The New York Times published an editorial on privacy as it pertains to individuals with careers in pornography. The article is in response to the media commotion surrounding the Duke University freshman who recently revealed details of her life as a porn star. Written by Stoya, another adult film actress, the piece poignantly asks whether the general public can learn about privacy from porn stars, a question prompted by the somewhat confusing course of action the Duke student has taken in the past weeks. After initially giving interviews under a pseudonym and refusing to reveal her true identity, the freshman ultimately chose to reveal her face and release her stage name: Belle Knox. She recently appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan,” where she discussed the reaction to her disclosure, sexual autonomy and the hostile treatment of adult entertainment performers.
While Knox raises significant points about society’s often disingenuous relationship with the porn industry, it seems that the crux of Stoya’s argument about privacy is lost on her. As Stoya notes, whether one is a sex symbol or a member of the Parent Teacher Association, self-branding has reached a new magnitude with the growing presence of social media. In this increasingly digital age, few are unaffected by social media’s prevalence. As such, privacy has become a rare commodity for the average person. For those whose professions involve performing sexual acts on camera, privacy is even more scarce. Knox never could have reasonably expected her porn career to remain a secret, and believing otherwise indicates a serious lack of insight.
Knox should not be ridiculed or harassed for participating in adult films. What Knox does with her body is her prerogative, and if performing is as satisfying and empowering to Knox as she claims, a bystander has no place to force his views on her. Furthermore, any threats against her are wholly unacceptable. Although the transgressions against Knox are deplorable, it was insensible to anticipate that the response would be neutral or nonexistent given the highly charged nature of pornography. More so, Knox’s ironic attempt to preserve her identity in the aftermath of the reveal — disclosing her stage name while saying she was committed to her anonymity — was likely to be ill-fated.
While it is understandable that Knox tried to gain control of the conversation, these personal details would have ultimately come to light. Knox’s predicament speaks to a harsh truth. Privacy, which is meager for the general populace, has become an unreasonable expectation for those who exist in the public eye. Porn actors, despite glamorous stage names, are included in this category.
A version of this story appeared in the Monday, March 10 print edition. Christina Coleburn is a deputy opinion editor. Christina’s Case is published every Monday. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.