#GayPornSoWhite? We Asked Some of Our Favorite Stars to Sound Off on the Industry’s Race Issues 

Discussions centered around an extreme lack of diversity in gay porn are nothing new. But the topic of gay porn racism is being tackled quite extensively by industry insiders and porn consumers alike at the moment, following the GayVN Awards releasing its list of 2018 nominees over the weekend.

Among those GayVN nominations was one category that stood out like a sore thumb: Best Ethnic Scene. It had never before appeared as a category of the GayVN Awards, which themselves had been on hiatus since 2011. And in addition to what many felt was a tone deaf choice in segregating scenes featuring performers of color, this year’s Best Actor category includes only one non-white guy out of 15. The Supporting Actor category has only white men nominated, and two out of the 15 nominees for Best Performer are men of color.

Also interesting, none of the men of color nominated for Best Ethnic Scene received a nom for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor.

With some actually referring to the GayVN Awards as “The Oscars of Gay Porn,” the whole thing can’t help but recall the 2016 debate and boycott dubbed #OscarsSoWhite.

Following the GayVN nominations announcement, porn performer Hugh Hunter made headlines when he called out the Best Ethnic Scene category for marginalizing men of color and officially declined his GayVN nominations. Shortly thereafter, the GayVN Awards issued a public statement including an apology for any who were offended by the new category’s creation, and announcing that Best Ethnic Scene would instead be combined with Best Duo Scene.

It was considered an odd solution to some, especially considering those performers of color are now forced to compete against twice as many people as those in categories like Best Fetish Scene or Best Bear Scene.

The current focus on January’s GayVN Awards is considered by many to be the latest evidence of a larger systemic problem within the adult film industry. But just how prevalent is racism in gay porn? And is “racism” how gay men of color who work in the industry refer to it, or is it something more subtly oppressive? What needs to happen for the industry to become more welcoming to men of all races, or at the very least resolve its optics of racial insensitivity?

We asked these questions and more of some of our favorite gay adult film performers and industry insiders.

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Adam Ramzi

To Adam Ramzi, who has worked in gay porn for four years now, “This whole issue is way more nuanced than I think anyone can comprehend.” While Ramzi acknowledges the industry’s role in “upholding the white male body as a standard of beauty,” he doesn’t feel that branding the debate sparked by the GayVN noms as “racism” is productive.

Here’s what Ramzi — the one man of color nominated in this year’s Best Actor category — had to say:

The porn industry has come a long way even in the four years since I started, in terms of racial dynamics and diversity. Certain studios have niches, and I always thought it was my job to respect that, and to just milk my POC status however I can as a performer. The fact is, my look is what got me hired by Raging Stallion in the first place.

When the GayVN Awards nominations were announced and I saw the Best Ethnic Scene category, what does it say about me that my first reaction was “Where the hell is my nomination?” It wasn’t until I got a text from a friend congratulating me on my other nominations and also asking what was up with having a Best Ethnic Scene category that I realized maybe there was more to this discussion. I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, that’s a little dated.” I thought about my own privilege. 

I’m glad Hugh Hunter has got people talking, but I also appreciated AVN’s response. I think certain cases warrant more conversation than just branding them with “racism.” I understand that upholding the white male body as a standard of beauty is common practice in the porn industry, but I think that’s true in every corner of our culture. Some studios are slowly taking the steps to dismantle that, and we are in a very transitional time at the moment. It means a lot when a person, studio or company can say, “We see what we did wrong here, and we will learn from it.” And it’s up to me to address my own privilege that I was blind to this error in the first place. 

Another gay porn actor who publicly responded to the GayVN Awards’ controversial category is Sean Zevran. In the video he posted to YouTube (above), he applauds Hugh Hunter for “starting a conversation” about racial disparity in the gay porn industry but says he has mixed feelings about the category itself.

Zevran cites what he calls “two legitimate perspectives.”

“On one hand, as we know, it’s incredibly challenging for actors of color to be recognized for our work in the industry, and a lot of it goes underrepresented and unrecognized when it comes to awards, so I would like to think GayVN had the best intentions in coming up with a separate category,” he says. Had the Best Ethnic Scene category not been created, Zevran fears the work of deserving men of color might not have been acknowledged at all.

And on the other hand, he says, “It casts ethnic minorities in this industry as ‘the other’ — that there’s something to be distinguished between our work and the mainstream. That it needs to be a separate category.”

In the video, Zevran also declines his GayVN nominations, though he adds that he doesn’t think that “solves the problem,” which is namely an underrepresentation issue. He suggests that the problem is multifaceted, a combination of industry (and awards) complacency and the discriminating tastes of both models and consumers. And while he’s the first to acknowledge there’s no ultimate solution to righting the industry’s wrongs, Zevran says, “Those of us with a platform need to speak up.”

gay porn racism steve cruz
Steve Cruz

Steve Cruz is a former gay porn actor who now spends his time behind the camera for Raging Stallion. With several awards and much notoriety under his belt — including a Best Director GayVN nom for his 2017 film Gaymers — he makes a concerted effort to cast diversity into all of his projects. Cruz believes racism in gay porn is “as prevalent as it is in our culture as a whole, because the porn industry is just a sexual reflection of gay culture at large. We are what we’ve been exposed to.”

