Erika Lust

Text & photos JF. Pierets

 

Someone once told her that she must be the cutest porn director he ever met. She thought that was a good thing, because most people still think you have to be a freak to make this kind of movies. We’re in Barcelona, in a huge loft. During lunchtime we talk to the woman on top of Lust –productions. “I’m so normal it almost becomes controversial.” In conversation with Erika Lust.  

 

We’re sitting amongst camera’s, a bed and a woman performing with all kinds of toys. What are you doing?
It’s quite a premiere you’re witnessing here. We are selling all different kinds of sex toys on our website but no one ever thought about the idea of showing all the different ways to use them. It’s strange when you start to think of it; all those toys, all those producers and not a single explicit educational movie on what you can do with it.

How did a sweet looking girl like you…? 
It’s a long story so let’s try to make it a little short. I studied political science at the university in Sweden and during the summer I came to Barcelona to study Spanish. In 2000 I met my husband Pablo and decided to stay. It was almost impossible to get a job in political science because of the Catalan politics in Barcelona so I was looking for extra jobs. I had a friend who worked in the audiovisual sector; movies, television and advertising and I started doing the most basic jobs. I was driving actors from the airport, making coffee, you know the drill.  Little by little I got better opportunities so I started as a production assistant, then a location manager and afterwards as a production manager. During this process I learned how to make movies. Film has always been my passion so it was quite natural that I started to take evening courses in directing actors, film technics and camerawork. And then….then I had the chance to make a short movie. During that process I came back to the idea I had many years ago in university. Ideas about pornography with the main question being: “Would it be possible to make a movie that was exciting but still had all my values?”.  When I looked at porn I always found it physically intriguing because my body responded but my brain didn’t like it. I was quite mixed up because of this huge discrepancy between my body and my brain so I wanted to find a way to make this kind of movie but without losing my esthetics.

So what’s the big difference between male and female porn? 
Male producers and directors are all alike. They’re mostly middle-aged straight white guys with a taste in big-breasted blonde airheads. It stands to reason that a homogeneous group is going to create a homogeneous product and that makes those movies very indistinguishable. Women care more about the story that is being told. And also “who” is telling the story? In this case it’s me as a woman, as a feminist, as a mother, as an entrepreneur. For decades men had a monopoly on defining what porn is and in this world of ours, whatever is male-oriented becomes the standard. So it’s time to stand up because it’s not healthy that the only people making pornography are men. Well, at least 99% of it.

And why is that? 
It has to do with many things. Men had an easier time to take pleasure in sexuality. Ours has always been closely tied to reproduction. And not only that, mind you that even today there are cultures that are still using barbaric practices like clitoridectomy to nip female sexual desire in the bud. There’s also the structure of society; men go to work, make money, they explore different things. They got into audiovisuals long before women did. When you look at our female history, it’s not so many years ago since we got the right to vote or started to earn our own money. And isn’t that initially the base of independence? If you don’t earn your own money you can’t take a decision, that’s the way it is. There’s been a huge development regarding female sexuality since we started caring for our own pleasure and not only for anybody else’s. And also – and that’s a very important evolution –  we are starting to become consumers of things that have to do with sex.

And when did all this change? 
It started in the 60’s and the 70’s with the sexual revolution and the liberty to take the pill. But when we are talking about pornography, it’s quite recent. The first woman who started to make this kind of films is Candida Royalle and she started in ‘83 – ‘84. After her there came more and more female directors but still very very little. Maybe we can count 10 at the most. Yet we live in a world where there are thousands and thousands of male pornographers.

