The story of Miriam Weeks aka Belle Knox has been an intriguing one since the Duke College freshman student was outed as an adult entertainer in recent weeks. It has forced a wider dialogue as to how women are viewed in society, what we mean by sexuality, how far one can take their sexuality as well as how one gets on with the legitimate concerns of funding a college education with the hopes of living the American dream. Whatever the American dream necessarily means in a society with fewer social mobility choices than ever before, often reserved for those in the know, financially entrenched and privileged. Which in some way goes a long way in informing why Miriam Weeks a well meaning student from Spokane, Washington with exceptional academic grades chose to pursue a vocation within the adult industry.
Yet whilst the media has touched on the gravity of the student’s choices and her having to publicly defend her actions what we as a whole have failed to do is to critically examine the society at large in which Miriam Weeks and other students are forced to grapple with. Getting ahead in life, getting ahead in America. What used to be a sure bet, going to an elite college, or just about any college has not necessarily led to that for many students.
Instead many in Generation Y (never mind the quagmire of Generation X) are saddled with horrendous debts, full of disillusion, fewer and fewer professional vocations to choose with less pay than before and many simply can not even get into their chosen field, often forced to take on less than desirable vocations outside of college just to stay alive or pursuing their own often volatile entrepreneurial efforts.
Yet before we take a closer examination of Belle Knox’s decision to enter the adult entertainment industry and how that has served to exploit her, it might be worth mentioning that to some degree the media itself has exploited this woman’s journey not necessarily for the sake of a critical discussion of what serves the lot of many youth but to titilate and to reinforce the patriarchal paradigm that this is a a man’s world and any discussion which reinforces the images of half naked women in a culture steeped with images of half naked women is a worthy discussion for most media outlets.
It reinvigorates and reinforces the cultural hegemony under the guise of liberating a woman, when in fact what is really served is the further negation of women and their reinforced role that they are ultimately subordinate to the dominant culture at play, pleasing a man.
During her defense of why she chose to take on a career as a porn star Miriam Weeks told the Duke Chronicle the following: ‘I worked as a waitress as a job for a year in high school, and not only did it interfere with my school where I was barely sleeping and wasn’t doing my work, but also I was making $400 a month after taxes,’
‘I felt like I was being degraded and treated like s**t. My boss was horrible to me.’
The freshman also told how taking on a post in the service industry like many of her peers would have necessitated her having to work 80 hours a week, to barely scratch $100 a day at work she considers demeaning and then having to attend lectures and find time for sleep. All legitimate concerns which highlight the conundrum of getting a college education and not being saddled with obtrusive debts for many years to come.
Added Miriam Weeks at a later time: ‘To be perfectly honest, I felt more degraded in a minimum-wage, blue-collar, low-paying service job than I ever did doing porn.’
Which is how she as a matter of fact went on to pursue porn to facilitate her education and hopefully socially mobility. Yet here’s where the catch comes. For every choice there is a reaction and consequence.
While the freshman has come with the opinion a pursuit of porn is liberating, empowering and an affirmation of her femininity and womanhood it has also served to act as an affront to the patriarchal hegemony that exists in society.
Reflects realclearpolitics: Knox’s argument is that pornography is good for women, a jujitsu move against the patriarchy, because it takes back their sexuality from male-imposed stigma. “A woman who transgresses the norm and takes ownership of her body — because that’s exactly what porn is, no matter how rough the sex is — ostensibly poses a threat to the deeply ingrained gender norms that polarize our society,” Knox wrote.
She mentioned rough sex, which requires an unpleasant discussion of what kind of pornography we’re talking about here and the increasingly violent nature of the Internet-fueled pornography trade.
And it’s perhaps here where a closer examination needs to made of the industry Miriam Weeks has chosen in an effort to assert herself and provide herself forward mobility in an increasingly stratified society of haves and have nots.
Articulates dailytargum: While Knox feels empowered through being a porn actress, many of her videos do not portray her as a sexual agent and recirculate porn narratives that pigeonhole women into subservience to dominant forms of male heterosexuality. She is featured on a website called “Facial Abuse,” in which a man forces his penis down a woman’s throat as she gags, cries and sometimes vomits until the man ejaculates on her face. The caption next to Knox’s video states that she is a women’s studies major, but “she says she enjoys watching our videos and what turns her on the most is ‘seeing the misery in the girl’s eyes.’ Those are her own words.” The website mocks Knox’s feminism and makes her complicit in the brutal and dehumanizing treatment of other women on the site. Promoting respect and appreciation for female sexuality is important, but we must be critical when these desires are represented in a way that rearticulates male sexuality and misogyny.
