Erika Lust's revolutionary take on adult cinema has become the trademark of her company, Lust Films & Publications. Working out of her base in Barcelona, she's pioneering feminist pornography in which sex is documented with aesthetic care, credible scripts and a refreshing naturalness that gives women a dignity that's been lost in mass produced commercial porn. We caught up with Erika to find out more...
What differentiates the erotic cinema that you make from mainstream pornography?
Of course a different kind of adult movie is possible, that's what I'm doing! In fact there are lots of people doing it. The films I make are not just for women, and though they are made with a feminist vision, they are aimed at everyone that enjoys eroticism and quality films. I do indie erotic films, a new genre looking to break away from the clichés of mainstream pornography. You can call it porn if you like, as we do film explicit sex, but we have the quality of a movie production, we have intelligent scripts, defined aesthetics and attractive sets. Our values also differ from those of the mainstream. We defend the right of women to be able to choose represent themselves however they wish. And of course, without a doubt, men can also enjoy my films. What part of female pleasure isn't a turn on?
In recent years you've linked your production to the internet, but hasn't the internet killed eroticism?
The internet has exploited eroticism, but it's not dead. Sexuality remains an integral part of being human, so eroticism is still an interesting resource to work with. I aim to represent a new wave of erotic film, to be a breath of fresh air for the genre, just as indie cinema and music were in their time. Rather than talk about the death of eroticism, we should talk about its rebirth. Now is the time to regain the initiative and bring back more arty, intelligent and creative films.
In XConfessions you turn fantasies posted anonymously on the project's website into erotic short films. What elements does a story need in order to make you want to film it?
It's a very dynamic project that shows us the marvellous sexual diversity of the human being. We film 26 short films a year, so we need them to be different, with different characters, situations, tastes, plots, fetishes, so this diversity is really important… But in order to turn these fantasies into films you need to think about the cinematic possibilities that each one offers to find something that will make someone else's fantasy interesting to everyone else.
Some experts warn of the danger of leaving the sex education of teenagers in the hands of the porn. Do you think they could get a distorted image of the role of women in sexual relationships through the consumption of mainstream porn?
Pornography is sex education in the 21st century! A third of all internet traffic is pornography. The reality is that adolescents are watching pornography on the internet even before having actual sexual relations. Now is the time to portray the right message so that sex is perceived as something natural, healthy and pleasurable. Pornography is important. Much more than people believe. It is precisely for this reason, and to avoid the role of women being misinterpreted, that I make these films. In my movies, both men and women have leading roles, they behave naturally, they are having fun and enjoying pleasure. This is the image of sex that I want young people to have. Sex is something beautiful, not athletic, aggressive or embarrassing.
What's your advice to anyone who wants to start shooting pornography?
Firstly, be creative. Just because you are filming sex, doesn't mean that you only have to film sex scenes, so create a context. Secondly, take care of privacy, if you're filming something with your partner, ensure you make the conditions regarding the distribution of the material clear. Thirdly, be natural and don't film sexual acts that you don't feel comfortable with. Then go for it! There are very few cool people filming sex. If you're original, you'll be successful. You can find more advice in an ebook I released called Let's make a porno.
The selfie is quickly becoming an erotic genre in itself. What are your thoughts on using mobiles as a way of producing and consuming porn?
Mobiles are both very useful and very dangerous tools. Lots of people use selfies as a means of expression and to exploit their own image and sexuality. Selfies are a personal choice and as such can be a powerful weapon to fight censorship. However, sometimes the people that take them are very young and forget that the moment you let a photo loose on the internet, you lose control over it.
As a feminist, how do you feel about the way Femen activists use their bodies?
I believe in the power of choice. Feminism is about the ability of women to choose their actions and thoughts without being judged or censured. Some people may consider Femen's actions as extreme and polemic, but by making decisions regarding their bodies they have been able to transmit powerful messages.
What's your opinion on the attempts by some filmmakers to approach pornography, like in Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac?
Well Lars Von Trier uses explicit sex as a visual resource and as an important part of the narrative in his projects, which also win awards and are celebrated, The audience is changing and there's a demand for the type of films I make, we are on our way to normalising sex.
Can you reveal any details regarding your next project following XConfessions?
Xconfessions.com is an ongoing project: we shoot and premier 26 short films a year which will continue whilst as long as we maintain the excellent reception from the public and reviews that we're getting. This year I'll continue to refine the project, which in April will be presented at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It's possible that in 2016 I'll be involved in directing a feature film, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Text Emilio Calzada
Photography courtesy Erika Lust