Belle Knox: Porn’s “Empowered” Darling

Written by Hysen Sisco

Last week, the Internet exploded with the news that an intelligent, driven young girl attending Duke University, who plans to advocate for women’s rights as a future lawyer, has chosen to do porn to pay for her college education, participating in more than a dozen films already. Belle Knox (her “porn star” name) was exposed by a guy at a frat party who saw her work. She is now defending her decision to participate in pornography by doing interviews with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Playboy and many other outlets.

In speaking out about her work in porn, Knox has said:

“It’s probably the most empowered I have ever felt… To be perfectly honest, I felt more degraded in a minimum wage, blue-collar, low paying, service job than I ever did doing porn.”1

“My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering… I am not ashamed of porn. On the contrary, doing pornography fulfills me… For me, shooting pornography brings me unimaginable joy. When I finish a scene, I know that I have done so and completed an honest day’s work. It is my artistic outlet: my love, my happiness, my home. I can say definitively that I have never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else.”2

“We have free speech in this country so I stand by the right of female performers to engage in rough sex scenes. If it’s something you enjoy doing, more power to you.”3

Knox’s brand of feminism fails to advance women’s rights or fight patriarchy, she is simply a pawn in the game—a multi billion-dollar industry run primarily by men who’s main product is male dominance over women.

Playboy even commented on her lack of empowerment, pointing out that she said, “I’d like to be a lawyer,” to “the creepy guy behind the camera in her first ever scene for [a porn site], moments before a male actor begins choking her.”

As a result of Knox’s new, public fame, she has been the target of many vicious threats and hateful comments. The porn users that make up the majority of Knox’s harassers see themselves in the dominant position to tell her what to do with her time and body, exactly what porn teaches them. The language they use against her is the same used in porn. They call her slut, whore, and bitch and threaten violence against her. They’ve internalized those attitudes.

The executive director of nonprofit organization said in a video (below), “What she’s now discovering is that in the real world, for women, when you’re living in a misogynist society where men are porn users, you can be treated with a lot of hatefulness.” She went on to explain that it’s important for Knox to understand that the porn she’s making has an effect on the men using it and the women they then interact with every day.

Porn use is connected with:

  • Believing a rape victim enjoyed rape
  • Believing women suffer less from rape
  • Believing women in general enjoy rape
  • Believing a rape victim experienced pleasure and “got what she wanted”
  • More acceptance of the rape myth
  • More acceptance of violence against women
  • Using physical and verbal coercion to have sex
  • Engaging in more sexual harassment behaviors
  • More likelihood of forcing a woman sexually

(Get more information here on the research about pornography and sexual violence)

Because of these threatening and abusive comments, Knox said, “If I could do it again, I don’t know if I would’ve done porn… I had scholarships to other schools where I would’ve had to pay nothing.”

The truth is, as anti-porn feminist activist Gail Dines4 puts it, “We know that most women leave the porn industry with barely the clothes on their backs, they do not leave with millions of dollars. This industry is based on poor women who have few economic choices.”

Pornographers prey on the financial instability of women, tricking them into doing degrading work in order to perpetuate male dominance, by telling them the lie that they will be empowered as women in charge of their sexuality. It’s all smoke and mirrors and Belle Knox made a bad investment.

Porn, by its very nature and self-definition, reflects the most feverish, animal impulses. But pornography not only reflects human desire—it also informs it, reinforcing rape culture and objectifying women, which is as old as porn itself. And that’s where the problem lies.



Belle Knox – In her words:

  • 1Duke Chronicle – Portrait of a porn star: Duke freshman stands behind her alter-ego
  • 2xoJane – I’m The Duke University Freshman Porn Star And For The First Time I’m Telling The Story In My Words
  • 3Playboy – Meet Belle Knox, the Duke Porn Star (As You Might Have Heard)
  • xoJane – I’m Finally Revealing My Name and Face As the Duke Porn Star

Other Articles – Is porn empowering to women?




The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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