This is a response to Justin Long’s Op-Ed on Luke is Back.
Justin Long Takes a Stand
After reading Justin Long’s frank and open op-ed, I had many questions -Why didn’t this happen already? Will others follow? Will there be a backlash? One thing I never questioned was the frustration and anger behind his choice or my support of it.
The designation of substandard “otherness” has always been imposed on black bodies; the same script has titillated the American public since Birth of a Nation. Even as more racial and ethnic groups enter the gamut they are still weighed on the white vs. black scale. You see it everywhere, politics, entertainment and most openly the sex industry.
I would like to say that I’m 100% for everyone getting the opportunity to be depicted as sensual and whole beings. I support everyone fucking. Most of the erotica I write is categorized as interracial. My support of Justin Long’s choice is not about my own issues with race mixing. I will admit that I am not a porn actress; and actually don’t consume a great deal of heterosexual porn. I am, however, an exotic dancer as well as a journalist who writes and reads a great deal about sex, gender and media. I’m also a mixed race Black woman.
My first exposure to racism had its roots growing up in a suburban town where I wasn’t invited to birthday parties of my white and Jewish friends for fear the little n*gg*r wouldn’t be well behaved. Black American friends had a distain for my mother Caribbean heritage, often mistaken for African. Race was an isolating element. It made the world into a very confusing game of them and us. I couldn’t really be on any team.
My first exposure to racism in pornography came when I was a freshman in college. My first interview as a journalism student was a South American born Asian man that produced and stared in gonzo movies for his own site. My story was about the representation of “model minorities” in pornography. He explained to me that he did not make interracial porn.
My mind was blown, he was an Asian man having sex with White women, how was it not? He justified his statement by saying, “a movie is only interracial if the man is Black”. I wrote him off as being in denial then, but as I talked to more Asians and Indians that performed in American porn almost all of them repeated what he said. They performed almost exclusively with White performers because they were considered White.
When I asked him why the vast majority of women on his site were White, he told me there weren’t enough Asian, Black and Hispanic women in porn to shoot with them. Of course many of the women on his site claimed to not be professionals.
It doesn’t take an ivy leaguer to smell bullshit when it’s hurled in their face. If this man actually believed this or not I never questioned but porn releases and sales don’t lie. There are plenty of women of color working in the adult industry.
My sophomore year was the nadir of my college career. I failed a required math class to remain in my school’s honor college losing a sizable scholarship. Rather than admit to my parents I chose to become a dancer. This was also the year I took basic reporting.
On the suggestion of my co-workers I started to research and learn about prostitution on the Internet. This opened my eyes to just how backwards the adult and sex industries in this country are.
As part of my final Basic Reporting project I posed as an escort. To be believable I mimicked an escort ad to get people to call my phone where I could then interview them about their experiences. I arbitrarily copied an ad in this case a Blonde “milf”. I changed enough for it to be plausible ad for myself. This particular ad had on the bottom:
“ I am not a racist, but I only service Caucasian gentlemen”
I changed my ad to say I was exclusive to Asian men, I received some calls, mostly from White men and interviewed them and almost all of them said my ad caught their eye because “here was this black girl with the audacity to exclude customers”. Many easily spotted it as a fake simply because of that.
After all Black or “Ebony” providers don’t exclude Whites. I was also told that my price was too high, they wouldn’t pay that much unless I was a porn star. The ad only had me valued at $600.
It was one of the most baffling showing of White Privilege I’ve ever seen. Why would a provider’s race mean she didn’t have the power to be as selective with her johns as the next woman? Why was a white woman automatically more valuable?
Fortunately my teacher put a stop to my story fearing I was putting my life in danger, not to mention the unethical method of gathering information. I never got to dive deeper, speak to agencies that asked for “classy” women , but really wanted White and light skinned Latinas.
I did however learn a thing or to about sex and race first hand when I began dancing at underground parties, bachelor parties and special events at strip clubs. Each promoter had his or her own idea of how to “market” me. When they asked my race I would say “ I’m black and Asian”. They would frown and explain that I wasn’t “Asian” enough to be billed as Asian.
When I got to events there was my name and underneath it “Latina”, “Persian”, “Redbone” and if I was lucky “Ebony”. It was as if the word BLACK was taboo, like it would some how bring down my value.
The only times I would be billed as Asian was when I wore my hair straight, or wore a long straight black weave. I was even asked to speak as much Korean as possible. Which is ignorant on a great many levels. One night I was asked not to speak at all.
Promoters often asked me to escort when I explicitly said I would not. They would say things like “This White man will pay a lot of money for you,” As if it was shocking that I had the audacity to refuse a White man’s dollar.
I wonder how many times the White dancers were begged to see men of color, were they also called stuck up, or uppity for refusing to go out of their boundaries. Did they get booked as Black, Asian or Latina when they were not?
My “haughtiness” cost me a lot of future jobs I suppose, but I didn’t feel that anyone had the right to pressure me to do things based on my race, size or gender. Sadly many did not think I had that privilege.
Privilege is the very basis of the racial hierarchy in America shown most unapologetically in pornography. Imagine a major Hollywood studio making a film that depicted people of color in the way most porn does. Hell would break loose, books would be written and Oprah would cry solemnly into a camera.
None of that happens with porn because too many people think, its just porn. That mentality not only dehumanized every performer and participant in the industry but propagates the mindset that it’s not worth reform.
Many will cry “This is America I have a right to free speech,” of course you do but if there is never a voice of opposition or another view point then all that’s created is a cesspool. That’s what American porn for the most part has become.
The industry faces staggering downsizing and is failing to see opportunity to grow. The argument is that White males buy most of the movies. Are all White males really that racist? I would like to hope not. I’ve spoken to a number of white men that find the racist undertones in pornography off putting and make them reluctant to purchase it.
Using this excuse it a self-fulfilling prophesy. If the movies made lack diversity, and don’t appeal to women and people of color why should we buy them? This is a lesson many entertainment industries are learning, publishing companies are acknowledging how they shot themselves in the foot by excluding women, and people of color on the covers of books as well as in their pages. The adult industry is choking itself with an outdated attitude and business model.
What Justin Long is doing is spiting in the face of the archaic notion that people of color are not initialed to the same privileges and value as their White counterparts.
If you honestly don’t think this isn’t about privilege consider this, if an Asian woman said that she only wanted to perform with Asian men- would she be able to support herself in America being a porn actress? Why is there such a divide between the respects that a Black female actress and White one receive? Why are performers stripped of racial and ethnic identity at the will of producers and managers and how often does this happen to their White counterparts?
I know I could never be a “Ebony” adult actress and perform exclusively with the type of men I usually date and expect a long mainstream career. Even if I had my own site, would the talent even want to work with me a Black BBW and make themselves part of the “fetish” or “niche” market of performers?
Now ask … would my White counter part be able so say, “I want to work exclusively with White performers”, and the more accurate “ I want to work with anyone but Black talent,”? Would studios, management, and industry back her?
Justin Long is rebelling against a hierarchy that never served a purpose other than to dehumanize, segregate and propagate hateful attitudes. So I stand behind this man who is sacrificing his way of life to make a statement that it has to stop. I implore you to do the same.