Meet the PornograHERs: Shine Louise Houston and Jiz Lee

Category: Culture

Author: Suzannah Weiss

It’s impossible to have a discussion of queer porn without mention of theCrash Pad Series, a membership site created by queer black filmmaker Shine Louise Houston. Houston’s production company Pink and White Productions is behind some of the world’s most cutting-edge indie porn, showcasing people with a variety of gender, sexual, and racial identities. Genderqueer porn star Jiz Lee has worked alongside Houston at Pink and White Productions both as an actor and on the production side, starring in the Crash Pad Series along with other TV, film, and porn roles.

This month, POV by Lustery celebrates the women+ pornographers who have shaped the porn industry and continue to do so with our micro-documentary PornograHERs: The Women+ Who Make Porn. We talked to Houston and Lee about breaking gender, sexuality, and race boundaries in the porn industry and what work still needs to be done.

What misconceptions do you see regarding women and non-binary people in the porn industry?

Jiz: It feels like society thinks people in porn are coerced, particularly women. I think that attitude might have changed around the ‘70s, but then the conception of porn was that it was a big drug party that people are really flippant and not serious about. There’s naivete around it, and people are not realizing women can have agency and make intelligent choices about their careers.

Shine: For some reason, we have ‘money and politics’, ‘money and war’, but ‘money and sex’ is the big taboo. If it’s money and sex, suddenly, it’s wrong and it’s harmful, which is funny because I think a lot of emotional exchange in sex can be more harmful than a cut-and-dry money-and-sex exchange. There’s a cultural idea that, overall, sex has to do with family and love and children.

What about representation of racial minorities within the porn industry – what problems do you see there, and how can we combat that?

Jiz: A lot of racial justice action was happening in the beginning of the pandemic, and simultaneously, performers were beginning to create their own content with subscription sites like OnlyFans. Having that financial ability to say “no” to a studio, not just in terms of not taking a job, but also in terms of being able to say “hey, this happened while I was working with them” – we’ve started to see a lot more callouts and pushes for positive changes in the industry.

There’s unfair hiring and financial practices, along with stereotypes being pushed. There’s discrimination in terms of pay that happens. The independence that performers have when they can produce their own work allows for more financial stability in being able to support yourself without some studio prescribing who you get to work with and how often you get to work at all, so there’s been a silver lining in the pandemic.

Shine: These issues aren’t specific to the industry. It’s just a concentration of larger structures in this country. A lot of changes that we’ve seen in workplaces, as far as fair wages and discrimination and all that stuff – it hasn’t been the same in the [porn] industry. Not to say that those biases aren’t still out in the greater community. It’s just that they are here and they still play out in old ways.

I feel like if people respected the industry more and took the industry seriously and weren’t always trying to shut it down, it would be like Hollywood – like, “hey, maybe we’re going to start an actors’ guild, and we’re going to have a union”. But because there’s always this fear of some type of legal retribution on the industry as a whole because the rest of the world doesn’t even trust the industry to run itself, these types of advancements in the workplace aren’t able to happen as easily.

How do you make sure your work doesn’t replicate gender and racial stereotypes?

Shine: We let people be themselves. It’s really that simple.

Jiz:Crash Pad created this container where, really, the performer gets to call the shots in terms of what they want to do and who they want to do it with. And when you open up that possibility, you stop having stereotypical tropes. People say, “It’s so refreshing to be able to have an authentic orgasm how I like to have them” or “I don’t have to shave to look more ‘feminine’ because that’s what a presumed male audience wants to see; that’s refreshing.”

I often hear people say that porn isn’t sex education – but some of your work does include educational elements, like discussion of safer sex practices. Do you think porn creators have the potential to educate viewers, or a responsibility to consider what their work is teaching people?

Shine: Porn is not entry-level sexual education. It’s a graduate studies-level discussion on sex and sexuality. There should be comprehensive sex ed in the schools starting form grade school through high school and probably some more in college, but I I don’t feel like porn has an obligation to educate. Porn is entertainment. Does Marvel have an obligation to educate? No, it doesn’t, because it’s entertainment and fantasy.

“Porn is not entry-level sexual education. It’s a graduate studies-level discussion on sex and sexuality.”

Jiz: The way that we work is informed by sex ed. We have gone through sex ed training with Good Vibrations, and that does have an influence on how we work. Some examples of this are consciousness around anal sex with flared bases on toys, the use of lubrication and barriers, and various correct or safer practices around sex acts. I’ve had some BDSM training, and so we’re also conscious of cues and safety concerns and considerations.

When we have an example of something that may be considered unsafe, we put a content note. We had performers who used a toy that didn’t have a flared base, and they wanted to use the toy, so we added a content note saying: “This toy isn’t anal-safe. We wouldn’t recommend it.” And we also, in the exit interview, ask performers what their safer sex practices are. So even if you don’t see a condom used in the scene, the performers say their safer sex practices, which may include testing or communication. So you get to see more transparency around that part of sexual health.

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