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Everything you wanted to know about Lust Cinema, home of ‘female gaze erotica’
Sex-positive filmmaker Erika Lust has built a feminist porn empire.
Despite the wide reach of the internet, sometimes it feels like good porn is still hard to find. Cut past the poor acting, the violent imagery of women being used as sex dolls, and the pedophilic focus on “newly legal” teenagers, and we’re still left with racist, transphobic, and homophobic fetishizing genres. Factor in an overall diversity disparity among the white, thin, buff actors, and one thing is clear: Porn needs inclusive sites like Lust Cinema.
With online movie theater LustCinema, a subscription website for adult cinema often produced and directed with a feminist lens, nuanced pornography falls like manna from the sky. Launched by Swedish adult cinema director Erika Lust in 2010, the website, along with Lust’s two other film websites, subscription-based XConfessions and pay-per-view website EroticFilms.com, doesn’t just share porn “for women.” It provides satisfying, ethical options for viewers looking for more than just a skinny white woman violently gagging on a comically-large penis.
16 fascinating facts about Lust Cinema and Erika Lust
Erika Lust, born Erika Hallqvist, graduated from Lund University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and gender studies in 1999. During her time in university, she realized her mental disgust for mainstream pornography but took note of how she physically reacted to the erotic images. The following year she moved to Barcelona, then released The Good Girl four years later.
The erotic parody of the “pizza delivery guy at the door” trope racked up more than 2 million downloads in its first month online. The Good Girl was also nominated for best short film of the year for 2005’s Barcelona International Erotic Film Festival and was later packaged into Lust’s first full-length feature, Five Hot Stories for Her.
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Two years after Lust Films launched successfully, Lust Cinema followed.
While Lust Cinema showcases Lust’s own work, the website also features adult films from feminist porn directors Shine Louis Houston, Candida Royalle, Jincey Lumpkin, Ovidie, Tristan Taormino, and Madison Young, among more than 60 others. New films are uploaded to the website every Friday, and while the website doesn’t “categorize” genres as mainstream porn does, it does include bios of individual actors, as well as related links of the actor’s work on Lust Cinema.
After launching Lust Cinema as a platform for people to watch pornography, Lust launched her latest project XConfessions in 2013. XConfessions became the first crowdsourced project in adult cinema that takes publicly submitted anonymous confessions and turns them into full-fledged erotic films twice a month.
While XConfessions hosts tons of films directed by Lust and other female filmmakers she supports, Lust Cinema and EroticFilms.com serve as ad-free hosts for Lust Films content as well as erotic cinema from other feminist adult film creators. XConfessions offers memberships for one month, six months, one year, or monthly recurring billings, while Lust Cinema offers memberships for one month, three months, and six months. EroticFilms, instead, is a pay-per-view website for adult cinema on demand, allowing users to rent and purchase films individually.
Lust’s websites differ from PornHub not just in variety but in their business model, too, straying away from advertisers appealing to people who might be more susceptible to scams.
Many mainstream pornography sites are advertising revenue-based, Lust says, which preys upon people with false assertions of “penis enlargement pills” and “hot women in your area waiting to talk to you.” While visitors might fall for a scam and feel enticed to give away their credit card information, there is no such threat on subscription-based websites like Lust Cinema.
In November 2014, Erika Lust gave a talk at TEDxVienna about improving the pornography industry titled “It’s time for porn to change.” Lust’s opening is particularly graphic.
In the talk, Lust detailed her first interactions with porn—at a friend’s house for a sleepover and then, six years later, in a dorm room with her boyfriend her freshman year of college—and how mainstream depictions of sex featured “a woman, blonde, skin-tight dress, red lips, watermelon breasts” and “a cock the size of a stallion’s.” Lust also called upon the adult film industry to advance women as producers, directors, and scriptwriters—as she put it, she doesn’t want to take women out of porn, but the total opposite.
In October 2016, following up on her call to expand opportunities for female filmmakers, Erika posted an open call herself for women around the world looking to create their own “female gaze erotica.”
For the open call, Lust dedicated €250,000 ($308,025) to the project and bankrolled six films: Tips n Tricks for Suckin’ Dicks, Voyeur, We Are the Fucking World, Sex and Sensibility, La Mujer y el Pescador, and She Groped Me by the Groceries. Lust posted another call for the guest directors project in February, announcing that she has dedicated another €250,000 toward new industry voices and visions from women.
