Last week, Duke University’s student-run newspaper, The Chronicle, reported a story that has since become a viral phenomenon: a freshman girl at the university, referred to only as “Lauren,” is working as a porn “star” to help pay for her tuition (not sure why every porn actress is referred to as a “star,” but that is a discussion for another time). Predictably, this discussion has led to an all-out shitstorm in our society, which seems to be more accepting of alternative lifestyles by the day – for better and for worse. In no time, the student-run rag’s article had been picked up by a plethora of more-notable media outlets, including another interview xojane.com, which of course led to even more publicity, from even more reputable media sources. Soon, droves of feminists came to the anonymous (well, unless you know how to use Google, but I digress) student’s aid, crying “slut-shaming” and blaming the “patriarchy,” while hordes of others insulted the girl on message boards and social media, and claimed that the adult “actress” had to know what she was getting into; that being called a “whore” and insulted was the obvious consequence of spreading her legs for a living. Unfortunately, issues like these tend to be extremely polarizing (duh), while the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle ground. That said, I’m quite confident that what I’m about to write will be written off (ha, punny) by feminists as just adding to the male-dominated narrative of our society. While nobody deserves to be bullied and harassed (and no, I will not use the girl’s real name or “stage” name, so as to prevent further harassment), there is a certain line that we must draw in society in order to delineate any reasonable standard for people to hold themselves to if they desire to earn respect.
So, I’ll just come out and say it: If you get paid to have sex, you are, in the literal, dictionary-defined sense, a whore.
It’s that simple. Really. While I can agree with feminists that referring to all promiscuous women as whores is demeaning and perpetuates a repression of healthy female sexuality, this issue is different by leaps and bounds. Lauren, intelligent and genuine as she appears, has sex on camera for financial gain. End of discussion.
I know this opinion isn’t going to necessarily be a popular one in an era where we’re as sexually-open and progressive as ever, so let me qualify my opinion a little bit. I’m an advocate of women’s rights, equal pay, women’s choice when it comes to abortion, and any other number of feminist, hot-button issues. I also support gay marriage strongly, I respect alternative lifestyles, and I believe that everyone deserves to be judged, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, by the content of their character. The simple fact is, that at least in my view, choosing to debase yourself by becoming masturbation material for scores of strangers, for your own financial gain, makes the content of your character pretty ugly.
“But she’s using the money to pay for COLLEGE TUITION!” …Ok, granted. But if you read the entire interview, Lauren also states that she’s second-guessed her decision to attend Duke and pursue her questionable career, because SHE HAD FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIPS to other schools. So no, nice try, but the alleged heroine of our tragedy did not HAVE TO turn to a life of pornography. Maybe I don’t speak for everyone, but if I was offered a full-ride to a middle-of-the-road university on my own terms versus a full-ride to Harvard that involved putting my penis in scores of strangers to finance it, I would take the former option in a heartbeat. Why? Because I respect myself. There are plenty of hard-working men and women going to school full-time AND working 40-hour weeks at minimum-wage jobs to finance the education they so desperately want. The option of pornographic acting is there for many of these students, should they want it. But alas, most young men and women do not go down that demeaning avenue because they know that the content of their character is better than serving as a semen-receptacle for total strangers. It is downright insulting to those that have financed their college education in respectable ways for Lauren to suggest that she has no other choice, or, even worse, that she felt “more degraded in minimum-wage jobs” than she has ever felt doing porn. Again, maybe I’m abnormal, but I’ve worked my share of menial jobs, and being told to mop the floor never quite seemed as degrading as deepthroating a stranger.
Now, before all you feminazis out there write me off as another man who is missing the point, I’ll be clear: this issue is NOT, by any means, a gender issue. I assure you, a female in pornography and a male in pornography both deserve the same amount of respect in my book: very, very little. While a double-standard certainly exists in our society as to how promiscuous women are treated in contrast to how promiscuous men are treated, I do not believe that this sentiment extends to porn stars, paid “escorts,” and so forth. As a man, if I had a friend who decided to become an adult film actor, it would not be a situation deserving of high fives and clinking beers. It would be a situation where I lost any respect I had for that friend. Neither a girl sleeping with a lot of men nor a man sleeping with a lot of women is deserving of condemnation and insult. However, engaging in sexual relations for the sake of your bank account is a judgment-worthy activity for males and females alike. It may be a LEGAL way to make a living, but it is by no means a NOBLE, honest way to make a living. If someone values their most intimate moments so little that they’re willing to sell them to finance a college education, or even worse, a nasty spending habit, they are absolutely deserving of scorn. This is merely an issue of what our society should and should not deem acceptable, NOT an issue of men demeaning women who engage in promiscuous behaviors.
