In the space of a few weeks Miriam Weeks, aka Duke College’s Belle Knox the adult film actress has served to redefine society’s understanding and tolerance for sex and those who choose to pursue it in a professional capacity.
It all came to be when the aspiring lawyer and women’s studies major came to be outed by a college freshman peer Thomas Bagley (who has since come to get his), sending the elite school into a tizzy that one of their own could be ‘resorting’ to porn to meet the cost of her $60K a year tuition.
Such work has often been held in derogatory light and for those from the wrong side of the tracks, not someone who attends an elite institution and hopes to pursue a worthy vocation propagating women’s rights upon graduation.
Which begs the question, what is it about Miriam Weeks choosing to pursue work in the adult entertainment industry that has rankled so many? Was it because she dared to pursue something that only ‘damaged’ girls from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks pursued?
Was it her willingness to appear in rough sex, sex that many deride as abusive and coercive and rather than be ashamed of it (as many would have expected her to) the young woman instead told that in fact such work liberated and empowered her? Is that then to suggest that only certain types of sex can be liberating?
That rough sex is only liberating as long as it’s done in private quarters? Or that rough sex is actually fine as long as participants are willing and happy to pursue such acts? Then again why should anyone feel degraded for pursuing sex in front of a camera or in private as long as they enjoy it and accept the consequences of their actions?
Yet not everyone shares the student’s willingness to appropriate sex for her own personal pleasure and as a means to afford her way in an elite school. To date Miriam Weeks has found herself perennially slut shamed, with some demanding that the school expel her whilst others opining that she ‘deserves to get raped.’
Contemplated Miriam Weeks in an essay for xojane: ‘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.
And in addressing why she had chosen to reveal her stage name, Belle Knox told:
‘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.’
Some have argued that the woman’s claims that she is engendering the freedom of women has not sat well with some who have contemplated that the actress whilst seeking to empower herself, and explore her own sexuality has in essence not advanced the cause of women and in essence only reiterated that women are to be subjugated and dominated.
Contemplated theweek: Knox’s mission, in other words, is to attack the oppression of women by intentionally flouting sexual norms, such as the expectation of some level of modesty or exclusivity in partners. But does that actually undermine patriarchy? I doubt it.
It’s notable, for instance, that the major media venues who are now airing Knox’s feminist editorial are only doing so because she’s a curious sexual tabloid spread. That women’s bodies are easily marketed is no strike against the patriarchy, and that a woman can get attention for her political views only after appealing to male sexual desire certainly doesn’t seem to indicate any serious move in the direction of equality.
Which poses the question has Miriam Weeks unwittingly served to empower the patriarchal hegemony that persists in society and that a woman’s value is conditional on her ability to be attractive and appease a man’s sense of what his fantasy ought to be. That of a virginal sweet girl in open ‘polite’ society and a slut in bed, except that is when a young woman dares to turn that perception on its head and openly acknowledge her sexual desire? There might be a lesson in all of this- maybe it’s not a bad idea to accept our primal sense of self, even for women who have been taught not to, especially in a puritanical America….