The world is going through monumental changes right now.
The adult film industry is no exception, so I reached out to Erika Lust – an indie erotic adult filmmaker I’ve been hearing a lot about – and asked if she would be so kind as to answer a few of my questions about her career, the state of the adult film industry, and much more.
To my delight she agreed, and here’s what she had to say…
Erika x Unfinished Man
Erika, For those that aren’t familiar with XConfessions, what is it?
XConfessions is a crowd-sourced audiovisual project that was created from a blog that I started for people to anonymously confess their sexual fantasies and experiences. As I received more and more confessions I realized that some of these stories could make perfect films! Through the years, I was able to discover fantasies from the public that I might never have thought about before.
In the beginning, it was just me making the films, but in 2016, I started a world wide open call for guest directors, so now we have female and queer filmmakers all over the world turning confessions into films and showing us their take on sexuality. It’s a really beautiful crowd-sourced project. I have been making adult films as Erika Lust for almost 20 years now. Today, I have directed and produced over 200 short films, and have more than 600.000 members on XConfessions.
You said you were “tired of chauvinistic and tacky mainstream porn”, but was there one defining moment where you thought to yourself, “This is so bad, I’m going to start filming my own stuff right away”?
Watching my first porn film when I was a teenager, I was feeling conflicted in myself. Those videos got me aroused somehow, but at the same time, it wasn’t really pleasurable as I felt that something was wrong with them both ethically and content-wisely. I knew that there was so much more to sexuality than what was depicted in those films. I understood that it was made with the sole purpose to arouse, but I didn’t understand why we can’t experience the same visual pleasures we seek in any other type of movies even when watching porn? Why can’t we make porn with beautiful images, interesting locations, and captivating storylines that actually immerse you into a whole context of sensuality and passion?
I didn’t want to keep on criticising online free porn without trying to create an alternative, so I told myself I would try and make a porn film that I would enjoy in the first place as a viewer. I shot my first erotic film, ‘The Good Girl’, back in 2014. It was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope. I wanted to go off the beaten path and create my own vision of sex representation on screen. I wanted to represent sex which felt real, focusing on intimacy, passion, and a little bit of irony.
To be honest I can’t really watch it now without cringing at my lack of experience but it was a start and it changed my life! I uploaded it to the internet and made it available for free download. Next thing I know, it had over 2 million downloads in less than two months! That’s when I realised there were other people out there looking for alternatives to mainstream porn. I decided to start making adult films that reflected my taste and values on sex and gender and that’s how Erika Lust was born! I went on to direct four more adult features before starting XConfessions in 2013. Last year I started Lust Cinema, my studio offering feature films and series to the lovers of cinema and sex. Finally, I just launched my ultimate platform for soft erotica Else Cinema for those looking for a softer, visual erotic experience.
Have you seen any positive shifts in porn since you got into the business, and if so, would you mind talking about that a bit?
With what I’m seeing already, there are more adult filmmakers now showing a whole spectrum of sex, sexuality, and gender roles to show that porn should not be limited to one narrow idea. I’ve seen a wider and more diversified range of content out there. There are also more women in the industry now than ever before. Women with loud voices who are standing proud next to their brilliant work, showing a wider range of bodies, ethnicities, and identities.
Nowadays sex workers are less dependent on the industry thanks to online platforms such as OnlyFans and more independent adult film productions flourishing. Although sexism and racism have always been deeply rooted in the industry, performers now feel more empowered to speak out about episodes of sexual harassment or poor working conditions publicly without the risk of losing their job. A good consequence of that is that big porn companies now seem to be adapting, little by little, to a new way of making movies with more awareness, more values, and more inclusiveness.
However, let’s not forget that porn is still an androcentric industry with its own controversies and inequalities. The porn industry’s highest positions of power are still overwhelmingly dominated by white cisgender men. We need more diversity in leading roles in the industry as producers, directors, and scriptwriters bringing their perspective into the films. All kinds of public can benefit from having women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC people behind the camera as this allows them to re-write the script about their involvement (not only in sex but also in public life) and to do something different to the mass-produced stereotypical porn on the free tube sites. We can create and watch porn where people can see themselves in the films, to see the sex they have, and be inspired by other ways of having sex. There is no need to be exposed to only one version of porn. We’ve done a lot, yet we still have a long way to go.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you since you got into the business?
The fact that making adult films doesn’t necessarily mean that at some point you will feel repetitive. If there is something that I’ve been learning during all these years is that, as long as you represent diversity and not just the typical porn archetype by taking inspiration from real life, there are actually countless stories you can tell when making adult movies! Also, many guest directors that have been collaborating with me for XConfessions and Lust Cinema are bringing their visions and styles to my platforms, helping me to create a whole community of daring adult directors.
Have you had any favorite, or especially memorable moments from when you’ve been working with the performers?
Soulsex with John & Annie has been a very special project for me, not only because they are two of the most inspiring people I have ever met, but mostly because I got to shoot my first ever movie about sex in later-life! They sent me this confession talking about a new way to have sex – they call it “soul sex”, which means taking everything slowly to deeply connect with yourself and with your partner: by focusing on your own sensations, combined pleasure with your partner will increase. The sex scene was so beautiful and different from many others I have shot in my career. It felt like we were witnessing something very intimate and personal – it was very slow, tender, and communicative. I have this project in my heart because Annie & John allowed me to show that older bodies are also beautiful and still have their own desires and sexual urges. We have been fed the message through advertising, television, and films that only young bodies are attractive, but I honestly think we should be normalising senior sex instead.