Porn star offers insight on personal career choice

On Friday night, porn star Jiz Lee, who self-identifies as genderqueer and goes by gender-neutral pronouns, presented a film screening of their work followed by a lecture and Q&A to a full house in Paresky auditorium. 

Genderqueer porn star, Jiz Lee, showed clips from her work followed by a lecture to the College. Photo courtesy of movies pad.com
Genderqueer porn star, Jiz Lee, showed clips from their work followed by a lecture to the College. Photo courtesy of movies pad.com

The event, titled “Queer as Porn,” was sponsored by the Dively Committee for Human Sexuality and Diversity as part of the Committee’s 20th anniversary celebration, which took place over the weekend. This event drew a correspondent from Fox News, and a video including student interviews appeared on Fox’s national website before the event started.

Lee was introduced by Harry Gilbert ’14, the organizer of the event. Lee has a B.A. in dance and an extensive background in performance art. They started appearing in porn in 2006, and have since become the recipient of several feminist porn awards. Lee’s writing appears online at Jezebel.com, in Aorta Magazine, in the upcoming anthology Feminist Porn Studies and elsewhere. They have also spoken at a number of academic institutions, including Stanford and Smith. “A boundary-breaker like Jiz Lee is exactly what this school needs,” Gilbert said before thanking everyone involved in bring Lee to the College.

Lee started by screening four scenes from their work. Before screening each scene, Lee summarized the scene so the audience could contextualize what was happening and leave if the scene contained any personal triggers.

The first scene shown, titled “The Crash Pad,” was Lee’s first time starring in a porno, said Lee. During the scene, Lee was with their lover, whom they had thought they would never be able to have sex with again due to the fact that their lover had a partner. After the movie, Lee acknowledged that it is “strange to watch porn in an audience,” which generated a lot of laughter.

The second screening was titled “Dangerous Curves.” According to Lee, it is designed to show people of different sizes as curves to be traversed, as well as some “beautiful scenery.” It also contained a “fashion element.” Lee praised the writer, April Flores, and joked that the waterfall that they shot their scenes in had made them feel like a newt.

The third porno was “Real Porn Girls with Real Dykes with Belladonna,” which, according to Lee, was similar to a “jump into mainstream porn.”

The fourth movie was a sex-education video produced by Tristan Taormino, called “The Expert Guide to Pegging.” It began with a discussion between the actors about pegging, which is when “a female-bodied person wears a strap-on and penetrates a male partner,” Lee said. The performers talked about the political meanings of the act. Lee’s male partner in the scene, Mickey Mod, referred to his “whole body [as something] to explore.” Lee also talked about warming up before the act and being safe. Finally, Lee, as genderqueer, discussed the “gay fantasy” that pegging creates for them, but said this fantasy isn’t the same for everyone.

Lee’s final scene was a behind-the-scenes style video from “The Crash Pad.” Lee drew some more laughs from the audience by acknowledging that “people don’t usually watch porn all the way through.” Before moving on to the lecture portion, they said that “porn is the only medium to present queer intimacy uncensored.”

Brian Martin, professor of French and chair of the Dively Committee, introduced the second portion of the event. He recognized Mike Dively ’61, founder of the Dively Committee, who was present for the event. Martin then praised the history of the Dively Committee and outlined the weekend’s events, which included a faculty colloquium on queer studies, a lecture by Lisa Capaldini ’78 on HIV and AIDS and a performance by Sister Spit.

Lee started the lecture portion by asking the question, “Why porn?” in reference to both people’s personal choices to do pornography and theories about porn being oppressive to women, or what Lee classified as “bad porn.” The answer to bad porn is not no porn, it’s more porn, as long as it’s between consenting adults, Lee asserted. They went on to explain that when they had first seen porn, they had been unable to identify with it until they found queer porn in San Francisco.

Originally, for Lee, participating in porn had been “a personal choice.” Everything they did and do was and is a personal decision, and subsequently, Lee has rejected a lot of offers. Working in porn provided many benefits, Lee explained, such as public speaking skills and giving them the financial basis to pay off their student loans. It later became more political for Lee, as they started to believe that the more diverse porn we see, the more we can learn and begin to understand and modify our limited views of sex in society. “Because of queer porn, we’ve been able to change the stigma about receiving sex” in the queer community, Lee said.

The event concluded with a Q&A session. Lee answered a question regarding the role of a director, saying that, in queer porn, they try to make it more about real sexuality, but that it’s still a medium. Lee said that there are a number of things banned from porn, but only the rules against bestiality, menstruation and vaginal fisting are followed. Lee again addressed anti-porn ideas: “It’s insulting to performers … to suggest they don’t have autonomy,” she said. “Porn is as moral as you make it.”

The event was widely attended, and interviews with students Marina Bousa ’13 and Haley Eagon ’13 are shown in a video on the Fox News website. The story has already been picked up by other news outlets including the Daily Mail.