Racist tropes in porn are an industry-wide problem.

Welcome to Porn Week, Mashable’s annual close up on the business and pleasure of porn.


Porn performer and professional dom King Noire was cast as the first Black male performer at American porn studio Assylum. But when he realised the role would perpetuate a racist stereotype, he asked to be cast in a different role. His request was denied.

The American studio typically casts male performers as doctors or orderlies and female performers as patients at a mental health facility.

“When I get there and tell them I don’t want to be the janitor, I can be an orderly or a doctor like anybody else, they said ‘no it was written this way and we can’t pivot,'” King Noire tells Mashable. “It’s bullshit because it’s really not like they sat there and wrote The Godfather II or some epic film — they wrote three lines. They were just so locked in on their racism that they couldn’t even change it.”

Assylum is now one of the studios King Noire refuses to work with. Mashable reached out to Assylum for comment, but didn’t hear back. He went on to co-found adult production company Royal Fetish Films with partner Jet Setting Jasmine in a bid to instigate change in the industry.

Racist tropes in porn are an industry-wide problem that not only dehumanises the actors cast in those roles, but disseminates ideas and stereotypes rooted in slavery and colonialism. King Noire believes that the issue in the porn industry is a product of the society in which we live.

“I do think that the majority of the roles that are afforded to BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of colour] performers in the adult industry are rooted in racism and colonialism because we live in a racist and colonialist society,” he says.


“The majority of the roles that are afforded to BIPOC performers in the adult industry are rooted in racism and colonialism.”

“The owners of the [porn] companies, the producers, the writers, the directors and even the white performers have a particular perception of people of colour where they think we are either accessories to their lives or they fetishise us in ways that’s then put into the screen,” he adds. “Whether it’s the trope of the Black thug, the spicy Latina, or subservient Asian, these things just get recycled over and over again because none of these people have challenged these perceptions in their minds.”

These tropes are not unique to porn — they are present in mainstream movies and television shows and their existence in the entertainment we consume sustains historic harmful ideas about marginalised people, upholding stereotypes in wider society.

Some porn studios produce so-called “cop porn,” which typically casts women performers as police officers who beat up Black male performers. Performer Ana Foxxx told Cosmopolitan she was cast in a scene that was later titled “black booty points toward the Union” where she knelt on concrete and performed multiple blowjobs on white men wearing Confederate flags. When she later tweeted her support for Black Lives Matter, someone replied saying: “Aren’t you that girl who slept with those guys in racist shirts?” In some studios, Black performers are cast as slaves and white actors as their “masters.” One video titled “All Lives Matter” reportedly featured a white performer who “rehabilitates” a Black woman who he refers to as a “looter.” In the video he gags her and ejaculates on her face, per Cosmopolitan. On top of the racist tropes, videos are given titles featuring racist words and phrases like “ghetto,” “angry Black woman,” “ebony,” and the N-word.

In 2020, Black performers from the adult industry came together to call on porn sites to stop using racist terminology when labelling content, but the racist language used to describe videos continues to be a problem. Not only that, but the way in which many sites are designed means that porn featuring people of colour is resigned to a niche category — most frequently “ebony” or “interracial” or “Asian” — presenting whiteness as default when it comes to sexual desirability.

King Noire says race categories on porn sites is a double-edged sword because the current labels are actually a vast improvement on some of the racist labels that have been used in the past.

“At certain points they might just label us as ‘Black bitch’ or ‘big Black negro dick,’ or whatever the fuck, so things have been a constant fight, a constant struggle to at least be labelled in ways that the majority of our people are like, ‘OK I’m alright with that,'” he explains.

But he feels it’d be a big step in the right direction to label porn purely by the different fetishes or sex acts that people are engaging in and to show the full spectrum of human beings performing these acts.

“Right now, in order for BIPOC folk to get seen they have to be labelled in certain ways and that is unfortunate. We’ve been working on different ways to label our scenes to get them found for what they actually are, whether it be passion or fetish,” he says.

As it stands, King Noire says that even sex act categories like ‘blow job’ will push content featuring white performers to the top.

“‘Blowjob’ is gonna show you a thousand white blowjobs before it ever gets to anybody of colour,” he says.

Racist tropes have consequences

Porn is part of our sexual culture and the tropes that it disseminates do have consequences. Evie Muir, a domestic abuse specialist and racial justice activist, tells me that racist tropes in porn fuel and maintain the hypersexualisation of Black and brown people.

“When I was younger, and I’m talking still in primary school, not even a teenager, a friend of the same age asked me ‘is it true that Black people have bigger clits?'” she tells me. “I didn’t even know what a clit was, yet the hypersexualisation of Black and brown bodies was already reaching me.” Muir says she uses the word “bodies” here deliberately because “that is what hypersexualisation and fetishisation does, it reduces us to bodies, not people.” She adds: We’re simply bodies to be fucked, explored, conquered, experimented with, exploited.”

“I’ve had people tell me, after and sometimes during sex that they’ve always wanted to shag a Black girl, the expectation that I can twerk for them, the ‘I only fancy Black girls’ nonsense,” Muir adds. “Where do we think this comes from? It’s from the legacy of hypersexualisation of Black women in colonialism and slavery (look no further than Sarah Baartman) which is being regurgitated through the porn industry.” Sarah Baartman was a South African Khoikhoi woman who was brought to Europe in the 19th century by a British doctor and given the stage name “Hottentot Venus” and paraded at Victorian “freak shows” in London and Paris because of her steatopygia (a condition which causes large amounts of tissue on the buttocks and thighs).


