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Keli Goff writes on www.theroot.com — Porn star Aurora Snow surprised many with her candid confession to the Daily Beast www.adultfyi.com/read.php?ID=57736 regarding one of the last remaining taboos in the adult entertainment industry. According to Snow, while few sex acts are considered off the table today, sex acts with certain individuals can be.
Snow spoke specifically of the fact that a number of white female performers are discouraged from participating in scenes with black men. Often those doing the discouraging are men in power within the industry — specifically, white men who are managers or agents.
In an age in which multiracial families are among the fastest growing in the nation, it is hard to fathom that there is a national industry, $10 billion strong, in which interracial couplings are considered career suicide. It seems that the historical taboo of black men sleeping with white women is one sexual hang-up that even the porn industry is unwilling to get over.
And yet the reverse of that taboo — white men sleeping with black women, which also comes with some historical precedent — is quite popular. Interviews with various performers within the industry confirm that while racism within the porn industry is very real, the day-to-day reality of how such discrimination is meted out can get complicated.
Lexington Steele is considered the most successful black male pornographic performer in history. He is the only performer — of any race — to have won the AVN (Adult Video News) Performer of the Year Award three times, one of the industry’s highest honors.
When asked about whether or not interracial scenes are still considered taboo for white female performers, Steele told The Root: “It’s definitely something that exists, and I think it’s something that’s built within the fabric of the industry, because if you look at the individuals that are in positions of authority over some of the white females, the ones governing them are the ones implementing this practice of no interracial.”
Saying that many of the white women in the industry he knows don’t have a problem with such scenes, Steele, who has worked with Snow in the past, explained, “It’s their managers, boyfriend or husband or family members.”
Steele explained that while women who won’t do interracial are becoming the minority within the industry, there are plenty who have family members who are much less concerned that their daughter or sister or spouse is participating in adult entertainment but extremely concerned at the thought of her being intimate with a black man.
While he says that he usually finds it “laughable” when a girl says, “My family knows I do porno, but they’d go crazy if I was with a black guy,” the rationale behind it is not laughable.
It’s just an element of American culture that still exists, and that is the feeling that a white female will be deflowered or soiled, if you will, by doing a scene with a black male,” Steele said.
“But that does speak to the continued existence of bigotry and racism, and I don’t think porno is unaffected by certain elements of American culture.” He concluded with this observation: “And quite honestly, adult media is the only major business that allows for the practice of exclusion based upon race.”
Making this exclusion perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact that pornography featuring scenes between white men and black women has been a popular subgenre for years. In a 1990 interview, Heather Hunter and Angel Kelly, two of the industry’s most famous black female performers, discussed the popularity of such scenes that they had appeared in, which were often penned, directed by and consumed by white males.
But while one could argue that such scenes are proof that the industry is not burdened by racial hang-ups after all, Steele offered a troubling observation: “Ironically, if a black female performer takes the option to not perform with a white male performer, she’s almost blacklisted — pardon the pun — by the majority of adult directors and producers, who in most cases are white and would take personal offense and spread the word that the girl should not be booked.”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, is not particularly surprised that there are those who still frown on sex between black men and white women, telling The Root, “Racism has so much to do with sex, and always has. The first era [Ku Klux] Klan was absolutely obsessed with fear of white women being violated by black men.”
When asked about the popularity of other interracial pairings in porn, Potok replied, “It is remarkable how attractive to certain people what looks forbidden is. It is mind-blowing how often we discover the Klan leader with the black transvestite or the neo-Nazi leader with the black girlfriend. It happens very frequently.”
Potok previously wrote in an article for the SPLC that while it is commonplace for those who participate in white supremacy movements to denounce pornography as a dangerous by-product of “Jewish pornographers,” “Many movement men are involved with the sex industry or child porn.”
But even more disconcerting than the double standard regarding interracial sex scenes within the industry is the double standard regarding compensation. While men of different races are compensated in a comparable fashion, it is an industry practice that black women are paid substantially less than white women, regardless of the project or performance.
Misty Stone, who has been called the Halle Berry of the porn industry for her ability to achieve crossover stardom with an extremely diverse fan base, acknowledged that despite her stardom, she is still compensated less than her white peers.
“That is absolutely true,” she said when asked if there is a pay disparity. “Now that I have raised my rate — which is not really that high; I know white girls getting paid [$1,500], and I’m getting about [$1,200] — I get booked less.” But she said that her current rate is a vast improvement over her previous rates.
“There was a time I was getting about 400 or 500 bucks a scene. Now that I’m with LA Direct [agency] and probably at the top of the food chain, I am now booked for $1,200 a scene, but they don’t want to pay an African-American girl that kind of money.” She explained that her bookings went down once her rates increased, despite the fact that they had increased based on her popularity and stardom.
She further explained that for certain, more extreme sexual acts, she knows white colleagues who were offered $3,000, while she was offered around $1,500 and occasionally as low as $1,200. She has so far declined to participate in such scenes.
Though she said people in the industry rarely, if ever, acknowledge racial disparities in pay and treatment, such disparities are ingrained, as unspoken as they may be. For instance, while it is generally accepted as fact that certain white starlets will see their pay rates go down if they perform with black men, Stone said that she knows it would not go over well if she were to decline scenes with white males.
When asked what could be done to change things in the industry, Stone hesitated before offering this: Diversifying who makes decisions within the industry matters. She recently incorporated her own adult film company, although it has not yet made its first project. She joked that she wanted to have a company populated with black performers and “one token white girl,” a play on the fact that she has so often been the token black girl.
Steele has done the same. A former stockbroker who studied at Morehouse College before graduating from Syracuse University with degrees in history and African-American studies, Steele founded Mercenary Motion Pictures in 2003. It has become a multimillion-dollar success story within the industry.
Stone said that she would have to think long and hard before encouraging other women of color, or women period, to enter the adult entertainment field, calling it a “last resort” for many girls. Steele, however, said he has no regrets.
“My last office [as a stockbroker] was in the World Trade Center. I lost four very close friends on Sept. 11,” he said. “If I had not switched professions, I would have been there. Had I remained a broker, I would have been in tower 2 when it collapsed. I worked at Oppenheimer. I’m happy I made the decision to go into adult [entertainment] because I would have been in the building. So I don’t look back with any regrets. I think it was a good decision to chase a dream.”