Growing up in Sweden, Lust had a familiar first experience with porn. Watching it secretly with a girlfriend, she was aroused, but like a lot of other adolescent girls, felt kind of embarrassed, and hated the way women were portrayed on screen. Plus, she was disappointed by the actual film.
So, after studying for degrees in political science and gender studies, the Barcelona-based filmmaker tried her hand behind the lens. The result was the 2004 erotic short, The Good Girl, which sparked in Lust the desire to keep pushing porn forward and refocus it—away from the male gaze.
Since then, she’s developed her own brand of inclusive feminist porn that, aside from including the audience in its production, forces viewers to not only to witness female sexuality, but enjoy it—in all its forms.
office caught up with Lust to talk about feminism, sexual autonomy and being a mother and in porn.
How did you get into porn as an actual career? Is it something you ever thought you would do?
It started when I was studying Political Science and Gender Studies at university. I often tell people about the book that influenced me, which was Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the "Frenzy of the Visible". It gave me my lightbulb moment and I realized that pornography was a genre—a specific cinematic trend with its own history. It wasn't just ‘porn’ to me anymore—it was part of a discourse on sexuality making a statement and expressing ideologies and values on sex and gender. Williams explains that porn wants to be about sex, but on closer inspection, it's always about gender.
I was always a cinephile and I had fallen in love with Spain on my erasmus year, so after university, I moved to Barcelona to study filmmaking and decided I wanted to shoot an erotic film. I shot The Good Girl, which was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope. To be honest, I can't really watch it now without cringing at my lack of experience, but it was a start and it changed my life. I uploaded it to the internet and made it available for free download. Next thing I know, it had over 2 million downloads in less than two months!
That's when I realized there were other people out there looking for alternatives to mainstream pornography, and I decided to start making adult films that reflected my own ideas and values on sex and gender. That's how it all began. I went on to direct four more adult features before starting XConfessions.com in 2013.
What was your experience with pornography growing up? Was it something you actively watched/enjoyed?
I have a pretty stereotypical and common story about my experience with porn growing up/ I was at a girlfriend's house having a sleepover when we found one of her dad's explicit DVDs. I cannot tell you how excited we were to discover the mysteries of sex. But oh god, were we disappointed! After that, I left it alone for a while until I was in college and my boyfriend at the time suggested watching some porn together. I gave it another try, but again, I was disappointed. I felt physically aroused but uncomfortable with the degrading behavior shown towards women and the complete neglect of their pleasure. Plus, the cinephile in me couldn't understand why all of the porn I saw completely lacked imagination, story line, relatable characters and cinematic qualities. I understood that it was solely for the purpose of arousal but I didn't understand why we had to forfeit the satisfaction of our other visual senses.
Do you think your academic background plays a part in how you both experience and create pornography? Like, do you feel like you're looking at it through a more academic lens?
Yes, I do think my education plays a big part in how I interact with porn. Having to study gender from a politicized angle at university meant I had to read academic literature and I was exposed to articulate arguments I hadn't thought about before. My studies were hugely valuable and really eye-opening for me. They equipped me with the language and knowledge to effectively describe what I had thought about porn, sexism and other matters about gender from a very young age.
Tell me about XConfessions. What was the idea behind it?
It came about very organically to be honest. After I made my first few films people started sending me emails with their sexual fantasies asking me to shoot them. At first, I had a blog and I would upload their confessions anonymously. As I got more and more, I realized that they were great ideas for films. So XConfessions was born in 2013 and now I choose two confessions from the public to make into a short film each month. It’s a crowdsourced project.
Why did you want to ‘break down the third wall’ in the sense that you're letting viewers come up with what they want to see?
Breaking down the third wall and letting the viewers tell me the films they want to see is great because the public's imagination is never-ending, and I get to discover sexual fantasies that I'd never even thought about before! Plus, everyone is a bit of an exhibitionist inside, so being able to confess their sex secrets anonymously can give them a bit of a buzz. One of the hottest projects I have recently discovered is the Casual Sex Project, where people write their real casual sex experiences. It's super arousing to read other people's fantasies and real stories—that's why I think XConfessions works so well. You read the confession, you imagine it and then you let yourself be surprised by how myself or a guest director represents it on the screen.