A Taste for Brown Sugar

Black Women in Pornography

A Taste for Brown Sugar

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 40 color illustrations Published: October 2014

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Sex and Sexuality, Media Studies > Film

A Taste for Brown Sugar boldly takes on representations of black women's sexuality in the porn industry. It is based on Mireille Miller-Young's extensive archival research and her interviews with dozens of women who have worked in the adult entertainment industry since the 1980s. The women share their thoughts about desire and eroticism, black women's sexuality and representation, and ambition and the need to make ends meet. Miller-Young documents their interventions into the complicated history of black women's sexuality, looking at individual choices, however small—a costume, a gesture, an improvised line—as small acts of resistance, of what she calls "illicit eroticism." Building on the work of other black feminist theorists, and contributing to the field of sex work studies, she seeks to expand discussion of black women's sexuality to include their eroticism and desires, as well as their participation and representation in the adult entertainment industry. Miller-Young wants the voices of black women sex workers heard, and the decisions they make, albeit often within material and industrial constraints, recognized as their own.


“This much-needed volume reminds scholars of the need to deepen porn studies and strengthen its interdisciplinary possibilities through various theoretical lenses and critical approaches.  Supporting her book with abundant images, Miller-Young thoughtfully exposes readers to concepts both visually and intellectually. …  A necessary volume for academics as well as those interested in popular culture studies that have a dialogue with race and/or women. Essential. Graduate students/faculty.” — M. Martinez, Choice

“Reading A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography on a New York subway train will earn you some very interesting looks. Adorned with a cover photo featuring the beautiful porn star Jeannie Pepper topless in a white fur like something out of Superfly, and the customary wall of text that comes with academic books on the back, it brings out New York's best double takes. … A Taste for Brown Sugar offers fine scholarship, done with the utmost respect of the subject and the workers chronicled.” — Sydette Harry, Make/Shift

"Through meticulous research and a masterly melding of the best of theoretical, conceptual, and empirical work in black women’s sexuality, A Taste for Brown Sugar analyzes African American women’s agency within the adult entertainment industry.... If A Taste for Brown Sugar can produce a solid analysis of such a difficult, controversial topic, Miller-Young has set a high bar for similar projects that study oppositional knowledge." — Patricia Hill Collins, Journal of American History

"[E]ssential reading for anyone seeking to understand new work on feminism, critical race studies, pornography, and film history." — Svati P. Shah, Women's Review of Books

"A Taste for Brown Sugar is a necessary, long overdue text that should interest scholars and students of various fields and backgrounds, particularly those interested in feminist theory, media studies, histories of black women, sex work, and of course porn studies.... The book is impressive, cultivating a rich and diverse tapestry of urgent voices and images, revealing the complicated interplay between labor and representation." — Laura Helen Marks, Feminist Media Studies

"Everyone interested in understanding the industry and the people, especially the Black women involved, in front of and behind the cameras, should read this book cover to cover.... There is a wide audience for this well-researched and well-produced book.... The general public as well as researchers from film and media studies, history, sexuality studies, African American studies, labor studies, critical race studies, sociology, and anthropology will appreciate A Taste for Brown Sugar." — Sherri L. Barnes, Feminist Collections

"Miller-Young’s work is one of the first to chronicle of the rise of the porn industry from the turn of the 20th century to the present from the African-American perspective." — Aaron Broverman, Broken Pencil

"Miller-Young offers a compelling examination of African American women’s participation in one of the nation’s most understudied industries: the porn business. Filling a void within African American women’s historiography and presenting a more nuanced perspective on women’s work, she situates black female porn laborers within the larger context of 20th-century work. Miller-Young has produced a bold and engaging study that challenges historians of the black female experiences to re-conceptualize ideas about race and gender and labor and black sexualities." — LaShawn Harris, Souls

"In a field so dominated by the visual, it is Miller-Young’s insistence that we hear, as well as see, black women in porn that makes her book so textured, colorful, brash, and critically engrossing. Divided into six well-written and informative chapters, this ambitious scholarly tour de force offers an ethnographic account of black women’s labor in the porn industry, as well as a historicist cultural appraisal of blackness in pornography from the early twentieth century into our present era." — L. H. Stallings, Black Camera

