In an industry that's often wrought with misogyny and violence against women, feminist pornographer Erika Lust has made a name for herself as someone who's making a different type of porn — ethical porn. It's the type of pornography that can be watched and enjoyed (thoroughly enjoyed) without worrying about how actors are being treated behind the scenes. Lust makes it a point to focus on female pleasure, something that's often overlooked in the male-dominated field, and because of this she's amassed quite a following. In a society where women are still striving for gender equality and to be seen as, well, human, Lust's work isn't just a breath of fresh air, but necessary.
"The concept of ethical as it relates to adult content production is complex," Lust tells Bustle. "It’s important to say there is not yet a consensus about what exactly it is, but in simple terms, ethical porn cares about the performer's welfare. It is adult cinema where consent has been given for every part of the film from all parties involved. This means consent regarding the sexual acts being performed, but also the rate of pay they are receiving. Personal limits and boundaries are respected and the performer can stop shooting at any moment if they feel uncomfortable. Everything is done under a safe sex environment, good working and safety conditions, and labor rights for performers and crew. It goes down to the basics like providing meals on set and having anything they need provided. This environment emphasizes safety and mutual respect."
Not only does Lust focus on the importance of ethical porn, but as a creator of fantasies in her work, she thinks that sexual fantasies should be explored. With the launch of her XConfessions App, Lust is now getting the fantasy conversation started between couples. The game is designed so couples can explore possible fantasies, then if both swipe "yes" on a particular interest, that dialogue can begin then, ideally, evolve into putting those sexual desires into action.
"The XConfessions App is designed to take away some of the pressure," Lust says. "For starters, you have time to go through the cards by yourself and think about them to decide if you're interested in trying it or not. The couple's bank of matching cards also means that each partner can come into the conversation feeling a sense of ease that they already know that their partner wants to try the same things as them."
So once the pressure's off and you're ready to talk about your fantasy, where do you go from there? Here are some tips for talking to your partner about a sexual fantasy, according to Lust.
Realize Sharing Sexual Fantasies Can Create A Deeper Bond
"It's so important to share your sexual fantasies," Lust says. "Not just for a happier relationship and better sex, but to also understand your own sexuality better. For many people opening up about their fantasies and sexual preferences can be a really scary experience, but these conversations can potentially take your sex life to the next level and also intensify your bond and relationship with your partner."
If the healthiest relationships involve communication, then nothing should be off limits. When you open yourself up, allowing yourself to be vulnerable about your sexual desires and sexual needs, you're creating an alliance between you and your partner, further deepening the partnership you have.
"It's really important in a relationship to have strong, open communication and I believe that this is part of it," Lust says. "Sexual fantasies are perfectly healthy and normal, and sharing them can also be really fun, as well as a bonding experience."
Understand Such A Dialogue Can Break Sexual Monotony
"It doesn't matter how kinky or 'vanilla' a couple's sex life is, with time and general life stresses the sex life can become monotonous," Lust says. "Sharing sexual fantasies with one another can renew excitement." In fact, getting out of a rut is exactly what the XConfessions app was created for, she says.
And, yes, sex lives often need some spice thrown in there to keep things exciting and desirable.
Learn To Accept That Sexual Fantasies Aren't 'Wrong'
"There is no such thing as a wrong fantasy," Lust says. "You should never feel ashamed about what turns you on. It doesn't matter if its a gang bang or a rape fantasy, you shouldn't feel bad about it — in a fantasy everything is permitted and nothing is wrong."
Lust also points out that fantasies don't necessarily have to be acted upon. Instead, they can just stay a fantasy. But even if you don't put it into action, sharing it with your partner can be a really eye-opening experience for both of you.
"Just because it turns you on doesn't mean that you have to act on it," Lust says. "You can just talk about it with your partner and laugh together! You shouldn't feel shocked or upset by any of your desires."
Never Let Yourself Judge (Or Be Judged), Even If Your Fantasies Don't Align
When you open the door to sharing sexual fantasies, you might find out something about your partner or share something with your partner that neither one of you can see yourselves partaking in — which is totally fine. It takes different things to get different people off.
"The first thing to remember is that maybe it's just a fantasy and not something one of you wants to act on," Lust says. "Secondly, do not take it personally. Sometimes if you voice your fantasy to your partner, they might project their own sexual insecurity back and shame you for that fantasy. It might be that your partner needs more time to think about what you've told them. Just be honest with each other and keep the lines of communication open."
If your partner shares a fantasy you're not into, Lust says to be kind and put yourself in their shoes. "Answer in a way that won't kink shame them and won't make them feel bad about being honest with you," she says.
Consider Compromising If You Have Conflicting Fantasies
"In the case that one of you has a fantasy that the other isn't in to it at all, it doesn't mean the relationship is over," Lust says. "There are generally other ways to explore the fantasy together without engaging [in] it. If one of you wants to try group sex but the other isn't keen, then you could compromise by watching group sex porn together."
If a couple finds that watching group sex porn isn't cutting it, and the partner who wants to fulfill this fantasy really wants to fulfill this fantasy, Lust suggests looking into an open relationship.
"Some couples find a form of an open relationship a good option to explore their fantasies with other people while staying together," Lust says.
Forget Any And All Shame
For some women there's still a level of shame in having sexual urges and being a sexual being in general. Lust wants women to know that this shame isn't their fault, but rather a product of the society in which we live.
"Shame is cultivated from our teachers, families, religion, media, communities, online spaces — just about everywhere," Lust says. "We're taught that sex is great and necessary, but on the other hand we're taught that it's indulgent and wrong, and can lead to diseases and death. We also feel shame when we're constantly fed the message that sex is fine so long as it fits into the a very narrowly defined notion of white, cis, heterosexual, young love making to make babies! This is the sex that gets called 'normal'."
But the fact is who gets to decide what's normal and what isn't, is straight-up BS. As long as everyone involved in any sort of sexual activity is a consenting adult, then what's "normal" and what isn't doesn't matter. At that point, it's about having fun — and sharing your fantasies with your partner is a good place to start.