With the release of XConfessions Vol. 10, Lust included the six works of the female guest directors who developed projects as part of Lust’s open call for female filmmakers. XConfessions as a whole has released 17 guest-directed films in total.
Lust told the Daily Dot that it’s rare, but Lust Films has had several actors and a few couples reach out to the company expressing interest. She said, however, that most people just have a fantasy for filming, rather than an actual interest.
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In 2017, Netflix featured Lust and her work in the first episode of the docuseries Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, about the internet’s expansion of sex and relationship industries. In the episode, “Women on Top,” Lust addresses how growing access to pornography has allowed young people to use mainstream porn as a substitute for sex education. The series followed the 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted, which focused on the exploitation of younger women, often teenagers, within the amateur porn industry.
For Black Mirror’s latest season, one of Lust’s films was used in the episode “Crocodile,” when Mia, the main character in the episode, turns on an adult film in her hotel room before leaving the room to create an alibi for her evening.
The heads of each department on the production team are women, too, including the directors of photography and art. The film crew demographics vary, however, because most crew members are freelancers, and change shoot to shoot depending on availability, though she does have multiple women working as camera people, editors, and producers, estimating that the crew is 50 to 80 percent women.
“I’m not anti-men, that’s definitely not the thing…but I do think that it is important to get more women into the film industry in technical positions because I feel the ambiance on set really changes,” Lust said. “Women sometimes, when they are in a very male-dominated group, they are afraid to speak up and say really what they feel and what they think, and I’m avoiding that.”
Lust said that for actors, sometimes the male performers on her set feel initially nervous to be in front of a heavily female production crew. However, the performers and crew alike begin to feel much more comfortable and even secure on set with the female crew.
Lust Cinema previously featured queer couples and other LGBTQ representation, but its first film featuring a transgender performer was released in December 2017. The “pansexual orgy” film, We are the Fucking World, was guest directed by director, writer, and performer Olympe de G, and featured Manon Praline, also known as Mathilde, a French queer trans woman based in Berlin. As part of the film’s mission, Lust Films raised €5000 ($6,164.25) in revenue for human rights non-governmental organization Amnesty International to help combat homophobia and transphobia.
Lust told the Daily Dot that she isn’t a sex expert or psychologist. But that doesn’t stop other people from approaching her at dinner parties and when she’s picking up her daughters from school. Despite the unsolicited sharing, Lust said most of the time it doesn’t bother her—erotic filmmaking is her passion.
Erika Lust says when it comes to sexual harassment, assault, and the Me Too movement, consent is strictly required—even if it looks nonconsensual in mainstream pornography.
Lust told the Daily Dot that even in mainstream pornography—when it comes to the porn industry—sex is the business, so it differs from Hollywood in that sex is directly a part of negotiations. While the business itself is abiding by legal practices and is literally backed up by photo or video proof, Lust acknowledged that the industry isn’t completely “clean,” particularly regarding the power imbalance between young, amateur female performers and male producers trying to “push the limit” with violent but consensual performances.
In 2010 Lust published Love Me Like You Hate Me: Lessons in Pleasure and Pain, a book about the taboos of domination and submission, and Erotic Bible to Europe: From Kinky to Chic, both which she co-wrote with Venus O’Hara. She published X: A Woman’s Guide to Good Porn the following year and went on to share her first erotic novel, La Cancion de Nora, in 2013. Good Porn and her how-to book on erotic film filmmaking Let’s Make A Porno are available for download for free on her website.
Just as “feminism” continues to hold a connotation of “man-hating” women, Lust said the term “feminist porn” sometimes still evokes this idea that her work is only for women, or that it is also somehow anti-men, or only features women having sex.
Feminist porn is slowly getting a better reputation as the industry slowly recognizes its equity problems. However, depending on her audience and how much time she has, Lust prefers to say she’s a “feminist who makes porn.” She makes it a point to communicate exactly what it is she does within “adult cinema.” Lust is also among the tribe of filmmakers using the term “ethical porn” as a way to better explain her objective without the misconceptions that come along with being a feminist.
Lust herself has previously criticized the male-centric practices that mainstream porn have continued to carry into VR pornography. In interviews with Motherboard, Lust said that she continues to see “mainstream” poorly-made pornography in the VR adult films she’s watched. However, she thinks independent studios could get into VR once technology costs come down. For Lust Films, Lust estimated it would cost around €20,000 ($16,266.40) to produce a VR film, and told Motherboard in 2016 that she had plans to implement the technology.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.