Erika Lust and The Faux Feminist Porn Movement

For days after I finished watching Hot Girls Wanted, I sat with churning emotions, constantly morphing from sadness to concern to outrage and back again. These feelings stemmed from the glimpse into the real lives of amateur porn actresses, and though responsible for a lot of unpleasant feelings, I couldn’t wait to watch the next production: Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. At this time, it had been over a year since a porn addiction training introduced me to the idea of a movement pushing a “female perspective” in order to legitimize pornography, and thoughts of that were far away when I first heard Lust speak. Honestly, I was entranced by her words of female empowerment and putting the well-being of her girls first. It wasn’t until the documentary progressed into the actual process of making her films that I realized what her words were: extremely strategic lies to sell her product.

My experience with the concept of pornography has shown that there is a feminist movement that condemns pornography, generally defined by lack of consent and/or existence of physical, emotional, or other abuse/degradation toward the actresses/actors but remains pro-eroticism. The difference to the movement is that eroticism has no degradation toward the female participants and can be proven completely consensual. The problem, however, is that I have yet to see a pornography producer that is actually part of this movement. Rather, they seem to be hijacking the feminist stance in order to sell pornography, because honestly, pornography can’t be pro-female. There is nothing to suggest that this concept, if it’s even better, can exist in pornography. It is not something that can be found on most (if any) Internet pornography websites and seems to be mostly confined to literature. If such a thing as non-degrading eroticism ever existed, it seems to have been wiped out by the escalating nature of pornography. Although her words have all the trappings of a feminist, and maybe her finished products seem different than mainstream Internet pornography (I’m not sure, I haven’t seen them), Lust is every bit as deplorable as any producer of mainstream pornography, profiting off someone else’s exploitation. In the documentary, she’s shooting a film about a pianist. The pornographic content revolves around her piano playing, and the artist in me totally understands the premise: for someone whose life revolves around their craft, there is bound to be some natural erotic potential. The problem is that pornography ruins everything. Although Lust managed to find a real pianist who has no experience in porn, she didn’t bother to do the same for her male actor. She talks about the feminist ideal that eroticism is different from pornography, but she brings in a professional actor and subjects a completely unwitting woman, who was sold by promises far different than what were delivered, to visually obvious painful, aggressive intercourse, violent hair pulling, and other demeaning acts.

I don’t have an answer as to whether eroticism is OK when pornography is not. Mostly, I doubt that eroticism exists within the constraints of the feminist definition. What my experience tells me, however, is that the mainstream alternatives to pornography, that claim to be female friendly and compliant to the rules of human dignity don’t exist.  So, the next time you see someone like Erika Lust presenting content they claim to meet these guidelines, remember to look behind the scenes. Chances are, you’ll see proof that the opposite is true.

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