I didn’t expect today to happen.
My decision to do porn to pay for college was a private one I made, and then I was outed to my university classmates by another Duke student who had seen me on the Internet a few months ago. After promising me he would respect my privacy, he proceeded to reveal who I was to the entire Greek system, which is when all of this controversy first began. I started to be harassed. He started to be applauded.
Isn’t that always the way? The porn performer is to be shamed. The porn consumer is to be celebrated.
Soon after, the Duke Chronicle wrote a somewhat patronizing portrait of me, disguising my name and using the preferred nom de plume of “Lauren.” When I was contacted by xoJane to write a piece, I continued to use the name “Lauren.”
The question I am asked over and over again is this: If I am proud of being an adult performer, then why do I “hide” behind this fake name?
Because the bullies of the world — starting with that young Duke man who broke his promise to me — do not dictate my life. Because my decision to do porn does not somehow mean that the world now “owns” or deserves access to every single thing about me and every choice I make.
My birth name is one name. IT IS MINE. It is the name I am enrolled in at Duke. It is what my family and friends call me. My porn name is another name. It is the name I use when I perform. These are two different worlds in which I inhabit. I can’t stop you from calling me any name you want to — including “slut,” “whore” or “bitch” — but I can decide what name I use.
Today, I’m going to officially reveal what my porn name is — outside of the dregs of the Internet trying to bully me into using my birth name for porn, on message boards where comments like “Her nose is bigger than her tits” or “She deserves to be raped” are the common parlance — and that is my choice to make.
The Internet does not dictate my life. My sexuality is not some sort of blackmail to be used against me, granting you ownership over my life or my story. It is my life. It is my story.
So I’m refusing to let the bullies win. Instead, in revealing my performer name, I’m also going to let you know exactly the level of hate that exists in America regarding women who refuse to be quiet about their sexuality.Because while my supporters are many (and have blown me away with their love and their kindness), in recent days since the publication of thexoJane essay coming out as the Duke porn star (but not revealing my name or my face), I find myself increasingly the target of marginalization, hate speech on message boards of the Internet and demeaning threats in every avenue of my life. Most recently, I have been told that I am “an embarrassment to Duke,” I bring nothing but bad publicity to my school, and I need to be silent.
Do I want to behave and be a good girl? Then “no more media,” I am told. The message repeated to me seems clear: “You are not a human being. You have no rights or feelings. You are simply a nuisance. You have to stay silent. No matter what, just stay silent.”
In my own personal life, I am devastated to reveal that many of those closest to me have unleashed similar cruelty. Many have simply shut me out. Some of my best and oldest friends have told me that I deserve anything negative or horrible that comes my way — and that terrible things are what I have brought upon myself when I decided to do porn.
To this I would ask: What about the people who consume porn?
The adult industry racks up $13.3 billion in the U.S. alone, and do we honestly wish collective evil, shame and condemnation upon every human being involved in this gigantic (and I would add, legitimate) business? Because that is incredibly disturbing to me. I don’t even care if you are condemning me, but look at the thousands of other women who you are condemning as well.
Do you really think you are better than us? Perhaps ask your husband or boyfriend or son or brother (or your wife or girlfriend or daughter or sister) if they have ever watched porn. Do they also deserve bad things and terrifying threats against their safety? No? Then look at the double standard you are employing. Look at the hate you are so comfortable inflicting upon the performers but not on the consumers who drive the industry’s success and profitability.
Perhaps most frightening of all, my most private information has been targeted as a result of my outing as a porn star. I have had phone numbers and personal details put online. This disgusting action is being done as if to threaten me that if I dare speak out about anything, there will be a price to pay.
I also want to say: This is my story. Not anyone else’s — and my family deserves to be left alone. If you harass them, you are not only a bully, you are also a coward. Let’s keep this one to one. You don’t like what I do? Tell it to me. Have some guts.
Fake Twitter accounts in my name have been started — and the tweets have included:
- You should slit your wrists and die, you stupid bitch
- We are going to throw garbage at her every fucking day!!! let’s do it GREEK FRAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- The school should either expel her, or we will take matters into our own hands and make this fuck up suffer. cheers!
- FUCK YOU!!!! IF I SEE U WALKING ON CAMPUS I WILL KICK YOU IN THE FACE!
I called the police to report these threats, and, in the spirit of slut-shaming, I was immediately barraged with a line of insensitive, doubting questions. These brutal suggestions that people should kick me in the face if they saw me were nothing more than “childish threats,” I was told. Then I was asked question after question to poke holes in how any of these threats might be legitimate — and how I was to blame for the terror I have experienced.
“Is this from an ex boyfriend?”
“Are you sure?
“Are you dating anyone?”
"Are you sure you haven’t angered any guys lately?"
I suppose I should not be surprised by this level of disrespect as to my welfare and safety. I suppose I should not be shocked at the lack of sensitivity I have been afforded. Because, sadly, these are the realities that women — especially sex workers — face every day. We are scorned by the very same people that encourage us to be sexual (“come on, baby,” “you know you want to,” “you’re so hot”) — and, in, my case, the hypocritical society that watches me behind a computer screen.
I may never have a normal life again. But if I’ve exposed the insanity and the unfair standards that all women and especially my sisters in the sex industry face — if I’ve challenged the way that people view female sexuality — then this journey has been worth it. Society tries to tell women that our worth is contingent upon the secrecy of our sexuality, but I will not be silenced.
Because, for anyone who is telling me to “shut up,” please dissuade yourself right now of the delusion that you control or own me. It is not your right or your place to tell me to be silent.
I am not your child or your property or your Madonna or your whore.
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.
Today, I am choosing to reveal my porn identity to the world.
My name is Belle Knox, and I wear my Scarlet Letter with pride.