By Kim Thore
In my endless fascination with pop culture, I have been following the story of the college student turned porn star. You know – THAT one that blew up the internet in the southeast a few months ago. I’ve watched the interviews, read her op-ed, and of course every time she decides to speak, show up at a strip club, or style her hair differently, the media jumps through hoops to get the scoop. I’ve tried to ignore it but after reading a piece about her buying cheap underwear that she could then sell at a convention, Belle Knox —has my head spinning.
Before I trudge down the rabbit hole, let me set the record straight. If Ms. Knox wants to do porn to pay her way through school vs. the obligatory waitress or retail gig—so be it—it’s her body and she can do with it what she wants. I seriously doubt she is breaking new ground here…she’s not the first and she won’t be the last. But, let’s not dress it up to be anything more than that.
What I have a problem with are her claims that her true goal, in addition to avoiding school loans, is to further the rights of sex workers and smearing a glean of respectability on a less than reputable business. Noble cause, but I’m not slapping that particular dollar bill on her thigh. In short, I’m not buying it. She got caught, and has taken advantage of the situation. If she were pushing for rights to privacy, I could understand and support that agenda 100% but that’s not the road she is traveling.
With a reality show in the works, gigs stripping in clubs, editorials and interviews it feels just a little too close to personal agenda pushing…and dare I say it—I think she is setting back feminism, not pushing it forward. She is making the best of her situation and clouding the issue with some rather ill-informed platitudes.
In full disclosure, I am not a fan of porn. I know a lot of people are – it wouldn’t be a multibillion dollar business otherwise – and I’ve never been able to figure that equation out. It’s generally misogynistic, unrealistic both for men and women and the backlash of the industry is growing. Women are given an impractical expectation of how to look and endless fodder for body issues and men and boys are feeding off of increasingly violent images, and I see it as a perfect agenda for our society to stay firmly rooted in patriarchy.
Because, when a college student comes forth to share how glorious her experience as a sex worker is, inside my head I am screaming, no, no, no…you are dressing up a business that subjugates women and for every person like her that says this is her choice, she enjoys it, she doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do… there are hundreds of others with the exact opposite experience.
You’ve heard this before, right? Every time a woman has to justify her complete surrender to this, or some other occupation that can only exist in a society fully accepting of a male dominated culture, she exudes the same platitudes. Maybe, just maybe, I could believe it if the voice box was older than 18, but it all sounds like I’ll make the best of this and a few extra dollars—not altruism.
The latest news is she is now PornHub’s newest intern. She claims that she is not interested in being a porn star for life…so we can assume she is cashing in now while the going is good, however, I’d like to see where she is four years from now – creating a new line of sex toys, because one is already in the works? Or not understanding why a law firm won’t hire her because of her previous work portfolio? Whether that is “right” or not, it is the reality. My hope would be that it would be different, but the track record doesn’t bode well for this to just go quietly away.
Ms. Knox seems more than a little naïve. Or maybe it’s us, the public who are obtuse? She’s selling an image and we’re buying it.
Either way she is making money, and it’s all going to her “tuition,” but as college is that time to learn about yourself and the world around you, I have to ask if Knox’s journey isn’t leading her astray?
Some may say she tried to make the best of being outed by a fellow student and she is doing exactly that, but that’s an understatement. She has turned the spotlight firmly on herself and is milking her 15 mins like a trooper, and that’s what bugs me the most.
Don’t claim your intentions are sublime and worthy, when you are brokering sexy deals left and right, and while I’m at it…let me just address the 800 lb gorilla in the room. When I was in college I had scholarships, grants, student loans and at one point I worked four jobs and this was after choosing a top public university I could afford.
The school she chose to attend is a top, elite, private university…but don’t whine that tuition is $60,000 a year and you find waitressing far more degrading than porn. It wasn’t like someone forgot to tell her the cost, and even my public school education took years to pay off, but I knew that going in. Porn pays more and it’s an easier way to make a buck…but unlike waitressing or retail, it also carries a long shadow and it will follow you forever. I wonder how long it will take before Knox starts talking about the abuses of the porn industry when the “I’m doing something naughty and taboo” phase wears off?
Her elitist attitude is being morphed into scintillation-“I’m just being me”- choices, and a trumped-up desire to be a voice for the downtrodden sex worker. Here’s an idea, let’s interview sex workers who have been in the industry for more than a year and see if they think Knox is their savior. My guess is they would tell you she is doing more harm than good and riding a wave created by publicists and companies hungry for a dollar.
Her faux feminism is disappointing and I daresay a media ploy to make everything add up. And that’s the sad part– for some impressionable young girls it will add up, I only hope they realize that this is a lot of smoke and mirrors, there’s nothing glamorous at all about it. I also hope that she realizes that too. I am not even entirely sure if she has strung all of this together herself – while not terribly bad in interviews, she doesn’t come across as someone who has truly thought this career through. As one of my dear friends noted, she’s a poster child for YOLO, but there should be a warning label on those posters “Yeah YOLO, but that doesn’t mean without consequences.”
All the lip gloss, fake sets, implausible “plot” lines, school girl outfits and fake glasses are just window dressing for a business. A business selling a product, and that product comes at a far higher price than she knows, or cares to know, and that is sad.
So, Ms. Knox – when the house lights are dimmed, and no one is paying you—let me know if you still feel special or maybe just a little bit sullied. This kind of money comes with a cost, can you really afford it?