Interview: Belle Knox… On Gender Politics and Porn

June 21, 2014
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In 2013, Belle Knox, a student at Duke University, becomes a familiar face in the online porno scene. For Knox it is a way to pay her US$60,000 annual tuition fee. She is outed by a fellow student and all hell breaks loose. Her personal details are revealed and a campaign launched to have her removed from Duke. She starts to make press appearances to defend herself against what she sees as vitriolic hypocrisy, appearing famously on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live and penning an intriguing statement of intent on the feminist site XoJane.

Whatever you might think of Belle Knox, there is no doubt that she is polarizing figure, both admired and reviled depending on which end of the spectrum she is viewed from.

Having been lucky enough to speak to Belle, I can also tell you that she is an intelligent, business-savvy, articulate young woman – and, perhaps most incredibly, in no way at all as brash or self-obsessed as many other young people who, for whatever reason, suddenly find themselves standing in the glare of fame and celebrity.

What’s really interesting about Belle is that although she is very politically self-aware, she is also very much having the time of her life. For Belle Knox, it seems, sex is both an affirmation of self and womanhood and an expression of pure, joyful abandon. So, of course, that was exactly what I wanted to talk to her about. What follows are the edited highlights of our conversation.

Ladies and gentlemen… Belle Knox, politics and porn…

One of the things that really brought you into the public eye was how refreshingly unapologetic you were about the choice you made. What unnerved some was how you said that your porn experiences weren’t just thrilling and exciting but also empowering and fulfilling.  In what way has it been empowering for you? How are you fulfilled?

It’s empowering in the sense that I have the freedom and liberty to do whatever I wish with my body. It’s also reclamation of my sexuality. It’s a huge juxtaposition to this world where we’re so sexually repressed. Women are constantly under this veil of slut shaming and being told that sex is dirty or bad. It’s not so much the act of pornography but being in the industry, in the world of porn, that for me is really freeing. 

Interview: Belle Knox... On Gender Politics and Porn

You’ve said that girls are told that sex is shameful, something done for a man that requires the loss of something of yourself, and that a woman’s ability to be a moral actor is wholly dependent on her sexuality…

In society we associate a woman’s sexuality with her personhood. If she’s promiscuous – and I hate that word – then she’s a bad person or she’s an immoral person. Her sexuality is synonymous with her morality. We don’t see that with men.

Why do you think that is?

Thousands of years of religion, culture and women being such an oppressed group. Beth Frenzer, she’s this really big feminist thinker, one of the biggest from the 70s, she said something like, if roles were reversed and men menstruated, then men would find a way to use that to oppress women. So, it’s just the fact that we’re the oppressed group and thus anything we do is looked down upon. It’s not necessarily the act of sexuality.

A lot of it is just the fact that gender is so deeply ingrained in society. If you read biblical texts you’ll see it’s very oppressive towards women, starting with the creation story where women are blamed for the evil of the whole world. Also, the people controlling the narrative have been men.

Interview: Belle Knox... On Gender Politics and Porn

Do you think there’s this idea that if men control your sexuality then they also control your power?

There’s this amazing quote from Janet Mock… “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they do not want it to exist.” So men recognize that sexual freedom is a path to empowerment, a path to women gaining power, and they don’t like that. They want us to be repressed housewives.

They want me to be this rescue project; they want to think that porn performers are these white slaves. That also comes from this whole idea – which is perpetuated by the media – that if a woman is a prostitute, she’s automatically being trafficked or she’s automatically a slave.

And so it’s up to good ol’ men to come along and take you away from all that?

It’s all about my voice being taken away from me. People are telling me how to feel, which is very anti-feminist.

One of the things I found really interesting was the question you posed about why the thought of a woman having sexual experiences scared us so much… You answer you gave was that the “patriarchy fears female sexuality.” Then you go on to say that you pose an enormous threat to the patriarchy. How so?

I think sex, historically, has been a way for men to gain power over women, whether through assault or simply not allowing a woman to have control over her own sexuality. So the fact that in this day and age women are finally gaining control – you know, getting on birth control, knowing what they want with their sexuality, engaging in hook-up culture and having casual sex – that really scares men.

Interview: Belle Knox... On Gender Politics and Porn

One of my own favorite little bugbears – and I think it’s related here – is that, yes, this is still a patriarchal society and the real problem with porn is that while it’s okay to see the naked, sexualized female form everywhere, on TV, in movies, advertising and music… in porn you get to see a guy’s massive dick and that makes the men in authority feel inadequate and insecure. What do you say to that?

