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Americans Consume Vast Amounts of Porn -- and We're Giant Hypocrites About It

We watch porn yet harshly judge those who perform.
 
 
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The following story first appeared on Jezebel.com. 

Earlier this week, I saw Belle Knox — the "Duke porn star," as she has been dubbed by the media — perform at a strip club. She was there as a special guest, having recently rocketed into the public eye after being  outed as porn actor by her classmate. This, of course, resulted in a veritable  media frenzy, a tidal wave of name-calling and pearl-clutching and enraged shaming, which she countered with a series of eloquent and openly feminist interviews and essays.

At about 11:00 pm, Special Guest Belle Knox strode onto the stage. She was clad in a very typical "sexy school girl" costume, which she proceeded to rhythmically remove while "-Cherry Pie" by Warrant played. The crowd, which was  predominantly composed of reporters clutching cameras and smartphones, gazed on raptly. It was over very quickly.

The next morning, the New York Daily News ran  a story claiming that Belle will not be returning to Duke due to death threats and fears for her safety (a very sensational claim, it of course turned out not to be true). However, it is true that Belle has been receiving death and rape threats ever since her peers found out about her job.  According to Tyler Kingkade at the Huffington Post, Duke students have "threatened to throw garbage on her and have lobbed rape threats and death threats in her direction." And, obviously, the Internet is no better — she's been attacked on Twitter and  in the mediacondescended by talk show hosts, and had her struggles with self-abuse brutally, callously and erroneously  picked apart by the Daily Mail (the pile of garbage took a quote of hers completely out of context in order to falsely and salaciously claim that she "gets aroused by hurting herself").

The juxtaposition here is very jarring. We're expected to salivate over a picture of Belle Knox clad in her schoolgirl fantasy outfit directly beneath a headline reporting that she feels unsafe on campus because of her peers' hostility toward her. As I read the media coverage of Belle Knox's strip club performance, the nebulous feeling of irony that had come over me when I first saw her come onto stage in a plaid miniskirt and matching bra-vest coalesced into a sense of pure absurdity. It's ridiculous: one of the most popular genres of porn is devoted to college women, and "sexy co-eds" is a staple of pornography. The horny college girl is a fantasy that's ubiquitous nearly to the point of banality (for instance, "college" is in the  Top 3 PornHub searches for numerous states). Here's the description for  BestCollegePorn.com, a site devoted to... the best college porn (link NSFW, obviously):

Welcome to the exciting world of college, where college girls explore their sexuality and have a great time doing it. That's right, these sorority babes are all too ready and willing to get naked, party, and satisfy their cravings with some hard cock and wet pussy.

The fantasy here is of "college girls expor[ing] their sexuality and hav[ing] a great time doing it" — and porn consumers, clearly, love it. But when we, as a public, are greeted with the actual thing — a porn star who is also enrolled in college, who is an eager and bright young co-ed — we react with a mixture of disbelief, scorn and malice. The irony is not lost on Belle that (in  her words), "the same people who are shaming me are the same people who are jacking off to me." This irony should not be lost on anyone.

 
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