A Successful Evening with Erotic Filmmaker Erika Lust
I called my grandmom as I took my dog for a walk last Sunday evening. She asked me how my day was.
“Oh, I played with Remy, did some writing and emails. And then I went to this really cool event with this filmmaker, Erika Lust, who creates really cool…porn.”
I waited for a response. Instead, Grandmom reminded me about the new Goodwill opening up in the town over.
I had a feeling there wouldn’t be any follow-up questions regarding my evening with Erika Lust. Sure, maybe it is a bit much to expect my grandmom to embrace the topic of porn. But these kind of events, these kind of discussions, will always excite me. And sometimes, despite the awkwardness, I feel compelled to talk about these things with the people that matter to me most - my family.
Let me backtrack.
Last Sunday evening, in the lobby of The Assemblage NoMad in Manhattan, adult filmmaker Erika Lust and her partner, Pablo Dobner, sat down with Jared Matthew Weiss. Jared is the creator of Touchpoint events. Touchpoint is a town hall where where real people share real stories from their love and sex lives.
The first time I perused Lust's site, I immediately knew, game over. I was never going back to YouPorn or PornHub. I signed up for all the mailing lists and was sent Eat With Me. Eat With Me involves, you guessed it, food and fucking. But it also involves teasing, and intimacy, and a back and forth of lovemaking not found in the cookie cutter porns I was used to watching. Not only did I come, I think I teared up.
Erika, who lives and works in Barcelona, talked about how she got her start in creating pornography. She originally studied political science but then, according to her website, found herself inspired after reading Linda Williams’ Hard Core which analyzed the impact of porn on society. Erika discussed the huge conflict she had between her mind and body as she watched mainstream porn. She watched it, she liked it, but something about it made her uncomfortable. That’s why in 2004 she created her first short, erotic film The Good Girl. The Good Girl uses the classic trope of the ‘pizza delivery guy’ but then continues from the female perspective. The film got over two million (pre-YouTube) downloads in the first few months.
Since then, she and Pablo, (who is her husband as well as the CEO of Erika Lust Films) have worked together creating award-winning, beautiful, ethical porn that represents human sexuality as it really is.
To me, Lust’s career was on par with a rockstar. But as I watched her speak very proudly of her work, I noticed the way she was sitting, left arm draped over her stomach, reminded me of myself. As I saw myself in her; this rockstar, erotic filmmaker, so human, so down to earth, giggling over ‘69’ jokes; I was reminded that the topic of sex doesn’t have to look like the kitchy, outlandish, over-the-top, day at the Comic Con that sometimes surrounds it. Yes, sex can be shocking, but more than that, sex can be accessible and flow naturally out of us.
Which brings me back to Grandmom. I can tell my family is uncomfortable with the way sex has been ‘flowing naturally’ out of me these past few years in my writing and comedy. My parents came to see me headline a show last year. I did 45-minutes, 30 of which was about my sex drive. After the show my mom told me how well I projected. A positive response, yes, but I wanted more.
Erika spoke of the moment her mom discovered her erotic film on Twitter a year after it had been released. Her mom was mad, told her it was out of line and told her it could destroy the possibility of her having an actual career. But as the endorsements and popularity of Erika’s films rolled in, her mom was able to better understand the importance of her daughter’s work. Crap. Is success the only way I'll break through with my family?
At the end of the interview Jared opened up for Q & A. Even with all my years doing stand-up, I still have trouble forming normal, non-jokey, non-shaky sentences when speaking in front of strangers. Despite all that, I knew I had something to ask.
I asked Erika how her work would have been affected if she never got the metaphorical thumbs up from her mom. Erika responded that as a stubborn woman she would’ve persisted on with her work. Pablo said the two of them becoming parents themselves resulted in a new level of respect, too. But then after a moment, Erika conceded, sharing that there was still some discomfort from her mom towards her career. Her mom might respond very excitedly to something her sister accomplished in her more 'normal' career and be noticeably less excited for something Erika accomplished.
Sometimes I wonder if a television appearance, a book deal, a high-paying job in comedy (do they exist?) would give my family a reason to be more interested and invested in the type of work I like doing, the type of conversations I enjoy having. And then sometimes I think even that wouldn’t matter. Erika’s at the top of her game, hell she is the game, and even she still struggles to a degree. It’s both terrifying and comforting.
I may never get the discourse with my family that I so deeply crave and I may never get the success I crave either. My family's support may not manifest exactly the way I want, but there is support. For that I am grateful. I’m also grateful that, despite all the unknowns, my interest in sex still deepens, and, like Erika, I will keep going, I will be stubborn, and I will persist.
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