As Black Lives Matter movement protests, which have taken over all 50 states and dozens of countries, continue — every industry is having its own reckoning with racism.
In recent weeks, people have honed in to focus on the racialized sexism and misogynoir that Black women have to face from other races and from Black men. The conversation has now made its way to the sex work industry, which has long been home to some of the vilest, abhorrent racism seen anywhere.
Feature stories from Playboy, Rolling Stone and The Daily Beast are deep dives into the way racism affects Black women performers in the porn industry. Multiple Black adult actresses spoke about being unable to book gigs because popular "interracial" scenes tacitly meant only Black men and white women.
Others spoke of not being paid on time, or at all, while some said the racism in how porn is marketed and sold made them cringe. Actress Daisy Ducati told The Daily Beast that a scene she filmed was renamed "Black Wives Matter" when the DVD was released.
“There are people that genuinely don’t give a f**k because there is profit in racism, there are racist people willing to pay,” Ducati said.
Racism has been part of the porn industry since its infancy. Black actors and actresses have long been forced to portray racial stereotypes and participate in scenes that lean heavily into openly offensive tropes.
A study by professors Gail Dines and Robert Jensen found that racism in the industry "is so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed."
"Pornography is the one media genre in which overt racism is still acceptable. Not subtle, coded racism, but old-fashioned U.S. racism — stereotypical representations of the black male stud, the animalistic black woman, the hot Latina, the demure Asian geisha. ... In an interview with the producer of the DVD 'Black Bros and Asian Ho’s,' one of us asked if he ever was criticized for the racism of such films. He said, 'No, they are very popular.' We repeated the question: Popular, yes, but do people ever criticize the racism? He looked incredulous; the question apparently had never entered his mind," the researchers wrote.
"As one black woman in the industry told us, 'This is a racist business,' from how she is treated by producers to pay differentials to the day-to-day conversations she overhears on the set," the report added.
Psychology professor Carolyn West produced a documentary called Let Me Tell Ya’ll ‘Bout Black Chicks: Images of Black Women in Pornography and shared guest pieces with Fight The New Drug earlier this month about the damaging depictions of Black women in the adult film industry.
"It doesn’t take long to stumble upon any number of racist titles that promote offensive and unwarranted racial stereotypes about Black women. Relegated to 'gonzo' porn, which are low budget films with little glamor, Black women most often play the role of prostitutes in videos entitled 'Ebony Sex Workers' and 'Black Girls Working the Streets.' Not satisfied to call them the usual gonzo terms of slut/whore/cumdumpster, the performers are called 'Black Ghetto Freaks' and 'Inner City Sluts.' To further smear them as lower class, Black women are featured in urban settings, rundown buildings, and trash-filled alleys," she wrote.
She went on to describe how little has changed over the years in terms of how Black women are portrayed. A 1985 pornography video titled Let Me Tell Ya’ll ‘Bout Black Chicks features a Black woman having sex with two men dressed as Klu Klux Klan members, and these kinds of videos are still common and wildly popular even today.
"The video series Cum Bang described a similar version of 'Hillbilly Hog Heaven' where multiple Confederate flag-waving White men ejaculate on one Black woman," West wrote. "In other video series, the violence against Black women is overt, graphic, and deeply disturbing as in the series Ghetto Gaggers, which shows Black women being beaten, choked, and humiliated. The website invites the viewer to 'join to see White boys conquering Angry Black women.' You can even buy merchandise, including t-shirts and coffee mugs, with the Ghetto Gaggers logo."
"Porn sexualizes everyone, but the combination of racism, sexism, and often classism, since Black women are often shown in distressed communities, leaves Black women both sexualized and dehumanized in different ways than other ethnic groups," she added. "We should care about racism in porn because as we continue to unearth the stories of sexual brutality that were experienced by countless Black women, such as what happened to Recy Taylor, the aforementioned titles have eroticized, sanitized, and erased this long history of sexual terrorism against Black women in this country."
