Reading the opening of Jiz Lee's article in The Feminist Porn Book makes me wonder: How is it that anti-porn feminists can so easily disregard the experiences of a person like Lee, who has consciously taken on porn as part of their exploration of self, utilizing their body as a "canvas for art"? Sure, Lee's experiences in porn (and in life!) may not be run-of-the-mill, but they are the result of conscious choices that have led to, according to Lee themself, a set of positive growth experiences, along with being part of simply making art.I’m wearing a bright pastel blue suit I hand-dyed myself to match the suit worn by David Bowie in his music video for “Life on Mars.” I’m a dapper version of Bowie, standing for photos with a golden glammed-up Adrianna Nicole in one of the biggest and most outlandishly decorated homes I’ve ever seen. Adrianna has handpicked her co-stars, creating scenes from her personal fantasies. She reclines on a white chaise lounge, gold lamé legs wrapped around me, wide eyes hungry. My large, flesh-colored strap-on cock juts out from the fly of my David Bowie blue pants and my hand pushes forcefully into her mouth. It all feels so good. Warm, wet, incredibly intimate. My fingers probe her wide mouth. I could do this for hours.--Jiz Lee, The Feminist Porn Book
I often hear anti-porn feminists declaring that positive experiences by performers in porn are not only few-and-far between, but irrelevant--it's the general masses of porn performers who are being harmed, they say, and happy, successful porn performers are the exception that proves the rule. I know there are issues, serious issues, with sex work in porn--similarly there are serious issues with work in nursing, in sweatshops, in teaching. I also understand that sex work is different (for some!) than other kinds of work, in important ways. But I would rather listen to the sex workers themselves. I'd rather listen to them tell me how it can be different, how the negatives and positives of porn play out for them, than assume that I know, or should judge whether folks should do porn for work.
Consent is sometimes complex (can women who have a dearth of options for employment be consenting to do porn in the same way that men, who have more options, consent?), but Lee's experiences opens our eyes to the cases where the consent is not only fairly obvious, but fundamental to what they are doing--specifically, in queer porn. Lee says:
For example, the decision to shave my legs for queer films, like Superfreak, was my own. The key is that it is a choice, not an ultimatum...[c]hoice, or performers’ sexual agency, is one of the main differences between queer porn and mainstream genres...[I]f there’s one thing that makes queer porn different, it’s respecting a performers’ choice—the choice to safely fuck how they want and to look how they believe is sexy.Lee's article is a perfect example of what listening to folks who do porn can do to one's ideas about working porn--I was always aboard with queer porn's politics (among other things!), but Lee solidifies things for me, because Lee is taking "the personal is the political" very seriously, as I think all feminists ought to do: Where sexual identity and gender identity (among other identities) intersect with porn performing, there is much to be learned, Lee thinks, and I take them at their word:
My mixed identities have led me to conclude that there’s no right or wrong, no definitive experience, no one way of looking at the world. Nothing is black or white, and that fact is even clearer when you’re gray.I think their article alone is worth the price of The Feminist Porn Book.
The Feminist Porn Book.