Pin It
erika lust
XConfessions vol.5, 2015Courtesy of

How can we change negative perceptions of porn actors?

The indie porn director, Erika Lust, wants you to meet her performers through a series of cultural ‘experiences’

Bike tours are all the same, hustled around by an old local doing their best to break the language barrier. But there’s something different about this particular one in Berlin. Your tour guides are two adult film performers.

“The plan would be for me and Paulita Pappel to take people on a bike ride through Berlin, stopping at different fun, cool and interesting places through the city,” explains American-born, Berlin-based Poppy Cox. “The specifics would depend on the time of year and people who were on the ride.”

This wasn’t just an isolated, amusing idea thought up by the pair alone. It’s part of a larger project organised by feminist indie adult film director, Erika Lust. She’s giving the public a chance to share an ‘experience’ with her performers through a partnership with The experiences range from vermouth tasting in Barcelona to looking around a museum in Madrid. Each is catered to the specific performer’s talents, hobbies or likes. “Erika’s team asked if we wanted to be involved and it sounded like a fun idea,” says Cox. “I consider myself a bike-sexual. That means that one of my first considerations when choosing a sexual partner is if they ride a bike or not.” So for Cox, a tour around Berlin on a bike was the perfect match.

Lust’s idea came from thinking about how to change public perceptions of adult performers. Despite many young people being more sex-positive and supportive of sex workers’ rights, it’d be naive to think that there is no lingering stigma around being in a porn film. “I wanted to create a platform to demystify the often negative views that some have about my actors,” she explained. 

“I present people as they are – complex beings with many sides to their personalities, and many hobbies and interests”

“In my work, believe me, I’ve come across plenty of negative assumptions over the years. It’s often assumed that to be an adult performer you’re troubled, on drugs, have money problems and no self-esteem. Even though those cases certainly exist, it’s not a fair judgement to pass on to everyone who chooses to do adult films, and it’s not my experience at all. The performers from my project XConfessions are some of the most interesting people I have ever met, and they are so much more than just their bodies.”

The most obvious way to do that would be to take performers out of the environment viewers see them in. Lust decided on a fun, cultural day out where people could talk to the performers about their lives outside the industry, about their hobbies and cultural passions – with strictly no sexual interaction involved. “I talked to performers to see what the interest was and to my delight they totally got on board with the idea!” Lust explains. “We started developing from there, and planning events based on the different cultural interests of the performers.” In the end, she narrowed this down to a collection of city events, ranging from foodie stuff to art and music-themed tours.

“I do think it’s important in general to present people as they are – complex beings with many sides to their personalities, with many hobbies and interests,” she continues. “It’s such a cheap worldview to have, to think that just because someone likes sex and does something sex-related for work, that it would be all there is to a person. Sex is just one side of life. At the end of the day, they are people just like you and me and we should show that.”

“Some people just take the right to moralise over other people’s sexuality and choices... It comes from a malicious urge to police bodies and sexuality.”

Lust added that she believes there is still a gender bias in the porn industry. “I think it’s worse for women, some people just take the right to moralise over other people’s sexuality and choices. The idea is often that you must be desperate for money and attention, insane or just lacking in self-respect – those are all common ideas amongst the narrow-minded. It comes from a malicious urge to police bodies and sexuality.”

Cox however, isn’t convinced that that fans of her work would have these ideas to start with. When asked whether she wanted to change minds with the bike tour, she said it’s not a big intention of hers. “I kinda doubt that anyone who had a low opinion of adult performers would pay to do an experience like this. I think the fans and followers of Erika’s work are intelligent consumers of erotic content, so I don’t think this sort of thing would come up. But if it happened as as side-effect of our time together, then that’s great.” 

And that’s it, really. The fans of Lust work’s are often women or couples. They’re feminists. They’re people who like some passion and storytelling in their porn. The cultural experiences will likely be little more than a fun day out for genuine fans. But through the very action of breaking down the fourth wall, Lust is outwardly making her statement very clear.