Can We Talk About Racism in Porn Now?

    Can We Talk About Racism in Porn Now BELatina Latinx
    Illustration by Philippa Mwayi

    The debate on structural racism is not just about legislation to cut off police funding or the indisputable right to get out alive if challenged by a police officer.

    It’s also about re-evaluating our consumer habits and racial objectification in all spheres, including pornography.

    In its annual report for 2019, one of the most visited sites in the search for pornography, Pornhub, boasted how its platform received more than 42 billion visits during the year, an average of 115 million visits per day, “the equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands in one day!” the team celebrated.

    With such a rate of consumption, it should come as no surprise that the intersection of categories allows for the persistence of stereotypes that perpetuate key issues such as racism.

    As Yomi Adegoke explained in her column for The Guardian, “in the porn industry, there is a belief that anything can and, more importantly, should go”, and how, while sexual abuse at the hands of music managers is a real-life scandal, in porn, “it is seen as a hazard of the job.”

    “We chastise the film industry for racially stereotyping characters, but barely blink at the wildly racist caricatures in porn — in cuckolding porn, in which black men are portrayed as perma-erect, part animal ‘mandingos’; in overtly racist parodies that make light of ongoing atrocities such as ‘Black Wives Matter’ or ‘Border Patrol Sex’ — as though sexual desire mitigates any type of responsibility.”

    And the issue is also structural.

    As EJ Dickson explains in her latest piece for Rolling Stone, the porn industry continues to pay and hire fewer black performers, who are often victims of “racist, yet popular tropes.”

    However, the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of anti-racism movements like the Black Lives Matter has been “a major opportunity” to bring these issues to the table.

    Between the lack of opportunities for Black men in the industry and the subjugation of women of color to specific themes, racism has a direct route to the collective unconscious through the visual indoctrination of desire.

    “Because film titles are often chosen by a company’s marketing team and not by the performer or even director themselves, many performers have no say over how their content is marketed,” adds Dickson, citing the example of adult performer Ana Foxxx, who once shot an anal scene for director Jules Jordan that later appeared online as part of a compilation entitled “Black Facials Matter.”

    And during a year as chaotic as 2020, it’s not surprising that the issues that happen on the street also coincide in the pornographic search engines.

    As Insider explained, and while anxiety about the virus was at its peak, platforms like PornHub began offering hundreds of topics related to the pandemic, especially those involving Asian performers.

    “One of the largest racial tropes that exists about Asian women is that they are hypersexual and available — stemming from centuries of European colonization in Asia and warfare by the United States,” the media explained.

    Are we then ready to talk about racism in all spheres, or only in those in which we feel most comfortable?