shifting the blame doesn’t make you sympathetic, it just makes you shifty

As a proud graduate of NCSU, down the road (as the crow flies) from Duke University, I’ve watched the story of Duke’s freshman porn star unfold with some indignation on behalf of the woman being “outted.” I was surprised this morning when I read that she had put a face and pseudonym to her story.

And then I was just completely … I don’t know. Floored? Disgusted? She offered one of the most ignorant, insulting excuses I’ve ever seen in higher education:

“If Duke had given me the proper financial resources, I wouldn’t have done porn,” she said. “They have nobody to blame for the scandal but themselves.”

Having spent years of my career as a grantwriter searching for funding and support for men and women living with HIV who also struggled with chronic homelessness, poor nutrition, mental illness and substance abuse, and having to find lurid and morally compromising ways to pay the rent—not to mention a childhood with a mother who lived paycheck-to-paycheck, paying the bills that would “put us out on the street or turn the lights out” first—I find her observations on a university that costs $60,000 annually to be highly insulting. By the way, my mother is awesome, with some pretty good damn money management ideas.

To “Ms. Knox” I would say: nobody held you down and forced you to attend one of the most expensive universities in the nation. Sure it speaks to your intelligence, high test scores and enriching high school experiences that you were accepted at a prestigious higher learning institute like Duke. Good for you. You break that glass ceiling, shatter that Old Boy Network. But take a little credit for your unorthodox approach of income. Nobody at Duke rope-a-doped you in the Registrar’s Office with a surprise balance on the first day of school.

Regular America works in the cafeteria to offset costs. They get Pell Grants. They work at UPS overnight. They become strippers. They go to a more affordable university. They don’t choose to work in high-end porn.

The porn doesn’t bother me. Porn never killed anybody. You’re not going to be struck by lightning by watching it online. You’re not going to go blind from masturbating. Sex is a natural, necessary part of real life. When you do it right, it’s addictive. Fortunately for you, it doesn’t look like you’re filming skeevy movies in Uncle Bubba’s broken down trailer with blacklights and disco balls, with Captain Unattractive. You’re filming A-Squad porn in a clean setting with bright lights, sexy co-stars and an enviable paycheck.

You had my support when you were unceremoniously outted by a fellow student, a thoughtless dude getting his jollies because he recognized you and wanted to be the first guy in his fraternity to gossip. He probably wanted a date with a very advanced, guaranteed happy ending, hallucinating about your willingness and interest in getting straight to the good parts because you’re a porn star. I understand your interest in keeping your identity private; your side job is nobody’s business and because it’s so different than what most folks do, it can easily lead to dangerous reactionary/stalkery situations for you. And Lord knows we’re in the Bible Belt here; let’s not forget about that.

It’s when you blamed Duke University for your payment method of choice that you lost my feminist Fight the Power support. There’s nothing dignified in blaming your university for getting on a plane to fly to LA on breaks “to film.”

And one last thought, because you are clearly an intelligent woman … what the hell are you thinking with unprotected sex? I will never forget my mother giving me the cautionary tale in high school: “every time you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they had sex with, who is having sex with everyone they had sex with … so USE A CONDOM!” Unless you intend to keep every future relationship you have insulated in the pornography industry, you had better think of the cesspool of petri dish nastiness existing in every … pore … of your body. Double-ick.

That advice is free. And it comes from my excellent education at North Carolina State University: $22,184 a year. Boom!

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