It’s no secret that there’s a troubling relationship between black women and adult film. Male consumers dominate the market and frankly, black women’s purchasing power is underestimated. Racial fantasies over saturate the market and porn directors continue to showcase voluptuous black women’s bodies as fetish pieces for white and black men. When will black women demand that their desires be recognized in adult entertainment? Where are the black feminist porn directors? The state of black feminist porn is dire; there are numerous obstacles ahead to achieving the visual production of black women’s desire and truthfully, the mantra needs to be “for us by us.”
Traditionally, feminism and porn don’t go together. With the growing strength of sex-positive feminism, pornography discourse has evolved into a multidimensional discussion beyond the well-known “all porn objectifies women” argument.
Sex writer Violet Blue writes, “The whole notion that a girl can get off watching porn, be in it, make it, and view sex work as positive — and be feminist — remains confusing for many…meanwhile ever-increasing thousands of women watch and enjoy all kinds of porn for personal gratification. Not because their boyfriends read an article in Maxim that gave them 10 easy steps to convince her to watch ‘I’ve Never Done This Before No. 48.’ Because women get off on explicit sexual imagery, and there’s not only data and studies to back that statement, but hoards of girls with vibrators in one hand and a mouse in the other…”
Still, what exactly is feminist porn?
Alison Lee, a pioneer of the Feminist Porn Awards, explains, “A porn film can be classified as feminist, I think, as soon as women are taken into account as viewers, and that as actors within the film, their own desires are taken into account. This means basically showing that women have just as much right to erotic entertainment as men do, and their desires and pleasure is important, too.”
Unfortunately, black feminist porn directors are one in a few. With limited production funds and an industry that remains set on racial fetishes, the adult films by black women for black women almost are non-existent. Renowned as the first adult film directed by and for women of color, Afrodite Superstar (2006) is a great discussion point on the power of black female directors challenging the stereotypes of black adult film. Directed by media personality and author Abiola Abrams under the pseudonym Venus Hottentot, Afrodite Superstar told the story of a young black woman born into wealth and finding her way through a new career as a female rapper. It is probably the only film that you will witness quotes by belle hooks and Gloria Steinem accompanied by 5 hot sex scenes, three of which were heterosexual, one lesbian, and one masturbatory. And yes, nudity, genital shots, and real sex are included.
Most notably, Abrams was determined to cast black women that truly reflect our community. In an interview with Babeland, Abrams states, “…certain things were important to me in this film—condom usage, dark skinned black women with natural textured hair and natural bodies. Dark skin, stretch marks, small breasts and afro textured hair are viewed largely as beauty liabilities. I wanted to create those things as a part of the visual landscape of this story.” And indeed, Simone Valentino, who played Afrodite and won the Feminist Porn Awards’ Best New Star for her performance, epitomized the natural beauty of black women.
Yet Abrams has no intention of directing another adult film, although Afrodite Superstar’s famous executive producer, Candida Royalle remains dedicated to giving black female directors the opportunity to direct films for us by us. Under her company, Femme Productions, she is producing a line of erotic films for women of color entitled Femme Chocolat. Afrodite Superstar was the first feature.
Who are the other black female directors taking on the plight of adult film? Well, there is Estelle Joseph, who directed the award-winning series, City of Flesh, that’s been praised by numerous sex-positive feminists. Additionally, there is Shine Louise Houston, who primarily produces female and female-to-male transgender adult flicks; her work also has received recognition by the feminist community. Yet, not every black female director makes adult films within a sex-positive framework with women as the target audience. I’d be remised to forget Diana Devoe, a well-known black female porn star and filmmaker, who directed films such as Big Tit Brotha Lovers 10, Black Gag 2, Booty Quake, and Miss Phat Booty. Unlike Joseph and Houston, Devoe’s films don’t target women as the primary audience and arguably, continue to perpetuate black female bodies as objects for male viewing pleasure. Yet, there is space for Joseph, Houston, and Devoe to simultaneously share their creativity within the adult entertainment industry, just like Dee Rees (Pariah), Ava Duvernay (I Will Follow), and Tyler Perry can create traditional films that appeal to various demographics of the black community.
The question still remains: when will black women demand that their desires be recognized in adult entertainment? As black women have different visual pleasures, it’s going to take more than one visionary to step up to the plate. Zane brought her famous book series, The Sex Chronicles, to television. Yet, I’d be hesitant to label that as “real” adult film. Where are the black female directors making adult films for black women? Isn’t it time that our desires be given a platform?