Queen's University — Since 1873
28th February 2014

Duke porn star is ahead of her time

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In an ideal world, the 18-year-old Duke University student who has chosen to perform in pornography wouldn’t be judged for her personal choices. However, it’s inevitable that judgement will happen, and seen in a wider societal context, her choices do deserve some criticism.

The freshman student at the North Carolina university has been “outed” as a porn performer. The student in question claims that she entered the business to pay tuition. She asserts that her experiences in the industry have been empowering and that she’s a feminist.

Humans should be able to make decisions that do not directly harm others. When someone undertakes an action that passes that test, they shouldn’t face the coercive judgment that many are heaping upon this woman. This is why those who “outed” the woman are misguided.

While one individual’s choice shouldn’t be up for debate, the context that surrounds that choice should always be examined. Sex work — like performing in pornography, stripping and prostitution — is often undertaken by those with limited options for decent pay, or any employment whatsoever. Needless to say, no one should feel immense pressure to enter these fields.

While just about everybody is coerced by economic circumstance in one way or another, the experiences of those doing sex work warrant extra attention as they are likely worse than the experiences of those in more typical sectors of employment.

Porn performers have to contend with the fact that images of them engaging in sex acts will be available forever. Moreover, the production of pornography is often very misogynistic in nature and female performers are frequently pressured into doing extreme sex acts.

This is what makes the woman’s claim that her actions are in line with feminism somewhat suspect. While her personal choice to enter porn is completely fine, tying her choice to the wider feminist movement may not be valid, as some feminists have been critical of the pornography industry.

Overall, the young woman is undoubtedly somewhat naïve about what she has undertaken. When asked about how her pornographic performances will affect her prospects for employment, she insists that she “wouldn’t want to work for someone who discriminates against sex workers”. These could be the words of a young person who hasn’t fully considered the ramifications of her actions.

The sad truth is that while in an ideal world, people wouldn’t judge those who perform in pornography, judgement is the norm. Unfortunately, this social climate means that performing in pornography isn’t a pragmatic choice for a young person who probably has other options.

While individual porn performers shouldn’t be held up and ridiculed as social pariahs, the wider context that informs their choice is ripe for criticism. A discerning person would probably avoid performing in pornography, as our society isn’t ready to accept it.

— Journal Editorial Board

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