There are certain “compliments” that as a black woman you are used to hear but are nonetheless reluctant to listen to: the emphasis on how new and exciting the date was because of my skin color (“I’ve never had a thing with a black woman”), the fetishization of some of my body parts (“I love your big lips”) or the expectation that I would have an exceptionally big libido… racism is hidden behind all of these seemingly ‘nice’ compliments.
The connection between sex, race and porn
Sex and race: the arbitrary distinction between people’s skin color or their religious and ethnic origins are complex and intertwined topics. We can use as an example the absolute myth that they are hypersexual and animalistic which was used to justify the sexual coercion and exploitation of black women during times of slavery.
Today, racist representations in the porn industry continue to exist and be depicted.
What is striking is that what would be absolutely unacceptable in movies, news or social media is largely tolerated within the porn industry.
Racist Porn Stereotypes
The fetishization of race in porn can be seen through some racist stereotypes: the violent black man, the submissive Asian woman, the hypersexual black female prostitute…
It is no secret in the industry that traditionally people of color are cast for roles that they don’t even identify with. These representations significantly contribute to everyday life experienced fetishizations of BIPoC (abbreviation for Black, Indigenous and People of Color). We also see a sexualization of narratives which takes place in “Border Patrol” porn where young women from Central America illegally enter the United States from neighboring countries and the border patrol officials arrest, rape and then deport them and take them back to their home countries. The demand for these representations is terrifyingly high especially when you keep in mind that this is a harsh reality faced by countless migrants.
Anyone who has heard of Stuck or Santa Claud porn knows that porn sexualizes EVERYTHING, whether you like it or not; and black women or women of color with a particularly dehumanized intersectional form of discrimination. This can for example be seen in Gonzo (low budget mainstream productions) with porn terms such as Black Ghetto Freaks where classical (ghetto), racist (black and sexist or hypersexualized (freaks) terms reach discriminatory levels.
Desire, Othering, and Exoticization
The very existence of porn categories such as “Ebony”, “BBC / Big Black Cock” or “Asian” shows that some fetishes are solely based on the race of the performers. In categories like “interracial”, sexual contacts between people of different skin color is depicted as a type of taboo which is a fabrication of times long behind us. The high demand for racist representations in porn is very hard to miss, but where does this interest come from? A popular answer to this from the mainstream porn industry, is that it is just a way of fulfilling some fantasies. As long as the performers are of legal age and consenting, everything else even if “taboo” in reality is allowed in porn and you can let your imagination run wild. So far so good.
Another perspective on sex and race is that the fact of desiring for non-white bodies is deeply rooted in white society. This shows a very ambivalent relationship between the two, and a devaluation and dehumanization through racist ideologies. Black people or people of color are seen as the “others” or as opposites to white people, and this creates a representation of something ‘strange’ which in turn becomes desirable due to its ‘different’ nature. The process of “doing or treating as different” is called “Othering”. The previously mentioned BIPoC which describes a fixed stereotype so that the ‘other white people’ are able to see the “stranger” person’s behavior as one of a predictable pattern is in order to gain a familiar and controlled perspective. BIPoC can also be attributed to “exotic” characteristics such as passion, ‘joie de vivre’, or even potency which are closer to the animal kingdom than to nature and aren’t typically associated with “whiteness”. This leads to the further dehumanization and objectification of non-white people.
Racist fetishization is based on the contradiction between demonization and deification of the “others”. Do I fetishize? Almost everyone has a “type” of what they perceive as attractive. There is nothing wrong or problematic with that per se. However, it might be a good idea to ask yourself what these preferences are and how you come to justify not dating a certain ‘type’ of person. What expectations do I have of a person based on their appearance? Can these expectations truly be justified? It is and remains important to question again and again peoples’ own tendencies of perceiving diversity’s external appearance. Porn is in some ways sex education; and many teenagers are watching their first pornos at the average of 14 years old which is why it is of the upmost importance to pay attention to which performances and images are present in mainstream porn. Boys often consume sex online long before they become sexually active themselves, thus porn largely shaping their idea of how sex should be. It is therefore particularly important that the porn industry take responsibility when it comes to spreading discriminatory and violent non-consensual content.