Preface Confessions of a Black Feminist Academic Pornographer
This is the first book about black women’s images, performances, and labors
in the porn industry. Most criticism of pornography excludes the position
of the black female pornographic producer or consumer. Still less discussed
are the ways in which black women producers and consumers have sought
pleasure, subjectivity, and agency in pornographic representations. This book
takes on the important challenge of talking about one of the most controver-
sial businesses (pornography) through the lens of its most marginal workers
(black women). To illustrate the sexual economy I am presenting, and to pro-
vide readers with a shared vocabulary of visual culture, I have chosen to in-
clude images of the films, events, and people I discuss throughout the book.
In over ten years of researching black women in pornography, I have
grappled profoundly with issues of representation, racism, and violence in
pornographic images. I have been called a pervert and a pornographer not
only for writing about the history of black women’s images, performances,
and sex work in pornography, but for showing images from this history in
various presentation formats. In this way, I have joined a history of what
Sander Gilman has termed “academic pornographers.” When Gilman first
published his groundbreaking work on the iconography of the Hottentot
Venus and early nineteenth century racial- scientific inquiry into black female
sexuality, he was also accused of being a pornographer. Gilman’s amply illus-
trated study, published in the famed special issue of Critical Inquiry from
autumn 1985, and his own monograph Difference and Pathology (1985), dis-
played images of Saartjie (Sara) Baartman’s genitals as they were studied and
eventually dissected and exhibited by French scientists.
Although Gilman was accused of “bringing black women into disrepute”1
by showing these images, his work revolutionized the study of black female
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