Interracial pornographic films have experienced an explosion in popularity, becoming one of the fastest-growing and biggest-selling genres.
Behind the Green Door (1972) was one of the first pornographic films to feature sex between a white actress (Marilyn Chambers) with a black actor (Johnnie Keyes). The porn industry and viewing public were shocked by the then-taboo spectacle of a white woman having sex with a black man.
Although 'interracial pornography' theoretically can apply to depictions of sexual activity between performers of any different racial groups, the term is most commonly used for heterosexual sex acts between black and white performers.
Interracial pornography typically employs ethnic and racial stereotypes in its depiction of performers and many of interracial pornographic films still include racial stereotypes, although the segregation of actors by race has diminished considerably.
Some scholars have written about porn actors’ interviews, in which the actors express their view that interracial pornography is a transgressive form of overcoming racism. In Chapter 3 of her book Porn Studies, Linda Williams, professor at UC Berkeley, points to the porn film Crossing the Color Line starring Sean Michaels, a black actor, and Christi Lakes, a white actress. In the interviews of this porn film, Michaels and Lakes express how being “color-blind” is a progressive approach to interracial porn. However, scholars have identified a contradiction between these interviews and the subsequent performance, in which both actors make several references to the differences in skin color between them. For example, Lakes refers to Michael’s private parts as “big and black”. Scholars argue that by advertently pointing out racial differences, race is being made the main point of intrigue for the audience, which perpetuates the exotification of racial differences. Some argue that this eroticized sexual tension in interracial pornography dates back to slavery during which white owners kept white women and black men separate. Williams states that there is a tension between fear and sexual desire within interracial pornography.
Controversy in the American pornographic industry
Depictions of interracial sexual relations continue to be controversial, especially within the American pornographic industry.
In the past, some of American pornography's white actresses were allegedly warned to avoid African American males, both on-screen and in their personal lives. One rationale was the purportedly widespread belief that appearing in interracial pornography would ruin a white performer's career, although some observers have said that there is no evidence that this is true. Adult Video News critic Sheldon Ranz wrote in 1997 that -
"We keep hearing a lot about 'the powers that be' that tell white women that it's not in their 'interest' to work with blacks. Is there any proof that Ginger [Lynn]'s scene with Tony El-Lay in Undressed Rehearsal hurt her career? Nina Hartley still gets lots of bookings in Southern strip clubs, especially Texas, even though she is an avowed interracialist."
Sophie Dee, prominent figure of the genre, claimed in a 2010 interview that agents often pressure white female performers not to appear in interracial pornography, although they will be paid better for performing with black men and their careers will not be damaged in any way, pointing at positive examples of some Vivid Entertainment actresses.
Aurora Snow noted in a 2013 article that the major factor preventing several white actresses from doing interracial scenes is "career anxiety" imposed by agents rather than their own racial bias and Tee Reel, male porn star and one of the few black agents in the U.S. industry, had a concurring opinion, saying, "In the business, some girls who say they don’t do interracial, I’ve actually had sex with, off-camera." Porn star Kristina Rose has alleged that some agents tell younger actresses that they will earn less from performing in interracial pornography to bar their involvement, although the opposite is true on a global level. On the other hand, Lexington Steele told in a The Root interview that white female performers who appear in interracial pornography may conceal their careers due to social pressure from their intimates, arguing "It's just an element of American culture that still exists, and that is the feeling that a white female will be deflowered or soiled, if you will, by doing a scene with a black male".
Some scholars claim that African American women are especially subject to racial fetishism within pornography. Mireille Miller-Young, professor of feminist studies at University of California in Santa-Barbara, argues that while the porn industry hypersexualizes African American porn actresses, they are often paid less, hired less, and given less attention during health checks than their white counterparts. Some scholars also argue that white women are upheld as the most-prized commodity in the industry, while black women are often devalued for their sex work, regardless of their perceived erotic abilities.
In academic discourse, racial fetishism is a postcolonialist term found in the writings of authors such as Homi K. Bhabha, Anne McClintock and Kobena Mercer. The term combines elements of the Freudian psychoanalytic fetish and the Marxist commodity fetish, and is used in the context of British, Spanish and French colonialism and imperialism and their aftereffects. The term has as its origins Frantz Fanon's epidermal schema and Edward Said's Orientalism.
Homi Bhabha defined the idea of a racial fetish in contrast to the idea of the Freudian sexual fetish which he describes a denial of difference, where the male sees the female as a castrated male, seeing missing parts rather than a different anatomy. Similar to Freud's idea of a fetish, Bhabha defines racial fetish to be a fixation on other races being not different, but lesser or "mutilated" versions of the white male.
- Asian fetish
- List of African-American pornographic actors
- List of Asian pornographic actors
- Pornography by region
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So many girls [in the industry] said, 'Oh you can't be with [a black man] it's gonna ruin your career.' I think that's insane. I love black men, so I was really insistent about being on camera in an interracial [situation] because I didn't want to be part of that mentality.
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- Fanon, Frantz (1967). transl. Charles Lam Markmann, ed. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.
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