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How Mainstream Porn Perpetuates Racist Stereotypes of Black Men

By July 9, 2020No Comments
This guest piece was written by Carolyn M. West, Ph.D., an expert in domestic violence and sexual assault. 5-minute read.

TRIGGER WARNING

Disclaimer: Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization hoping to provide access to resources that are helpful to those who need support. Including links and discussions about these legislative matters does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug.

“Who’s Your Daddy?” Exploring the Images of Black Men in Pornography

By Carolyn M. West, Ph.D., University of Washington

It’s official. The porn industry is finally “woke.”

For the uninitiated, this means that corporate leaders are now conscious of racial discrimination in society and other forms of oppression and injustice. For example, in response to the high profile killings of unarmed African Americans by police officers, Adult Video News issued the statement that the porn industry “stands with the Black community in its fight against racial injustice and discrimination. Black Lives Matter.”

Related: How The Porn Industry Capitalizes Off Of Racism And Racist Stereotypes

As good corporate citizens, many leaders in the porn industry have pledged to conduct racial sensitivity training with their staff members and to have “intimacy coordinators” on their porn sets to avoid racially offensive scenarios. Some porn companies even proposed to form an advisory board on race, which would be made up of People of Color. In response to their efforts, a recently convened panel of ethnically diverse porn performers said: “We’ve been talking about our experiences for so long and they’re not hearing it.”

Apparently, the targets of racism in the industry don’t believe these hollow words and empty promises. So, I too am sounding the alarm on the porn industry’s recent “wokeness” and here’s why.

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Why history still matters

The racist concepts behind the images that exist in contemporary porn were created centuries ago.

Beginning after the Civil War, scientific journals, local newspapers, and best-selling novels began describing Black men as Brutes who were animalistic, destructive, and prone to criminality. One of the most famous examples of the “brute” image was captured in the 1915 cinematic film classic “Birth of a Nation,” which memorialized the supposed dangers that hypersexualized Black men posed to defenseless White women. In one iconic scene, a White actor dressed in blackface played the role of a former enslaved Black man who chases a virginal White woman who had rejected his marriage proposal. Rather than being “ravished” by this out-of-control Black “beast,” she dramatically leaps off a cliff to her death—with her virtue intact.

Related: Why Does The Porn Industry Get Away With Racist Portrayals Of Black People?

Historians now recognize such distorted film depictions of Black masculinity as a form of “racial pornography” because the false allegations that Black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, running amok and raping White women became one of the primary rationalizations for the lynching of Blacks—nearly 6,500 in America between 1865 and 1950.

These beliefs continue to have deadly consequences.

Amid his Wednesday night shooting rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina—killing nine people—21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, an admitted White supremacist, reportedly told one survivor: “You rape our women, you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

Modern-day minstrel shows

Pornography may not have first created these racial atrocities, but porn, particularly the interracial category, is arguably a modern-day “minstrel show”  that recreates and reinforces the deeply racist historical trope of crazed Black men marauding the countryside in search of virginal White women to molest.

The porn industry doesn’t even try to disguise their racism. “Mandingos,” “Black Bucks,” and “Black Beasts,” are some of the performer’s names and derogatory video titles that harken back to the antebellum period.

In order to tone down the racist dog whistles, more contemporary terms for Black men include “thugs” and “gangsters” as in videos such as “Thug Creampies” and “Mommy, Me and a Gangster.” There is even a video series entitled “Gangland” in which dark-skinned Black men, who appear to be gang-affiliated, pose menacingly in urban areas ready to pounce on any White woman who takes a wrong turn on the highway and stumbles into the “hood.”

When compared to other racial groups, Black men are more often shown as pimps, predators, and prone to committing acts of aggression.

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For example, in my research, I have found that when Black male performers are mentioned as “fathers” in porn they are portrayed as pimping out Black women in titles such as “It’s a Black Daddy Thing.” In interracial videos, African American men are portrayed as the creepy step-father who can’t wait to commit incest in titles such as “My New Black Step-Daddy” and “My Black Stepdaddy Home Schooled Me!”

Related: How Mainstream Porn Normalizes Violence Against Black Women

According to the porn narrative, Black men also live to impregnate White women. Apparently the brothers are also scheming to rob and humiliate weak, impotent White husbands. Consider the description of the video “Inseminated By 2 Black Men”: “planting the seed for a kid that you had to raise and pay for. Who needs 40 acres and a mule when our kid will inherit everything you own someday?”

