Racial Fetishization, Discrimination, and Lack of Representation exist in the Adult Industry
It is a very unfortunate fact that racism exists in many parts of life, and it is not limited to the offline world. The indie porn community often fetishizes performers by race, whether intentional or not, going so far as to create tags and categories which specifically emphasize the race of performers. The Webcam Startup team has gathered 3 individuals with varied experience in the industry to speak on their experience as a performer dealing with racism and racially charged experiences in the independent side of the adult industry.
Get to know our Guests:
Leira: My Twitter is @1099muse and my performer name is Leira. I’ve been camming on Chaturbate since February of 2015. I started camming alongside small acting gigs and nude modeling until I decided to work for myself as a purely adult content creator. I make content for OnlyFans and ManyVids, but I enjoy live streaming the most.
Daizy: My name is Daizy Blaze and I’m 24 years old. I’ve been in the industry for about 3+ years. I started with one of the big main stream companies that cater to those who enjoy watching transgender or gender nonconforming folks. Soon after my first shoot I started camming which led to me building a following. At that point it just made sense to start making clips for residual income when I wasn’t streaming. During my time in porn I’ve also been pursuing higher education to provide agency that will allow me to move in and out of the industry as I choose. I love porn but the reality is that it might not be for me forever. Being a sex worker is almost an assumed identity when coupled with being a trans woman of color. I’m not furthering my education to subscribe to respectability politics. I’m doing it because I want as much experience as possible as well as the ability to apply my transferable skills across my work. You can find me on Twitter @daizyblazeXXX!
Krystal: I am Krystal Gem, a magickal, nonbinary adult entertainer who spreads a message of #SelfCare everywhere I go! I’ve been in the industry since July 2015. I started with camming, then clip making, and now… I’m some kind of adult content creator (mainly on Onlyfans currently) and self love preaching, life coach hybrid! I’ve decided around a year or more ago to fully dedicate myself to creating porn that fosters a sense of deep soul healing and I plan to branch out into sexual education and healing for all adults and many more ideas to come! I am quite literally set on healing the world in a most unorthodox way – through my butthole and other NSFW body locations lol. You can read information about me and find all links to my content at krystal-gem.com and I plan on creating even more websites with free healing resources for marginalized people soon! Twitter: @krystalgempromo
Do you personally believe that racism exists in the adult industry?
Leira: Yes. See photo above.
Daizy: I do believe there is racism within the industry. Much like in the ‘real world’ it comes in array of shades. The racism for me isn’t as blatant because I am light skinned. I wouldn’t want to speak for anyone else’s experience but I do notice that my tone is often policed.
Krystal: I absolutely believe that racism exists and is rampant in the adult industry. No matter who you are, professional, amateur, anything – if you’re a performer of color, you’ve experienced some kind of racism. From fetishizing our race to our skin color, it’s all there. And black adult entertainers are likely the most HIGHLY fetishized.
Do you believe that as a performer, you have ever experienced fetishization by customers or by other models because of your race? Would you mind telling us about that experience?
Leira: I have a petite frame so I attract viewers that want to see a younger Black submissive performer. I don’t fit the stereotype of a curvy full bodied Black woman, but my skin is dark enough to write off my lack of “ass” to bad genetics or not eating enough. I don’t tolerate viewers that attempt to flatter me, by putting down other women. My father is Black and my mother is Filipino and I’m transparent about that to not position myself as the end all be all of the category. This can make viewers project an “exotic” idealized version of me that is expected to be both demure and hyper-sexual.
Daizy: Going back to the whole racism in different shades, as a black trans sex worker most guys expect me to have a huge penis: this in not the case. I would be disingenuous to say it doesn’t hurt my ego but also, I have to remind myself that this image that this person has created in their head is a caricature. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a size queen (I am one sometimes) but to be reduced to your genitalia isn’t just racist asf, it also creates a sense of dysphoria. Some trans women (even sex workers) get dysphoric over our bodies. I mean that’s literally what being trans is… Luckily I’ve never had a time where a model ever “scouted” me for content trade BECAUSE of my race.
