Before it had a script, before roles were assigned, before a title was finalized and a flurry of outreach emails were sent out, POV by Lustery’s new micro-documentary, PornograHERs: The Women+ Who Make Porn, had a release date: 08 March 2022. As International Women’s Day (and, indeed, part of Women’s History Month), the date has become synonymous with promoting gender equality, challenging stigmas and recognizing not only the women who have made history but those who are busy building our futures too. As Paulita Pappel, founder of Lustery, explains it, the concept for the film was to check every one of those boxes in an industry where the power, creativity and passion of women+ are still mostly overlooked: porn.
How did the idea for a micro-documentary for Women’s History Month come about?
Women’s History Month celebrates women’s contributions to history, culture and society. The role of women in porn is often thought of as being in front of the cameras. One of the most aberrant misconceptions is that women are always exploited if they participate in porn. To challenge this harmful stereotype, we wanted to showcase the work of women+ in porn in creative positions. A micro-documentary is just a short summary, food for thought that will hopefully get people curious to explore further. Our hope is for this documentary to raise awareness for all pornograHERs!
How do people usually react when you tell them what work you do and how much of that reaction, do you think, is influenced by the fact that you’re a woman?
I get different reactions when talking about my work, from pity to curiosity to contempt. I worked as a performer at the beginning of my career, but I’ve only worked as a producer and director for years now. Nevertheless, and even though I always try to explain this, journalists often describe me as a ‘porn performer’ or ‘porn star’. I mean, I wish! They believe audiences will be interested or comprehend my work only if I present as an actress. It’s tiresome, really.
How did the filmmakers you approached to be a part of the project react to the concept? Was there a common thread?
Almost every filmmaker we approached answered enthusiastically about the documentary! Folks loved the idea and wanted to be part of it; it was very encouraging. I even wish we could turn this into a longer feature-length film! As women+ creators, we’re used to being erased from the conversation; our work is often shadowbanned or ignored. Therefore, getting any platform to showcase it feels like a piece of well-deserved recognition.
The theme for the International Women’s Day is #breakthebias – how do you see this film facilitating that?
Biases are prejudices often based on stereotypes. They are influenced by the imagery we see and the narratives we’re told from mainstream media. By elevating the visibility of women creatives in porn and celebrating their achievements, we hope to challenge sexist thoughts around women+’s sexuality.
Who are some of the pornographers that you looked up to or were inspired by when you began working in the industry?
Just when I started, I didn’t know any! I wish I had seen our documentary. It’s so difficult to find information on women+ porn creators. Back then, I looked up to filmmakers whose work was explicit or sexual in some form, like Barbara Hammer or Maya Deren. Sadly, they don’t identify themselves as pornographers
And which filmmakers do you find most inspiring now; who’s changing the game, as it were?
I’m the biggest fan of everyone we included in the documentary – and more that we didn’t get to fit into the short running time. I really value the richness and different approaches that exist today. I appreciate how there are significant synergies between us all. I believe the borders between pornography and cinema need to be challenged; thus, I care especially for pornographers venturing into longer, more narrative formats like Shine Louise Houston and Erika Lust.
With the goal of the film being to maybe address some misconceptions or change people’s perspectives, were there any eye-opening moments for you personally in the course of the production?
As I started brainstorming on who we should include in the documentary, I was surprised at how many pornographers I personally know whose work I admire. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t fit them all! And of course, then there’s so many I don’t know. It’s frightening to realize that even after working in this industry for over 10 years, the idea that we are a small group is so deeply engrained that I thought it would be easy to do a micro-documentary. It inspires me to keep working in this line to create more visibility.
How can people better support the women+ making porn?
Pay for your porn. It really is that simple; paying for porn is the best thing you can do to support the folks creating it. And, of course, it’s helpful to spread the word, speak openly about it, like and share our content on social, positively comment when we appear in mainstream media… It all counts. It’s a cultural shift that needs to be carried by a majority so that it actually changes the status quo.