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Porn and the fight for racial equality: the adult industry drops racism and learns respect

About the author: Allison Leigh is a pornographer, producer, polyamorist, and professional kinkster. When sexuality is business, business is fun! 

While the rest of the world strives to move forward on racial issues, the usually progressive adult industry appears to be one of the last bastions of normalized racial inequality. It is only via movement from within that any change can be made – and it is finally happening, as seen here on SexArt and across the industry as a whole.

You may be asking yourself what’s wrong with the categorization of “interracial porn,” and at a glance, the answer is nothing – there’s certainly nothing at all wrong with people of different races having sex, or with enjoying watching this. Indeed, the visual effect of skin on skin can be heightened in the most beautiful and erotic way when the performers are of different races and contrasting skin colors. 

However, in the adult industry, “Interracial” or “IR” is only used to refer to performers of African descent – a sinister shadow of what’s inside such an innocuous brown paper bag. IR scenes typically feature a white actress with a black actor, reflecting the supposed “taboo” of “defiling” a white woman. Black actors are frequently steered towards stereotypical modes of behavior too, expected to be play dominant, macho and rough with their female partners. When a black actress is used with white actors, the themes tend toward the idea of white dominance – a disturbing extension of colonization.

The problems do not end with the fact that IR scenes harken back to ugly stereotypes. Outside of perpetuating societal issues, IR porn perpetuates inequality within the industry itself. In the scale of graduated taboos that dictates standard pay, a white actress can typically receive almost double for her first interracial scene. This boon, naturally, does not carry over to her black peers. Black actors get paid roughly the same amount as white actors, but get less work because they are considered less marketable. Black women have it worse, reporting half to three-quarters of the check that white women are awarded for the same work. Black actresses aren’t even afforded the same escalated scale of taboos that white actresses are, and often have to enter the industry performing far more extreme acts than their nonblack counterparts.

Many adult entertainment companies have taken notice and changed their policies, putting away the confederate flags, releasing less problematic titles and taking action to ensure performer equality. The progressive side of the industry is tired of being a part of the problem, and is taking steps for change. When an interracial title won the AVN award for “Clever Porn Title” while simultaneously lancing the progressive Black Lives Matter movement, performers and producers started speaking out in numbers. The tone-deaf move on the part of Adult Video News – usually a respected representative of the industry – was lambasted across twitter, with several performers going so far as to take a hiatus from adult films until the industry changes its tune.

It is arguably not the responsibility of pornography to educate. Erotica is entertainment, intended to tease and please you, to provide an outlet for sexual fantasy and exploration. However, we should acknowledge the role we can play in challenging stereotypes, in promoting equality, and in producing erotica we can be proud of.

Here at SexArt, we are committed to actively seeking out diversity, embracing our models as multifaceted performers rather than forcing them into preconceived notions of how they should behave. We hope we have been successful with this, particularly in director Alis Locanta’s work with male star Jesús Reyes, which allows him to explore his sensitive and tender side rather than shoehorning him into the role of brutish black stud. Likewise, director Andrej Lupin and producer Ariel Piper Fawn have successfully recruited ethnically diverse female models such as Katana, Sade Rose, Luna Corazon, Myiuki Son and Isabella Chrystin. One obstacle we have encountered is that in Europe, where most of our production teams operate, it seems far fewer nonwhite performers enter the industry, perhaps as a result of the prejudice they fear they will encounter. We hope members will continue to make us aware of gorgeous male and female performers of all ethnicities who you would like to see us feature.

REFERENCES: 

"AVN Award Winners." AVN Media Network. [Online] Accessed February 22, 2018. https://avn.com/awards/winners.

Clark-Flory, T. "Porn's Race Problem: The Industry Still Treats Black Actors As Taboo." Vocativ. September 11, 2015. [Online] Accessed February 22, 2018. http://www.vocativ.com/227328/porns-race-problem/index.html.

Miller-Young, M. "Pornography Can Be Empowering to Women On Screen." The New York Times. [Online] Accessed February 22, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/11/11/does-pornography-deserve-its-bad-rap/pornography-can-be-empowering-to-women-on-screen.

Members Comments (2)

L

Lord John Whorfin 5 months ago

I've noticed the growing number of non-white performers in the material here, and I think it's great on a number of levels. One alternative might be for Sex-Art to offer a place for non-white American adult performers to get more and better work. There's a long history of Europe providing that for black Americans like Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, and Muddy Waters, and if American audiences didn't appreciate it at the time, future generations sure did.

h

harryben17 5 months ago

This article is a long time coming - the category of 'interacial' has needed calling out for what it is for a long time. Hopefully in Europe we can lead the charge, even though there are fewer non-white performars than in the USA. There, the depth of racist atttitudes to POC, particualrly of African descent, is truly shocking, both on the part of the producers and also the audiences.

Thank you Allison

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