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Director Erika Lust Explains How to Properly Make Feminist Porn

"Mainstream porn is run by middle-aged men. Their vision has very little to do with my vision or my friends' visions."

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Erika Lust leans forward in her seat and looks right in my face, brows lowered, with a huge, conspiratorial grin on her face. She pounds her right fist against her open, outstretched left palm.

"It's time," she near-yells over the huge glassed-in meeting room. "Feminist porn needs to go mainstream."

Lust has been directing porn for a decade, and she's in Toronto for the tenth annual Feminist Porn Awards. She wants to teach young women who are new to filmmaking that they, too, can get into the business.

She depicts real, enjoyable sex that reflects actual pleasure for all, and not just tropes of woman-as-cock-hungry-damsel, man-as-empty-headed-stallion. She says porn needs to change.

"Porn is always the same. Men are the main characters, and women are the fuck bunnies. Horny housewives, secretaries... There are so many stereotypes, and it's never really about our experience," she says. "I want to get inside people's sexual minds. Mainstream porn is run by middle-aged men. Their vision has very little to do with my vision or my friends' visions."

Lust started watching porn while she was at the University of Lund studying poli sci and gender studies. She found it disturbing that the women characters in the films didn't seem to be getting any pleasure out of the sex they were having. She says she felt horny while watching it, but not necessarily happy about that.

Then, in 2004, she created her first porno, called The Good Girl, as the final project for a course. She's been at it since, and for the past two years, Lust has been working on her series XConfessions (link obviously NSFW). People write to her (anonymously, if they want) with their sexual fantasies, and she brings two of them to life each month. The stories are funny and personalized, and, most importantly, they depict consent from and pleasure for each partner.

Still from 'XConfessions Vol. 4: Eat with Me'

"I want to see more young women dare to start making films," Lust says. "Otherwise, my daughters will learn from these guys."

She wrote an e-book called Let's Make a Porno a couple of years ago, and she agreed to share a few pointers about how to get started.

Related: Watch our "Skinema" profile of actress Kimberly Kane

"Squash your fears"
"Porn is something that most people think is chauvinistic, or smut," Lust says. "You have to be daring, you have to be a bold person to do this." In other words, in order to make porn, you need to stop giving a fuck what other people think and just stick to your principles.

In time, she learned she doesn't always need to explain her work to people. It can be "shocking" for many people to hear the words feminist and porn paired together, but if you deconstruct it for them, it's not a difficult concept.

"I only explain it if I have ten minutes, because otherwise they just run away," she jokes. "If I have ten minutes I'm a feminist pornographer. If not, I'm an erotic filmmaker."

Still from 'Power Pussy'

"Remember, it's a film first and foremost"
To stand out in the market, she says, you need to think beyond the sex and tune in to the artistic side of what you're doing. In other words—make it appealing to watch and not like somebody's seedy amateur film shot in a dusty roadside motel.

"Most porn is poor, poor quality. I loved film, so that was another reason why I hated [porn]," Lust says.

Learning basic filmmaking skills is key. This includes the elements of production and finding a perfect location: in a word, avoid ye olde semen-infested vinyl couch. Don't be afraid to screw up. Just use the goddess-given internet and teach yourself what to do.

You'll need to start with a camera, obviously. These days, Lust says, amateurs can start shooting with their phones and achieve some decent results. As your ambitions grow, you can find a way to upgrade.

"The most important thing is your idea"
Lust says it's important to learn good storytelling skills. Don't just start the film with your typical blonde, helpless woman in a slutty dress who is rescued from a horrific scenario by some horse-dicked bro in a muscle shirt. Set the scene, and spend time building the characters as unique humans with true desires. She asks herself questions like:

"What is really interesting about these characters? What's the context? Who are these characters, and why are they interested in each other? Where is the passion?"

Still from 'XConfessions Vol. 4: Pansexuals'

Casting: "Learn who they are and what they like"
Because this is feminist porn, it means everyone needs to consent in advance of the shoot. That means no surprise items or appendages inserted into anyone else's bodily cavities. This is technically the way all porn should go down, but too often, it doesn't happen that way.

The performers should enjoy what's happening and be treated respectfully. If there is group sex in feminist porn, you are unlikely to see a woman being banged like she's a series of Fleshlights while everyone studiously ignores the existence of her clit.

Lust says being ethically responsible is crucial in feminist porn. Making sure people are well-paid and not sexually assaulted on set is ideal here. With mainstream porn companies, it's not always obvious that they pay their people in time, or that they ensure proper healthcare for performers.

"What porn you watch is the same as buying meat and eggs at the supermarket," Lust says. "Being responsible as a consumer is important, whether it's with food or porn."

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