Ersties Studios has been making ‘real’ porn since 2010, with everything produced by and for women – we catch up with founder Paulita Pappel to find out more
Based in Berlin, Paulita Pappel’s company Ersties has been making amateur adult films since 2010. Her remit is simple: she creates videos of ‘real women having real sex’ with all the content produced by and for women. Realism is the key with all of the performers freely exploring their sexuality right in front of the camera.
Last year, Ersties gained viral fame with ‘Tinder Sex Experiment’ (link NSFW). A short shot by Pappel of two strangers meeting up via the dating app and fucking for the first time, on-camera. Ersties’ scenes are usually playful in tone. For example, in ‘Sexy Surprise Christmas’ two girls unwrap sex toy gifts and in the informative ‘Let's Talk About Sex #1’ Pappel and friends explore the female orgasm.
28-year-old Pappel was born in Spain and moved to Berlin just over a decade ago. We spoke to her about ‘reality porn’, Berlin’s influence on her work, and the fate of “silicon Barbie doll porn stars.”
How did you get into making amateur porn?
Paulita Pappel: I am an exhibitionist and I was always fascinated by the depiction of sexuality. But the pornography that I had access to as a teenager was for me boring and portraying a very narrow and sexist approach to sex and gender. I moved to Berlin 11 years ago and I encountered sex-positive feminism and feminist pornographers and that became my family.
The city has a rich history of sexual openness, going back to Christopher Isherwood and beyond. Does this cultural background influence your work?
Paulita Pappel: Berlin has always had spaces for transgressive sexualities and people still come here to explore, so yes, it is a great place to shoot adult content. However, I am personally not so much influenced by the art of past decades, but more by actual feminist discourse and DIY creativity. As a curator of the Porn Film Festival Berlin I get to see a lot of the films being made now.
How would you define your adult content?
Paulita Pappel: I work in very different fields, since I am a freelancer. Ersties is on one hand about creating a very intimate space with the simplest production equipment and capturing the sexuality of women without giving instructions. On the other hand we develop stories related to sex that follow a spontaneous impulse, a current topic, keeping it real. Working on amateur porn can be very refreshing since the performers have not been trained to follow concrete sexual scripts.
And you encourage all your performers to freely explore their sexuality in front of the camera?
Paulita Pappel: Being on set is very freeing, there is nothing to be ashamed of and all the space to experiment. This energy flows into the final product. Watching it you can feel that the actions are spontaneous and curiosity is the driving force. Both as performer and as director I have found pleasure in capturing sex as it really happens in front of the camera. When working with amateurs this makes it easier for me to guarantee that everyone involved is safe. A safe environment is the most important thing for me. It is all about creating the right atmosphere.
How much of a role does playfulness come into creating that atmosphere because your scenes are pretty playful?
Paulita Pappel: Playfulness is key. Sex can be adult play, so having the space to improvise and laugh is what makes it authentic. It has a special dynamic and makes each scene unique. For me there is not such a thing as “natural” sex. Women especially are taught to deliver a performance when it comes to sex – always worrying about their looks and so on. I let the performers either forget the camera or be playful with it [because] having an actual camera can be liberating, if you create the right production conditions.
I’ve heard your porn described as ‘reality’ porn. Is that what you would call it?
Paulita Pappel: To be honest, I had not heard the term ‘reality’ porn. But I guess it is meant to define porn that is shot in real time, with the performers doing what they want to do instead of following a script and without too much intrusion from the camera or the director. That’s the kind of porn we do at Ersties.
Tell me about the ‘Tinder Sex Experiment’. How did that come about?
Paulita Pappel: I heard about Tinder and was amazed that it existed. It could be a great asset for feminist sexual liberation, but it actually brings the superficiality of social media to an extreme. It is full of bullshit and recreates gender and ‘lookism’ norms. So I decided to explore it and expose it by connecting it to porn and documenting the experiment.
You call the team of performers and producers that you work with “The Dudettes”. What’s the Dudette ethos?
Paulita Pappel: Dudettes was meant to be the female counterpart to ‘dude’. It is supposed to connote an easiness, a relaxation regarding the way of talking about and dealing with sex topics.
“Both as performer and as director I have found pleasure in capturing sex as it really happens in front of the camera” – Paulita Pappel
Whenever ‘porn’ is reported in the mainstream the shadow of male-gaze, Californian, tube-site free content looms large. Do you think we’re slowly getting to the point when people realise ‘porn’ is far too broad a word to describe erotic content? Are the days of the pimped up Barbie doll style porn star are numbered?
Paulita Pappel: I don’t think so and I also do not think that there is anything wrong with pimped up Barbie doll style porn per se. What matters is that there is diversity, and that people have access to that diversity. The means of production and distribution of porn are changing, allowing for different representations, just like the representation of women is changing in all media.
I reclaim the word porn for different forms of art depicting sexual experiences. I personally do not like the word “erotic content”, since it is often used just to escape the shameful reputation of porn. There is nothing inherently wrong in pornography; there is something wrong in society, a society that is sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, and structurally discriminating in so many ways. This reflects not only in porn, but in all media and institutions. Changing porn is a small part of changing society.
What projects are you working on next?
Paulita Pappel: I am collaborating with other feminist pornographers in Europe like Erika Lust and María Bala from Toytool Comiteé. And I am already watching a lot of porn for the upcoming Porn Film Festival Berlin in October. But first the summer will bring some more good amateur fun, we have some crazy surprises coming up in Ersties, so stay tuned!