Are Gay Porn Award Shows With “Ethnic” Categories Racist?

Posted November 25, 2017 by with 37 comments

besthI recently saw a few people on Twitter talking about the various upcoming gay porn award shows in January being racist for having ethnic categories, and as the producer of my own gay porn awards show (see you at the Str8UpGayPorn Awards in summer 2018!) who reports on the gay porn industry, here are a few thoughts.

Gay porn award shows (or any award show) with an “ethnic” category that separates out men of color can be considered outdated and wrong, but I don’t believe it means that the show organizers are racists who are trying to deliberately discriminate. It feels like, maybe, these shows are just clueless.

These industry events every January copy and paste the same categories they’ve had for years, and then they toss in all the names of nearly every single performer, studio, and scene released that year (or, in some cases, up to three years ago, LOL). So, as deserving as many of the nominees and winners are, these shows have no discerning taste, opinion, or thoughtful appreciation of what’s going on in the gay porn industry. Instead, they’re just an annual exercise of lazily dumping hundreds of names onto a list and hoping that people will tweet about it. Having literally 63 nominees in one category means that you’re only interested in having those 63 nominees give you free publicity, and you don’t really have any clue as to which of them is good. You’re not awarding people, you’re spamming people.

The ethnic categories at award shows are still around because they’re reflective of dozens of gay porn studios specializing in specific ethnicities (Latin, African-American, Asian, etc.) that only feature certain types of men, and award shows with ethnic categories are of course attempting to get publicity from them, too, by nominating them. So, are the owners of all those ethnic studios—many of whom are men of color—racist? People pay money to these studios because they like the types of men they film, and the studios are capitalizing on that appreciation, so I don’t know that this can be considered racist. There are obvious exceptions, and when I see black-themed studios with the word “thug” in the title being called out, I would agree in calling them out. Words are used in different contexts and have different implications over time, and a word like “thug” being applied to black performers shouldn’t be accepted.

If award shows with “ethnic” categories have to be protested, does that mean that studios only featuring specific ethnicities have to be protested, too? No. Ultimately, the award shows are singling out ethnic studios separately because the content that those studios produce is inherently based on a specific ethnicity. Going forward, ideally, the shows would remove the ethnic categories and simply nominate the best content, regardless of ethnicity.

In short, the industry as a whole is responsible for award shows having “ethnic” categories, so blaming award shows for their categories—which, again, are reflective of the industry—doesn’t address why some studios aren’t hiring enough diverse models in the first place. Studios have made some improvements over the years, but there’s still a long way to go.

(And, if you need another reason to not care about the award shows, there are plenty. Str8UpGayPorn, for example, no longer covers any show that nominates serial alleged abusers and actual deranged racists like Michael Lucas. Nominating him renders the show completely illegitimate, and that event is contributing to the abuse and harassment of performers.)

  • Deviancy Behavir

    Every time I see one of these outdated categories or porn flicks using these prehistoric terms this is what comes to mind. The problem is that until someone takes a stand and say I’m not going to be a part of this bullshit system any longer that does things this way, the machine will keep on moving. There have been a lot of problems with porn stars doing very horrible things that get called out for them and I don’t see a problem with people calling out the bullshit that these awards shows put out. How many times have we seen a porn star say that these shows are rigged favorites only get nominated? How many times do we hear about this performer/company who are actively racist who get nominated every year?

    There’s a sea of nothing but white guys in a lot of these studios, but the minute someone with a little too much melanin, it’s coded language, not all studios, but there are plenty that do it. Like with all these sexual predators getting outed, we need to be able to call bullshit when we see it. The same way I haven’t seen Bel Ami, Men and a few other companies post almost any porn with models who aren’t white. And it’s bullshit to say because their in a mostly european country they can’t find someone of mixed-race or another race entirely. Challenging this system of racism would actually help the industry cater to other than what they think is working for them. But they won’t unless they have no other choice to do so. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/823a4137eefb28f3178922abc91440b72582f73fd7ec0163b496cc074b815c51.gif

  • FrenchBug

    I don’t think the ethnic categories would be as offensive if the other porn rewarded was qualified as “Best white porn”.
    Because if ethnic porn is a niche, then that makes the rest of it “white porn” and if you use “white porn” and “porn” interchangeably (which you might as well), you are endorsing the notion that white = default, normal, mainstream, “standard”, which is racist and a symptom of white domination.

