“I am a porn star. I am a college freshman. You know nothing about me.”

I am well aware: The threat I pose to the patriarchy is enormous. That a woman could be intelligent, educated and CHOOSE to be a sex worker is almost unfathomable.

– Lauren*

I work at Duke University. Last week, my campus made national news (again) over this headline: “Portrait of a porn star: Duke freshman stands behind her alter-ego.”

I’ve followed this story, and while I’ve never met Lauren – *not her real name – I don’t need to know her personally in order to support what she’s written about her experience. Here’s her story, in brief: She decided to pursue a career in pornography to support the price of Duke’s $62,000/year tuition. She kept this work a secret from family and friends, not because she was ashamed, but because she knew there would be a huge reaction to the news and she valued her day-to-day privacy. Then a friend saw Lauren onscreen and shared the story at a frat party. The university and the Internet exploded, and now Lauren has gone on the offensive and is saying truly profound things about what it means to be a young woman who identifies as both intelligent and a sexual being. (It’s funny-not-funny that I have to put that “and” in italics, as if this combination were rare.)

This is one of those cases where everything I read in Lauren’s own words makes me like her more. I only wish I had been this wise (not to mention self-aware and confident) when I was 18. My favorite thing that she’s doing is this: she’s refusing to feel shame for her choices, and is instead using the media coverage as a platform to share her thoughts. Here’s the full article she wrote in response to the coverage, with some of her most stellar quotations below:

“For me, shooting pornography brings me unimaginable joy. […] I can say definitively that I have never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else. In a world where women are so often robbed of their choice, I am completely in control of my sexuality. […] It is the exact opposite of the culture of slut-shaming and rape apology which I have experienced […] since being recognized on campus a few months ago.”

“…what I ask for is simple. I, like all other sex workers, want to be treated with dignity and respect. I want equal representation under the law and within societal institutions. I want people to acknowledge our humanity. I want people to listen to our unique narratives and dialogues. To the anti-pornography feminists out there: I very much respect your opinion. Nevertheless, I want you to consider how you marginalize a group of women by condemning their actions.”

“What angers me […] is if I were a porn star and weren’t in school, people would hate me and say I have no future, while when financing school by doing sex work I’m getting told that I can’t do both. So basically the narrative is you can’t be sexual and be intelligent; you have to choose one. That’s what this whole thing really comes down to.

Lauren has said that her long-term plans are to become a lawyer and work for women’s rights. I have no doubt she will arrive wherever she wants to go, and leave a wake of slightly more enlightened people behind her. As for how she’s holding up under scrutiny, she says:

“I have a really great support system at Duke. The LGBTQ community has been absolutely fabulous to me — they even made me a video collage of people saying, “We want you to be here; we want you to stay here; we care about you.” It’s been really overwhelming, but, at the same time, the outpouring of support I’ve gotten has been really, really amazing.”

That last quote makes me smile, because the support is primarily due to Lauren’s own strength and smarts. As the story spread, she gained support from even some unlikely backers, because she is brave enough and writes well enough that people have been forced to see the person behind the sensationalism.

This story interests me because it makes us examine gender politics – they are the entire reason the revelation went viral – but, more than that, it gets at the heart of why I call myself a feminist. In my personal definition of the word, the goal of feminism is for people to be seen as people, and for their choices to be judged no differently whether they are male, female, both, or neither. This is an ideal, of course, but part of working towards it is doing away with the concept that it’s bizarre for Lauren to work in pornography because she wants to and also attend a Top Ten school; for her to openly enjoy rough sex and also plan to be a lawyer.

When the majority of people make these statements using “and also” instead of the more common “but,” we’ll be making progress on real equality.

___________________________________________________________
The featured image for this post is credited to Elysia Su /
The Chronicle.
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94 responses to ““I am a porn star. I am a college freshman. You know nothing about me.”

    • Lauren did all the hard writing. It seemed silly to include too many of my own words when hers were so powerful. I think what you said is the whole point – other people, all the time, do things most of us wouldn’t do… but only some of them are harshly judged for it. Looking at those who are judged shows us where we still have work to do.

