TT 117: People not Products

By Kyra-lin Hom

I apologize if I offend anyone this week, as the topic I'm about to broach is a sensitive one. Relatively recently (I've been debating on whether or not to touch this for a few weeks now), a Duke University student was publicly outted against her will as a porn star. There are so many hot button items here, where do I even begin?

First, some background. This young woman – go ahead and Google for her name if you really care – was accepted to Duke University out of high school. She's obviously bright and wants the stellar education Duke offers. But with a price tag after tuition, room, board and books of over $60,000 per year, there was no way she could afford it. She could either a) settle for a lesser school, b) bury herself in over $240,000 of crippling student loan debt or c) find a way to pay for it herself. She chose to dive full tilt into plan c and willed herself into one of the most lucrative markets open to young women today: her body.

Well, 'open' market is a bit of a misnomer. Despite being a legal $12 billion US industry that is consumed on a truly global scale, there is an extreme stigma attached to anyone actually working on camera. Even the legal system isn't quite sure how to handle these line-toeing miscreants, often failing to persecute aggressive individuals who break contract – a little thing called rape.

As for lucrative, well, there's a huge range to what women actually make in the industry. But for a full-time student without a college degree yet under her belt, good luck finding anything that pays better with that flexible of a schedule.

So this prospective student decides she wants to go to college, she likes sex and that she doesn't mind avoiding life-long debt by getting paid to do something she enjoys. It's not for everyone, but this sounds like a win-win. And it was until she was recognized by fellow male Duke University students. Apparently too 'excited' by the prospect of going to school with a real porn star, these lackluster individuals promised her radio silence and then promptly outted her identity to their peers online. Now she gets death and torture threats on the daily from people telling her she's poisoning Duke with her presence. Pleasant, huh?

Not once were these boys asked how they recognized her. I mean, $12 billion a year in the US alone! $57 billion worldwide. That's a lot of porn, especially when you factor in how much free porn is circulating on top of that. How much were these boys watching that they managed to find and recognize one single person amongst the thousands upon thousands clamoring for attention?

But I'm not going to turn this into a men vs. women debate – lots of people are already doing that. Besides, a female student could have just as easily recognized and outted her without being accused of anything untoward either. It's not like the messenger is the morally reprehensible deviant, especially when the news is this juicy. They're just the messenger, obviously.

No, the issue I have here is with the holier-than-thou attitude. Because the trade in question is sex all of our compunctions about right to privacy and personal choice fritz out. We're allowed to consume it, but they're not allowed to produce it. That doesn't make any sense at all. We apparently want our porn stars to exist outside of society, to not be real people but objects and products. We wrap their entire identities up in their professions and shove the whole package into a dark, guilty pleasure chest where they aren't allowed to ever be anything else but what we've dictated.

But guess what? They are people. Porn is their job not their essence. And it doesn't matter whether you're for or against the sex industry as a whole. People should never be treated this way.

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