Have you heard of her?
She’s a Duke University undergrad, who was pursuing a career in porn while in college – what could possibly go wrong? – when a classmate (it turns out some Duke undergrads watch porn) recognized her getting her face fucked on a rough sex site. He outed her (why? not clear, but let’s just say, in a world in which there is justice, this guy will come to understand the consequences of his unkindness).
Since then, there’s been a firestorm of attention to her, mainstream and otherwise. And she’s written a fair amount.
The chick is rapidly winning my heart. She’s smart, confident, and she says shit that reveals that she thinks – unlike a lot of the people who have criticized her.
Here are just a few of the things she’s said that I like:
“There are a lot of anti-porn feminists who try to speak out against exploitation in the industry, but we need somebody who can advocate for women while standing up for our right to sexual autonomy. Because so many women absolutely love the porn industry. At the same time, I want to raise awareness for how badly we treat sex workers and how that needs to change for us to have any type of real change in the industry.”
“… I want to make sure that I’m working with somebody who treats its performers ethically. Yeah, sex-positive pornography is great, but I also love rough sex. I’ve gotten a lot of criticism because, literally, the first thing I ever did was this rough, blow-job thing—and everybody’s gotten super mad at me, calling it ‘rape porn’ and stuff like that. But I enjoyed doing it, because I really like shit like that.”
“If you’re dating a guy who wants you to do everything that porn girls do, he’s an asshole and you should probably dump him. What I advocate for is for partners to be communicative and mindful of their partner’s boundaries. I totally recommend for couples to watch porn together because it will give them some kinky ideas. But if getting a facial isn’t your partner’s cup of tea, that’s totally fine!”
“Some girls aren’t as lucky as me …. They’re … often scammed or exploited. These are the narratives you aren’t hearing because society has deemed sex workers untouchable. The reason you don’t hear about these women getting scammed is because they’re scared, because for so long they’ve been told to be ashamed of their jobs.”
“[I]f I were a porn star and weren’t in school, people would hate me and say I have no future, while when financing school by doing sex work I’m getting told that I can’t do both. So basically the narrative is you can’t be sexual and be intelligent; you have to choose one. … I love how the same people who are shaming me are the same people who are jacking off to me.”
“Everyone has their kinks and we should not shame anyone for enjoying something that is perfectly legal and consensual for all parties involved.”
“I do fully acknowledge that some women don’t have such a positive experience in the industry. We need to listen to these women. And to do that we need to remove the stigma attached to their profession and treat it as a legitimate career that needs regulation and oversight. We need to give a voice to the women that are exploited and abused in the industry. Shaming and hurling names at them, the usual treatment we give sex workers, is not the way to achieve this.”
“The prevailing societal brainwashing dictates that sexuality and sex ‘reduce’ women, whereas men are merely innocent actors on the receiving end. By extension, our virginity or abstinence has a bearing on who we are as people — as good people or bad people, as nice women or bad women. Women’s ability to be moral actors is wholly dependent on their sexuality. It is, honestly, insane.”
“To the anti-pornography feminists out there: I very much respect your opinion. Nevertheless, I want you to consider how you marginalize a group of women by condemning their actions. Consider that when you demean women for participating in sex work, you are demeaning THEM, and consequently, YOU become the problem.”
“For people to tell me that doing porn and having sex, which I love, is more degrading than being a waitress and being somebody’s servant and picking up after somebody and being treated like a lesser, second-class citizen, that literally makes no sense. To be perfectly honest, I felt more degraded in a minimum wage, blue-collar, low paying, service job than I ever did doing porn.”
“Honestly, when I arrived at the small studio in New York where I filmed my scene for a few hours — and after I signed away all my rights to claim any subsequent trauma that might arise from filming the scene — I thought that my decision to do a scene with this notoriously rough sex web site was daring, bad-ass, even subversive. For me, it was an experiment of going to yet another scary sexual place — except I was in control, I was calling the shots and the safe words, and I was the one choosing to do something so psychologically and physically extreme, rather than someone taking advantage of me. I love rough sex — and I can do this. That’s what I saw the choice as being.”
“’So getting spit on and degraded is feminism now?’ wrote one poster on Collegiate ACB. Sure. Whatever choice a woman is making and she is the one deciding to do — reclaiming the agency behind the decision to do, even if it is a degrading sexual act — is absolutely feminism. To me, feminism is about women not being shamed but rather being empowered.”
“Yes, a Google search reveals pictures of me in hard-core sexual experiences. No, that Google search is not me.”
“These critics are missing the bigger picture of feminism — perhaps the most important, where women support other women, even the ones who enjoy mascara-smeared, on-your-knees fellatio.”
“Feminism means I can take ownership of what I enjoy sexually and that sexuality does not have to determine anything else about me.”
“The same way that a powerful CEO businessman likes to visit a dominatrix in his off hours, I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy the pleasure derived from these rough scenes. It provides a cavewoman-like epiphany that no intro to feminist studies ever will. It is raw and exhilarating. But that’s my choice — which is what matters here. I know it is not for every woman…. I like what I like, and I won’t live in shame because of it.”