Pornography itself isn’t inherently negative, but the messages mainstream porn disseminates are. Subversive porn, according to Dines, would need to disrupt these messages and “be as powerful and as pleasurable as porn, telling men that porn’s images of women is a lie, fabricated to sell a particular vision of sex. This alternative ideology would also need to present a different vision of heterosexual sex, one built on gender equality and justice.” The message received from Knox’s videos is that she is just another run-of-the-mill porn starlet who submits to men’s sexual fantasies, which contributes inadvertently to pressuring women to conform to pornified standards of female sexuality rather than exploring on their own. Knox’s decision to appear in porn is further coercion for men to maintain narrow conceptions of female sexuality and for women to believe that being petite, hairless and exhibitionistic is the way to feel free, happy and empowered.
But perhaps one of the best responses to the dilemma of how one gets ahead in America comes front the letter below a purported fellow Duke college student left on enstarz where they pondered the choice of Miriam Weeks to take on a career as a porn actress vs that of having simply taken on a position for example in the service industry. It’s an intelligent response that had me wondering if Miriam Weeks has taken it too far and by proxy served to exploit herself as much as the industry she tells has liberated her. Have a read and see what you think….
As a fellow student from Duke University, I do wish to extend to you my sincerest apologies and consolation for the uproar that the whole situation caused. I can only imagine what it is like to deal with everything at the same time.
All formalities aside, the purpose of my email is to share with you a few thoughts I have that you may or may not agree with. I recently graduated from Duke, and I completely understand your financial troubles. My parents are also middle high income earners where I do not receive any sort of financial aid but paying full tuition really hurts the financial stability of my family. There is very little one can do as a student, even at a school like Duke. This overhanging possibility of great debt is enough to change and steer people down a different road than their aspirations. Money becomes more important than the dreams to change the world. A 200k debt right out of college is a terrifying monster to cope with and most succumb by choosing to head into more lucrative professions instead of doing the things they want to do with their life. It hard not to get caught up in fear and apprehension since not only do you have to be able to provide for yourself, your family, you also have worry about a 200k (eventually 400k+) debt.
I see a lot of my fellow students chasing after and blinded by wealth. The proliferation of social media in our lives today gives us glimpses into the lives of the rich and instills a sense of desire for such a lavish lifestyle. Its hard not to want to be rich.
That being said, even though I understand your difficulties and I understand your decisions, I strongly disagree with you on your views of the porn industry. As a guy, I need to be honest with you. Porn does not empower women in any way, it is quite the opposite. Most of the pornographic videos are made to instill a sense of power over women. If you take some time to look through just at the names of the websites that hosts porn and pornography names, you will find most of them quite degrading. One clear example is that website from which the CEO had made a public response, the name is ##$$abuse.com. Abuse as in abuse to women. People watch it because it gives them “power” and the one being exploited are the porn stars. You can probably only make 200k~500k in a career (a short one at that) in the porn industry. You know how much the porn producers make?
As an aspiring businessman, I’d like to share with you something we call opportunity cost. From the New Oxford American Dictionary: “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. Porn is a high opportunity cost industry because of a couple of reasons, some ranging from pure exploitation of females to the possibility of public shaming. You see, when you are getting paid to be a pornstar, the “high pay” you earn is because of the ridiculously high opportunity costs you have to undertake.http://www.covenanteyes.com/20… . This article from Covenant Eyes shares an inside look into the general porn industry. The possibility of acquiring an incurable STD that will seriously hamper your personal life, the public “shaming” as you might have had to experience, and the effect of being a pornstar on your future relationships are all things you need to take into account when stepping into the porn industry. I do not really know the exact nature of your producers but one thing is for sure: continuing in the porn industry will only have a net negative impact on your life. Are they really paying enough to exchange your body, your relationships, and your future?
This is why I have one advice for you. Stop being so naiive. I do not wish to sound harsh but I really hope you see you are being exploited. All the money from your burst of fame is going straight into the pockets of the porn producers and the money you actually receive is just the loose change they earn. It is very economically impractical for you to take such huge risks for such little rewards. It also seems like with every new article that comes out, you seem more and more delusional. Please wake up, you are a smart girl, you know the risks heavily overweigh all the benefits you may get. The more you argue for yourself with statistics and logic pulled from thin air, the less your words will mean. It came as a shock to me that you would decidedly put down all those who wait on tables to try to get through college. Being a waiter is a tough job with minimal pay, I know because I’ve waited on tables for 2 years in college, however, it is also a job with a net positive. You can work on public speaking skills, you can develop determination and a capacity for hardship, and also build people skills that can help you for the rest of your life. Most of all, it has no negative impact on your future.
To wrap things up, I would like to apologize about the lecturing. My intention was only to make you aware of how you really should step back from a career in the porn industry and stop being capitalized on by greedy pornographers. So much of the profits from your videos are going into the hands of the producers and the managers. As I understand, you signed a contract with a single monetary compensation instead of a share of profits. It is very questionable to keep up this whole charade to earn money for all those websites out there when nothing really goes in your pocket while you deal with all of the media attention and family feuds.
P.S. Can you relay to the CEO of XX##abuse.com that his advertising schemes are an abhorrent display of his greedy nature. Ask him how he sleeps at night knowing he makes loads of money off scamming and exploiting women.