Sisterhood: Lorelei Lee
A scene from my career as an adult performer.
Lorelei Lee is a human being yet people assign them other identities all the time. Their main identifier is white. I would not call them, or their skin, white. Their skin is pigmented with flesh tones that crayons cannot imitate. Only pixels on a computer screen can come close to capturing the complexity of the color of their skin.
When I was a child, I was confused at the color options crayons gave me for flesh. As an adult, I’m still confused, and now that confusion is married to frustration. There are not enough colors in the rainbow; or, the human eye simply cannot see.
There is no name for the color of Lorelei Lee. When their breathing is heavy, the rush of red and pink to the surface of their exposed skin is more noticeable than mine when I am flushed. Blushing is a matter of privilege for me. I can go unseen. I can pass as not blushing, my browns mute my pinks, and that is a responsibility. Lorelei will always be more transparent than I will ever be.
Lorelei helped me understand that many people who looked like them were not my friends. They introduced me to Langston Hughes’ poem, "I, Too," in their Sex, Death, Laughter, and Disease: Writing and the Body workshop. Before I had the courage to write my truths and sign up for their writing class, I read their interview, an oral history of kink. I trusted them when I read the part where they say, "Sometimes I get emails. They tell me I’m beautiful, they tell me I’m a whore, it’s all the same. They don’t know anything about me."
Their story resonated with how I feel when people whom I've just met size me up, treat me as if they’ve got me all figured out. It’s funny. Nobody really knows me but me.
Before Lorelei became my writing instructor, I watched the documentary Lorelei Lee. After spending 8 minutes of watching them on screen, I knew this was a person that I needed to meet. Sure, they were brave, or whatever, to share that they were a sex worker, and they did seem proud. They were not shy to share their struggles with feeling like others were trying to shame them into invisibility.
But it wasn't their bravery that attracted me. It was that Lorelei showed up as a whole person. They had more questions than answers. They were an unreliable narrator, figuring out their own truths throughout the documentary.
Another attraction I had to Lorelei was that they were nondualistic in their way of thinking. Their mother and teacher tried to shame them in the same way, insinuating that one could not be smart and be a whore. But both Lorelei and I cannot think in black and white. We see the world in rainbow shades. Of course. We've always, deep down, been non-binary.
I had hopes that I would learn how to be more like them if I had the opportunity to share space with them, to be in the same room of someone who symbolized who I wanted to be.
Lorelei is so pretty. They're femme, like make-up, and adore Marilyn Monroe. Their cheekbones are like the tops of apples. When they teach, they put their hair up in a ponytail and don't wear make-up. On porno sets, they sometimes let their shoulder-length, bleach blonde hair down. Their smokey eyes, rosy cheeks, and red lips soften even the most guarded of hearts. Lorelei knows how to pose like a real lady.
Unlike me. I'm too stiff in the hips and I don't quite know yet how to shimmy. I'm a boxed boy-girl trying to be a gentle lady-man. I feel like a fraud, a fake femme, an illegitimate porn starlet.
Lorelei Lee is a real porn star. They've been performing for over a decade and they're confident, their self-certainty clear in their unwaveringly mean tone and the clicking of their steady heels, the click-clack strong and clean. My heels tremble, the fidgety staccato giving away my fears and newborn freedom to be filthy.
It was during my second writing class with Lorelei. I had already been an extra for an all-female Public Disgrace in which Lorelei was the dominant, the head bitch in charge. The movie was filmed inside of a roller derby skate shop in Berkeley. On the set of Electrosluts, they told me, "You really need to learn how to pose."
"I'm trying to be a real girl, okay?" I said.
"You are a girl," they said.
"I know . . . but you know."
I noticed their necklace, a silver cursive word, indecipherable in my queasy unease. I was unbalanced. I shook in my stilettos. "What does your necklace say?"
They fingered the five letters.
I am public disgrace. I'm so altered. I'm so high on adrenaline I am floating. Everything is comforting and melting like cream, and I'm dreaming in my waking life. I'm so high on sub space I don't trust myself. Get me away from here, I'm not really here, I'm sleeping. Please get me away from here before all these people see me.
I’m naked, kneeling on a Persian rug, a blood red island of carpet in the center of a grey ocean of cold cement. Surrounded by a crowd of people. Cum cooling on my face.