“Over the years, I’ve had models refuse scenes with other models of varying races,” Cruz tells us. “They’ll tell me [a model of color] isn’t their type. It’s a tricky thing — some people believe sexual preference is different than racism. But racism isn’t limited to hatred; most forms are more subtle than that. If you can’t find an entire race sexually attractive, and you refuse work; if you are incapable of assessing each individual — isn’t that the definition of prejudice?”

We asked Cruz what he feels needs to change behind the scenes of gay porn films, and he raises an interesting point: “The consumer controls this debate.”

“Don’t buy films or scenes that aren’t racially inclusive,” he says. “You control this debate. I can sit here and tell you my company Raging Stallion, a division of Falcon Studios Group, casts for diversity … but we can always do better.”

Cruz also has firsthand experience with the idea of segregated ‘ethnic’ awards categories. “One year my film won Best Ethnic Film, and it came as a surprise because I didn’t set out to make an ‘ethnic’ film,” he says. “I just used a majority cast of POC [people of color] in a mainstream film because that’s who I wanted to work with. The industry saw it differently.”

From an awards perspective, Cruz feels award categories where racial division exists should be eliminated, and says “the notion of an ethnic film is evidence of segregation.” As a behind-the-camera initiative, Cruz supports making sure “stereotype roles go away” and says studios need more POC filmmakers and executive producers. 

“I can only tell fans that I will continue to do my part,” he says. “But I’m glad we are having this long overdue discussion.”

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Boomer Banks

Currently one of the industry’s hottest commodities, Boomer Banks has made a name for himself as a household name in gay porn who happens to also be a man of color. And like Adam Ramzi, Banks feels a distinction is in order regarding use of the term “racism” to describe what happens on and off-set of gay porn films.

To me, racism by definition stems from hate,” he says. “Like this uncomfortable hate with being around a different race. I feel that there’s uncomfortableness in the industry, but I don’t feel like there is any hate. I’ve never experienced any hate. Is there prejudice? Yes. Have I experienced it? Yes.”

According to Banks, that discrimination most often comes into play around issues of casting. As an exclusive performer for both of the studios he’s worked for, Banks typically gets asked first by a director or casting person whether he’d be interested in working with another guy. “It’s uncomfortable for my bosses to be like, ‘Eh, that didn’t work out.’ Sometimes I won’t hear anything back [about working with a certain performer] and I’m like, ‘Hey, what happened?’ They say, ‘Oh, it’s not going to work out,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, I get it.'”

Banks recently took to Twitter with a short missive regarding the current state of gay porn: “Dear porn industry, you can’t be mad at the monsters YOU created. You can, however, start changing old behaviors to pave way for new, positive creation.” Over the phone, he expounded on that tweet a bit more, saying that despite what we know about the public’s gay porn consumption (“big black dick” and “black” were two of Pornhub’s most-popular gay searches last year), producers and directors feel they have “found a formula that works for them. And what they found works best for them are these clean-cut, white hunk jocks.”

But in terms of what’s missing in the industry right now, Banks feels a “united front” should be the top priority. “We have to have some sort of sympathy for what struggles all of us are going through,” he says. But he also feels the other side of that coin is true as well — in addition to the struggles being acknowledged, the wins of men of color should be acknowledged as well.

I did well my first year [in porn], and I hate that people continue to say that just because they’re not doing well there are no people of color doing well,” he says. “Sorry, but I won all those white boy awards and I didn’t pay anybody for them. I’m a man of color. Quit minimizing what I am because you didn’t get what you wanted. That’s not helping either. It’s not helping when men of color aren’t supporting other men of color.”

Banks goes on, “I remember when I won Performer of the Year. Every person of color in the industry came up with all these excuses as to why I won, and I’m over here completely surprised, wasn’t expecting anything. I hadn’t even been doing porn for a year and this is supposedly an award that only white people win.”

gay porn racism justice league
A promo shot of Men.com’s Justice League XXX Parody

We recently reported on a brand-new project from Men.com — a gay XXX parody of Justice League timed with the DC Comics blockbuster’s release. One film character, though, was missing from the parody’s lineup. Cyborg, the superhero portrayed by Ray Fisher in the film (one of a select few black superheroes in comics), had been swapped out with Green Lantern, portrayed by controversial porn star Colby Keller. Many responded with peaked eyebrows, as it seemed the studio couldn’t — or didn’t want to — find a model of color to portray a member of the ‘official lineup.’

“I would love to know why they did that,” says Banks when asked about the new Men.com release. “I would really love an answer. I mean, that director’s really awesome and he’s done really cool things. Like I said, I feel like there needs to be a level of hate to be racist. I’m not calling ‘racist’ on the situation. But I would just really like an answer. Cyborg was an amazing character, and they can’t claim there are no men of color available.”

But it seems ‘getting an answer’ out of gay porn studios right now — at a time when they seem to be under fire for questionable practices — is a longshot. And that’s a shame.

“Why have no studios or directors said anything?” Banks asks. “Especially those that are really talkative and open on Twitter all the time. A lot of directors have been completely quiet.”

 

  • Bill Gray

    nice read