LOS ANGELES — BIPOC industry leaders gathered on Saturday for three virtual panels hosted by Kink.com, entitled “Flip the Script.” The event was part of a weeklong dialogue, with each two-hour panel exploring different aspects of how the adult industry can become more inclusive and responsive to the needs of BIPOC members. Participants also brainstormed how to proactively support BIPOC leaders in the community, how to fight racism in adult production and how to navigate racial stereotypes and race-based fantasies.
Saturday began with "Racial Equity on Porn Sets," moderated by Tyomi Morgan, a sex educator and producer. Joining her was Lotus Lain, performer and talent relations advocate for the Free Speech Coalition; legacy performer Lexington Steele; and Kink.com producer and director Fivestar, along with Professor Gaia and Sir Jon Julius of Black Porn Matters. Also joining the panel were performers and activists Daisy Ducati and Ana Foxxx.
After opening introductions, Morgan began by inviting the group to discuss ways in which BIPOC performers have been treated differently on set compared to their white counterparts. In tandem, she also asked producers and directors how they treat BIPOC performers differently than white performers.
The chatroom dove into a running stream of ideas and thoughtful commentary. Gaia and Julius spoke to their goal of breaking traditional character roles of BIPOC performers and extending their storytelling past the typical interracial (IR) scenes that have already been told.
“Porn is an art form that is void of POC stories,” Julius explained.
Morgan agreed, saying that while it's common for people to think that any BIPOC space must be all-inclusive, it actually shouldn’t have to be. “It’s important to have spaces that are tailored to POC.”
Lain pointed out that it's crucial for makeup artists to be better trained in applying makeup to brown and Black skin; that awareness, she said, should also extend to lighting techniques, wardrobe options and other aspects of life on set that are typically overlooked with BIPOC performers.
Ducati and Foxxx echoed her assessment. From there, Ducati spoke on how BIPOC performers should have to give prior consent to how they are represented by the titles of films. Many times there are miscommunications on set, Ducati explained, and she has often been blindsided with things she didn’t like. “Sometimes [the film] gets titled and tagged as something you don’t consent to,” she said, “and you find out later.”
Lexington Steele referred to the question Morgan posed to producers, stating that he has never made a price differential between white and POC performers. IR rates only “perpetuate inferiority complexes and rot the psyche of the Black performer,” he explained.
Foxxx furthered this statement, pointing out that not only is she paid less than her white counterparts, but she is booked substantially less as well. She has had experiences on mixed sets where white performers are openly talking about their IR rates, which is “embarrassing and discouraging. Then seeing them get rewarded makes you feel like you’re not valuable.”
Steele had a solution to these issues: BIPOC performers should start their own production companies, and through their leadership, change the narrative in the industry.
Morgan picked up that thread of conversation. “We are always looking to be included," she said. "But the real solution is more POC creating production companies where we can control the narrative. [Such as] placing POC in places of power in companies so they can advocate, being involved in spaces that weren’t made for us, and calling out POC to step it up to create more production companies.”
Wrapping up the involved discussion, Morgan asked, “How can consumers be part of the solution?”
Fivestar chimed in. “Consumers need to support performers of color by paying them. Find them on OnlyFans. Or if it's through a big website, comments are needed on videos. Say ‘It’s hot!’ and request your favorite stars to be shot more."
Representation & Portrayals of BIPOC in Porn
The second panel of the day was also hosted by Morgan, titled “Representation & Portrayals of BIPOC in Porn.” Joining Morgan were fetish trainer and performer King Noire; Professor Gaia and Sir Jon Julius; and performers Mia Little, Wolf Hudson, Sharok, Max Konnor and Dillon Diaz.
Morgan opened the conversation asking the panelists what it is they find offensive about how BIPOC are portrayed in mainstream adult films.
Gaia spoke up, noting how POC women are often portrayed as submissive, “face-down, ass-up,” which she finds highly offensive. Julius chimed in, noting “all of it’s offensive! It doesn’t represent me.”
Hudson fully agreed, observing that BIPOC are often portrayed in adult media as people of “low intelligence, subservient and [showing no] emotion,” and also pointed out that there are not a lot of romantic portrayals.
Sharok shared his unique viewpoint, as an Iranian performer, expressing that ever since 9/11 Middle Eastern performers are shown as terrorists, wearing turbans or burkhas.
The discussion then turned to the topic of hashtagging.
“Many adult sites are removing the ‘IR’ and other racial identifying tags,” Morgan explained. “As a performer, is that just making it harder to find black porn? Is there a good solution for both parties?”
This question was met with frustration from many of the panelists, who saw the problem but also recognized that there is no easy fix.
Hudson suggested an idea. “I use tags that are relevant but not harmful, [for example] I won’t use ‘thug.’ We should find better words that better represent people of color. We can train people to search these words instead of the older, bad hashtags. Let's use more positive, beautiful words that emphasize color.”
Julius said that another option is to agree to tag their videos with commonly-used words, flooding hashtags with their empowered content. “It's not English we’re fighting,” he said, “it’s code. Take a lesson from the hackers — if you want to take over a hashtag, overwhelm the feed with your content."
The importance of search engine optimization, or SEO, to change BIPOC representation online became a notable topic of discussion, with the panelists agreeing that it would be worthwhile to have educational resources for performers who want to take advantage of their streaming platform capabilities.
Besides the SEO possibilities, Noire said that how America perceives and classifies race is “warped.” Lumping people from all different backgrounds as “Black” or “Middle Eastern,” as two examples, is very limiting, he explained.
