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Black former gay porn star calls out systemic racism in sex work and pleads with studios to cut ties with racist performers

Patrick Kelleher June 10, 2020
Race Cooper gay porn

Race Cooper (Photo by Ben Veronis)

According to Black former gay porn star Race Cooper, racism was “a daily constant” when he worked in the industry.

Cooper started off as a casting director for major porn studio Raging Stallion and went on to perform in front of the camera too – but his time working in the industry was cut short.

Looking back, Cooper says he was paid less than his white co-stars and regularly had his work ethic and intelligence called into question.

Damningly, he now believes he was only hired in the first place so his porn studio could “appear less racist“.

The world is currently facing a reckoning. The brutal killing of Black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis last month has shone a harsh light on the systemic racism embedded in our society.

Global Black Lives Matter protests have helped draw attention to the prejudice and discrimination that Black people face in all walks of life – and according to Cooper, the porn industry is no different.

Black former gay porn star Race Cooper calls out the ‘systemic racism’ in the porn industry.

Race Cooper started his career in porn in 2009 after having already established himself working in mainstream television and film. At that time, Raging Stallion was considered the most diverse of all gay porn studios, he says.

“In 2010 I became the only full time Black person who worked as an employee, and was the only Black exclusive contract on their roster,” he tells PinkNews.

“There was systemic racism at the company,” he says. “The question of, ‘Is there anyone that you wouldn’t like to work with?’ was asked of all models and tracked with the encouragement from producers and directors to be ‘honest’ and ‘specific’.”

Cooper says he heard people being encouraged to write down racial categories they would be uncomfortable shooting a scene with.

“I came to the industry with mainstream television and film experience, where such questions would immediately be banned and recognised as racist. But not in porn, where it was commonplace.”

He also says he was paid less than his white counterparts when he worked as a porn actor. On one occasion, a white man was brought on board, 15 years his junior, who had never shot a porn scene before. He was paid $200 more per shoot than Cooper right from the beginning.

Fetishisation diminishes the person of colour, uses them for only personal sexual gratification, and discards them when done.

“Even fetish scenes that I did, which paid slightly more per shoot, still paid less than any white exclusive,” he says. These actions sent Cooper a message, loud and clear: “Black people are worth less.”

“I was made to feel like I was not worthy of praise, validation, and definitely less valuable than all of the white actors.”

Cooper says his time with the company ended when it merged with Falcon Studios. He says he was told they had no need for two casting directors.

“I was the only person laid off at that time. I was also the only Black person on staff.”

The fetishisation of Black people in the gay porn industry is a persistent problem.

He also notes that Black men are still fetishised in degrading ways within the industry, and the impact on the actor is severe.

“When you fetishize a person, you are dehumanizing that person into a thing,” he says. “Fetishes like fist play or sling play have nothing to do with race or skin colour. Anyone can participate. But when your fetish is any interchangeable ‘Black guy’, you are taking the human component out of it, and just treating them as objects based on their skin colour.”

He says that Black men in the porn industry are often reduced to nothing more than a body part – as is the case with the degrading porn category “BBC” or “Big Black C**k”.

Race Cooper gay porn
Race Cooper (Steven Underhill)

“A human with a soul is reduced to a Black dildo like those you buy and own, hiding it away under your bed until you’re horny and lonely.”

He also notes the pervasive description of Black men in the industry as being like “chocolate”.

“Chocolate is a delicious treat, a guilty pleasure we are all expected to renounce in public and enjoy in private. It’s another example of fetishisation.”

Cooper also says Black men in the gay porn industry are frequently cast in “thug” roles, which play into offensive racial stereotypes.

“Fetishisation diminishes the person of colour, uses them for only personal sexual gratification, and discards them when done. That impact stays with Black people who feel their worth is only in the sexual gratification they can provide to white people.”

Since the death of George Floyd, many sex workers of colour have criticised the porn industry for its lukewarm attempts at stamping out racism. Some have called out white gay porn stars for past racist remarks and for their open support of Donald Trump.

Race Cooper wants to see gay porn studios sever ties with ‘racist’ stars.

Many major gay porn studios have responded to Black Lives Matter protests by releasing supportive statements – but for Cooper, it’s not enough.

He wants porn studios to do more than release blanket statements about diversity. Instead, he wants to see companies sever ties with “known racists” – something many have been reluctant to do.

Race Cooper also wants companies to acknowledge that many have cast white men – and, in some cases, straight men – over Black and gay men.

For Cooper, there is a clear path forward. He would like to see porn studios hire diversity mentors to help with casting, and says these mentors could help to advance the careers of porn actors of colour.

He would also like to see the gay porn industry end the preferential treatment of “gay for pay” actors and stop shunning HIV-positive porn stars.

“What I’ve come to understand is this: it’s easy to say racism is only elsewhere, such as police brutality, or in actors who have espoused racism on social media,” Cooper says.

“However, as a gay community that wants to truly be anti-racist, and support all of our brothers, sisters and cousins, we have to clean house. While Black Lives Matter focuses on police brutality, how we view and treat others sexually and engage with them, must also be addressed.

“It’s not enough to only care about Black people in public, but still reduce them to objects we hide under our bed at home. We can’t claim empathy when Black people are killed in the streets, considering we currently treat them differently in the sheets.

“Racism takes many forms, and our thoughts on racism and sex need to change.”

Falcon/Naked Sword president Tim Valenti says they will ‘listen and work to do better’.

In a statement released to PinkNews, Falcon/Naked Sword president and CEO Tim Valenti said: “Let me start by saying I respect Race Cooper for sharing his experience working at Raging Stallion.”

He continued: “I believe voices like his should be heard. I only want to listen and work to do better.

“It’s true that in Falcon’s 50 year history, the studio has cast mostly white performers. I can’t excuse the choices of Chuck Holmes or any of the industry veterans who ran this company before me, but I can assure you that as president and CEO today, I do not want that to be the legacy of the Falcon brand.

“We want to be a part of improving racial inequality in our industry, and that starts here. As long as I am president and CEO of Falcon/NakedSword, I can promise you that we do not, and never will, have a written or unwritten policy regarding the race of our performers.

“Our model applications do not, and never will, include questions about racial preferences, and we will never knowingly cast anyone who refuses to work with another performer solely based on the colour of their skin.

“I have taken steps to diversify the model pool at Falcon. While we have made strides in the right direction, we obviously have a lot more work to do. I am committed to continually evolving the Falcon brand to include more men of colour, specifically black men, in all of our productions.

“While we can’t change the past, we acknowledge it, and commit to a better future. My team and I are here, listening and we vow to take action and keep marching toward equality in our industry and in the world.”

More: black lives matter, Falcon, gay porn, naked sword, porn, Race Cooper, racism, Raging Stallion

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