    That said, the idea that black-on-black, say, porn is a niche worth celebrating in their own category would not shock me as much if performers of colors were rewarded along others in the non-specific categories. Since they are not, it feels like a token one gives to them so that we can continue the white supremacy of the rest of the awards.
    It is debatable but arguably legit to create specific categories for movies or scenes based on content.
    There is no justification for performers or directors categories not to be mixed.

  • Izzy

    Few thoughts:

    1) Racism, and the results/consequences of racism, arent always deliberate. Laziness and cluelessness tend to be an excuse when people dismiss the feelings, opinions or humanity of minorities. Gays should know exactly how this feels.
    2) As noted by this website, most large/mainstream studios have a well documented history of exclusively hiring white models. It’s not racist for Black or Latino specific sites to exist if they started as the only places that would consistently hire those models.
    3) I agree with your last sentiment. I hope the best scenes will be rewarded without regard to race or ethnicity. That will be more likely now because of these “smaller” sites that produce interracial porn and don’t make a big deal out of it.

    Love that this blog is willing to talk about these topics!!

  • zetan

    Best Daddy Performer —Ageist !!!
    Best Foreign Production —Isolationist !!!
    Best Newcomer —Neophobic !!!
    ***GAY*** Porn Awards —Homophobic !!!

  • Pinko of the Grange

    If it wasn’t for the categories, and with the public voting, there would be no recognition for some real hot porn.

    Want to get away from the segregation? Set the awards up like the Golden Globes where a group of professionals do the voting.

    Want to do some thing proactive? Go join Next Door Studios through Next Door Ebony’s portal; it is $9.95 for 30days through Monday; it includes NDS’s entire catalog for stream or down load. It is the only big production house that consistently puts out loops that I know of.

    Reward the production houses that provide content or stop whining about it. If they make $$$ the rest of the houses will follow.

  • Gay Porn Addict

    I’m of Venezuelan “Mestizo” (mixed European and Native American) heritage and I’m not offended by the term “ethnic category” In other words, I don’t consider it to be disparaging, pejorative, or racist. However, I will say the studios are using the term “ethnic” in a somewhat misleading way. Ethnicity doesn’t just apply to people of color; I mean, people of Caucasian/European heritage are “ethnic” too. They’re Greek, Italian, Jewish, Czech, Slovak, German, Irish, Scottish, etc. etc. – those are all “ethnicities” too. So, perhaps the studios should find a more relevant term than “ethnic” – because it’s too ambiguous

    • Victor

      Interesting combo, All the DNA results videos I have seen so far on Venezuelan mestizos, all of them had also African ancestry.

  • Caesarimp

    Yes.

  • Ninja0980

    Yes it is.
    Only a slight step above many of the porn sites which still have interracial or black/black porn listed as a fetish/taboo.

  • Xzamilloh

    Oh, not racist… it’s just that the “ethnic” porn stars and studios and “scenes” need their own category from the non-ethnic themes or people. Separate but equal… totally not racist at all.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5c037b70588e6f73f5908bdd59a860f8c85a0225d3b0095d0e250f0597ccdcc6.gif

  • Neil

    Right on with this. The porn sites catering to specifically non-white “ethnic” content that I’ve seen seem to be often made on a budget — not as polished as the major whitey gay porn sites that get nominated — but that doesn’t mean the porn isn’t hot, but probably explains somewhat why these sites are never/rarely nominated in the main categories. Obviously, money flows faster on the River Blanc, so there is more money to spend increasing production values and advertising. But porn awards shows should stack their judges panels with porn connoisseurs who can see past the sheen and award porn that is truly hot and innovative regardless of the color of skin or bagginess of jeans.

    Also, why not open up the “fetish” category and actually judge “bondage” and “trans” and “piss” content as separate categories? I’d love to see a live awards show with a “Best Shit Scene, Short Subject” category, with Tilda Swinton as a presenter. Ask her Zach. I bet she says yes.

