Jiz Lee has partook in over 200 projects spanning six countries, but her career in pornography can no longer be tethered to the screen. Just as Lee is not bound by a single gender (preferably referred to as “they/them”), so too the label “pornstar” seems limiting. Active blogger, guest lecturer, and now with a fresh anthology straight off the press entitled Coming Out Like a Pornstar, Lee has a diverse and multifaceted career. When I meet Lee, they’re nursing a cup of coffee and waiting for the high-ceilinged room they’re sat in to fill with curious students. Today, they’re participating in a panel Q&A at Humboldt University. It is one of the events surrounding the PorYes awards show, during which they were awarded an Oyster, reflecting their influence in the growing market of feminist porn. Furthermore, they let slip they’ve only had an hours sleep. Yet still they make the time to meet up and tell Boner Magazine about the sensation of squirting (because if you’re interviewing Jiz Lee, you have to ask about squirting), Jiz’s fantasy porn music video, and training for a half Iron Man amongst all their other obligations …
You weren’t really tempted to do porn until you met the director Shine Louise Houston. Why is that?
I had seen limited examples of porn when I was younger and it just didn’t appeal to me. I had been propositioned for sex work when I was younger and it also didn’t appeal to me. Mostly it was very straight fields of sex work. I never even looked at porn to explore sex. I found it at Mills [College], I found it within the queer community and so I was really exploring sex on my own, within the Bay area, person to person, at parties, in the actual space as opposed to finding communities online. I was sitting in a theatre with like fifty people and we watched, I think it was Sugar High Glitter City and How to Fuck in High Heels, which is about femmes topping, and it was so mind blowing to see queer people that were diverse that I felt like I could see myself reflected in, and we were watching that porn within my community, and [I’m] watching it and being like ‘I wanna do that’.
There wasn’t any real opportunity for me to do video until I was in the right place at the right time and I met someone who would become my lover and we worked for Shine Louise Houston’s first film. I just I literally lucked out, meeting the right person at the right moment of my life, and it was the right time for Shine’s film and I’ve been riding that wave ever since.
Now you’ve had the opportunity to do both mainstream porn and “feminist” porn, how did those two production styles compare?
I have a bone to pick with the division of saying one’s feminist and one’s mainstream because when you do that it automatically makes this assumption that mainstream is inherently misogynist, if it’s not feminist, and it’s not [misogynist]! Even though I’d seen these examples when I was younger and I wasn’t interested and later on I had seen more examples and I was like, you know, alright, I don’t really see myself in that [because] if I wanted to act like that I’d have to look that way and perform that way and it’s not interesting.[But then I started to realise that porn is so broad there’s not just one kind of porn and that applies to mainstream companies also.
It’s hard to define what is mainstream. I found once I was actually there and was working with some companies, there’s not much of a difference. People assume that one’s ethical and one’s not and that’s not the case. There’s unethical things that can happen in all companies, there’s ethical things that happen in most companies. Someone was saying, “Oh the treatment in mainstream porn is horrendous!” I’m like no, it’s not actually, it varies production to production. If we approach porn in the same kind of way we do sex, as saying sex positive, and so as long as things are consensual and everyone’s doing something healthy for themselves safely then it’s okay. Porn is the same way. While it might not work for some people it does work for others including the performers in it. So a lot of those performers [in mainstream porn] that’s how they look and that’s how they fuck and to say that they’re not feminist for that is problematic.
You’re infamous for your ability to ejaculate. Is squirting a different kind of pleasure than your typical female orgasm?
So that’s a yes. I don’t always do it. I’ve even had the experience of being on a set where the film that we’re making was supposed to be about ejaculation and it didn’t happen and I think that it’s okay because I’m letting my body genuinely feel this pleasure and if it’s genuinely not gonna happen. It can be faked for film and that’s fine, but for me I really wanted it to be an authentic experience and the fact that it didn’t happen – it’s disappointing. The body only can do tricks on command so often and my personal thing is I don’t want to fake it.
When it occurs, it’s around g-spot orgasms so it’s a very similar feeling to me. It’s like a building up of energy force, some say it’s water, it’s like fluid, and then when it releases it’s not so acute as having to pee after holding your bladder for a long time, though that definitely feels pleasurable to me too. It’s a little more full-bodied in the pelvis and sometimes it does feel like the rush of a full-bodied orgasm. And I think there’s an inherent benefit for it being filmed because a lot of times there’s not a film language of seeing certain bodies respond to pleasure and so often times you see ejaculation as a visual cue that orgasm happened. And so in some ways having ejaculation occur is a really great signifier of pleasure happening. It creates a nice visual effect.
