Interracial Porn: Holding Us Back While Getting Us Off? (Pt. 2)

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

(. . . Continued from Part 1)

The hypothetical situation I posed above is clearly as far-fetched as Jensen’s advocacy of ending masculinity, but in the long run, especially with so many supporters of the eradication of race and the installation of colorblind institutions, could an erasure of race as we know it lead to an altering of our fantasies and their portrayal on screen?

My answer is a definite yes.

Without a doubt, the use of race in fantasy scenarios aids the process of arousal. Taboo elements in porn assist in the option of living vicariously through the actors/performers on-screen. Particularly with regard to race, as one’s race is basically immutable, certain attributes assigned to the actors’ respective sexual prowess or lack thereof are also seen as immutable, rendering porn actors/actresses of color mere props in a fantasy, just like whips, chains, or clamps would be in an S&M flick. Their race, as set by the film’s theme or as interpreted by the viewer, becomes a vehicle for the fantasy, used solely for the sake of helping the viewer achieve orgasm. Race becomes a fetish element, if you will, and porn writers, producers, and the actors involved use essentialization as a key part—without it, the fantasy of interracial sex dissolves.

The very fact that interracial porn is a genre in itself is telling. With porn categories often catered to the specifics needs (or assumed needs) of its viewers, sex between a black man and an Asian-American woman, as an example, becomes comparable to sex between a dom and a sub, simply another image to fulfill the sexual desires of the audience, though through considerably dehumanizing means. For example, just as women in straight porn films are often degraded, usually supplying self-deprecating speeches to mirror the verbal abuse of her male partner, interracial porn performers must do the same, often spouting out racist rhetoric that would make a Neo-Nazi blush, solely to bolster the element of fantasy.

Stereotypes replace basic dialogue, with the characters often addressing each other in race-based sexual terms, most particularly those which employ synecdoche (i.e. a black man may be referred to simply as “big black d*ck” or, as commonly seen in films featuring American men with Brazilian female sex partners, a Latina may be referred to solely by the size and shape of her bottom). And just as in “mono-racial” porn, third person becomes the most common form of address, with the actors often self-narrating, giving some of the actions a more disturbing meaning if the dialogue is racist (i.e. lines like “watch me make this Asian b*tch my little Geisha whore”). Violence is often combined with sex in hardcore interracial porn, closely correlating with mono-racial porn, yet when added with racism and verbal abuse, interracial sex in porn takes on a unique meaning, that being mainly that in order to have proper sex with someone of a different race, or to enjoy that fantasy, defilement is essential. And again much like its mono-racial counterpart, interracial porn employs exaggeration as a device to enhance scenarios further, though in a racial context, often with stereotypes, race-based monikers, and objectification at a heightened level. Even the racial differences themselves are greatly exaggerated and, many times, inaccurate (much like mainstream Hollywood films), with people of color fitting a specific and predictable description physically (Latinas tend to have dark hair, olive skin tones, and physical proportions that weigh heavily on the lower half, black actors/actresses usually have dark skin as to provide a color contrast with their non-black sex partner, etc), transforming race into not only a prop, as mentioned previously, but also as a costume and a landscape upon which the cinematographic foundation relies for stability.

By way of actions, words, and appearances, interracial porn feeds the viewer exactly what he or she wants by way of appeasing the need to see what he or she expects. Even though interracial porn relies on the taboo element for its very existence as a genre, the scenarios are rarely jaw-dropping in suspense. The viewer knows exactly what he or she will see without watching at all—mainly because porn happens to be a mirror of society.

Mainstream, mono-racial porn often parodies current events in order to place a fantastical twist on reality, and interracial porn frequently follows suit, though it leaves a more critical audience to wonder whether or not the exaggerated nature of most interracial porn is done as social commentary, exploiting the fact that interracial sex is such a taboo despite it being 2008, or possibly even to ridicule the audience that continues to reach a climax by way of almost comedic routines of cross-cultural interaction.

But in the end, it’s quite difficult to separate the fantasy from reality in relation to porn, especially as so many porn scenarios, whether we like or not, end up coming full circle in our own bedrooms—even if we don’t gain inspiration directly from porn. Porn imagery is all around us, but the issue surrounding interracial porn boils down to the age-old art vs. life argument. Has interracial porn taken on such a racist tone due to our society being racist? Or, consequently, is the taboo surrounding interracial sex only perpetuated by such films, through which the average American, more likely than not, completely uneducated on issues of race, may see his or her first person of color in a sexual context and/or first interracial sex scene?

It’s a question that I continue to ask myself as I reflect on all the porn I had to digest over a series of months. Bearing this in mind, I return to my refashioning of Jensen’s thesis to pertain to race:

Race, at least in the terms that we define it presently, supports a system of hatred toward people of color, as demonstrated in (interracial) pornography, and the only way to progress beyond this conveyance of hatred toward people of color is to eradicate the use of race in its entirety.

I have to say I agree. Race as a category, much like masculinity (and gender as a whole) in Jensen’s eyes, is the result of centuries of pseudo-scientific tests rooted in blatant racism, hatred, and xenophobia. Whether we realize it or not, when we discuss race now, even in a considerably progressive way, we must use those terms that are undeniably linked to America’s problematic past. Much like the excellent analyses of language that I have read over the course of the last few years in which the authors pinpoint elements of our speech that reflect the sexism, racism, classism, and heteronormativity of our society that remain, even as such –isms, at least on the surface, have drastically leveled off (at least in comparison to say, the antebellum period), my analysis here of racial terminology is also relevant. Racism remains in our racial classifications, and until those categories are destroyed and our society receives a complete overhaul insofar as how we consider phenotypic difference (i.e. if we were to discuss race without the terms so heavily relying upon stereotypes and hatred upon which many were initially based), we will continue to exist in a static position.

With regard to interracial porn, as it is, in many ways, a sexualized reflection of the state of race relations, I believe that the stereotypes will remain until we make the aforementioned (and long overdue, I might add) social revisions. Porn, though trivial in the eyes of some, makes us analyze our own perspective on others who are different from ourselves. Could there ever be a day upon which seeing a couple of different ethnic, racial, or national backgrounds in a sexual context does not evoke specific images from our damaged history? Could one ever view interracial sex objectively, and even then, without thinking about the interracial element at all, and instead, simply seeing it for what it is: two (or more) people having sex? If one can derive pleasure from watching two people who appear to be of the same racial, ethnic, or national background in heterosexual porn without any additional bells and whistles (albeit through a highly sexist lens), why can’t the same be said of interracial sex? Why must it always be packaged as a spectacle or a pornographic sideshow, an abnormal act that requires additional dialogue and themes to remind us that this is something different and borderline perverse?

I’m not at all advocating the PC-ification of one’s bedroom activities, but suffice it to say, I grow concerned when I can rarely find a person of color in interracial porn (even if the sex act is between people whom one would consider “minorities” and/or “of color”) who is not rendered an object by way of fetishism or exotification, or a person of color in porn, period, who does not end up playing a role that is considered reflective of a stereotype. While the removal of these stereotypes, subjugation, etc, from porn may result in the dampening of a fantasy for many, I have to wonder what that even means for the viewer who relies upon such devices in order to enjoy what they see on the screen or the society that has created them. Can people of color only be truly enjoyed if being ridiculed or degraded? It’s a tough question, but much like Jensen and his take on gender, I find myself coming back to it over and over again.