The jezebel trope reminds me of the many objectifying ways that black women are represented in the mainstream media to this day, which has been addressed by many prominent scholars such as Roxanne Gay and Kimberly Crenshaw. However, something that doesn’t get discussed enough is how black women are portrayed in pornography and how it perpetuates their representation as sexually-deviant objects of male desire.
In the U.S., pornography is a huge industry. A scattered array of statistics shows how much the pornographic industry impacts our society:
-Just one (of hundreds of websites) reported 42 billion site visits in 2019.
-In 2006, pornography revenues exceeded 13 billion
-91% of men and 60% of women reported watching porn in 2018.
The first problem with portrayal of black women is that “black” is a niche porn category. There is no such category as “white women”. So, when dehumanizing labels of porn videos, such as “whore”, describe a video with a black actress, they are inextricably linked to her race, creating the illusion that she is a “whore” because she is black.
In addition, black women are often portrayed in ways that reaffirm stereotypes about their sexuality. For example, black porn actresses are more likely to be the target of aggression compared to white women. This again reaffirms the stereotype that black women have insatiable sexual appetites and that it is acceptable for men to violate them since it’s “what they want”. In addition, black actresses are less likely to be cast in “feminist” porn that focuses on female pleasure, which gives off the image that they are unworthy of intimacy and respect.
It’s hard to imagine that with the high rates of porn consumption, these images don’t get internalized by the men and women who see them and then manifested in the treatment of black women.