Interviews

An Interview with Lily Cade: Porn Valley’s Gold Star Lesbian

June 20, 2017
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Lily Cade is a rare thing: a successful female mainstream porn star who outright refuses to do a girl-boy scene. Ever. She’s also fucked around 4000 girls, which is goals. Here, Lizzi Sandell speaks to her about what makes her authentically lesbian ‘gold star’ porn so great.

Anyone who has perused lesbian porn knows that it is severely lacking. It’s usually soft-lit, “sensual” rather than sexual, and features women with impractically long fingernails. I personally have no time for women who keep their heels on in bed (and everyone knows lesbians never actually wear heels) (jk) or for the perpetuation of basically every male-centric lesbian stereotype ever, played out on camera like some sort of patriarchal interpretive dance. What grates on me—a lesbian, just to be clear—most is the fallacious idea that lesbians don’t fuck, they just kind of kiss and pat each other until one of them starts moaning.

Lesbian porn always seems to feature girls  “having fun” or “exploring” at a sleepover, which basically translates to: don’t-worry-they-still-want-the-D; just a couple of heterosexual gal pals having a momentary lapse for your viewing pleasure! When men are physically present, like in FFM threesomes or “bisexual” porn (i.e. two slaves, one dick), women basically ignore each other for 40 minutes in favour of some dull-looking penis worship.

Basically, there’s nothing wrong with femme on femme action, but two nervous heterosexuals pawing at each other is not really my thing. With the exception of some more off-piste feminist/ethical/whatever you want to call it porn, the genuinely sapphic-inclined are STARVED for masturbatory material.

Cue: Lily Cade, a glass of authentic lesbian ice water in this mainstream pornographic desert. Cade has been in the industry for almost a decade. Armed with a film degree from the University of Southern California, she  directs and produces a lot of her own films for LilyCade.com. After (repeatedly) stumbling upon her work and stalking her tumblr page, I knew I wanted to interview the woman who’s holding it down for the all-girl’s team.

“I show up to mainstream porn sets and show them how a real dyke does it.”

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Cade, as it turns out, is smart, successful and super self-aware. On her role in the industry, she comments, “[What I do is] subversive because I take straight men’s money and make something that is really for lesbians and speaks to lesbian culture. I show up to mainstream porn sets and show them how a real dyke does it.” Many of her fans are indeed straight men, but she doesn’t pander to them. Her rejection of the male form (and gaze) is frankly heroic, considering she seems to be asked almost daily to give it up to the less fair sex. When asked online by a (presumably horny and male) anonymous fan whether she will AT LEAST do a blow job scene before she retires, she got positively Seussian: “I will not suck it on a boat. I will not suck it with a goat. I do not like your cock and balls. I do not like them at all.” Likewise, while her work features many strap-on scenes, Cade refuses to use the hyper-realistic ‘fake cum’ versions because: “cum is gross.”

On LilyCade.com, the headline reads: “Porn Valley’s Gold Star Lesbian.” The implication of this seems to be, and very probably correctly, that Cade is Porn Valley’s only gold star lesbian. But she’s damn good too, and thus resonates as so much more than just a buzzword identity. Her dedication and thoughtfulness is clear. “I want to create characters that an audience can connect with so that there is some motivation for the sex, and I want to showcase sex that looks like an authentic emotional and physical experience. I wanted to make movies with sex in them, not just pornos with scenarios.”

I ask Lily how she’s managed to maintain her ‘gold star’ status, despite near-constant pressure to do otherwise. “I did porn because I wanted to showcase my sexuality in an authentic manner. It’s not just about the money for me. There’s a lot of pressure in porn for everyone to just be a part of the machine. I wanted to be different. I take pride in staying true to my own desires and my own vision.” She also agrees with my analysis of much of lesbian porn, although cites some slightly darker examples: “Much of lesbian porn features scenarios that don’t look anything like real life: Mothers seducing daughters seemingly on a whim, situations of deep depravity presented as banal and unmotivated, pantomime performances of sex positions instead of sex. If it’s fucked up, I want it to be fucked up in the ways the world is fucked up and to be self aware about it.”

Speaking of being fucked up and/or self aware, I ask Cade about whether the label “feminism” applies to the porn she makes. “I consider myself a feminist, but not all of my work is necessarily feminist,” she replies. She seems to favor a sort of erotic sex-positivity rather than anything ideologically overt.  “Not every scene has a high concept behind it. I like to poke fun at “problematic” fantasies while still representing what’s erotic about them. I like to shock people and engender the sort of discomfort from which they can learn, but also entertain and delight people.”

Cade is an enthusiastic lesbian, both on and off screen. She estimates that she has fucked over 4000 girls. She is married to her college sweetheart, bisexual Sten, who shoots and edits some of her wife’s work. They have an open relationship outside of porn and their professional endeavours. “I never did monogamy and don’t understand it. Sten and I did experience jealousy, but learned to pass through it. We refer to people who [aren’t involved in sex work] as “civilians” for a reason…” Although they haven’t done this yet, and Sten generally stays off-camera, rumor has it that appearing in a scene together is something they would consider.

Cade is also about as butch as you’ll find in mainstream pornography, and plays the role with finesse, despite not identifying that way in her day-to-day life. With boy-short hair but a more feminine vibe, she nevertheless takes the butch responsibility seriously: “One of the major reasons I did porn was to showcase the butch lesbian as an archetype. I think female masculinity is hot, and underrepresented. I sometimes call myself “Hollywood Butch,” I may not be a butch but [recurring characters] Officer Cade and Heartbreaker are.”

Adopting this role not only feels authentic, but it helps to delineate the sort of power dynamic that lesbian porn can often lack. “Power is arousing. It’s a major theme in my work. It’s hot to have it, and it’s hot to witness it. There are all sorts of power – social power, physical power, artistic power, sexual power – and the intersections between them drive both real life sex and many people’s fantasies.” And, underpinning all this, the fundamental dynamic that is so-often absent in other people’s work: “I put girls together who want to fuck.” Yep.

Moving forward, she’s working on her fiction writing – an Atwood/Easton Ellis-inspired novel “about sex work in a near-future LA dystopia” called Fantasy Girl – pursuing a stand-up career, and of course, making more erotica.

Find Lily on LilyCade.com, and sample her writing at patreon.com/LilyCade. Also, follow her on Twitter.

Lizzi Sandell is a writer and film student living in London and NewYork.

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