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Belle Knox's Porn Crusade Is Fantasy, Not Feminism

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I really, really hate Duke. I'll preface this whole thing by laying out my unabashed (and probably illogical) disdain for the Blue Devils up front. Having graduated from the University of Maryland, I'm pretty sure I took a freshman course on my obligation to just despise Duke. And so I do.

With that being said, I find it fascinating that over the years since my Duke hatred began, the university has collected an almost "WTF" list of odd goings-on and scandals. Karen Owen's now-infamous Fuck List. That whole rape hoax where 88 Duke professors and one very agitated Nancy Grace presented lies as fact in order to find the lacrosse team guilty without a trial. And now there's the whole phenomenon of Duke coed-slash-rising porn "star" Belle Knox.

Belle Knox (obviously not her real name, but I do wish girls in porn came up with better names that don't sound like names you'd give a dog if a dog had a first and last name) is a freshman at Duke who claims to pay her way through the admittedly pricey elite university by way of her budding porn career. On weekends and breaks, Knox scoots out to LA to do some shoots and comes back in time for her midterms.

This girl has been on a media blitz lately, defending her decisions after being "outed." And my curiosity piqued. I had to check her out.

I have my own issues with porn. In a lot of ways I find it takes credibility away from women's sexuality because most porn is really just abusive in some way. On one night someone mentioned it being glorified necrophilia, and I kind of agree with that -- it's a hollow shell being destroyed in some way sexually by a stranger for people to watch. But as someone who is insanely liberal when it comes to sex -- how could I not be when my entire writing career hangs on the public acknowledgement of my private life? -- porn is one of those hard things for me to tackle. As someone who believes that women should be equal to men in all facets -- including the right to bang as many men as one likes without social repercussions -- it seems hypocritical for me to criticize this girl. I know that. But hear me out.

I've never done porn. And I would never do porn. There's just some shit in life I can't do and that's one of the things. What I do know about porn comes from A). me having watched a fair amount in my life (all girls watch porn, don't buy the denial), B). me having read a lot about porn, surprisingly, and C). me being a woman with half a brain. All things considered, my take on porn is that yes, some women, like Jenna Jameson, can turn porn into a lucrative career and withstand a lot of the crazy shit that goes on within the industry, but Jameson is the exception, not the rule.

The rule, it seems to me, is that the porn industry is riddled with a lot of scary shit, ranging from physical harm to encouraged prostitution. I'm not into all this hippie-dippy, Jesus-saves bullshit by any means, but if you ever read the website PinkCross.com, it's kind of terrifying what a lot of these girls go through. I have no doubt in my mind that rapes occur, assaults, things girls who just wanted to make a little money by banging a dude on camera never really signed up for. The porn industry went into mini-crisis mode last summer when some 30 actors were said to have been exposed to HIV. These girls are a dime a dozen. The porn industry doesn't need one girl and will treat her thus. There's no loyalty, concern or care when it comes to how a girl is utilized in porn. Money isn't put in these guys' pockets by the well-being of these chicks; it's made by the absolute destruction of their bodies whether they like it or not. While I believe a woman has every right to enjoy sex however she pleases, porn to me erases that ability. A woman might choose to do porn, but having a director or agent or other actor tell you how to have sex or worse, force you to have sex a certain way for the camera, that's not a woman making her own choices about sex. In fact, I think it's the opposite. The moment a woman signs up to be paid for porn, she's forfeiting the choice all together. There's no empowerment in that. There's no liberation in that.

So when you have this very inexperienced girl doing a media blitz claiming that there's some kind of liberating, feminine empowerment in the things she does, it worries me as a woman. No woman should have to be told to let a stranger ejaculate all over her face for the public in order to pay off a student loan. No girl should have to put numbing cream on her cooch or butt in order to endure the directed roughness of a scene in order to cover her textbooks. And above all, no young girls should be duped into believing that Belle Knox's experiences -- whether they're legit or just a fantasy she's made up to try to counter the overwhelming and in most cases undeserved criticism she's faced -- are the norm in the porn industry. The truth is there is a huge likelihood that young women who start doing porn will end up in a situation they don't want to be in, whether it's agreeing to perform an act they never wanted to perform, testing positive for an STD, getting introduced to drugs or being told to work for their part by servicing a director or agent. That's the reality of porn. Is it the reality for every girl? Probably not. Is it the reality for the majority? I'd bet a lot of money on it. But Belle Knox seems either blissfully unaware of this reality or in complete denial of it.

After checking out one or two of her videos and then disastrously looking at her Twitter feed while at work, what I felt was sorry for this girl. She was tweeting about sex worker rights. And then following that up with a picture of her taking a facial. Sugar-coating the reality of the industry she's chosen in order to gain approval from the masses of people who are criticizing her for her choice in employment isn't promoting sex worker rights. If this girl really is about sex worker rights and the stigma surrounding porn, what she needs to do is preach about the reality of the world women live in while filming porn -- the model houses, the call girl work, the STDs, the injuries -- and speak up about ways that that industry can improve for women. Ways women can protect themselves from the crazy undesirable aspects of it without being shunned from it. How to actually encourage women's rights across the board, not just claim a woman's right to do whatever she wants sexually (which, she should already have). To me, watching a girl who looks no older than 14 take a penis the size of my forearm to the face isn't "empowering" because I know there's a lot of nasty bullshit behind that which revolves around the systematic abuse of women (and, let's be real, children). If Knox stood up and said "this is my job, it has its issues and I'd like to work to make those issues better," I'd applaud her. But making it out like this job is no worse than a nightshift diner job, with no worse risks or repercussions attached? It's bullshit. And it has the potential to mislead a lot of impressionable young teens who think porn could be an easy, viable option to pay for a college they couldn't afford otherwise into believing doing a double-penetration gang bang is no worse than serving food at the local cafe.