Definitely! I’ve actually had guys who, before we hook up, say things to me like “Are you sure I’ll measure up to the guys you fuck in porn?” So I definitely believe porn conjures up feelings of male inadequacy and envy. And I am the surrogate for that hatred and negative emotion.

On Piers Morgan, in reference to the statistic that states around 80% of net traffic is porn, you said, “I think it’s extremely hypocritical that the same society that consumes me is also condemning me.” What did you mean by that?

Today everybody watches porn… there’s sex everywhere you turn; we all consume it, we all love it, we all want it! Yet none of us are willing to recognize the humanity of the people behind those billboards or behind those videos. So it’s extremely hypocritical that people are watching porn and yet they choose to call me a slut or they choose to condemn me.

Interview: Belle Knox... On Gender Politics and Porn

Was there perhaps a deeper psychological motivation behind the choice of the word ‘consume’?

Not intentionally, no, although I do sometimes think that there is this society that’s trying to destroy me, trying to eat me and shame me… and a lot of that does get internalized.

How do you deal with that?

Basically you have a thousand people telling you you’re a slut or what you did was wrong, and then you have some people who say what you did was great and ‘Go, you!’ so I just have to come to terms with my decisions… to do what I want and what makes me happy. That’s the philosophy I live by. 

You’re still attending Duke, so how’s that going in terms of what we’re talking about now, with stuff like slut-shaming?

Well, college is a haven for rape culture, for a very sexist, anti-women culture, so it’s never going to end. There’s something Gandhi said which really inspired me, something like first they condemn you, then they laugh at you… then they fight you, then you win. So basically I said, you know, I do porn, okay? And I never apologized for it. I never said I regret doing this. And no matter how hard everybody tried to get me to back down – to apologize or just be the shamed little girl – I said no. So everybody just moved on. And I’m still standing. So my refusal to let people mess with me is what made people move on. 

Interview: Belle Knox... On Gender Politics and Porn

What do you say to all the anti-porn feminists out there who think you’re doing their cause harm?

I like to turn their argument around. I think they’re the ones doing a lot of harm to women and the feminist movement. Feminism is supposed to be about empowering women, giving us independence and choice, giving us the ability to freely think and say what we feel… and these anti-porn feminists are trying to tell me, ‘No, you’re not being empowered; you’re a poor rescue project; you’re a victim and this is how you need to feel.’ That to me is so very anti-feminist.

Telling me as a woman that sex is rape and that I am engaging in this culture that damages women… I really think it misses the point of feminism. Feminism is not about categorizing things as feminine or anti-feminine or saying you can’t wear dresses or you can’t wear make-up; it’s supposed to be about empowering the equality of both sexes and about saying that you should not feel pressured to adhere to gender norms. You can adhere to them, you can wear a dress all you want, but you shouldn’t have to feel that pressure and you should be free to do whatever you please.

It’s not feminism when you’re telling women how they should feel, how they should think and how they should act. 

Join us tomorrow, when we leave the politics aside for a while, and we just have some fun with the incredible Ms. Belle Knox…

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UPDATE SEP 16 2014
Look out for a brand new 5-part documentary series about Belle Knox that premieres tonight!

http://youtu.be/KYRd1RQYdtQ

Interview: Belle Knox… On Gender Politics and Porn 6 votes

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  1. What a nut! Has she ever thought about her parents,siblings and their friends. I bet her parents really like going out to eat in Spokane. Her father must really like treating patients.

  2. Would you please ask her what’s her view on her having sex with a black person either a man or female on a film set she claims she is a nympho maniac. Because I will say so far she can definitely run for office because she has avoided this question so much. Makes me wonder if her having sex with a black person will it ruin her porn career to why she is avoiding the question.

  3. She seems to say she’s not being exploited or that since she doesn’t feel exploited means that everyone or even a majority in porn aren’t being exploited and thus we shouldn’t discuss it cause that would equal being anti-porn or even an anti-sex attitude. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I don’t totally disagree with her and porn but the fact that when there are AID’s outbreaks in the industry that most porn studios don’t cease production and the fact that basic worker safety like condoms aren’t required is evidence that there is a huge element of exploitation and disregard for worker safety within in that industry and we shouldn’t be listening to this lone young voice who was lucky enough to have only good experience within this industry.

  4. see if she feels the same way a few years down the road

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