Erika Lust is an erotic screenplay writer, film director, producer, and all-around entrepreneur. She loves the beach, Absolut vodka, and her favorite porn movie is Behind the Green Door. Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1977, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in political science at Lund University, with a specialization in feminism and human rights.
During her time at college, Lust produced a few short films and studied the writings of Linda Williams. She was fascinated by Williams’ way of analyzing and critiquing porn. Although Lust had seen her share of porn over the years, it had never impressed her.
The first time I ever saw a porno film, I had the same reaction that I reckon most women have and it was most definitely not love at first sight. Obviously I was aroused by some of the images but there was so much in it that bothered me. I didn’t identify with any of it: nothing of my lifestyle, my values or even my sexuality was represented in any way. There was no sign of the women enjoying themselves, and it was as if they were there simply to please the men. The sexual situations just seemed ridiculous and were all based on sexist male fantasies . . .
And anyway, for my generation, that grew up watching MTV, the audiovisual quality of adult film is totally unacceptable: tacky sets, horrible styling and make-up, non-music, crap acting and even worse dubbing, amateur photography… in general a product left wanting on many levels.
For years, Lust had been on the hunt for porn that would appeal to her — porn that was modern, urban, and realistic, with high production values. But everything she saw, even the porn that was marketed as “for women,” was disappointing. She eventually came to the conclusion that if she wanted to see her style of porn, she was going to have to produce it herself.
In 2000, after graduating from Lund, Lust moved to Barcelona and started doing odd jobs at production houses — making coffee and picking up actors at the airport. She also took some film directing classes. In 2004, after honing her vision for adult entertainment, she founded Lust Films, an independent adult film production company and erotic book publisher.
Lust’s first porn project was a scene that poked fun at the pizza delivery boy trope, entitled “The Good Girl.” Her first feature film, Five Hot Stories For Her, included a scene in which the male gaze was swapped out for the female gaze. Next came Barcelona Sex Project, a documentary-style portrayal of various Barcelona residents and their intimate moments of self-pleasure. And Lust’s latest films, Life Love Lust and Cabaret Desire, are her most stylish and hot pieces to date.
In Erika Lust’s films, everything is meticulously chosen and crafted, from the casting to the clothes, music, script, and photography. Her work is both atmospheric and explicit, and she casts actors who look modern and natural. Lust is inspired by Sofia Coppola, and it shows — her films, much like The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation — are lush and dreamy, with aesthetic beauty and emotional resonance. All of her films have won a host of awards, such as Movie of the Year at the Feminist Porn Awards and Best Narrative Feature at CineKink.
Lust has also taken her sex-positive, feminist perspective and compiled a porn manifesto called Good Porn: A Woman’s Guide. Lust contends that in order for women to be in charge of how porn represents them, they must take the reins within adult entertainment. She believes in the value of porn as a discourse, as a way of looking at and discussing sex.
I see porn as a tool for excitement, education and pleasure. It’s not only an entertainment product, but also a powerful way to influence future generations’ vision of human sexuality. That’s why I think women have to take part in the political discourse of porn: if we don’t participate, porn will not be an expression of human sexuality, but an expression of male sexuality.
Read all about (and see screenshots from) three of Erika Lust’s films in our blog post here.