Morgan agreed. “Everyone has their pronouns, and we have conversations about identity around gender,” she said. “But when it comes to the ethnic space, the conversation isn’t happening. We are all international performers, with reach outside of America.”
Little spoke up, noting, “‘Interracial’ needs to go. Find out how people self-identify and uphold that. Our voice matters and you should be asked how you want to be represented."
Misrepresentation can be dangerous, Hudson added. “If we don’t speak up as performers, to change this narrative, it's going to continue and trickle down to the consumer,” he said.
Morgan wrapped up the panel with two questions: “What can consumers do to be BIPOC allies,” and “How do you want to be identified?”
Konnor encouraged consumers to stop supporting narratives that are harmful to BIPOC, and to keep the conversation going over social media and to be willing to listen. He also expressed his passion for his boutique management company Haus of Konnor, and wants to be identified as someone whose reach extends beyond porn.
King Noire wrapped up the lively panel discussion by explaining that you can identify him as “a sexual being, a kinky individual and a black man who has a brain that's as big as his dick.”
Intention vs. Impact
The third and final panel of the day was titled “Intention vs. Impact,” hosted by Mickey Mod, creative director for Kink.com. Featured panel attendees were performers Natassia Dreams and Arabelle Raphael and Pineapple Support therapist Kamil Lewis.
Mod began by sharing how Kink.com hopes that these panel discussions will open the door for a more sustainable and equal industry.
Dreams followed up by voicing her frustrations about being mistreated on sets as a black trans performer. “As a black trans, it’s difficult to navigate this industry. We don’t have any support," she said. "I am here to make a change and voice these experiences so people can put a face to this racism, and the ones who experience it."
Mod agreed, and asked what sort of accountability the panelists would like to see from companies that are knowingly participating in making harmful content.
Dreams expressed that companies should have to make visible changes to prove they are not favoring white performers over those who are BIPOC. If they don’t make those changes, it's up to the performers to speak out. “We as performers are complicit by not speaking up when you see a BIPOC or trans performer uncomfortable on set. Just like on the subways in New York,” she laughed. “‘If you see something, say something.’”
Kamil Lewis corroborated Dreams’ statement. “It can be hard as the only POC on set. Positions of power need to speak up and say, ‘This isn’t right, can we talk about this?’” She also recommended putting more BIPOC and trans people in positions of power in order to spark necessary change in the industry.
Arabelle Raphael agreed, giving an example of when she was new to the industry, on a set with a performer who was given “yellowface.” When she spoke up about her discomfort with that imagery, she was laughed at by the talent and crew. She felt if more BIPOC representation had been present on set, that incident never would have happened.
While mainstream companies need to be held accountable for racist infringements, Mod asked if the indie porn movement, including platforms like OnlyFans, had less issues with racism, or if the issues are simply different.
Dreams noted that she loves creating her own content. “You have confidence that the fans are there for only you. You don’t have to prove yourself, because the validation is already there,” she said. “We compromise ourselves for these companies. The ball is in our court and we have to demand what we want."
Raphael also feels empowered by creating her content. “There are issues with racism, but not nearly as much [as with mainstream companies] because performers can control their own images.” She explained that companies have been claiming POC women are less marketable and that it has been proven untrue by the indie porn movement.
"Black women never get showcased in mainstream porn,” she said. “But there are so many black women making content on OnlyFans with huge followings. You’re telling performers they are not desirable, when there's this huge market. BIPOC folx have a lot of power.”
Mod picked up on that thread of conversation, “What do you think is holding companies back from fixing these problems?” he asked.
"Companies don’t want people to have agency,” Lewis observed. “If people depend on you, you get to make the decisions because there is an illusion you have all the power and people are just grateful to work for you."
Dreams agreed, adding, “No one wants to go against the grain. Until one person or company says, ‘I’m going to change my ways and correct the wrongs,’ all the other companies are going to copy each other. This machine is rolling and we’re contributing to it. It'll keep going if we keep putting oil in it.”
Mod then opened up the panel to questions from the viewers.
One viewer asked for suggestions on how content creators should handle BIPOC performers who are given the role of a villain.
Mod responded, “If you want a performer to play a certain role, include them in the process. Obviously avoid clear stereotypes, or roles that are problematic. I sometimes want to play a villain, but I want to be able to choose what kind of villain that is.”
Dreams explained that asking for consent before giving a BIPOC performer a stereotypical role is a big deal. “No one should ever be uncomfortable,” she said, “for any reason, for anyone's fantasy.”
“I have mixed feelings about rape fantasies and being submissive on camera,” Raphael shared.
“I know [fantasies are] normal and okay, but are the people watching mature enough to consume that kind of content?” She worried that while she is aware that fulfilling a fantasy can be healthy, she wouldn’t want anyone to think her darker content is an educational tool.
Dreams noted, “We’re still in this old narrative that we [BIPOC] are aggressors. We’re oversexualized and fetishized, but this is a false narrative.” She followed with a clear statement: “If you think you’re not making a change, you probably aren’t. You need to do better.”
Mod ended the panel with a statement to the viewers. “If you feel you’re being attacked or called out, there's probably a reason for that,” he said. “That's on you to figure it out and sit with it. ‘Cancelling’ is not forever. We are not trying to push people away, but we are trying to hold people accountable. ‘Cancel culture’ is actually accountability culture.”
“There is no going back. There is no complicity anymore. It's hard work, but it's worth it,” he concluded. “We are ending our relationship to racism.”