Jiz Lee: "An exciting time for queer porn"

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By Juliette Tang

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Photo of Jiz Lee by Nikola Tamindzic for Fleshbot

Jiz Lee exudes three things not frequently associated in tandem -- sex appeal, brains, and sweetness -- and copiously at that. High of cheekbone and strong of jaw, with a slinky frame and a startling, beautiful ethnic ambiguity, Jiz Lee has a face and name you don't forget upon encountering. She walks the line between coquettish charm and full-on bravado, and in this she succeeds, exhibited tellingly by the opening line of the biography portion of her personal website: "With an ejaculation scene that knocked the concept of the facial cumshot on its ass, Jiz Lee unloaded into the revolutionary world of queer porn cinema."

With degrees in dance and theater arts, Jiz Lee's performance career began well before she started removing her garments on camera. Happily for her fans, she began to perform in queer porn while still remaining active in the local dance community, and she's capably straddled both worlds ever since. I ran into Jiz in excess of five times before gathering my wits about to coherently request an interview, but I finally managed it. We emailed back and forth a few weeks ago and discussed her work as an adult performer, an artist, and a sex-positive activist.

SFBG: So, Jiz, what's your back-story? What brought you to San Francisco and what led you to start performing in queer porn?

JL: I moved to the SF Bay Area from Hawai`i in 1999 to attend Mills College. My interests for a major were between experimental music (I was 1st chair French Horn throughout school and was part of the Select Band which toured the state. Band Geek!), in high school I had also performed in dramatic plays, and I was also in the Ensemble, the top level of dance which gave concerts regularly and through which I was able to take masterclass with well-known choreographers. (My background in dance began with Hula Auana and some Hula Kahiko and Tahitian which I performed with a Hula Halau and then in high school studied Limón modern dance technique and musical theater. I ended up finishing college with a B.A. in Dance and a minor in Theater Arts, along with a well-rounded liberal arts education that included Women/Gender Studies, and Queer Studies.

After graduation and working with several dance companies and non-profits, I began to feel the burn out. One of the festivals I produced lead me to meet Shawn, who now goes by Syd Blakovich. Syd told me about Shine Louise Houston's new queer porn company Pink & White Productions, and asked if I were interested in shooting. I had become very comfortable with my naked body, particularly after touring with a modern dance troupe in a naked performance. I was also comfortable with my sexuality. I had seen "Please Dont Stop" "Hard Love & How to Fuck in High Heels" and Sex, Flesh in Blood", however at the time there weren't any porn opportunities available to me that I knew about until I met Shine, who's first film was "The Crash Pad" and it's all history from there.

I've since appeared in all of Shine's feature films as well as her website, each of which has been awarded a Feminist Porn Award (in Toronto), the most recent being Champion which won Movie of the Year. I have also performed for Madison Young, and for Courtney Trouble who has run her queer company No Fauxxx for several years. Most recently I had the chance to work with Belladonna, a performer who was an inspiration to me when I first saw her work -- she was the only pornstar I had seen with a shaved head. She's athletic and a great performer and she's very queer to me. "Strapped Dykes" releases soon and I was both honored to be a part of it, and thrilled about the rise of butch/genderqueer visibility in porn with casting of performers like myself.

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Jiz Lee and Gay Pornstar Arpad Miklos, photo by Nikola Tamindzic

SFBG: Not only are you a performer, but you're an activist as well. You've said on your blog that "performing is a feat of radical activism in itself". How would you describe the particular kind of activism that reveals itself in your work as an adult performer? In what sense does it transcend the realm from pure entertainment into that of political, social, or cultural activism?

JL: I could write books and books on my thoughts on sex as a medium for social change and where this now fits within what could be defined as a renaissance of queer porn. This is not so much about the work "I'm" doing, but of the movement that is happening right now in a broader way. Work that new pornographers are doing, the talent who's doing it with them, the sex toy retailers funding a lot of the work, and the growing audience of what used to be "niche" however is at this very moment entering mainstream adult industry consciousness -- meaning that the money is there. There's a major consumer shift happening, and if Oprah says women watch porn, you can bet the change is here. I think explicit queer sexuality on film will permeate the adult industry by opening dialogues about gender, sexuality, and sexual acts -- queer porn can bring the seldom seen female-bodied authentic sexual response and pleasure to the screen, even going beyond basic female orgasm; the lack of which has given 'porn' a bad rap. Queer porn has the potential to affect the industry with celebrated natural sex acts including fisting, female ejaculation, sex while menstruating, and also safer sex practices.

I have so far written a few articles, one of which was recently published in the second issue of Art XX Magazine, entitled "Seeing is Believing: Cognitive Neuroscience in a Queer Porn Revolution". I do believe that a society open to sexuality and sex-positive in its understanding of diverse sexual orientations and gender expressions will be a better place to live.

SFBG: You're an Asian American performer, and there aren't that many Asian performers in queer porn outside of the Asian markets. Why do you think Asians are such a minority voice in the overall dialogue surrounding sex and sexuality in this country? From one Asian American to another, I can't help but ask: do your parents know what you do and if so, what are their thoughts?

