It’s not every day that I recommend a column by a prominent liberal writer.
But Ruth Marcus’ piece this morning in the Washington Post on the Duke University coed turned adult film star is ta must-read. I urge you to take a few minutes to read it.
To read about the Duke University freshman turned adult film star is to feel nostalgic for the bygone age of dormitory parietals that barred the opposite sex from visiting the rooms of well-brought-up young ladies.
Of course, such rules are an outmoded relic. Yet their demise reflects a truth about college students.
They may no longer be minors but they are more chrysalis than butterfly, not yet fully formed adults. No matter how smart they are, no matter how elite their college, their judgment is impaired — and not just when they're drinking. They try on identities like so many discarded outfits before a big frat party.
Read Belle Knox, the freshman's nom de porn, on her decision to pay tuition bills by performing in adult films, and you see the vulnerability underlying the faux-feminist, hear-me-roar bravado about rejecting slut-shaming.
"My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling, and empowering," Knox — she chose the last name in a weird homage to Amanda Knox, the college student accused of murdering her roommate in Italy — wrote on the website xojane.com. "For me, shooting pornography brings me unimaginable joy. … It is my artistic outlet: my love, my happiness, my home."
Marcus’ column is not an elegiac lament for times gone by. It is a hard-hitting analysis of the effect of pornography and other cultural trends that have brought us to this pass.
Marcus sees through Belle's pose and recognizes the tragic nature of Knox’s actually not-very-worldly take on what she is doing. Noting that Belle Knox has spoken publicly about “rough sex,” Marcus is unsparing in her discussion of magazines and internet sites that promote violent sex.
She also apportions some of the blame to the hook-up culture—the headline of the piece is “Hook-Up Culture Run Amok.” She writes:
Knox's pathetic story wouldn't be worth examining — exploiting? — if it didn't say something deeper about the hook-up culture run amok and the demise of shame. In an age of sexting and Snapchat, of "Girls Gone Wild" and friends with benefits, perhaps it's easy to confuse the relative merits of waitressing and sex work.
"To be perfectly honest, I felt more degraded in a minimum-wage, blue-collar, low-paying service job than I ever did doing porn," Knox said of her high school waitressing job.
Perhaps the Belle Knox story also prompts a discussion on the meaning of what used to be called an honest day’s work.