Why? Are women afraid to do so? 
I think we are a little afraid in one way because it is difficult to stand in society and say: “Hey! I make porn.” You have to stand up against people attacking you from different corners; from feminists to pornographers to Catholics. So many different groups who don’t want us, women, to get involved in that kind of business. But this is where I stand up and say that it’s really important. You have to look at pornography as a discourse. It’s a discourse about sexuality, femininity, masculinity and women don’t participate in that debate because we don’t have anything to say. It’s like we don’t have a voice. So I want us – not only me – but women in general to get into this industry, taking power and starting to make our own movies. Telling the stories we want to be told. We have to express our own sexuality and the only way of doing this, is that a lot of women get into the pool. We have to become a critical mass to be able to change things. In politics we are talking about the 30% rule, meaning that when women are starting to take part of the governments and the parliaments, we have to be 30% of the group. That is when you’re starting to have some power, when your voices will be heard. So let’s work on that quota because otherwise, nothing is going to happen.

But you are pretty busy trying to change things. 
I have to. Because I believe we can benefit from watching sexually explicit films.  We’re very liberated these days and porn can help us spice up our fantasies and discover tastes we never even knew we had. Porn in and of itself is not a bad thing and believe me if I say that our tastes are as varied as men’s are. So hold the flowers and fireplaces, the candles and novels by Danielle Steele. We want sexually explicit images, but we want to call the shots when it comes to how they’re made.

In your book ‘A woman’s guide to good porn’ you have a chapter called ‘Indephony, predictable porn made by men’. I really laughed out loud reading Nr. 7: Beautiful young women just love to have good sex with fat ugly middle-aged men. Nr. 13: Asian men do not exist and Nr. 22: When a woman is sucking a man’s cock, it’s important for him to give her constant reminders about what to do: “Oh, yeah-suck it!”.  Isn’t that too much of a cliché? 
I don’t think it is. Young people learn about sexuality from porn. And there we have a problem. I don’t want Rocco Siffredi telling my girls how to have sex. I don’t want him involved in this. I want to have the chance to tell my vision on sexuality. And that doesn’t happen when we don’t participate. Then we will end up with all these porn studs, these macho porn guys, telling our children how to have sex. I want them to take away positive messages about sexuality. With feminist values and discourses. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to impose some kind of censorship, I just want diversity and the freedom to choose what suits you. The problem regarding young children is that the school education on sexuality is very bad or non-existent. In some countries it’s even called family planning. And what happens when education doesn’t take their responsibility and when still too many parents are afraid to speak to their kids about it? Then kids look at free porn on the internet. And what do they learn? An Italian macho fucks 10 Bulgarian girls in the butt and that’s normal. When you, as an adult, watch this movie, you will have some references. So if you want to see this kind of porn, please do and I hope you enjoy it. But children at that age are not so developed that they can think critically. I think it’s very important to inform and to teach young people how to be critical because it’s not only about porn, it’s also about the models, being really really slim, it’s about television series where we most of the time see men as main characters. We have to be critical towards fashion, photography, because all of it is fake. My point of view might sound quite heavy but it’s true and it’s important that we start to speak about this.

Your message is very clear, but why use porn as your outlet?
Because I love film and I have a base to stand on. I’m not only doing this because the fun or for the money but because I want to see good movie. And that’s another part of it, the esthetics. I find most porn very ugly. And because I like film and I like beautiful things, I want to see a beautiful movie that is well developed, a story that is interesting, characters I can identify with. I don’t want them to be stereotypes like the nightclub singer and the stripper, the babysitters and the desperate housewife. I’m not interested in seeing that kind of women. Neither am I interested in the mafia guy or the pizza delivery boy. Those stereotypes really set my nerves on edge.

 

 

Male directors are all alike. They’re mostly middle-aged white guys with a taste in big-breasted airheads.’