  1. I wonder.. would the reaction be the same if the porn star were a young man? People would be saying how enterprising, etc. he is. A real go getter! I had not seen this story, so thanks for posting.

  2. Yes! It’s all about being able to choose, regardless of your sex or gender or status or ethnicity or orientation. That’s what this whole equality fight is about. Being able to choose. People seem to have lost sight of that. I think it has nothing to do with her “not being able to both” and everything to do with a lack of respect for sex workers. Why does the rest of the world get a say in what she does for fun, since it’s not hurting anyone?

    • Lauren addressed this point in one of the articles I linked to, which added a lot to my perception of her. She acknowledges that she’s been lucky to have found an ethical agent and have avoided any bad experiences, and then goes on to point out that more women would have positive stories like hers if sex workers felt comfortable discussing their work and what could be done to improve their conditions. It’s not going to get better until we stop shaming women as soon as they share what they do for a living.

  3. Now I am not a prude believe me and this is not a moral or religious issue with me.
    I think she is kidding herself if she thinks she will have no repercussions from all this . . . not from others perhaps, but from herself.
    She may be able to justify the actions of having sex in front of a camera now, but those videos are going to last a long, long time. . . and
    All the stuff that makes us who we are comes from within, and introspection has a very hard time justifying things that our ego had no problem justifying.
    That’s why soldiers suffer so badly after the war . . . the guilt ultimately refuses to take a back seat and many even commit suicide. . . .
    and for the life of me I can’t understand the feminist angle. . . especially when I have first hand knowledge what happens to women who involve themselves with those seedy characters.
    Women are life’s most beautiful of creatures, why give herself freely to an assortment of men for money?. . .
    that is so degrading I would thin a feminist would have a fit if someone even suggested it to her.
    whew, that poor girl just jumped into a jungle,. . . . hope she makes it back out. . . .
    Sex is good, sex is fun, but to sell yourself for money? . . . I see suffering on the that little girls horizon . . .

    • I don’t think you’re prude, but I also don’t agree with you. I’m sure what you’re describing is true for some people, but I don’t think it’s inevitable for all people. Many online voices have said that Lauren sounds naive, but I think she sounds sure of what she’s saying. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s right for them… even more importantly, she clearly doesn’t find her work degrading. In fact, it sounds like she views it as an opportunity to do something she very much enjoys. In any case, I’m sure we can agree that neither one of us wishes her any suffering.

      • sure . . . I burned my soap box long ago . . .
        young has a tendency to be all-knowing, but I can assure you I have been all-knowing at least four times in my life . . . each time I was wrong because each time I really didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground … .still don’t

    • Of course not. I’m sure it would have caused a stir locally, but would it be national news? No way. Society just doesn’t feel the same need to scrutinize everything men do, and men also don’t suffer from that pesky virgin/whore complex.

      I say this knowing full well that in certain arenas, women are freer than men in terms of what is “allowed” for their gender. Sex, however? Not one of them.

  4. Good for her. I can’t add much to the comments above. I have major temper tantrums every time a woman runs for office. And, I think it’s a lot of other women writing these stories about clothes and hair and how haggard the candidate looks and how she’s ignoring her kids and whatnot. Women would be so much further along if it weren’t for other women. (And I don’t hate women. I hope you know what I mean.)

    • I do know what you mean. Caitlin Moran – one of my personal heroines – talks about women holding themselves and each other back in her book How to Be a Woman. I think so much of what we judge other women for is based on our own insecurities, and so many of our own insecurities are based in worrying about what “they” will think – men, society, somebody.

  5. Live and let live. We all make our own choices and as long as YOU are happy with them that’s all that matters. I’ve basically stopped watching all news and commentary shows for just that reason. Don’t tell me how I’m supposed to feel and I don’t particularly care about how those paid talking heads feel.

    Whew. I need a shower.