Krystal: I get fetishized every day online because I am black. There isn’t a day that goes by where a user or customer online isn’t talking about or commenting on how much they love my “black ass”, how much they “prefer” black women (or femmes / feminine presenting people) based on hottentot stereotypes, and so much more. I’m still on the fence about even referring to myself as “ebony”, because on one hand it places me in a monolithic box, but on the other I do like reclaiming the word for myself.
There is a lot of controversy in the adult industry about appropriate categories and terms to use in regards to POC performers or using props and toys that would indicate the toy was acting as a POC… how do you feel about the terms interracial, BBC, PAWG, and any other terms you can think of that fixate on race? Should they be used in the industry?
Leira: Race-play is one of my hard nos. I won’t accept a private session if the viewer tells me they want worship to their specifically *insert race here* cock. I’ve had viewers try and reason away this hard boundary, but it’s not something that turns me on or something I’d be willing to take advantage of for my own personal gain. I won’t market myself based on a skin color I have no control over. However, every porn site is set up to force every performer into a category to be seen, so with skin color being a convenient identifier I don’t know how that could be changed.
Daizy: I personally do use interracial in all of my clips because I’m black and white so idk if that applies but I do it for exposure. I think as long as it’s language created by us then there should be no issue with it. Now if a white person is using a jet black dildo calling it a BBC I’d be confused because I’ve never seen a dick that shade.. Most times the content is marketed to cucks who are usually white. So it’s a weird occurrence that they’re profiting off black culture, marketing to white consumers yet no black people involved; that’s concerning.
Krystal: The terms “interracial”, “BBC”, “PAWG”, and so many others have huge racist connotations and should be either abolished or completely replaced with new terms. As a black model, I’ve believed this to be impossible… but with everyone finally listening to black people in 2020, I have hope again. I’ve used the terms “interracial”, “BBC”, “ebony”, etc. so much in my work solely because I felt like I had no choice (which I would like to talk about for a second – this mindset is NOT true and EVERYONE has a choice to try and make a positive change in this world. This new mindset is what I’ll be preaching to every single marginalized and non-marginalized sex worker for the rest of my life!). These are terms I used so that potential fans could find interest in me. I would adore it if a huge adult online platform (ahem, literally ALL tube sites perhaps) changed or at least started to use brand new terms instead of all the ones with racist connotations. I know that “Melanin Representation Cock” doesn’t roll off the tongue as much as “Big Black Cock”, but it’s worth a try. We’ve gotta listen to black entertainers who understand we need change and get feedback so that we can do this. We’ve gotta listen to all marginalized entertainers the exact same way.
Is there an appropriate way for performers to advertise content to POC customers that would not fetishize race?
Leira: We all have to focus on creating our personas around the sexy parts of ourselves that we feel comfortable sharing with the world. There are props, scripts, and themes that provoke full fledged fantasy. Descriptive language is a powerful way to inspire imagination and allow creativity to flourish. Performers can focus on invoking the senses into their content and creating passion that attracts viewers to them and not their race.
Daizy: I don’t know how to answer this because I’ve never marketed TO a race. I think that’s a little sus.
Krystal: There is absolutely PLENTY of creative ways to advertise content to POC customers that doesn’t fetishize race! Even using less words and more images works. For example, if a non-black entertainer would like to advertise that they have a video for sale using a dildo that was formerly nicknamed “BBC”, they could omit the word entirely, they could show a simple photo of the dildo used, create a palette-like graphic of different skin tones ranging from pale to deep brown and mark which skin color dildo they’re using with some kind of emoji or star, they could say something like, “it’s time to celebrate brown / black skin!” or just anything that positively showcases darker skin as a form of representation, NOT fetishization. You just have to be creative with your words and ideas. Also, models can ask other POC models for their feedback on how to word or advertise their content in a way that shows representation.
What is your opinion on “race play” and when you see the term, what does it mean to you?
Leira: In my experience as the woman in the dynamic, race play almost never puts me in the dominant role. For an example, I was once asked to do a complete slave owner/slave scenario. I lean dominant so the last thing I see myself doing is subjecting myself to subservience to the point of humiliation that mimics the societal precedent of slavery. On the other-side, I do see non-black performers benefitting from specifically wanting BBC (Big Black Cock) and branding themselves around that. I’m constantly asked “Do you like men that aren’t black?” And to me it always reads like those viewers inherently believe that Black men have mastery sexual abilities and that any woman would want a BBC. I can only speculate that it’s morphed into a positive stereotype that still disadvantages Black men that want to be seen for more than an appendage prop.
