“Mainstream porn is quite insane”

Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

Erika Lust has shifted the boundaries of the porn genre. Small dicks are welcome in her movies, sexist abuse is not.

You call porn a “discourse about sexuality”. Is that discourse held in an appropriate manner?
Well, pornography is a discourse in the way that it’s a way of talking about sex, and it’s a way of sending out certain messages about sex. So in my view, the majority of porn says things about sex like “sex is something that men do to women, and something that women do for men” and I’m sure the people who make those films believe that they are telling some sort of “truth” about sex. But likewise you can make explicit films that say other things about sex, like “both men and women have the right to sexual pleasure” and “sex is something you do together” – and those are the films I’m making.

Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

Sex and domination often go hand in hand. How do you make sure that you include this fantasy without it turning into an oppressive practice? Some people like to be dominated in bed but it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be oppressed.
Yes that’s exactly right. A lot of porn is misogynistic – and proud of it. It’s crazy to see how many films show women being beaten, slapped, spat on, without any hint of consent being given for that. And that it’s presented as mainstream and normal and expected to appeal to a male audience is just … quite insane.

But yeah, like you say, just because some people like to be dominated doesn’t mean they want to be oppressed. It’s ok to have kinks and to like powerplay and BDSM, but I think it’s so important as a film-maker to make sure the consent and the communication comes through when you depict something like that. Otherwise it just feeds into some warped ideas about sex that ultimately reflects and reinforces rape culture. That goes for Fifty Shades of Grey too, and not just proudly misogynistic porn.

Erika Lust

Erika Lust is an award-winning Swedish erotic film director, screenwriter and producer.

The most exciting or even shocking thing in the adult movie business is when someone like you shifts the borders and makes erotic movies that are not misogynous but still classify as porn. Does that surprise you?
I think the fact that people get shocked just shows how severe the imbalance is within the porn genre. I am considered the odd one out for showing sex where both men and women experience pleasure, for showing people kissing and embracing, for showing people as complex beings that deserve to be respected even when they’re naked. That makes me an oddity? That says a lot about the mainstream porn industry if you ask me.

Do you think there are boundaries as to what classifies as porn and what is merely a sex scene or erotica?
It’s a tough question. Some people think something is porn as soon as you see explicit sex, i.e if you can see actual genitals. Then some people think things like female nipples are pornographic, so they get banned on Facebook. It’s really hard to draw the line. I don’t identify with the mainstream porn industry just because I show sex in my films, so I often refer to my films as Independent Adult Cinema.

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Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

The overwhelming majority of porn caters to the desires of men and neglects the desires of women. How difficult is it to make feminist porn that also arouses a male audience?
It’s not difficult at all. Half of my audience are men. I get great feedback from them. There’s plenty of sexually intelligent men out there who like to see modern adult films, and would rather see a woman have a real orgasm than to watch a woman scream loudly in fake orgasms. Not all men want to see cheap, sexist porn, having no idea if the woman in the film is enjoying herself. My movies are not some fluffy, romantic nonsense, they contain real exciting sex. So of course they appeal to men too!

Can you tell the difference between male and female fantasies? How do they differ?
Are female desires and fantasies more “male-friendly” than the other way around and if yes, why?
Yes, in general men are taught by society to disrespect women and to treat them like objects, whereas women are taught to be more agreeable and to serve the man. But I can’t speak of all the fantasies of women and men, the beauty of fantasies are that they are incredibly varied and different. I receive all sorts of fantasies to my site XConfessions.com from both men and women who like all sorts of stuff. There’s both men and women who submit everything from vanilla, softcore, sweet love stuff, poetry entries, hardcore, BDSM, fetish, secret crushes, public sex… everything you could think of and few things you have definitely not thought of!

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Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

For your project “X-Confessions”, you shoot movies based on confessions or fantasies that normal people send in. Having received so many confessions over time: what is the ultimate sexual fantasy?
There is no ultimate fantasy. The point of the XConfessions project is to show a wide, diverse range of fantasies, it’s not a competition for the “best” fantasy or anything like that!

Were there “X-Confessions” that you considered doing at first but then decided that it is too much? If so, what was it?
We’ve been able to make a lot of seemingly impossible things happen. Like featuring a merman in “Ibiza Splash Crush” and flying in a plane in “Come Fly With Me”…after those kind of things, nothing feels impossible! But sure, there are some confessions that are amazing but too “out there” to be put on film.

When we think about morals in terms of porn, we mostly think about physical acts that might be demeaning. But would a fantasy like cheating on somebody behind their backs – which also relates to our sense of morality – be something you would feature?
Yes, I’ve done plenty of those. I have no problem with depicting infidelity on screen. I would never depict things like rape, coercion or anything illegal. But infidelity is a common fantasy and it doesn’t hurt anyone to stage it, and I’m not afraid to send out “immoral” signals by depicting it as a fantasy. It is okay to fantasize about it as long as you don’t hurt someone’s feelings in real life.

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Film still courtesy of Erika Lust. Used with permission.

You feature a lot of women in your movies that might not qualify for regular porn because they might be considered chubby or because their breasts are too small. Do you also pay attention to feature men with regular or even smaller-sized penises that cannot go on for hours, although the opposite might be a female fantasy?
To be honest, it’s more about how the person is and if he or she is right for the film, than what certain parts of their body look like. If someone who is chubby or has small breasts is cast in my films, it is not because I think “hmm her breasts are small, so she will do.” I don’t want to fetishize actors because of bodyparts. So I don’t just cast a man because he has a small penis. He has to be the right person for the film and also be smart, sex-positive and interesting. His penis is the least of my worries really. And no one has to go on for hours in my films. No sex robots required! They can go on for as long as they’re happy with, and do what works best for them.

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Max Tholl
Author

Max likes reading, writing, music gigs, cats, and pickled beets – though not necessarily in that order. He hails from Luxembourg, is terrible at board games, a mediocre cook, but can hum the Turtles theme song in four different languages. Max was an editor for The European where he met Lars. Follow him on Twitter & Instagram.