James Deen has starred in 2,035 adult films since he started making porn eleven years ago, at the age of 18. He gets paid to have sex on camera, and every day women visit his website to fill out applications in hopes of having the honor of fucking him. He also works behind the camera, as a director and producer of adult films. When I saw that he tweeted that he had a complaint about his job for the first time, I found it hard to imagine what it could be.
"Today I'm working, casting a scene for jamesdeen.com," he told me, "I let the performers know who they'll be working with and an agent tells me, 'She doesn't do interracial porn.'"
This is a situation Deen has encountered before when casting and directing porn. He explains to me that female performers frequently agree to do a scene and then back away when they discover that he plans to have them on camera with a person of color.
"It's irritating and disgusting and annoying. And It creates a huge problem with casting," he says. "I end up in these situations with agents where I'm trying to plan a scene and I have to say, 'Okay, one girl will be having sex with all the men and one girl will only have sex with the white men,' because there are women who have never had sex with a black man on camera and want to be paid $500 extra for it, as if it's a chore. It's racist and it's belittling and it's keeping me from making a good product and it's hurting good performers like Mickey Mod."
This practice—fairly common within the porn industry—implies that a woman needs to be compensated extra for having sex with a black man. Deen gave me the phone number of Mickey Mod, a black porn actor, because he didn't think it was fair for my article to revolve around "the complaints of a pissed off white guy," and Mod agreed that the practice is dangerous, telling me that in the porn industry, "for people of color, there is an unstated suggestion that they are of lower value."
He says that anytime he gets together with one or more performers of color, the topic is inevitably talked about—they'll discuss who doesn't do interracial scenes and who is waiting for what company to offer them what amount. Statistics collected in a groundbreakingly large study by Jon Millward show that while 87% of porn actresses are willing to take a facial (that is, a shot of cum to the face), only 53% will do interracial porn. Mod tells me that white performers often rationalize their unwillingness to perform with a black actor by saying they are worried about alienating their fans. "That is really weird," he says, "because that means they want to hold on to fans that are racist. 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."
In a 2013 interview with The Root, popular black porn performer Lexington Steele suggested white porn actresses' reluctance to film "interracial" scenes originated externally. "If you look at the individuals that are in positions of authority over some of the white females, the ones governing them are the ones implementing this practice of no interracial," he said. "It's their managers, boyfriend or husband or family members... quite honestly, adult media is the only major business that allows for the practice of exclusion based upon race."
Although "interracial" scenes are a popular subgenre of porn, these scenes often play open the racist idea that white women are violating themselves by having sex with black men. As Mod wrote on his blog after being nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2011 AVN Awards, " My nomination comes with increased visibility and perhaps the opportunity for more "mainstream" work with little to no say in how said work is edited or marketed. Will my next trip to LA make me the star of 'Chocolate Poles in Vanilla Holes vol. 47' or 'A Nigga fucked my Butterscotch Latina Daughter No 87?'"
The refusal of white porn actresses to participate in scenes with black performers—or charging a premium to do so—is especially jarring given the fact that black actresses are still paid substantially less than white performers for the same work. Deen said that while there are any number of reasons a performer could turn down work, he would prefer if they would state their reasons honestly. "I'm not gonna tell people what to do with their bodies. You have the right to say no to sex with anyone. But I would much rather someone just say they don't like black people, because then I can be done with them. If someone says, 'I hate niggers,' I will say, 'Okay, that's your right and I won't hire you because you're an asshole.' I'm at the point where I'm not cancelling on my guys anymore, because there are only so many good performers. I'd rather be discriminating against the racist people."
Deen's voice has risen while we talk about this. I tell him he sounds mad, and he echoes Steele's words. "I am mad! I'm fucking pissed! Porn is the only industry where you can say, 'I don't want to work with him because he's black. That's messed up!'"
I ask Mod why he thinks this is still happening. "There's never been much incentive for porn to take the moral high road," he says. "This isn't talked about much in the industry. People are so afraid of the word 'racist.' You can participate in racism without being a racist."
"As far as porn, there needs to be more transparency... I really wish interracial wasn't even considered a genre of porn."