Entertainment

Why the Porn Star Stoya Took a Stage Name

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Jessica just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Last week we finally learned the stage name of the woman who media outlets had only been referring to as that "Duke porn star." The infamous Duke student, attempting to keep her personal life personal, had gone from self-identified iterations of Aurora, to "real name" Lauren, and finally, to her stage name Belle Knox. This Sunday, in an opinion piece for The New York Times, porn star and writer Stoya noted that, "At a time when people can be whoever they like on the Internet, when we are all negotiating who we are in which setting and for which audience, somehow the combination of a woman whose job is fantasy and her fantasy professional name can make people lose their minds."

Just as countless writers from George Eliot to Mark Twain have adopted pen names for centuries to separate their person from their artistic output, or just like middle school children have created playful screen names (BellaGoose2453) to distance themselves from their chat room antics, porn stars adopt stage names. Sometimes it's for the express purpose of separating their erotic character and their behavior therein from their personal life. Sometimes a stage name is used to conceal an identity (for those too dense to Google). But mostly, Stoya, whose stage name is a shortened version of her grandmother's maiden name, argues, "My stage name is less about withholding parts of myself or maintaining privacy than it is a symbol of the idea that I am more than just my job or any other isolated slice of my identity."

Whether we want to believe it or not, Stoya is a woman who exists outside of our fantasies. She may have a fleshlight modeled after her ladybits and a regular Vice column, but there are fragments outside of these public identities that comprise the same woman. If her Instagram is any indication, it's that fresh-faced, cat-having, selfie-loving normal twentysomething that Stoya is trying to preserve. A girl, who like any other, takes photos of her boyfriend gobbling on a donut, and yet other times, has profited off having filmed sex with said boyfriend. 

In an age where finding privacy and trying to identify the self off-line can be quite difficult, Stoya claims our identities suffer from a lack of context. Which is something I personally identify with. I, like Stoya, have taken up various names to signal my different social roles. Five years ago, if you had referred to me as "Kate" to my best friend or college boyfriend, they would have hesitantly asked, "Who?" In part, I've adopted a shortened version of my first name because I like it, but the other reason is so that what happens in the public domain doesn't impact my personal one. I don't need the name I write about condom designers with to be the same one tagged on my Christmas presents. Sometimes, I'll receive horrific remarks from commenters on my public writing (oh, and they name you, they do), and the only thing that gives me emotional distance from the comments is the fact that, like Stoya, that name and my job, aren't all of me.

"Maybe we should remember that our first glimpse of a person is just one small piece of who they really are," Stoya concludes her piece. Coming from an industry crowded with Candy Kaynes and Nikki Starrs, facials and fisting, Stoya has a right to point out that we all deserve to be more than one life decision. And if we have multiple accounts, endless avatars, and countless usernames at our disposal, maybe we could all take a page from porn stars.

Image via Flickr.