As the Broadway musical Avenue Q eloquently reminds us, the Internet has become virtually synonymous with pornography. While the Internet might truly be for porn, Web media has yet to fully deconstruct the myths that surround the porn industry and its performers. But Becoming Belle Knox, a new five-part documentary web series from media conglomerate Condé Nast about Miriam Weeks (a.k.a. “the Duke porn star”), is set to challenge some longstanding misconceptions about sex work in a powerful way.
Traditional mass media has failed to depict sex work and the porn industry in a non-judgmental way. With titles like The Dark Side of Porn on BBC and Porn: America’s Addiction on CNN Headline News (now HLN), television tends to depict pornography in a moralistic and sensationalistic manner, relying on illicit subject matter to titillate the viewer while hypocritically casting judgment on the industry as a whole. Small-scale independent documentaries like Live Nude Girls Unite! are among the few pieces of traditional media that have explored sex work in a nuanced manner.
But if documentaries like Becoming Belle Knox become the new norm in a changed media landscape, the Internet might finally give us the fresh perspective on pornography that our culture so desperately needs. From the GOP’s 2012 attack on pornography in their official platform to new Christian propaganda like the book Porndemic, conservatives are continuing to to criminalize and villainize pornography.