What We Can Learn From the Condescending Idiots on "The View"

"Knox didn't ask to be outed. She was thrust into the public eye and chose to respond and stick up for herself. As she wrote for xojane, 'If people are going to talk about you, you might as well control the conversation and use it to start a dialogue, which in this case is about the abuses we inflict on sex workers.'
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"Knox didn't ask to be outed. She was thrust into the public eye and chose to respond and stick up for herself. As she wrote for xojane, 'If people are going to talk about you, you might as well control the conversation and use it to start a dialogue, which in this case is about the abuses we inflict on sex workers.'
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I've been profoundly irritated for years by the insistence of third-wave feminists that porn is “empowering” to women. The porn industry is built on the backs of girls fresh out of high school, many with abuse histories and self-esteem issues. Many who lack the money and the smarts to go to college. Many of whom have drug problems, or develop them once entering the “Other Hollywood.”

I've been disdainful of the porn apologists who ignore all that and trumpet pornography as a “free speech” crusade. Anyone who doesn't like pornography is a sex-hating prude, blah blah blah. This 18-year-old girl wearing a dog collar and climbing up a flight of stairs on her hands and knees to get slapped in the face by a bunch of cocks – some of which are attached to men twice her age -- is a First Amendment activist and a feminist, really?

I think it's undeniable that lot of porn perpetuates stereotypes that women enjoy being abused, that they're too dumb to know they're being degraded and that the self-esteem of many of them is so poor that they don't care that they're being degraded. I think that a great deal of the appeal of porn for a lot of men isn't merely seeing hot girls having sex, it's seeing what disgusting things they'll do for money. How else to explain how it could be titillating to see a girl's head shoved in a toilet while she's being viciously reamed in the ass or having a cock shoved so far into her throat that she vomits on it?

For those reasons, I'm not a fan of the porn industry in general. I think many men truly enjoy the affirmation pornography offers that women are dumb sluts. The notion makes men feel superior; it makes women seem less intimidating.

But watching all but one of the hosts of The View talk down to Belle Knox, the Duke University freshman who was outed by a classmate when he discovered Knox has appeared in porn movies, made me see why it's wrong to judge her. As much as I personally dislike the industry as a whole for exploiting women, I found myself thinking, how dare they? How dare we.

I realize that watching The View and expecting a stimulating discussion about feminism is like going to McDonald's and expecting filet mignon, but I was nevertheless appalled at the way Knox was treated by the show's hosts, Barbara Walters, Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd (Whoopi Goldberg is also a host, but was the only one who treated Knox with any dignity).

After Knox breaks the earth-shattering news to Walters that making lattes part time wouldn't have enabled her to pay for school, the former 20/20 anchor appears at a loss as to what to say to this person, almost stuttering, “So you...so you make the films?” Knox replies, “Yes, I'm making the films.”

Then McCarthy -- feigning amnesia about the nude Playboy shoot that launched her career, not to mention those magazine ads for Candies where she sat on toilets with her panties around her ankles hawking cheap shoes -- pushes her glasses up her nose and asks, “What happened that made you turn to porn? Was it a thought, was it an incident...?” Not “How did you come to this decision?” But what happened to you?

Knox remained composed and articulate, even after explaining that she first saw porn at age 12 and then Walters, in all seriousness, asked her if she watched it alone or with her parents.

The only one who asked Knox actual questions and wasn't just trying to get her to affirm their judgments of her was Whoopi Goldberg, who asked Knox to explain what she meant by saying that her experience making porn is empowering.

Knox's response, in my opinion, kicked ass. After saying that she thinks that empowerment and degradation are subjective (which to be honest, sounded like a bunch of crap to me when I first heard it, but now I think she's right), she said, “In this backdrop of our society where women are so often robbed of their sexual autonomy and are subjected to sexual violence, and in this backdrop of misogyny against women, it's incredibly freeing and liberating for me to have that choice to be able to make decisions about my own body. ”

Walters then asks if Knox has “any ambitions” or was merely resigned to doing porn for the rest of her life. Yes, Barbara, people who go to Duke probably have ambitions, Jesus Christ. The way these questions were phrased was so ridiculously insulting that I'm amazed Knox somehow managed to remain polite.

