“We want to see everything.”
So writes porn producer and director Erika Lust in Good Porn: A Woman’s Guide.
Not turned on by mainstream porn, Ms. Lust (née Hallquist) decided to make her own: There was Five Hot Stories for Her, which won movie of the year at the 2008 Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, and Barcelona Sex Project (2008), an experimental documentary that followed locals around the Spanish city and finished with them candidly masturbating.
“We have the same right as men to get ourselves off,” writes the Stockholm native, to “well-made films that include sexually explicit content.”
Ms. Lust’s first book, translated into eight languages and published in North America last month by Seal Press, looks at male- versus female-made porn, its history and lingo, as well as sensual indie art house movies, seventies sexploitation films and Gonzo porn, which involves the participation of the director.
The 33-year-old political science major, who is six months pregnant with her second child, spoke with The Globe and Mail from Barcelona.
You write that women looking at pictures of sex “freaks a lot of men out.” Really?
It is still the case, but it’s changing all the time. From a historical perspective, it’s obvious that porn was created for men, by men. Almost every time you watch a film, you can see that the woman is the vehicle for his orgasm. We haven’t liked it as much because it hasn’t been as attractive to us. But there’s a general idea in society that women like reading erotic novels and having softer sex, that we aren’t as visual as men, that we don’t like to look at people having sex. It’s like soccer: There’s a general assumption that we don’t like it very much.
Maybe women would watch more porn if the actors looked more like soccer players.
That’s a good point. When I look at the actors in porn movies, I don’t find them attractive.
You lay out the types in your book: “Mafia dons, pimps, drug lords, arms dealers, bazillionaires, or sickly muscled sex machines hung like a horse.”
The men behind the camera work with stereotypes – strong, tough guys. But me and my friends would rather have a more simple guy, a neighbour type, the type we meet on a normal night, a man we can speak with.
You write that women want realistic settings, “modern apartments” equipped with Macs – not tacky, opulent mansions and yachts.
Mainstream porn directors’ aesthetic values are not too elaborate. It’s a very kitschy ambience. They don’t work with the interiors. They don’t even care about something so important to us as the bed linens.
So women want ambience? I thought you wrote that women aren’t into candles and flower petals.
We don’t need the fireplace or the champagne and the chocolate and the strawberries. I don’t think that’s what we want, but when we watch a film, many of us want it to look good.
The ratty old couch isn’t doing it for you?
Exactly. What happens to me is that I keep looking at that couch and I don’t concentrate on what is happening: “It’s such an ugly place! Why are they doing it here?”
You also complain about the ridiculous scenarios in mainstream porn, like the girl who comes home to find her boyfriend canoodling with her best friend and happily hops into bed with them.
It’s not like I need a two-hour introduction, but I need some context as to who these people are. In advertising, they create a story in 20 seconds. It just seems like [the mainstream directors]don’t really care.
In your 2004 short film The Good Girl, you toy with the pizza delivery boy scenario, except the girl pays for her pizza and offers the guy a “post-coital slice.” Why is it so important that she pay for her pizza with money, not acrobatics?
If you don’t have your own money then you aren’t free to choose in life. One of the clichés that I really didn’t like was this girl who always ends up paying with her body. I really needed her to pay for it and invite him in to have a piece.
Do women in female-made porn have jobs?
In Life Love Lust, there’s a story of a couple working in a restaurant: He’s the chef and she’s a waitress. There’s a story of a fortysomething executive meeting a younger man. I have stories where you realize in the storyline that the women have kids.
You blast mainstream porn’s “cheesy sets, awful styling and makeup, insipid music, laughable performances (with sound editing that was even worse), and amateurish cinematography.” Female pornographers often get hung up on production values. Why?
I think it has to do with our generation. We grew up with TV in the background and images with high production values.
Men grew up with that too.
I have a feeling they’re concentrating on the technical sex. We kind of want it to be in a context.
Do men like the porn you make?
Yes, many, many men – they write me almost every day. I get such cute e-mails from them saying that they find my movies beautiful and so much more natural. Many are happy because it’s the first time they can share it with their girlfriends. I see that because I have a store online and many men come, buy and then send movies to their girlfriends.
Do you think mainstream porn has changed the way some people are having sex?
I see this as a problem with young people turning to pornography to learn about sex. They aren’t critics of what they are seeing. If this same young man would watch one of my movies, he would get another idea of what sex is all about. We’ve said for years with porn that it doesn’t affect us, that it’s something only a small number of men are watching. But pornography has taken a major step into culture as a discourse that explains femininity and masculinity. I think it’s important that women start to participate in this discourse, because men aren’t going to explain our experience.
There seems to be a sense that female-made porn is “too fuzzy.” What do you make of that?
If you go back to when women started making erotic movies, they were into a softer approach. I think in the last 10 years we’ve definitely seen women make movies with more direct approaches. The movies made today are definitely not the fuzzy, erotic kind of illusions.
This interview has been condensed and edited.