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‘Duke Porn Star’ Belle Knox Talks About Feminism, What Turns Her On, and the Evils of Student Loans

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‘Duke Porn Star’ Belle Knox Talks About Feminism, What Turns Her On, and the Evils of Student Loans

"Sometime I just look, and I think, my life is absurd."

By Sam Benjamin

It's seven o'clock on a Monday evening in Los Angeles, and Belle Knox is at work. Knox, the newly famous Duke University student-turned-feminist-porno-starlet, is spending this part of her spring break on the set of Real College Girls. She’s waiting for the male talent to arrive. ("The guy we had was having some problems, um, staying hard,” she tells me sympathetically but straightforwardly. “They had to send for reinforcements.")

Since her entreé into the professional adult film industry several months ago, Knox has performed in approximately 25 scenes. She earns between $1000 and $2000 per work day in Los Angeles's hardcore industry, depending on the particulars of her labor. In the process, she's become a galvanizing figure, and the subject of much debate.  

Nerve: How does the public perception of porn differ from what you've experienced?
BELLE KNOX: I think that people assume that the performers in pornography are all drug-addicted, uneducated, or it's a desperate exchange, because they have no other options. But from what I've seen, I don't think that that's necessarily true. For the most part, the people I've encountered in porn treat it like it's their job. They wake up, and they go do porn. That's how they make their living. 

I've also met a lot of people in porn who have college degrees, or who are working on their degrees. If I hadn't had the reason to pay my tuition, then I never would have worked in porn. But that doesn't mean I consider it a desperate exchange or that I'm doing it because I have no other option. But asking someone to pay $60,000 for a year of college is just ridiculous. And I don't see any way that can really be justified. People like to think of colleges as noble institutions where people learn to have an education, but the reality is that they're businesses.  

What do you think of the coverage of your story? 
A lot of mainstream media has really been vitriolic towards me. I think it's because I've pissed off the banking industry. I'm telling people that loans are bad, that college is too expensive. And they would rather have people believe that the solution to education is taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. 

One of the points that I want people to take away from my story is that middle-class and upper-middle-class students really get caught in this Catch-22 when they're applying for financial aid. On paper, they make too much money to qualify for a lot of aid, so they're left with these really big tuition bills, which in reality their families can't pay. 

What was it like going on Piers Morgan Tonight
Surreal. Oh, it's bizarre. And the thing is, this has all happened so fast. Sometime I just look, and I think, my life is absurd. 

You're not only being "outed" as an actress in adult films, you're becoming a public figure in ways most porn stars are not. What's the transition like? 
By being a student as well as a porn star, I've forced a crossover between mainstream and porn, and I'm really excited to see where all of this takes me. My goal is to help break down barriers between the two worlds and dispel some of the stereotypes and stigma against sex workers.

Has it been strange to be the "porn star" on campus at Duke University? Are you more or less famous than [Duke basketball player] Jabari Parker there?
I'm less famous than him. I mean, come on, he's fucking Jabari Parker! [Laughs]

Duke's been a mixed bag. I did get a lot of support from people – I have my friends at Duke. I've also had some really low points, where I was really struggling with all of the hate that I was receiving. But I want people to focus on the great stuff about Duke. We have a girl in my grade who found a way to detect breast cancer. I want her to be getting publicity in the news. It just so happens that people like to focus on a scandal.  

Do you envision that you'll be able to go back to Duke and graduate from there? I would imagine that after being on CNN and shooting porn, maybe landing a book deal, it would be hard to go back to things like term papers and cafeteria food. 
No, I'm going back to college. That's the whole reason I did porn. I'm completely aware that doing pornography for me at least isn't something that I consider to be a long-term career. I've always wanted to be a lawyer, so that's what I'm going to go after. Porn is just a means to an end.  

How did you come to major in sociology/women's studies?  
I'm very passionate about feminism and LGBTQ rights. My personal experience as a young woman in a world that is still extremely hostile to women – as well as the current situation – have informed this passion. The type of law I wish to work in is women's/civil rights, so majoring in women's studies made perfect sense. 

How would you characterize yourself as a feminist? 
I align myself with a libertarian kind of feminism. I'm kind of just, like, [laughs] a hippie.

Listen, patriarchy is telling women what to do with their bodies. Dictating to women what they can and can't do. And when feminists make our movement about that, they marginalize sex workers. I've had anti-porn activists create really horrible blogs about me or treat me like I'm a rescue project, or basically say that I'm naive and stupid and that my brain isn't developed. I think that when people condemn pornography, they're really just following this societal construct of what sex is, based on religion, based on patriarchy, and so many societal forces. 

What's your history of watching porn?  
The first porn I ever watched was – it was just like an orgy of girls getting fingered. And I just had watched it, and I remember how much it aroused me. It's really weird, because us girls were always told that watching pornography was something that only men do. So I never told my friends or my family that I watched porn. It was my deepest darkest secret.  

But I love watching porn, even now that I'm in college. Even now that I do porn, I love watching porn. 

Do you feel like you have to align with the male point of view to watch porn, since porn is created within that male fantasy?
I don't call it male, and I don't call it female. I don't really like identifying certain genders with certain things – that's perpetuating the binary. I like what I like. But I do really like rough sex and stuff. And I like lesbian porn.

What's an example of a scene you might like to watch for your own pleasure? 
This is interesting, actually. The only porn I watch is blowjob porn. It is the only thing I can get off to, is watching a girl get her face fucked, and have spit running down her face. And her make up is all fucked up. That's hot. I can't watch normal sex and get off to it. I have to watch blowjob porn. I don't know why.

Is that what you're going for, as a performer?
Right now, I'm kind of performing — I'm doing a scene for Adam and Eve — and it's going to have a scene in it with Boy-Boy-Girl and I'm going to be wearing kind of a leash and collar type of thing. So, as a performer, I've only done one rough scene, really, but I'd really like to do more rough scenes. I want to do what makes me happy, you know? 

Do you think that will skew the perception of what you're all about?  
I think that people are really confused because I do like rough sex so much. And they're like, "how can you be a feminist and like rough sex?" But it's really simple, you know? As long as everyone's consenting and it's legal and are happy and enjoying what they're doing, that's great. 

Are there any women in porn whose career trajectories you'd like to follow? 
Definitely. Sasha Grey is my idol. She totally took advantage of the industry, and she really changed the game. She's just in my opinion, a really smart businesswoman, and also she's kinky and hot as hell. 

Have you been able to indulge yourself with the money you've been making? 
I really like lemon cupcakes with chocolate frosting, from Sprinkles. I have a total sweet tooth, and I'll just eat candy for days. Sometimes I just treat myself to nice restaurants. But all of my money really does go to tuition. I'm not lying. I'm really not. I have a $4,000 tuition bill every month. 

All images via Belle Knox's Facebook