With Jiz Lee, porn isn’t simple. Neither is sexuality. Award winning GenderQueer Pornstar Jiz Lee is beautiful, handsome, difficult to define, and impossible to avoid talking about. Jiz’s specialty: ejaculation. Jiz’s secret power: extreme geekery. (Not the ‘circus side show’ kind of geekery, you naughty puppies – ‘techie’ geekery.) Balls + brains? No wonder Jiz has us trans-fixed.
What is ‘genderqueer’? It means that Jiz doesn’t self-define as man, woman, or lesbian. What can you refer to Jiz as? It’s clear as night and day on Jiz’s website: “queer genderqueer gender-varient trans fag androgynous erotic model pornstar dykestar sex worker artist activist instigator sweetheart lover polyamorous non-monogymous hippie punk leftist past-vegan sex positive nympho slut dyke darling juicy geek.” Got it? Good.
What does ‘pornstar’ mean? If you don’t know that part, you’re probably reading the wrong column.
With over 25 movies shot (pun totally intended) in the 4 short years since debuting in Shine Louise Houston’s award winning CRASH PAD series, Jiz shows no signs of stopping. Jiz has worked with several people who have popped up in this PEEP SHOW column over the past year: Madison Young, Joanna Angel, Courtney Trouble, Tristan Taormino, April Flores, etc. Knowing how busy Jiz is, we were thrilled when Jiz accepted our invitation to answer some questions.
Put on your rain poncho, and let’s get started!
KING IS A FINK: Jiz, how important to you this it is to identify porn as queer, alt or indie, and how has the landscape of queer porn changed since your debut in Shine Louise Houston’s Crash Pad 4 years ago?
JIZ LEE: It is extremely important for me to identify my porn as queer/alt/indie because it is a deep part of my motivation and intentions behind being a sex worker and participating in the business. I have the privilege of not doing this work for monetary gain alone, which means I can pick and choose my projects based on my interest. I feel that my audience identifies with me as we are people from marginalized communities with limited representation in pornography and what representation there is aids in sexual empowerment, validation of sexual orientation and gender expression, and sexual education. Things not seen in Hollywood, things not taught in Sex Ed. Things not seen most places, period. In short, the product we are making is a profoundly intimate reflection of our lives. Therefore, it is vital that this identity is represented as accurately as possible.
Four years ago, identifying as queer was not quite understood on many levels, and I believe that the work myself and my peers have done helped to open up many communities to the word ‘queer’ as well as some of the complex discussions the word invokes of queer sexualities. I know from fan letters that doing queer porn has brought validation and sexual exploration/liberation to individuals who have seen my work, which is something extremely personal and very important that I am honored to be a part of.
In a similar vein, I have turned down countless invitations to do mainstream work in LA and elsewhere because I was not convinced that they understood or respected my identity. As I explore indie and mainstream adult projects, one thing I realize is that the “niche”of queer porn is expanding to a market, and there is an interest in capturing this audience from the mainstream” commercial” avenues who do not always speak the same language. Choosing how far from my immediate community and values I want to go in order to express myself is a hard call in these situations, and I’ve found that ultimately my choices to remain authentic to my sexuality result in more satisfying experiences and a stronger connection to my passion as a sex worker and artist.
The queer porn landscape, which, if one looks at as a movement rather than a genre, has moments in past lesbian, gay, and classic “heterosexual” cinema of the 70’s and 80’s, but really started to become more frequent in the late 90’s. I believe it experienced a defining “renaissance” in 2010. Shine Louise Houston’s “The Crash Pad”, filmed in late 2005, was influenced by gay male porn and a desire to see self-represented female and queer sexuality in pornography. Filling a void. Shine Louise’s predecessors included” SIR Productions in 2002 (the same year that Courtney Trouble began her photography site” NoFauxxx.com) and films like Dominatrix Waitrix, Valley of the Trannyfags (Morty Diamond),” Christopher Lee’s FTM porn (“Blood: Sex in Flesh”was inspirational for me),” films by Bruce LaBruce, butch performances by Nina Hartley, Buck Angel and Lee Harrington, and whoever else we may look back on and define within “queer porn” moments, a queered gaze.
Independent pornographers (such as FurryGirl, TastyTrixie, and Ms. Naughty) run websites and influence online producers by ethical work practices, while female-focused sex retailers such as Early to Bed and Good Vibrations caught a trend in women-directed pornography and took a role in producing titles and hosting events such as Good For Her’s Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto and the PorYes Award in Berlin. The explosion of titles and the attention it gave to queer sexuality in film wouldn’t have been as bright if not for the trust of these companies in directors to bring authentic portrayals of queer/realistic sex to video. We will now see the trend continue online (where we can argue it’s never left) as companies work with Video On Demand hosts such as HotMoviesForHer.com and build their own theaters in addition to original websites. New companies will fill ever open voids — when dealing with representative sexual art, there’s always room for more — and this in turn will fuel the growing porn-consuming community audience. I believe new work (new artistic visions, cinematic choices, depictions of sexual acts, representations of various bodies, cultures, etc) will positively influence the larger pornographic community for the better.
