Racism in Porn: A Powerful Way to Teach Kids to Reject XXX

by Feb 2, 2021Prepare Kids to Reject Pornography

As critical consumers of media, we have begun to critique racism in just about every media format—movies, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and even children’s programming. But what about racism in porn? As a Clinical Psychologist, I am convinced it is well past the time for a critical discussion about how the combination of racism and pornography can be harmful to children. 

Porn is Overtly Racist 

Were you aware that porn is filled with racist content? It’s a fact. In addition to teaching unhealthy messages about sex, racism is rampant. It is common to see racist stereotypes–the submissive Asian woman, the spicy Latina, the dangerous, scary Black man, the hypersexual Black woman.  

Images that we’re gradually pushing out of mainstream media continue to be celebrated in pornography. 

-Dr. Carolyn West

In fact, some of the images in porn are horrifically racist. There are videos like “Exploited Black Teens” where racial and sexual violence is the primary selling point. To further dehumanize them, degrading comments were made about all aspects of Black women’s bodies. Multiracial Black women have been called “mulatto mutts” in porn. Darker-skinned Black women have been relegated to “gonzo” porn, which are low budget films with little glamor. To further smear them as lower-class, women with deep brown skin tones were labeled “hoodrats” and “dark meat.”

To make matters worse: the racist images are often paired with violence. A porn webseries called “Border Patrol “ even made light of sexual violence against migrant Mexican and Central American women. Here is more evidence of the link between violence and race in porn.

Researchers have found that both White and Black women were sexually objectified in porn. However, Black women were more likely to be shown as targets of physical aggression, such as spanking and slapping. At the same time, Black women were less likely to be on the receiving end of displays of intimacy, such as kissing.

(Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12147-020-09255-2)

The porn industry does not even try to hide their racism. Together, we can make racism and sexual violence less common and less normalized. It starts with each of us making the choice to refuse to contribute to a porn industry that normalizes racist stereotypes. 

Racism in porn is profitable

Over the years, thanks in part to the civil rights activists, overt examples that were once commonplace in mainstream media have become less acceptable. Yet hidden behind the façade of fantasy and fun, porn delivers racist stereotypes that would be considered unacceptable were they in any other form of mass produced media. 

Why does the porn industry continue to produce this material? One reason—pornography is a profitable business that is worth billions of dollars that reaches millions of viewers. In fact, one porn website boasts that they averaged 115 million visitors per day in 2019—that’s the equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands all visiting in one day!

Searches for different racial groups, including “Ebony” or “Japanese” are frequently in the top search categories. Despite this one popular website’s terms and conditions that do not allow “racial slurs or hate speech”, there are literally thousands of user loaded videos with racist terms used in the titles, descriptions, or in comments. 

Yet these websites have recently tweeted that they “…stand in solidarity against racism and social injustice.” The hypocrisy is astounding. The porn industry can’t stand in solidarity with Black people, or any vulnerable group, and create content of people using the N-word with wild abandon and without fear of backlash. We should all care because no multi-billion dollar business should side-step scrutiny after they play on and cash in on racially harmful images. 

Related: Today’s Porn Industry: 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know

Implication of racism in porn for kids

Sadly, too many young people are consuming porn as a form of sex education. Researchers have found that young teens reported watching porn on home computers or smartphones, and that porn was frequently watched in school. Kids watched for entertainment, instructional purposes, and to cope with boredom. Even worse, the pressure to make or to imitate porn was an element of some unhealthy dating relationships.

(Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25350847/).

This is especially problematic because porn promotes horrifically racist and abusive content in the name of sexual entertainment to anyone with internet access, even children. And what is porn teaching them about race? Black and Hispanic youth expressed preferences for viewing pornography featuring performers of their race. The idea that youth may be seeking out racially and ethnically specific pornography is important because these racial stereotypes may become a script for how they think they should behave in future adult intimate relationships.

Related: Healthy Sex vs. Porn Sex: 7 Crucial Comparisons to Teach Your Kid (Before XXX Hijacks Their Future)

I have been an educator for more than 30 years and it makes me sad when kids say: “Without porn … I wouldn’t know half the things I know now.” Regardless of the child’s race, we should all care what they are being exposed to because as author James Baldwin wrote: “These are all our children. We will profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.”

If you want to combat racism teach kids to reject pornography 

Researchers have found that most parents reacted calmly when they discovered that their young children had seen pornography. However, here are some other common reactions:

  • anger, shaming, or punishing;
  • calm and factual;
  • ignoring or denying it happened;
  • panic or fear; and
  • lying to the child about what the child had viewed.

Many parents don’t know what to say or do.

(Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28450081/)

Related:

6 Mistakes Parents Make When They Learn Their Kid is Watching Porn

The 8 Best Questions to Ask When Your Child Has Seen Porn

I Blew Up At My Kid!!! 5 Steps to Heal Your Relationship When You React Badly

These are not easy conversations to have with our children, yet we cannot leave them to sort out these things without our guidance. If we don’t provide them with the skills that they need to disavow racism and pornography, then the porn industry will instill their own unhealthy version of relationships.  

Our children are worthy of better examples for healthy intimate relationships. This can happen if we teach them to avoid both pornography and racism.  

Here’s how racism and pornography are similar–they both erase a person’s humanity and turn them into objects. It is important to make this connection. Teaching and modeling empathy–that each individual has real value, regardless of their differences–is one powerful way to help children to avoid objectification.

3 Ways to Teach Kids to Reject Racism 

Many parents are asking how they can combat racism. Although it is challenging, teaching your children to reject racism is a good place to start. Kids who can recognize and reject racism make a better future for us all. 

Here are three ideas for how to begin:

  1. Encourage kids to embrace diverse cultures and communities
  2. Be a role model
  3. Weave race into your conversations

1. Encourage kids to embrace diverse cultures and communities 

Expose kids to diverse cultures and experiences. Even if you don’t live in a diverse community, you can still help your kid embrace different racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Here’s how you can broaden your children’s world: 

  • Purposely choose media that displays and highlights different cultures. You can expand your child’s world with books, toys, and movies that showcase people of color in lead roles and that celebrates their contributions. 
  • If possible, explore and travel outside of your comfort zone and cultural boundaries. Celebrate a cultural holiday, visit an ethnic grocery store, or participate in a cultural event. While you’re there–maybe try something new–like a different food, clothing, game, or dance. Take a risk and be creative. 
  • Embrace the beauty of various cultures. Avoid reducing the story of a racial group to one of bias and injustices. Emphasize stories and cultural achievements that center on joy, pride, and resistance. 

2. Be a role model 

You don’t have to be perfect or an expert to talk to your child about race and related topics. Rather than strive for perfection, here’s what you can do instead: 

  • Don’t have the answer? Just say so and commit to finding the answer. Even better, make it a project in which you and your child search for an answer–together.
  • As Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, do better.” No one is perfect and it can be a journey toward becoming more racially aware. Talk about your own feelings and let your child see you face your own biases. It takes courage to reveal a misstep or an example of a prejudice, racial or otherwise, that you hold or have held. Share what you learned with your child and how you worked to confront and overcome the bias. 
  • Diversify your circle of friends and let your child see you respectfully interact with a range of different people from various cultural backgrounds. Along the way, help your child to build real relationships with a racially diverse set of children and others. It will probably take some effort–but your child’s life can be enriched. 

3. Weave race into conversations

As adults in the lives of children, we play an important role in influencing how and what they learn about race. Keep the lines of communication open.  Let your child know that it’s okay to notice and be curious about racial differences and race. Make space for kids to ask questions, share their thoughts, express their opinions and feelings. Nothing is off limits. 

Here’s how you can keep the conversation going: 

  • Promote critical thinking about race. Media images of racial groups can be particularly influential in shaping children’s perceptions of race, even when they don’t have direct contact with racial groups. Teach your child to question the stories presented in books, movies, and other media. Whose voice and photos are missing and why? Who gets to be the hero and  who always seems to be the villain? 
  • Use age-appropriate language. Be honest with your child, using terms that they understand, about tough topics, including bigotry, oppression, and discrimination. Keep it simple. Even very young children can grasp the notion of what’s “fair” and “not fair.” That’s a good place to start the conversation about racial injustice. 
  • Know and love yourself and your family’s history. Talk about the experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family identify with. Not only share the contributions, but also reveal the less than flattering parts of those histories with your children. 

In the beginning it can seem really stressful, but talking to your child about race and racism is important. It’s an ongoing conversation, which you can revisit with your child over and over in many different ways. It gets easier to have the conversation each time, helps your child know that you are a safe person, and ultimately will make them more culturally aware. 

Dr. Carolyn West
Dr. Carolyn West is Professor of Clinical Psychology at UWT where she teaches courses on the Psychology of Black Women and Sex Crimes and Sexual Violence. Dr. West also has written extensively on racism in sexualized media. In 2018 she produced the documentary “Let Me Tell Ya’ll ‘Bout Black Chicks: Images of Black Women in Pornography,” which has been screened at international conferences. She also has worked as an expert witness in domestic violence/sexual assault cases, delivered keynote addresses, conducted workshops, and created innovative training materials to educate and equip professionals with the skills to provide culturally sensitive services to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors of color. She can be reached at www.DrCarolynWest.com.

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