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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] Queer Genderqueer feminist porn star: Jiz Lee

Genderqueer feminist porn star: Jiz Lee

jiz_partnaked_200The queer community has long been starved of easily accessible pornography that ruptures the ‘norm’ and provides visual themes and sub-contexts that represent our diverse sexualities and genders. Rosalie Scolari speaks with revolutionary genderqueer, feminist porn star Jiz Lee about the porn industry, feminism and queer politics.

Despite its enormous abundance, mainstream pornography seems consistently limited in depicting sexual possibility because it trades psychological complexity for easily recognisable, but static relation between gender roles, sexual acts and desire, with very little leeway for individual variance.

Bursting onto the scene five years ago, Jiz Lee represents a refreshing break from this ‘norm’, showing that gender and sexuality are fluid, diverse, and unlimited by stagnant and anatomically founded gender and power relations.

With antics that are powerful, brazen and unapologetic, Jiz shows us that on-screen fucking is both an erotic and political act. Through an admirable body of work, Jiz has the ability to twist our expectations about gender roles and sexual possibility.

Being overtly aware of pornography’s power to be provocative of feminist ideologies, Jiz has created art that illuminates pornography’s ability to speak in ways that are radical, dynamic, empowering and positive. 

The projects you are involved in are diverse and often challenge mainstream perceptions of pornography. Was this your intention when you entered the porn industry?

Which came first, the porn or the politics? The porn did, with the understanding that the personal is political and the choices I make are a reflection of my interests and experiences.

I started doing porn to express my sexuality (pleasure, love, connection) and to share it publicly with my community and anyone who wanted to watch. That the work is diverse and often challenges perceptions is a result of our personal experiences, which are outside the 'norm'.

The art I’ve done prior to porn has always held a counter-position to hegemonic values, perhaps because I am an individual who is a member of several marginalized identities and often feel a hybrid outsider/insider perception.

It feels natural for me to want to express a view that is more similar to my own. Because I believe that pornography can be a medium of art, I approach sex on film as an authentic performance of my experience. This stems from my past stage performance experience as a dancer of contemporary movement forms including modern dance, hip hop, hula `auana, and butoh.

I can relate to performing in porn as an athlete present in my body and emotions. Porn has allowed me to connect in an artistic way, on a very intimate level.

You work in both photography and film. Why do you choose to work across both media?

Great question. Digital photography and video are highly accessible media, especially considering the use of the internet to connect with audiences.

I began with video because Shine Louise Houston, the first pornographer I worked with, was a film school graduate. Performing for a video camera is a bit like working within a limited stage space. While I had some experiences with photography for the films’ box covers and promotional materials, it wasn’t until much later that I pursued collaborating with photographers.

I started working independently with photographers for my fundraising project Karma Pervs, a part of my site where members sign up to donate to a featured non-profit organization, and get to see exclusive photo sets I've done. The project has pushed my calibre as a model while providing a fun way for me to support really important queer/kink/sex-positive spaces.

I have also recently done some live performance, such as performing with Nina Hartley for the Masturbate-a-Thon’s attendees. I have also been painted, and I would love to explore other mediums.

Your work has been recognised as ‘real queer sex, with real-deal orgasms’. How do think your work challenges people’s perhaps homophobic perceptions of queer sex?

I am a terrible liar and have a very difficult time ‘faking it’. Nor am I interested in that style of pornography – a homonormative display of 'lesbian' sex for the male gaze – which is so common in pornography.

Queers know the difference. I hope by truly experiencing pleasure, an audience (however they identify) can witness at least one example of authentic queer sex.

You are involved in productions that steer away from ‘vanilla sex.’ Why is it important to you, to show things like urination, menstrual blood, body hair, fisting, BDSM and ejaculation in your work?

Jiz_crazybabeBecause these things are a part of sex! These things (and other taboo subjects) are a part of the sex we have, and are valid desires and physical sexual responses. When something like female ejaculation is censored, the statement made is that it is shameful, obscene – or worse: that it doesn’t even exist.

The decision to make my stage name Jiz was to bring attention to the fact that I can ejaculate, and by using this name I hope to promote the idea that this kind of sexual response is normal, and even celebrated.

The more that female ejaculation, fisting, menstrual blood, hair, and other natural things happen in porn, the more people who love these things can feel secure in their pleasure or appearance.

I especially value kink being portrayed in pornography where it promotes communication and consent. Pornography can be dark, titillating, challenging, and educating. As a powerful medium, porn can be a very empowering tool.

You feature in films with diverse gender representation. How has your gender identity and sexuality helped to construct your personal label of ‘genderqueer?’

After navigating polarities of gender expression, I’ve found confidence in the definition ‘genderqueer’.

This identity coincided with my performing in porn. I had previously identified as a bisexual dyke and as transgender male, but found in both identities that I wasn’t comfortable being a woman, nor a man. Rather, my most comfortable state is not rooted in ANY particular gender. I believe gender is something I can use, just like fantasy.

In terms of sexual orientation, my partners are far too diverse for me to choose any particular label; thus I choose ‘queer’.

