An article recently appeared on Glamour’s web site called “Does Mainstream Porn Have a Race Problem?”. In the main, it’s a thought-provoking piece that takes a multifaceted look at the complicated intersection of racism and erotica. It discusses how porn producers profit from depicting (and perpetuating) retrograde racial attitudes and stereotypes, the race-based pay disparities among porn performers, and the “indie porn” industry’s attempts to move away from racial labeling of content.
But we were surprised at one omission from porn journalist Lynsey G.’s otherwise thorough piece. In all of its discussion of depictions of race in pornography, nowhere does the article mention the gigantic footprint of “reality,” “amateur”, or “gonzo” pornography that intentionally blurs, and often erases, the distinction between performance and coercion. These films don't just reflect racial stereotypes. They establish racial (and its close cousin, socioeconomic) dominance and exploitation as their attracting premise. Want to see a white guy purchase and inflict pain on a Bangkok prostitute? How about a porn producer talking an immigrant who barely speaks English into anal sex? All of this and more is available by the gigabyte.
Porn that explicitly benefits from the grim reality of racial and socioeconomic disparity cannot be classified as choreographed “fantasy” in the way that the Glamour pigeonholes so much mainstream content. Nor can it be credited with lampooning or satirizing racial stereotypes. No, this sort of porn would not exist but for the poverty and discrimination that its “performers” endure on a daily basis. It is “reality” porn, for sure, just not in the way its producers mean it.
Does porn have a race problem? Of course it does. And, it isn’t possible to have a conversation about that problem without acknowledging the massive, and cynically exploitative, influence of "reality" porn.