Trump's First Apology: Interracial Porn

(Trigger warnings: sexual assault, systemic racism.)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know that Teflon Don recently issued his first apology, for saying his preferred mode of sexual assault is to "grab [women] by the pussy." It's catastrophic news for a campaign that prides itself on jackassery to which nothing sticks, but no one really understands why.

The mainstream press has settled on "lewd" as the non-partisan descriptor of choice for Trump's language. Surrogates on the right proclaim "locker room banter" and those on the left point out the toxicity of rape culture and sexual assault.

But none of them really gets it. Why now? Why after everything else Trump has already said? To understand why we'll need to look at three things: ownership, white women, and interracial porn.


Trump has said Mexicans are rapists, called for a ban on all Muslims, proclaimed for over two decades that the Central Park Five are guilty of being colored, called on gun rights supporters to assassinate Clinton (joke!), asked Putin to hack America, insulted veterans…why is this the straw that is breaking some conservative camels' backs? And why is this the October Surprise that Democratic operatives are pinning their hopes on?


Ownership

There's a very simple reason Trump had to walk these comments back, and it has to do with the video that accompanies the audio. The video features a white woman, the actress Arianne Zucker. She is not a Latina, like Alicia Machado. And Trump is not discussing her weight, but instead explicitly laying out his preferred method of sexual assault, from kissing a woman without her consent to "grabbing them by the pussy." 

The video is an excellent example of rape culture seamlessly sliding from targeting one woman – an unnamed married woman Trump "failed" to fuck – to another, Zucker, in the blink of an eye. It is the sexual relationship of white men to women – and white women in particular – whose generality as a class relation is revealed by this leak.

The key problem is one of ownership, i.e., the social generalization of the class relationship (e.g., “my woman”, or “our women”). There is a reason Reince Priebus, Grand Wizard of the GOP, publicly renounced Trump's comments. Political truth number one – no one does anything out of the kindness of their hearts. If a major political party is taking a stand it's not on principle, it's about power.

Trump's comments threaten to dissolve the implicit political agreement between white men and white women in this country. The agreement operates as follows. In exchange for white male access to their bodies, white women trade some normalized level of misogyny (witness Megyn Kelly's fate) for benefiting from the fruits of racism. This is the condition of ownership that makes Trump's comments dangerous – he's attacking "our" women now.

Second, white men, particularly the young white man, is promised ownership over women as part of his "success." In return for some specific obligations to white women, often rhetorical but nonetheless persuasive (a woman should be able to "get home safe," despite the fact that the majority of rapes in this country are perpetrated, investigated, and adjudicated by white men), white men are granted near unlimited prerogative over the bodies of non-white women (a condition that often – but not always – reproduces itself on white women, hence the fact that in all estimates showing a gender wage gap white women still come out on top compared to black or Latina women). 

To "make it" in America as a man is literally synonymous with two things: having money, and having women. Rock stars, football players, banking bros, and every other model of male success revolves around popping bottles with models. 

Of course, "success" corresponds to producing a return on capital for older, capital-owning white men. Throw the ball, score the touchdown. Make the trade, kill the investment. Start the company, disrupt the industry. As older, capital-owning white men fight with other old capital-owning white men, the pawns in their chess games are younger, capital-aspiring white men (e.g., black boy in a hoodie gets a bullet, white boy in a hoodie gets venture capital funding). This is patriarchy.

Now things are not quite so black and white, though they are mainly just black and white. There are lots of black rap stars and football players, flipping tracks and scoring touchdowns for their white record-label or sports team "owners."

This incongruence is simple to resolve. The patriarchs' love of capital is sufficiently motivating. The business models are relatively well-understood. Performance and entertainment are industries as old as civilization. So long as darkie continues to dance/crack jokes/sing/rap/run (but not kneel!) on the field/stage when we say so, and so long as the guests pay the ticket price, it's all good. This is why male success in the land of commercial rap is again synonymous with having two things: money and women.


White Women

So where do white women figure into all this? As I said before, they trade their status as capital to be owned by (mostly white) men in order to benefit from racism and the so-called benevolent sexisms. That women, in addition to being workers like the rest of us, are also capital should not be confusing. They are literally the apparatus for biological and social reproduction. Their bodies build babies (who can inherit familial wealth and go on to enlarge it), while feminine labor (cleaning, cooking, emotional maintenance, etc.) maintains the man's pursuit of "success" in the marketplace, i.e., generating ever-greater returns on investment for the older, capital-owning men. 

Hence the 2014 survey showing that over half of Gen X and Baby Boomer male graduates from Harvard Business school expected their careers to take precedence over their wives', while "the vast majority of women across racial groups and generations anticipated that their careers would rank equally with those of their partners."*

Now the key thing about Trump's comments is that they threaten this agreement between white men and white women. It's a numbers game. In order for white men to continue to claim a spot at the top of the racial pecking order, they need the support of white women. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver came so close to getting it right when he released this tweet.

Of course, what Nate and all the establishment Dems are missing, is that that map could look like any color we wanted it to if women en masse supported a different candidate. Yet overwhelmingly, white women in this country remain committed to their social compact with white men. This is not an accident – it is literally the terms of the compromise 1900's white suffragettes made with the white male ruling class. In return for opposing extending the vote to black people, white women gained a chance to cast their ballots.