I owe a great deal to sex educator Ignacio Rivera, a Black-Boricua genderqueer who has inspired me to be more visible in my gender identity and preferred gender pronouns.

Over the years I did not have a strong preference, so I used he, she, and ze in bios. Currently, I request that the gender-neutral pronouns “They/Them” are used, or if it poses a grammar issue for the editor, that no pronoun be used.

I love when words like genderqueer, queer, and they/them are used for me, and I’ve had great discussions with fans about gender. There’s an educational element in my sex activism and being visible and approachable is important.

What implications does this have for the predominantly heterosexual porn industry, with seemingly rigid gender binaries?

I hope that it will expand the industry's language and understanding; and perhaps allow for less rigid ‘rules’ of aesthetics and roles between male and female gender identities.

Some directors are very open and it is exciting as a performer familiar with indie/queer companies to work with people who ‘get it’. It feels incredible.

You have been recognised by the Feminist Porn Awards for your work. Considering that it is often feminists that are the most critical of the porn industry, how do you reconcile your feminist ideologies with your work?

Porn is feminist as it gives sexual agency to all performers, regardless of gender/sexual orientation. In this definition, two trans men going at it is just as feminist as a submissive (cis)woman in a heterosexual BDSM scene.

Context is key, provided the porn is a legal presentation of consensual adults having sex. I think this same porn definition could also be called ‘ethical’.

I think that until we are a sex-positive society there will continue to be a need for feminism because we still lack the understanding and respect for gender and sexual difference.

How, in your view, does feminist porn differ from other porn?

I see feminist porn as an adjective; a descriptive new vocabulary to define a growing market. I am wary of the phrase, however, because I think it can bring lots of assumptions.

For example I don’t think this means we can automatically assume that titles that ‘appear’ to be outside a feminist definition are inherently problematic, nor assume that simply because a porn is directed by a woman it will be feminist by default.

As a step towards a larger market of porn consumers, the phrase is refreshing and confident statement towards gender equality in sexual desire. I think we owe Canadian sex toy company Good For Her a great deal in creating and running the annual Feminist Porn Awards and bringing a lot of visibility to queer, feminist, and independent pornographers.

Feminist/queer producers will influence new pornographers, and will be supported by the demands (desires) of more vocal consumers. We are already seeing this through the work of Violet Blue and through mainstream growing female acceptance of porn such as witnessed on Oprah.

One of the biggest issues to come up along with this expansion of the debate around pornography will be concerns about free speech and the First amendment in the US.

Contrary to the accusations that porn is exploitative of women, porn can be a space where you are able control your body and body images. How are you able to do this within the industry?

My friend and someone I greatly admire, Shine Louise Houston, has said:

“There is power in creating images, and for a woman of color and a queer to take that power, I don’t find it exploitative – I think it’s necessary.”

I completely agree and have witnessed Shine and other queer directors make their own work, inspire others and provide a space online for other queers to share their sexuality.

Jiz_lockerOver the past few years, I have worked behind the scenes with Shine to produce and promote queer porn projects, something that I enjoy because it provides additional ways in which I can influence the industry, working with the queer and mainstream communities on promotions that promote sexual health, non-violence, visibility of trans and gender-variant people, and a multitude of support for sex-positive events.

As a performer, I have to create my own path and spaces, and be extremely conscious of how my image will be presented. I select who I work with based on whether I think they understand me and will not only let me express my sexuality freely, but also promote my image in a way that feels authentic to me.

I like doing work that I am proud of. In the years I have been performing, I’ve explored work with other companies and directors almost like a sexual relationship with the studios themselves. There is a relationship built through projects with the people behind them.

Most of them act like long-time lovers; though I’ve also had a few ‘one-night stands’ in some regards with projects that weren’t a good fit. That’s taught me a lot. I try not to dwell on the negative but to grow from it, so these encounters have and will continue to inform how I can best present myself.

Overall, I’m happy and satisfied in my career and the choices I’ve made and the successes I’ve experienced. My organic process of trusting my intuitions and being true to myself has led me to meet and perform with some of the most amazing people, and some of my dearest friends.

Judging by your post-sex interviews on CrashPadSeries.com, it seems like the process is rather organic, with you being able to direct the scene and engage in what you are comfortable with. You often work with your real-life partners: Does this also help in creating an authentic product?

Working with real-life lovers can help create a great scene for me because I am comfortable and my co-star and I will be well-versed in each others’ bodies.

However, being excitedly nervous about working with a new crush and getting the chance to explore their sex for the first time can also produce a great scene too!

Both experiences are authentic. I see authentic sex portrayed in the way the production is handled. The kind of porn I perform (best) in is created when the director’s focus is capturing the performance. In general, I don’t believe sex should be scripted, though I enjoy collaboration between the performers and directors.

You frequently blog. Why is it important for you to share your thoughts and driving principles behind your work, and connect with your viewers?

I first created my website jizlee.com as a place to list film projects and post a few resources. Then I began blogging. I posted calls for models, tips for queers to get into porn, reviews of sex toys, pictures of my crushes, and most importantly, my thoughts about my experiences.

