I recently corresponded with Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for Jezebel, about pornographer Erika Lust. The piece — “Erika Lust Says She Has an ‘Ethical’ Alternative to ‘Mass-Produced’ Porn” — published on May 8, 2018.
You can read the entire thing — including passages that describe Lust, an avowed vegan, eating “market greens and raw ahi tuna ornamented with slivers of lotus root” and how an accused on-set sexual batterer has starred in two of her ethical-alternative-to-mass-produced-porn films — right here.
It’s a long read, but worth it. As per usual, you can read my full correspondence with the writer below. The following screen grab is one place where my insights were engaged — what do you think?
Tracy Clark-Flory: How is Erika Lust generally regarded within the mainstream L.A.-based industry?
DrCT: Though I cannot comment on what others think or make any sort of sweeping assessments of collective regard, I haven’t observed much overt focus on Erika Lust within the LA-area adult industry community. People certainly seem to be familiar with her role as a content producer, but Lust herself seems to have taken great pains to keep her work separate from the L.A.-area porn industry/community. The fact that she is based outside the U.S. most certainly contributes to this, but her degree of crafted, purposive separation (regardless of nation-state) is unique.
What’s most interesting to me about Lust is how she engages presumably new, unique, or innovative production tactics and theoretical lenses to somehow distinguish herself from other adult content producers — narratives tapping into ethical production or “real” pleasure/emotions, etc. I say “presumably” because – from safety to ethics to authenticity – these dimensions are engaged (to varying degrees that have evolved over time, certainly) by much of the adult industry. Even the idea of crowd-sourcing viewers’ fantasy and storyline ideas – Sssh.com has been doing that since 1999.
I think a lot of the attention paid and credence given to these types of issues is wrapped up in how the issues are presented in conjunction with public perception. For instance, the idea of ethical production… Much of Lust’s content corresponds with wider notions of what ethical porn looks like, but ethical porn is not a content genre or look. Ethical production has to do with performer safety, consent, and wellbeing, as well as the consent, safety, and wellbeing of other crew members. As a consequence, all content may be ethically (as well as unethically) produced – but because there is a lot of porn out there that does not correspond to individual tastes or comfort levels, it’s easy to forget that something doesn’t have to be “your thing” to be ethical.
On a societal level, a lot of what feeds this comes from wider sex phobia and a general unfamiliarity with adult content overall. As a society, we are still uncomfortable with expressions of sexuality that don’t necessarily correspond with our own or with what fits into recognizably “normal” and/or familiar expressions – so, if content looks too intense to us, for instance, it’s easy to forget that it may be completely consensual to others. Our general lack of critical understanding of porn, both as a labor force and as a community, as well as from a film critical standpoint, adds fuel to sustained misunderstandings.
TCF: Is she seen as an outsider?
DrCT: Lust seems to have made efforts to position herself as an outsider and she’s is not an active community member by any means, but I don’t think she is regarded as a non-pornographer by the wider industry or anything.
TCF: How have her critiques of the mainstream industry been received?
DrCT: Within the industry, I am not sure I have ever heard her critiques being engaged or pondered outside of perhaps op-eds around the time when “HGW Turned On” first came out…
TCF: How did her appearance in “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” influence industry perceptions of her?
DrCT: From my recollection, much of the industry ire around “HGW: Turned On” focused on the show producers’ exploitation of the industry – misrepresentations regarding what the project was during interviews, use of likenesses without permission, outing sex workers, etc (recall allegations made by Gia Paige, Tyler Knight, Autumn Kayy, Effy Elizabeth, and more).
Beyond those issues, from more of a narrative review standpoint, each and every episode of “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” delivered the same exact message: There is a “correct” version of sexual expression, and then there’s all the other stuff. The “Women on Top” episode juxtaposed an exuberant Lust, who arguably creates content that the filmmakers approve of, with a downcast Holly Randall, who in spite of being a “woman on top” is positioned as a proxy for “mainstream” porn. The whole thing was contrived and purposive, but on the part of the filmmakers. I don’t know if there was any perception that Lust had something to do with the way the entire program was presented to the public.
Read “Erika Lust Says She Has an ‘Ethical’ Alternative to ‘Mass-Produced’ Porn” in full right here.
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