Love & Sex

The Only Thing the Duke Porn Star Did Wrong Was Attend Duke

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Belle Knox has been forced to reveal herself because her peers are bullies.

Belle Knox is a porn actress. She has performed for Reality Kings and with James Deen, who is as close to America's Sweetheart as a male porn star can be. She's very good at what she does, and has the potential for a career like Stoya's or Sasha Grey's. Belle Knox is also a freshman pre-law student at Duke University, the elite but notoriously assholish private college whose tuition is approaching $60,000 a year. Belle Knox began doing porn as a way to supplement her financial aid, but also because she loves it.

Belle Knox attempted to keep her pornographic and student identities separate, not because she was ashamed of what she was doing, but to protect herself from the jerks. This was unsuccessful, because a classmate of hers saw her on the internet and outed her to "hundreds of other men in the Greek scene." She began to be abused and trolled by assholes. She wrote a thoughtful piece defending herself for xoJane, without revealing her name, and the hate being thrown her way intensified. So she wrote another piece for xoJane where she named herself and showed her face, and throws down her "come at me, bro" gauntlet. 

Belle Knox is smart and tough and sexy. I've never before called a porn actress a role model, but Belle Knox is someone to emulate. She owns herself in a way that most people, male or female or young or old, don't do. Here's the kicker from her xoJane essay: 

I stand for every woman who has ever been tormented for being sexual – for every woman who has been harassed, ostracized and called a slut for exerting her sexual autonomy – and for every woman who has been the victim of The Double Standard.

You want to see me naked. And then you want to judge me for letting you see me naked.

Society may feel like they are in control of my identity, but I refuse to let the dark corners of the Internet determine my future. Spend a minute Googling, and you will find these awful cesspools of hate and judgment and threats. These anonymous chat boards are determined to tell me what name I need to use (my birth name instead of my porn name), where I belong (I'm not good enough for Duke, apparently) and what I deserve (death, rape, humiliation).

The truth of the matter is this: I am one identity when I am a student. I'm another when I do porn. And no one controls either – but me.

Belle Knox is handling this incredibly difficult situation admirably. There's just one thing she did wrong: she went to Duke in the first place.

Duke is a nexus of villainy. Tucker Max, former Most Hated Man on the Internet, went there. There was the lacrosse fiasco a few years back (innocent of crime, guilty of being icky). The Duke Blue Devils are among the most hated teams in all of sports. There was the infamous "Fuck List," which reflected poorly on everyone involved. Duke frat boys are villains. All stereotypes about them appear to be true, and they are the people Belle Knox chose as peers. This month's feature on the dangerous amorality of fraternity culture in The Atlantic paints a disturbing portrait of the problems fraternities create in American higher education, focusing on schools like the University of Idaho. Duke is worse, because Duke frat boys are smart and predatory. The risks of being discovered that Belle Knox took entering porn in a culture as socially conservative and aggressive as Duke is higher than it would have been at, say, UC Berkley or Cornell or Smith or some comparable school. 

This is not to say that any of this is Belle Knox's fault or that she did anything to deserve the invective spewed at her. She should not have had to write either of the pieces she wrote for xoJane. No, this is entirely the fault of the assholes at Duke and on the internet. The problem is not pornography. The problem is men abusing women, and the feeling of entitlement that fraternity brothers have to ruin other people's lives. Belle Knox has a right to support herself however she wants in peace, as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone else's existence. Anonymous assholes who don't gain anything from abusing others do not have the right. So stop.

Image via xoJane.