Being able to express myself reaffirmed my intentions and continues to validate my motivations for why I do porn, for myself and others. I am contacted by fans who share intimate stories, letting me know how seeing my work positively affected their life – and has made them proud to be queer.

Porn is a politically charged issue for a lot of people, with the industry often painted as fickle, tragic and dirty. What is your personal philosophy of pornography? How do you see yourself as an adult entertainer?

I have not experienced the industry as being ‘fickle, tragic, or dirty’ though I’m sure this exists, as it would in other areas of business.

Throughout my career I have been incredibly conscious to participate in porn that I believe in, declining opportunities when I felt the intentions of the work did not match my own beliefs.

I owe my ‘success’ (measured by my happiness, pride and community visibility) to my desire to be true to myself, which is easier said than done.

Being ‘true to myself’ challenges my desires, inspires me to write and articulate my thoughts, and rewards me with a connection to my peers in a way that has helped others.

It spurs self-awareness and confidence, and continually provides obstacles and reveals insecurities for me to confront and overcome. ‘Porn’ has been one of the most positive decisions I’ve ever made, bringing me amazing sex, health, travel, lovers, support, self-confidence, and the best of friends.

Until recent years, queer sex experiences were rather stagnant within the porn industry. What has the response been to you and your work from the queer community? And how has the mainstream porn industry responded to you and your work?

I am not sure queer sex experiences were stagnant, though I do think they were very hard to come by. I have seen films by Christopher Lee, Morty Diamond, Maria Beatty, SIR Productions, Sex-Positive Productions, and earlier films staring Nina Hartley, who may have been the first to perform butch representation in lesbian porn.

Bruce LaBruce’s work has and continues to push boundaries. There is porn still in VHS format which will forever be under the radar of online distribution.

The recent queer porn renaissance, funded by female-focused sex toy retailers, has catapulted the visibility of queer sex films due to advanced technologies and accessibility within the porn industry and the online queer communities brought together by forums and then social networking sites.

News travels to a receptive audience much faster now. As a performer, I’d have to say that more than half of the films I’ve been cast in I owe to being online; in fact I have seen directors cast entire movies using Twitter.

It was through my website that I came to work with Belladonna, the first ‘mainstream’ decision I made, and to this day the strongest lesson I’ve had in believing in myself.

The fact that I am not like other porn performers distinguishes me. Many in the ‘mainstream’ industry have welcomed me, and many who are outside of the queer community are very open-minded and have made concerted efforts to adapt to new vocabulary and understandings.

Do you hope there is a place for alternative and queer porn within the mainstream media? What effect would this have on autonomous, community-minded, radical, queer porn?

In the past year I’ve witnessed queer porn films have an influence on the diversity of tags used within large-traffic industry porn outlets – many video-on-demand sites now have labels such as ‘genderqueer’, ‘butch’ and ‘trans male’ (compared to ‘women’, ‘man’, or ‘transsexual).

I've noticed ‘Shemale’ used less and ‘trans woman’ used more. Seeing ‘queer porn’ categories appear, as opposed to films being funnelled into either ‘straight (girl/girl)’ or ‘gay’ is a sign that the industry is making space.

Mainstream porn has always had a place for ‘niche’ genres and the more popular a genre becomes, the more the visibility it is given because the visibility is market-driven.

I’ve seen ‘mainstream’ defined in a number of ways, from LA studios to internet video hubs. Tube sites can offer queer fisting sex clip gems that can reach a global distribution in ways that the local rainbow flag waving LGBT sex shop cannot.

Is a tube site mainstream? Perhaps the democracy of images furthers a larger message found under the skin of queer porn: we are all sexually diverse.

Finally, what do you hope to achieve through your work?

World peace!

I believe the availability of sexually diverse materials will both reflect and inform a sex-positive culture, bringing feminist ideals (ie: gender equality) as well as kink foundations (consent and non-violent communication) to every day interactions.

Think of how society could benefit from respectful institutions, let alone being less stressed and happier with healthy libidos. Sure, it’s a hippy idea, but I think there are some legitimate arguments to be made about the relationship of pornography to human rights.

In the very least, I hope to achieve pleasure, for myself and others.

Visit Jiz Lee’s website, jizlee.com. You can follow Jiz on Twitter and Facebook. To get involved in Jiz’s fundraising projects, visit Karma Pervs.

Rosalie Scolari is a 26-year-old queer, residing in Melbourne, Australia. Despite having a deep dislike for assignments and a strong love for wine, friends, art and dancing, Rosalie has degrees in sociology (Hons), community development and education. When she is not pretending to be a dedicated student, she is a nanny for two beautiful boys, involved in various social justice campaigns, or more often than not, has her nose in a book.

Images from top: Jiz Lee (left) and April Flores, photo by Lux Alptraum/Fleshbot.com; Jiz Lee (left) and Syd Blakovich photo by Bob Coulter/Crazybabe.com; Jiz Lee by Courtney Trouble/Karma Pervs & NoFauxxx.com.

 

 

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