Ana Foxxx black power

Alleged Racism in Porn, and Adult Awards Shows as Political Platforms

Los Angeles, Calif — Racism in Porn, or more precisely the portrayal of racial stereotypes in pornography, is an issue few in the adult business want to talk about publicly. But back in February 2017, adult performer Ana Foxxx took what many (including this writer) would consider a brave step in exposing what she viewed as racially-based inequities (if not blatant racism) within the adult business.

Prior to this, there had been some discussion of racism in porn in more abstract terms, and the arguments in favor of the status quo boiled down to these: porn is the last bastion of non-Politically Correct culture; IR (interracial) scenes which often employ cultural, socioeconomic and racial stereotypes, represent a reflection of existing (and lucrative) kinks and fetishes within our culture, and at their best (such as in the works of filmmakers such as Dana Vespoli) “send up” such scenes and tropes; and lastly, that “there’s a market” for such content, and no one should dare try to abrogate the free speech rights, sexual liberty, and right to earn a living of the filmmakers and performers involved.

Instead, Foxxx utilized a pair of anecdotes to draw focus towards two elements concerning race in porn: along with the first she expressed outrage at a February 2017 email blast by a talent agent which notified the adult production community that their talent would be lowering their rates for IR scenes “in honor of “Black History Month.” Foxxx’s response to that type of “honor” is included in the screenshots below.

Ana Foxxx repulsed on Black History Month special in porn

The second event to which Foxx drew attention is the primary focus of this essay: the use of televised awards show as a guerrilla tactic to attain a large audience for one’s political views. Dear reader, please note that I do not use the term “guerrilla” as a pejorative. I use it in its classic sense, whereby a small group of combatants use tactics such ambushes and sabotage to effectively fight a larger, more powerful foe. For instance, Elvis Costello refused to play his song Less Than Zero, the track being pushed by his record label, on Saturday Night Live, and instead took a stand for the rights of artists by launching into a searing version of the anti-record industry song Radio, Radio. This was an act of guerrilla political theater, set in a time of great political conflict within music and radio (Costello had been a last minute replacement for the even more controversial Sex Pistols). Costello understood that, on a live broadcast, he could essentially ambush the producers (led by a furious Lorne Michaels) and hi-jack the show. V for Vendetta writ small.

When Ana Foxxx made “a political statement” before an audience of industry members and porn fans during the 2017 AVN Awards in January, she did not have the advantage of a captive television audience. The show is customarily fine-tuned, edited and aired after the event has taken place. This delay gave Foxx less leverage, and thus less power to challenge the status quo before a world-wide television (and media) audience.

Cynics might say that Foxx was trying to gain publicity for herself. There’s no crime in that, but I doubt that explains her actions — or her angry yet dignified reaction on social media.

The history of cultural institutions such as politics, law and media to oppress and suppress within the United States is very long indeed. It was not until the early 20th century that the first amendment constituted any real protection for individuals against a government which still enforced sedition laws and empaneled censorship boards. . . and even after these laws and policies began to fade away, they disappeared last for people of color.

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, known as the Galveston Giant, was a noted prize fighter in the early 20th century who eventually became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). Sadly, his talent in the ring is now somewhat overshadowed by the fact that he was charged with violating the Mann Act in 1912, despite a lack of evidence. The Mann Act is the same law that sidelined rock’n’roll legend Chuck Berry’s career in the late 1950s.

Looking at the history and the construction of the Mann Act, the brainchild of Illinois Congressman James Robert Mann, it was not merely a piece of “white slavery” panic legislation, but, due to its ambivalent definition of “immorality”, it empowered the government to criminalize even consensual sexual behavior between adults. But more bluntly, it was used to oppress blacks and members of other oppressed or stigmatized groups, to limit their ability to travel freely, and to punish them for miscegenation.

All of Johnson’s wives were white. In October 1912, Johnson was arrested on the grounds that his non-marital relationship with Lucille Cameron violated the Mann Act because he had transported her “across state lines for immoral purposes”. Johnson soon married Cameron and the case fell apart. But less than a month later, Johnson was arrested again on similar charges. This time the cooperating victim was an alleged prostitute with whom he had been “involved” in 1909 and 1910 — before passage of the Mann Act!  Johnson was later convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Johnson skipped bail and fled the country. After seven years in exile, Johnson returned to the land of the free in 1920, at which time he was sent to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.

American history is littered with such injustices. However, to quote Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar — and not every act of editorial license constitutes oppressive censorship. For this piece I spoke with two very highly-placed individuals with direct personal knowledge of not only Showtime Networks’ contracts and standards and practices, but of the AVN Awards Show broadcasts themselves. They both stated that there exist many reasons why things end up on the cutting room floor of presentations which must, in their final form, be a predetermined duration. The first, alluded to in the previous sentence, is that (barring some outrageously watchable detour) only the highlights most directly relevant to the story or theme of the event merit inclusion. The AVN show did not contain a political segment, and none was presented to the broadcaster as a potential segment when the show was developed and “pre-produced”. Having not anticipated such content, Showtime and its post-producer for the show likely felt no obligation to include it.

