#rp19 speaker Erika Lust on reclaiming empowering on-screen sex

Erika Lust is an acclaimed indie adult filmmaker who creates sex-positive, indie adult cinema that portrays sexually intelligent narratives, relatable characters, and realistic hot sex. In 2015, Erika gave her essential TEDx talk It’s Time for Porn to Change. Erika’s groundbreaking XConfessions project is the first crowdsourced erotic film series in the history of adult cinema. Every month, she picks two anonymous fantasies shared on XConfessions.com and turns them into captivating, explicit short films. Erika's revolutionary cinema reflects her views on sex as a healthy, natural part of life worth celebrating. With more than 150 short films, Erika also produces and finances female guest directors, supporting burgeoning talent across the globe. She defends the importance of having women behind the camera in all key positions.


tl;dr - 3 questions to … Erika Lust

We asked Erika about her talk at re:publica and about the status quo of the adult film industry:

What are you currently working on that will be part of your talk at re:publica?
Just like Big Data, Big Food or Big Pharma, there is Big Porn and it is more corporate than ever. This is the result of the disruption of the porn industry by the internet and the online porn tube sites. I want to do a meaningful analysis on the androcentric space of porn this has created and its current representation of sex, sexuality and women built by the male vision and its ideals.

The porn we are watching is dictated by tech guys and not by people who really care about sexuality and its representation. Porn in its nature is not a male-constructed entity, but a space for humans to explore their sexuality and we need to reclaim it. There is a real and disturbing need for another discourse where filmmakers do take responsibility for what they show. I will reflect on my choices, on and off screen, to achieve that space.

For me, the key lies in the production process, meaning that what happens in front of the camera has everything to do with the people behind it, their world vision and their values. This principle affects everything from the storyline, to the way pleasure, gender roles and agency are represented, to how collaborators work on set. 

However, it's imperative that consumers realize a change in their viewing habits is needed. Porn is so ubiquitous, the consumer is becoming more and more desensitized to what they see on the tube sites. The importance of ethics should be present in the porn we produce, they way we market it and they way we distribute it but also in the way we consume pornography. A change in consumption is needed in order to avoid unethical working conditions, abuse, more exploitation and more insecurity in the industry. Free porn is never really free, it often comes with consequences.

AI and DeepFakes are changing porn. Do these developments threaten the future of ethical adult films on the internet?
A lot of mainstream porn is already almost indistinguishable from CGI in the way that the men are disembodied penises and the women are made up to look like the same porn prototype. However, DeepFakes are terribly dangerous and represent a new frontier for nonconsensual pornography, revenge porn and fake news. It's just the antithesis of a society that is so focused on the culture of consent. It almost seems like a backlash has followed. DeepFakes are incredibly easy to make and people are already starting to use them to make fake porn videos using images of coworkers, friends, crushes and ex-girlfriends taken from their social media accounts. This could take bullying and cyber bullying to a whole new level.

One of the main issues with DeepFakes is that women have not consented to their heads being used in a porn film. It's another example of how women are objectified and reduced to sexual objects to be the butt of a joke or for the pleasure of a male viewer. Much of the attitude towards this is rooted in seeing female celebrities, porn performers and women as commodities, not "real" people. 

And to add insult to injury, the women being used to make DeepFakes are not protected by law. Celebrities could sue for misappropriation of their images but for most "normal" people this isn't possible. This is because, unlike a nude photo stolen from your account, this material isn't real and you can't sue someone for exposing you intimately when it's not your real life that they're exposing. 

The free tubes sites hosting these DeepFakes need to take responsibility and take DeepFake videos down. Pornhub previously claimed it was banning the videos but if you take one look at their site they are still so easy to find. Instead of waiting for the users searching for the videos to report them, Pornhub needs to take action and crackdown on the users uploading these videos.

tl;dr - must-reads in preparation of Erika Lust’s talk at #rp19
Erika’s website

Erika on Twitter

“It’s Time For Porn to Change” - Erika Lust at TedxVienna