Ever since the so-called “Duke porn star scandal” hit the headlines, random people have repeatedly asked me if I am “embarrassed” by it as a Duke alumna.
The short answer is: “No.”
The somewhat-longer answer is: “No, are you freaking kidding me/what the hell is wrong with you/are you for real?”
Here are some things, meanwhile, that I AM embarrassed by:
I find it embarrassing that some people – including, apparently, Dukies – have disparaged, harassed, stalked, and even threatened a woman for daring to “pollute” the ambiance of an institution of higher learning by attending it while simultaneously earning money via the porn industry.
I find it embarrassing that the police apparently did not respond seriously to this woman when she told them that she was receiving death threats.
I find it embarrassing that we live in a society where porn consumption is deemed perfectly normal, particularly for young men – “boys will be boys,” etc. – while women who perform for these men’s gratification are marginalized, dehumanized, and told that they deserve cruel treatment.
I find it HELLA embarrassing that we are ignoring the elephant in the room: higher education in the United States is now overpriced to the point of absurdity – and yet there are people out there seriously discussing if it’s “OK” for someone to finance their education via the porn industry. Hey, the porn industry DOES have a lot of issues – but so does the fast food industry, to name one obvious example. If this woman were flipping burgers to get by, no one would pay attention. The truth is, the scandal surrounding Belle Knox is, among other things, a VERY good opportunity to talk about the price of higher education – if we had our priorities straight, that is.
So, as a journalist, I find it embarrassing that salacious and patronizing coverage of the “Duke porn star” phenomenon obscures both the problems with the cost of college and the problems women face when they are stripped of their humanity by a braying, self-righteous mob.
I find it embarrassing that people will not admit that this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the “students at good schools doing ‘scandalous’ stuff for profit” phenomenon goes.
I find it embarrassing that some people are saying that “there is no need for anyone to do porn to pay for a good education – we have ZOMG financial aid!!!” Sorry, but for many, many students, “aid” actually amounts to predatory student loans and not much else.
I find it embarrassing that many, many people have disguised their contempt of this woman via demonstrative hand-wringing, crying crocodile tears about how “sorry” they feel for her, because she is forever “tainted.”
I find it embarrassing that many also feel that this woman should have issued a mea culpa and retreated in shame – as opposed to choosing to fight her detractors, refusing to stop doing porn, and refusing to leave the university.
I find it embarrassing that there are other Duke alums out there who do believe that Belle Knox is some kind of “scarlet woman” who has indeed “brought shame” to the institution – I rather think being a priggish, judgmental ass is shameful. *shrug*
I find it embarrassing that some journalists were SHOCKED to find out that while she is on campus, this woman dresses like a “typical” Duke student (what the hell were they expecting? A thong bikini and Lucite heels?) and otherwise appears to be an actual human being – just a human being who, you know, does porn.
I find the idea that Duke is this pristine playground full of cherubic, fragile boys and girls who must be sobbing into their pillows upon finding out that they share a campus with a porn star to be profoundly embarrassing. Duke is and was home to a lot of weird, complicated people. In fact, most people are weird and complicated when you really get to know them. Those who are actually threatened by the presence of Belle Knox – or the presence of anyone else who does not fit their idea of a “nice, normal Duke student” – are projecting their issues onto others.
I find the double standards about the class and gender issues to be deeply embarrassing. It’s OK for Duke boys to get loaded, get laid, and brag about it. Doing it for the money would be considered somewhat shameful, of course, because they’re supposed to be rich already – not that ANY of them would receive death threats for starring in straight porn, of course (gay porn would be a different story, but I digress). Duke girls are held to standards that are much more rigid – but they can still be “forgiven” for occasional forays into “slutdom,” assuming no one’s filming them and/or paying them. One of the biggest problems people have with Knox is that she gets paid, a.k.a. she’s neither part of the Too-Rich-And-Classy-To-Work Club or the Nobly-Suffering-Poor-Kid Club. She is hard to categorize, her mere existence hints at some uncomfortable truths (like, someone can be smart and accomplished and yet have sex on camera for money), and people freaking hate her for it.
I find it embarrassing that we’re even having these conversations today.