Hugh Hunter

How Real Is The Race Problem In The Gay Porn Industry?

How much do we learn from pornography, and how much does it really affect us?

These are two questions that many researchers, news site writers, and internet commenters have asked countless times before.

Porn has been around for centuries (since 5200 BCE, depending on how you want to define pornography), but thanks to the internet this medium has become a large staple in human society. In fact, Pornhub says through their insights that in the year of 2015, users watched 4.5 billion hours of porn.

With that commitment people have put into the porn industry, it’s a wonder what we’re getting in return. New technique ideas? Witty pickup lines? Or racial bias?

One gay porn star thinks it’s the latter, especially when it comes to an upcoming gay porn awards ceremony.

Yesterday, we reported that Adult Film actor Hugh Hunter is shining a light on the racism and polarizing intersectionality found in the latest nominations for GayVN Awards.

After the nominations were announced, Hunter renounced his nominations because he was offended by the addition of a “Best Ethnic Scene” category.

“I have never felt so ill-at-ease as I do with the most egregious infraction demonstrated in the announcement of the 2017 GayVN Awards.”

This category chooses several gay porn films with men of color as the leads and nominates them for this one award. They segregate the scenes between men of color (Black men, Latino men, and Asian men) into this one category.

Keep in mind that some of the men in this “ethnic” category do reappear again in the fan favorite nominations like “Best Body,” or “Best Ass” (Drake Magnum, Sean Zevran, Rico Marlon, Ken Ott, and Ridder Rivera to name a few).

That said, the idea of making two categories for best scene and best “ethnic” scene is what Hunter is really protesting.

“Why? Why were these scenes not just included in the best scene category? Why would a gay porn company choose to separate minority groups into their own race at an event that is supposed to celebrate the gay industry in its entirety? Why would this category be created in 2017 when the political climate is so thick with racial divide in this country? Why would they call it ethnic? Who uses the term ethnic?”

We reached out to Hugh Hunter to see if he would share more of his thoughts on why this separate category for men of color is dangerous for gay men as a whole.

“Creating a segregated award category like ‘best ethnic scene’ is dangerous,” he told us, “Other than perpetuating an already existing racial division in the LGBTQ community, it allows studios and content creators to continue disenfranchising men of color in the casting process. There is a lack of film opportunities for men of color in mainstream adult entertainment. This lack of representation can validate bigoted ideals of members in our community. We’re the educators of sexuality for many people. We do a disservice to our community by not creating a sexually inclusive fantasy.”

In addition, this isn’t a problem with just gay porn, but pornography overall. Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show created an entertaining and enlightening (though slightly NSFW and very biased) video covering the topic.

In addition, porn star and director James Deen just spoke to Broadly about the same problem of inequality in the industry.

Deen shared that he’s tired of the all too common practice of white female performers backing out of a project or asking for more money after finding out they’re assigned to have sex with a man of color.

"It's irritating and disgusting and annoying. And it creates a huge problem with casting," he told Broadly.

As inclusive and morally upstanding as Hunter’s and Deen’s words may be though, some may feel that they’re unnecessary.

For instance, a few Instincters have shared such thoughts in the comments and social media shares of the first article on this topic.

Some say that pornography doesn't have that much of an affect on our lives, but is that true?

Researchers with neurobiology, sociology, and psychology backgrounds are still trying to understand the real affects pornography has on our minds and lives.

Several advocates and activists such as Conner Habib, Dr. Chris Donaghue, Caroline Queen, Sean Zevran, Mai Li, and more give lectures, write articles, and educate in anyway they can about the influences pornography and sexuality have on other aspects of our lives.

If these experts and professionals think there is a real influence, we should listen and consider what they're saying.

In addition, some feel that porn stars have the right to choose whom they want to have sex with, which is true. That said, choosing to not have sex with someone based on their race and not on compatibility as a person is a problem.

Yes, it’s the whole “preference or racism” debate that we gay men love to have.

While yes, everyone is entitled to their own preferences and dating/having sex with whomever they choose, choosing so based on race is ultimately showing prejudice.

As porn star Mickey Mod said to Broadly, “There's a difference between not wanting to perform with someone because they're a person of color and not wanting to perform with someone because you're not compatible with them."

Some will immediately be offended by this statement because the words racism and racist are scary, overused, and meant for people with tiki torches. But, it’s important to realize that a person can participate in racism without being racist.

All that said, even if you disagree with the thoughts of Hugh Hunter, James Deen, Mickey Mod, and this Instinct Writer, at least you’re engaging in a conversation about it. What’s scarier is when the conversation is blocked from ever happening.

Hugh Hunter shared with us that after he spoke up against the “ethnic” category in the GayVN Awards, he’s been contacted by gay porn industry personnel who’ve told him they want nothing to do with it.

“I reached out to an industry person for help in starting a conversation about this,” he told us, “I received the following response: ‘I know this goes on for all AVN and XBIZ awards and while I find what you're doing commendable, selfless and brave I have my clients who are in the industry to think about and cannot help you out with this, would be bad for my business for obvious reasons.”

This message shows that people within the porn industry realize the problem they have with racism. Sadly, because most profit from it, few fight for the moral high ground. It is these people who are the real problem. Profiting off of racism and neglecting to make change from their positions of power.

Perhaps this continuing cycle of voices speaking out and being restrained by the industry is why the conversation of racism in pornography has been unable to progress faster.

That makes one wonder how a change can come. Will it be by louder voices like Hugh Hunter’s adding kindling to the flame? Or is something else needed?

Perhaps, what we need is to start pointing fingers at those in positions of power within the pornography industry.

If we don't speak up against those gate keepers, we will continue to have segregation and stereotypes like this “Best Ethnic Scenes” category.

We must not let that happen.

Update 11/26/2017 - An earlier version of this article included a survey discussed on NPR that deducted a negative correlation between pornography viewing and relationship quality for the purpose of expressing the influence of porn on our lives. That source has since been removed.