Column: Racism in pornography is the industry standard

Racial porn as a subgenre exhibits stereotypes as merely a sexual preference.

It’s inevitable that at some point we all look at porn. Fascination with pornography starts at a young age, satisfying juvenile curiosity through a Google search or by sneaking on pay-per-view when parents go to bed. Some of us come to learn of our desires through pornography, by being shown new things we might be attracted to while also giving us an idea of our limits and boundaries.

Log on to Xtube or any other big market, free porn collective and you’re directed to pick your poison. Categories ranging from soft-core to bondage, from blow jobs to role-play fantasy give options for browsers just as one might choose between a Chardonnay or a Bordeaux. We’re all into different stuff, and while most of us stick with more mainstream material, it’s crucial that niche or fetish porn exists as an outlet for desires that may not be sanctioned by the mainstream in real life.

But along with threesomes and amateur porn lie more culturally problematic categories of sexualization. Some of the biggest contributors to porn site hits are from black or Asian porn, displaying either couples of the same race or interracial pairs. While some mainstream studios include people of color in their flicks, it seems like the rule more than the exception that including people of color in your films demarcates you as a sub-genre, a sexual “other” outside of the white majority.

But it’s not merely the subjugation of people of color as a genre of porn that’s problematic. Any cursory search for racial porn, such as one I recently conducted, reveals that stereotypical, racist language is the industry standard for titling movies.

“Two Hot Black Men Get Jiggy and Wild, Robbery Style” is one of the first links that came up during my search. “The Heiress’ Black Slave Boy” contains all the imagery and historically inaccurate portrayals one could easily guess would exist. “Teen Slaves of Saigon,” “Raped By Arab Terrorists,” “Ghetto Gaggers” and “Gang Banged by Blacks” propagate racist notions of ethnicity and difference, yet simultaneously satisfy millions of viewers.

Further, interracial scenes, particularly those including at least one white person, often serve to perpetuate notions of white, neocolonial dominance. “Thug Hunters” is a gay porn site devoted to the practice of white men “wandering the seedy parts” of cities to find black men willing to fellate them for cash.

“We found a thug wandering the rough streets of Miami,” describes one studio’s hunt for a black man, as if he wasn’t a human but a creature in his natural habitat. “We ... fed him dreams of money, bitches, stardome (sic) and rap songs sung in his honor and he was like sweet milk chocolate in our hand.”

These men might not have otherwise been able to solicit a blow job without paying for it, but all it took was fulfilling the black man with “the dream of getting off the streets and into the Cash Money Mansion” to get him to comply. Black men are not people but merely “thugs” willing to do anything for cash and a dream. “What can I say?” one porn director concludes, “Some thugs come cheap.”

Yet all of the language and stereotyping that would be unacceptable outside of porn gets the green light because, as people allege, being attracted to people of color is “just a preference,” an infallible right.

Some also defend that porn is not reality, not an adequate barometer of our racial attitudes. But we cannot pretend porn, or the development of sexual attraction, exists in a vacuum. We develop sexual notions of race through a gradual socialization process. Being a “thug hunter” is not built into one’s DNA, but rather is a developed fantasy of dominance. Porn takes cues from centuries of racial subjugation and stereotyping and formulates a product, while creating a cyclical effect in which consumers employ those racial portrayals to inform their own social and sexual attitudes.

And even outside of porn, the problem persists. How often have you seen a model of color described as “exotic”? How common is it for the racial “other” to be hyper-sexualized in the media, or for white men to go to clubs for the rare fantasy of soliciting a black stripper?

While I will hold that articulating sexual attraction to one specific race is based in essentialist notions of racial construction and power(lessness), I acknowledge that people will continue to develop such attractions. I merely ask that we question the institutional standards that formulate those attractions into hegemonic, racist rhetoric that reduces people of color to sexual objects. The racist results of these sexual attractions are not random, and they are not profitable “just because.” Porn is a relatively unregulated wasteland for misogyny, racism and the efficacy of dominance, and our role as consumers only helps to solidify their archaic standards.

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