Erotic feminist film director Erika Lust: Porn, like burgers, shouldn’t be free

Erotic feminist film director Erika Lust: Porn, like burgers, shouldn’t be free
Credit: Germana Costanza Lavagna

Over the last few years, there’s been a rise in feminist porn with more inclusive attitudes about the future of sex positivity, both on- and off-screen. Since the beginning of porn, erotic movies have been predominately made for men, by men, using women as an accessory to masculine sexuality — but Erika Lust, an award-winning Swedish erotic film director, screenwriter, and producer, is working to change the face of the porn industry.

With a degree in human rights, political science, and feminism in her back pocket, Lust has played an instrumental role in defining the importance of representation and diversity in erotic movies. Lust paired her interest in female sexuality with filmmaking to create diverse and realistic porn movies from the female perspective without degrading women or playing into stereotypical gender roles.

“It all started on a personal level when I was younger as a consumer of porn. I was interested in sexuality and was trying to figure out who I was and what turned me on,” Lust told TNW. “I never found my answers in porn back then. The movies were very male-centric and focused only on masculine sexuality. Women were reduced to being the beautiful object, the one that he gets turned on by, and being the practical tool to his sexuality. Women were there to basically satisfy men. It wasn’t about their experience, their pleasure, or their erotic journey.”

Lust believes there’s a disconnection between the mind and body in mainstream porn. Many viewers, including women, may have a physical response to content found on sites like PornHub, but the story lines usually explore sexuality through a male gaze without emotional depth. “Somehow, my body got turned on by these images, but I didn’t like it. When watching commercial porn, our minds went a whole different way questioning why this woman has to satisfy this man? And why doesn’t she look like me? We have all these ‘why’s’ in our mind — instead of enjoying porn, we had conflict with it,” Lust explained.

In 2004, Lust uploaded her first feminist porn movie called “The Good Girl,” which led her to where she is today. Almost two decades later, Lust is still creating cinematic pornography on her series XConfessions (NSFW) — a place for people to watch their authentic and personal sexual fantasies come to life.

Credit: Erika Lust

What makes an erotic movie feminist?

Unlike most of the porn found on the internet, feminist porn concentrates on female empowerment and sex positivity, whilst encouraging people across the gender binary to embrace their sexuality without shame.. “It has to do with feminism in front of the camera, behind the camera, and the representation of women and men on-screen,” Lust added. “Feminist porn has a lot to do with diversity. Movies should represent people from different backgrounds, different races, different ethnicities, different body types, and different ages.”

Credit: Erika Lust

Although most mainstream porn is fairly diverse in its representation of characters, it’s categorized in a pervasive way. “On sites like Pornhub, people are divided into groups. Instead of showing people as human beings, they’re fetishized, such as interracial couples.”

“In any other area of life, we wouldn’t accept this kind of category, it’s crazy. But in porn, it’s one of the most popular genres out there. It’s not including people of different races having sex, it usually shows a tiny white woman getting fucked by a big black man — I think it’s so racist.”

Not only does commercial porn depict women as sex toys for men, they’re also degraded through chauvinistic language. “There’s a lot of videos talking about destroying tiny teens and that’s so wrong on so many levels,” Lust said. “The language is always offensive, it’s either smashing, nailing, forcing, or banging — this kind of wording sounds like it should be associated with a construction site, not sex.”

Feminist porn is more than just representing marginalized groups: for porn to be feminist, it has to treat the performers on set ethically and ensure humane conditions. “When women are involved in the process of making the film, women have the chance to participate and have their say heard in the process,” Lust said.

When asked what the future of feminist porn looks like, Lust explained: “I really hope people start to question their own porn behavior and understand that if they watch free porn, they will not receive a good product.” Lust added. “Imagine if hamburgers were free? They’d probably be crap hamburgers. This is happening with porn, the free online porn sites don’t take your money, they take your data and information. It knows what you’re clicking and they try to sell you advertisements like ‘hot Latinas in your area’ or ‘grow your dick with this pill.’”

Alongside Lust, other feminist-porn directors like Tristan Taormino and Courtney Trouble are also finding their footing as viewers’ tastes and preferences mature. I’m optimistic the future of porn looks a lot less like the free sites that throw themselves at us right now.

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