Women have it pretty rough. We are expected to embody so many different identities all at once – to be sexy, innocent, ambitious, motherly, slender, flirty, and everything in between. And at just the right increments, no less. And what happens when we fail? That is when we are held accountable for our “failure”; punished for not fitting neatly into the status quo. That is the basis of our society.
The Internet has been abuzz lately about a certain Duke University freshman, choosing to remain anonymous, who has been making waves by shifting the status quo in her own way. This student, while by day is more of an average freshman student coming into her own identity, she is also employed as a sex worker. To put it bluntly, she is a porn star. And many people are not too happy about that.
This student has been interviewed as well as written her own column on the subject, and I found myself fascinated by her – but not in the way that you think. She is conscious and deliberate about her employment status, and uses her identity as a privileged woman to help shed light on those who don’t have it so well off. She frequently speaks about her own experiences and how it has helped to shape her into the person that she is.
I think I was most impressed by her eloquence on the subject. Unlike what we have been taught, this student is fully aware that media does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, like our identities, they spill over and leak into one another and form something new. In the student’s case, she uses her experience from being “outed” on her university campus and tries to move it to a source of positivity. She confided in one student about her occupation, and he proceeded to tell his fraternity, causing a chain that in less than a day, almost the entire school knew of her alias.
Now, it is important to recognize that while the situation is unfortunate, it has created a positive chain of events in the process. For starters, people are beginning to talk about the sexism that runs freely through our society, and especially at the atmosphere at Duke University. The student has spoken about her own experience as a sex worker, and has stated herself that she wishes to make the atmosphere better for those who have not had the same experience as she.
I feel that porn has become one of the biggest feminist debates of our time – people have their individual kinks and quirks when it comes to sexuality, but how we express that is often strict in allowance depending on how well you fit into the status quo of acceptability. The student has also risen an important point about how sex workers are treated. While that is her occupation, the underlying fact is that her occupation is not all that she is. And while others may have debates on the ethics of her actions, I feel as though she has made not only a safe and conscious choice, but I commend her for using her experience to create dialogue and a safe space for people the begin questioning the consequences of sexuality. And that, in itself, is more than powerful.