Racism in Porn Industry Under Scrutiny Amid Nationwide Protests - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Features

Racism in Porn Industry Under Scrutiny Amid Nationwide Protests

Black performers are paid less, hired less, and have to deal with racist, yet popular, tropes — but now, some are pushing for change

racism in the porn industry

Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images

Earlier this year, when adult performer Ana Foxxx appeared on the set for a shoot for porn director Kayden Kross, she was thrilled. It was an orgy scene featuring Kross’s husband, Manuel Ferrara, and three other black women — a rarity in the adult industry. “There aren’t that many roles. It seems like companies only shoot us [once every few months],” Foxx tells Rolling Stone. “So we’re never really on set together.” They were excited to finally be working together in a scene.

Then it was time for photos, and Foxxx noticed the women coming upstairs with bananas. At first, she thought they were just eating snacks. Then they were all instructed to get in the frame and hold the bananas together. “I was like, this doesn’t feel good to me,” she says.

When the women complained, Kross apologized and promised to delete the photos. But it was a grueling 12-hour shoot, and one of the other performers, Demi Sutra, says she ended the day by crying in the bathroom. She stayed on set, however, because she didn’t want to “ruin” the shoot for the other performers. “You never know who really needs the money, because there just aren’t so many opportunities for black actresses,” she says. 

When asked about these allegations, Kross said, “For the record, I stand with the movement and I believe that real systemic change is needed for our society to grow and flourish. With that said, and in light of some of your questions, I am also hoping we do not start to see this sentiment become misdirected in the pursuit of opportunistic personal agendas and OnlyFans subscriber revenues.” When asked specifically about the bananas, she said they were intended to be dipped in chocolate and glitter as part of a Valentine’s Day shoot. “I did not recognize the bananas to be especially problematic at the time, though I now understand why this could be sensitive and regret this decision,” she tells Rolling Stone. 

Such stories are common among black performers in the industry, who often find themselves torn between speaking out about their marginalization and staying quiet for fear of career reprisal. This is especially true for black female performers, who are cast far less often in scenes than their white counterparts. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Ana, we wish we could shoot you more, but we only shoot so many black girls,'” says Foxxx. She says she’s been repeatedly told by producers that black female performers do not sell as well as white female performers. “I’m like, ‘How do you expect black women to ever do more than ‘move the needle’ if you don’t give us opportunities to work?,'” she says, adding that she has had to expand her catalog to anal and gang bangs in order to get booked for more gigs.

The depiction of racist stereotypes in porn and the marginalization of black performers has been a topic of discussion within the industry for years. “Pornography is the least progressive industry in America,” says Sutra. “There’s no other industry that can say, ‘You are black so you cannot do this movie.'” Yet many in the industry see the conversation kickstarted by the Black Lives Matter protests as a prime opportunity to get prominent companies to change many of their problematic practices. That discussion intensified when the adult industry media publication AVN ran a story alleging police brutality victim George Floyd had links to the porn industry, sparking massive backlash and prompting AVN to delete the story and publish an apology.

One of the issues called out by performers on social media relates to the common yet outdated practice of white female performers charging higher rates for so-called “IR,” or “interracial,” scenes, which almost always refers to a black male performer having sex with a white female performer. Companies will regularly offer A-list white female performers well above her standard rate to get her to shoot her first “IR” scene with them, and many well-known models will hold out on working with black performers for years for this reason. “IR is a smokescreen for what you’re really trying to say,” says performer Isiah Maxwell. “It doesn’t mean Asian or Latino. It means, ‘Are you willing to have sex with a black guy?'”

This practice does not apply, however, to black male performers or black female performers, creating a deeply uncomfortable racial economic hierarchy that’s perpetuated by performers’ agents, who take a commission off these higher rates. Maxwell says he has heard from other companies that some large agencies establish quotas for how often top female performers can work with black talent. “The agencies have always been detrimental,” says Maxwell. “They allow certain girls who come in to uphold their beliefs that they’re above certain skin colors.”

