How to make a kick ass feminist porno

Director Erika Lust is changing the adult entertainment industry, but just what does it take to tackle the porn patriarchy? She tells us here

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XConfessions vol.5, 2015
XConfessions vol.5, 2015Courtesy of xconfessions.com

Erika Lust knows how to make great porn. With a refreshingly feminist viewpoint, a progressive and acclaimed filmography, numerous awards and great visuals, the Swedish director is pushing boundaries on and off the screen. Speaking with Dazed earlier this year she said, "We are in huge need of seeing female sexuality portrayed in a different way, and to see ourselves as protagonists of the stories, not only as vehicles that men use to get their sexuality out of it.” This defining element is key to Lust’s work, and that of feminist porn — a genre of the adult entertainment industry that condemns the objectification of women and encourages them to embrace sexual equality, diversity and, of course, their own pleasures – unashamedly.

Lust’s ability to break free from the stereotypes and clichés that have plagued porn is just a slice of her manifesto. By championing sex-positive images of women, she defies porn go-tos like Pornhub and Redtube, instead creating a much-needed platform – through her crowdsourced project XConfessions – for women to be more than tits and ass, and likewise for men, often judged no further than the size of their penis. While on location in Barcelona and Costa Brava filming the latest instalment of XConfessions, Vol.5, We caught up with the visionary to find out just what it takes to make a kick ass feminist porn.

EMBRACE DIVERSITY WHEN CASTING

Diversity is key when trying to break the porn mould, and Lust prides herself on an ability to embrace this. For XConfessions vol. 5, differing body types, races, characteristics and levels of experience was an important aspect when casting if she had any hope of tackling the stale clichés that reign supreme in the porn industry. “With each of my films, we cast diverse performers. People who are naturally beautiful and sexy, have a love for sex, but most importantly bring something unique to our audience,” Lust tells us. “I want to be able to represent as many different types of bodies, personas and characteristics as possible. We also look for people who are different from the porn stereotype — embracing natural men and women, with aesthetics of their own, away from the plethora of buxom blondes and muscly men we consistently see in the porn industry. We also cast a variety of professionals and amateurs.”

“I want to be able to represent as many different types of bodies, personas and characteristics as possible” – Erika Lust

LOCATION IS KEY

A former location manager herself, Lust knows how important scouting is. The right spot can trigger her creativity in a variety of ways – setting her mind off into different directions, from knowing which confession to use, what actors will work well to costume design, lighting and so much more. “Finding the perfect location is incredibly important – the production process doesn't start for me until I visit locations and see exactly where I will be shooting my projects. I can picture everything much more clearly, and it really sets the wheels in motion and it’s been the starting point for the films I’ve wanted to make.”

BE SPECIFIC WITH YOUR VISION

For XConfessions vol. 5, Lust and her team developed some of their most innovative briefs yet, with storylines ranging from a titillating tale of an obsession with mermen, to an apocalyptic backdrop between the last man and woman on earth. Such specific confessions have allowed for a huge amount of the creative responsibility that Lust craves — the more unique the confession, the more diversity she can bring to the table. Lust explains, “We often get hundreds of stories that are similar: threesomes, my first lesbian gay/experience and hooking up with strangers are the most repetitive confessions we are sent. What makes a confession worthy of being filmed is that they offer something diverse and original in terms of plot, location, character and context. They have to be creative and innovative in their approach to a specific fantasy, that is, realistic, rare and truthful – with appealing images that myself and a reader can immediately imagine, portraying a situation with erotic tension between characters.”

WARDROBE ACTUALLY PLAYS A HUGE ROLE IN THE NARRATIVE

Who knew wardrobe could play such an important role in something that focuses so much on clothes coming off. According to Lust, its importance is sewn deep into the film’s narrative, and is subconsciously one of the first things watchers notice. “Clothes and appearance in general are the first impressions you have of characters. Because these short films have to be narratively very efficient, the wardrobe is a great tool for storytelling. Not to mention the undressing and removal of clothes within porn play a pivotal role. What comes on in porn, is just as important as what comes off.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT GIRL POWER ON AND OFF SCREEN

Female technicians, focus pullers, camera handlers and editing pros are just a few of the many roles that women are dominating on Lust’s team, helping the filmmaker to defy stereotypes behind the scenes just as much as they do on screen. “In mainstream porn, positions of authority on film sets are given to men more than women. However, we have an entire production crew of almost all women, taking creative decisions that are shaping the discourse, and thus creating a body of work unique to the type of porn which is at the forefront of the industry,” the filmmaker explains. “We have a lot of women who are heads of each department and have the power to make decisions and elaborate on our own discourse. This is a level of power that is important to moving towards equality within the porn industry.”

OPEN YOUR MIND

Being as open minded as possible is central to Lust’s creative process, as well as knowing that while something may work for one’s imagination, doesn’t mean it will work on camera. “As an erotic filmmaker, I have learnt the camera has the power to enhance or deform some erotic details. Just because something is arousing in the mind doesn't mean it will work on camera. You have to be open to try new things, not always think something will be as erotic as you thought. So our trick of the trade is always keep an open mind and allow creativity to flow freely. We see sex as a creative subject and everyone should respect each other enough to openly discuss ideas.”

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