Second, like all broadcast networks, Showtime has standards and practices policies and voluminous contracts with advertisers, film studios, and the broadcasters who carry their programming around the world. As a large corporation with institutional investors, Showtime knows its had better pay heed to such policies. These agreements are complex and rather tedious, but they are lucrative enough (and their breach potentially costly enough) to make Showtime to comply carefully.

When XBiz hired Jenna Jameson to host its awards show in Los Angeles a few years ago, they invited the acquisitions team from Showtime to the event. Showtime was eager to find another adult-themed show whose ratings could match those of the AVN Awards. But as they entered the venue in Century City, and gazed upon the plethora of Flashlight logos and promotional materials which could be found everywhere —everywhere — from the media wall to the chyrons on the large video screens, they instantly knew there was little chance of turning the event into a Showtime broadcast. In fact they dismissively (and pityingly) referred to the event as the Flashlight Awards. Having a program so intrinsically linked to a product would violate their conditions for broadcast. That’s why Showtime has its own separate media wall in front of which they interview nominees at the AVN Awards. Paul Fishbein, and later Theo Sapoutzis, understood what XBiz’s Alec Helmy did not. As a result, instead of becoming a Showtime event, Helmy ended up tossing edited clips from the show onto YouTube.

Finally, there is the matter of whether or not awards shows represent the correct platform for political grandstanding. In 1978, actress Vanessa Redgrave (who had recently produced and narrated a pro-Palestinian Liberation Organization documentary), won the Oscar for Julia. The Academy Awards are, of course, broadcast live all over the planet. On stage she seized the moment to respond to who were speaking out against her, referring to her detractors and protestors as “a bunch of Zionist hoodlums.” To say that her action flopped and backfired would be a spectacular understatement.

Later in the program, legendary author and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky responded at the rostrum. “I would like to say — personal opinion, of course — that I am sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.”

As noted in an excellent piece at TheVerge.com,

The applause from the crowd was so intense and immediate that it cut Chayefsky off halfway through his statement. The writer of Network went on to mention Redgrave by name, saying he would like to remind her “that her winning an Academy award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”

When, in 1993, actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon used their awards presentation gig to call attention to a group of Haitians who were being barred from entering the United States because of their positive HIV status.

Again, as TheVerge noted,

The audience applauded, but Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates was not pleased. The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that he was furious, drawing a line between winners discussing their beliefs, and what [Richard] Gere, Robbins, and Sarandon had done. “Someone who I invite to present an award to use that time to postulate a personal political belief I think is not only outrageous, it’s distasteful and dishonest,” he said.

Issues concerning race in pornography, as in all art and culture, are important, and should be aired publicly. And it is heartening to see the adult business, and organizations like APAC, begin to take this hot potato issue seriously. While Foxx’s anger and disappointment at being left on the cutting room floor is understandable, one hopes that it will only embolden her and others to find the broadest, most appropriate platforms (including those that do not have a built-in editorial delay), to air their grievances. Adult film stars may not command the public attention of superstar actors and musicians, but they can leverage their own smaller bully pulpits into social and political change, as their successes against AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s sexphobic political maneuvers demonstrates.

I can state without fear contradiction that adult awards shows are not expected to be political theater. As far as anyone “in the know” to whom I spoke for this story can tell, no one sought to grab a hook and yank Foxxx offstage in Las Vegas. Theo was not running around backstage with an axe a la Pete Seeger at Newport, to silence Bob Dylan’s blasphemous Maggie’s Farm. The adult business is indeed ‘a place where you can be free and express yourself’, but that liberty and that sentiment would also hold true for producers of the content Ms. Foxxx loathes. While I sympathize with Ms. Foxxx, and her reformist agenda, any conflation of Showtime’s editorial discretion (after all, they are an entertainment company, not a news organization) and Jim Crow-like institutional oppression, is too much of a stretch.

2 Replies to “Alleged Racism in Porn, and Adult Awards Shows as Political Platforms”

  1. Kelli

    Great post and many good points. But what Ana Foxxx failed to mention was she wasn’t the only person censored or edited.

    Brad Armstrong for example had almost his entire speech removed from the Showtime Broadcast and he has won how many director of the year awards?

    I’m sorry but people like Ana love to take anything and make it about race. Reminds me of Mr. Marcus – aka Mr. Syphilis, who blamed his blacklist from the industry on his being black and not the fact that he faked his tests on multiple sets and infected several stars with a very serious STD, of which he even went to jail for.

    His skin color had nothing to do with it.

  2. lukas411

    did they cut her because she was black or because she’s a prositute? i read somewhere else that ana foxxx has ads everywhere and maybe shotime just dont’ want to be associated with shit like that.

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