by Rich Moreland, November 2015
Snugly bundled against the chill of a cloudy April day, I was leaving Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel when I stepped aside for a porn performer I recognized but had never met. I held the door and offered a brief greeting.
A few hours later an impromptu dinner significantly influenced the direction of my research at the time. My dining companions that evening were in town for the same reason that brought me to Canada, the Feminist Porn Awards.
Among those at our table was the performer I passed earlier that day, Jiz Lee. A handful of interviews with Jiz followed over the next couple of years and we developed a modest friendship.
Jiz became a central figure in my manuscript on feminism in adult film and now Jiz has a book out. It’s sensational, smartly edited, and I highly recommend it.
* * *
Author Jiz Lee has redefined “page turner” with Coming Out Like a Porn Star. The collection of personal essays are told with varied emotion–some hint of anger, others steeped in frustration and dark humor. Most are upfront with grinding doubt and the bravery required to deal with what everyone associated with the sex industry ultimately faces.
“Does your family know what you do?”
That question, wrapped around issues such as stigmatization, feminism, gender preferences, and fetish proclivities, jumps from the book as the reader begins the journey.
Lee contributes the first essay and from there acts as editor, sorting and arranging the contributors who willing offer what they do and why. Sexuality’s personal definition for each writer is woven throughout the pages.
Coming Out Like Porn Star is certainly a seductive title, but the book is not an expose as we think of it. Rather, it is an intimate inside look at the people whose choices are in their own words. They are literary volunteers with a sense of accomplishment that refuses to succumb to shame.
What’s in a Name
At its most fundamental level, Coming Out Like a Porn Star is a lesson in social behavior and prejudice. Frustration, resentment, and shame, often resulting from religious upbringing and family disapproval, are crushing negatives. But they are ameliorated by the power of community and sex worker activism in which pride, joy, and a sense of strength are celebrated.
Here’s a quick look that is a mere sampling of well over fifty short entries.
Casey Calvert talks about how she feels pretty in porn. “I have amazing new friends and strangers on the internet think I’m beautiful,” the fetish star writes. In a vibrant story of self-esteem, Casey loves a life without secrets, she says.
In their respective essays, “queer identified trans woman” Drew Deveaux and Connor Habib question what’s in a name? While Deveaux draws on a larger issue, noting that our culture is “reflected and reshaped” via the “medium” of porn, Habib asserts that having “sex publically” permits sex workers to “talk about integrating private and public aspects of life”
Adult company owner Courtney Trouble’s moving account of conversations with her father is an intimate expression of father-daughter love that contrasts markedly with bondage star Denali Winter, who recalls that the adult industry community saved her when family difficulties seemed insurmountable.
Both Denali and author Dale Cooper touch on the shame foisted on sexuality by religion.
The reader can choose preferred essays or take on the book cover to cover. Each writing is unique though limited, as Jiz Lee admits, to personalities of recent generations. The exceptions are legendary icons such as Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, and the late Candida Royalle.
That is my Real Name
Regardless of how the book is tackled, two essays are a must read. Lorelei Lee’s finely crafted statement on “Naming” is balanced effectively with Stoya’s humor in “Noooooooodie Girl.”
In fact, Lorelei Lee’s essay is the book’s linchpin. She is brilliant when speaking of her empowerment. “Naming a thing makes it real,” she says, then remarks with pride that “slut, whore, sister, freak, artist, wife—all of it is truly, wholly me.”
Her bottom line? “Whatever name I choose, that is my real name.”
My only criticism of Coming Out Like a Porn Star is really a historical comment. Feminism in porn today is heavily tilted toward the San Francisco queer porn community, though smart and resouceful women in Southern California are challenging adult film’s traditional patriarchy. Feminists, like the previously mentioned Nina Hartley and Casey Calvert, are making their voices heard. Others on Porn Valley’s expanding list–Jackie St. James, Tasha Reign, Jessica Drake, Dana Vespoli, Mason, Ela Darling, and the now retired Bobbi Starr, to name a few–have their own empowered statements.
Jiz Lee’s extraordinary work is worth six stars out of five for anyone interested in the adult film industry.
The book is available at Amazon.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: ThreeL Media (October 20, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0990557162
- ISBN-13: 978-0990557166