The successes of the movement will include sex education – a normalizing of sexual acts such as female ejaculation, vaginal and anal fisting, menses during sex, and other “taboo” subjects, as well as safer sex practices and healthy communication and behaviors. All part of how queers are going to save the word. (Because, ultimately, being “queer” is simply being honest about desires and radical about love. Anyone can be queer.)
KING IS A FINK: One of the biggest things we’ve learned from the porn filmmakers we’ve interviewed for PEEP SHOW is that it’s essential to find your niche and connect with that audience. Do you find the audience for your movies, or does your audience find you? What does that process look like?
JIZ LEE: We find each other. The audience is part of a community. It seeks a vision, shares cultural values, and engages in discourse on a variety of topics. The kind of porn and projects I do connect me very personally to my audience, and this connection fuels my interests and those of my directors/collaborators. It’s symbiotic.
There are some tools I use to connect to my community (aka audience). Beyond meeting people at screenings and other events, or networking with other professionals in the industry, I heavily utilize social networks. Everyone’s on them, specifically my queer community, which is a global network of individuals who are each a part of other intersecting communities. Being online and accessible in diverse ways allows me to post and receive public and private messages, comments, and other feedback (tags, notes, likes, retweets, etc). I also produce supplemental unique content outside of my work such as a regular blog on my website and am sometimes a guest contributor on sites and do interviews — such as this one! (Kfink: Great choice…) Though time consuming and often without pay, outside projects diversify my reach, allow me to network and collaborate, and keep my interests varied. Online presence though a variety of social spaces, including Facebook, Twitter, and Fetlife, help to make me accessible to my audience and visa-versa. I both search and make myself accessible via tags and keywords. We’re all seeking one another because without each other, we don’t exist.
KING IS A FINK: As you promote your work via social media, how do you determine where the line is between ‘you as a performer’ and ‘you as a private person’?
JIZ LEE: In general, I think of “Jiz Lee” as the X-rated version of myself. Some of the personal, dorky, non-sex related stuff goes online. But I generally avoid talking about family or chosen family unless I’ve cleared it with them first. I think I operate on the same standards of online” etiquette” as other people do. Basically if I can “be myself” online and network with others around my adult work in a way that is respectful and informative, then it’s working for me.
KING IS A FINK: In the non-porn film world, there’s a lot of discussion about what’s “indie” and what’s “mainstream,” and some reject the notion of “indie” entirely. In the porn world, is there a similar dichotomy, and what does that look like?
JIZ LEE: I’m not even going to get anywhere near the tip of the iceberg on this one, but it’s a great question so I’ll give some basic reactions. I think there is a similar dichotomy, a cross-medium difference between independent website owners and the directors/companies who are produced by DVD distributors.
Before I continue I do want to address that the word “mainstream”itself seems to take on another meaning, describing a visual aesthetic and sexual formula. And on the other end, “indie”by definition exists outside of the mainstream genre, whether in physical appearance, sex acts, cinematography, etc. For directors and critics of feminist/ethical/queer kinds of work, being independent is actually a part of being ethical/feminist/queer/alt, etc… The Feminist Porn Awards, the PorYes Euro Feminist Porn Awards, and several directors and authors celebrate queer/female directors and view them essentially as independent productions, even if their works are picked up and distributed by large adult companies. I think this is simply — and importantly — a nod to the individual’s efforts and accomplishments made within the field. Indie is, in a sense, more popular than mainstream. The Good Vibrations Indie Erotic Film Festival in” San Francisco” showcases work by” amateur” filmmakers, as well as seasoned professionals in its panel events.
What is “indie”? I think it changes throughout the decades in relation to standard production models. I also like to look at distribution models when debating mainstream vs independent work. Distribution is one thing, and consumer practices are another. One might argue that all video pornography — regardless of format — IS an independent cinema. This is a stance Cheryl Dunye is questioning — and I think there’s a completely separate business model for the film industry depending on whether the work includes explicit imagery. Filmmaker Tony Comstock is vocal about porn being just that — a business model. Which I think is lovely because it bares the question what then, is pornography? Art, education, entertainment, a lonely night, something you just wanted to see for yourself, a backdrop at a gay bar, a guide to getting it on, a big screen theater event, a heated debate, and a chance to grow.
You have a little more time to play, right?
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- And catch up on PEEP SHOW interviews with Madison Young, Cinekink director Lisa Vandever, Joanna Angel, and more here.