Feminist Porn Director Erika Lust Tells Us Why The Industry HAS To Change

Erika Lust has been making porn for over ten years now, but she still has a few issues with the industry...

Erika Lust is a woman with a mission, a mission to change the face of the porn industry. And she’s doing a pretty good job. Tired of watching films that were made by men (and were all about male satisfaction) Erika first began her foray into the adult entertainment industry in 2004 when she directed the short film, The Good Girl, which became an overnight hit.

Since then she has gone on to make brilliant and beautiful Indie pornography films, changing the narrative in a still largely male-dominated industry. Here we speak to her about her XConfessions project, which is being screened at The Raindance Film Festival, female sexual empowerment and how the men in porn have reacted to her work…

Marie Claire: Tell us about XConfessions, you started the project in 2013…

Erika: That’s right. And before that I had started my own company, I had made a few films. And then I felt that there were so many people out there who wanted to share their ideas. And I wanted them to share their ideas with me. That was the start of it because people were writing to me all the time, and all the conversations I had were like ‘I love your films, I’ve had this idea, I’ve got this story I want to tell you. I have a script, can I send it to you?’ There was so much feedback and I realised one of the biggest problems, the way I see it, with mainstream porn, is that it’s very much the same stuff time after time after time. It seems like the crowd who were making it, the producers and the directors behind it, they seem to be very similar people with similar sexual experiences and ideas.

Marie Claire: And it’s not necessarily very real…

Erika: Exactly. A group of white, middle aged, heterosexual men, and they are basically dreaming about sex as a woman. So what I realised when I started to analyse and understand the genre of pornography is that the problem is not explicit sex, the problem is actually who is doing these films. Where are all the woman? Where are all the different people with different backgrounds and ideas? They’re not in that group of creators. So I put a website online called xconfessions.com where people could send in their adventures, their fantasies, their kinks, their ideas, their inspirations. And what I realised when I started to read all this input from just ordinary people was that they are actually very, very different. The idea of the site was that I was gonna read their confessions then I was gonna make films out of them. In the beginning, I was making a few, then I turned up the rhythm more and more. So now I’m actually making two films every month.

Marie Claire: How do you pick when you’ve got so many suggestions?

Erika: It’s just a case of reading them and saying ‘hey I like this one, this one has something that I find intriguing to make a movie out of.’

Marie Claire: Do you find the confessions come from men and women?

Erika: Definitely. I get a lot of a women but I also get a lot of men. I think it’s probably, about 60% men, 40% women. But compared to adult websites in general, I have a lot more women than they have. I think one of the reasons for that is that my whole aesthetic image, and the values and the approach is much more female-friendly. The whole idea of it is making something that woman and men can both enjoy, where women are not just treated as mere objects of pleasure, they are actual people. They have a storyline, they are characters, they like sex, they have pleasure.

Marie Claire: Why do you think the majority of porn is still made by men for men?

Erika: Well, it obviously has to do with how the power separation is within society in general. Women, it’s only 100 years now we have the power to vote, it’s not so long ago we started to get out there, started to work, started to earn money, started to be able to make decisions for ourselves and have a separate life. And it had to do with that. It has to do with the sexual liberation and the female revolution. It has to do with, we are getting more and more say within power and society, and we’re starting, in all aspects and areas, to communicate what we want and how we want to be functioning. Porn is not so different from that, in the end. If more women get access to important positions like producers, directors, distributors, script writers, etc, we will start to change the narrative. We will start to tell what stories we want to be told, and from what perspective, and how we want them to look.


Marie Claire: Is it important for you for your films to have a high-end feel?

Erika: It’s something that’s important to me as a person. I always felt, when I started to watch the main stream porn that was out there, that is was very poorly done, that it was ugly, amateurish, very much some guy just picked up a camera and said ‘hey let’s film this.’ There was nothing interesting cinema/photographically about it. So one of the things that I wanted to do was changing the whole aesthetic of the porn aesthetic. It was too boring for me, I wanted challenging storylines, good characters, great cinematography. Light, music, sound, editing.

Maire Claire: In general, what do you think still needs to change within the industry?

Erika: I think what needs to change is really the people. I think the industry needs better people, it needs people who care more, who have a more artistic vision, who want to work for equality. But then I think also, it needs people who really care about the whole production process around it. People who really care about the actors, all the crew, how the film is made. Especially speaking about actors… Because I think one of the things that especially women care a lot about is knowing that the people who are performing real sex in these movies really want to be there and want to do that. And I think that the important thing there as a director or producer is that you have to select your cast and make sure that they’re there for the right reason. And I think if we get people with those values in to the adult industry, I think the industry definitely will change.

Maire Claire: How do the men who have been in the industry for a long time react to you and the way you’re changing porn?

Erika: There are definitely people who are very positive and think it’s a great thing that new people are coming in with new blood and new ideas and new visions. But then, of course, there is a chunk of people being very critical. I think they are scared and many of them want to protect what they have. We also have to understand that in the adult industry there are people who have made lots of money over many, many years.

The whole industry has changed dramatically in the last ten years with the growth of the internet and how adult material is distributed. The internet has made it possible for independent actors, directors and producers to reach their audience directly. So, yes, there is a huge change going on… but I have still heard names like ‘feminazi’ aimed at me. That’s a very, very ugly word to use.

Marie Claire: Do you think some people are uncomfortable with the idea of women being sexually powerful?

Erika: Yes, I think it’s very scary for a lot of people. I think it goes back to when people went to Pompeii to discover what had been there before, and discovered all these sexually explicit images and they got very, very scared. The first thing they were thinking was, we can’t show this to children and women and poor people, because they’re gonna go crazy if they see this. So all this aristocratic men, they put them in London in the secret museum. So I think it goes back to that, kind of, where they wanted to keep this powerful sexual material for themselves. They didn’t want to share it. I think that men are afraid that if women are getting more sexually liberated, we will not need them the same way. I think that’s the basis of it. It’s the same thing with the money: they are afraid that we will be so independent that we don’t need them any longer.

Marie Claire: Your films challenge the notion of gender stereotyping in terms of sexuality. Is that a purposeful move?

Erika: What I want to do is to show in my movies that women don’t need to be a sexual vehicle for the pleasure of men. I don’t really understand about is why we always see the women pleasing the men… it’s always about the mandatory, final made cum shot. I think we need to change that vision of sex. We need to see it as two equals, two individuals – or more than two individuals- but that people are actually sharing that intimate situation together, and they are working for the pleasure of the other one.

Marie Claire: Do you have any plans for other projects in the future?

Erika: One of the things I would really like to do is a feature film. I would like to make a film that would actually develop more profound characters who have a full storyline. I work so much with the short film format now that I’m looking forward to working on a feature film. I would like to keep the idea that sex is an important thing in our lives, and I would like to see if it is possible to keep explicit sex in a feature film, and still make it interesting. And I want to spread the word, I want people to realize that there are alternatives out there to main stream pornography. I think that’s one of the things today that people are not realising, that you can actually find something different if you look for it.

Erica Lust: XConfessions will be screened at Vue Piccadilly on 24th September

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