By definition, interracial sex constitutes sexual intercourse between people from different ethnic backgrounds. The porn industry’s definition is different. In adult film, the word represents a category exclusive to intercourse between black men and white women. That means, in order to be validated as an actor of color in adult film, you must perform with a white actress.
“You should be happy [with] the rate you’re getting paid as a black woman,” Nyomi Banxxx’s agent remarked early in her porn career. During a panel at the AVN Awards(the “Oscars of porn”) last January, featuring high-profile ethnic talent like Lexington Steele, Sean Michaels, Cindy Starfall and others, Banxxx explained how white newcomers “almost always” out-earn black veterans and will have more opportunity in the field due to inherent racial bias. The panel agreed that aside from interracial film, actors of color are often hired when there is not enough budget to employ more white actors. In most cases, ethnic actors are plan B.
“Black women are paid less by some companies in adult entertainment because they believe that black women–or black-on-black scenes in general–don’t sell, which is a blatant lie,” veteran adult actor Sean Michaels (NSFW) tells Playboy. “Most agencies tell clients to avoid working with black actors as it will hurt their careers and companies will not hire them, which is another unfounded lie.”
Last year, talent agency Exposed Models L.A. sent a mass email reminding recipients that February was Black History Month. To celebrate, the agency offered a “deal” that their talent will perform with black actors “at their lowest rate,” as actresses are often paid more money to have sex with black men because of the stain it could leave on their careers. The unapologetic ignorance of the message sparked outrage and speaks to a powerful undercurrent of racial issues in porn, which has maintained its momentum due to profit. Generally, talent agents earn an “agency fee” from a production company whenever their talent is booked. On top of that, they can also earn commission off of their performers. So by establishing higher rates for interracial scenes (sometimes twice the regular rate), it’s more cash in the agent’s pocket.
Michaels has worked in the industry for 30 years and is considered by many a pioneer, especially as an actor of color. In his three decades of experience, he attributes the unremitting popularity of his work to America’s history of racism. As if a white woman having sex with a black man still irks people in a way that it’s considered a fetish. “Racism is still very prevalent in the adult business,” Michaels shares. “I was almost always the token black guy for comedic purposes,“ he recalls. “I’m all for stereotypes because I think they can be helpful, but when that stereotype gets derogatory, that’s when I draw the line.”
Of course, most ethnic roles are written by white writers, and some of the parts written for Michaels have been so offensive that he’s walked off set. “One of my many reasons I’ve stayed in the adult businesses is because I’m hopeful that one day things will change for people of color,” he imparts. “Hopefully, one day, someone will come with the cash and genuinely believe in us and see that all ethnicities deserve the same opportunities given to white people in this or any other industry in the country.”
Despite being one of the most popular adult categories, interracial porn’s success is not reflected in its budgets. “You give a title a C budget, it’s going to get a C review. You can’t expect an A return,” adult actor Lexington Steele mentions of the industry’s unwillingness to invest in black productions. He insists this is often why ethnic productions remain stagnant in sales and notoriety, as the product is not given the same budgets and opportunities as other mainstream films.
Not to mention, ethnic actors are often tricked into signing contracts before the film has been given an official title, so when the flick hits shelves, the film has become something more pejorative, like “Black Bitches 2” or “Black Dicks, White Chicks.” And while some actors may have the bandwidth to walk off set, most don’t. They need the money, so they deal with discrimination in the hope that things will someday change. Even SEO keywords lend to industry racism. For example, when you type “thug” or something of that nature in the search bar, videos featuring black performers will pop up. No whites. And while ethnic actors would love to distance themselves from this, the reality is that this is how videos sell.
Consumers have the power to change this. What we as spectators of pornography need to do is embrace ethnic actors and productions to create a demand for diversity in the adult industry. It’s very simple. Next time you venture online for a leisurely tug, seek ethnic talent, new or old. Variety is the spice of life, and “barely” legal blondes have spent enough time under the spotlight.