©2016 VICE Media LLC

    The VICE Channels

      Are Your Porn Habits Racist?

      By Allison Tierney

      Staff Writer

      March 28, 2016


      Maps via Pornhub

      Among the "creampies," "smoking," and "facesitting" featured in Pornhub's insights into Canadian search habits released earlier this month, a few of the results stuck out. When it came to most searched relative terms amongst Canadian provinces—meaning searches more popular in a single province compared to others—race-related words were rampant, including: "Asian" in BC, "Eskimo" in Nunavut, "Indian" in Ontario, and "Native" in Manitoba.

      Is this just multicultural Canada looking for porn featuring performers who look like themselves? Pornhub's own release suggested race-specific searches comparatively came up most in provinces with significant non-white populations. In Manitoba, for example, First Nations people make up over 15 percent of the population.

      But sexuality experts VICE spoke to say that the results are more complicated, and could actually show how common sexually fetishizing race may be in Canada.

      "It wouldn't be surprising if the searches were coming from people outside the racial group in question," said Patricia Marino, a philosophy professor at University of Waterloo who has studied sexual ethics. "Racial categories reflect the influence of colonialism and imperialism, in which white Europeans created racial categories to justify their mistreatment of others."

      In North American society, where most people still identify as white, Marino said, some people might see other races being portrayed in porn as "exciting [by] virtue of being 'exotic.'"

      Marino also mentioned that, in Canada, there is a wide range of racialized groups, which could be one reason why some of our porn search analytics centered around race. In the US results, for example, the only race-related search terms in their Pornhub analytics were "Asian" (in Hawaii's results), "ebony," and "black."

      "In the US, the specific oppression of black people creates conditions where the black/white distinction plays an outsize role in a lot of racial thinking and feeling," Marino said. "In Canada, the situation is more complicated and mixed."


      In the most-searched for terms overall in Canada, "Eskimo" was the only race-related term that cropped up.

      It's not like people searching for porn are necessarily concerning themselves with being politically correct either. For starters, the term "Eskimo," which was found in Canada's Pornhub insights, is an offensive term used to refer to Inuit people.

      Denton Callander, an Australia-based researcher who has studied sexual racism, said that using terms that can be considered racial slurs may just simply be the easiest way for those looking to get off to Inuit people having sex to find that kind of porn.

      "That to me probably says more about the way in which that First Nations group is generally understood around the world, as opposed to it being used as a slur," Callander said. "If I were going to look for porn that featured Inuit people in it, I wouldn't probably write 'Inuit porn' in Google... That just wouldn't produce the type of results I was interested in, whereas 'Eskimo porn' [would]."

      Callander, who is originally from Manitoba, said he was "not surprised" by the highest relative Pornhub search term in his home province compared to others: "native."

      "I couldn't really imagine what other word might better fit. Manitoba has a very rich and diverse culture of First Nations people—especially in a city like Winnipeg," Callander said.

      In Canada, however, we have a long history of systemic racism, abuse, and discriminatory practices of and against the First Nations population—take, for just one of many examples, the hundreds and hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women across our country.

      "The way in which racial minority groups, particularly those who are disempowered [like First Nations people], get treated in the context of sex, and porn as an extension of that, is often very troubling... It's usually a lot about power, colonialism, and control," Callander said.

      When it comes to British Columbia's highest relative searched-for term, "Asian," Callander points out that the label itself is also "rather problematic" since it's a broad term that encompasses many nationalities—all of which have their own unique identities.

      "It's not necessarily that it's people from Asia or of Asian background searching for 'Asian' porn; it's just that people who live [in BC] are encountering more Asian-identified people than in other provinces," Callander said. "That then filters into their sexual fantasies, their experiences with other people in the sexual and dating world, and so then that becomes a part of their fantasy porn life as well."

      However complex our sexual desires can be, and for that matter, how heated we can get when someone tries to critique them, it's undeniable that race is a bit more of a complex preference than eye or hair color, height, or body type given the historical context of discrimination and wrongdoing against racialized peoples. Pornography is one place in our society where our preferences—potentially including how some of us feel about race—is magnified. In the porn industry, race is considered such a defining factor that a white female performer can get paid more simply to have sex with a black man.

      Sexual inclinations may develop without significant conscious thought or consideration for some, but fetishes surrounding race could be more nuanced. When it comes to something as seemingly innocuous as what kind of porn we seek out, this could indicate how our country's colonial tendencies can bleed into so many parts of our society—even our personal sexual preferences.

      Follow Allison Elkin on Twitter.

      Topics: Allison Elkin, Allison Elkin VICE, Canada, Pornhub, porn, race, sexual racism, fetishes, sexuality, sex, racism, porn search

      Comments

      Top Stories