What can we say about race now? What can we write?
The past four months, since the murder of George Floyd and the international eruption of rage, recriminations and soul-searching that this event triggered, have turned the always-sensitive topics of sex and race into even more of a minefield for erotic authors. Breaking taboos is our stock in trade, but it may be that taboos related to race are now off the table.
Interracial tropes have always been popular in erotica: the white woman ravaged by the black bull with the enormous cock, the black woman with the sassy attitude and the big booty telling the whimpy white guy what to do, the black jocks and the white cheerleaders breaking all the rules, and so on. You may not have written any interracial sex, but I’d be very surprised if you haven’t read some.
Black authors use these stereotypes as much as white ones. Damien Dsoul, for instance, (https://www.erotica-readers.com/story-gallery/awesome-authors-presents-damien-dsoul) writes interracial erotica from a black man’s perspective, full of hungry, horny white women begging for penetration and domination.
These days, though, even writing interracial romance (let alone hard core smut) can get you in hot water. One of my author friends recently had the promo post for her new novel rejected by Facebook because it supposedly violated their standards. The apparent reason? This book, a reverse harem tale, features a black heroine and two white heroes. She had no trouble with the previous installment in this series, which has a very similar cover and blurb but which features all Caucasian characters.
Have we really got to a point where we can’t have any black characters without being censured or censored?
I don’t generally write “interracial” erotica, in the sense of stories where the race of the protagonists is part of the kink. In fact, I don’t really like to use that label. I do, however, have quite a few tales with a mix of black and white characters. In fact, my most recent release, The H-Gene, is an explicit MM erotic romance in which one of the heroes is black and the other white. The race of the characters is an integral part of their back story. I’m not using it specifically for titillation, though Rafe’s a big guy, in every way, and his dark skin and imposing stature do contribute to Dylan’s attraction.
After my friend Tina’s problems, I’m starting to get worried. I’m a white, Jewish woman writing about a black man from the ghetto. Am I racist? Will I get excoriated for “appropriating” the black male experience? Am I revealing my prejudice in deciding that my black character grew up in the slums while my white character is the son of a Boston lawyer?
Is it racist to write smut that uses the Big Black Cock kink? On the one hand, this is perpetuating stereotypes. Obviously not every black guy has a big cock, any more than every black guy has an innate sense of rhythm. I certainly wouldn’t like to read erotica that portrayed all Jewish guys as neurotic navel-gazers or all Jewish women as controlling guilt-trippers. (Of course, that’s the opposite of sexy, so maybe this isn’t a good comparison.) The trouble is, these tropes have been around for so long that we (i.e. the reading public – maybe including the black reading public) have been conditioned to find certain stereotypes arousing.
Should we try to decondition ourselves? Do we need to explicitly recognize and reject these racial stereotypes?
If these tropes become socially unacceptable, won’t that just make them more taboo?
I’m really quite perplexed about this. I recognize that black people have been systematically oppressed for centuries, and that racism is so firmly entrenched in many of our institutions that we don’t even see it. I know we need to open our eyes, to take responsibility and to change.
But does that mean abandoning the Big Black Bull?
In the current social climate, do we dare to write any black characters at all?
What do you think?