This is how she describes her initial research on the depiction of black women in pornography and subsequent theorising. This piece of writing was included in Not For Sale under the title "Prostitution and the new slavery".
As I began to look for information on pornography, I was not really too amazed to find that there was nothing at all specifically about black women to be found at the public libraries. It is my everyday experience to be made invisible in a white dominated society. The only place that I knew to go for information about my sisters was the porn stores, where they were not invisible, but rather prominently featured.Link.
Going into the porn stores was not something that I looked forward to doing. As my coworker and I went into the store, she quickly reminded me not to react to what I would see because the clerks might ask us to leave. In fact a big sign at the entrance stated that they had the right to ask “certain customers” to leave.
When we entered, a sense of panic immediately came over me. The place was like a cement bunker. It was one big, dark, dirty room. A musty odor permeated the space. The stale smell of sweat and semen hung in the air. Dusty shelves stretched from corner to corner, ceiling to floor. As I looked around, all I could see was wall to wall women.
On one side of the room I saw nothing but bondage magazines. The covers displayed pictures of women tied up, chained up, hung upside down. Some had ball gags stuffed in their mouths. In some, the women’s eyes and mouth were taped shut. Some were handcuffed, some shackled to chairs, others locked in cages. All of them had their legs spread – or more often roped - wide open.
Looking in another direction, I see my sisters, beautiful Black women, nameless often faceless, were plastered on the covers of magazines with titles such as “Chocolate Pleasure, Black on Black, Black Sugar, and Bound Black Beauties”. Many were restrained and all of them were made to appear as if they were “asking for it” – screaming and moaning with desire.
My heart fell to my feet. All these women exposing their most intimate, private, sacred parts. All of these Black women for sale. As I continued to look, I thought about slavery. I thought about the stories my Grandmother told me about her mother’s life under slavery. Even though I never experienced the physical pain of being auctioned off, seeing these Black women shackled, spread-eagle, or hog-tied, made it seem as though this part of history – the history of my family’s enslavement – was repeating itself all over again.
Looking at the women’s faces, I could see they felt shame, embarrassment, hopelessness, and a deep down sorrow. They looked like they were there but yet they weren’t there. Many appeared high off of whatever drug they needed to take in order to cope with the brutal exploitation of their bodies.As I stood in the porn store, my thoughts flashed between the women in the pictures and the pictures that were burned in my memory. As I looked past the contorted mask of sexual desire painted on the women’s faces, I could see my own reflection in their deadened eyes. Struggling with feeling of hurt and rage, I thought to myself, “What gives anyone the right to exploit another human being to this extent? How can anyone get turned on by dehumanizing another human being?” We are living, breathing, feeling people just like the rest of the human race (men). If you stab us, we bleed. If you stick unnatural objects in us, we hurt. If you hang us from a tree or a pole, we will die.
Pornographic videos and magazines perpetuate the myth that all Black women are whores. A caption under a picture of a Black woman in one porn magazine reads, “for men who seek hot sex on a regular basis with high performance fuck machines I suggest they try sleeping Black”. Titles like “Big Black Bazoons, Big Black Bitch, Big Tit Black Milk, Black and Kinky, Black Whore, Black Fantasy, and Bitchin Black Ass. These titles portray Black women as ready and willing for anything with anybody. These are just a few titles the list goes on and on.
Everything about African American women is sexualized in pornography, even our efforts to win Civil Rights for our people. Another porn magazine “quotes” a Black women saying, “Black power comes in many forms, this is my favorite one: a big juicy chocolate jism stick totally filling my mouth.”
Racist stereotypes in the mainstream media and in porn portray Black women as wild animals who are ready for any kind of sex, anytime, with anybody. Additionally, strip joints and massage parlors are typically zoned in Black neighborhoods which gives the message to white men that it is okay to solicit Black women and girls for sex; that we are all prostitutes. On almost any night, you can see them slowly cruising around our neighborhoods, rolling down their windows, and calling out to women and girls. We got the message growing up, just like our daughters are getting the message today; this is
how it is, this is who you are, this is what you are good for.
Racist/sexist stereo-types of Black women always appeared in rock music. Twenty-five years ago the Rolling Stones reduced us to tasty little mouthfuls call “Brown Sugar”. Today, a generation raised on pornography is recording music that reflects its womenthing ideology. “Let a Ho Be a Ho”, “Pimp the Ho”, “Bitches ain’t shit but Ho’s and Tricks”. These are just a few examples. How does this effect the way young Black women view themselves? Young Black women who are constantly bombarded with these messages begin to internalize them and accept them as a true definition of who they are.
The sexual exploitation of Black women was one of the greatest harms done to the Black race during slavery. African women were brought to this country against their will. Every time they were raped by the master or overseer, ever time they were used as breeders, every time their daughters were raped and assaulted or sold to brothels, they were told what their self worth was.
After the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 many slaves fled from the south to the north in search of true freedom. I can imagine what their thought might have been: no more worries about mothers and daughters being raped and assaulted or sold off. But, little did they know, the white man wasn’t going to relinquish their bodies that easily. It was going to take more then the Emancipation Proclamation for this to happen. During this period white men perpetuated the myth that all Black women are wild sex animals in an attempt to excuse and hide their continued sexual exploitation. Up until the 1960’s white men were still invading the homes of Black families in the south – raping mothers and daughters. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement that this practice appeared to stop – or at least we didn’t hear about it any more. As a result of the systemic abuses Black women have suffered in this country, the lesson sadly passed on from grandmother, to mother to daughter in our communities is that sexual exploitation by white men is inevitable. Pornography is just another way that these men can own and control Black women.
Although feminist analyses of pornography address the ways in which it sexualizes racism, no one body of work presents an in-depth analysis of Black women’s vulnerability to commercial sexual exploitation or how images of Black women in porn not only perpetuate racist stereotypes but shape the ways in which young Black women view themselves. Feminist analysis must begin to take into consideration the impact of the slavery experience on African American women. This is the root cause of contemporary sexual slavery in the Black community. The feminist movement must acknowledge that this society has systematically raped Black women over and over again. It must acknowledge how this would cripple Black women as a group – emotionally, psychologically and politically.
The Black community needs to recognize the shackles of slavery that we still have bound to us. The African American church needs to recognize that women used in prostitution, porn, and stripping are victims. Black men need to unlearn the lessons of slavery; we are not their bitches, we are not their ho’s, anymore then we are the bitches and ho’s of white men; on the plantation or in the hood. We need to educate ourselves about our history
and how it effects who we are now. We need to understand the trickery that has been played on us since the first African was thrown on American shores only to be forced into bondage and sexual slavery. We need to understand how that experience, and the years of racism which followed abolition, shape our lives and the way we see each other. Only when we are able to understand and begin to deprogram ourselves, will African American people begin to understand the true meaning of self-worth. Only then, will we be able and willing to invite our white allies to join us in the fight to end the dual oppression of racism and sexism.
Vednita Carter is the founder and Executive Director ofBreaking Free which has as its motto, "Sisters helping sisters break free". Before this she worked for six years in WHISPER (Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt). No wonder her writing is so passionate and direct.
More of Vednita Carter's writing can be found here:
PROVIDING SERVICES TO AFRICAN AMERICAN PROSTITUTED WOMEN
Defining Prostitution/Slave Mentality