The Belle Knox ‘Scandal’


Let’s talk about this Belle Knox ‘scandal’.

But let’s be honest with ourselves: this isn’t really a scandal at all.

Not. A. Scandal.

Duke University
Duke University

If you don’t know about Belle Knox, here’s the scoop: she’s a 19 year old Duke University undergrad who chose to finance her education by becoming a porn star. She thought that she’d be able to navigate campus anonymously and fly under the radar, but she was discovered by a male student and – you can guess that it went downhill from there. I highly suggest reading the original article she wrote after she was outed to her peers, which can be found on here on XOJane.

Belle Knox chats with The View
Belle Knox chats with The View

I’ve watched many of her interviews. Here are links to her interview with Piers Morgan (who she totally owns, by the way) and the ladies of The View, as well as an interview with Huffington Post. The bottom line is that she is an intelligent, capable, adult human being with the ability to make her own decision to face the consequences. It is not my job or anyone else’s job to criticize her for doing what she wants to do. This is how she chooses to finance her education, and that’s the end of it.

However, I do have to disagree with her on a few points, because I think that her publicity could give younger girls the wrong idea. I don’t believe that the porn industry is empowering to women. While she’s certainly had a wonderful and empowering experience, other women have not been so lucky. Drugs are a major problem in the industry and many female porn stars have cited abuse and assault among the daily experiences. Is it possible that she’s jaded and is just being victimized by the inner workings of the system? Absolutely. And I respect her decision to do what she wants to do with her body, but I believe that her comments and opinions regarding her work will cause young women and girls with little to no experience in that area to believe that the porn industry can be a nurturing, safe, and expressive environment. And it is not.

Belle Knox's Twitter page, where she advertised her first XOJane article
Belle Knox’s Twitter page, where she advertised her first XOJane article

I’m not saying that porn can’t be empowering to women, because I definitely think that it could be. But realistically, that’s not the case. Knox seems to be on this quest to make pornography empowering, but I don’t think that it’s working. The system is pretty strong in its corruption. While I’m anti-porn because of the way that mainstream porn is currently portrayed, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-sex, or wouldn’t be pro-porn if things were to change. I just think that there is a healthier way to express our sexuality on film than the way it’s being done.

What really stuck out to me was Knox’s comment on how she began watching porn at age 12, which freaked out the women on The View. And humorous though it was, it definitely spurred my interest, so I decided to do some research. I couldn’t find an actual study that confirmed the age at which guys start watching porn, but I found a forum that asked the question, and the responses ranged from ages 10 to 19. While I think that 10 is really young and not appropriate, most people can probably agree that teenage boys watching porn isn’t uncommon and no one really makes an issue about it. But the moment a woman comes out and says that she was interested in her sexuality at a young age, everyone throws a hissy fit.

I do want to express that while I think exploring your sexuality is awesome, porn probably isn’t the best way to do so at a young age. Gloria Steinem has said that she believes porn creates the idea that dominance and submission are natural to a normal human relationship, and I wholeheartedly agree. That can be very damaging to relationships, not to mention the negative impact it has on women’s body image and men’s expectations in the bedroom.

A Twitter snapshot of the harassment
A Twitter snapshot of the harassment

Knox has said that she’s aroused by pain, which isn’t uncommon. But there have also been articles noting the scars on her legs from previous cutting, which could indicate some emotional issues and set her up for a relapse later on. I get that some people are into masochism, and that’s totally cool when it’s occurring between two consenting adults. But when a past of self harm is involved due to depression, I think the likelihood of those past issues connecting to a larger problem in the future is something to watch out for.

While I respect Knox’s decision to participate in sex work, I think that she needs to be very careful because of how manipulative any industry can be. It may be that she’s already being manipulated without recognizing it, but only time will tell. And while I may not agree with some of her opinions, the fact that she’s been harassed, threatened, and belittled because of her work is absolutely ridiculous. What really gets me is how upset the guys at her school seem to be about her choice to participate in sex work. They’ll shame her all day long, but they’re part of the audience watching her. My opinion? Don’t diss the supply when you’re the demand. As they say in the industry, ‘They jack off with the left hand and point with the right’.


6 thoughts on “The Belle Knox ‘Scandal’”

  1. “…most people can probably agree that teenage boys watching porn isn’t uncommon and no one really makes an issue about it. But the moment a woman comes out and says that she was interested in her sexuality at a young age, everyone throws a hissy fit.”

    Why do you think this is?

    I think it’s a relic of Puritanism and, frankly, based on the ideas of cleanliness and pollution.

    Thanks for another well thought-out article,
    Ben 🙂

    1. Thank you! I think that Puritanism definitely has something to do with it, but I mainly attribute it to the structure of our society, which is still built around men’s power and pleasure. Historically, women have been second to men in pretty much everything and their sexuality is no exception. Patriarchal structures are still prevalent in a very underhanded way, and women’s opposition to that shows that things are changing, but breaking down social barriers takes time. I could argue that women who do sex work because they find it liberating operate under disidentification, which shows just how strong those barriers are. I think that’s especially evident because those women’s sexual natures are consumed primarily by male audiences. But that’s a whole other issue!


      1. You are definitely correct in what you characterize as the traditional structure of most societies, but I think you’re missing a couple parts as well.

        Take the Titanic, for example. Men control the ship. Men own the equipment. Men decide the route and design the engines. Women are infantilized and disempowered.

        Then, as a direct ethical consequence of that infantalization, when the ship hits the iceburg, it’s suddenly much better to be a woman because, as infantalized beings, they are not expected to take responsibility and die when things get bad.

        We are moving beyond this structure of men have power and are expected to die, women have no power but don’t have to die structure – but we’re making a mess of it in my view.

        As for the outrage about this woman’s porn involvement, I’d also offer another Puritan (and feminist, seemingly) explanation. That is, sex in a traditionally female-slanted context is clean and edifying, while sex in a male-slanted context is dirty and defiling.

        For example, if I walk down the street and a woman I’ve never met asks me to sleep with her, I am in no way defiled or disgraced by saying yes. A woman initiated the process ergo it’s clean. If, on the other hand, I ask a woman I’ve never met to sleep with me and she says yes, I’ve defiled her and made her a slut. Male initiation of sex = dirtiness.

        So, when this Duke student dirties herself by taking part in pornographies – a primarily male and thus dirty realm of sexuality – she is outraging her fellow students not because they enjoy hypocrisy, but because Belle Knox is violating the social expectation that respectable, educated, feminist women in society are so valuable (like those ladies on the Titanic) that they should never descend into the inherently corrupted realms of male-centric sexuality.

        Or, at least, that’s how I’d explain it. 🙂

      2. That’s also how I’d explain society being okay with 12 year old boys watching porn but outraged when the 12 year old Belle Knox did the same. We expect males to be defiled and disposable, but women are pure and precious.

        The moral of treatment to women is actually, in my analysis, much closer to the moral treatment of children than the moral treatment of men. The weird part is that I’m not sure we’re actually challenging that formulation in modern times.

        BTW, here are some things I wrote about these issues.

        The dirtiness of male initiated sex ^

        These are both about the morality of infantalization. ^

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