Richson: Paying for school with porn


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How far are you willing to go to pay your college tuition and living expenses? Are you willing to live off of ramen and generic-brand peanut butter, or do you have a job with a time commitment that actually surpasses the time you spend studying?

Maybe you have an Everest-esque mountain of student loans waiting for you upon graduation.

Education isn’t cheap, period, and, in response, students seem to be coming up with more and more out-of-the-box ways to pay for college. Consider, for example, the Duke University freshman who revealed her employment in the pornography industry after receiving harassment from her college peers last week.

I in no way wish to speak to the ethics of the pornography industry — I do believe that a lot of pornography can be degrading to women and plays into the objectification in the media that causes so much distress to my gender on a daily basis: “Why can’t I look like her?” — but I do know that as a woman who has the luxury of not having to pay my own way through college, I simply cannot fathom what means I would go to in order to scrape by.

The Duke freshman in question, who goes by the stage name “Belle Knox,” told CNN that she views her porn career as a positive experience.

“We are in a society where we are so repressed every single day,” she said. “We’re told that sex is bad. We’re told not to have sex. We’re told not to show our bodies, and that’s really true for women.”

On March 7, Duke cleared her of breaking any rules, and yet the backlash against her unique way to make ends meet has continued.

And so, I have to ask … would a male freshman in the same predicament be receiving as much backlash? Or would he receive so many high-fives walking around campus that his hand would be sore?

Knox is clearly doing all she can to pay for an education that falls at practically $60,000 a year, but sadly, I cannot help but wonder if the amount of slut-shaming she will endure from every possible gender can qualify as those ends justifying these radical means.

Ideally, this daring, resourceful woman’s cover would not ever have been blown, and she would’ve progressed blissfully through a top-notch education — not just with extra money to spend on going-out clothes or facials but with her tuition and other expenses solidly covered. Now that her secret has been discovered, the only thing that we as a society can do is to be a little more understanding.

The identity of an educated female is powerful in our changing modern society, but the cost of this identity is unfortunately a factor out of students’ direct control and can drive some women to extreme measures.

Take the also timely example of a New Jersey teen attempting to sue her parents for not paying her college tuition, despite a series of disciplinary violations at her high school. Is this a more socially valid means of acquiring the money that a college education demands just because it isn’t sexual?

What is more respectable: vapid entitlement or working to relieve a great financial burden perhaps at the cost of one’s dignity in the eyes of others?

Obviously, I don’t know either of these women personally. I don’t think the stigma surrounding the sex industry is anywhere close to a point of eradication in the near future. But as people, we can cut our peers some slack for trying to get by however possible.

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