    • Neil

      Oh, also, Zach, how do website cookies work? Is there a Str8UpGayPorn cookie that sends you information that tells you that, while writing my post above, I opened a new browser window and found the correct spelling of connoisseur? Can you see that?

  • Targareyn

    First of all Zach I would like to thank you for addressing difficult topics on this blog. As a young African-American in the LGBT community the only answer I can give to the question you presented is an unequivocal; YES, it’s racist. For example, parallel this “ethnic” category with a major awards show like the Oscars or Emmys doing the same. Can you imagine the reaction if these shows were to announce that they created special categories to award “ethnic” actors separate from their white counterparts? The effects of racial oppression don’t have to be intentional, hell you can even mean well. The producers of these award shows can actually have good intentions and think that having “ethnic categories” is inclusive. Unfortunately, this categorizing essentially labels porn produced with white models as the default/norm while everything else is abnormal or niche. Every single one of us who has consumed porn over the years knows that the major studios (Sean Cody, Corbin Fisher, etc) have recruited either an exclusively white roster or at the very least a roster that is almost entirely white. The only reason these other sites that recruit minorities exist is because the major studios have purposefully excluded them. When an awards show has a category for these sites it reinforces the idea that the minority/ethnic porn is abnormal and should be treated as such. It’s the “Separate but equal” treatment of gay porn.

    • Hari Kalyan

      I agree with this. But I also thinks this goes far beyond just labeling of an award show category. To your point, if the major studios hired more non-white models and didn’t treat them as niche then categories like these wouldn’t be a thought.

  • Baradude
  • Greninja

    My main problem is the use of the word “ethnic” as meaning non-white. It doesn’t make any sense to imply that white people lack ethnicity. Using ethnic to mean non-white only reinforces the idea that white is the norm, the standard, white is default and non-white is the other and different from ‘normal’.

    • moondoggy

      Agreed. The category should maybe just be called nonwhite. As long as hiring is not colorblind, the awards should not be.

    • busmans

      “Using ethnic to mean non-white only reinforces the idea that white is the norm, the standard”

      Well, in porn, it is.

      That’s why the category exists, to give recognition to a tiny subset of people sparsely represented in porn. So the options are: Remove the category or use a different word. And there isn’t a better word.

      • Izzy

        Touchiness can be an impediment to progress but there are situations where seemingly small corrections can be helpful. “Ethnic” is an odd and outdated term created when Black and Latino porn was actually a small and exclusively segregated subset of the industry. That market share is no longer small and it’s becoming more integrated. There will always be porn that exclusively features men of specific races. That’s not the problem. The problem is that those companies are still treated/honored as the norm. “Ethnic” porn wouldn’t need a separate category if those models were treated equally in the industry (and more importantly by consumers).

  • vroy77

    It seems double standard for me.

    For people of color award shows with ethnic categories seems racist? Yes. Are they offended? Yes.
    Can they change the formula? Yes. Cancel the categories. Is it good? Not for the studios.

    For white people awards shows like BET, ALMA, NAACP, Black Reel, etc. seems racist? Yes. Are they offended? ….
    Can they change the formula? Umm…. Cancel the shows?

    Zach is right: gay porn studios specializing in specific ethnicities that only feature certain types of men, people pay money to these studios because they like the types of men they film. Nominate and awarding them is only publicity. Whatever their skin color is.

  • Scrapple

    Are a good deal of those ethnic studios really owned by men of color, or is this simply a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” type of deal? Given some of the stereotypes some of these studios reinforce, I have to wonder.

    The problem with “Best Ethnic Whatever” nominations is it promotes the idea that “ethnic” (primarily non-White ethnicity) needs to be classified as “other” and separated from what is considered the mainstream. “No need to consider a scene featuring Black/Asian/Latino models in the Best Group Scene category, because we can slide that in one of the ethnic slots.” And most times those chosen scenes hardly represent “the best” which in turn allows studios and porn patrons to continue on in thinking these models and studios are of an inferior quality, and therefore not worthy of attention. There are far better ways to highlight award worthy scenes featuring men of color that don’t come across as lazy or gimmicky. The naming of those categories might not flow off the teleprompter with ease, but that designation wouldn’t be needed in the first place if studios made an effort to be more inclusive on a regular basis. I’m talking about inclusivity that doesn’t fall in February and is neglected for the rest of the year, or involve fetishism based on racial stereotypes.

