(3/17/14) The recent furor surrounding Duke University sociology major turned part-time porn star, Belle Knox, is now morphing into an old and familiar polarization. What started out simply as a sensational headline over being betrayed and outted by a college classmate has quickly segued into a much broader discussion that is reminiscent of one that has raged on for years and basically focuses on a single question: Is a woman who chooses to work in adult entertainment empowered or is she just setting herself up to be exploited?
Before continuing–and in the interest of full disclosure–we’ve had the pleasure of working with Belle recently during an upcoming Fallen Angel production in association with Adam & Eve Pictures. Our impression is that she is a confident, self-assured and intelligent young woman who is positively embracing her sexuality while simultaneously using it for productive gain. Equally impressive is that she is standing by her choices very publicly in the face of relentless judgment and harassment, and her courageous, out front stance will no doubt have a tremendous impact on a much broader scale when it comes to combating bullying in general. All of that said, while her story is at the core of what has recently reignited the empowerment debate, we believe this should be less about her personally and more about objectively tackling the overall subject as it applies across the board.
With that in mind, much of the history in this particular debate stems from the fact that control of the adult entertainment industry has traditionally been patriarchal in nature. Even among women who genuinely enjoy productive careers in it, there is significant difference in opinion over whether they have true empowerment in a situation that is, at its core, controlled by men. Over and over and over ad nauseum, we hear one position claiming that the basic choice is the most empowering one–that women who choose to act in adult films are simply using their sexuality as an asset to support themselves and improve their overall quality of life–while the opposition opines that the basic choice leads to degrading subjugation by men. It’s an old argument that has raged on for many years with plenty of valid opinions on all sides but no real resolution.
Here’s the thing: The differentiating premise is now outdated. While it used to be true that men unanimously had a firm grip on the industry, the rapid progress of the internet has democratized the model much in the same way it has for a multitude of other businesses. Today, women from just about every background and culture are filming themselves living out their own fantasies and broadcasting them globally. For some, it’s a powerful means to avoid poverty while for others it’s simply a way to freely express their sexuality and pleasure. Many don’t even draw the distinction and simply see it at something with tremendous potential that they can control on their own terms. No matter the motive–and as is the case with many other legitimate endeavors–previously existing glass ceilings didn’t even need to be shattered. They were simply made irrelevant through–you guessed it–empowerment.
So, forget the outright hypocrisy of those feigning to champion women’s choice while vilifying women for their choices. Forget the archaic posturing rooted in premises that are no longer valid. Sure, deeply ingrained values and solidly entrenched positions are tough to give up, but for all intents and purposes, the empowerment question is sufficiently answered. Don’t you agree?
(We welcome all rational points of view on the issue, both for or against. All civil responses will be published in their entirely, so join the conversation and let us know your thoughts.)