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Understanding Porn’s Impact on Sexual Violence in the Lives of Black Girls

During Culture Reframed’s virtual conference, The Impact of Pornography on Young People: Research, Practice, and Solutions, Carolyn M. West, Ph.D. presented a session about how the racial stereotypes in pornography contribute to sexual violence against Black girls. West, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, also shared evidence-based intervention strategies that are culturally sensitive.

The issue has gained more prominence from the airing of “Surviving R. Kelly,” a docuseries featuring the R&B singer who produced child pornography featuring degrading acts involving Black girls. The docuseries reinforced the reality that a disproportionate number of Black girls are victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children and sex trafficking, West said.

Black girls who are in the foster care system or have runaway have a higher risk of being trafficked, West said. “These are girls who are distressed and in trouble, so they’re vulnerable to victimization,” she said. Research has found that sex traffickers believe they will face fewer legal consequences if they are caught trafficking Black women and girls rather than those from other ethnic groups.

Pornography also reinforces racial stereotypes, West noted, as Black women are more likely to be associated with prostitution than women of other ethnic backgrounds. “These are women that you can treat in even more degrading ways… because of their ethnicity,” West said. “Pornography amplifies some of the worst sexual and racial stereotypes.”

West’s research, which includes the Teens and Pornography project with Common Sense Media, also examines how racial stereotypes in pornography affect their sexual beliefs and behaviors. “Kids are being exposed to pornography, but in particular, they’re being exposed to these stereotypical images in pornography,” she said. “That is really problematic in terms of shaping how they see themselves and how it shapes their sexuality.”

Watch the full presentation here:


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