Normalizing Pregnancy Sex with Adult Filmmaker Erika Lust
Perhaps one of the last “taboos”, when it comes to talking about pregnancy, is how it can drastically affect women’s sex drives. Every woman’s experience looks different. For some, the nausea and fatigue alone can take sex completely off the table. For others — such as the many women we talk to in our anonymous Not Safe For Mom Group (nsfmg) conversations — pregnancy means a bigger sexual appetite. What causes this change in libido during pregnancy? Physiologically speaking, higher levels of estrogen and progesterone — plus some increased blood flow to the genitals — are what we have to thank. And yet, the idea of a pregnant woman exploring a newfound sexuality is still largely unpalatable to society at large. This cultural discomfort with pregnancy and sex is exactly what Indie-adult filmmaker, and mother of two, Erika Lust explores in her latest (NSFW) film — Pregnancy Sex Doc, which debuted on her website, XConfessions, in June.
In this explicit documentary, Erika features real life couple (and now parents) Tiffany and Bruno talking in great detail about their sexual experiences before and during Tiffany’s pregnancy. At the time of filming, Tiffany was seven months pregnant, and — as she explains in the film — discovering new erogenous zones on her body, as well as places that she used to enjoy being touched that no longer felt pleasurable. The documentary gives voice to a side of pregnancy we almost never see, unless it is fetishized, or looked down upon.
(nsfmg) stole Erika away from the camera for a few, to learn more about her inspiration behind making this film, what happens when you put women in every leadership position while making an adult film, and how she talks to her kids about her work. Enjoy!
(nsfmg): Through your work, what have you found are the biggest culprits in our culture that perpetuate the idea that pregnant bodies are decidedly “unsexy”? Is it the infantilizing way we advertise to pregnant women? Is it fear-based (i.e. sex may harm the baby)?
ERIKA LUST: While pregnancy comes up in private and public conversations often, discussions around pregnancy sex and the sexuality of mothers-to-be are notably absent. The relationship between a woman and her sexual self is crucial not just in childbearing but for a woman’s long term health and well-being. Female sexuality is still muted in society, affecting our self-development and leads to a pleasure void, so when female sexuality itself is silenced, what can we expect of the sexuality of pregnant women? It's almost non-existent!
Society continues to struggle to see pregnant bodies as sexual. It seems that as soon as women become pregnant they become saints. People don't see them as women anymore. For a lot of people, as soon as you become pregnant, you become a “mother” and you're no longer allowed to have an erotic life. In their eyes your body is no longer yours, it's the baby's — nothing shows this more than strangers who touch pregnant women's bumps, and offer unsolicited advice for the well-being of the baby. Your body becomes public property. When people only view you as a baby maker, it becomes hard for them to see you as a sexual being — unless it's a fetish or a taboo. Of course, it is natural to want to do everything you can to care for your baby when you're pregnant, but we often forget that mothers are still autonomous women with their own thoughts and desires. Sex can still be a fun, pleasurable, enjoyable experience for them.
(nsfmg): Would you say the documentary is about debunking the myth that pregnant women can’t enjoy being sexual, and feeling sexy in their bodies? Or is it more about wanting to create adult content that reflects all kinds of bodies — including pregnant ones — so as to widen our collective understanding of what is “sexy”?
ERIKA LUST: When I made this film I primarily had the goal of wanting to show that it is very possible and natural to have a fulfilling sex life during this stage of your life; to show that pregnant women are still sexual beings, with their own individual desires, sexualities and sex drives. Of course, creating adult content that reflects all kinds of bodies is a continuous goal of mine that affects all films I make, so naturally that is a part of it too.
As education and visibility are both a big part of de-stigmatization, I commissioned a number of experts to write guest posts for the Erika Lust Blog on a range of subjects around pregnancy, sex, and sexuality. The series aims to go deeper into the themes of sexuality during pregnancy by providing perspectives from women’s health professionals who want to see every woman use the power of the erotic to support their health and well-being. The guest pieces cover everything from safe sex during pregnancy, to pelvic floor health, changing body images, BDSM during pregnancy, mental health, and the power of eroticism.
And to help with visibility I am putting more pregnancy sex films on XConfessions. A few weeks ago I released The MILF Next Door by Sadie Lune. Sadie directed and starred in the film during her pregnancy and shows a beautiful depiction of very hot pregnancy sex between two women. At the same time she reclaims the word "MILF", a word that has turned into a poor, sexist concept used to either fetishize or stigmatize mothers for living and exploring their sexuality during and post-pregnancy. Plus, we will soon be releasing a third film called Finn & Femme, again with Sadie, in which she plays a dominant role and her pregnancy is irrelevant to the plot. I hope that these films and articles will start to de-stigmatize pregnancy sex, and make space for pregnant women to explore erotic fantasy in a more relatable way.