    • This aligns with how I feel. If YOU are happy, I am happy, as long as YOU aren’t trying to make me feel “even happier” by imposing your ideals upon me.

      P.S. I approve of showers. Showers are good.

  6. I applaud Lauren for claiming her truth and right to make her own decisions and stand unashamedly by them.

    The fact that this made so many waves is evidence of society’s double standards when it cpmes to women’s choices.

    Thanks for sharing, Jennie.

    • Thanks you for reading! This story had already gotten so big that I thought sharing it now, in a supportive light, would be more helpful than harmful. Lauren is trying to keep her real identity under wraps for understandable reasons like future job searches, but I’m glad she didn’t hide her words.

  7. Once again Jennie, you bring your brilliance to the fore in perceiving the true nature of what’s at stake here. It’s interesting to me that the detractors want to basically call out Lauren as having double standards when that is the very modus operandi employed to make the call. People suck sometimes, thanks for not.

    • REDdog! Hi there, friend. Thank you for not sucking either. (I should say that to more people. “Thank YOU for not being annoying.)

      To your point: The fact that Lauren says she feels more comfortable at a porn shoot than walking around her college campus demonstrates the heart of the problem. At Duke, one “game” fraternity brothers like to play is calling out 1-10 attractiveness scores for women as they walk by. At least when you’re part of the adult film industry, you know how and when you’re being viewed, instead of being surprised by having your looks commented on while you’re just heading to class.

  8. What’s more shocking to me is that college has gotten so expensive that one of the few ways a student can pay their way through it in real time is by making porn. Food for thought….

    Great post, Jen. Thanks for bringing this to my attention because I had somehow missed it in the news.

    • Yes, I agree. I’m more shocked about the price of college! I’m proud of Lauren for sticking up for herself. That’s tough to do.

      • Since this story broke, I’ve learned that the average income of families with a student at Duke is around $350,000/year.

        That’s an average, to be sure… but it’s still a meaningful number.

    • It is food for thought, and it tastes like cardboard. Lauren said in an interview that once she was accepted to Duke, she was set on coming here – she wasn’t going to turn down the 7th-ranked school in the nation. But facing almost $250,000 in debt would make anyone feel desperate, and I think the “scandal” here is that education is still sold to the highest bidders. Yes, college should cost money. Absolutely. I enjoy my salary, and I know where it comes from. But scholarships don’t do enough to level the playing field for students.

  9. What a story. Hers and the way you speak to it. She’s happy doing what she’s doing, others are happy eating themselves into oblivion or shooting up in the beemer or preying on the poor or you know, whatever. Good for her for speaking up and being proud of who she is and wants to be, and never backing down. We need this attitude in all things, even if people are slightly uncomfortable with the topics. Confronting our differences leads to accepting them, in my mind. Of course, I’m saying this on the day that Uganda decided to punish homosexuality with death, and published a list of the top 200 gay people in the country… seriously, what a bunch of dimwads.

    • Trent, thanks for adding your voice here. My initial gut reaction was the same as yours – everyone chooses their own path, and if we’re going to get judgmental, shouldn’t we be just as harsh on the corrupt politicians and certain “giants of industry” who are causing actual harm to other human beings, the environment, etc? Lauren isn’t hurting a single person. Not one.

      And yes, I signed a petition regarding Uganda this morning. I don’t frequently use this particular Southernism, but the events there break my heart.

      • So Lauren’s a porn actress. It’s a living, and she loves it. I had friends who dealt weed in school. Had some who dealt worse. The latter were hurting people, and didn’t quite care about it one way or the other. And no one ever gave them a hard time. I figure she’s doing what she likes. She’s having sex on camera – that’s what she wants, possibly that’s even her art, and it’s not like there isn’t a massive audience for that kind of art. So whether we like it or not, most of us actually support her, though we would properly be said to do so in the comfort and privacy of our own homes (because we wouldn’t want to admit it, right?). Some guy on the radio once said that it’s about time people realize that porn is a 10 billion dollar industry, and it’s not consumed by 10 people spending a billion dollars each.

