Title: The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography

Author: Ariane Cruz 

Year Published: 2016

Main Topics Covered: Sexuality, BDSM / Kink, Race, Racism, Feminism/Feminist Theory 

Written for: Black women, women of colour, female-identifying individuals, researchers

Recommended for: Black women in BDSM community and their clinicians  

Perspectives taken: Objective observer/researcher

Type of Resource: Education 

APA Citation: Cruz, A. (2016). The color of kink: Black women, BDSM, and pornography

Book Review:

Through an exploration of BDSM, art, culture, pornography, and theory, The Color of Kink: Women, BDSM, and Pornography by Ariane Cruz analyzes the complex sexual experiences of black women. While the writing style appears dense, challenging, and academic, The Color of Kink provides an important, thorough, and objective analysis on the intersection of race, sexuality, and the politics of pleasure. The book begins with an examination of black women’s participation within BDSM, which can be a critical mode of pleasure and a vehicle for accessing and contesting power. The author examines the challenges of pleasure derived from submission and dominance for black women in the context of chattel slavery and racism. Cruz refers to the term racial-sexual alterity to define the simultaneous and contradictory dynamics of sexual and racial differences in the performance of black female sexuality.

The second chapter explores three distinct forms of American pornography, with interviews, to analyze the varied experiences of black female performances within pornography. First, Cruz analyzes the performances of a black female-owned pornography website that empowers black female porn actors to control, dominate, and humiliate white cis-male subs to gain symbolic and literal power. Second, Cruz thoroughly examines a racially controversial chattel slavery sex scene in a mainstream hardcore porn film to demonstrate the hold that this tragic history maintains over society’s erotic fantasies. Third, Cruz examines amateur queer race-play pornography to explore the casual nature of racism within racialized play.

The third chapter continues this exploration through an analysis of past and current interracial pornography, from the stag film genre to current internet videos and pornography. Through this analysis, Cruz points to pornography as a historic site of racial-sexual revenge, where interracial aggression can be enacted. The final portion of this chapter focuses on the redeeming future of pornography produced by black queer women, who redefine black female sexuality outside of the patriarchal representation of old media.

In the final chapter, Cruz explores the sensationalized experience of mechanized phallic sex devices. Operated by a white hand, Cruz uses these machines to represent yet another form of pornography that interferes with the performance of black female sexuality, including reinforcing harmful stereotypes. She proposes that these machines “operate as technologies of race that reveal race as a technology.” They also demonstrate a fluctuation between pleasure and pain that parallels the experience of BDSM.

In summary, The Color of Kink provides important and diverse perspectives regarding black female sexual desires and practices by exploring racialized BDSM play. Therefore, this is a valuable resource for clinicians who wish to critically examine and understand black women’s potentially complicated experiences navigating the BDSM scene and the topic of sexuality. However, considering the challenging and academic nature of the writing style, this book might not be suitable for all clients. Also, it should be noted that the book takes an objective stance on many controversial topics, utilizes racialized and potentially triggering language, and expresses views that may not be generalizable to the experience of all black women.

About the Author:

Ariane Cruz is Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in African Diaspora Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.