Feminists should support Duke student’s choice to be a porn star

By VICTORIA HILLS

Co-Editor in Chief  

What is feminism? Who will we refuse to accept as a feminist?

These questions burn at the heart of the Duke porn star controversy, which ignited towards the end of last semester when a fraternity brother told the campus’s entire Greek system that he recognized one of his female classmates from a porn video. The young woman, known in the media as “Lauren,” was promptly and publically brutalized by both the Duke community and the broader public. Tweets and comments on related articles include “You should slit your wrists and die, you stupid b*tch,” and “IF I SEE YOU WALKING ON CAMPUS I WILL KICK YOU IN THE FACE.”

On Feb. 21, Lauren wrote an eloquent essay for the online magazine xoJane defending her choices and attacking her opponents’ derogatory treatment of her sexuality and autonomy. Yesterday, in another powerful xoJane article, she revealed her stage name to the world: “My name is Belle Knox, and I wear my Scarlet Letter with pride.” The subtitle of her article is “I’ve never been told to die in quite so many ways.”

Feminism is about empowering women, not telling them what they cannot do or should not be. Lauren is a better feminist than the millions of hateful people who have told her to kill herself or demanded her expulsion from Duke University.

Her critics claim that Lauren can’t be a feminist because she willingly engages in an industry that degrades women and propagates negative stereotypes about women. But Lauren insists that her porn career is both liberating and empowering. She is better paid and more respected as a porn star then she was as a restaurant waitress, where she was treated as a second-class citizen in exchange for minimum wage.

Feminism demands that we stop making women feel ashamed of their actions. A woman should never be ashamed (or made to feel ashamed) of outperforming males in her math class, wearing short skirts or sexually desiring another woman. As long as her actions don’t harm anyone else, she must be allowed to do as she wishes.

Belle Knox hasn’t hurt anyone. Acting in pornography, being filmed having sex—even rough sex, which Lauren has performed—doesn’t hurt anyone. The stars of American porn films are all consenting adults. While some people are coerced into pornography, the vast majority of men and women in the industry participate willingly and, typically, enthusiastically.

If a man watches a rough sex porn video and then engages in non-consensual rough sex, the only person who should be blamed is that man. Pornography doesn’t cause people to degrade women or commit rape. People choose to do these things under their own free will.

The disgust and derision that Lauren has been subjected to because of her freely chosen profession is vile. Her body is her own, and what she chooses to do with that body falls under nobody’s jurisdiction except her own, unless she directly harms another person. Stopping Lauren from participating in pornography would be a violation of her freedom. Shaming her for her choices disrespects her autonomy. Those who think that feminism requires Lauren to not have sex on film are no feminists at all.

Click here to read the counterpoint on this issue.

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