So, the Black Brute image continues to persist throughout popular culture and this image is especially pervasive in pornography. If you’re still not convinced, consider this—the video series Gangland 86 has been produced for decades because 85 versions of the same video sold well.

Black men are dehumanized and sexualized

For hundreds of years, the contents of Black men’s pants has sparked fear and fascination.

Shockingly, early racist scientific literature believed that Black men’s large genitalia and their inherited nature of sexual promiscuity made them unable to safely assimilate into civil society. In case you’re curious about racial differences in size, current researchers have taken painstaking measurements—it’s a myth, and here’s evidence.

However, these outdated beliefs are on full display in pornography when Black male performers are described as “apes” in films such as “Black Kong Dong,” or as cattle suitable for breeding in “My Hotwife’s Black Bull.” Most of the video covers don’t even feature the man’s face. Instead, Black men are reduced to ginormous Jurassic Park-sized reproductive organs. “No, it’s not Godzilla, but it might be bigger!” screams the text on the video “Big Black Beast 3.” Put simply by Ricky Johnson, a Black male performer: “Our humanity is consistently denied.”

Related: Content On Pornhub Reportedly Normalizes And Promotes Racism And Racist Stereotypes

Even more damaging is how pornography eroticizes racial terrorism in the United States.

To illustrate, as a country, we have failed to grapple with the sexualized nature of lynching. During these public spectacles, which lasted more than 100 years, the torture of Black men involved severe violence to their genitals before they were ultimately castrated and killed. With titles such as Fear of a Black Penis, porn flips the script by suggesting that this distorted notion of Black men’s masculinity and sexuality is something to be celebrated.

To further mock and satirize Black men’s trauma, porn often creates sexualized spoofs about real events. For example, 12 Years a Slave, was a 2014 biographical film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir of a New York State free-born African American man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. by two conmen and sold into slavery. An aptly named porn company, Hot Mess Entertainment, created the parody “12 Inches a Slave,” which featured “five lilly white chicks ravaged by big black bucks.”

No one is suggesting that a porn parody is a suitable documentary for Black History Month. But still, when porn uses “humor” in this way, they sanitize and erase the historic and contemporary violence against Black male bodies.

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Here’s what you can do

Corporations have begun to retire antebellum and Jim Crow era racist images of subservient Black men, including Uncle Ben and the Cream of Wheat Chef. Yet, the mythical Black beast is still personified in porn. It is well past time to cancel this image, too.

Here is how it can be done.

Get educated about stereotypes of Black men 

In general, we all need to be more educated about how the stereotypes of African American men have affected their educational and employment opportunities. It is especially important to listen to the voices of real Black men who describe the pain of being dehumanized and objectified by these distorted sexualized images that are found in pornography and throughout society.

Related: How Porn Gets A Free Pass To Profit From These 5 Unacceptable Categories

Promote healthy black masculinity and Black fatherhood 

It’s time to elevate and celebrate models of healthy Black masculinity—ones that don’t reduce them solely to their reproductive organs or judge them by their sexual performance.

Tony Porter, the founder of A Call to Men—an organization that educates about healthy manhood—calls this the “Man Box,” which is toxic for the physical and mental well-being of all men. In June, as we recognize Father’s Day, remarkable Black fathers have too often been erased by the culture. This makes it especially important to push back on pornified versions of Black “daddies” as pimps and predators.

Fortify

Make Black lives matter—everywhere

In the wake of global protests after deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of police and just days before Juneteenth on June 19, which is the observance of the end of slavery in the U.S., Adult Video News issued their statement: “As a publication and as an industry, we need to do better—and we can.”

Here’s a suggestion: Although racism apparently makes for great search engine optimization, the porn industry can’t stand in solidarity with Black people and create content of people using the N-word with wild abandon and without fear of backlash.

But at least their statement got one thing right: “We call for an end to…racist marketing practices and films that rely on stereotypes and ignorance…As an industry, we can no longer deny that these films amplify racism and discrimination.”

The biggest question that remains is, will the rest of the industry follow suit, or will porn companies continue to profit from racist content that would be “canceled” anywhere else?

About the Author

Dr. Carolyn M. West is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington where she teaches courses on Human Sexuality, Family Violence, and Sex Crimes and Sexual Violence. She is nationally recognized for her scholarship on gender-based violence in the lives of African American women, specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. She can be reached at www.DrCarolynWest.com.

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