    While we’re on the subject, I sincerely hope Falcon doesn’t get any “Best Ethnic/Best Interracial noms for the Heaven to Hell sequel or that’s “It’s Coming” movie. Both of those productions were messy as fuck in term of their depictions of non-White models. Same goes for “Dark Matter” which has some cringeworthy racial overtones, primarily in the scene with Beaux Banks and Sean Zevran. You have two mixed models in a scene for a movie called “Dark Matter” and the first sentence of your scene’s writeup reads “Entranced with animalistic instincts…” No ma’am. Subconsciously subversive shit like that should be condemned, not highlighted.

  • Star69Me

    Seeing that most of these awards shows give out awards to white performers anyway… who GAF?!? Like the best ass award… I’m looking at this dude like… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dc1fee5dd2f1a411146ab31488bf1756a8eeb26f7c6c6e6ed91fe48235a366a8.gif

  • OhMyClarence

    Yeah, I can’t see how it’s racist in theory, though in practice the “othering” of literally every community of color into one category is kind of weird. It only reinforces a two tier system. The reality though, I guess, is, unless you establish a certain criteria for entry, you’d have so many different awards: Best Black Performer, Best Latino Performer, Best Asian Performer, etc etc, that it would be impractical. It’s also really hard for an industry’s that their bread and butter is objectification to properly take up the mantel of addressing social ills. That being said, if these industry events have any influence on people’s behavior, such as many introducing people–or perhaps more importantly–other porn producers to new talent, they could be more intentional in highlighting studios and performers that do not support or endorse content that explicitly furthers negative stereotypes of individuals.

  • ANTSLC

    The use of the term “ethnic” in this case is misguided. The actors in these scenes aren’t foreign actors are they? Like, would it make more sense to nominate a scene from Bel-Ami as best foreign porn or even best ethnic as well? All of those models are from Europe and of more varied ethnicities that just “European, or German” like the white guys in porn are here in the U.S.A. “Ethnic”, I’m sure was an attempt to honor scenes that featured two individuals of either the same “other” race than white. Unless these guys are foreign (which should be the correct term for any scene not shot in America with non-American actors), they’re probably American, they’re just not white. So, their work should be considered along with everyone else’s. Perhaps whoever came up with the “Ethnic” category thought they were trying to be helpful by highlighting these scenes. In actuality they “other” the performers and sets them apart not because they did better work than everyone else, but because they are not white, so that’s “Different” and a “curiosity” – not of the norm.

  • Nordschleife

    Some of the people that are going to reply are the same that say no Blacks, no Asians on their profiles so of course they are going to rationalize it’s not racism but I think it is. They’re would be no such things as the NAACP or the like if way back when we all inclusive. People can TRY to justify anything but this like the white bias in porn is rooted racism.

  • 76disqus

    They have that category because America still thinks you have to be white to be American; all the non-whites are not American, at least not real Americans. Some white Americans have a big problem with race still.

    • a b

      Ryan Rose even thinks that protesting against racism is protesting against America…

  • CamCam

    The awards are just a reflection of the gay porn sites themselves. As a black man, it’s really nice to see guys who look like me on sites like Helix, Falcon, Men, TitanMen, etc..but that’s a rarity. I look forward to the day when blacks, latinos and asians will be a regular part of these mainstream gay porn sites and not just something you see once every other month so that the need for a “Best Ethnic Scene” won’t be necessary. There are some scene that are considered “ethnic” that are better than the ones considered for Best Scene with mainly white guys nominated. Until that changes, the “Best Ethnic Scene” will always remain and i don’t see it changing anytime soon and it’s a damn shame.

  • Maximus

    Yeah, I can’t see how having a specially designated category for non-white performers could be construed as anything other than “separate but equal.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/14389c5c740523cbdc7579df5bb74dc2da93291e5f42af9afec0c69fc73369dc.gif

    • C A

      They always trying to do the most.

