by Rich Moreland, December 2011
In my search for a lead for this piece, I stumbled onto a December 14 Huffington Post web article on Rooney Mara of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
I pulled this from it;
“When she puts the hoodie on and the leather jacket, she looks like a 14-year-old boy, she looks sexless. Which is perfect. The other side of it is that when she doesn’t have that on, she’s really sexy.”
It’s the sexless part that captured my attention because it brings up an interesting question about the word. Does it mean having no awareness as to be child-like, with apologies to Freud? Or does it mean being indeterminate, not fixed, as to challenge to the traditional male-female binary? For this approach, androgyny may be the best fit.
I’m going to go with the latter interpretation because it describes Jiz Lee, a female-bodied queer porn performer from San Francisco. (A quick note. “Queer” in this usage is not a pejorative. It describes SF’s inclusive community of sexualities and gender preferences that takes pride in its own adult film genre. Within this environment, Jiz is part of a group of directors and performers known as the Queer Porn Mafia. More on them in another post.)
So who is Jiz? How about a Mills College grad who does not identify as male or female for a starters?
The holiday season is approaching and that means preparations for Vegas in January. Once again, it’s AVN time! Network, attend seminars, look for interviews, and enjoy renewing some acquaintances are on the agenda.
The downside of this year’s excursion is no Jiz Lee. Jiz is off to Jiz’s native Hawai`i to spend some time with family and friends. Since Jiz is one of my faves in adult film Jiz’s trip to the islands gives me a chance to revisit some of our conversations. Jiz has been instrumental in my understanding of sexuality and how its variations play out in adult film.
Before we go further, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve not used a female pronoun to describe Jiz. Jiz doesn’t like them and I respect Jiz’s wishes because I respect Jiz. Avoiding such pronouns when referring to Jiz is not universally honored I’ve discovered. At a feminist conference last spring, I ran into a well-known maker of sex toys for women. We talked briefly (actually ran into each other in the men’s room!!) before the last seminar of the day and found out that we each know Jiz. He praised Jiz for valuing his newest product, referring to Jiz as “her.” I gently reminded him that Jiz is averse to female pronouns. Laughing a bit sheepishly, he shrugged and said it’s too hard to remember that.
Perhaps, but doesn’t lessen its importance.
Not long ago Jiz courteously reminded me of my own inadvertent screw-up in an article I’d written for an industry publication. The pronoun slipped in out of habit. Spot-checking did not catch it. But that was a poor excuse because getting it right is essential to who Jiz is in Jiz’s own mind. A person’s identity is sacred.
Apologies were in order.
You’ll see no pronouns here. Hope it doesn’t make reading this post too syntactically awkward.
Having established those parameters, this is what’s on my mind today.
In his book America Unzipped, Brian Alexander paid a visit to Kink.com, an internet fetish porn company in San Francisco. I’ve been there also and the place captured my interest. I was looking for feminist attitudes in its operations because male and female-bodied queer performers shoot for Kink, including Jiz.
I get the impression that Alexander saw Kink as just another sojourn in his explorations into American sexuality. Nothing special. In fact, he seemed dismissive of the Kink stopover, using the word “bored” to describe his experience.
I understand tedium when it comes to adult film. I once got a free Hustler video (a compilation) a couple of years ago and swore I’d view the entire four hours, at least in segments. Not easy because I don’t really watch much adult film. I got through fifteen minutes over lunch one day and have never returned to it, repetitive beyond belief with a lack of authentic sex.
One of the problems Alexander had at Kink was language. He was linguistically at sea when chatting with queer performers who tried to explain their preferences and orientations. Nothing seemed certain, like shadows on the waves. Most particular his experience with the word “queer” was confusing and led him to conclude that a variety of sexual tastes, dispositions, and identifications seemed like a “gender shell game.”
He is correct in one aspect of his metaphor. It’s hard to keep all the terminology straight because it extends way beyond the male-female binary that makes up our culturally circumscribed heteronormativity. Gay male? Not a problem for the most part, but what about lesbian, dyke, butch, lipstick fem, trans, and the like? How does all this wash out because labels can endear or offend?
Jiz helped me sort through things and led me to develop an idea I call “identity of difference.” It’s my way of trying to get a handle on some serious questions. Is sexual orientation and sexual identity biologically determined or socially constructed? Is queer a political statement? Is it about fetishes as in “what are yours and what are mine?” Are lovers of BDSM sex queer?
In trying to clarify these questions, I have decided on one point. All of us have a bit of a different slant when it comes to sexual expression, physically and linguistically. I do believe sexuality is shaped by cultural expectations and these “standards” do not fit everyone. That is the essence of queer. As queer icon Madison Young once said to me, we should not force people into boxes.
Everyone is entitled to a self-identified and selected sexuality and it should be respected because it has the right to be fluid. That is the “identity of difference.” Fetishes, sexual orientation, gender preferences, and the like are all part of a changeable and growing inner self that makes up the totality of personhood.
Jiz is not a “her” or a “him” but is a “they” because Jiz is comfortable with a sexual flow that is subject to redefinition when Jiz feels the necessity, however that is driven. This means that Jiz has every right to any identifier Jiz chooses, or none at all for that matter.
When I met Jiz at a San Francisco restaurant last fall, Jiz biked up to the front door dressed like a newspaper boy straight out of the old black and white cinema of decades ago, complete with cap rakishly tilted to one side.
Later in Toronto, I mentioned to Jiz of my interpretation of Jiz’s appearance that SF evening.
“I like that image!” Jiz said.
“It had a kid look, an androgyny,” I offered. “Sometimes with a kid you can’t tell who it is, boy or girl.”
“It’s comfortable with me,” Jiz declared in discussing the look, “and it took me awhile to find that.”
In our conversation Jiz admitted making mistakes, as I have done, in using identifiers to describe others. Jiz explained that Jiz has friends who prefer the pronouns “they” and “them.” When asked to sort through the meaning of terms like “descriptors” “identities,” and “roles,” as they apply to sexuality, Jiz remarked that the words are not “mutually exclusive.”
“We can’t tell how someone identifies by just looking at them,” Jiz concluded.
I agree. It’s best to ask and honor the response.
Now back to AVN because you might anticipate what is on the horizon. Remember AVN is Porn Valley stuff, mainstream porn, very Southern Californiaesque Hollywood . . . and a long way from San Francisco queer.
Jiz is up for several noms at the awards show and some are in the all-girl categories. Before I congratulated Jiz, my thought was, “how is Jiz going to handle ‘girl?’”
We exchanged emails.
Just as I expected, Jiz was put off a bit with the “’girl’ aspect,’” as Jiz framed it, and thanked me for “not lumping” Jiz into the “Girl/Girl stuff” as AVN has the habit of doing.
Jiz was philosophical about it all, giving it an “oh hum.”
I’m excited that Jiz’s work is being professionally recognized. Queer adult film deserves to be feted beyond the confines of Toronto’s gala affair and Jiz Lee is one of the genre’s premier performers.
The future looks bright.
By the way, the Huffington writer marvels at Rooney’s carnality when she “doesn’t have that on,” referring to her hood and jacket. Her sexlessness is vacated.
I contend that Jiz’s queerness moves a step beyond Rooney Mara. Abandonment is unnecessary.
Sexless is erotic.
Check out Jiz’s website at the top of this page. There will be more on Jiz and other queer performers in the coming months.