        Uganda… sigh. India… sigh. But at least Arizona’s Governor found some common sense at the end. I respect people’s religious beliefs, but not their supposed right to exclude and marginalize people based on those beliefs. Otherwise, I should be able to say no to work given me by my dimwad bosses, right?

    • Thanks for being here, Eva! This one is important to me because it’s so close to home. Today I learned that many of Lauren’s fellow students are writing about the situation in their classes – most are taking a supportive stance, as far as I can tell.

      • I’m pleased to read this, Jennie. What makes me pause, however, is what we, not just women, but any student, must do in order to pay for their education. I may be off the issue here but I wonder if she would make this same choice if higher education debt was not so excessive.

        • I’m making an assumption here, but I don’t think she would have. As she tells it, she was trying to find work, couldn’t come up with any worthwhile options, and literally said out loud, “Fuck it, I’ll do porn!” Then she emailed some agencies and they responded, and the rest is history. It seems like she stumbled into something she actually really loves, but no, I don’t think she would have gone down this particular path (at least not at this point in time) if she hadn’t been concerned about money.

  10. It’s sad that people feel that can so self righteously judge. I despise that.

    That being said, having worked in the “sex industry” – in a strip club, and other various arenas – I still feel sad that a woman has to earn money for college in the skin trade. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with it. But why can’t someone pay their way through college teaching part time? Why do they have do porn or work as a stripper? Why do we pay sex workers more than teachers?

    I think our society has things off balance.. Many people can fuck on camera. Only very special people can inspire and motivate students to learn. Pay THOSE people the big bucks.

    • As always, your thoughts are so valuable, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. Even if we take “morality” out of it, not everyone can do what Lauren’s doing – there’s a very specific look that’s a prerequisite, and most of us just don’t possess it. And yes, I can support her choice and still be frustrated as hell that I could never dream of making that kind of money as a teacher or nonprofit worker. I know it’s cliche at this point, but I’ll never stop saying that actors and athletes and public figures SHOULD NOT make what they do. I know, I know… they bring tons of revenue to the people around them, as by-products of their work or sport… but still, that’s valuing cold, hard cash over work that truly improves people’s lives.

      • I’m of the opinion that teachers, amazing teachers who truly try to make a difference in this world – are grossly underpaid.

        I respect Lauren’s choices, and I appreciate her enjoyment and respect for her profession.

        That being said, I LIVE for the day when a woman can pay for an expensive college education by teaching children to read, in a half day kindergarten program. An exhausting, underpaid and often unappreciated job.

        But sex pays. Not teaching reading. What is wrong with this picture?

  11. I think one of the most glaring but ignored takeaways: why does pornography continue to be such a booming industry? Most of those who decry her choices and those downloading her work via some bit torrent .

    • This is a good question for my sex-doctor-to-be friend. I know she’s currently working on a research project that involves coding a collection of pornography for different themes and events… who knew, right?

      Personally, porn’s never “done it” for me, so I have to admit my whole take on this is from a far distance. I’ve heard stories about female directors who make porn for women, and how positive that seems to be, and I’ve also heard tales about the uglier side of the industry, and there’s much in that vein that’s deeply problematic.

  12. wow . . . boy do I ever see a generation gap in this thread. I think that’s why I hang around these blogs. The psychology of today’s world literally blows my mind . .and I’m 60’s generation where mind blowing was a daily occurrence!

    thing is we ARE all connected whether we want to believe that or not . . . we are social, tribal herders seeking security on a chaotic planet. . . therefore we will always be judging others according to ‘herding’ law. That’s the nature of the beast.

    There is a balance in all this, but I think the internet has trained us to be cold and less caring of those in trouble around us . . . .almost cavalier in our attitude toward this girl. “Oh well it’s her choice” doesn’t get it when someone’s about to burn their ass off.

