika says that her viewers want to see people of different sexualities, ‘we are starting to see sexuality as something more fluid in society. We are starting to understand that the small boxes that we were putting people into may not be so true.  It has more to do with the people that you meet and the feelings that they make you feel.’

She adds ‘it’s all about experiencing and getting to know yourself better. That’s really something that I get through XConfessions, people are very open minded to sexuality – even they identify with a certain sexuality they are interested to see and explore other ways of living. It might not be something you want to do in your real life but it can be a great experience to watch someone else, and help you to understand how they feel in that situation…it opens your mind.’

‘Sexually, we are really scared most of us. We might be all like ‘hahaha I know everything, I’m so cool’…but we are scared, scared that people will judge us, scared that we are being too much, too little or that we are not doing it right…all this makes sex a scary world somehow. So watching films with sexually explicit content where see people from different backgrounds being able to enjoy different kinds of situations means you might think ‘maybe I should try that!’

That, according to Erika, is the positive role that porn can play. It’s about ‘inspiration’, ‘diversity’ and ‘choice’. Erika says she's all about stories now, she's currently going through submissions and deciding what will work for her next shoot which is happening in March.

Erika will premiere the Directors cut of the best short films from Xconfessions in Berlin this week on the 10th and 12th February. Find out more here.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

5 Things That Will Happen In Porn In 2016

Periscope Porn Has Inevitable Arrived. But Is It Any Good?

How To Use Couples Sex Toys

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Tags: Sex, Porn