While trying to respond to a question about the backlash she has suffered since she was outed for making porn, saying that she has received death threats, that there are petitions to get her expelled from school and that some people have threatened to throw garbage at her, Shepherd just can't get past the watching porn since Knox was 12 part and has the gall to interrupt her to say, “I don't want to -- I know you're a guest on our show, and I don't want to make you feel bad... but for someone to say, I've been watching porn since you were 12 years old and it empowers you, to me it sounds like you have something completely memorized. My heart breaks when I hear this. It really, really does.”

You know what's even more heartbreaking, Sherri? That this 18-year-old has been threatened with rape and being pelted with garbage for the legal work she's doing that isn't hurting anyone, which she was describing before you rudely interrupted her.

In a reaction segment the following day, the hosts (with the exception of Goldberg) continued to judge Knox in her absence. Walters insisted that there's no way Knox was empowering herself doing porn and Shepherd, amazingly, says this regarding Knox's statement that she makes between $1,000 and $1,500 a shoot: “You're saying you're worth $1,500, which, for me, you've already put a value on your sexuality. So if you say you're worth $1,500, that's the way people see you.”

Seriously, what a bitch.

A few judgy minutes later, Shepherd has the nerve to suggest that Knox was likely setting a bad example for young girls watching The View, the show you INVITED HER TO APPEAR ON. Ugh...

It was reading an essay about Knox for Dame Magazine that made me see how the slope starts becoming slippery when you try to decree what defensible, feminist porn is and what it isn't:

“The videos I watched—free teasers, to be sure—are tightly choreographed (freedom?) and entirely run-of-the-mill (empowering?), designed to appeal to precisely the prospective fraternity brother who revealed her identity to his peers. I am trying to understand how they can be spun as feminist. [Knox] does not appear to be in control of anything: The narrative, if this can be graced with such a lofty term, is utterly predictable, and everything is focused on male pleasure, the male gaze, and the inevitable cum-on-her-face crescendo....

"If she’d only stayed at Duke a little longer—and I, for one, hope she returns—she would have learned from a number of my fellow faculty members that there is a canyon between sexuality and pornography, an ocean between feminism and 'facial abuse.'”

So when is it ok? When it's shot by a female director? Distributed by a woman-owned company? When Knox does things that we would do in the privacy of our own bedrooms but not when she does things we deem too raunchy? Who is the grand judge of what “feminists” are allowed to do when they have sex for money? Tristan Taormino? Barbara Walters?

I admit that I don't like raunchy “facial” porn or scenes in which the women look like they're upset or in pain. But after seeing Knox attacked by the (mostly) judgy, nattering hens of The View, I realized the difficulty in parceling out feminist approval. Who are we to tell this young woman she should go to community college for the good of womenkind? It isn't my place any more than it's Baba Wawa's to decide what is empowering to another person. Or whether her reason for choosing the route that she did was good enough or what kind of porn scenes she should be shooting.

By the way, Baba, I went the “noble” waitressing route when I was in college and found it was not only the most stressful job I've ever had but also the most degrading. People treat you like a slave, clown and whore who exists only for their service and entertainment. Waitresses are forced to smile politely at stupid – and sometimes offensive – jokes, act like they care deeply that your steak wasn't cooked to your liking and share personal details about themselves when asked because customers think they are being kind pretending that you are a human being and not merely their servant.

But as much as I hated waiting tables, I don't expect to be congratulated for choosing that line of work over porn. What I got in return was to not be haunted by the specter of porn for the rest of my days because I assumed – correctly, I'm sure – that it would hurt my career. Because people are mean and judgmental. Even when they enjoy watching porn, as does Shepherd, Goldberg pointed out in the reaction segment. Many people evidently think it's perfectly fine to view it, but God help you and your soul if you're on the other side of the camera.

Knox didn't ask to be outed. She was thrust into the public eye and chose to respond and stick up for herself. As she wrote for xojane, “If people are going to talk about you, you might as well control the conversation and use it to start a dialogue, which in this case is about the abuses we inflict on sex workers.”

Instead of pretending the abuse and misery of some in the industry isn't there, as a lot of porn apologists do, Knox also wrote, “Of course, I do fully acknowledge that some women don't have such a positive experience in the industry. We need to listen to these women. And to do that we need to remove the stigma attached to their profession and treat it as a legitimate career that needs regulation and oversight. We need to give a voice to the women that are exploited and abused in the industry. Shaming and hurling names at them, the usual treatment we give sex workers, is not the way to achieve this.”

Maybe Knox is kind of a feminist crusader after all. The business has certainly caused her a crushing amount of grief. If it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, “Knox” might turn out to be one hell of a tough-as-nails lawyer.