French Lesbians and College Porn Stars: Where Feminism Takes Us in New Media
Duke Student Revealed As Porn Star
The current climate of feminism is in a transitional phase. In both international film and news, the fight for female empowerment is causing a stir. From Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games to the thorn in Putin’s ass, Pussy Riot, being a bad bitch is finally in style. But what does it mean to be in a state of “transitional” feminism? Perhaps we latch onto female figures that exhibit the mark of “taking control” of their sexualities. The film, Blue is the Warmest Color, struck chords at Cannes Film Festival for (supposedly) presenting such empowered female characters. But what happens when a sex worker claims a similar role? Could she be the paragon of feminine empowerment?
Now, meet Belle Knox.
“Do you think my face looks good next to your big cock?” -Belle Knox
The girl says this as she squeezes the erect penis against her face with one hand, while snapping a selfie with the other. This familiar face has received widespread attention, from CNN to ABC News to countless trolls online. You may have heard about Miriam Weeks, better known by her (online) pseudonym, Belle Knox. She’s the recently revealed porn star from Duke University and self-described nymphomaniac. Supposed feminists have applauded her for being “brave” with her body and open about her intense attraction to both men and women. In response to criticism for taking part in scenes where she is “face fucked,” Weeks stands by her work: “It is my artistic outlet: my love, my happiness, my home.” After a fellow student exposed Weeks, Duke University allowed her to take time off from school during the (understandably) stressful period. Ms. Weeks later admitted that she had been in Los Angeles filming more porn, during said break.
As any person versed in media should do, Weeks jumped out in front of the camera to tell her side of the story. She claimed that she was doing sex work to pay for tuition and to empower herself. Before she knew it she had become a rising feminist and a champion for the middle class, whose goal in life was to defend sex workers. Is there something wrong here?
“Porn is empowering” -Miriam Weeks
Porn at its core is about objectifying women, or at least the porn Weeks is doing. No matter how much the female actors actually enjoy being involved in the making of porn, porn is made is so men can pay to watch it (check out the stats). Many have criticized Weeks for doing “rape-fantasy” porn. “Everyone has their kinks,” she says.
Weeks claims that it is her right to engage in this type of porn, to get choked and spit on in the name of… equality for women. But what we don’t see is any sort of equality, any objectification or subordination of her male counterparts. Why isn’t she choking or coming on the faces of her male sex workers? Knox never once assumes the aggressor role because apparently, that is only allowed in dominatrix porn. No, here she is being directed by whichever person understands that males sitting at home want to see a girl made into a sex object. The industry is not equal, so why pretend that it views women as so?
“When you are taking a dick in the mouth for money, such self-empowered preaching is hard to swallow” -Brian Figueroa, Feminist Activist
Weeks is indeed not a feminist. Or at least, she is not adequately presenting herself to the public as one. She has sold her body to a company that is funded by men tugging at their dicks in dark rooms. She’s right when she points out that many of the people criticizing her are also the ones who watch porn. There IS hypocrisy there. But let’s not detract from the point that she is subordinated on video as a part of a role-playing, misogynistic fantasy–one that her fellow bisexual females are unlikely to consume.
“When you’re fearful, you stumble” -Jenna Jameson, Porn Star
Weeks is justified in bringing attention to the double standard. Women should be able to express the same sex drive and promiscuity as men without judgment. But it is utter blasphemy to pretend that taking cum shots in the face is in service to women’s liberation.
Take a look at the current climate of feminism as presented in cinema. Blue is the Warmest Color (now out on DVD) caused a stir for its high degrees of sexual content. The film received praise for having two female leads who take control of their bodies and sexuality. Do we place similar judgment on these characters as we do with Weeks? Why or why not?
Blue is the Warmest Color
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the film is about a high school girl (Adele) who falls in love with a twenty-something emerging female artist (Emma). Emma has rich, blue hair that fades (as the relationship unravels) throughout the film. It is a compelling love story, one part bildungsroman and one part tragedy, filled with authentic and visceral moments where we get lost in their adoration for each other. For most of the film, their attraction feels authentic and charming.
What interrupts the narrative is the near ten-minute sex scene, one that supposedly took ten days to film. This scene has provided fodder for feminist critics, including harsh words from the author of the graphic novel on which it’s based. Even the two actresses claim that they would never work with the director again. Most critics decry the scene for portraying lesbian sex through the lens of male fantasy. In fact, some of the choreography and camera angles resemble the porn of Belle Knox. This single scene detracts from any feminist notions in the film, not because they are hardcore (gay or straight, people have rough sex) but because a misguided male directed them. As a result, many lesbian critics denounced the film for its inaccuracies and hypocrisy. It employs the same objectifying techniques that we see in the porn produced for straight males.
What’s unnerving about this sex scene is how out of place it feels and what that suggests. Males have been trained to see girl on girl sex, in this particular fashion, exclusively for male arousal. The emotionless sex Adele and Emma share feels more like sex work than any act of love. This failure is rooted in the idea that men are depicting “empowered women” in the ways men have learned to understand it: by being aggressively sexual. This charming narrative is hijacked by a man’s conception of lesbian sex. This film takes such a sharp turn because it is a reflection of the disorganized state of feminism today. We want female heroes, but often struggle to find them in the world of media.
How We Do Wrong
By its nature, being in a transitional phase of female empowerment involves a great amount of confusion. Suddenly, any woman who is in the spotlight can find undeserved appreciation or criticism (just look at the people lambasting Hillary Clinton for being “too masculine”). Because there is a disparity in women leaders and icons of feminist ideology, our society is desperate to latch onto anything and anyone who can (at least partially) fulfill those ideas. We are still inadvertently (or not…) portraying feminism as our patriarchal society wants to see it.
In a culture that is exhausted by the misogyny of everyday catcalls and glass ceilings, many supposed feminists have jumped to the defense of Weeks. While Weeks appears to exhibit some of the ideology of female liberation (mainly, that men and women should be able to behave in the same ways with their own bodies without judgment), she has neglected to take a step outside of this argument to understand what she’s really doing. Weeks is defending the porn industry and in doing so, completely negating her feminist argument. Just because she feels empowered by porn does not mean it is empowering to women–it’s a business for male satisfaction.
While Belle Knox partakes in both “lesbian” and straight porn, she fails to acknowledge that primarily straight male viewers consume both lesbian and straight porn. She also denies the fact that female bodies are made into sex objects in order to be sold as a video product. This might be the most objectifying concept since chastity belts–WOMEN ARE OBJECTS. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LOCK UP THEIR VAGINAS FOR OUR OWN PERSONAL USE. When you think about porn, it starts to feel like that too. So is porn not controlling of women? Is it not one-sided? Sure, the women are getting paid, but we know that argument collapses on itself. Porn, at its core, is destined and designed to degrade women. The feminist climate is stirring and conflicting, and although we are in a transitional phase, the world of media and film is still dominated by patriarchal control, from fiction to real life.
1. Bradshaw, Peter. “Blue Is the Warmest Colour – Review.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
2. “Duke Porn Star Belle Knox: Rough Sex Empowering, Critics off Base.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 19 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
3.”I’m Finally Revealing My Name and Face as the Duke Porn Star.” XoJanecom RSS. N.p., 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
4. Kingkade, Tyler. “Porn Star Belle Knox: Every Day Is ‘Like A Nightmare'” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
5. “Pornography Statistics.” Pornography Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.
6. “Pornography Statistics.” Welcome to Women’s Services. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
7. “Salon.” Saloncom RSS. N.p., 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
8. Scott, A. O. “For a While, Her Life Is Yours.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
What do you think? Leave a comment.