“It Was A Very White World.” Hugh Hunter Wants Gay Porn to Reckon With Its Racism Problem

“It Was A Very White World.” Hugh Hunter Wants Gay Porn to Reckon With Its Racism Problem

When Hugh Hunter saw the nominations for the 2018 GayVN Awards, he said enough was enough. The accolades are meant to honor the best of the best of scenes, films, and actors who give consumers worldwide more images for their respective spank banks. But there was a problem: this year, not one actor nominated for best actor was of color. Instead, actors of color were lumped into one category: the Jim Crow-esque “Best Ethnic Scene.”

In an interview with INTO, Hunter called the nominations “one of the most blatant and egregious racial statements I’ve seen while I’ve been in the business.”

Hunter wrote an open letter declining his own nomination for Best Actor, which was picked up by several prominent LGBTQ outlets. But, his realization that gay porn had a race issue went back much further than his time in front of the camera. It began with his time watching porn at home.

“It was a very white world,” he said. “If I wanted to see black or Latino or any other group of men, I had to physically search for that. It wasn’t readily available from major labels.”

Hunter’s search for adult films with actors of color is not unique. According to data culled from PornHub, gay porn consumers view videos with black men more than any other category. Searches for content featuring black men take up 3 of the top 10 searches.

But while consumers clearly want content featuring black actors, white names dominate the list of most popular porn actors — Johnny Rapid, Rocco Steele, and Jake Bass are far and away the top three most popular names.

“Clearly, the consumers are looking for adult entertainment that features men of color,” Hunter said. “They’re not finding it through the studios that are not producing it.”

He added, “Something’s not right in that buyer and seller equation.”

This #GayPornSoWhite problem, Hunter said, stems from a cyclical issue. Consumers want studios to produce more content with men of color, while studios, according to Hunter, claim that they’re just giving the consumer what’s most popular.

But, without a proper roster of men of color, studios have little recourse but to trot out white talent again and again. A 2016 Str8UpGayPorn post showed that only 2.8% of the site’s 1,024 models (up until that point) were men of color.

Aside from employing so few men of color, studios sometimes exacerbate the problem by hiring actors with discriminatory racial politics. In 2016, gay porn studio NakedSword came under fire for hiring Cameron Diggs, who had several prominent tattoos classified as white supremacist and hate iconography.

Cameron Diggs

Hunter added that he knows several policies turn their heads the other way when some big-name actors assert their racial preferences and refuse to work with actors of color. Hunter refused to name names, saying his goal was not to single out individuals but to talk about the structural problem of studios allowing actors to discriminate.

“Certain names are allowed to make demands that other people can’t make,” he said. Hunter compared the situation to the current porn controversy around actor Colby Keller, who most recently played Green Lantern in a Justice League parody. Fans struggled with the casting choice given the actor’s vote for Donald Trump. Hunter has spoken out against Keller, who he said voted “against the entire LGBTQ community and the adult entertainment industry.”

But, Hunter said, he’s heard that Keller will continue to get work and studios will seek him out.

“I was told that he was still going to be hired because he is a ‘great performer’ and ‘a star,’” Hunter said.

Along with white actors with racial preferences, Hunter said he’s also familiar with actors of color who have had trouble getting gigs with certain studios. He said it was “common knowledge” among some actors of color that certain studios would not book actors of color for scenes for events.

At least one actor of color, Leo Forte, has come forward to speak about racism in the industry. In an op-ed on Str8UpGayPorn, the actor said that activism concerning racism in the industry must center performers of color.

Leo Forte

“There is no way to have dialogue with Hugh and any department of the gay porn industry at large that would not result in a shouting match over who is more racist, more privileged, and more outraged,” Forte wrote. “Everyone will be backed into a corner, simply because you speak of a struggle that is not your own. Our ‘champion’ must come from within our own ranks.”

“Me being white had nothing to do with it,” Hunter tells INTO, “but if that’s helping the story get picked up and circulated and getting more people talking about it, great.”

While Forte believes actors of color must be front and center in the ranks to change porn, Hunter added that consumers can and do play a part. Hunter said that a model might be the airline industry, which he says has gotten more proactive in using social media as a place to perform customer service. Hunter said in his time in porn, he’s seen a lot of tweets from people appreciating good porn, but not critiquing bad porn.

“I don’t think [consumers] know they have power,” Hunter said. “We’re the ones that put money in your pockets; we’re the ones that buy your product. It happens in other forms of media all the time.” Hunter pointed to network television, where blowback can cause loss of ad dollars. “But you don’t see it in adult entertainment, where people say, ‘We don’t like this, we don’t want to see this.’”

Intra-community pressure resulted in the AVN awards eliminating the Best Ethnic Scene category at the GayVN ceremony and lumping in the nominees with “Best Duo Scene” category. In a statement, AVN said, “The team at AVN offers a heartfelt, unequivocal apology to anyone who felt that the category of Best Ethnic Scene was an attempt to slight performers of color.” AVN said it “truly pains us to have offended any member of our community.”

Beyond consumers’ available options or studios’ responsibilities to cast more actors of color, Hunter says the larger problem is that the gay community is still reckoning with its own issues of racism. Herein lies another cycle: the cycle between real-world desirability and desirability in porn films.

“Porn and adult entertainment are big facets of the gay community, and I think they do influence each other,” Hunter said. “Real life and porn influence each other back and forth just like art and real-life influence and mimic each other.”

Because of that relationship, Hunter said, people should take racism in the gay porn industry seriously. The #OscarsSoWhite brought serious scrutiny to Hollywood’s problems elevating actors and creators of color, and adult entertainment may need a similar campaign. Movies, music, and pornography are all, Hunter asserted, about escapism and fun.

“Would it be OK if Rihanna didn’t win Best Album because she was in the Best Ethnic Album category at the Grammys? People would be livid. We’d be burning cars in the street,” he said. “So, why is it OK because it’s people having sex?”

A casual consumer might think that is just porn and that it should not be subject to the world of identity politics and social justice. But that would be a faulty way of thinking, Hunter says.

“When people disregard it because it’s ‘only porn’ it’s obvious that they’re missing the bigger picture and the bigger problem,” he said. “If they opened their eyes and looked out their window, there’s a huge issue with race in this country that’s been re-exposed since the last election, and it’s evidence in every form of media.”

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5 Comments

  1. trystham
    November 30, 07:24 Reply

    There must be an art to fucking and faking moans That I clearly know nothing about because as far as I am concerned, porn is just that. Best actor ko

    • IBK
      November 30, 08:34 Reply

      Did you read the last paragraph?

      • trystham
        November 30, 12:52 Reply

        Well, I am disregarding it cos its just porn.

  2. IBK
    November 30, 08:36 Reply

    What baffles me is how in 2017 a multimillion dollar industry thinks it’s cool to have an award with ethnic in it?

  3. Rapum
    November 30, 10:35 Reply

    In addition to being racist, white gay porn is shallow in its conception of beauty and hotness. Check all its major acts: Jocks with muscles, sometimes daddies whose bodies are equally toned, twinks who are not really twinks because they have muscles–and, all in all, hardly any femininity in them. And lord, their moaning, so fucking annoying: Dude, I know you’re a man; you don’t need to grunt so as to remind me. Black gay porn might have its own issues, but it is more normal (I’m shying from that word, ‘inclusive’/’diverse’) in its perception of attractiveness. And while we’re at it, what is it with the white studios and gay-for-pay or straight men? It’s like a disease!

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