Daizy: Reparations. These is the whole equality vs equity argument and I think it applies here. For a white person to engage in slave master dynamics which a black or any other POC has poses the risk for great harm! But it can also be somatically therapeutic if done correctly. As much as black and brown people are weighted down by generational trauma, white people carry around their white guilt. Both can be poisonous if not addressed. Now I’m not psychologist, but I do feel that in controlled environments, exposure therapy may benefit both parties. I DO NOT advocate for black people or any other marginalized group be the slave in this dynamic.
Krystal: I have a very… unique mindset when it comes to race play, I believe. When it boils down to it, I am a healer, through and through. I know that when POC customers want to see race play content, it comes from a place where they want to heal from racist trauma. Sometimes, they don’t want to heal and they want to fetishize their own pain as a way to try and diminish it without actually healing from it. I absolutely want people to heal and I fully accept that some POC customers will still try and heal and/or put a band-aid on their racist trauma through race play. Although tons of websites online have banned it, someone somewhere will provide it. We cannot FULLY control other’s free will and that is okay. But what we can do is keep speaking out about how this type of “kink” is extremely damaging the vast majority of the time. There are very few customers that are both engaging in “race play” sessions AND going to professional therapy, shadow working, spiritually healing, etc. when it comes to their race related trauma. That truly is the absolute safest way to engage in this, but I can assure you it’s not common and near impossible to market without full on trigger warning content filters on every single piece of media being enforced worldwide. If there were a way to confirm that the POC customer is indeed taking extra steps to work through race related trauma before engaging in race play as a form of healing, that should be enforced as well. (Not to go off onto a tangent, but I believe this idea can carry over into many other “BDSM” categories – in general many people are NOT practicing “BDSM” with great care and caution.)
Once upon a time, I thought to myself, “…well what about ‘reverse’ race play?” This was at a time in my life where my mind wanted to “get back” at the oppressor, and where I wanted to become a black domme who taught my white and/or non-black subs about racism and how they could serve me by completing essays about racism and showing me evidence of what they’re actively doing to change it. I wanted to create a twist to the seemingly empowering ‘black supremacy domme’ content that I would often come across, but without the supremacy part removed because I knew that just didn’t align with my spirit or the future of this earth. Not to shame Erik Killmonger in the movie “Black Panther” at all, but I will use him as an example. I would say just about every black person goes through a “Killmonger” phase. Again, this is NOT shaming him, because he was such an IMPORTANT character and perfect example of black pain and trauma, and how we as a society need to address it before the “child not embraced by the village (in this case both his African tribe AND racism from all kinds of non-black people) will burn it to the ground,” energy manifests itself in said black person. Black supremacy is not the solution, and I healed enough to learn that. Many black people are still in this “Killmonger” phase or exhibiting some behavior like it and it’s my absolute goal in life to help everyone who chooses to heal from it. So I threw my, “reverse race play,” idea out the door. However, I still believe I can pull ideas from it in a more gentle way and one that doesn’t brand it as “race play” at all. Hmm, “Race Healing Gentle Domme” perhaps? No matter what I choose, I know that I can help heal!
Do you believe that sites within the adult industry have a duty to protect POC performers and become involved in important movements like BLM because they profit from POC performers? Can you name some sites you think make good efforts to protect and promote POC performers? Can you name some that don’t?
Leira: The block and report functions need to transcend the amount of currency the viewer as spent if they’re trying to push clear boundaries or have an offensive name. See above photo attached. Every site should do more to monitor the pages to ensure that aggressive and flagrant displays of borderline racist “play” are taken down. Clip sites are better at giving POC a platform to promote their content outside of their skin color. I hope that the current conversation enables each site to prioritize Black performers of every kink into affiliate action.
Daizy: No they do not. I’ve yet to see a site now or ever stand in solidarity with black or POC performers that wasn’t a performance.
