by Ellen Gillingham
Bill Yousman, Blackophilia and Blackophobia: White Youth, the Consumption of Rap Music, and White Supremacy
Mireille Miller-Young, Putting Hypersexuality to Work: Black Women and Illicit Eroticism in Pornography
1.) What is this week’s readings major arguments/points?
Miller-Young’s article focuses on the labor marginalization in the pornography industry. The industry forces hypersexuality and illicit eroticism on black sex workers. Black women are devalued as “hyperaccessible and superdisposable” (Miller-Young 220). The article starts by introducing the Sands Convention Center at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. In this and other conventions, Miller-Young observes blatant disregard for black women. The article is an investigation of how black women put their hypersexuality to work for “their own interests in survival, success and erotic autonomy” (Miller-Young 221). The structural inequalities and social biases black women face in the adult industry show differences in agency between races. Miller-Young also explains the ‘Sex Wars’, which are debates about the roles of pornographic media and sexual commerce in promoting heterosexist institutions and social relations. Her paradigm of ‘illicit erotic economy’ as a way to theorize: “(1) the historical representation of black bodies as sites for a vast array of forbidden sexual desires, fantasies, and practices, and (2) how black subjects symbolically and strategically labor within the prohibited terrain of sex” (Miller-Young 225). Another major point in the reading is the color line creates disappointment, frustration and injustice among black actresses as they miss opportunities to work. Miller-Young’s work looks are marginalization by pornography and the racial economy of desire. Stereotypes, structural inequalities, and social biases cause a devaluation of black women in the industry. Black illicit erotic workers, while victimized by multiple axes of discrimination and harm, also employ an outlaw sexuality to achieve mobility, erotic autonomy, and self-care.
Yousman analyses white youth’s fascination with “black culture” to say that to argue that “Blackophilia (manifested by White consumption of Black popular culture) is linked with Blackophobia (fear and dread of African Americans)” (Yousman 1). White youth are one of the primary demographics for both the purchase and use of rap and hip-hop cultural artifacts. Yousman argues that the parallel to Blackophilia among White youth is Blackophobia—fear and dread of African Americans. He also believes that we should recognize the Blackophobia that lies behind much Blackophilia, “and that both may be representative of the continuing ideological and cultural power of White supremacy in the 21st century” (Yousman 6). Yousman connects to Miller-Young by recognizing that Whiteness entails a particular access route to social, cultural, economic, and political power, while Blackness operates as an obstacle to these same privileges. Both readings recognize the disparity between race in relation to economic power. This is significant because comparison to the “other” can help us to understand how racial thinking is perpetuated and manifested in specific and particular historical contexts. By identifying Blacks as others, “as eternal outsiders and ultimate strangers,
Whites are able to justify the social, political, and economic networks that construct, maintain, and advance White privilege and White power” (Yousman 377). This idea is fundamental to American (his)story because it came from patriarchal and capitalist ideas and justifies exclusion.
2.) What are some things that you did not understand? Or, are there questions you have for Professor McCune, or the author?
What effects has Miller-Young’s writing had on the pornography industry?
Are pornography films that are directed by women consumed at the same rate as those directed by men?
Why is rap music Black popular culture? Are White rappers part of Black popular culture?
3.) What did you learn about Gender and Spectacular Consumption?
Within the pornography industry, there is a systemic hierarchy of valuation. This grading affects sex workers that are black women. A racial economy of desire limits the categories. Workers outside of the categories are given vague excuses that can affect the worker’s self-esteem and give a pain of rejection. They are positioned second to white women in the global sex industry. Black sex workers’ illicit erotic moral economy analyzes white privilege and the hegemony of ordinary racism and sexism in their lives.
Yousman notes that rap music is now the ubiquitous soundtrack for advertising campaigns that push everything young people might purchase, from sporty automobiles to fizzy soft drinks. This trend arose from White youth embracing rap music in order to fit in with their peer group. White fascination with gangsta rap and other forms of Black popular culture as a manifestation of spectacular consumption. In addition to the economics around commodifying Black culture. Yousman notes that Americans now
live in a society where “White supremacy is a daily presence in all of our lives, and yet it is simultaneously proclaimed that we have achieved the “end of racism” ideal” (Yousman 374). This idea relates to Susan Douglas’s explanation of Enlightened Feminism because the problems and dangers of these beliefs are similar.
4.) How might you apply the author’s ideas to other examples, beyond what is
presented in the essay?
Both readings communicate the ideas that Black women are both revered and humiliated for their sexuality in films and popular music. Stereotypical White features are held up as the pinnacle of unattainable, unapproachable feminine beauty while Black women are simultaneously situated as not as aesthetically appealing as White women, but more sexually available and free. “When “Black” models are used, they often are actually women of mixed racial background or women whose features, eye color, or hairstyles come closest to White norms” (Yousman 384). I would like to apply this to Beyoncé. She is constantly lightened in all of her pictures. In 2008, L’Oreal was accused of digitally lightening her skin and last February, Beyonce was seen stepping out with a black mini-dress and much paler skin (Victor). These images have continued to echo in U.S. media. This reinforces the point that the images of Black sexuality exploited by the media and bought up by White youth in the marketplace are distorted images that further reinforce myths about Blackness so much, so that it is affecting self-esteem. It also shows how hegemonic whiteness impacts their conditions of labor, including earnings, employment opportunities, and erotic embodiment.