While we read stories about heinous crimes committed against women in our part of the world, it hardly occurs to us that such and even worse crimes are committed across the globe, especially in what we call ‘developed’ and ‘civilised’ countries such as the United States of America.
Lest we forget, let’s remind ourselves once more that patriarchy and hypocrisy are unfortunately a universal phenomena.
Take for example, the instance of a girl who belonged to a middle-class family in the US. Like any other ambitious teen, she wanted to graduate from her dream school, the prestigious Duke University in North Carolina, free of debt. Her family had already suffered a significant financial crisis and so, she wanted to finance her education herself.
She turned to acting in adult movies.
In February this year, when she returned to college after Christmas break, she found lots of friend requests on Facebook from random male students as well as a Twitter following from a student in her class. This, of course, was not unusual.
But what followed hit her like an iceberg.
She was bullied, harassed, called a slut and even received threats of violence and death. An online campaign was circulated to shame her and a thread even appealed to the management of Duke University, asking them to expel this freshman and save the university’s name from disgrace.
It was then that she realised that her secret identity had been revealed by a male student who had seen her on the internet and she was dismayed because he had promised her that he wouldn’t disclose it to anyone.
Her crime was simply that she wanted to get an education from a renowned university and had been forced by circumstances to pay her tuition fee by acting in adult movies.
Her name is Miriam Weeks and in the dark world of internet pornography she is known as Belle Knox.
While defending her decision to act in adult movies in order to finance her education, Miriam said,
“I couldn’t afford the $60,000 tuition fee and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely loved.”
She went on to say that the internet didn’t dictate her life and that acting in adult movies didn’t somehow mean that she owed an explanation to the world about every choice she made. Pointing out the society’s hypocrisy, she said that while a porn consumer is celebrated, a porn actor is considered shameful and immoral.
Even more ironic is the fact that Thomas Bagley, the freshman who ratted out Miriam as a porn star, spent $1000 a month on the subscription of a porn site.
Unfortunately, this two-faced social predicament is universal. No eyebrows are raised, nor are any fingers pointed and neither is shame brought to those who drive the success of a billion dollar industry – its consumers. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can watch inappropriate content and love adult movie actors but they just can’t stand such an actor pursuing education at a top university; they can’t digest an adult movie actor working at a renowned organisation.
Simply put, they just cannot bear to see her in any role of life other than the adult movie industry.
Although I don’t agree with Miriam Weeks’ decision to turn to the adult content industry to finance her education since there were other options available such as college aid and scholarships, my point is that she made a choice and she is happy with it.
In no way does this make her unfit for any college.
I suppose an even more two-faced scenario would be if a university had given admission to a prostitute. Parents might never throw their children out of the house for watching porn but they would definitely take their children out of such an institution as a gesture of sanctimonious behaviour.
It’s no secret that there exists a certain Pecksniffianism when it comes to the subject of sex. Sex is always considered to be positive for men; something that should be celebrated and something that all men should strive to achieve. A man who has a number of affairs is celebrated as a playboy or a Casanova, whereas a woman who has affairs is demonised as immoral and depraved.
Pick any TV show or movie today and you’ll see the male protagonist as a charming playboy who has an affair with every woman he lays his eyes upon. Never will you see the female lead in such a role. According to Jean Kilbourne, an author and speaker on Advertising’s Image of Women, women these days are expected to be ‘experienced virgins’, that is, women are expected to be beautiful and overtly sexual but must somehow retain their innocence and purity.
Although Miriam Weeks decided not to return to college because of the threats of violence, rape and even death, she recently said that she’ll continue with her education.
And I say, good luck to her!
Previously published on The Express Tribune