Krystal: Every single site within the adult industry absolutely has a duty to protect POC performers. Every single one should not only actively participate in BLM movements, but also CONSISTENTLY reach out to POC and black performers through showcasing them on their websites regularly, providing information about how to dismantle white supremacy in the industry, celebrating POC and black cultural holidays alongside mainstream ones like Christmas, Memorial days, etc., holding regular ‘town hall’ type virtual meetings with POC and black performers, and so much more. Again, this idea carries over to all other marginalized online adult stars.
It’s been very hard to accurately see which sites are just doing performative activism (only speaking out about racism and other human rights issues when it could hurt their brand if they don’t say anything) and which ones have been on some consistent “Ben & Jerry’s” type of thing where that specific company has been speaking out regularly against white supremacy and human rights for a long time. So far, I’ve only PERSONALLY noticed sites like AP Clips and JustForFans being inclusive and speaking out. That’s truly it, and it’s pathetic that I can only name those two (and that’s just my personal experience).
ManyVids is hands down one of the most performative sites. I was asked to be included in their video for 2019 during Black History Month, and at the time I was BEYOND excited. I was overjoyed that an adult company actually wanted to listen and learn from MY voice. On top of that, it was at a time where I was dealing with a breakup from a white ex-girlfriend who consistently gaslit me and tried to silence me when I spoke out openly about racism because she prioritized her comfort over dismantling white supremacy. The breakup sent me into a suicidal ideation depression, so this video that I got to be included on was one that felt like it was saving my life (I know now that I get all the credit for saving my OWN life through my own choice to heal and doing all the hard work that comes with it). Fast forward to 2020, ManyVids did another piece for BHM, but it seemed very half baked and used it to promote their MV Magazine. They also only used very established models this time and not amateurs (the professional black voices absolutely matter too! But it doesn’t make sense why they’d switch it up instead of helping lower ranking amateur models be seen who need the help more). I don’t even know if there was a video. I just remember seeing a glimpse of it all and going numb because it felt really awful. In May 2020 when BLM protests broke out worldwide in response to George Floyd being murdered by police, ManyVids was silent. Crickets for days. As models of all types reached out to them, flooded the most recent contest with BLM posts calling the contest a disgrace for overshadowing BLM, tweeted them, they stayed silent. I’ll get into PornHub next in terms of performative activism, but even PORNHUB – a mega site with a terrible track record, spoke out on BLM before ManyVids. That still hits me in my chest to this day. To realize my words (which I was not paid for at ALL, there was no offer to pay me and I was too used to not getting paid to realize that this could indeed be exploitation, a mistake I will NEVER make again) were only used as a “one time” marketing scheme to make their brand look inclusive. They’ve done the same thing with the LGBT community by creating tons of rainbow merch instead of actively supporting queer models. It was a painful experience, and soon I’ll be holding my own protest on my own ManyVids profile where I’ll be solely uploading videos that redirect users to other platforms I use and explaining how I was exploited by MV.
Pornhub… sigh. We all know about how performative they have been in the past. Although they actually take MUCH more action and put more money where their mouth is in terms of activism compared to MV, they have tons upon tons of things to be held accountable for. I can’t even really get into them because they’re all way too triggering. But, PornHub was also a website that reached out to me personally during this most recent BLM movement of May 2020. I will never forget that and I am so extremely grateful. However, I won’t be naive and I will not make the same mistakes. I’ll still be keeping a close eye on them to actually make huge changes on their website, from racism to all the other god awful situations going on their site. There’s literally a white top model on their website who has profited off of “MAGA” photosets which I still believe she sells to this day, a Nazi uniform cosplay, and many other bigoted things under the guise that she’s just ‘trolling’. She was even kicked off of ManyVids for using the words “n*gger” and “f*ggot” jokingly with her fans online. I understand her game entirely – take no sides but also cater to white supremacists through ‘jokes’. Similar to countless adult sites, she’s built her stability largely on faulty foundations that perpetuate bigoted mindsets.
