Belle Knox, Duke Freshman And Outed Porn Performer, Calls Out A Double Standard

Introducing Belle Knox

Introducing Belle Knox


Today, the Duke freshman who was outed as a porn performer revealed her stage name — Belle Knox — and asked why the same people who consume porn are the ones who shame its performers. Having appeared in a handful of scenes, Knox has become an overnight porn “star” and a spokesperson on a bunch of topics she likely hadn’t considered two months ago.

Since her first semester at the venerable North Carolina institution, Knox has been working for companies like Reality Kings, Facial Abuse, and CastingCouch-X (no doubt booking inquiries — and her fee — have gone way up). In January she was identified by classmate Thomas Bagley as the woman he had seen on a porn site.

“After promising me he would respect my privacy,” Knox writes on xojane.com, “he proceeded to reveal who I was to the entire Greek system.”

What’s worse, continues Knox, after Bagley told his frat brothers, “[Knox] started to be harassed, [but] he started to be applauded.”

Soon, the whole campus knew, Knox says, and tweets like “You should slit your wrists and die, you stupid bitch” began popping up, as well as hurtful comments about her looks, threats of violence, and harassing messages to her family.

It makes you wonder why, when a gang of masturbators senses vulnerability in a woman, do they pounce?

“You want to see me naked,” Knox writes. “And then you want to judge me for letting you see me naked.”

For years new performers have been cautioned that, as secret as they try to keep their involvement in porn, someone from whom they’ve tried to hide that secret always finds out. This is true. At the same time, it’s rare that everyone finds out.

Knox has had a crash course in Developing a Public Persona, which can be very difficult for porn performers; that’s because it’s confusing for the public to be schooled on issues of privacy, personal choice, sexual agency, shaming, etc., when the lecturer’s CV is on a site called Facial Abuse. Knox isn’t like Nina Hartley, whose self advocacy is on display in her scenes. Still, Knox has to try.

Knox’s CastingCouch-x interview feels at odds with her xojane piece, though both seem like examples of heightened reality. In the standard creepout pre-sex interviews as Belle Knox she is mostly porny affectation. But occasionally she breaks character and her education peeks out. It appears that the porno-ditziness is a character choice she can’t fully commit to.

It’s reversed in the xojane piece. There it seems as if she is just arriving now at the concept of “women who refuse to be quiet about their sexuality” and claiming solidarity with “my sisters in the sex industry.” Both are roles Knox, at 18, is trying on, and she can’t be blamed for appearing self-conscious. But it’s in her capacity as lightning rod, in which she is a vehicle for the agendas of so many, that Knox can achieve greatness. I wonder if this agenda come naturally to Knox or if some coaching is evident in her article?

How Knox deals with her sudden fame, from what was once an anonymous side job, and handles the wishes of people who want her to be a certain way or to say a certain thing, will be instructive.

How Duke reacts will also be telling. Have her choices affected Duke in an actionable way? While porn stars are becoming more prominent on campus — Lorelei Lee at NYU comes to mind, and porny symposia at universities across the Southwest happen a few times a year — how Duke responds to the formerly clandestine pornstress will also have very public repercussions. Can Knox’s porn performances be defended as protected speech — an expression of her sexuality? Should she be penalized at Duke for work she did elsewhere and under the name she had chosen specifically to protect her, her family, and her school?

I imagine that, had it not been Thomas Bagley breaking the news, it was just a matter of time before someone else found out. Still, I wonder about the nature of Knox’s relationship with this young man; a scenario in which Bagley promises to keep the secret, then reneges, seems to put a face on thousands of hateful, anonymous comments.

If we look at performers like Dana DeArmond, who uses her own name and whose family knows about her porn career, we see a person who takes the steam out of a faceless gang who might try to shame her. In admitting she is the Duke student who is also a porn performer, Belle Knox hopes to do the same thing. But she shouldn’t have had to; there’s a reason people choose aliases. Therefore I think Knox needs someone to share her sudden burden of fame.

Thomas Bagley, Phi Delta Theta pledge (watch out, the flag and remote are sticky)

Thomas Bagley, Phi Delta Theta pledge (watch out, the flag and remote are sticky)

I nominate Thomas Bagley. I think Thomas Bagley’s name should be remembered as belonging to the person who, as a porn consumer, sold out a woman to his brothers at the Duke chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Let his act of civic mindedness follow him through his academic and professional career as a testament to his loyalty, vulnerability to peer pressure, and viewing habits. As a Computer Science and Mathematics major, Thomas Bagley’s zeal to expose the truth might make him the next Edward Snowden. Nice going, pledge.

3 thoughts on “Belle Knox, Duke Freshman And Outed Porn Performer, Calls Out A Double Standard

  1. Yeah, let’s out that hypocrite. Looking at him, I’m 100% sure the internets will have a field day shaming him for his stupidity.

  2. I’m sorry but do you all really feel he’s really embarrassed by all this “revenge porn” nonsense? Aren’t we as an industry better than this? Shouldn’t we take the high road? What he did was unquestionably horrible but I sincerely doubt that his life will be negatively affected so why bother, for laughs or just for the hell of it? I believe by the time the month is over, he will be forgotten, the whole Belle Knox situation will have died down, and no one will care. If Belle can come away from this unscathed (and I see the industry standing behind her) why can’t the same be said about Thomas? I’m sure there are plenty of people rallying behind him right now and he’ll walk away from this unscathed. Yes, if anyone reads this post most will misconstrue my words and think I’m criticizing Belle or don’t support her, and that can’t be further from the truth. I’m simply stating the obvious . . . this won’t have any negative affect on Thomas much in the same way it won’t affect Belle. I read a post in which someone wrote, “The look on Bellle’s face in the photo of her being widely distributed makes it apparent she will overcome this.” Same can be said about the photo of Thomas. Outing a performer’s ID is not cool in any way but our industry, which is already scrutinized, needs to take the high road not engage in silly petty revenge tactics that won’t accomplish a single thing.

  3. That’s an excellent point. I hadn’t thought there was a high road, though. I guess another way to deal with the situation would be to point out how some fans seek the failure of their idols, which is what TMZ is all about.

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