And frankly, as a society, we really should draw SOME line in the sand as to what is and is not deserving of praise. So many comments on articles written about this girl have been along the lines of “Go Lauren! Keep on doing your thing!” which is, to be honest, troubling. If Lauren was your daughter or mother, your sister or girlfriend, would your line of thinking change? Would you support your loved ones in this career?The sexual revolution of our generation has largely been a fantastic thing, and society still needs to move forward accepting every letter in LGBTQ as a dignified human being. Furthermore, sex is NOT dirty, taboo, and to be discussed only in hushed whispers. Sexuality should be open and celebrated; we’re long past the point where those “waiting til marriage” are the only individuals worthy of respect. No, sexuality is fluid, and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. But selling out your sexuality for some greenbacks? That should not be acceptable. Unless the goal is for us to eventually live in some version of Alduos Huxley’s dystopia where erotic play between small children is encouraged, we have to make a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. And in my opinion, selling your penis or vagina to make money falls into the “unacceptable” realm.
Then there’s the part of Lauren’s story where she discusses how “empowered” and happy she is in the adult film industry. I took MAJOR issue with this, as a quick Google search using her “porn name” links to several videos where she is literally spit on, humped angrily, and otherwise demeaned. No, this is not dominatrix porn where Lauren asserts her power over all the boys; she is treated, as most women in porn are, like a fun set of holes to play with, that are incidentally attached to a human being. The most disturbing video of all comes from a scene of the porn starlet in a “casting couch” video where Lauren discusses her aspirations of being a lawyer and a social activist. As soon as she utters those words, the video cuts to a man pressing her head further into his groin as she quite literally gags and chokes on his genitalia. Empowering to Lauren? NO. Empowering to the thousands of men that watch her try her hardest to swallow the anonymous man’s member whole? YES. It’s ludicrous to even suggest that anyone watching Lauren’s videos would think they portray women in an empowering, positive light. It’s far more likely that thousands of men masturbate to her videos while furthering their rape and dominance fantasies. Lauren can believe in whatever self-affirming, naive tautology she wants, but the simple fact is that she is making money while PROMOTING the mistreatment and degradation of women everywhere.
And at the end of the day, naive is the key word here. In the Chronicle article, Lauren states that she hasn’t told her parents, and has lied to cover where she’s really been when her parents have asked. She states that she never plans on telling her siblings. She seems surprised and taken aback that people have found out about her alter-ego and life in the adult film industry, and she seems upset that people have called her any number of insulting names. Her naivety is alarming. We live in an age when ANYTHING you put on your Facebook can come back to haunt you, for Christ’s sake. Hell, you can get in legal trouble for things you post anonymously online. To think that having your face, your body EXPOSED (in every sense of the word) in videos which will remain on the web for decades to come will NOT come back to haunt you is a level of naivety that borders on stupidity. Lauren will not ever be able to be taken seriously as a lawyer, especially after her pseudonym and real identity have been linked online, which is already well underway. The best-case scenario for her future here seems to be a social activist indeed: speaking out about cyber-bullying and the dangers of posting sensitive information online. This will follow her forever. Future boyfriends and husbands will learn the unfortunate truth. Her parents, and god forbid, her children, will likely have to face the music from her poor choices, too. Her career opportunities in noble, respected pursuits will be incredibly limited.
And to think: she could have gone to a lesser academic institution on a full-ride and had any number of careers at her fingertips.
But make no mistake, there is no victim in this story. There is simply a girl of questionable character that made a questionable decision, and is now facing the consequences of her poor choices. While I don’t think insulting Lauren on message boards and Facebook is a respectable thing to do, it is certainly fair. She chose this life, knowing well the possible consequences associated with it.
Perhaps she should have thought more about the most important trait a human being can have: character.
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