What’s it like watching yourself perform on screen in a crowd of people?
I’m a little self-critical. I do like watching work that I’ve had with lovers and reflecting on that. Particularly if we’re together and watching it. We’ll have date nights and then talk about what we might want to do and then have the performance happen and then have a processing afterwards about what we felt about it and then watch it when it’s finally produced. That part is exciting it’s a really special kind of production that you know doesn’t happen all the time, so it’s really neat to have that with someone and share that with someone, but sometimes I don’t watch work. Sometimes I’m curious to see how it came out because the process of making it can be so different than the final product. Sometimes it can feel like the chemistry was amazing and it’s such a good time and then you watch the final project and maybe it didn’t read as high chemistry as it felt while we were doing it. […] I try to generally work with people that I’ve met before but there’s been some cases where I haven’t met them which I think has taught me that I really wanna meet people first… but watching the final project it’s like, oh, actually this is really hot. It felt more awkward in the moment but you can’t tell on screen. it just reads differently sometimes so you just need to see it afterwards.
You mention in an interview that you’d really like to see the invention of music video porn. Hypothetically for a music video porn shoot what song would it be and who would be your famous costar?
I would be really interested to see Michel Gondry do porn cause he’s so surreal. He’s done a lot of Bjork videos if you’re not familiar with him. He plays a lot with a trick of perception, like size sometimes, or he’ll do something where it’s all filmed in one take like he travels through rooms and things like that. I feel like his approach to pornography might be really creative and interesting. You know there’s one video where this man has a giant hand and it’s like what could you do with these engorged or shrunken bodies. Right now I’m obsessed with The Weekend and I just think. I mean it’s weird to fantasise about celebrities…
Do you want to move on to directing pornography in the future?
Right now I’m having a lot of fun really pushing Shine Louise Houston’s vision. I do a lot of work for Pink and White productions behind the scenes and we’ve just released a book. It’s just coming out, it’s a tangible thing you can hold in your hand and dog ear and it feels really good to flip through and the cover is velvety. It’s being really well received right now and I feel like I have a lot of hope that it’s going to destigmatize a lot of thoughts around pornography and also help a lot of performers. It’s called Coming Out Like a Porn Star. I’m really excited about these projects so I will just let this organically happen.
What advise would you give to a performer coming out to their family? Do you have any sort of personal experience that could be helpful?
The book was driven by my own coming out process and asking other people in the industry how their process was or if their family and loved ones knew or not. There are 56 contributors everyone’s story is different. Which just shows the wide range of how our experiences vary. Although the similar thread is that there’s usually a faint element of either perceived or experienced stigma around sex work and commonalities that intersect with coming out as queer or trans. Doing porn is a choice of course and it’s one that’s valid. But in terms of coming out it helped me to read other people’s stories and hear about them because it gave me a lot of strength around just validating the fact that what I’m doing is not wrong and it’s not shameful.
With everything keeping you so busy how’s training for the half Iron Man going?
We’re not in season right now. I did the Oakland triathlon festival a few months ago and with the book coming out and with Shine’s new film “Snapshot” which is going to have a trailer sneak peak for the festival, and I was working behind the scenes as producer and I have bit role in it. Between that and the book and everything I actually fell out of training schedule so by the time I did the Oakland tri, it’s an Olympic length, I was very undertrained which was good in some ways because I did it anyhow and it was nice to see what my bare minimum was. Also I totally messed up because I was late to the race so I had to run a mile and a half to get to the start in a wetsuit before it even started, and I had forgotten to get up early enough to eat so I hadn’t eaten anything, and I’d only gotten three hours of sleep. It was like the worst conditions you could possibly have when you’re racing and yet I did it, I think it took me like three and a half hours but I was able to hang so I know what my bare minimum is. In Monte Ria where it happens it’s gorgeous and the swim is in a river and then the bicycle takes you out into the ocean and the sea breeze hits you as your riding and there’s all these cows and pastures and then the run is just a really fast run around this woodland neighbourhood so it’s really beautiful and it’s nice to use these different events to just get out and explore the Bay Area and go on long bike rides and swim out into the ocean.
Hannah Goldstein for Boner Magazine