    • D.P. Welles

      The question seems to be the assumption that any non-white scenes or performers are EXCLUDED from the other categories. If the other categories are representative of the industry and give a chance to highlight underrepresented work that is also eligible in other categories that seems less of a problem.

      This stuff is the symptom not the problem. Awards shows reflect the industry. For many years the Oscars has separate b/w and color categories for production design and cinematography. When there weren’t enough b/w films anymore they merged.

      When we start to integrate our industry better than the awards will follow.

  • Bill

    It’s very racist, do you think they would have a best scene by a White guy category? of course not. The category would be “Best scene by a male performer” ethnicity would never be mentioned. But the porn industry has always been a little racist, most studios only hire light skinned blacks, who can blend in. And if blacks are used, they find the ugliest one’s on the block, like they went on the corner & asked” want to make fast $50.00?? Plus a lot of the white models, do not like to breed with blacks, but would jump on a hot latino in a minute.

    • Devin

      I don’t think the studios find the ugliest Black guys on the block. I think that it just happens to be the ugly Black guys who apply to work with these studios. A lot of Black guys are fucking gorgeous, but they’re not signing up to do Gay porn Lol Same with Asians. I know a lot of hot Filipino guys, but they would never do Gay Porn. Also, if more Black guys in Gay porn looked like Arvion Kylers or Marcel Tykes I think racism would be less of an issue in the industry. Arvion’s photos are kinda blah, but check out his scenes. He’s fucking gorgeous. So is Marcel.

  • Hari Kalyan

    It’s so funny to be upset over this. I agree with your summation that being upset by this is short-sighted. You can’t get upset about some dumb award show category if you’re not also voicing concern over the more overt racial preference in porn casting (e.g. that dumb Justice League parody) and segregation issues (e.g. NextDoorEbony) that largely create the need for these “ethnic” studios to exist. Take a look at most any scene at a “mainstream” porn studio the casts a non-white model. the description of the scene will almost always make reference to the “otherness” of the non-white model, sometimes using coded racial/ethnic language and other times being more direct. Yet it’s totally different for white models. So no, its not racist to have a best ethnic category. It’s ignorant, as it a byproduct of the larger racist issues that exist in the porn industry today. Do something about the cause of the issue, don’t whine about it effects.

  • zetan

    Did some of you guys actually read the nominees? The majority (11 out of 15) of this Best “Ethnic” category are scenes produced by your “mainstream” studios. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f701160507846cb443d24cb3b11a386cc28a5b9abc9493e77ae1e72238f14a79.png

  • Sed

    Arvion Kylers is FUCKING GORGEOUS! Any twink studio in existence should be all over this guy. He’d instantly be one of the best looking if not the best looking guy on the site. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a43c9ab8fe3764f7f470197ced89c143ec7806de88416ba8a4adc386128ad79a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3f963fa0e9eca04ed9041cb40597d04c6b206ebc81513128798158ca081281d1.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/119a192845f1f2536ec951536f49d5aad175423eea2d2872d2b2decfa625feff.jpg He’s a great performer too.

  • Andre Leneal

    Ethnic Studios exist because historically Gay Porn hasn’t been inclusive of Gay Men of Color. The need for these studios is racist, not the inception of studios to reflect the diversity of Gay Men who watch porn.

    I love seeing all kinds of hot men having sex but most of the bigger studios carry less than 20% Performers of Color.
    That heavily contributes Gay Men of Color feeling like the community doesn’t exist for them/us and it isolates.

    It can also contribute to a disbelief that Men of Color are or can be attractive.
    This inspires and empowers racist declarations of “Colored People aren’t attractive.”
    This also inspires diminished self-esteem in Gay Men of Color, allowing us to find ourselves in more dangerous situations sexually, romantically, and emotionally.

    Lastly, studios who employ performers who engage in racist attraction politics are tacitly supporting racism and racism in the industry. If any other entertainment company employee or freelancer publicly espoused racist vitriol, said employee or freelancer would cease to have a job due to public outcry alone.
    Porn manages to take its business so seriously without actually acknowledging the way it has historically and continues to shape the way that Gay Men have sex and construct attraction.