You’re not working with actors?
I want normal people to be in my movies so I try to use the less “pornified” looks that I can find. Making an adult movie is not very different than making regular cinema. The main thing with the actors, when they are professional adult performers, is to erase their porn attitude, and make them act and feel naturally. It’s not an impossible mission, it can be done if you treat them with respect and you teach them to relax and forget those strange positions and the athletic sex they do for a living. Nevertheless, I keep looking for the non-transformed bodies. For people who look good and feel fresh and natural. Lately I’ve been very lucky because as my name is kind of growing, people are coming to me. I don’t have to find them, they find me. All those people who were never involved in the adult filmmaking suddenly want to be in my movies. And that’s wonderful, but I also realize this comes with big responsibilities because those people are really having sex and they show every inch of their body in front of the camera. For me it’s very important to get to know the actors. Who are they, what do they like, why do they do this? I don’t want someone doing a scene just because they are in an economic crisis and they don’t have any other way to earn money. Nor do I work with 18 year olds because they cannot fully understand the consequences of what they are doing. I want people to enjoy being in front of a camera. Who are sex positive because believe me, there are a lot of people out there who like doing this.

Do you know your customers? 
Yes I do because we have the Lust cinema and the Lust store online. Therefor we can see who’s buying and I can tell you it’s more or less 50/50. 50% men and 50% women. I’m very happy I don’t exclude men from our audience because that was never my intention.

Would you describe it as female porn, or femfriendly porn? 
It’s really difficult to find a good word. Sometimes I call it porn, sometimes I call it erotic movies but also Adult independent film. It depends a little on the circumstances. The problem with the word porn is that it’s very ugly. When you say it and you close your eyes, you see something. Something very specific because the norm on what pornography is, is rooted into our minds. Therefor you see something that has nothing to do with my movies. When I use the term porn, you probably see something ugly, most of the time aggressive and violent male dominant. When I’m watching the scenes I shot, I see passion, intimacy. Sometimes I wish I could wash the word pornography. Putting it in the washing machine and take it out all fresh and removed from any negativity because I want to use that word. What else should I call it? Contemporary porn maybe, yet I don’t really think I belong in Tate modern. So yes, I must admit I’m a little lost when it comes to put a word on what I’m doing.

Are you a feminist?
Yes I am, but all too often I realize that a lot of people don’t know what feminism is. We live in a world where men and women don’t have the same possibilities, rights and opportunities. A world in which women as a group have less power than a group of men. Being a feminist means acknowledging this situation and believing it should change. And the only way we can change something is when we can be specific about what the differences actually are. We are modern women in a modern society and yet we are not represented in the mainstream pornography, we are not there. So let’s start making our own porn movies because if we do, we can start choosing what we like most.

How did you get so liberated?
Well, I’m not. I’m still struggling but I think all of us are. I’m a very normal person and I don’t have this super strong sexuality going. I’m quite down to earth and vanilla. But it helps that I’m Swedish. I had the opportunity to grow up in a country that is very liberated when you compare it to others. Sweden was also one of the first countries who started school sex education in 1952. When I talk to people I realize I am very privileged on the subject matter.  When I was 12 we had sexologists coming to our school and talking about not only the technical stuff but they also spoke about feelings and butterflies. The good part of sexuality was explained to us as a part of your health and happiness. This kind of approach changes things, it opens up your mind.

Do you feel excepted? 
It goes in two different directions. The male porn industry has a very difficult time right now, accepting that suddenly there are young women deciding that they want something else. Bottom-line is that I think a lot of men are afraid of losing their jobs. Regarding my own kind I can feel that the feminist movement starts to accept the idea of women getting into this. In the beginning they were quite chocked but now it’s getting better. They are clever enough to see why this is important.

And in your personal habitat? 
Yes I do feel accepted. And that’s because I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing. If you’re ashamed you will have a problem explaining it. People should be ashamed when they are doing bad things, stealing money or dealing drugs. Not because they are making adult movies. For example my mother is 70 but she accepts it, understands it. We’ve been speaking a lot about the message behind it. But of course she would have been a lot happier if I would have become a lawyer or a teacher. Because yes, this is a little more complicated to tell your friends. Nevertheless, everybody responds really well to what I am doing. I can see that people feel the same way, that there is a need for this new niche. Also the parents at my girls’ school are great about it, they love what I do and they certainly don’t say that there kids can’t come to my house because I’m a pornographer. Acceptance lies with you. People understand what you communicate.

 

www.erikalust.com

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