Erika Lust: ten years of making films, not porn

// 21 September 2015

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Renowned Swedish erotic director Erika Lust is bringing her latest project XConfessions to the 23rd Annual Raindance Film Festival in London. Erika shares her professional journey with The F-Word in a guest post below

In Sweden in the 1990s, despite a strong culture of sexual liberalism and feminism, the issue of porn was a dividing one. When studying political sciences at the University of Lund, I picked up Linda Williams’ book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and “The Frenzy of the Visible” (1999) and understood that pornography had the power to sexually liberate, inspire and educate. However, there was one problem: only men were telling their stories in porn. Women had no voice. They were just the pleasure dolls of men, ready to get down on their knees, look pretty and give pleasure, with no thought to their own. I couldn’t relate to them, women couldn’t relate to this. It was time to make a change.

Cut to Barcelona 2005 and my final project for a course in film direction. The idea was clear: let’s make a porno, but where the woman is in charge and wants to be pleased! The Good Girl was a hilarious twist on the typical Pizza-Guy-porn and it was a hit. When the short gained over two million downloads in a few months and grabbed an award at the International Erotic Film Festival in Barcelona, I realised there was an appetite for sexually intelligent cinematic erotica. I found something worth investing my creativity, time and money in: creating erotica for women and by women, using our pleasures, desires and sexuality to give us a voice in a male-dominated industry.

Erika Lust

I also wanted to get more women into porn in leadership roles as directors, producers, screenwriters… And so Lust Films was born, a production company where creativity, pleasure and innovation were the key. Along with my almost all-female production team, I am pushing the boundaries of female-led erotic filmmaking, with the production process firmly based in diversity and feminist values.

The journey wasn’t easy. First there was the hostility from my male counterparts who said I was wasting my time making porn for women as (of course!) they were already doing it. Then there were feminists who said all porn is abusive to women and is always part of the male gaze. Then there were the banks that wouldn’t accept my business because they saw it as something dirty, shameful and not worth investing in. And of course my mum, who didn’t understand why I wanted to ruin my life with this career choice.

I used all of this as a fuel to keep me going and I went on to shoot Five Hot Stories For Her (2007), followed by four more features and two shorts. After they won awards and got extensive media coverage, to keep my theoretical point of view in check I wrote Good Porn: A woman’s guide (2008) and Let’s Make a Porno: A Practical Guide to Filming Sex (2013), so others could learn how feminism, liberation and porn can work in harmony. Last year I expressed my ideas in front of a live audience at TEDxVienna, kickstarting the #changeporn campaign with my talk ‘It’s Time For Porn to Change’.

Ten years of Lust and the XConfessions.com project is in full swing, with 50 shorts under its belt, crowdsourced from sexual confessions from my fans I receive every day. XConfessions strives to offer an alternative to the repetitive narratives in adult film, proving that feminist erotica can be just as dirty as the mainstream in its content. However, we treat all performers with respect and honesty. They are consenting adults who like their job, love sex and believe in the ethos and values of the company. The resulting stories combine professionally produced cinematic shorts with a strong narrative of desires of sexually independent and confident individuals, within realistic settings.

Diversity is key when choosing the confessions, locations and the performers. In the casting process we try to find people who embody the stories we want to create, who share our ethos and goals, the opposite of the porn stereotype. This is very difficult, mainly as most professional adult actors are paid better if they have a certain body (women with breast implants or men with big muscles, for example). With each new film, we are trying to diversify our pool of performers, with the end goal to represent as many different types of bodies, sexualities and genders as possible.

Sex is one of the most natural and carnal aspects of life. Why not explore and liberate it and show that what we do as feminist erotic filmmakers are films not porn?

You can still get tickets for the Raindance event at the VUE Cinema Piccadilly on 24 September 9.15pm. The evening will feature the talk CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION IN EROTIC CINEMA by Erika Lust and a screening of an exclusive Director’s Cut of the best short films from XConfessions.com, followed by a Q&A.

The picture of Erika Lust courtesy of herself.
It shows a white woman with long brownish hair in a pony tail, looking into a film camera, as if adjusting it for a shoot.

Comments From You

Hillary // Posted 10 January 2016 at 7:29 am

I feel like today being for porn is considered “feminist.” How did being for porn become feminist? The early feminist voices of the 70’s were anti-porn: Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin, etc. Today that’s a rarity. Why is that??

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