“If you’ve been following my Twitter,” writes Lily Cade on her blog, “you’re aware that for days now I’ve been engaged in what I’m calling ‘The Great Twitter War of June 2014’. I did not want to fight this, but I’m also not somebody who will allow myself to be bullied with accusations of bigotry for either my sexuality or my artistic expression. To some extent this has been an SF vs LA battle, but it’s also been a grown ups vs children battle.”
Cade is an ‘out’ Gold Star Lesbian adult performer and producer, and as such one might think it rather unlikely to find her the target of a gender politics assault. And in this case, they would be dead wrong.
As Lily explains on her blog:
Chelsea Poe, a pre- or non-op transsexual woman (a human being with a penis and testicles) asked me to cast her in my lesbian porn. I said no, and she accused me of transphobia, and it could have been left at that, but people piled on and piled on and I stood there and fought it because this whole thing is coming from a place of refusal to face reality… and I don’t believe in suffering delusion.
Frankly, I still don’t think Chelsea and Thelma [Sleaze] and all these other uptight, immature people understand why I went to war with them. I tried nuance and I tried grace and I tried everything in my arsenal but if you can’t grow up I can’t drag you kicking and screaming into the light.
What Chelsea asked me to do was to spend my capital, my energy, the trust of my fanbase that I have built up over six years in porn, to fight for her cause: her cause of proving she is attractive. Chelsea asked me to give her work in my movies. Every time I cast a movie I can’t include all my friends and lovers and the women I think are beautiful and the women who I like fucking, but Chelsea demanded that in the name of “equality” I give one of those roles to her and pay for someone to fuck her, so that she could wave her dick in the faces of my lesbian porn fans to make some point about how they should stop being bigots and accept that she’s hot.
Attraction isn’t bigotry. I fully support the creation of porn that speaks to all kinds of people. I do to some extent, and have many friends who create porn that features non mainstream looks, that showcases new things that maybe people didn’t know they were into, and speaks to some larger truth about the world. I’m not exactly Brazzers. I don’t make assembly line porn.
Lily Cade discussed this extraordinary war of words with Christina Parreira…
Congratulations Lily, you’re at the center of Twittersphere’s 2014 Unbelievable War! How did this all start?
I tweeted this: “I’m really neither butch nor femme. I like to put on different characters. I’m sort of a drag queen and @RuPaul is my idol”
I definitely did not expect what happened. Chelsea Poe, a trans girl from the bay area who I’d met once and tweeted with occasionally, brought up RuPaul’s “transphobia.” RuPaul is someone I find very inspiring as an artist and an entertainer and a human being. I think RuPaul understands a lot of shit about life. RuPaul also likes the word “tranny” – a world that has been hurled at him – and plays with it on his show and sometimes calls himself that. This offends some trans people.
I told Chelsea to actually listen to Ru’s interview with Marc Maron, and I decried this tendency in queer circles to decide some person (always, always a gay person – this isn’t exactly Rick Santorum we’re talking about here) is “problematic” and then refuse to engage with that person. Every time someone mentions Dan Savage or RuPaul some queer activist has to rise up and “call them out”. I think this sucks. I think it’s divisive and stupid, and I tried to talk to Chelsea about this at which point she asked if I’d ever worked with a transwoman as a performer and I said no.
This took place over four days and probably 1000s of tweets, so it’s hard to condense it, but basically Chelsea was offended that I’m not interested in people with dicks and that I don’t want to put people with dicks in my lesbian pornos. She told me that my identification as a Gold Star Lesbian was “transphobic” and that me saying “I have never sucked a dick and I never will” was transphobic. Eventually some normally anti-porn feminists jumped in on “my side” so to speak with some inflammatory language, followed by more of me attempting to explain that I am not obligated to hire anyone to be in my porn.
Chelsea thinks that her not getting hired to be in a porno is “employment discrimination” which is just so silly on it’s face, as if porn was some kind of self-esteem building charity and I am obligated to spend my money and time and energy and creative force making porn with whoever shows up. At this point, more trans performers on the queer side of porn started bitching about employment discrimination and suggested using the law to force me to hire them. My friends and I decided to make fun of them with a bunch of silly tweets about other ways that we discriminate against people in porn and then there was more fighting and I eventually just blocked all of these people because I couldn’t handle dealing with it anymore. The whole thing is on Twitter.
Of course all of this is just patently absurd on its face. This is a person with a dick who wants to work in lesbian porn – not just queer porn in San Fransisco – but the sort of lesbian porn produced in Los Angeles for a mainstream market. She honestly does think that not getting hired to have sex for money is an issue of rights.