"Throughout six chapters of insightful and rigorous thought, Miller-Young traces the evolution of black sex actors as a heavily stereotyped spectacle during the silent era to a more nuanced and contemporary understanding of them as working professionals seeking, and oftentimes finding, autonomy and female sexual empowerment. A Taste for Brown Sugar is a leap forward in feminist thinking and sex work studies, and a crucial read for any student of women's studies." — Laura L. S. Bauer, Women's Studies

"All those who are interested in porn, African American, film, cultural or queer studies would benefit from reading this multifaceted, nuanced, decidedly non-white interpretation of the porn industry." — Angela Mika Holton, Sexuality & Culture

"A Taste for Brown Sugar has raised the bar for porn studies." — Whitney Strub, Journal of the History of Sexuality

"A Taste for Brown Sugar offers new and dynamic ways of thinking through erotic sovereignty and play." — Treva B. Lindsey, Signs

"By centering labor, Miller-Young deftly side-steps debates about whether pornography can be feminist and instead shows us that economies of desire are mutable and can be manipulated to find spaces of survival and even pleasure. This perspective is an important addition to black feminist sexuality studies. Audiences interested in American studies, labor history, the history of pornography, black feminism, and sexuality studies should take note of this important book." — Amber Jamilla Musser, GLQ

"A Taste of Brown Sugar is a profoundly impressive history, guided confidently by Miller-Young’s expert hand. Her interviews, excerpts of which are incorporated throughout the book, provide critical evidence for her nuanced thesis and demonstrate the value of oral history in otherwise 'traditional' historical accounts." — Mario Alvarez, Oral History Review

"Miller-Young ends the book with a succinct, pointed conclusion that reminds the reader one last time of the humanity at the core of the adult film industry—but it could equally describe the relationship of pornography studies to cinema and media studies more broadly. . . . It’s that relentless focus, even more than the important, meaty historical inquiry, deep textual analysis, and ideological interventions, that make A Taste for Brown Sugar required reading." — Peter Aliluna, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies

"A Taste for Brown Sugar is a game changer, a courageous and bold book that shifts the discourse on the contested history of race and porn. Mireille Miller-Young's rigorous historical and ethnographic research disrupts the 'good versus bad' binary that has dogged debates about pornography for decades." — E. Patrick Johnson, author of Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

"A Taste for Brown Sugar is a thorough and compelling look at a subject steeped in society's anxiety and imagination: black women in pornography. Mireille Miller-Young dives head first into a thorny topic with clear, nuanced thinking. This book tackles complicated issues of race, sex work, feminism, pleasure, and representation in a rigorous, thoughtful way. Finally: scholarship that centers black women's labor and ideas in both academia and the sex industries and gives crucial voice to underrepresented workers and feminist thinkers. Miller-Young's approach is intersectional, engaging, and, above all, accessible to scholars and general readers alike. This book will enrage you, enlighten you, and make you rethink everything you know about race and sex." — Tristan Taormino, author of True Lust: Adventures in Sex, Porn and Perversion


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mireille Miller-Young is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a coeditor of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface. Confessions of a Black Feminist Academic Photographer vii

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction. Brown Sugar: Theorizing Black Women's Sexual Labor in Photography 1

1. Sepia Sex Scenes: Spectacles of Difference in Race Porn 23

2. Sexy Soul Sisters: Black Women in the Golden Era 66

3. Black Chicks: Marketing Black Women in the Video Era 104

4. Ho Theory: Black Female Sexuality at the Convergence of Hip Hop and Pornography 142

5. (Black) Porn Star: Aspirations and Realities in Porn Work 180

6. Behind the Scenes: Confronting Disempowerment and Creating Change in Black Women's Porn Work 226

Epilogue. Behind the Camera: Black Women's Illicit Erotic Interventions 263

Notes 283

Bibliography 315

Index 355
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2015 John Hope Franklin Book Publication Prize, presented by the American Studies Association

Winner, 2015 Sara A. Whaley Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top