I remember Lorelei identifying as queer from their writing workshop. I was excited to know that my teacher was queer. Someone in the room could feel what it means to be passing as straight in a heteronormative world.
It's been years since I've looked anything like queer. I gave up my baggy shirts and shaved head and my legalize marriage protest posters for something less obviously gay and alienating. I struggled to survive after my parents left me with my then-14-and-13-year-old brothers to fend for ourselves. Homelessness was not kind to an 18-year-old grasping that they never quite had a childhood. Now they had to grow up and be a lady because they had more financial opportunities, it seemed, if they kept being a woman even though they desperately wanted to be a boy.
I grew out my hair. I tried to change my androgynous posture, close my legs when I sat, swing my hips when I walked into a room where people were watching my every move.
I'm here for Public Disgrace, my first boy-girl scene, my queer mistress Lorelei Lee forcing me into heteronormativity.
Choosing to be an adult performer is a choice I am aware of even during the mundane stages of its process. The costumes, the masks, the materialism. The reinforcement of dominant gender paradigms. The culture shock I experience when fake eyelashes are glued to my upper eyelids feels like a hazy sludge of denial and punishment.
My transformation into a whore fills me with resentment. But secretly, at least for now, the resentment wets me in between my legs and this self-forced feminisation swells my body with unrest.
Lorelei asks to do my make-up and I consent. They dock their iPod to the make-up room's speakers and play Nicki Minaj's album, "Pink Friday." I try to suspend my disbelief as they brush my cheeks and eyelids.
"Is this Nicki Minaj?" I ask.
"Yes," Lorelei says.
"I didn't think I could love you any more than I do, but I love you more now that you're playing Nicki Minaj."
They laugh deep from their belly. Lorelei asks, "Do you like makeup?"
"Yes, but not enough to wear it."
"I thought so."
They sparkle my face with glittery black eye shadow. My eye make-up looks exactly like Lorelei's.
"Kink has been hiring me a lot lately," I say, unsure of why I even bring it up in the first place.
"I know. You're kind of like a rising star here."
I almost frown. "I don't know what that means. I don't really know what I'm doing."
They smile. "Don't think about it. Just enjoy it."
In their shine I want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy it when Lorelei hands me a baby-blue crew cut t-shirt with a royal blue pencil skirt that's so short it barely covers my ass and definitely not my thighs. I want to smile when I take the dark blue, high heel, Mary Jane's. I look at myself in the mirror. Who is that?
"You look like such an All-American girl right now. Amazing," she says.
All-American. Like a girl next door. Not like the punk rock, goth princess I tried to be at the angry age of 13. Not like the newly shaved-headed, lesbian-identified 18-year-old that all the gay boys hit on. Not the androgynous being who sometimes wandered into men’s bathrooms to pee, not the baggy-clothed tomboy. But a lady. With curves showcased in form-fitting clothing and maybe a hint of glory in her teases of grace, ass jutting out and tits flirting underneath the flimsy cloth of her tee. Tip-toeing and dainty in heels.
Everyone is clapping. I'm so disoriented I can hardly believe it. These people are clapping at me, and their vibrations land so heavy in my body. I think, They love me? Why? I've just been so nasty, done all these vulgar things. These strangers accept me? I float in and out of lucidity. I make up poetry in my head to tether me lest I float too far from my center of gravity.
Shimmy, shimmy, vogue, darling.
Look at all those production lights.
Bright blinding stars.
my nerdy, perverted oracle.
My light blonde Barbarella on fire.
Their hourglass figure, busty tits and long legs.
Without them I'd be a pariah.
Get me away from here,
Get me away from here,
before I start crying.
I snap out of it. Fuck poetry, there's cum on my face. I hate cum, I hate when men’s cum smells like bleach, I hate cum on my face. I only let Barry Scott cum on me because Lorelei Lee was choking me. I had given them clear verbal consent, that I’d allow his cum on my face, certainly not in my mouth, only if they would choke me. Where's the towel? Why isn't the production assistant handing me my towel? I feel icky. Get this shit off of me.
Swift, like a warped angel, Lorelei faces me. Their face is six inches from my face. She isn't allowed to make fluid contact. Their STI test results never reported back in time for our scene. Why are they so close? This can't be safe.
