A freshman at Duke University was outed as a porn performer by a fellow classmate earlier this year. The story was quickly picked up by national outlets. When the student revealed her porn alias, Belle Knox, a few weeks ago, she spurred another flurry of coverage.
As Knox said in an xoJane article, much of the attention she’s received is focused on the question, “But why do you do porn?” A more revealing question, though, might be, why does everyone want to know why she does porn? Or, to put it another way, why is this story so fascinating to so many people?
Knox does have an answer to the question of why she, as a student, works in porn.
I couldn’t afford $60,000 in tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love. Because to be clear: My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering.
For Knox, porn is a way to deal with the burden of college debt by doing a job she enjoys and even finds exhilarating—as opposed to her work as a waitress in high school, where she “felt like I was being degraded and treated like shit.”
Knox’s explanation is very clear and thoughtful. And because sex work is marked as different or special or iconic or unusual, there’s a tendency to want to make any clear, thoughtful description a kind of iconic answer which speak for all sex workers. But there’s no reason to think that all student sex workers have the same experience, anymore than you’d think that all student waitresses feel “degraded,” as Knox did.