    Sexual desire is a hard taskmaster and even harder to control . . . woe be unto those who think they can. http://www.collegium.ethz.ch/fileadmin/autoren/pdf_papers/10_roessler_sexwork.pdf

    excerpt from link:
    Results: The 193 interviewed female sex workers displayed high rates of mental disorders. These mental disorders were related to violence and the subjectively perceived burden of sex work.
    Conclusion: Sex work is a major public health problem. It has many faces, but ill mental health of sex workers is primarily related to different forms of violence. (end)

    By men, I may add. were women doing this for other women I would have no problem with it. There are men who get off on hurting women . . . that’s a fact. I denounce this stuff for security reasons alone . . . and having a righteous manager? Yeah right! A nice pimp is still a pimp. . . .

    Sorry Jen . . . just a comment from an old man who actually cares more about todays kids lives than their freedom of choice.

    • I’m glad we can provide you with brain-food, J.J. 🙂 And I really do appreciate how you’re coming from a place of concern for Lauren – you haven’t judged her, or condemned her, and that’s so important. But I’ll also throw out there that “sex worker” covers a huge range of activities, some of which I’m sure are much more difficult to manage in a healthy way than filming in a professional studio. Also, does it change anything for you that a lot of Lauren’s movies only involve women? They’re still marketed to men, I’m sure, but she’s said that she prefers working with females. And if that does change anything… why?

      No ultimate “perfect” answers here, just an exploration…

      • That’s better, but still . . . sex is so powerful that you can slip deeper and deeper into depravity without even realizing it . . . (I know, define depravity :-)) depravity is when you do or get involved in, anything that knocks you off your life path and into a lower vibration. We are creators Jen, we create our tomorrows by the things we do today . . . sex itself is not the problem it’s all the baggage following . . . add money to the equation and it’s almost guaranteed to go bad.

        God, or the churches devil, won’t be getting her, she will be getting herself . . . to what degree is up to her. . . . not the dipshits condemning her. I just hope for her sake that she keeps the back door in view and has an escape plan in place.

        Naivete is something we all secumb to . . . christ I thought Obama was actually going to do what he promised, how naive was that!

  13. Here’s your morning dose of hypocrisy from yours truly. I support Lauren’s freedom to do whatever she wants, but if I found out that either of my daughters participated in pornography, EVEN IF they were Ivy League grads, my heart would never recover from the wreckage. Not in my back yard, thanks.

    There’s being sexual and there’s participating in pornography. Those are two different things that she’s blurring together for the sake of convenience. I am utterly conflicted over this.

    • Here’s what I’m a fan of: honesty. I’d so much rather have you say what you really feel than just go, “Woohoo! Great post!” (Not that I can picture you woohooing, anyway.) I think the entire porn industry should leave us all feeling conflicted, but I also think it’s very important that you can separate Lauren’s experience, as told in her own words, from any ideas you have of the bigger picture. If she says she’s good, she’s good, and we have to trust her.

      Meanwhile, I think it could be interesting to dig deeper by asking yourself WHY having your daughters in the same situation would wreck you. I agree that sex and porn are completely different beasts… but why does porn automatically make us raise our eyebrows?

      • Oh, I don’t have to dig very deep at all. It’s right there on the surface.

        I’ve seen my share of pornography in my time. Some of it was beautifully done. Erotic with beautiful bodies and a athletic performances. Genuine passion. Not bad acting. (That happens sometimes.)

        But I’ve stumbled across some heinous things that were being done to women. Some assaults by scuzzy looking men that were so horrific I had to look away. And take my word for it, you can’t un-see some of the things I’ve seen. I’ve tried. So if one of my daughters got involved with pornography, that’s where my mind would automatically go. Even if it was her choice to do so, there would never be an end to the pain in my heart.

        • I asked J how he would feel about a someday-daughter doing what Lauren is. He responded with almost your exact words. When I asked him why, he said it’s because he’s watched enough to know that much of porn is about violence against and disrespect of women, and that even if the actress involved feels great about what she’s doing, there will be thousands of men interpreting it as something degrading – which is exactly why they sought it out. He said that’s what would bother him: not her choice, but the knowledge of how others would see it, and her by association. Which is pretty much what Lauren’s dealing with now – the backlash of what other people think.

