Researcher presents on the objectification of black women in porn

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Carolyn West startled her audience at Belo Center for New Media with graphic images and videos to show the pervasiveness of black women being objectified in modern pornography. 

West is a researcher of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and said she never used to think about porn until she realized no one was looking at its intersection with race.

“Black women (historically) had no control over their sexuality, as rape (of black girls) was not even a crime for a large part of American history,” West said. “That hypersexuality made them un-rape-able, so in contemporary pornography, black women don’t say no.”

In West’s talk, she said black women in pornography are depicted as more childlike and sexually insatiable, enabling the continuation of these stereotypes. She said lighter-skinned black women are seen as even more desirable or attractive as opposed to darker skin tones.

“Although it’s hard to see these images, it’s important to not look away,” West said. “The entire media land is becoming more sexualized, so we have to challenge them wherever we go.”

Around 40 percent of sex trafficking victims are black, according to Victimsofcrimes.org. West said it is becoming more important to give access to medically accurate sexual education and economic opportunities.

“Porn seems to normalize sexual exploitation,” West said. “Using your body in the inner-city community is seen as a reasonable way to get out. So they are trading sex as a commodity because they don’t feel like they have any other options.”

Journalism professor Robert Jensen said this sexualization is not just seen amongst black women, but with all races and identifications.

“The relationship, and in the world generally, where somebody is on top and somebody is on the bottom, somebody has more power and less power, I can guarantee you it has been sexualized in pornography,” Jensen said. “And of course, what drives all of this is the profit motive in capitalism. It’s striking how little conversation there is about the relentlessly patriarchal white supremacist exploitative nature of pornography.”

Public relations junior Chelsea Uzoukwu said she saw her experiences and thoughts about pornography reflected in the discussion, especially regarding her first time watching porn.

“What would help is to educate the youth and (to hold) seminars like this in middle school to start talking about these things,” Uzoukwu said. “Because if you’re not getting the education from your parents, or your teachers, you’re just going to find it on your own.”