Words I still live by long after my graduation from the University of Maryland. But funny enough, since the porn star at Duke has been outted and subsequently made her rounds as the new media darling, I feel like the catch phrase everyone but Duke students and alum love, has taken on a whole new meaning.
Unless you’ve been living on that remote, deserted island the Malaysia Airlines flight probably landed on, I’m sure you’ve seen the countless interviews, articles and segments on the Duke University coed who was recently outted as a budding porn star. Belle Knox is the newly minted blip on Duke’s “what the fuck” list which also includes that pesky false rape hoax and Karen Owen’s now infamous Duke Fuck List. Oh, and you know… JJ Reddick.
I’ve read and watched her interviews, Heard what she has to say. And as a chick who considers myself above and beyond sex positive – hell, my entire career revolves around my own sex life and my decision to take it public – I have to say, this one became a conundrum for me.
I’m all about sex, okay? I love banging. Seriously, I do. I have no problem talking about the sex I’ve had, would like to have, what my favorite position is, what I like most, rough sex, one night stands, whatever. I’ve written about it all. And I firmly believe in a woman’s right and ability to do what she likes with her body without fear of social repercussions; who a woman fucks or how many guys she fucks has no bearing on her ability to be a good employee, friend, girlfriend, sister, daughter, mother (ugh), firefighter, dog groomer, CEO, waitress, actress, writer, Olympian, whatever. Sex should never be used to belittle a woman (or a man) or shame them into thinking they are less than what their personality, achievements, ambition and all that other gratifying good shit define them as. Whether I’ve slept with 10 guys or 110 (somewhere in the middle, I think) has no bearing on whether I’m a good writer (or bartender), person, daughter, friend, whatever. I choose to have sex (or not to have sex) and that’s my right. Period. And this girl getting death threats and all this crazy shit? Beyond absurd, but not surprising. After I began my blog about sex, a note was left on my mother’s car in a train station parking lot in my hometown that read, “I hope you’re proud of the slut you raised”. To some people, sex is just a scary thing and they can’t accept that it isn’t so scary to others so hey, they make it scary FOR them. They slut shame and act like somehow me discussing the sex I’ve had in my life, or this girl making a decision to appear in porn – things that have no negative effect on other people’s live whatsoever – are the equivalent of killing like, 19 babies, four puppies, two kittens and a grandma. You know, get out the pitchfork and riot kind of shit. It’s insane how crazy sex can make people, and not in a fun hot way. This girl has every right to film porn if she wants to – and by God, I hope she wants to because here she is.
But when I see this 19-year-old girl, barely out of high school, parading around all these talk shows like the next Rosie Rivets, I cringe. Not because I’m anti-sex, or anti-porn, or anti-publicity, but because I am pro-reality. Because the porn industry is one paved with a lot of shit (and cum, and sweat, and lube). It is not the next women’s lib, and she isn’t the next Gloria Steinem. Porn is not and should not be an off the beaten path type road to empowerment, one that if women only took, they’d be so much better off but the stigma keeps them from going there. It’s a scary place that 85% of the time is filled with mental and physical situations that have the potential to utterly destroy a woman. And you have this cute, girl next door chick going around talking about how porn empowers her, how rough sex with a stranger makes her a strong woman, and I just…. I can’t. This isn’t women’s lib, this is a girl who can’t take the criticism about her professional life so she creates a morally acceptable fantasy to justify her decisions. End of story.
Girl is all of 19. One thing that comes with maturity? Accepting the reality of situations we put ourselves in, even if they’re not so great. And the situation here is you have a girl who looks all-American, going to a top university, saying porn is this liberating, empowering thing for her that helps her pay her bill and get through a school that, fuck, I certainly couldn’t have gotten into or afforded. And I worry that so many other young girls, 14, 15, 16 year olds who come from families where tuition at Duke or Georgetown or hell, even Maryland is inconceivable, will look at this girl and believe that the porn industry is all, “Duke University and empowerment and untapped opportunity.”
The truth? It’s not. Selling your vag for a set price isn’t for the weak of heart, mind or body. Fuck dude, even I couldn’t do it and I’m tough as shit with very few moral qualms about sex. And my concern here is that you have a girl trying to legitimize her own decisions (which, hey, don’t even need approval from anyone but herself to begin with) by trying to glamorize and sugar coat the porn industry. You want to own the fact that you do porn and it helps you pay your bills? Awesome, good for you, fuck the man, literally and figuratively. There is nothing shameful in that if you are comfortable and safe and mentally okay with everything you’re required to do there. But lying about the reality of the porn industry in order to try to gain mass public approval for what you’re doing because you’re getting backlash about it helps no one and it has the potential to set a lot of women up not only for disappointment but for severe issues. To push young girls looking for a leg up (no pun intended) with school loans into a world that is ravaged by drugs and the need to be entirely desensitized to what someone’s doing to you. A world they might never be able to get out of.
Two weeks ago I watched a porn video that, no joke, made me feel like a rapist by association. It was some girl in a public gangbang that looked completely drugged getting destroyed in every possible fashion by multiple people and objects while people laughed at her, choked her, came on her, in her, hit her, and just in my opinion abused her. Girl was crying, gagging, sobbing, and not in an, “oh this is fake” way. In a, “holy shit, I think if this girl could speak she’d say she wants her mom” way. Watching it made me feel violated. It made me feel bad for the girl because no matter what she said at the end of the video, the “oh it was fun”, that’s some shit you go home and cry in the shower about after you sober up. Especially because you know that girl ain’t getting the billions of dollars it would take me and most other women to ever let one person, let alone six, fuck me like that. That’s the reality of a lot of porn. Not some Duke sorority social experiment.
I get porn. I watch porn. Every guy I know watches porn. I know a few girls who do porn and they’re good girls who pay their bills and do their thing and there’s nothing wrong with it, or them because they are mentally handling it, or at least seem to be. But presenting an industry that is not for weak minded or timid or naïve or inexperienced women as if it could be a real possibility for girls who can’t afford college… no dude, I can’t put support toward that. No woman should feel obligated to have sex with someone in order to pay their bills. I believe women should have sex with whomever they want because they want to, not because they have to pay their loan back.
Look, no one should shame this girl. No one should mock her or make fun of her or harass her, let alone threaten her or her family. Christ, what’s wrong with you people? She picked an unconventional job that isn’t for the faint of heart and that’s fine as long as she is self aware and happy and healthy. But instead of trying to stand up like she’s the next coming of Roe v. Wade, like a bra burning feminist who just wants women to have some kind of great opportunity without shame, what she needs to do is grow up and face the stark reality of the industry she’s chosen. Stop glamorizing an industry that is riddled with terrifying prospects for a lot of people involved in order to cover her own ass, to justify her own actions, to legitimize her own decisions to the masses. Since my blog began, I have never felt the need to defend my decisions to anyone. I do not make them with the hope of gaining approval or encouraging others to think like me. This girl is seeking approval and justification for a taboo life choice by lying to herself and other young women about the realities of porn. There is nothing empowering about that.
Let her go to Duke, let her pay her tuition, let her join a sorority, play beer pong, get good grades, become a doctor or a social worker or an analyst or a bus driver. Let her live her life and eventually enjoy the fact that everyone who is mocking her watches porn in their free time regardless of what they say. But for the love of God, get her and her delusional talking points about porn being the new equal pay issue off my TV and let’s get back to some real news like where the fuck is this plane?!