Sex on Screen: An Intro to the Hella Brown Series (NSFW)

6 Dec

Photo of producer and store owner Nenna J

Porn is what’s hot in the streets (aka halls of the academy) now.

There are brilliant scholars who historicize and build upon black feminist participation in conversations about pornography. And there are others who simplify the argument into a false then vs. now paradigm that presents our foremothers as prudes, not as the women who made it possible for us to talk about sexuality in the ways that we do today. I believe these others wish for the day when black women can talk about sex as if they were white men, with no cloud of controlling images over their heads.

But perhaps I am falling into the pit of false binaries that is the porn war, which keeps popping up in any conversation about filmed sex involving brown bodies:

Good Bad
Sexual freedom Politics of respectability
Wild women Controlling images (mammy, jezebel, sapphire, tragic mulatto)
Fresh scholarship Foundational scholarship
Erotica Pornography
“Cultural producer” Deconstructionist
Avant-garde  erotica Mainstream porn

This polarization misses the nuances of arguments about the ethics and function of pornography, and it also produces a too-narrow site of investigation: mainstream, heterosexual porn.

In short, other folks are working. The (Silicone) Valley isn’t the only place where pornography is being produced and free internet porn often proves the adage about getting what you pay for.

Nenna Joiner, an Oakland-based director and producer, is working.  Nenna J’s films center black women with body types that aren’t affirmed in popular porn, she imagines the gaze of queer black women, and she resists the hackneyed scene endings of normative pornography.  If you want to see women of color perform a giggling, cooing ecstasy, you might want to go to Redtube. But if you are interested in embodied performances that respect the real of the reel, Nenna J’s Hella Brown: Real Sex in the City won’t disappoint. This is a link you don’t want to visit at work, but it’s a good trailer for what was, in my opinion, an awesome movie.


On Tuesday, we’ll talk more about Hella Brown with “Nenna J” herself. Please stay tuned.

** If you have any progressive porn/ erotica that you’d like to see reviewed, please write crunkfeminists@gmail.com.

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3 Responses to “Sex on Screen: An Intro to the Hella Brown Series (NSFW)”

  1. CaptessCavegirl December 6, 2012 at 8:31 AM #

    Great little write up. I am speaking to a guy I am thinking of dating and he says that my open ability to discuss my like for black sensual erotica and pornography is really refreshing to hear about coming from a black woman.

  2. liftingasweclimb December 7, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

    Informative post.

    Not only are these binaries false, they are completely uninteresting. The entire African diaspora needs a series of conversations about sexuality (cf. HIV/AIDS/STI rates) Many black women seem to have a visceral reaction against pornography, but in a world that exploits sexuality at every opportunity, we can’t afford to simply throw up a wall of Puritan denial

  3. Laurynx December 9, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

    Shine Louise Houston of the Crash Pad Series (not all brown folks, but there are quite a few).

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