The porn industry has a pretty severe rap across the board – several portions of society condemn porn for being a morally bankrupt industry, while major governments across the world simply ban it altogether.

For Swede producer and director Erika Lust, this perception of sexual content needed to change – a journey she pioneered back in the early 2000s with a host of interesting, deeply subversive explicit films that countered the often-damaging and sexist porn tropes many of us are familiar with. 

After aiming to revolutionize her workplace by introducing ‘masturbation breaks’ to help employees blow off steam, she’s now dived further into her hometown Barcelona’s everyday sex culture – releasing a mini-documentary on the subject of masturbation, titled Masturbation Conversations.

“Do you masturbate?” is an innocent enough question when asked straight up, but often evokes responses beyond just a simple yes or no. Erika’s subjects – ranging far and wide across ages, genders, and sexualities – all shared different levels of confidence and commentary on their masturbation habits. 

One gentleman even went on to suggest that anyone who says they don’t masturbate is “just probably ashamed to admit it.”

As the interviews went on, participants began to share details about the frequency, intensity, and even their shyness regarding self-pleasure. The answers varied wildly. One man shared that he had gone on a ‘no fap’ streak for two months, while others talked about going at it daily. The documentary also facilitated the masturbation discussion by using a large vagina-shaped plushie for women, who used it to elaborate their personal approaches to the task at hand.

“For some reason, just saying the word out loud makes some people feel funny, or even embarrassed”, explains Erika. “The truth is masturbation can help people manage stress, regulate their sleep, and connect with their body and sexual desires, among other advantages,” the filmmaker continued, before inviting people to share their own reasons for masturbating.

Erika also wrote about the extreme prejudice faced by pro-sexuality narratives online – and especially how policymakers have faced backlash for inviting conversations about masturbation.

“In 1994, US Surgeon General Dr Joycelyn Elders was fired by President Bill Clinton for publicly advocating sex and reproductive education. Elders openly argued that adequate sex ed can not only save young adults from a lifetime of feeling shame towards themselves and others, but can also save lives by preventing diseases and unwanted or high-risk pregnancies. 

Her progressive views outraged the American government at the time. They blamed her for advocating to teach children how to masturbate in schools. As a result, she was bullied out of office and censored.”

Despite being a relatively taboo topic in India, masturbation has slowly emerged into public discourse in India – a process accelerated by urban news outlets and even films. Netflix’s Lust Stories kicked off several conversations about sex toys and female masturbation with Karan Johar’s short film featuring Kiara Advani and Neha Dhupia.

(Featured Image Credits: Erika Lust Films)