Mireille Miller-Young is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research explores race, gender and sexuality in visual culture and sex industries in the United States. Her book, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women, Sex Work and Pornography (Duke University Press, 2014) examines African-American women’s representation and labor in pornographic media. In 2013 she coedited the Feminist Porn Book which brings together writings by pornography scholars and feminist performers who work in the adult industry. It was a ground-breaking anthology that helped legitimize an impressive legacy of queer and feminist porn industries.
MIREILLE MILLER YOUNG talks about
0:00Shine Louise Houston and her unique porn aesthetics
1:28 Shine Louise Houston and gender/racial diversity
2:21 Mainstream porn: what’s wrong
4:15 Black porn actresses want something new
5:00 Damaging stereotypes of the hypersexual black female
6:33 illicit eroticism
7:00 transforming stereotypes
8:00 historical erotica
8:51 fantasies of hoods, ghettoes and gangsters
9:39 interracial queer erotica In Jim Crow USA
In our interview Miller-Young explains the boundary-crossing pornographic work of Shine Louise Houston and contrasts it with commercial porn, which in the USA started to become a massive industry the 1980s. As she explains: “During he late 1970s there were 400 films made per year in the pornography industry but the end of the 80s, 11,000 were made a year and 99% on video. Because of video technology, it became easier for everyone to do it and most of those videos were not anything of quality. So when you have that kind of machinery of production, people in the videos get lost and their desires get lost too.”
Despite the fact that pornography performers often have to work in an assembly-line type of movie production, they have pride and agency in their work and find ways to resist being exploited. In the words of Miller-Young “Women who are involved in pornography have a level of agency and that for me is a baseline assumption. I assume that coal miners have some kind of agency, nurses have agency and teachers have agency. That doesn't mean that they’re not exploited, not oppressed. But I assume that they in their daily lives do something to push back against their system of oppression.”
In A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women, Sex Work and Pornography she points out that queer pornography is indebted to older types of visual imagery and erotica archives. She found in these historical documents a fascination with stock figures such as the black maid as well as interracial couples. She said that some of these images were inspired by black queer culture in urban districts and in this way also provide an important legacy for to the work of Shine Louise Houston.