Porn Industry Reflects Fetishization of Black and Brown Bodies

Maggie Mae Lemaris

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The pornography industry is a topic I rarely hear discussed, despite the fact that most individuals in America partake in the multi-billion-dollar industry, specifically as customers or at the very least consumers. America’s porn industry brings in over $13 billion a year.

Whether or not you watch or pay attention to pornography, you can’t deny it is important, employing many thousands of individuals worldwide. But the nature of pornography itself prevents it from being openly discussed as the booming industry that it has become with the rise of the Internet. It’s the major global industry that people are okay with forgetting about when talk at the family dinner on Sunday turns to the global economy.

Recently, a website called “PornMD” listed the top 10 porn searches of countries around the world. On a global scale, the website offers insight into the Internet’s most intimate searches. In the United States the top searches of pornography strikingly point out an innate fetishization of race, one that will likely linger, if not increase, in the future.

When you look at porn, what do you search for? Pornography removes the inhibition against sexual censorship by making it a private choice of what image will arouse you. Porn habits mirror the images of race we desire. According to this infographic, “Ebony” is the top pornography search in North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas––essentially the entire South––making it the most popular search in America. “Asian” is also one of the most popular searches in California and Washington, with several other surrounding states having “Asian” ranked highly. The top way we organize our desire is apparently racial, that of a skin tone or ethnic identity, indicating a significant overlap between sexuality and race in this country.

In the meantime, a black female porn actress averages three-fourths of the salary of a white pornography actress. This mirrors the pay discrepancy in the larger work force, and it adds a disturbing wrinkle to what individual consumers are seeking in porn: There is an exploitative relationship here, and it recalls the long history of race and pornography in America.

When considering this racial fetishization in tandem with the pay discrepancy, it is difficult to not see this exploitation as similar to that of the Hottentot Venus, as orientalism or the gawking at various World’s Fair expositions. Maybe it won’t disturb you, but it disturbs me that people are searching up their porn by skin color rather than by a sexual act, or by some sort of sexual topic at least.

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Pornography seems to mirror and continue a horrible cycle of history, one that individuals privately enjoy and perpetuate behind closed doors. A change in this cycle is unlikely. Pornography is such a unique outlet with so few consequences because of its private nature. By staying taboo, however, it lets us see that other huge American taboo: race. Consider this next time you are thinking about getting yourself off.

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