“When was the last time you saw a ‘make love’ porn that featured Black people?”

Porn is designed to entertain and portray people’s wildest sexual fantasies. But when those fantasies feed into pejorative stereotypes that are rooted in people of colour’s historical oppression, the effect can be highly dehumanising.



“The racist tropes in porn portray Black women as easy, always game, more tolerant of pain, submissive, controllable,” says Muir. “They portray Black men as hypermasculine, brutes who are nothing more than fucking machines, who dominate, corrupt and steal the virtue of white women. We are exotic, animalistic, insatiable, forbidden fruit, a secret desire to be ashamed of, not worthy of respect and undeserving of tenderness.” Muir asks, “When was the last time you saw a ‘make love’ porn that featured Black people?”

These racist tropes in porn translate into the lived experiences of racialised people, she adds.

“Navigating our own sexualities amongst these tropes is painful exploration, which it’s impossible to not get hurt by.”

Muir agrees that race categories like “ebony” and “Asian” on porn sites contribute to the othering of people of colour, fueling the idea that whiteness is the pinnacle of desirability. Categories like BBC [“Big Black Cock”] perpetuate the historic hypersexualisation of Black men’s bodies. The “Black people have bigger dicks” is a prevalent trope that’s rooted in ideas that began to be spread during the Elizabethan period when white European colonisers voyaged to Africa and wrote accounts — often with a lot more fantasy than fact — of their travels. African men were “furnisht with such members as are after a sort burthensome unto them,” claimed one writer at the time.

How to shift power and make change

So, what needs to change? “Everything,” says King Noire. That starts with who owns the content.

“I think performers owning their own content and being able to push it out to the people in ways that they want to label themselves…and how they want their content to be represented and consumed is already one of the changes,” says King Noire. “You’re starting to see a lot of power shift away from some of these studios as performers get more of the power in their own hands.”

With his own production company, Royal Fetish Films, King Noire says he’s worked to get people behind the camera who’d typically be more marginalised by mainstream porn. “So making sure that there are women camerapeople, directors, writers, queer folk, BIPOC people across the board,” he says. “Most porn is from the white male gaze so you’re gonna see different things if you put that camera in the hands of different people. We’ve been working to try and make sure that people can see the visions of a lot of different people and desires played out on film instead of just the same old narrative.”


“It’s a lot to tell porn not to be racist, when the people who create porn in their everyday life are racist everywhere else.”

King Noire says that porn is a microcosm of larger society. “It’s a lot to tell porn not to be racist, when the people who create porn in their everyday life are racist everywhere else, they’re only gonna bring that shit to work, it’s the same as any other profession,” he says. “That’s why we’ve been working to decolonise sex among our own people because you can’t wait and rely on the person that hates you, the person that oppresses you to change anything in your favour. You have to take control of it.”

Muir echoes that racism in porn is a societal problem and therefore change needs to be enacted across every level of society. “An anti-racist ethos needs to be embedded in the porn industry, the criminal justice sector, the sexual and domestic violence sector, medical and sexual health care, trauma and mental health support, sex education and beyond,” she says. “All of these are interlinked, and a centering of whiteness in all of these sectors contribute to the harm which hypersexualisation and fetishisation causes, be it through action or inaction.”

Muir believes the only way to start undoing hypersexualisation and fetishisation is by listening to and platforming Black and brown sex workers, as well as sexual justice and sexual liberation activists.

“White people within the movement do not and can not have all the answers,” she says.

Should conversations around antiracism also discuss the role porn plays in perpetuating racism? Muir urges caution in placing the responsibility of change on the shoulders of racial justice activists.

“I think an expectation that we as racial justice activists should be able to cover all forms of racialised harm in our work is harmful. It’s also impractical,” she says “When we are expected to focus on all forms of racialised injustice we reach activist burn out.” She says that more powerful activism comes from a large movement with mobilisers who are dedicated, engaged, and passionate about specific areas. “It doesn’t mean that racial justice activists who focus on climate action can’t also care about sexual justice, it’s likely that we will, but we don’t want to see movements diluted by being the jack-of-all trades, the experts-in-all-forms, that outside eyes often expect us to be,” she says.

It’s not the antiracism movement that needs to change from within, she notes. White people wield the most power in the industry; allyship within the porn industry is necessary for any tangible change to occur.

“Is it not white people who are the main owners and benefactors of the porn industry? White porn stars who get paid more? White sex workers who dominate discussions on sex worker rights and liberation? It needs to be these communities, both allies and perpetrators of this very specific type of racialised, sexualised harm that are stopping, listening, platforming, advocating, and ultimately changing the sector with the power and racialised privileges they possess,” she says.

People of colour have been trying to change the industry from within, from campaigning to change the language that’s used to describe films they’re in to setting up their own studios to produce porn that spotlights new perspectives.

But they can’t bring about change on their own.

As consumers of porn, it’s important to recognise that racist porn is supplied when there is a demand for it. White consumers also play a role in looking inward and making sure they are conscious of what porn they support and avoid hypersexualising the people they have sex with.

As long as people are consuming porn with racist tropes, the supply will continue. And let’s not forget, supply influences demand, too.

“Things have to be combatted and changed on every level,” says King Noire.

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