JL: There are several Asian American academics including Nguyen Tan Hoang, Richard Fong, Sel Wahng, Eve Oishi, Daniel Tsang, kt shorb and Erica Cho who discuss queer API Sexuality in various ways, including how it's portrayed in media and it's representation and lack-thereof. There's not a whole lot about porn, or dyke/queer porn for that matter. However rather than focus on the misrepresentation or non-representation, I'll take this opportunity to validate the API/Hapa performers there are in the porn industry.

There are quite a number of successful stars, and healthy dialogue about self-produced projects bringing about visibility - including Mika Tan's "Year of the Cock" featuring heterosexual API men; there is Keni Styles whose upcoming "PURE" releases soon. Van Darkholme is an Asian American gay male TOP who directs at Kink.com (noteworthy as most gay API performers are bottoms/cast as bottoms onscreen). Other performers I think are worth watching AND listening to include DragonLily and Annie Cruz. Also if you can get your hands on a VHS copy, Christopher Lee's "Sex Flesh in Blood" was a porn featuring a total API cast and included transmen.

I think it's fascinating to see how many Hapa performers there are in porn, particularly in queer porn. In your question you say there's not many Asian performers in queer porn, however I think there's much more to that when you consider Hapas -- take for instance the fact that three of the six performers in "The Crash Pad" are Hapa. Half the cast! While Hapa visibility may not always equal Asian American visibility, I think there's room for more, and good work done in this direction. For example, a healthy percentage of performers in Pink & White Productions' films are POC/Hapa -- this roster of talent is unseen in mainstream porn, which often categorizes people into genres (Asian, Latina, Black) etc. whereas queer porn carries an over-arching theme of unity and inclusion.

It takes a lot of courage for any performer to do porn, considering the unfair social stigma and shame associated with sex work and having sex on film. For families, regardless of cultural backgrounds or religious views, coming out to parents as doing porn is just as difficult as coming out as being pregnant, gay, trans, poly, kinky, etc... For children who are outside the mainstream's perception of what's appropriate, negotiating identities and family acceptance is tricky.

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Jiz Lee with Lorelei Lee and Reader's Choice Winner Joanna Angel, photo by Nikola Tamindzic

SFBG: In your bio, you describe yourself as: "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". One thing you didn't mention is total tech geek! As a tech geek myself, I mean that in the best way. You make online videos, you blog, you Tweet, and your somewhat of an advocate for the tech ventures of your friends, like VB.ly. As someone who is 'plugged into' the tech realm, what are your thoughts on social media and technology? How does using social media help you engage with your fans and promote your work?

JL:I forgot to add "geek" to JizLee.com? Oh geeez, I'll add that soon. I work online as a web producer and for anyone familiar with the web, social networking is where it's at. Some of the arts and technology advocacy I do outside of work, for non-profits, artists, and small minority-owned businesses, entails helping artists learn how to use the web for DIY promotion, granting them access to create their own sites, blog about their artistic process, and use technological resources to promote their craft.

Porn stars aren't much different, particularly queer stars, who have no agent or manager to promote their careers. These days, having a website or Facebook page/model photo page, in tandem with a regular presence on Twitter, is the best way to promote oneself, networking with photographers and co-stars.

Queer porn stars doing this include myself (@jizlee), Syd Blakovich (@SydBlakovich), Dylan Ryan (@TheDylanRyan), Sophia St. James (@sophiastjames), and many more. Directors and companies are also online in the way. I just had a conversation with New York photographer Bob Coulter about the power of Twitter to network and build site memberships for a business. Of course, like any social media, the results you get are a direct reflection of the effort put into it. You get what you give.

SFBG: I understand you were just in New York City. What did you work on there?

JL: I've attended Sex Workers Literati, NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar Party, and the Fleshbot Awards. I shot for Furry Girl's new site CockSexual.com in a three-way with Syd Blakovich & Bella Vendetta; an artistic porn photo set with Syd for CrAZyBaBe.com; and a solo set for Ellen Stagg's StaggStreet.com; Aeric Meredith-Goujon; and JC of Stark-Art. I also attended a DVD signing at Babeland where I invited fans to sign my chest after I had signed their DVDs, and had a chance to explore the city walking and though getting lost in the subway.

SFBG: So, in porn, art, work, and life, what are some of the projects you're currently working on that fans should keep on their radar?

JL: Most excited about a bunch of porn releasing soon: Belladonna's "Strapped Dykes", Carlos Batts' "Dangerous Curves", "TAXI" (Juicy Pink Box), and Dr. Carol Queen's "Gush: The Ultimate Guide to the G-spot". I'm interviewed in Morty Diamond's book "Gendered Hearts" which comes out soon. Im also writing a new article for Art XX Magazine's 3rd Issue. I'm also looking forward to more porn events such as AIM fundraisers, the queer porn posse trip to AVN, the next Feminist Porn Awards, and new projects in the works with No Fauxxx and Pink & White Productions. It's an exciting time to do queer porn.

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