Slut, whore, bitch, slag, trollop – there are so many words to describe a sex worker.
Tolerance for sex workers is a hard-waged war and the story of the outed Duke University porn star is yet another battle. Stage name Belle Knox, pornography for her is a part-time job to help pay her $60,000 a year tuition.
However, anonymity is just a dream in the world of porn and unlike fan favourites Stoya and Sasha Grey, she was not greeted with open arms and dropped trousers. Faceless commenters all over the internet treated her like a slut for the slaughter as they discussed how she’s ruined her life, is only a four out of ten in the looks department and even that she faked victim status after her story – a story she did not want made public in the first place – made national news.
Belle’s address, Facebook profile and real name were among the personal details which were posted online, just to further the spread of hate for a woman who went on record saying that she had “never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else”.
Despite her celebratory post on xoJane about her career choice, she was still forced into moral accountability by ensuring the reader it was a decision based purely on monetary and educational reasons and that this in turn led to her sexual awakening. It felt as if she could not use the perfectly acceptable reason that she enjoyed having lots of sex whilst being filmed and then paid for it.
Sex workers fight against their social stigma but they are still not able to directly influence the legality – and therefore the safety – of their chosen career. This in itself leads to much worse consequences than just online slut shaming. It can cause drug abuse, illegal sex trafficking and paedophilia.
This stigma has led to the widespread use of internet porn filters which have blocked sex education website, becoming a serious obstacle while the illegality of brothels in the UK causes unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Some people enjoy the career. Berating their choice won’t stop sex being bought and sold – forcefully or otherwise. But eradicating our fears of talking about s-e-x will make it better for everyone. It will bring in taxation for the government, a fair wage and safe environment for workers and we’ll be safe in the knowledge that we are all doing the nasty – nicely.