Of course, they didn’t make this an issue with Vivid. They didn’t approach LA agencies and ask if the performers listed as girl/girl only would be ok with a person with a dick who identifies as a girl. They didn’t ask Manuel Ferrara or James Deen why they don’t do TS scenes. They came after me, I guess because I’m gay and they figured I would be on their team with this whole political sexuality thing but I’m just not. I don’t consider myself queer. I don’t feel a kinship with everyone who isn’t straight. I have this kind of “straight guy” sexuality. I just like to fuck chicks. It’s not about politics for me.
What is it like to be told by other women that you’re phobic for not having sex with them? Would this look different if the same treatment came from a “cis male?”
Somewhere along the line, the movement for sexual acceptance got twisted. The idea of acceptance was turned inwards – so it wasn’t “everybody should be free to be attracted to whoever they are attracted to” it was the politicization of sexual entitlement. “Why won’t you fuck me?” I just think it’s profoundly stupid. I don’t care if anyone isn’t attracted to me, for whatever reason, and neither should you.
I think it’s absurd for these trans woman (and please understand that it’s a small vocal subset of activists, I had a lot of support from trans friends throughout this) to tell me that if I like women I must like them. It’s this murder of nuance, just like with the distillation of gay celebrities to an insensitive comment or two, and it’s so dumb. I’m not attracted to someone’s gender identity, I’m attracted to their body and their mind, and two things I least want to fuck are dicks and people who think I owe them my body. Trans women are women, but the whole concept of what “trans” is, namely, that these were women born with male bodies, is a total turn off to me. Even if she’s had SRS, this is just not something that operates erotically for me, and really, who gives a shit? I don’t see why this has to be some kind of big to do. I’m one person. I’m a lesbian. This is what I like. I don’t care if you call yourself a lesbian and like something different.
Men tell me all the time that I haven’t had the right dick yet, and I would like it if I tried, and all of this dumb shit…but I’ve never had a man try to frame this as something I owe them in this same way. It’s just so entitled. I’ve experienced more vitriol about this from these activists than I have from clueless dudes. I’ve never had a guy tell me that my concept of my own sexual identity is offensive. They think they can change me but they don’t see my sexuality as an affront to who they are as a person. I’ve never had a guy tell me “I’ve never sucked a dick” hurts his feelings. I can’t imagine these same people would be ok if a man did say that to me.
The thing about me is, I’m not here to coddle you. I don’t want to hurt people. I’m not going to go tell someone that I think they suck or I think they’re ugly, but I just don’t care about bending over backwards to accommodate everyone’s particular subset of experience. My wife and I have this hashtag #lesbiansarebetterthanyou and we talk about things that make female/female pairings great in snarky ways. I’ve had some people complain that we are being “cissexist” which I think is just silly. It’s living in an activist bubble.
If I say something like “I’ve never spent a cent on birth control” and someone complains that if you’re a lesbian who fucks trans partners you might have to I just don’t care. Come on, man, seriously, you are talking about a dick ejaculating in a vagina. You know this isn’t what anybody is talking about when they talk about lesbianism in a general sense. If that’s you, you know that. Nuance. It’s just selfish to expect me to account for your particular experience when I’m speaking generally. I don’t believe in trying to be so inclusive that you just can’t describe anything without having to make a list of exceptions.
Speaking of the word “cis,” I’ve previously read on your Facebook that you dislike the term. Care to share more on that?
I don’t think the word cis itself is so bad, though I’m not in love with the chemistry reference. I just think it’s overused. The word cis is like the world gentile: it has a particular place, but the concept of just “not Jewish” isn’t something that defines other people to themselves. You’re a Muslim, or an atheist, or a Buddhist or whatever. This isn’t a real binary; it’s dumb to draw the lines. I would never call myself a cis woman. Trans is just one of many experiences I don’t share. I can touch a small piece of it – and this is so much of what it means to connect with other people – because I was deeply uncomfortable with being female until early High School. Of course I’m not the same, but no one’s the same.
When you are born, they hand you a script, about gender and sexuality and who the world says you’re supposed to be. The script is fucked. It’s awful. You have to throw it away. Cis means “on the same side of” but of what? Of the script. If you look at me or my wife or RuPaul we’re not people who follow that…but it’s wrong for everybody. Trans is a real experience. The entire rest of the world that doesn’t share that experience isn’t really a group. It’s not a real binary. The same people who like to use the word cis all the time are the people who want to say things like “how can you not be attracted to trans women” and it’s for me to hold this information in my head – that these people simultaneously want to define everybody else by being not like them and also fail to understand why I wouldn’t be attracted to the thing that makes them different. It’s just so weird.
Why do you make the porn that you do? How do you decide who to shoot?
