Kate Neilson talks with Feminist Pornographer Erika Lust about why porn and feminism aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
Feminist Pornographer, Erika Lust, creates pornography that extends beyond the bodacious, busty blonde and the oiled up muscle-man, into a cinematic experience that caters to the sexual desires of both men and women. Her work takes porn away from the dark, seedy corners of the internet and creates a sexual discourse within the public arena.
In her recent TED Talk, It's time for porn to change, she says porn itself isn't the problem- rather the way in which it's portrayed. She challenges the porn industry over its representation of women saying, “everywhere else the role of women is under debate, everywhere except for the porn industry.”
In a recent e-mail exchange, she discusses the importance of the role of women in revolutionising the pornography industry and why it’s important to get more women behind the camera.
“I work with an almost entire team of women who are hard-working, professional and creative in their approach to sex and portraying it through film. That way every film has sexual liberation and equality at it's roots,” Lust said.
“I live by the motto: The sex can stay dirty, but the values must be clean!”
At the University of Lund, Sweden, she studied a degree in Political Science and Gender Studies. Her boyfriend at the time, suggested they watch a porno. Lust recalls going in guns blazing, ready to re-live her first porn experience from a teenage sleepover. After watching she recounts, “The Feminist me felt cheated, the activist me felt mad, the sexual me felt aroused.” She pinpoints her interest in adult film making to this moment, the moment where she decided to bring pornography back down to earth and create films that didn’t just cater to her boyfriend’s desires.
Lust clarifies that she has nothing against the male point of view, but her purpose isn’t to create just another ‘female friendly’ category on Porn Hub; she wants to revolutionise the way in which we view sex. It’s about two people (or more if you’re into that kind of thing) engaging in sexual activity for pleasure. It shouldn't matter whether they are male or female, the experience should be equally shared.
Sex educator Carlin Ross says that the reason that some women don’t enjoy porn is because “taken as a whole, the sex acts depicted are the sex acts that bring men to orgasm, not women”. So for some people, it may be surprising that statisitcs show women are actually quite interested in the world of porn. In fact, according to Nielsen ratings, one in three adults who visit porn sites identify as female.
Erika believes that in order to create a new wave of adult cinema, more women need to get behind the camera, directing, producing and scriptwriting. She says, “I don’t want to get women out of porn, I want to get them into porn.” Now, fifteen years later she has done just that.
Alongside her popular short films, she has created award winning feature length films such as, ‘Cabaret Desire’ (2011) and ‘Five Hot Stories For Her’ (2007) and a variety of novels, including her latest, ‘Let’s make a porno: a Practical Guide to Filming Sex.’ Lust’s latest project, XConfessions, allows for her viewers to submit their sexual fantasies to her website with the best of the best being made into short films.
“All the fantasies are completely crowd sourced, written by real people from all over the world – it's a really inclusive project,” she said. “This is miles away from showing one type of sex on loop, like a lot of “regular” porn does.”
Lust points out that one third of internet traffic is pornography and that every fourth Google search is usually someone looking for porn. Is this the kind of stuff that we want our younger generations to see? Is this how we want to teach our kids about sex?
In her TED talk she says, “porn is todays sex education and it’s impacting on our gender education.”
“I have two daughters… and I don’t want them to learn about self esteem and body image from photo shopped supermodels. I don’t want them to smoke, I don’t want them to eat crappy fast food and I definitely don’t want them to learn about sex from bad, sexist porn,” Lust said.
Erika says that whether we like it or not, porn is big part of society, there is no point in trying to deny that. “What we try to do at Lust Films is to add more realistic, happy sex to erotic film-making…and try to be a force for sex-positive thinking.”
With Lust’s work you’re no longer watching porn, you’re watching sex. And yes- there is a big difference between the two.
Just because Erika titles her work as Feminist Porn, this doesn’t mean it’s any less hardcore than the mainstream stuff some are used to. Lust is always pushing the sexual envelope, challenging herself and her audience to think outside the box when it comes to porn. She also caters to some of the more interesting fetishes out there. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to have group sex at the gym? Erika’s got you covered.
Images sourced from XConfessions volumes 4,5 &6 by Chio Lunaire. This and more at erikalust.com
Kate Neilson is the founding editor at Twenty Something Humans. You can lurk her @katiepotatierose.