Swedish Erika Makes Feminist Porn

Sex.

Sex is interesting, intriguing. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure some of you dirty little readers share my curiosity. But an industry making an enormous amount of money on our desires and fantasies can be far from glamorous – to some extent even dangerous. Now, I’m not only talking about the actors’ working conditions in the adult film industry, but the impact its product has on our society.

People experience porn the first time at a young age, and especially now that almost every kid has instant access to the internet. To some extent, I believe that children get their primary sexual education from porn, and not from school or their parents. As you may understand this is not good, at all, because porn does not represent real sex, real life, real relationships, real emotions. Porn gives an inaccurate perception of the female and male body, of what sex is and should be like, of how the male-female relationship functions. It shows that sex is for men, something that women do to men. There is no respect, nothing intellectual.

Now, it is evident that this billion dollar industry is in desperate need of change. And one thing that is needed is feminism, like in all layers of society, equality will make things better. So, as part of our celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, we reached out to Swedish film director Erika Lust who creates feminst porn.

I think it’s important to note here, that her creations aren’t necessarily the only way sex and porn can be experienced, but it is feminist and it is a different angle. This is porn with healthier male-female relationships, and it shows that sex is something shared between all parties.

How come you’re in the adult industry?

I don’t consider I am in the adult industry. I am an indie filmmaker and producer who presents an alternative to the mainstream adult cinema. However, as many people, I was exposed to porn movie at a young age when I was at a sleepover party with my friends. My first reaction was ‘disappointment’. Later on, when I was dating my boyfriend in college he suggested to watch a porno together and I decided to give it another try. However, the same woman with watermelon breasts was still giving a blowjob to a police officer to get rid of a fine. Nothing had changed in 6 years.

I definitely had my lightbulb moment at the University of Lund while I was studying political sciences, feminis, and sexuality. I came across Linda Williams and her book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. This book changed my view on many things. It was the first book to look at pornography as a genre with a history, as a specific cinematic trend and as a part of a contemporary discourse on sexuality. Besides being such a theoretical work from an academic perspective it made me realize porn was not “only porn”. I realised that mainstream porn is not something that really reflects any truths about sex – but it makes a statement, an idea, it expresses ideologies and values, and also opinions about sex and gender. As it states: “Pornography as a genre wants to be about sex. On close inspection, however, it always proves to be more about gender ” 

I realised that mainstream porn is not something that really reflects any truths about sex. So the more I learned about the discourse of pornography, the more I wanted to try to create something totally different in the genre – an alternative – according to my taste, something that would express my ideas and my values. Something that I would like myself and that I thought other women and men looking for something more fresh, sensual and ethical would also like.

What are some of the difficulties and the best things about working in porn?

I own a company and I have 19 people hired so the biggest difficulty lies in running the company. As you may know when you own a company you have a huge responsibility. I also think the most challenging part when spreading the word about what I do is to fight against the stigma of the word “pornography”.

The best thing is definitely to see the final result of all the work my team and I do and the positive comments and feedback I receive from men and women! Single, married… there is not a specific demographic group, what all of them have in common is that they appreciate the work I am doing for a more sex-positive culture where female pleasure matters and they thank me for bringing me a more positive light into their sex lives and sexuality. I love that since that is one of the things I aim for!
I also love working with my team. They are all sex-positive people who truly believe in what we do. They are passionate about being part of this new adult cinema that represents the female perspective and focuses on her pleasure regardless the department they work in.

What do you want to change in mainstream porn?

There are so many things I would change in mainstream porn, but that’s not my goal. What I really want to do is to build an alternative for those who feel uncomfortable with it or simply are looking for something different.

Mainstream porn shows sex as a thing that men do to women, or that women do for men, which means misogynistic porn that objectifies women and places unrealistic expectations on both sexes. The industry of pornography is dominated by a certain type of male gaze with the same view on sex: white middle-aged chauvinist men obsessed with tits and ass, who are only able to release repetitive sex scenes because they have a very small sexual intelligence. The focus is on men’s pleasure and women are being used to satisfy others, but not themselves. Even if it seems there are many categories with all those tags and labels that cater to every whim and fetish imaginable, in the end, it is all the same, just body parts served up in the same way.

Alternative adult cinema has no similarity to mainstream porn whatsoever! It is all about equality. It sends out a positive message about sexuality and the huge range of different sexualities out there showing sex as fun and full of passion. In my case, they reflect my views on sex as a healthy and a natural part of life that we should celebrate. I show women and men as sexual collaborators representing female sexuality and desires taking into account the female perspective. And while doing this I try to make them as aesthetically beautiful and captivating as I can. Oh! And the performers have real pleasure, not loud faked orgasms! I think the industry should be more ethical about what signals they send out with their stories – that they make consent come through, not showing irresponsible scenes or anything to do with coercion, etc.

Today is International Women’s day, why do you think this day is important?

It defends a very important message, but we must remember this is an everyday fight! Women’s rights must be defended every day of the year, but this is a good way to focus the attention and make some noise. We achieved a lot of things these last decades, but there’s so much work to do. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close until 2186!

Do you believe that your work is of significance in today’s society?

I do! Especially when we talk about ethical porn, which means treating everyone involved like human beings, being attentive to their needs, requests, and emotions, compensating them fairly and providing a good working environment with good working conditions. This must be a priority in the porn industry.

Also, it’s high time we realize how big the influence pornography has on society, specifically on our views on sex, sexuality, consent and gender roles. In mainstream porn women are only portrayed as pleasure-objects without any sexual agency, creating an environment where women’s sexuality exists solely for the benefit of men. It’s imperative to change this neglectful representation and my movies are helping to do it by showing the female perspective.

erika feminist porn

In October you put an open call on your website, calling for female filmmakers to send in their ideas of adult short films that didn’t succumb to the clichés of mainstream porn, how is that project going?

It’s going great! I believe in the importance of the female gaze in a male-dominated porn industry, so I have budgeted $250.000 for the project as a whole to finance and produce female erotic film directors and support the burgeoning alternative talent across the globe. I have already received 500 projects! I have already given my approval to produce 5 of them. I must admit I am very excited. Their mood boards look amazing!

What are you working on right now? What’s next?

I’m very focused on my most ambitious project XConfessions. It allows anonymous people to submit their fantasies and sexual confessions, and I pick two a month to make into an explicit erotic short film. So the first thing I ever do before making a film is to choose a confession! What people come up with is just amazing! The confessions are incredibly diverse, sexy and exciting and it’s a true privilege to get to bring people’s desires to life! Tapping into a lot of different erotic fantasies is a lot more exciting than just drawing erotica from one brain.

My husband Pablo Dobner, and I just began a movement through a non-profit website too: The Porn Conversation. The sad truth of our modern society is that nowadays children are learning about sex not through school, or their parents, but through online pornography. They are the first generation to grow up with smartphones and instant access to the Internet. Our kids and teens’ eyes are inexperienced and can misinterpret the sexual situations in porn as realistic. I think we all want our kids to grow up respecting themselves and each other, avoiding dangerous situations and maintaining an idea that their bodies are their own, any sexual involvement should be by mutual consent and that they should never feel pressured to perform sex. But at the same time that sex is a beautiful thing and they should not be ashamed for feeling desire, lust and sexual drives. We think that prohibition and shame is not the answer, instead, we believe in education and conversation and we are campaigning for more equipped and alert young beings.

Now, if you’re still here, reading, kudos to you – most people probably started their Google searches after the first couple of sentences. So I will let you go now too, so you can do your thing. And to spare you some extra time – here’s the porn.

Photos: Erika Lust


This post was part of our celebration of International Women’s Day 2017.