Oh. Their blue eyes. Deep, blue seas. So comforting.
"You're amazing," Lorelei says, cupping my face in their delicate snow white hands, pale and pink, unlike mine.
Their blues are canyons echoing the milky way. They twinkle a violent trembling. I get lost in those blues, my eyes trembling too, my throat quaking then burning until the fire in my throat sparks up to the back of my eyes. I want to cry.
A little of my confusion must be reflected in my eyes. They clarify to themselves, but not to me, "Milcah, you're a superhero. That's why you're a star. You can do what no one else can. I would kiss you if I could."
Never have I seen Lorelei so animated and emotional, not even in the face of their grandmother's death. They retained their composure and dignity as an instructor. To see them open up now after such a big scene feels demanding. My body wants to let go, unseen of empathy.
"There is more difference between a horse and a zebra than the entire human race," Lorelei says. I need to make sure I heard what I just heard. I scan my classmates faces, looking for responses. Not one of their pink eyelids blink. I feel like my entire body fissured from an earthquake. I am a canyon in heat.
I am the only visibly brown person in the room, something I’ve grown accustomed to. I almost can’t stand it. I want to shout in celebration. I want to jump from my seat onto the table along with my classmates, the writing workshop in chorus, I, too, sing America.
I am not certain I am attractive as Milcah Halili. Once the camera is rolling I'll be all baby girl wrapped up in pink. Ew, pink. Raw and slimy.
I will never forget I was once a feral street beast. I’ve tamed myself for survival, primped and fluffed for fame and vanity. After all, a girl's gotta eat.
Lorelei asks, "Are you ready?"
Remembering the cum solidifying on my cheeks, I mull over their words. Kiss me? Now? Amazing?
This is what feeling loved must be. To be found beautiful after all that ugly. To be seen. I die right here in their gaze and in their hands.
It's not my certainty that leads me into the sea of strangers, ordered by my sadistic queen to be witnessed and tortured by a heckling crowd. It's my trust in Lorelei Lee, my former instructor in writing. I trust them because they understand the dynamic construction of narrative, and they live in literature and pornography. With them I trust myself.
"Yes," I tell Lorelei. I'm ready. Enough of this child's play girl-on-girl porn. Lorelei Lee will force me to fuck cock in public and let strangers man-handle me, and, finally, I'll be pretty.
Like the blue phoenix inked on Lorelei's left shoulder I rise again, dense in heat. I ask for a towel and wipe the cum off my cheeks. I labor myself through a post-scene interview. I tell the crew how great it was to be publicly disgraced. I lose the submissive-young-thing act and teleport back to my academic and literate self. I articulate through the corporeal daze. Just get through the interview and then I can retreat. At the end of the interview, another round of clapping thunders through my tired body.
"Can I take a picture with you?" asks someone from the crowd.
"Sure," I say, smiling with teeth. I hold this stranger tight, hungry. Pictures are practice for porno poses. Vogue with me.
Another person wants to take pictures with me. Then another. And another. Smiling and holding, always smiling and holding.
"Are you okay?" asks Lorelei through the people rushing at me. I nod. The moment I break away from the last photo op I am sailing. I need space to anchor and come down.
I drift to the green room.
Lorelei's hand grabs the back of my neck at the base of my skull and pushes me into the center of a large room in the basement of the San Francisco Armory. They order me to stand on a brown rustic chest, platforming me above the crowd circling me.
There must be at least eighty people in the room, standing with cocktails in their hands or sitting in red wine velvet couches. I am ordered to undress in front of all these strangers. It's humiliating. I take off my clothes too fast. I'm all hard-angles and no grace.
Lorelei picks my t-shirt up from the floor and hands it back to me. "Do it again," they say.
I whimper and the crowd laughs and agrees. They want that slow-tease feminine ease. They want me to slink for them, seduce their collective energies. I appease.
I control my breath. I drop into moment-by-moment snippets of time and space. I forget everything except for a hand caressing slowly over my rib cage. The feeling of the bottom of my shirt being lifted over my breast. The slide of the fabric over my thighs. All that exists is body sensation and flesh. Quiet mind. I forget my identity and private life.