          • So we’re back to the beginning. I’ll occasionally watch porn, don’t mind at all if Lauren wants to participate, but it’s not something I want close to home. To summarize: Okay for everyone else; NOT okay for my daughters. Chris Rock has a great joke about how his new mission in life is to keep his daughter “off the pole.” I’m sure he’s been to tons of strip clubs, but would DIE if he knew his daughter was dancing at one. Even if it paid well.

          • It’s weird though, right, when we enjoy things but don’t want to see our loved ones doing them? I’m not even looking at this as a feminist issue, but a general one: isn’t it a Catch-22? We have to, on some level, disrespect or judge that activity and the people doing it (even ourselves), or we wouldn’t care.

  14. I love it when people challenge the concept that life is black or white. There are so many people who fall in the chasm of those designation. Bravo Lauren, and bravo Jennie.

    • Yes, yes, yes! Grey areas. Or heck, areas of all the possible colors! Why would we ever want to restrict ourselves to just two extremes, when all the good, meaty stuff of life lies in the middle?

  15. I’m glad you shared this– I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise. I admire her courage and am also grateful to hear an empowered female voice come out of that industry. It is so easy to make assumptions, it is different to actually listen.

    • Really listening is hard, especially when there are this many voices involved. Every day there are dozens of new articles about this. That’s why I’m focusing on the one voice that matters most – the person who actually made the choices and is living the experience.

  16. I agree with what Samara said above regarding the sad state of the inflated pay for women’s flesh. I wish that women had other options, but I don’t think those who have pursued the sex industry should be shamed for it. What I wish is that we had a supportive society which would allow for more of those who do choose this line of work a safer, healthier experience. The author of the article obviously had a better experience, but sadly, that isn’t true for all.

    Sure, this woman won’t be working in a Manhattan law firm as a partner, but I don’t think her job will stop her from where she personally wants to go.

    • She’s mentioned that she wouldn’t want to work for the kind of people who’d reject her for a job if they knew about this, and I am very hopeful that she’ll find that place and those people and do something amazing.

      To address your first point, a lot of people are pointing out that Lauren apparently turned down full scholarships to other schools, including Vanderbilt. They seem to feel that because she could have gone there and avoided porn, it’s now OK to shame her for choosing Duke and then taking this path. My thought is, why would it be somehow “better” if she was forced into it? Isn’t it actually “better” that it was her own decision? She knew that Duke would come at a price, she went for it anyway, and she doesn’t seem to regret a thing.

      • I think what people fail to realize is that everything we do comes with a price, even if we don’t know it at the time. Getting married. Having kids. Not having kids. Taking a job that pays well, but makes you miserable. Eating pizza instead of salad. Taking a different route to work.

        The best thing anyone can do is stay on the path that is truest to his or her own heart at the time he/she made the decision. If this girl really feels like being in porn and going to Duke is the right course of action for her, more power to her. Will she regret it someday? Who knows, but for now, this is the path she has chosen to take and she shouldn’t be shamed for it.

    • I know. My entire college experience cost less than one year at Duke. But, it’s a private school with remarkable research credentials, and students can absolutely make powerful connections in the fields they want to pursue. In any case… can I ask where you went to college? People are telling me that female students getting involved in stripping and pornography is more common on the West Coast.

      • I went to Humber College in Toronto, Canada – a zillion years ago – so I can’t comment on current tuition rates or what it takes to get around them, obviously.

        • How could I forget? You’re in Canada!