(nsfmg): How did you end up working on this film in the first place? What makes the topic of sexuality during pregnancy such a passion for you?
ERIKA LUST: I remember being pregnant myself and looking for positive images of pregnant women in erotic situations and it was really difficult. The images and films I found did not align with how I felt at that special time. Everything felt fetishized, and instead of conveying the power that I felt growing another human inside of me and the intimacy I felt with my own body and with my partner, it felt like a taboo. If you go onto one of the free online sites and search for pregnancy sex you will be met with terms like "pregnancy humiliation", "pregnant raw pussy", "pregnant slut" and "up the duff bitches". There is a strange dichotomy during pregnancy in that you're either a saint with no sexual urges or you are a "slutty MILF". I wanted to show a realistic depiction of pregnancy sex that more people can relate to and that doesn't adhere to these two extremes.
(nsfmg): I looked up the mom-to-be in the documentary, and saw that she is a performer in the adult film industry. Knowing this, it is sometimes hard to get past what is performance (i.e. what she is doing for the audience) — and what she is authentically enjoying for herself. Did you talk to the couple about trying to do as little acting as possible? How did you manage that problem?
ERIKA LUST: This is a hard question because people watch porn in such a different way to any other type of film, I don't think it matters that they are performers and I don't think it matters if you can't tell what is done for performance and what is done for pleasure. I want porn to be seen as just another movie genre instead of viewing it as something that must be real, because at the end of the day it is fantasy like any other type of film. We do not usually sit down to watch a documentary or film and try to dissect which parts are acting and which are not.
Tiffany and Bruno are a real life couple and the sex they had that day mirrors the kinds of experiences they have in private. Of course once you put a camera in front of someone there are always going to be elements of a performance but just because some parts may be performative doesn't mean that what you're seeing is not authentic. It's not a simple binary. The type of sex they had that day was completely up to them. There is no one rule for all with pregnancy sex; it all depends on the individuals, their desires and pleasures at the time.
(nsfmg): What are the key things you do differently in your films that make them distinctly for the “female eye”?
ERIKA LUST: The main thing is that I have women working behind the camera and making active decisions about how the film is produced and presented. That means having women in leading roles as directors, producers, art directors, directors of photography etc. so the stories are told through the female gaze. When women are behind the camera we are able to re-write the script about women’s involvement in porn both on and off camera. We can create a sex positive space for women to reclaim their sexuality, pleasure and desires. I want to capture the whole feeling of sex, the passion and the pleasure, instead of a mechanical shot of how it looks. When you have women controlling the camera the perspective really changes. So much heterosexual, male directed porn is close up shows of the female performer and her vagina, and the man is basically just a headless penis. You never see his face! When hetero men are making and directing adult films, they're often catering for the hetero male viewer and his pleasure. Whereas when women are in control we avoid displaying the women as a spectacle or as a passive object of a predatory gaze. The filmmakers I work with and myself show women having sexual agency and owning their pleasure. Men and women are treated as sexual collaborators, not as objects or machines.
(nsfmg): Can you tell us a little bit about your site, The Porn Conversation?
ERIKA LUST: The Porn Conversation is an online non-profit site which offers tools for parents to talk to their children about pornography at home. There are three guides for different age groups and our mission with this project is to give adults the opportunity to help kids and teens make smart and informed decisions regarding pornography. Today we need more than sex education at school — we need parents to have the porn conversation at home. By having open and honest conversations at home, children will develop a much healthier attitude towards sex and relationships. They will be able to discuss their feelings, communicate their sexual desires and hopefully be happier people for it.
This is the beginning of a great conversation that we all should be having — with ourselves, with our partners, with other women. Sexuality and pregnancy don’t have to be something we only talk about in whispers, or on anonymous internet sites like (nsfmg). Normalizing the fact that pregnant women are sexual beings allows us to reclaim how we feel in our bodies during pregnancy. The myth that our pregnant bodies belong to everyone (our babies, other people’s expectations and scrutiny) but ourselves can only be confronted if we question old belief systems that reinforce shame.
If you’re interested in watching the NSFW film, it is available on Erika’s website XConfessions, by clicking here.
Images courtesy of Erika Lust.