Last year, the gay adult studio Icon Male launched a new site named Noir Male whose tagline is “Showcases Black Men As They Deserve To Be Seen.” However, one of its biggest name performers, Jacen Zhu, has quit the studio, stating, “We are being used to sell a product that doesn’t cater to our community.”
Before we get into it, any casual observer of gay adult videos knows that the medium generally has a poor and problematic record of handling race and performers of color.
An informal 2015 study of five mainstream studios — Men.com, Sean Cody, BelAmi Online, Randy Blue and Helix Studios — found that of each one’s roster of performers only 0.8 to 10% were black (compared to the estimated 12.1% of black men in the general U.S. population).
Black performers are typically used in scenes far less often than white ones, and many scenes in gay adult videos showcase black men as submissive arrestees or hung thugs. Black performers are also siloed into low-production niche sites catering specifically to black men.
That’s why it seemed like such a breath of fresh air when Noir Male appeared, promising some long overdue representation with decent production quality.
But in a series of tweets, Zhu wrote (link NSFW):
I stopped working for Noir Male when I woke up. When I saw that everything was a lie and I would like to apologize for [helping] the wolves in suits to sell this lie. Wake up y’all and see it’s not about us.
I [want] to be clear: I’m not angry I just sat back and watched as the aspiration didn’t meet the reality. We are being used to sell a product that doesn’t cater to our community.
As the gay adult industry reporter Zachary Sire explains (link NSFW), “Icon Male and Noir Male are part of the Canadian straight porn conglomerate Mile High Media, which is owned by a straight white man named Jon Blitt.” Sire points out that when Noir Male launched, only 44% of its 29 actors were black; today that ratio is 55% (37 out of 67).
It makes sense that a black gay adult studio would feature white and non-black performers to appeal to a wide swath of viewers, but if Zhu’s tweets are any indication, the gay adult video industry still hasn’t figured out how black men “deserve to be seen.”
We have reached out to Noir Male for comment and will update this story if they respond.