I sit my ass down on a metal folding chair, chilly grounding sensations cooling my heat. My floodgates break open. I weep and weep. I can't believe what I've just done. I've watched Public Disgrace films before. I've never quite seen a crowd so enthused, full of life and synergy. Oh my fuck, I'm an entertainer. A rising porn star. My dreams of succeeding, so I can finally be who I want to be, coming true.
I'm so overwhelmed. I'm so confused. What does this mean? Am I as powerful and competent as I imagine myself to be?
Isn't this what I wanted? Didn't I want everyone to see how much I love them? That I would put my body through suffering to serve them and their core human needs? Praise to the forces that be, praise to my oracles, all the living entities here with me.
I'm yin and yang. I'm polarity and nullification. I swing from confident to insecure, from love to fear. Everything is non-binary and lovely and creepy. Everything is big bang and black hole and birth and death. Blue phoenix.
Lorelei glides into the green room, perches next to me, radiating. I grab their waist, fold into their belly, sob at their chest. They gleam.
I release them to say, "I'm okay. It's just—all that energy. It was a lot of energy."
Flapping my hands, I try to release the electricity within me. Lorelei nods. Of course they understand. Their mouth is fixed in a perpetual grin. Gracious.
I'm popping off. I can't contain myself. I spit and gurgle, snot dripping out of my nose. My fluids leave me.
"Lorelei, I've always wanted to be your friend. I stalked you. But, you know, not really. Not in a creepy way. The moment I read about you on The Rumpus, Stephen Elliott's 'Oral Report,' I knew I wanted to be your friend. The first time I ever saw you was at the About Cherry North American screening. I saw you at the Public Sex, Private Lives screening too. You were in that blue dress. I've waited all this time to be your friend."
I can't help but engage in verbal vomiting. It's my form of platonic pillow talk. "I would've been your friend if I knew who you were."
"Yeah, but how?" I ask.
"I know," she says.
"We're so busy. That's why I took your writing workshop. So I could meet you."
"I thought we workshopped after our first scene?" she asks.
"No, it was before. I remember because I was like, What the fuck, this is weird. She's my teacher."
Lorelei booms from their belly. That laugh. I love their laugh. "And look at us now," Lorelei says, "We get to make porn together."
Their smile is shining. I tell them, "I'm going to tell you about my dream. Would you like to hear it?
“My biggest dream in the world is to be a sugar mommy. I want to own homes, internationally, and have all my people live in them. We'll take care of each other. We won't ever have to worry about being clothed or fed. There'll be diversity, migrating with the seasons."
"Wow . . . But how?" Their eyes are seeking.
"With a business rooted in feminine creativity and masculine discipline and consistency. I've been studying online entrepreneurship and doing research on holistic economies for the past four years. It's all I ever think about when I wake up and before I go to sleep. That's why I got into porn. To save for capital to invest in communities."
What in the hell did I just say? What am I thinking? Who do I think I am? I must sound like I'm full of shit. I'm not a whore with a heart of gold. Most days my heart is in the toilet.
They're beaming. Fuck. What are they thinking?
"I believe you," Lorelei says.
In my private life, when men and women fall in love with me they fall in love with my androgyny. When they see me on film they don't recognize the femme doll named Milcah Halili. Where is my masculinity? The energy of an eager boy wanting to hump their leg?
In porn, I'm a tiny reflection of my vast lightness. I can't suggest how people perceive me, and I can't ask them to dig deeper. Why would I? It's fantasy.
Now I'm just a pretty girl naked in front of the masses, horrific and obscene. The crowd cheers when I scream and plead for more, thanking them for each indignity. I ask them to be nasty, to zap, cattle prod, and fist my ego into smithereens. The more pain and punishment I procure to my naked body, the more pleasure I will feel when Barry Scott's cock fills my aching pussy. Self-flagellation as eroticism. Like a true Christian.
Holy hell my pussy is throbbing. Lorelei is harnessing rope to my chest while strangers are zapping me. I am a girl scout, thanking everyone for each electric pleasantry. I'm buying time, entertaining everyone before the elevated box, with a hole for my neck and one in the front for my mouth, is lowered and locked onto my head. I am but an object, a vehicle for roleplay. Fuck my identity. Fuck the box.
