OK, I am going to write about Duke University’s freshman porn star. Don’t hate me.

As you must know by now, an 18 year old female freshman at Duke University has taken American media by storm. Her porn alias is “Belle Knox” and she is upsetting everyone from her peers at Duke to media moguls like Piers Morgan. Her story is not new. A young woman, struggling to fund her way through college, and has chosen to do so by acting in pornographic films.

What is disheartening is that similar situations happen every day, and not by choice. Women from around the world often times are forced into becoming sex workers and once in the industry, are statistically at a higher risk for developing drug addictions, mental health problems, and falling victim to sexual/physical assault. What has been so puzzling about the entire situation, is that a white girl from a privileged background with seemingly endless opportunities, would choose to do porn instead of opt for the more well-versed waitressing gig. What’s sad, is that this instance has garnered more media attention than real tales of sexual slavery and illegal trafficking of women which takes place every single day in every country in the world. We care because this girl is supposed to fit neatly into a societal box, and instead, she is sprawled out across the bed.

Knox has represented herself extremely well throughout the current media feeding frenzy taking place, (I read online that she was also a member of her high school’s speech and debate team, dope). She wrote an open and provocative post on XOJane which illuminated her struggle and additionally, brought to the surface the isolation she now faces as a teenage sex worker on a college campus. As a person who exists in the world, I hope you, reader, never engage in slut-shaming. I regard the sex industry as a legitimate practice in the United States. In fact, I think regulations regarding sex work should be reexamined as to give workers more rights, along with a safer environment to work in. It should come as no surprise that Americans produce 89% of the world’s pornography and 30% of ALL internet traffic is porn-fueled (think about that, the internet is a big, BIG place!!).

That being said, I respect a person’s right to work in the porn industry, male or female. Your body means your choice. Go for it, bust out the weird toys and get freaky. Or don’t. I could give a shit. The situation that really gets to me about the “Duke porn star” is her referring to her actions as “feminist”.

It’s cool you’re taking Women’s Studies classes…but do you have any idea what you’re talking about? I was on board with her XOJane piece and her subsequent interviews..until I actually watched a portion of her porn. YUP. I watched porn, 97% of people in the world do or have done it, didn’t you know? What I found disturbing about the film was that she engages in demeaning acts like letting men aggressively choke her, spit on her, and ejaculate onto her face. All the while her male counterparts mutter derogatory slurs and call her fat as she nods and smiles.

Here’s the tricky part. By condemning her sexual actions, am I putting her into a box? Why is it that men can subtly or aggressively fuck women on camera-and no one cares. After watching the film, I felt deeply conflicted. SHOULD it matter what type of porn she acts in? Ultimately, I feel that this sort of sexual action is exploitative, especially when caught on camera and made accessible to the masses. I don’t think violent porn should be made or viewed by either gender. When acts of violence are perpetuated throughout our society- it encourages men to continue the violence, and sets women up to further receive the abuse.

AND here’s the kicker….how can one become empowered when creating videos to be consumed by a predominantly MALE audience? Are you really empowering yourself by baring your body for men to masturbate to? I ultimately feel that there is some sort of psychological factors going on underneath all the “empowerment”, which our friend Belle may not realize for years to come. So, although she is free and legal to work and display her body as she pleases, the action can no longer be “empowering” or “feminist” because it furthers the cycle of violence against not only sex workers, but women outside the industry as well .

So go ahead. Have sex, use a condom, even film it if you want to. But please, PLEASE, don’t classify yourself as a feminist and then fuel the demands of patriarchy. Belle Knox, you’re smarter than that.

2 thoughts on “OK, I am going to write about Duke University’s freshman porn star. Don’t hate me.

  1. You are pointing out a very important problem with the porn industry – they are hypocrites. On one hand, you can find a billion pornos with the title including the word ‘slut’, yet people in the porn industry don’t like to be called sluts and want to say that people who slut shame and watch porn are hypocrites. How can you expect people to view a film advertized as ‘Watch College Sluts Get Broken In’ with women being ejaculated on, and expect those who watch to not slut shame? Of course, they use the slut factor because it sells and it’s all about the money. Belle Knox sold out – she doesn’t own her sexuality anymore.

  2. I don’t believe in using the term “slut”. I think it is an offensive and puritanical means of shaming women for expressing their sexuality. My point was that I don’t care about her sexual choices or even promiscuity, but it is the violent nature of said sexual acts that are damaging. I agree that she has allowed herself to be in a position of exploitation and has been set up to receive criticism.

    Furthermore, I also agree that people who watch these films for pleasure (or other similar films) have no place to condemn her for her actions. Just because they hide behind their computer screen, doesn’t mean they’re not buying in to the industry. However, this does not justify using the word “slut”, or slut-shaming.

    But, I would prefer if she didn’t use the word “feminism” to describe these sexual acts of violence. I believe that as someone who is in the industry with a passion for women’s rights, she should show discretion when accepting roles and challenge the patriarchal standards of the sex industry by acting in actually empowering, nonviolent porn.

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