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Stills from Erika Lust's progressive new vampire themed adult filmCourtesy of Erika Lust

How vampire porn can demystify blood in sex

Adult filmmaker Erika Lust discusses the erotic value of vampires, the dichotomy of sex and death and the politics of periods

The literary vampire is an ambiguously coded figure, a source of both erotic anxiety and corrupt desire, and is one of the most powerful archetypes passed down to us from the nineteenth century. Neither dead or alive, human or creature, this abject figure occupies a liminal space that traverses the boundaries separating life and death; sex and violence. Many of popular culture’s key players have employed the vampire trope to communicate cultural conflicts about gender, sexuality, race, to name a few, and some would argue it’s been done, quite literally, to death. However, just when you think you’ve seen it all, a creative pioneer flips the lid on the undead narrative and gives us some fresh perspective. Enter Erika Lust, a Barcelona-based erotic filmmaker, who recently brought out her brazenly titled short film, Can Vampires Smell My Period?

Erika Lust has been making a name for herself in the adult movie industry with her stylishly shot, whimsically feminocentric porn projects. Her series XConfessions has explored a number of fantasies via anonymous confessions from her fans, and she was inspired to make a vampire flick after reading a humorous query on her website. “Are vampires able to smell when females are on their periods?” asked Elise_11, “And if they do, will that make them hungry… or horny?”

Vampire fiction stakes its roots in the Gothic literature of a Victorian subconscious, and a combination of fear, yearning and sadomasochism have dictated the story since its inception. In the immortal words of Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Without passion, we’d be truly dead.” For Lust, the vampire is not only the embodiment of violent desire, but it’s a fluid character which can help unravel one of the world’s last taboos: the period.

“My work is to take over our bodies, represent female sexuality and break taboos for everyone,” she says, “I want to give period sex some screen time.” The film sees its female protagonist, Misha Cross, hunted by a predatory vampire as she engages in acts such as masturbation and oral sex. With blood dripping down her legs and finger marks strewn across fresh white sheets, not to mention the bloodied fangs of her hunter, Parker Marx, the scenes are a game-changer for both porn and the undead canon. As Lust rightly points out, erotic cinema often uses period blood as fetish; a way of satisfying the tastes and voyeurism of the male gaze. “Many women and men enjoy period sex!” Lust argues, so in many ways her work seeks to normalise rather than shock. Here, we talk to the director about the enigmatic vampire figure, deconstructing the shame surrounding menstruation and reinventing the pornographic wheel.

What inspired you to make a film about vampires and period blood?

Erika Lust: I released this short film partly to break down some barriers and inspire some people to understand that menstruation is not only natural, but it can be sexy. I wanted to do it a long time ago, but I had not received a good confession about it, so I just kept the idea in my mind as I do with many ideas I have!

One day I received this confession by a vampire fan, Elise_11. She wonders “Are vampires able to smell when females are on their periods? And if they do, will that make them hungry… or horny?” I remember laughing when I read it because one night I was at home watching True Blood and I swear that question had popped into my mind! Throughout the past century we have seen the vampire myth develop from its origin but what they all share in common is a dark, underlying sexuality that is irresistible to an audience. So I knew it was the perfect story plot to explore the most taboo of sexual subjects.

What for you is sexy about vampires?

Erika Lust: Vampires are inextricably tied with erotica. I think the vampire is one of the most erotic characters in literature, always surrounded by shadows, the night ... permanently having this innate desire to suck on you. They are the embodiment of lust. I also think what makes vampires so erotic is the aspect of terror that comes with being intimate with them. It’s the feeling of being vulnerable and scared for your safety that adds ultimate sex appeal to creatures from the underworld.

“Are vampires able to smell when females are on their periods? And if they do, will that make them hungry… or horny?”

How do you explore the dynamic between fear and excitement; sex and death?

Erika Lust: There are many layers to that question and I will try to answer it in the least cliché manner. The obvious reference to make here is the relationship between the orgasm and death – moreover, the fact that in French the literal translation of orgasm is “little death”. I think that sexuality and especially very intense sexual experiences are very closely linked to death – we are filled with adrenaline, we are completely focussed on one thing – the sensation of pain, or the sensation of the orgasm – of feeling alive, of feeling awakened, in both instances. Because when do you feel more awake or alive than in a moment of sudden pain? And so the dichotomy of sex and death on the surface seems like a simple one. What was interesting for me in exploring vampires and sex, and especially menstruation, is the concept of being hunted, being desired on a purely animalistic, almost threatening level. That the predator desires you almost as much as they want to suck your blood – it’s exciting because it is overwhelming. And we all want to feel like we make others feel overwhelmed by our sexuality or our attractiveness.

Do you hope to undo the taboo that still surrounds periods? Why do you think there is still a taboo? 

Erika Lust: I really think menstruation is a taboo. People don't talk about periods, less about enjoying period sex! It's like sex and nudity, constantly censored in our popular culture and in the social networks. It feels like we have to feel shame and I feel that it comes from an issue much more deeply ingrained in the policing of women’s bodies throughout all of our culture. 

My work is intended to take over our bodies, represent female sexuality and break taboos for everyone. Alternative adult cinema tries to portray female sexuality in all its forms, offer diversity and represent all the different parts of society and the people in it! Half of the world’s population get periods. It is as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping for us, and it is beautiful thing. We can create life once we have our period! And many women and men enjoy period sex too! 

“I think the vampire is one of the most erotic characters in literature, always surrounded by shadows, the night ... permanently having this innate desire to suck on you.”

I released this short film to represent the female monthly reality and to represent a sexual activity that is very normal for some couples while inspiring some people to think about why they find it repulsive.

You have combined masturbation, oral sex and a woman’s period – is this a challenge of conservative views towards female sexuality? Are you trying to shock or normalise?

Erika Lust: It can't be denied that periods are still a taboo subject for many people and it can’t be denied that one of the last taboos of menstruation is around sex. My goal is not necessarily to make it lustful. That will depend on what you enjoy in sex. Some will find it lustful and some others won't. My goals are to give period sex some screen time and to show our reality as women. Due to its stigma, menstruation is almost never portrayed in porn and when it is portrayed period sex is normally fetishised. On the other hand, I show menstrual blood on the sheets, on her fingers when she masturbates, running down her leg... we never get to see that anywhere and it is the monthly reality for every woman on the planet. 

What power structures are at work between the male vampire and female ‘victim’ in your film? Is there a female gaze?

Erika Lust: I think all that I do is done under the female gaze. Male gaze is practically everything we know and women offer an alternative to that perspective. Of course men don't show periods so this story is all about the female gaze.

I tell our story using an element of the underworld. Women get periods and women sometimes get horny during their period. But it is a far bigger issue than that. There are a lot of reasons why the subject of periods is one we have to address since it is one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe. Periods are a social, political and health issue and I really believe there won't be gender equality until we strip menstruation of its stigma and ensure that public policy keeps up.