Stop talking, Milcah. Stop telling Lorelei everything. The moment you feel comfortable telling somebody your dreams you’ll verbal vomit and tell everybody. And once everybody knows, you'll be accountable. No one will ever believe your dreams unless you do something. It’ll make you responsible. Your inaction will be your undoing.
"You'll be my sugar baby," I say as I tap my index finger on the tip of Lorelei's nose. Their smile breaks brighter and wider.
"And Tom Cat too," I say. Tom Cat, Lorelei's husband, also passes as straight in the heterosexual public of our privately queer lives. Transgender, female-to-male, the identifier, both alarming and calming.
"I'm going to do what I did in that room with the whole world," I tell Lorelei, "I'll make people believe."
Everything is dark and muffled sounds in here, a wooden box encasing my head. A glory hole for light. Barry wiggles his cock in front of the entrance, my cue to stick my tongue out, a flicker and pop of pink. He fucks my enclosed mouth. I grow wet with excitement.
Once he leaves my mouth Lorelei enters my cunt with their fist. I am wailing oceans of moans. How profound to just be.
My fluids all over, Barry fucks me from behind, my head propped on a strange man's lap, while Lorelei sticks their foot in my mouth. Simone Sonay, a porn star in the crowd, fingers and slaps my pussy while she orders me to caress the cocks of the men surrounding her, my feet feeling through their pants' rough fabric. Another fisting virgin fists me. I come and come. All my juices and energy merging as one entity, connecting with the people collecting around me.
"Do you know how to ride a cock?" Lorelei asks.
"Uhhh . . . Not really."
"Turn around," they say. Reverse cowgirl, they present me to Barry.
I try to slide onto his cock all perfect like an anime, no hands, straight from point A to point B without any disturbances. I realize my life is not a movie. This is real life. I can't magically move things into place, into being.
"Use your hands," Lorelei says. "You have them free for a reason."
I guide him into me. "Yes," I say, almost gasping.
"Lean back," they command. "Now make him feel good."
They back away, never taking their eyes off me.
First slowly, riding my ecstasy. Spiraling as I glide up and down, gyrating my hips. My pendulum and rhythm, right to left, deep breathing.
"That's right," Lorelei says, "Move those hips. Don't be a lazy whore."
At the sound of their voice, I push Barry's cock out of me, their dirty commands projecting me close to coming. I love being called a whore. It sounds so fucking sexy.
"Here you go," Lorelei says as they shove his dick back into my hole, cattle prod in hand. She turns on the prod, its electrical current lets out a subtle screeching, and points it right at my clit. Barry then grabs my hips and pounds his dick into me. Pounding and clapping, thighs slapping thighs, cattle prod inching closer. High velocity.
It hits me, gushing out in waves, ejaculating before I could beg. Lorelei finishes me off by electrocuting me. All that fluidity. Stinging. I squirt twice without asking. Lorelei laughs, booming a gentle thundering.
"Fail . . . Milcah?"
"Why aren't you asking for permission before you come?"
I give myself. Present moment. Identity. Becoming. Null. I bridge my self. All the selves orbiting me for eternity. There is no me or you. There is no asking. I am. You are. Together, we become who we are meant to be.
"I'm losing control and I need to gain control." I’m performing. No need to reveal my ego's undressing. If I had responded truthfully, my truth would have been a poem. That poem would read,
I'm not queer.
Yes, I'm much more than queer.
I'm the cum squirting out of my cunt and the tears in my eyes as I cry.
I am fluid. I am energy.
I live in you, in me, in everything.
Before our Public Disgrace scene I tell Lorelei that I love face-slapping and eye contact. They manage, like the professional that they are, to remember this while the film is rolling. After I've reconciled with myself that I'm not an animated superhero who can magically ride cock, I turn my back to Lorelei to ride Barry face-to-face.
When I am edging toward release, Lorelei surprises me, grabs me by my jaw and faces me. They take a moment, their eyes taking in the entirety of my face. My eyes are twinkling as violently as theirs. This is a small moment, their reading my face, yet it feels so vast. An eternity passes before they grab my jaw and slap their palm against my cheek. I'm looking back at them with every bit of my spirit. My vision blurs. They're all I can see.
I am overwhelmed with sincere sensations. Every beat before the next slap feels like the last breath I will breathe. Their eyes are giant stars, blue like the hottest of fires. Their expression, my mirror.