My favorite things she’s said, though, are the ones below, which come from this piece in the Huffington Post:
“People assume that my support for sex workers and porn is somehow invalidated because I chose to do porn for the money rather than for love. They act as though this is some shocking victory for them because being a sex worker wasn’t my dream job — because as a little girl I didn’t write ‘I want to be a porn star’ on career day, or excitedly tell everyone around me about how excited I was to someday have sex on camera for money. Or because my teacher didn’t tell me I could be anything I want to be: an astronaut, the president, even a porn star! Apparently because I didn’t dream of living this life — because it was ‘necessary’ — it now somehow reverts to being morally wrong, and I become another pitiable whore to be dismissed at leisure.”
“A desperate exchange in the labor market is one motivated by poverty — by necessity — the steal-to-feed-your-family analogy. Yes, of course I do porn for money. It’s a job, not a summer retreat. Why else do we labor at things if not to see a profit? The entire purpose of labor in the economic market is to yield some result — whether it be money, goods, etc. The majority of people don’t work every day for fun; they do it because they want — they need — something in exchange. Do you honestly think that the people working at McDonald’s flipping burgers and responding to rude customers on a daily basis would come to work every day if they weren’t getting paid? Moreover, do you think as a child their dream job was to do this? Is their desire for better working conditions, or their defense of their industry, somehow the lesser for it? No.”
“Often we do work we don’t enjoy, because we have families to provide for or bills to pay, or, like the majority of the student body I hope to graduate with, loans to repay. It doesn’t make their job immoral or illegitimate. I was lecturing at a class last week and taking questions when I was asked by a female student, ‘Would you still do porn if you didn’t need the money?’ I replied, ‘No.’ She looked shocked. The entire class was buzzing. I felt puzzled. It all seems so intuitive. I wouldn’t do labor for free. No one would…. If I had been a doctor standing before the class, would I have been asked that same question?”
“I’m lucky in that the job I chose to pay my bills just so happens to empower me and reward me in ways I didn’t imagine it could. I love my job. I don’t deny for a second that this isn’t the reality for everyone, and we need their stories too, but not to be stolen, reworked and retold by banner-waving academics or politicians, or minced up and stamped into cookie-cutter whores for television dramas. The theft of our voices, our narratives, devalues us as people; and allows us to be silenced.”
Belle, I’m a big fan.
She speaks sense this Belle. She is absolutely right.
I really liked most of what she said. One thing puzzles me though. When she retales this story: “‘Would you still do porn if you didn’t need the money?’ I replied, ‘No.’ She looked shocked. The entire class was buzzing. I felt puzzled. It all seems so intuitive. I wouldn’t do labor for free. No one would…. ” I think she misunderstood the question. She answers as if she was asked whether she would do porn for free. That’s not the question. I think instead, she was asked whether, having repaid her loans, she would consider continuing to do porn, since it empowers her as she states in another one of the quotes you published. She would still get paid, but wouldn’t ‘need’ the money. It’s like asking a doctor who is well off because he’s been succesful and able to save enough to not *need* money if he would still be a doctor then. Or does she too consider this job as less than another kind of job?
I think you are being uncharitable. “… if you didn’t need the money” is a tricky formulation, obscuring the real point of the question, which is, “Isn’t porn awful work?” I think Belle is clear that it’s WORK, that the concept of anyone doing any kind of work when they “don’t need the money” requires a privileged position even to be imagined, and/but we seem to have no trouble imagining/a lot of trouble escaping the idea of porn as shameful, degrading, somehow WORSE THAN/DIFFERENT FROM other forms of work.
If I didn’t need money I wouldn’t work. By definition. I would play. And my play might involve projects for which other people get paid, and it might not. But my answer to the question of what I would do if I didn’t need money bears no information about what it is I do for work or my attitude toward it.
Even if the questioner meant what you imagine, the question is offensive – maybe even more so.
Reading your reply made me realise that the tone of voice is important, and unfortunately lacking in writing. It was in my comment (I was using a gentle tone, you read an aggressive one), and thus probably was in the question Ms Knox was asked.
Your reply made me realise that the tone of the question may have been much more hurtful than the words actually read, or than how I read them. Maybe I was being too charitable towards the questioner. That would explain Ms Knox’s response, which sounded more of a defensive reply than what I was expecting.
I agree with Ms Knox and you. I wouldn’t work for free if I needed the money. And I’ve worked for free a lot in my life. Sometimes I regret it, because the work I did was real work but went and sometimes still goes unrecognised. And even when we don’t need the money, it is nice to be recognised in some way or other. I don’t expect anyone to do the work for free, certainly not when one needs the money.
There certainly are a lot of people who are always trying to gain more money even when they don’t really need anymore. So it makes sense that sex workers should get paid to do the job they do just as much as anyone else. Just because you enjoy your job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid (or recognised).
I don’t see how the question is even more offensive if seen from the point of view I presented… Care to enlighten me?! (And yes, my tone of voice couldn’t be more gentle, no sarcasm at all here. I’m just saying as to make sure you don’t misinterpret it 😉 )
She is a good looking chick !
Thanks for the introduction! Her analysis and her writing are so impressive. Really glad you posted on this.
Thanks – I’m glad you like it/her. I read one criticism of her that she was “spouting women’s studies 101,” which seemed wrong to me. I take your praise as validation. You know, because I know you.