          Last night J asked me, “What is it with you and Canadians?!” You, Helena, Wakinyan, Eric, and I know there are more I’m not thinking of right now… you make up a staggering number of my online friends. 🙂

        • Current Canadian tuition is around $6000/year ranging from Ontario average of $8000/year to the Quebec average of $3000/year. Add in cost of living of another $8000/year and the typical Canadian student can go to school for about $18,000/year. I am another Canuck and work at a Canadian university 🙂
          Compared to $62,000/year only for the tuition at Duke – Canadian education is a real deal!
          What exactly is the value of an education? Why is a Duke education somehow worth more than a education at Chapel Hill?
          In the end the US economy is sliding deeper into being a Service Industry economy. In the end Lauren just selected a high-end Service Industry job. Do people really think that somehow being a waitress in a breastaurant is more dignified? If the only way to make a living is to be exploited for your body – then why not take charge and be in control of your own exploitation?
          In choosing a Duke education Lauren had to choose to be “fucked” by the money-men offering her debt and loans. Or she can choose to “fuck” men for their money and be in control of herself. So which is the better choice again?

          • I’m not sure if you knew this when you asked, but although I work at Duke now, I attended UNC Chapel Hill as an undergrad and will start there again in August for grad school. Duke is an excellent school, but as far as I can tell, the difference is not so much in the quality of classes, the dedication of professors, or even the rankings of basketball teams (ha). The main perk of attending Duke seems to be the extreme focus on networking – there are powerful, valuable connections to be made, and they can lead to upper-echelon jobs. UNC is so large that students have to be more proactive and astute in recognizing the importance of that and pursuing it themselves. At Duke, it feels more like a fact of life and arrangements are frequently made for students to meet people they can benefit from knowing.

            Is that worth an additional $40,000 per year? Only the students and their families can decide. For some, I’m absolutely sure it is, and I hope Lauren finds herself to be one of them.

  17. As a recovering porn addict, I guess the thing that I don’t get in this entire thread of comments is how she’s being celebrated for something that normally goes on in private when the article clearly demonstrates some of the effects of porn – it’s not just recorded erotica.

    As the article mentioned some of the responses of men on campus, once she was outed for doing porn, guys were saying, “Oh, I’m going to do her before I graduate.” She was immediately objectified and treated as a subhuman, and that was from someone in her target audience. If a bunch of college students could figure out who she was, what’s to say that a prospective employer couldn’t find out as well? All those connections that she paid $250K for go up in flames. And then what? Is she just going to fall back on the porn business?

    Maybe I am more sensitive to it because porn nearly cost me my marriage and I have three other friends whose marriages it has negatively impacted as well. I just have trouble celebrating a business that generally seems to have a negative impact on its participants, no matter what side of the screen they’re on.

    • Hi, Russ – thanks for adding your opinion. I’d say that what most of these comments are celebrating is Lauren’s courage in standing by her decision, and her eloquent defense of her choices, rather than the porn industry at large. In my opinion, the awful responses she got from fellow students shows their lack of humanity, not a rationale for her to feel regret. And she has said that she realizes some employers won’t hire her due to this history, but I don’t think the particular doors she wants to walk through will be closed to her. She says she wants to be a lawyer who works for women’s rights and improves conditions for sex workers, so if anything, she’ll be better able to relate to her perspective clients. In any case, I’m sorry to hear that you had such a struggle – I personally feel that much of the easily available porn does more harm that good, just in the way it skews people’s perceptions of “normal” sexuality – but I don’t think the answer to the problem lies in blaming at the people who star in the films.

  18. Amazing story, Jennie. Amazing young woman. I had lunch with a friend today to discuss Orthodox Judaism. Our conversation was really focused on Feminism, and what we envisioned when we went to college, versus what it has lead to in reality. Very interesting conversations… there and here!

    • Thank you for your comment! If I’ve learned anything about feminism, it’s that it cannot be contained in a single definition. It means hugely different things to all sorts of different people, and they all hold their personal interpretation very dear.

  19. Ultimately Jennie, I’m conflicted as far as my personal opinion on the matter. As far as her choices, I still feel they are hers alone and none of our business. It’s her life. I think the bigger and more important topics have already been broached on this thread: high cost of school and society’s priorities of paying more for entertainment than education. So glad you shared though because it’s really interesting!

