Is the Porn Industry Racist?

Why the adult film industry might be one of America's most discriminatory.

Aurora Snow (Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CineVegas); Lexington Steele (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Aurora Snow (Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CineVegas); Lexington Steele (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“That is absolutely true,” she said when asked if there is a pay disparity. “Now that I have raised my rate — which is not really that high; I know white girls getting paid [$1,500], and I’m getting about [$1,200] — I get booked less.” But she said that her current rate is a vast improvement over her previous rates.

“There was a time I was getting about 400 or 500 bucks a scene. Now that I’m with LA Direct [agency] and probably at the top of the food chain, I am now booked for $1,200 a scene, but they don’t want to pay an African-American girl that kind of money.” She explained that her bookings went down once her rates increased, despite the fact that they had increased based on her popularity and stardom.

She further explained that for certain, more extreme sexual acts, she knows white colleagues who were offered $3,000, while she was offered around $1,500 and occasionally as low as $1,200. She has so far declined to participate in such scenes.

Though she said people in the industry rarely, if ever, acknowledge racial disparities in pay and treatment, such disparities are ingrained, as unspoken as they may be. For instance, while it is generally accepted as fact that certain white starlets will see their pay rates go down if they perform with black men, Stone said that she knows it would not go over well if she were to decline scenes with white males.

Diversity Needed to Change Industry

When asked what could be done to change things in the industry, Stone hesitated before offering this: Diversifying who makes decisions within the industry matters. She recently incorporated her own adult film company, although it has not yet made its first project. She joked that she wanted to have a company populated with black performers and “one token white girl,” a play on the fact that she has so often been the token black girl.

Steele has done the same. A former stockbroker who studied at Morehouse College before graduating from Syracuse University with degrees in history and African-American studies, Steele founded Mercenary Motion Pictures in 2003. It has become a multimillion-dollar success story within the industry.

Stone said that she would have to think long and hard before encouraging other women of color, or women period, to enter the adult entertainment field, calling it a “last resort” for many girls. Steele, however, said he has no regrets.

“My last office [as a stockbroker] was in the World Trade Center. I lost four very close friends on Sept. 11,” he said. “If I had not switched professions, I would have been there. Had I remained a broker, I would have been in tower 2 when it collapsed. I worked at Oppenheimer. I’m happy I made the decision to go into adult [entertainment] because I would have been in the building. So I don’t look back with any regrets. I think it was a good decision to chase a dream.”

Keli Goff is The Root’s political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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