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Pornography and Race. Power, Politics and Profit Part One. A Little Experiment. In the early 1980’s Alice Mayall and Diana E.H. Russell went to several heterosexual pornographic stores in San Francisco’s bay area.

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pornography and race

Pornography and Race

Power, Politics and Profit

Part One

a little experiment
A Little Experiment

In the early 1980’s Alice Mayall and Diana E.H. Russell went to several heterosexual pornographic stores in San Francisco’s bay area.

The question they had was to determine how race was view in pornography who was being portrayed as what and why.

a little experiment1
A Little Experiment

They looked to see magazines, film, etc… and made a careful catalog of all of the observations and what it means in our society.

The issue was who was displayed, how and why. If men and women of more “ethnic” races were displayed was this related to racism.

a little experiment2
A Little Experiment
  • White Women are featured in 92% of all the pornography produced (if you looked around the Hustler store, you would have noticed not only is the store geared towards men’s desires but also most of the toys etc…featured white women including the covers of Hustler on the walls).
a little experiment3
A Little Experiment

The theory is since “white” is the standard of beauty in Western Culture, people of color fall into “special interest” categories that include bondage, toys etc…

Those covers that did display women of color used over 73% of the time African-American women (who displayed at least some “white” features—looked less “ethnic.”

a little experiment4
A Little Experiment
  • 18% used Asian-American Women and 4% used Hispanic women (but these numbers are changing slightly as Hispanic culture become more popular in mainstream American culture).
  • There was also a small percentage of anti-Arab pornography.
a little experiment5
A Little Experiment
  • Most African-American women are seen with white men (38%).
  • White women with African-American men (27%)
  • Asian women with white men (17%)
  • Asian Women with men of unknown ethnicity (12%)
  • Other people of color (6%)
a little experiment6
A Little Experiment
  • Majority of men pictured as Gay, Bi-sexual, transvestites or transsexuals are people of color.
  • Possibly because if these “sexualities” and gender identities are skirting the limits of acceptability, then it is easier to see them as “other.”
a little experiment7
A Little Experiment

The word “Bitch” is almost exclusively applied to black women in pornography with titles such as “Black bitches,” and “Bitch’s in Heat vol. 1-4.”

What this implies is that African-American women are most associated with animals.

black women and language
Black Women and Language

“Where white women are depicted in pornography as ‘objects,’ Black women are depicted as animals. Where white women are at least depicted as human bodies if not beings, Black women are depicted as shit.”—Alice Walker

black women and pornography
Black Women and Pornography

Feminist Scholar Tracy Gardner offers a further explanation for this dictomy by saying “I have noticed that while white men like Black women ‘looking baaad’ in leather and whips, Black men like Black women in bondage, helpless and submissive.”

black women and pornography1
Black Women and Pornography

The implications are clear that if we can hold pornography as a cultural lens for which to view what hasn’t changed about our culture, then racism as well as misogyny are still part of the culture we don’t speak about, the one we don’t address.

some titles
Some Titles

Animal Sex Among Black Women

Black Bitch

Black Ghetto Teens

Candy’s Black Lover

Her New White Master

Seductive Black Bitch

asian women
Asian Women

Are either sweet young “lotus blossoms” or objects of bondage (usually it is extreme b bondage too).

In 1984 the artsy Penthouse magazine contained a nine page pictorial of Asian women with this self-description.

asian women1
Asian Women

“…bund tightly with ropes cutting into their ankles, labias, wrists and buttocks.”

Mixed in with this were Haiku quotes and two of the photos showed Asian women bound and hanging from trees as if they were dead.

some titles for asian women
Some Titles for Asian Women

Geisha’s Girls

Geisha’s Torment

Japanese Sadist’s Dungeon

May Ling’s Master

Samurai Slave Girl

Teen Slaves of Saigon

Whips of Chinatown

Vietcong Rape Compound

jewish women
Jewish Women

This is a smaller genre, even smaller than Hispanic women, but it is definitely part of the racist power dynamic that underlines some of the pornography present.

titles for jewish women
Titles for Jewish Women

Gestapo Bondage Brothel

Gestapo Lust Slave

Nazi Dungeon Slave

Sluts of the S.S.

Gestapo Training School

Nazi Slut Work Camp

titles for arab and hispanic women
Titles for Arab and Hispanic Women

Harem Hell

Latino Pussy

Raped by Arab Terrorists

Maria’s first English Lesson

Sheik’s Hand Maiden

in general
In General

When it comes to race, the horrific past and extended historical periods of abuse are sexually stimulating in pornography at it’s worst.

At it’s best, some scholars argue that race in pornography serves a purpose—it is discussing (Albeit more crudely) the real issues we avoid discussing and ultimately we will know when people are equal in our society by the kind of pornography we produce.


Dorchen Leidholdt contends that “pornography contains a racial hierarchy in which women are rated as prized objects or despised objects according to their color.”

counter point
Counter Point

Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy magazine disagrees and claims that “that portraying women of color as sex objects to a predominantly white male readership is a radical development that shoes Playboy’s social conscience.”


something to note
Something to Note

Most of the examples in this experiment focus on extreme examples that are often special interest for reasons other than race. However, this is not to excuse the extreme racism nor is it justifying Hefner’s belief that now, we’re so enlightened, we will objectify all women equally. Women of color are now worthy of being objectified. Is that really progress?

why aren t people complaining
Why Aren’t People Complaining?

Most Black activist consider pornography a “white market” and therefore a “white issue” they seem to be unconcerned with the extreme racism presented in extreme pornography.

black feminist justification for this
Black Feminist Justification for This

Alice Walker refuses the term “feminist” because it implies fighting for the goals, needs and rights of white middle class women and neglects those of women of color, poor, different sexual orientation or those in the sex trade.

If you think about what mainstream feminism is concerned with, this makes an interesting concept.