I do some feature movies (primarily for Filly Films), have my own website, and shoot scenes for a variety of companies. My website is all me, which is a lot of fun for me because I love performing, and I have so much freedom to collaborate with people and make something hot. A lot of what we shoot is just lesbian gonzo, but we also make some story driven stuff for the site. I’ve shot with over 100 different performers with a lot of different looks. I love having my site, but the feature movies I make are my passion. The one I’m working on right now is my best work up to this point, and it’s really special, but I can’t tell you much yet. It might just stir up another controversy, one I hope will be less stupid than this one.
I do porn because I love sex and I love making movies and I wanted to monetize doing what I love. I’m a non mainstream look to some extent (I have short hair, I’m sort of butch, at times I’ve been heavier) but I’m really not concerned with the politics of sexual attraction. I just want to tell stories and film hot sex. I do have a political sensibility to some of my work, but it’s not about that. I’d rather make a movie with commentary about the unfairness of our prison system. I do transmit my philosophy of life through my work like any other filmmaker. I’m one of those people who takes porn a little too seriously – I believe I share that with with Courtney Trouble and Chelsea and Thelma; it just manifests in a different way – but I’d rather care too much about making my porn be what I want it to be than churn out stuff I don’t care about.
A lot of the time, I cast girls I’ve already worked with for my site for my movies, and if not that it’s often girls I’ve met personally. I like to know a person before writing a scene for them if possible. A lot of the time I’ll give the major roles to women I’ve worked with before and then fill in other parts with new talent. I want talent to fit the parts I’ve written. I cast MILFs and young girls and women of all races and big tits and small tits. I like cute butch girls and centered a few films around that. I’m down for not exactly mainstream looks, but there’s a limit to it. I shoot mostly conventionally attractive people. I like pretty bitches. Of course, if you’re good and your energy is good, you can be less “hot” – it’s about the total package, how well she fits the role, how well I like her. I don’t shoot TS girls or BBWs because that’s not my market and I’m fundamentally not attracted to those girls. One of the perks of being a porn director is that I can make people I think are hot fuck each other.
We’ve spoken about this new movement of seemingly confused activists who recycle academic buzzwords on social media like it’s their job. What are the consequences of this movement, if any, in porn?
I don’t think this movement has made much of an impact on porn in general, but it has utterly taken over what was once called Dyke porn and is now called Queer porn. This is porn made in San Fransisco, primarily, whose main mission seems to be proving that people who wouldn’t be considered hot by LA porn standard can still have hot sex…which is something I think is good. If you’re making a product that sells and speaks to what is important to you that’s awesome. I’ve shot for some queer porn companies. I did two really, really fun scenes for CrashPadSeries.com but ultimately it’s not really my universe. I think they’ve done some great stuff, and I support people making porn that speaks to them, I just kind of can’t handle the discourse. I’m not a big identity politics person. I feel pretty alienated by all of it, and I’d rather just hang out here and be LA porn’s token dyke and not be swept up in all of these accusations of phobia. In LA they don’t care if you’re shallow. They kind of expect you to be shallow. I’d literally rather talk about spray tans and dieting than all of this queer buzzword bullshit at this point.
I think I overdid today because I was mad, tweeting pictures with the LA hand sign with the caption “Bitch, I am from Los Angeles” and all that, but I really am from Los Angeles. It says Los Angeles on my birth certificate. I love this city and its history as the seat of the movie business. Sunset Boulevard is my favorite movie right now. For me, this is about making movies. In Hollywood nobody thinks you’re a bigot if you cast hot chicks for your leading roles, and the same is true of LA porn. When I’m not reacting to a shitstorm, I’m actually kind of somewhere in between. I do see the nuance in things. I recognize that attraction is so variable. I know that there is not objective standard of “hot”…but it’s just not my goal in life to make porn that discusses that. There are other stories I want to tell and other causes that matter to me.
Any last thoughts?
Fundamentally, I think that worrying about “discrimination” in porn is stupid. If you want to make porn that showcases different types of people, go for it. I have friends who make way more money than me who have niche fetish Clips 4 Sale studios. Particularly with how easy it is to film and distribute content online these days, there’s so much opportunity to make stuff and get it out there. If people want to buy it, they will. I just refuse to be told what I’m supposed to produce or who I’m supposed to hire. That’s what made me fight this so hard, this attitude that I was obligated to spend my time, my money, my energy, my creative force and the trust of my fanbase giving a person with a dick a scene in a lesbian porn movie simply because she felt entitled to it. I thought it was a really disgusting attitude, and that it was especially shitty because she basically gave fodder to a lot of people who really do think trans women are trying to force lesbians to fuck them. I mean, this is literally the narrative of a subset of feminist activists, and Chelsea and her friends were just going on, forever, about this incredibly, incredibly stupid cause of forcing one of the only lesbians in LA porn to pay male bodied or partially male bodied people to fuck on my set. As they say on Twitter #smh