This is why white women don't really care about Hillary's role in suppressing the wage for Haitain women working in garment factories, or supporting the bloody coup in Honduras. Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres explicitly called out Hillary for legitimating the coup regime and locking her country into violence. Cáceras was murdered in her home in March of this year, but you've never heard of her, and after all it's probably not "enough" to change your politics. A special place in hell, right?

#ImWithHerJustNotThatHerOrThatOtherHerOverThereReallyImJustWithWhiteness

Women, and white women in particular, are absolutely crucial to the continued dominance of white supremacy and patriarchal capitalism. There is simply no survival scenario for these systems if white women refused to legitimate them. And this is why there's interracial porn.


Interracial Porn

"Interracial porn – wait what?" I promise, dear reader, I can explain. But first, a brief note on sexual violence and visibility.

You've probably heard of Brock Turner, but you've never heard of Ming Hsuan Chiang. The very same day that a judge was sentencing Turner to six months for fear of ruining a "good kid's" life (see how little the female body is valued here – look at this white women, this is the devil's bargain you've struck with patriarchy!), that very same judge sentenced Chiang to "weekend jail" for beating, battering, and torturing his fiancée, a Chinese immigrant. 

Guess whose story got reported? Of course, this is nothing new: missing white woman syndrome is as old as TV. Chiang is a software engineer in Silicon Valley, and if he had to attend jail during the work week that would cramp his career, so Judge Persky did him (and by extension, those whose capital is invested in him) a solid instead.

Here we see the logic of the generalized class relation: white men (and occasionally men of color, as in Chiang’s case), in return for generating returns on capital for older white men, are entitled to any and all women they desire. White women, in turn, are nominally spared the worst of misogyny's excesses, or at least, given a platform rarely extended to women of color when such injustices occur.

So whither interracial porn? Go to a major porn site and check out the categories. You'll probably find one called "interracial." Click it and you'll see that almost every video is a black man having sex with a white woman. White man / any other woman is simply indexed by that woman's race: e.g., "Asian Women," "Latina Women," "Black Women" (or "Ebony"), etc.

Ceci c’est une pipe. C’est sans doute une pipe.

Why is it only considered "interracial" when a black man has sex with a white woman? And why are overwhelmingly white and male audiences demanding pornographers in the genre drop more n-bombs, dress more "hood," use more "thug" imagery, as Viceland's Vice Does America Season 1 Episode 2 detailed?

The answer is obvious: a black man having sex with a white woman threatens the white male ownership of white women. Black woman having sex with an Asian man? Latino man having sex with an Indian woman? Not interracial. Black man having sex with a white woman? Ooh! The horror!

It titillates the white psyche in a way that people of color having sex with each other never could, precisely because it lays bare the very real threat to racial patriarchy posed by men of color: if white women join them, it's game over. The erotic is unquestionably about danger and thrill, risk and impulse. What better fantasy than the complete and utter destruction of one's social privilege?

Hence the newly popular "interracial cuckold" genre mashup, in which a white man watches a well-endowed black man fuck his wife. The risk to the white male psyche is one of replacement: of being replaced by another patriarchal system, with a different racial order in which whiteness is not at the top. (As a corollary, the challenge to men of color is to embrace a politics that is avowedly feminist, as Aziz Ansari does quite publicly.)

Seen in this light, the danger of Trump's comments for the GOP is crystal clear: he threatens to violate the social compact between white men and white women. White women throw their lot in with white men, animating countless calls for law and order, for the murder of more unarmed black men, falling strangely silent when their sisters are murdered (Sandra Bland), etc., all on the understanding that they will be spared the worst of what misogyny has to offer.

An occasional Steubenville can be stomached – she probably had it coming anyway**, she got drunk after all (see how internalized self-hatred props up artificial divisions in favor of the controlling system? A special place in hell, right?) – but an explicit declaration by the Dear Leader of white America himself, that white women are subject to being grabbed by the pussy? Now the shit hits the fan.

This is the rotten compact of America's contemporary political arrangement. This is the reason the GOP is reacting to "grab 'em by the pussy" but not, of course, to Mexicans are rapists, ban all Muslims, etc. This transgression threatens the patriarchal alliance on which their social formation is built. 

Likewise, when Democrats gleefully contrast their candidate with "grab 'em by the pussy," this is the promise their class-blind and mostly race-blind vision of feminism offers: we will restore you to a position of relative privilege and quasi-equality – but only if you're white.

*"Notably, this expectation was less prevalent among men of color than among white men. Forty-eight percent of the former—compared with 39% of white men—anticipated that their spouses’ careers would be of equal importance." — A ten point percentage lead? Not bad, men of color, but 48 is way less than 100, let’s kick this out of the park instead.

**I want to make absolutely clear that I do not agree with blaming survivors of sexual assault. It, along with other passages in this piece, is intended to animate very real and present voices among (usually white) classes in America. See, e.g., “Female Trump Supporters Don’t Really Care About His Sexism”, and “Poll: Vast majority of Republican voters don’t care much about the leaked Trump tape.”

Thanks to my generous reviewers, who contributed their time and intellect to improve this piece.