Because of the lack of opportunities available to black performers, particularly black female performers, many will be limited to working with the handful of companies that regularly shoot such content, most of which market themselves using outrageously offensive racial tropes. Ricky Johnson, for instance, has done a number of scenes for the production company Dogfart, which specializes in interracial porn and features such series as Black Meat White Feet and Watching My Daughter Go Black. “It paints black people in a brutish way,” says Johnson. “But the issue with that is it’s one of the only sites that [regularly] shoots black people.” Early on in her career, Foxxx appeared in a scene in which she was asked to give oral sex to white men wearing Confederate flag T-shirts; Johnson says he did a scene where the director asked the black performers to wear prison uniforms, and asked if he was comfortable with the white female performer using the n-word on set. (He said no.)

While perhaps not as overt in their trafficking of racist stereotypes, sites like Blacked.com capitalize on outdated stereotypes about black men and perpetuate inequities in the industry in other ways. Despite ostensibly serving as a showcase for black performers, the performers I spoke with for this article say it is exceedingly rare for Blacked to hire black female performers, and of the first 50 featured models on the site, there are only two black women. It also uses such offensive terms as “BBC” (meaning “big black cock”) in some of its titles. The behemoth tube site Pornhub also prominently features content with such titles as “Ghetto teen put this on herself” and “ebony slayed by BBC” and has hundreds of videos featuring the n-word in the title. In response to a glut of such content, some performers have recently attempted to upload a wide range of clips featuring black talent in an attempt to flood the category and have an effect on Pornhub’s algorithm.

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. Foxxx once shot an anal scene for the director Jules Jordan that later appeared online as part of a compilation titled Black Facials Matter. “At first I was confused because it was an anal scene,” she says. “Then I got really mad.” She says she contacted Jordan asking him to change the title, but he never responded; years later, when she ran into a company employee at an industry event and related the story to them, the title was finally changed (though it is still intact on various tube sites). In response, Jordan said he was unaware that Foxxx had previously contacted him requesting to change the title, which had been written by a copywriter. “Unfortunately due to the volume of content on our site, I cannot monitor 100% of the site personally, adding, “when I was alerted to this issue, I agreed immediately it needed changed.”

Not every black performer takes issue with all of the terminology used in keywords and titles, believing them to be exemplary of the generally crude and reductive marketing tactics adopted by companies to promote porn. “Porn has always been a reflection of American values, so if these are the titles you see, these are the titles people are buying,” says Maxwell. “If you see a title like Fear of a Black Penis 6 [a film Maxwell appeared in], that must mean five of them must sell well.” He does not believe that porn is an appropriate venue to affect social change: “Porn is such a murky water to be a social activist it’s hard for them to take you seriously,” he says. “I try to separate the two.” But he acknowledges that industry practices are highly problematic at best. “Porn is the only industry where you can justify your racism. You can’t force anyone to have sex with anyone they don’t want to — you can’t say, ‘You have to fuck a black guy to be in this industry’ — so you can justify your beliefs,” he says.

To an extent, things have started changing, albeit only in response to pressure and intense public criticism on social media. As part of AVN’s apology, it vowed to eliminate categories like “interracial” and “ethnic” from future awards shows, which black performers say has been a long time coming, even if they feel the change was not made in earnest: “They had to react to the reaction,” says Maxwell. “I feel like they’re sorry they put [the story] out. I don’t feel they’re sorry they put it together.” Companies like AVN, Xbiz, and Blacked have reached out to performers to speak with them about what they can be doing better to support black talent. Following a Zoom call with black performers and crew members, Mike Moz, a producer for Blacked, tells Rolling Stone that going forward, the company will not use terms like “BBC” and “interracial” in its marketing copy. Moz also said the company would cast more black women and write more inclusive storylines, though he defended the practice of offering higher rates for white performers doing their first scenes with black men. “Within the industry, any kind of first has a value on it. You’re vying for those firsts,” he says. 

Foxxx says that many of these discussions are too little, too late. These conversations about pay disparities and black female performers being passed over have been going on for years to no avail, and Foxxx and other performers are frustrated that it took the death of George Floyd to have their concerns be heard. “Now everybody’s like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and all of this stuff. It kind of sucks because I feel like I was yelling at people not too long ago to show support, only for them to jump on the bandwagon when it’s convenient,” she says. “We need to support performers across the board, not just when it’s a chance to get more likes and followers.”

 

In This Article: Black Lives Matter, porn

Newswire

Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.