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Racy Sex, Sexy Racism: Porn from the Dark Side

Excerpt from Chapter 7

In April, 2007, radio show legend Don Imus finally overstepped the mark with his vile description of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy headed ho’s.” Following a concerted campaign by the African-American community, CBS fired him amidst a public outcry and a mass exodus of corporate sponsors from his show. But what barely merited a comment, let alone outcry from the media, was a press release issued three weeks later from the porn company Kick Ass Pictures, announcing its intention to donate one dollar from every sale of its new movie, titled Nappy Headed Ho’s, to the Don Imus retirement fund. And this movie is just one among countless that have “hos” in the title, a shorthand way the porn industry commonly refers to black women.

….Black women do not fare well in the porn industry because the “plum” jobs for porn performers – the contract employment with the two major porn-feature studios, Vivid and Wicked – are reserved mainly for white women. These studios with their chic image, sophisticated marketing practices, and guarantee of regular work, afford their contract women an income and level of visibility that makes them the envy of the industry (Jenna Jameson, of course, is held up as the quintessential example of just how far a contract porn star can go). With surgically enhanced bodies, perfectly coiffed hair, and glamorous makeup, these women act as PR agents for the porn industry, showing up regularly on Howard Stern, E! Entertainment, or in the pages of Maxim. As the porn industry increasingly wiggles its way into pop culture, it is no surprise that they use mainly white women as the “acceptable” face of porn; their all-American-girl looks seamlessly mesh with the blonde-blue eyed images that grace the screens, celebrity magazines, and billboards across North America.

….It is no surprise that Asian women are the most popular women of color in porn, given the long standing stereotypes of them as sexually servile Geishas, Lotus blossoms, and China dolls.  Depicted as perfect sex objects, with well honed sex skills, Asian women come to porn with a baggage of stereotypes that make them the idealized women of the porn world. In most sites and movies specializing in Asian women, we see a mind-numbing replay of the image of Asian women as sexually exotic, enticing, and submissive, in both the text and pictures. Using words such as naive, obedient, petite, cute, and innocent, the websites are full of images of Asian women, who, we are told, will do anything to please a man, since this is what they are bred for. It seems, however, from these sites that Asian women are only interested in pleasing white men because Asian men are almost completely absent as sex partners.

…. This mirrors pop culture, where apart from a few sagely old men dispensing wisdom in broken English, Asian men are virtually absent in media… But if we move over to gay porn, we see plenty of Asian men who are portrayed as anything but asexual. Some of these sites have Asian-on-Asian male sex, but when an Asian male is paired with a white man, he is described in much the same way as Asian women – cute, petite, innocent. The word that often appears with Asian men in porn is “twinks,” a term used in gay slang to mean a young looking, attractive, slightly built, gay male. The stereotypes that make Asian men attractive as feminized gay men are the very ones that make them unappealing in straight porn since to be a feminized  man would undo the strict gender demarcation present in all straight porn.

…If Asian men have occupied the feminized end of the masculinity continuum, then black men have been at the hyper-masculinized end of the continuum. Saddled with ugly stereotypes as violent thugs and rapists, black men are often held up as examples of masculinity run amok, the kind that is uncontained and out of control. In fact, this is the very masculinity that is idealized and glorified in porn, since every male in the porn world is hyper-aroused and ready to do what he has to in order to pleasure himself.  It would appear that the long-held images of black men as spoilers of white womanhood were, in fact, tailor-made for porn, so it should be no surprise that the industry has cashed in on these stereotypes in the form of the very successful genre of interracial porn.

…. Adult Video News articles suggest that interracial porn is being produced, marketed, and distributed mainly to a white audience. This seems strange given that a relatively short time ago, the thought of a black man just looking at a white woman was enough to work white men up into a lynch mob frenzy. And now they are buying millions of dollars worth of movies that show, in graphic detail, a black man doing just about everything that can be done to a white woman’s body. But it is actually less strange when we realize that in the world of porn, the more a woman – white or of color – is debased, the better the porn experience for the user.  And what better way to debase a white woman, in the eyes of white men, than to have her penetrated over and over again by that which has been designated sexually perverse, savage and debauched? One interracial porn producer says that his most popular movies are those where “the purity of the sacred white women is compromised … even if the white girl is as dirty and diseased-riddled as humanly possible.” This explains why interracial porn geared towards white men is almost totally dominated by black male porn performers rather than any other ethnic group.

….While this debasing of white women might well intensify the sexual thrill for the white user, it has real world implications for the black community. All forms of oppression, be they gender, race or class based, require a system of beliefs that justify why one group has power over another. This justification process often comes in the form of negative images of the targeted group as somehow less human than the group in power, and it is this less-than-human status that makes them especially deserving of exploitation, abuse, and degradation. In porn, all people are seen as less-than-human because everyone is reduced to an orifice, but for whites, this is not presented as a condition of their whiteness, whiteness is colorless and hence invisible by virtue of its power status. For people of color, however, it is their very color that constantly makes them visible as a racialized group as they carry the marker of “difference” on their skin.

….The pornographic images that meld the racial with the sexual may make the sex racier, but they also serve to breathe new life into old stereotypes that circulate in mainstream society. While these stereotypes are often a product of the past, they are cemented in the present every time a user masturbates to them. This is a powerful way to deliver racist ideology, as it not only makes visible the supposed sexual debauchery of the targeted group, it also sexualizes the racism in ways that render the actual racism invisible in the mind of most consumers and non-consumers alike.