I would like to call to action all sites and models to finally take full accountability for their roles in upholding bigotry and white supremacy. Fair warning – your ideas and lifestyles are NOT sustainable for yourselves, your customers, and this whole world. Be brave enough to make a full stop and take accountability for your actions. Your only other choice is to continue to let fear rule you and lead a life that feels empty. It’s time for us all to heal and you have the choice to join in.
Some performers believe that since race play is being generally removed from many platforms that POC performers should not be allowed to offer humiliation clips that focus on humiliating white people attributing it to “reverse racism,” do you agree or disagree with this?
Leira: I agree. Reverse racism doesn’t exist, but I can understand why it’s a fantasy. I still don’t get my thrills from pointing it out in a scene. I peg men and participate in other femdom, but there is no racial humiliation for my subscribers. It is consent. My issue comes to the surface when someone comes to me with a script with a plot taken from the pages of history. White guilt shouldn’t be a taboo because it feeds the idea that Black people can have a little domination as a treat. My work doesn’t depend on creating a reversal of the race dynamics I live with every day. Joining the sex industry for me was about creating a space to be the sexually confident person I didn’t have the opportunity to be in my daily life.
Daizy: Again, reparations.
Krystal: (has chosen to not respond to this question due to the specifics they covered in the last response)
Do you have any suggestions for industry brands and businesses to improve their representation for POC performers?
Leira: I expect brands and businesses moving forward to take a moment to forget about numbers and take the time to listen. I say numbers because the community doesn’t want to see tokens. The sites need to highlight POC performers within all the kink categories to avoid harmful stereotyping. The leaders of these websites must do the work and find unique and primarily Black voices to uplift in their marketing. They can control what the audience sees, how, where the affiliate banners pop up. They must be transparently anti-racism when it comes vetting the other performers that they choose to feature or work alongside Black talent. I don’t see a predominantly white executive team making strides into the sunset of inclusive diversity, but talents with the lived experience to positions of influence would go a long way to bolster long term change.
Daizy: Listen to us.
Krystal: (has chosen not to respond due to overlap with a previous response)
Have you ever felt that you lacked representation in the adult industry due to your race? Was there a specific moment when you realized this?
Leira: The biggest thing that’s motivated me throughout my time in this industry is seeing women like me create independent communities around their brand. We’ve always turned inward and built ourselves around our support systems. I quickly saw how much I would need to transform to fit into the few opportunities that were available. I’ve been told that I might get hired if I straightened my hair or wore a wig. I’ve felt the sting of reading a model call and seeing the “no black girls” clause. The relationship between studios, sites, and Black women is strained from my point of view because they profit from the audience believing that we are tripping over ourselves to make it into the “black girl quota.” It puts us against each other as well as set unrealistic standards for all the unique and wonderful ways Black women create. I do know where to find the group of women like me who work hard to create spaces for ourselves. Representation has always lacked, but we have always been the best advocates for ourselves.
Daizy: Because I’m a light skinned black girl I feel like there is almost an over saturation of girls who look like me. I’ve seen very few, if any at all, contextualize our experiences.
Krystal: (has chosen not to respond)
It is time to stand with and listen to our fellow performers
Based on the above responses, you can see that racism exists within the adult community. It is the responsibility of all performers to speak up to the sites within our community and encourage them to promote their POC performers, to stand by their POC performers when they are treated unfairly, and to lend your ear to a POC performer and listen to what they say. While it is not the job of POC to educate you on the struggles they face in our industry, those that are open to sharing should be heard and change should be made if necessary. As independent workers / performers, the websites we chose to affiliate with should be working for the performers, and this includes fulfilling the needs of POC performers and not treating them as promotional opportunities. It is your right as performer to question the sites that you utilize as to why they lack exposure for POC performers, to ask why they use fetishization as a profit tactic, and what they plan to do to become more inclusive and representative for POC performers. We hope you found these interview responses to be educational about some of the more controversial race related topics that are currently being discussed in the industry and that you can utilize these different perspectives to advocate for change with the adult industry.
A special thank you to our guests: Leira, Daizy, and Krystal
Sharing opinions, experiences, and knowledge about such a deep subject can cause many emotions and Webcam Startup is grateful for the opportunity to hear and share the experiences of performers in our community. Thank you Leira, Daizy, and Krystal.