This essay explores how black feminists working in the area of sexuality and visual culture necessarily face serious questions about what it means to present images of black women’s sexuality. Examining 1980s porn star Jeannie Pepper’s career, the author argues that black women’s representations in pornography reveal the complex politics of black women’s sexual politics and feminism, and the stakes of respectability and objectification. Looking at the ways in which Pepper understood her work, and her pride in her performances—including a 1986 tour of Europe that was captured for a Players Magazine photo spread—the author suggests that black porn stars often embrace a politics of illicit eroticism in which they mobilize black sexual subjectivity for their own ambitions and needs, pushing against the prevailing stigmas that render them illicit objects of desire.

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