Erika Lust isn't your typical pornographer.
For one, she's a woman, which most porn viewers (i.e., men) usually picture being in front of the camera, rather than behind it.
And second, her films aren't made the way many pornographic films are made; there's no degradation of women, no choking or cum facials (unless of course the woman is into it), and, oh yeah, her films are centered around women’s pleasure.
This gave way to a staunchly loyal audience of feminist porn consumers. And Lust, being a benevolent adult-film director, decided to take it one step further: She began soliciting ideas for future short films from the viewers themselves.
“I felt that we needed an alternative to the degrading, mainstream porn gaze, and I wanted to create that alternative,” Lust told Revelist over email. That’s when, in 2004, she started directing adult movies that were “fresh, sensual, and ethically made.”
“I realised I wasn't the only one that wanted something different,” she said. “That there were people who don't think that sex always has to be presented as cheap, tasteless, and vulgar. People wanted to watch sex on screen in a more realistic, sexy, and intelligent way.”
Her first films were so successful that people began writing in to Lust with their fantasies, asking her to turn them into movies. Thus began XConfessions.
“It was a crowd-sourced project since its origin,” she said.
With so many people submitting their fantasies to Lust on the XConfessions website, choosing which ones to convert into films is not an easy task, as Lust and her production team of 15 (all women) only put out two short films a month.
“It works in very much the same way [as any film] apart from the fact we also include explicit sex,” Lust said. “Location scouts, casting performers, script writing, then onto the shooting and then all the post production work… So when I choose a fantasy submitted on XConfessions, the production costs are something I definitely need to look at.”
The storyline is also key for Lust.
“I want to show sex in a fun and natural way, and for people to identify with the situations and the characters, as if it's something that could actually happen to them,” she said.
She doesn’t pick fantasies that degrade, endanger, or put down women (or any other group). Equality and consent are absolutely necessary in Lust’s films. And, she added, “I always try to narrate a story that answers the question, ‘why are these people having sex?’”, which is something that often gets lost in mainstream pornos.
Each XConfession short runs around the 15-minute range, give or take, and, when a fantasy is chosen, Lust lets the viewer know about it.
“I always send them an email and let them know!” she said. “Every film released also includes the [written] confession and the name of the XConfessions member who wrote it.”
Lusts’s feedback comes from both men and women, singles and couples, and is wildly positive — and the films themselves are super empowering.
“They appreciate the work I am doing for a more sex-positive culture where female pleasure matters, and they thank me for bringing a more positive light into their sex lives and sexuality,” said Lust.
“I want people to feel positive after they’ve seen my films,” she added. “I definitely think that apart from being fun and healthy to watch, explicit films can be used as a tool for sexual liberation and education.”