Race and Pornography: The Dilemma of the (Un)Desirable

In Beyond Speech: Pornography and Analytic Feminist Philosophy, Mari Mikkola (ed.) New York: Oxford University Press, 2017: 177-196.

Antipornography feminists have long argued against pornography on the basis of its racist representations of women of color. More recently, however, other academics and pornographers have advanced arguments to rehabilitate (especially non-mainstream) pornographic representations of race as sites of resistance and pleasure. This chapter presents and criticizes three such arguments. On the one hand, pornography has the potential to expand and transform the standards of what is beautiful, desirable, and pleasurable to include those in the bottom ranks of racialized and gendered hierarchies. However, pornography makes use of race always at the risk of reinforcing patriarchal and racist standards of desire. These risks and rewards represent the double-edged sword of pornography’s critical role in the shaping of sexuality. The chapter concludes that we cannot in a principled way condemn or militate against pornography merely on the basis of its racial/ist representations.

Full text available at Oxford Scholarship Online here.