Sexist media knocks on Belle Knox

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Paige Pelonis, Assistant Opinions Editor

Porn is as porn does, meaning a person who consumes sexual content is as much a part of the industry as the content itself. Porn-consuming individuals across the country fantasize about the men and women they watch before bed and the dirty things they say and do, almost forgetting that they are watching real people with real families and real lives outside of a computer screen.

Unlike Hollywood celebrities, porn stars are not mobbed with fans at every turn because those who watch porn tend to be closed-mouth about it, and the stars themselves prefer to keep their identities anonymous. That is why the publicity surrounding the tale of Duke University student-turned-porn-star “Belle Knox” has me so confused.

When Knox was outed for working as a porn actress by a fellow Duke student, she made headlines across the media. She has responded by appearing on televised interviews, during which she has commented on the hypocrisy of her media spotlight.

In an interview with Piers Morgan from CNN, Knox said “…the same society that consumes me is also condemning me,” hinting at the type of slut-shaming that has evolved around her since Thomas Bagley, another Duke freshman, revealed to the world that Knox is truly 19-year-old Miriam Weeks.

Bagley, who New York Daily News has called a “prolific porn watcher,” also made headlines for his own expensive consumption of porn. He saw Knox’s performance on facialabuse.com, one of many sites he frequents. Fox News reported that Knox wrote that Bagley was praised for his actions, while she became a victim of campus harassment. For Knox, performing as an actress in pornography not only funded her expensive education but has also empowered her sexuality and improved her self confidence

Sounds like a win-win to me. Some kids get scholarships, others get jobs, Knox is simply one of the latter — and her job is porn.

For headlines to imply that she has somehow disserviced her fellow women is a breach of ethical reporting. For example, the New York Post ran the headline, “Devout Catholic dad returns from Afghanistan to learn his kid is the Duke porn star,” on March 10. The article that followed was filled with comments and implicit condemnations of Knox’s decisions.

This kind of article capitalizes on the notion that Knox has somehow done “wrong by her family,” and emphasizes the “tragedy” that has interrupted the faithful, patriotic life they had been living. It’s ironic that it is so easy to use Knox’s father’s military career to imply that she is somehow un-American when her job is paying for her prestigious education and fueling the vast American market for porn, which is a multi-billion industry.

Her identity was only discovered because someone who got off while watching her perform in a degradation porn segment also happened to go to school with her. You’d think the eyes of moral scrutiny would be on the viewer, not the viewed. The Guardian recently commented that this is not the case, and that this “media moment has created a new kind of scarlet letter.”

It’s disgusting to hear 40-something-year-old women pontificate on mainstream media about how Knox’s choices have compromised female equality by encouraging women to conform to a male-dominant perception of sexuality. Knox is a women’s studies major who has clearly developed her own views about female empowerment.

Her ideas will undoubtedly be challenged in the classroom, as they should be, but the rest of the world shouldn’t be taking the liberty of discouraging her exploration.

If I were to spend time outside of a political science classroom actively pursuing a belief that American government is ineffective, that would not make headlines. If I spent time outside of a math classroom working to discover alternative methods for solving traditional equations, that would go unreported. So when Knox spends time outside the classroom, discovering for herself how to be liberated as a female, she should be encouraged, not chastised.