Feminist Porn and Erotica for Women Are Easier to Find Than You'd Think, Thanks to Erika Lust

In the preface to her 2010 guide to adult films for women Good Porn , author and indie adult-film director Erika Lust lays out her complaints with the traditional, mainstream porn industry: “I couldn’t see myself in those films — not my lifestyle or my values, and not my sexuality. They didn’t portray female pleasure at all, and the women in those movies existed for one reason alone — to pleasure the men.” Good Porn acts as Lust’s manifesto of how the porn industry should and can be changed, starting with involving more women in the behind-the-scenes work.

Four years later, Lust continues to make high-quality adult films with story lines, good acting, and a more realistic (and therefore interesting) look at human sexuality. She is something of a pioneer of female adult film directors, and with her website XConfessions, she aims to push the industry into another exciting direction: Crowd-sourced erotica.

"Mainstream porn has been dominated by chauvinistic and narrow-minded men who have been creating the same repetitive, gynecological, emotionally dysfunctional, and unimaginative porn for so long.”

Growing up in liberal Sweden provided Lust with an early exposure to the intersection between sex and feminism, though she knew pornography wasn't exactly making strides in a progressive direction. After all, it’s easy to feel frustrated as a woman looking for porn options, which can range from the annoyingly hetero male-centric, all the way to the vile porn series “Border Patrol Sex,” which portrays the rape of migrant women, an all too real problem (with some reports showing as much as 80 percent of women crossing the border are raped).

A move to Barcelona and a film studies course showed Lust that she might be able to do something about it. After reading Hard Core by Linda Williams, she learned that porn wasn’t just videos to turn on men, but a conversation about male and female sexuality that could be used to liberate and educate. Becoming a director would be a great way to get her message about sexuality across.

“When a lot of women hear the word porn, they instantly associate it with images that are tacky, dirty, abusive, and embarrassing. This is all because mainstream porn has been dominated by chauvinistic and narrow-minded men who have been creating the same repetitive, gynecological, emotionally dysfunctional, and unimaginative porn for so long,” Lust says of the problems she sees with traditional pornography.

After Lust’s first short film The Good Girl received online attention, she took that encouragement and started her own production company, Lust Films. As a prolific director, writer, and head of her own company, Lust has taken on a leadership role that opens the door for other women to enter the field as producers, directors, and script writers.

Lust associates her work more with the term erotica, as opposed to the word porn, which is almost always associated with negative connotations that imply chauvinism and abuse — though she doesn’t like labeling to start with.

“The labeling can really affect the way people view my work when what I am trying to do is the complete opposite: I am trying to make beautiful, sexy, hedonistic, liberating, and imaginative films. These characteristics are usually associated with erotica, so for now it seems to be a better term to use.”

Regardless, a goal of hers as an adult filmmaker is to reclaim the word porn by showing people that it can be much more than what it used to be. “Adult films, if properly designed, have the power to inspire, arouse, and celebrate sex,” she reminds.

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With her latest project, the website XConfessions, Lust wants her viewers to be able to see themselves in her films — and use that to spark passion and erotica in their own lives. This means porn set in realistic scenarios with relatable characters, creative story lines, and featuring a woman’s perspective.

Which is where the crowdsourcing comes in: Lust says she felt compelled to start XConfessions because so many people would approach her at parties or events and say they had a story that would be great to turn into a movie. The website’s first manifestation was a place where people could confess, much like the popular art project PostSecret.

“It wasn’t long until I realized it could be so much more if I started choosing ones to be turned into short films!” From there, Lust changed the website, offering to film two short films a month chosen from the fantasies her subscribers anonymously posted. This interactive quality has grown her audience so much that after one year, she is already working on XConfessions Vol. 3. Lust wants to continue to change the traditional chauvinistic industry from the inside by creating adult films that explore fun, healthy, and consensual sexual fantasies.

“I want to capture the imaginations of real people who have real fantasies, real kinks, and real desires. It’s all part of making my porn good porn.”

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Images Courtesy of Rocio Lunaire