In an effort to openly discuss these issues and address them, Playboy gave adult actresses Lotus Lain and Ana Foxxx the chance to air their thoughts on Instagram Live. The two had a wide-ranging discussion on their experiences in the billion-dollar porn industry and on the racism they have faced as Black women making a living through adult videos.
Lain and Foxxx spoke about their experiences in the industry and how difficult it can be to break into sex work as Black women. Foxxx noted that she wished there were more Black women in a variety of roles and said the scarcity of roles forces Black women to compete against each other.
"If I could change things, I would put more women of color in writing roles, producing roles, directing roles. Different types of women in leading roles too. The industry always tries to make you something else, so I would suggest women stay connected to who you are because they try to change who you are," Foxxx said.
"Its a climb to the top because there is only one seat, but what we're trying to do is open up more seats so there is an audience of us working together instead of fighting each other. It's really not fair and there should be a lot more love spread around," she added.Ahead of that discussion, Playboy Features Editor Anita Little wrote about some reasons why the porn industry needs to be examined at this moment.
She noted that the way porn is broken down by race has an effect on everyday life for millions of people around the world. Little said the categorizations, specifically those applied to Black women, have a damaging effect on how women are seen and treated.
She highlighted the problems with the popularization of "interracial" scenes and said they reinforced damaging tropes about Black beauty.
"Black features have long stood outside of society's accepted definition of beauty, and most of the narratives that we've constructed around what is attractive or desirable center whiteness," Little wrote. "Psychological studies have proven that from a young age, we're all programmed by our environment to see lighter skin as more favorable and see darker skin as 'the other.'"
"The common practice of prominent white actresses in porn being paid significantly more than their usual rate to do an 'interracial' scene with a black man or refusing to work with black men at all is a prime example of this," she continued. "'Interracial' in the adult industry almost always refers exclusively to a white or white-adjacent female actress doing a scene with a black man, setting up a spectrum of value that places a premium on being a white woman and dehumanizes blackness."
Little said the deeper issue plaguing the industry is its acceptance of race play as a kink. The porn industry, she said, markets itself on being taboo and caters to the desires that people may not state publicly. Unfortunately, race play has been treated by the porn industry as similar to desires for porn focused on BDSM, feet, or any other underlying desire people may have interest in.
"Though there's nothing wrong with having sexual kinks, there is something wrong when racism is your sexual kink. Not just porn producers but porn consumers have to bear responsibility for the glut of racially offensively porn. Consumers decide the market, and the porn market should be treated no different from other markets," Little wrote.
She added that people would stop watching their favorite show if racism was an integral part of it, so the same should go for porn. The normalization of offensive race play in porn has had an effect not just on society but on Black performers who are stigmatized.
Little explained the marketing around porn is also damaging, often focusing solely on the race of the performers. She notes that so many of the searches on sites like PornHub and others cater to outrageously racist characterizations of Black women.
"When white women perform an anal scene, it gets to just be called an anal scene. But when a black woman does it, suddenly it's an all-caps 'big booty ebony whore begs for anal' or something equally demeaning, capitalizing on harmful stereotypes about black women's sexuality. Whiteness gets to be the sexual default, while blackness is siloed into a fetishized subcategory. This dichotomy makes it easy for studios to outright reject black performers due to their race or compensate them less than their white counterparts," she wrote.
For Black adult actresses, the environments they have to perform in are also steeped in racism. Little notes that Black women are seen as less delicate, innocent, or worthy of protection in the industry, so they are forced into scenes that involve more abuse and violence.
Black women already have less negotiating power in the industry, she explained, so they often have to accept hostile professional environments. Porn producers may have fewer qualms about mistreating Black actresses and therefore force them into untenable situations, she added.
Because sex workers are looked down upon by certain parts of society, the mistreatment they face is often ignored and dismissed as "what they signed up for," Little explained, noting that laws like SESTA-FOESTA have had damaging effects on the lives of Black sex workers.
All of these problems need to be addressed not just by people in the porn industry but also by those consuming porn as well, she said.
"When we say black lives matter, it doesn't just mean the black lives that society finds respectable, it means black lives period, and that includes black sex workers," Little wrote.