    • Deanna, this reaction is all I could hope for. Pardon the metaphor but, in my opinion, decisions about ways of life are like books in a library. I might not want to read your book for myself, but I would never request that it be burned so no one could peruse it.

  20. Ah, I’m all over the map here. I think it’s hella shitty that someone outed her and turned it into a big scandal when HE was the one trolling the internet for something to wack off to. It’s disrespectful to shame her while enjoying her and that’s a reason why I have issues with the whole porn industry.

    I think women should be able to be smart and sexual (obviously, haha) but I’ll admit that it did make me a bit uncomfortable to hear her talking about how making porn gives her joy– I mean, at the end of the day she’s doing it because it’s one of the only things that will give her enough money to pay for school, right? It still seems like she’s being taken advantage of by a broken system, even if she is choosing to be a part of it.

    So many rambly thoughts. I’m glad people have her back though. Eeeevveeerrryyyoooooone has things that they would be publicly shamed for if they ever came to light. We ought to know better than to do that to each other.

    Thanks for making my brain do things tonight, Jennie 🙂

    • I like making brains run through obstacle courses – glad yours liked the exercise! In my opinion, this is one of those cases where I’m going to trust the narrator. Lauren seems reliable, and there are so many other people who are actively asking for help… I think they are the ones we should be focused on “saving,” and we don’t need to spend much time wringing our hands over someone who is loudly, proudly professing her own contentment.

      Your last point, though? I couldn’t agree more. I did a few things in college that felt perfectly innocent at the time, and which I don’t regret, but I don’t want my future employers to know about them.

  21. Interesting thoughts on the topic. You and I think alike on several levels- one being that I’ve also been drawn to this story for the past week or so. I really value your opinion, especially as someone within the Duke community, though to be honest they differ from my thoughts on the topic. Seeing as I am a male, I went out of my way to talk to several female friends about this topic and really learned a lot. Then two of us wrote a response- I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

    http://allmyroads.com/2014/03/04/a-response-to-the-duke-university-porn-star/

    • Thank you for sharing this. It was an interesting read, although not one I personally agree with. Still, I think this is the value in what Lauren is doing – getting us all to think about the issue, and finding the line where we separate blaming a person versus blaming a social ill (and thank you for only doing the second).

  22. I agree with your definition of feminism (“…for people to be seen as people, and for their choices to be judged no differently whether they are male, female, both, or neither”), but I can’t support the pornography industry – just like I can’t support the meat industry, or the gun industry, or any other industry that promotes harm to any beings. I can support Lauren for being a confident, intelligent woman; but I can’t (won’t) support the industry she has chosen to work in – just like I won’t support the work of a butcher. S/he may be a nice person, but if they kill animals for a living, I’m just not down with that.

    • Stef, I understand where you’re coming from. I don’t actually watch porn, not because of any moral compunction but from a complete lack of interest. I don’t know enough about it to judge the whole industry myself, but I’ve heard some very positive stories as well as some that are incredibly disturbing. I like your approach – Lauren is who she is, and she’s worth supporting as a human being even if her occupation gets under your skin. (I did not mean that as a terrible pun, but there it is.)

      • Ooohhh, now *you’re* the one being punny!

        Of course there are always exceptions (and rationalizations) to any industry/occupation/situation; and certainly I’m no porn expert; but based on what I do know, on what I have seen, and on the research that has been done, I believe that porn does more harm than good. But as we both say, Lauren is a person worth recognizing because she is human – because of who she is, not what she does. To that, we can agree. 🙂

  23. Fascinating story! Her quotes are brilliant and so inspiring. I love TD’s question in this thread….had it been a man would it have made news? Uh…No.
    I love the support she’s getting from the school, peers, and different groups. Amazing.

    • “Uh…No.” <– Exactly! And the fact that weknow that, but the double standard still exists, is why this story is worth talking about.

      And I’m also so, so glad she’s getting support. Especially because enough people made it their goal to reveal her true identity that she’s now gone on national TV, because there was just no maintaining her privacy anymore.

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