BY: SETH WILLIAMS
Black women in the adult entertainment are paid half to three-quarters of what white actresses are paid. Strippers are paid less and treated worse as well. But why?
The answer that society seems to answer is simple. They want sex more, so why pay them for it?
Black adult film stars and entertainers have had their sexuality undervalued in modern society primarily due to the misconception that their sexuality is more accessible, in greater supply, and therefore the woman can place less demand on it. This misconception extends beyond the adult entertainment industry, however, and reaches into music, music videos, feature films, and television.
Dr. Edward Rhymes writes:
“In regard to gender, there have been two, pronounced, conflicting and unjust narratives concerning female sexuality in America. Although all women who were viewed or accused as loose or promiscuous faced the ire and consternation of a (predominantly white) male-dominated society, there has always been this duplicitous racial application of the penalties incurred for committing perceived “moral” crimes against society. Historically, White women, as a category, have been portrayed as examples of self-respect, self-control, and modesty — even sexual purity — but Black women were often (and still are) portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. I would like to focus on the various ways White female sexual promiscuity has been viewed, recognized and oft-times celebrated in today’s media and in popular culture.”
The undervaluing of black female eroticism is not new. It has its roots in the first days of slavery when Caucasian slave-owners found it in their interest to perpetuate the idea that slave-women, African women, and African people, in general, were bestial, unintelligent, and lust-driven. This stereotype was useful on several levels, but perhaps the most horrifying was as a justification for rape between master and slave. Furthermore, it lifted the moral burdens of forcing slaves to reproduce, and do so frequently, to ensure that their master would have slaves to utilize in the future, as well as a number to sell off for profit should the need arise. This economic catalyst fueled a cultural and societal belief that black women were inherently hypersexual creatures.
This misconception stretched through the end of slavery into the Jim Crow era, where laws were enacted to protect whiteness through the implantation of the one-drop rules and co-habitation laws, which sought to ensure that mixed offspring would never achieve equality with their racially pure peers in addition to perpetuating the hyper-sexualized black man and woman stereotype. The fallacy continued through the 70s when the Blaxploitation genre took off. Without a doubt, the concept of a hypersexual black woman is still alive and well in our culture today.
Dr. Rhymes, Toni Morrison, Professor Herbert Samuels, and others have noted that this hyper-sexualization has even been adopted by substantial portions of the black community as well. Young black men and women repeat these stereotypes, these clichés, these claims with pride and hold them to be true- that black men are more endowed, black women more talented the sexual arts than their non-black peers… but what damage does this do to efforts to force back the predations of racism and heal the wounds it has left on our society?
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