Hands on

[Erika Lust_Pic: Monica Figueras]

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2022.]

On a crisp but sunny early afternoon last month, I took myself to (lower) Sant Gervasi-Galvany, part of Barcelona city. I had volunteered to be interviewed for a documentary and before stepping through the door of the rented film studio on the building’s 8th floor, a young woman asked me and two other participants to speak in a whisper and only when necessary.

Filming had already started. The hushed silence inside only added to the strangeness of the experience. I was there – only for research purposes of course – to answer questions about masturbation for what was apparently “a non-explicit video to celebrate self-pleasure.”

As we came in, we were asked to sign several legal documents, including one that confirmed we did not have Covid. I was given (here’s a piece of full disclosure) an envelope with 50 euros cash inside. Then we were taken by a different woman (who repeatedly told me how exciting it all was) across the bare, wide concrete studio floor and into a separate area.

A young man began to put makeup on the face of the next interviewee. I waited on a sofa with a guy with a North American accent. He was avoiding eye contact and only mumbled something unclear when I made a friendly observation, suggesting we were doing something very different today.

On the other side of the thin wall, I could hear talk from the middle of the room. I could make out some questions I’d probably be asked and from the woman answering I was also able to get a sense of what I might say. That helped.

I chatted to the curly-haired Argentine who painted and patted makeup over my nose, eyes, and cheeks. Paris wasn’t to his liking but Barcelona was, so far. Then I was up: it was my turn to sit on a stool in front of an especially bright light. A microphone was clipped onto my shirt and an assistant reminded me that I wasn’t obliged to try and answer any questions that I wasn’t “comfortable with.”

The person asking the private questions and getting answers for her public, was the owner of the company. She uses Erika Lust as her business name and her website states she is “an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer [whose] focus on female pleasure, cinematic values and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed.”

I quickly found Erika to be a skilled interviewer partly because her questions were thoughtful and related specifically to the answers I gave. She was a good listener, that rare quality. The session seemed exploratory, not a dry run-through of a list or a pre-prepared line of interrogation. Instead, it quickly became a more open ended, fast-moving quarter of an hour. I was impressed, for example that she also wanted to know how I educated my son about sex and bodies. Her intelligence was obvious. I later discovered she was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women of The Year in 2019.

As her press kit states, “Erika defends the importance of having women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people behind the camera in all key positions.” Her all-female production crew – young, efficient, English-speaking, and keen – were working a 9-hour day.

Finally, Erika asked me to wish the viewers “Happy Masturbation Month”. I was more than okay to do that and hammed it up, waving my arms and added with a laugh, “Go for it!” On the way out, I nibbled on the free lunch provided then headed back outside to Carrer Arribau with the sense that I’d done something good. And surely so was everyone else there.

(The end result…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfppLfTomd0)

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2022.]

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