Entertainment

03.05.13

Interracial Sex Still Taboo for Many Porn Stars

When it comes to things they won’t do on camera, a surprising number of adult-film stars draw the line at interracial sex.

When I first got into the adult-film business about 12 years ago, one of the most confusing things my agent asked was whether I “did interracial.” I was completely baffled. So the old man clarified: “Do you do black guys?” I was shocked at what seemed a racist question. As I sat on his dusty couch in a small, smoke-filled office, it suddenly felt like I was in another era: the black-and-white one.

I timidly answered: “Sure, I guess so. I don’t know what the difference is. It’s just skin color.”

Today, I know that on-camera race relations are a complicated topic—particularly the way they have been translated in porn’s fantasyland.

“Racism exists, and it exists in porn,” says the iconic, award-winning porn star Kristina Rose, who has been featured in more than 400 adult movies. With that number of films, it is easy for fans not to notice if a performer has avoided interracial. But TMZ last month took the time to point out that in making more than 100 films, Alexis Texas, another award-winning porn star, has never worked with black guys.

Texas refused comment for this story. A representative of her agency, LA Direct Models, told me Texas had no interest in speaking about the topic to anyone, suggesting that TMZ blew the issue out of proportion. Interestingly enough, according to LA Direct Models’ online listings, only about 20 percent of its performers are willing to film interracial scenes. (Another agency, Spiegler Girls, is more typical of top agents: 75 percent to 80 percent of its performers say they shoot interracial material.)

One reason for some actresses’ reluctance might be size. Because of the way porn is cast, most black male performers have disproportionately large schlongs. The sheer size of these guys can be intimidating. I know one male performer who is as big around as a soda can. (I refused to work with him, afraid of his size, at the beginning of my career.)

But what’s more often behind the taboo is career anxiety. Most girls in the industry hear at some point from their agent or another performer that an actress can increase the longevity of her career by refusing interracial scenes—at least until directors have stopped using her.

I believe this is an outdated formula for success. My experience has taught me that the adult audience is far more progressive than porn-industry leaders, mostly old white men, may believe. There was once also a belief within the industry that a girl could extend her career by not doing certain sex acts. Circa 2000, the conventional wisdom was that if a girl wanted to maximize her career arc, she should start off doing solo work, then begin shooting with girls, move on to doing nonblack men, and then go into interracial or anal. There were hundreds of companies to work for at that time—and all kinds of movies to be made; porn was a booming, multibillion-dollar industry.

“In the business, some girls who say they don’t do interracial I’ve actually had sex with off camera.”

A current myth, alluded to in Kanye West’s song “Hell of a Life,” is that directors will pay a girl less once she has shot interracial scenes. Kristina Rose shared the advice she was given on race when entering the industry in 2007: “I was told by my agent that girls who did interracial didn’t make as much money. I wish I hadn’t listened to my agent—if I had been doing interracial from the beginning, I probably would have won Performer of the Year.” Most of the girls who won Performer of the Year, the porn equivalent of an Oscar for Best Actress, did start out doing interracial. Agents who offer this advice are often, in my experience, also older white men.

Mark Spiegler of Spiegler Girls, one of my own agents, says that when it comes to race and career, times have changed. “In the old days, you start out slow and work your way up. But now the more you do the better,” he says. “Sasha Grey and Katsumi started out doing interracial; it doesn’t seem to have hurt them.” The more a girl is willing to do in 2013, according to Spiegler, the wider her appeal and the more cash in her pocket. Despite the myth that girls who do interracial make less money, the opposite is true, he says—more work means occasionally higher rates, though Spiegler says there is no specific bump in pay for a white female performer who works with a black male one: “Some agents will charge a premium for girls who do interracial, but we don’t do that: it’s the same rate for noninterracial.”

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Most of the girls on Spiegler’s roster are known for having very short “no lists”—in other words, they’ll do most anything. I asked Spiegler why he thinks some girls still decline to do interracial. “The No. 1 reason I hear,” he says, “and that doesn’t mean it’s true, is ‘my family wouldn’t like me doing it.’” I’ve also heard that explanation from girls on set. I’ve met a handful of girls who thought their families would be more OK with finding out they did porn than finding out they did interracial porn. It’s a hard concept to swallow in 2013.

Tee Reel, who runs Ideal Image Models, prides himself on being one of the few black agents in the history of the adult business. He also doubles as a male performer and has an accepting attitude toward girls who steer clear of interracial. “As a black man, I don’t take it personally when a girl says, ‘I don’t want to do interracial.’ In the business, some girls who say they don’t do interracial I’ve actually had sex with off camera,” he says.

I suspect most are simply following their agent’s advice. Few understand the influence of an agent in porn. Agents often shepherd 18-year-olds through more than just pornland, they help guide them through personal life experiences as well. A lot of young performers are quite inexperienced at the beginning of their careers. Girls fly out to Los Angeles to shoot porn from small towns all over the country. There are a number of states, like Tera Patrick’s home state of Montana, that have an African-American population under 2 percent, according to the 2011 census. Reel explains the reality of working in an industry whose stars can be young adults who know little of the world outside their hometowns. “Sometimes the first black guy they have been exposed to is in the industry,” he says. “It’s not as if they have some racist gene. They aren’t anti-black, they just never had the opportunity. Same thing with anal sex—most of them had never had anal sex in their personal life.” Depending on where a girl grew up, the porn industry’s racial mix can be a real eye-opener in more ways than one. I grew up on the central coast of California in a multiethnic city, unaware the cultural diversity in California was a misrepresentation of the United States as a whole.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much racism exists in the porn business, or in our society, for that matter. Consumers are still buying stereotypes. An interracial porn shoot frequently portrays the big black man with the tiny white girl. This remains a popular marketing strategy—a typical bestselling series called “Blacks on Blondes” is one of many banking on these stereotypes. That’s what it’s all about: performers, directors, agents, and companies all trying to find a way to make the most money for themselves out of the vexing assumptions and stereotypes that still surround race and sex. Perhaps this isn’t about the industry’s view of race, but that of the customers and the market demand. At the end of the day, for most everyone in porn, it’s just business.