Porn Exploiting Women of Color Arouses Racists

Porn Exploiting Women of Color Arouses Racists

The correlation between pornography and violence against women is already one that has been extensively examined, but while the question of whether pornography “causes” hatred against women is decried as a deceitful one, the manifestation of racist misogyny in pornography is evident. Three simple Google searches for women color followed by the word “abuse” renders an abhorrent list of pornography site results, while a search for white women followed by the word “abuse” renders news stories with racially sensationalized headlines depicting white women as victims of men of color. This is an interesting phenomenon, to say the least, as one can decipher from the results for Latina, Black, and Asian women that White men are more likely to fantasize about abusing non-White women than men of color are of abusing White women.

So while men (and women) who are defenders of pornography can purport that claiming pornography causes harm to women “unfairly” demonizes consumers of pornography, it is unquestionable that pornography is political, and that its depictions rely on manipulating its viewers’ power fantasies through societal power dynamics. In an article on Alternet, Alisa Valdes notes that as immigration becomes a topic of political tension, and as hatred toward Latinx immigrants rises, videos depicting the rape of Latina women seeking green cards and citizenship rise to the top of popular pornography sites. She remarks,

“Often, these videos depict women crying, begging for mercy and enduring unwanted anal sex. (The popularity of Latinas in these videos is all the more alarming when one considers that Latina actresses comprise less than half of 1 percent of all TV and movie roles in the United States.) tweet tweet

It is no coincidence that as hate toward Latinos and immigrants rises, Hispanic women are being presented in a very popular, profitable (and, we pretend, invisible) media outlet as the ideal rape victims. tweet tweet

The Redtube videos routinely show Hispanic women begging for money, for citizenship, trying to simply do their jobs of, say, cleaning toilets, but often ‘getting what’s coming to them’ instead. The punishing ‘what’s coming to them’ theme is rampant and popular. Someone, somewhere, is getting off on this. Lots of someones.” tweet tweet

“Getting what’s coming to them” seems to be a common theme in pornography, and, in cases like these, relate directly to both the conqueror and savior complex of white men toward the women they’ve abused and colonized. It places the paranoia of white men who fear an influx of immigrants “contaminating” white culture at the center and allows white men see these women “getting what’s coming to them” for daring to transgress past colonialist boundaries. These depictions don’t only exist in the racist imaginations of white male viewers surfing pornography sites. A research study states that, “Every day, thousands of male tourists enter Mexico from the United States to purchase women and girls for prostitution,” and that traffickers “transport victims from Mexico to the United States for a reduced fee, sexually assaulting and prostituting the women as payment for passage.” Children, the study continues to explain, are sold to gangs and prostituted while their families are told that they did not survive the passage. The demoralizing depictions of rape and abuse of women of color are based on a stark, horrifying reality.

While there’s a lot of focus on the male gaze in pornography, and where there is only a male gaze, it becomes more difficult to argue that pornography is not harmful to women when confronted with the discrepancy in the depiction of women of color versus white women in pornography. There is another factor at play here, and that is explicitly the gaze of the whitemale. Notice that among the headlines in the search results for “white girl abuse” is the result “Korean woman abused by white guys in shocking video”—but, not to be mistaken as conveying a tone of horror at the event, the description reads “Western men abusing hot Korean girl”; this too, is a pornographic result rather than a news story. This is, of course, before the racist non-pornographic result “White Girl Turned into Kebabs.” A white woman abused isn’t sexy—it’s real violence.

Nor should it be sexy. Since “white women” are viewed as just “normal women” or “women” they appear in results as the default and don’t have a racial description pornographic categorizations, but that only explains why the results for white women aren’t related to pornography, not why the results for women of color are. When simply “girl abuse” is searched, the results are about shelters. And without any indication of race, the description is alwaysdemonstrably taken to refer to white women, the epitome of feminine innocence.

Entire documentaries are dedicated to following white men to Asian countries where sex workers offer services, and the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, and Haiti are popular destinations for sex tourism, so the search results are appalling and unsurprising. The exploitation of black women, especially, has horrifying historical roots. Enslaved black women in the US were forced—raped—by their white owners, who considered it a favor to black women to rape them, because these white men were then supposedly “saving” the black women from having sex with black men. (Yes, think about that for a minute.) Of course, enslaved black women were often paired with enslaved black men anyway in order to produce workers for the field. Black women were raped often, and punished by plantations wives for having been raped, while white male rapists were, of course, not held accountable. And, if you think plantation rape as a genre of pornography applies only to catering to the fantasies of racist white men—don’t forget about plantation weddings.

That’s not the only place historic exploitation of women are manifest in present-day sexual abuse in the good ol’ US of A. Native American women (whose results are not pictured here) are the number one demographic most likely to be victims of sexual assault by men outside of their own race.

Depictions of abuse and violence against women of color as “sexy” are as old as colonialism, and a tool of it. When we study women of color rather than white women as a means to measure how pornography perpetuates harmful and misogynistic images that in turn seep into society, or vice versa, the evidence is much clearer and undeniable. Here, at the intersections, the discrepancy in the depiction between white women and women of color in itself demonstrates the harm, by providing an additional variable through which racist and misogynist narratives can be traced. As though any more proof were needed, this proves, once again, the existence of racism. A common defense is that a purpose of fantasy is to experience what you would not, or could not, carry out in reality. This is, however, incredibly presumptuous and self-indulgent: why should our fantasizes have a free pass from critique? And considering the correlation between immigration tension and depictions of rape of Latina women, it isn’t safe to say that racist fetishes don’t seep out to infect society or encourage violent behavior. This is all, after, systematic, and that’s not even considering the sexual abuse to prison pipeline.

As it’s already been observed about Mia Khalifa, who’s depicted as a hijab-donning Muslim woman pleasuring white men in film, pornography plotlines structured on unspoken narratives are in fact reliant on racist, Orientalist stereotypes of eroticized women ravished, and ravaged, by white men who, in their own violent fantasies, somehow manage to play both the conquerors and saviors. And these men “save” the women they rape not from themselves, of course, thecolonizing rapists, but from the supposedly violent, animalistic men of color with whom these women would otherwise engage.

Written by Nahida

 Image by Faith Goble

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