“I would rather be screwed on camera than screwed by our education system.” That statement basically sums up how college student Miriam Weeks feels about her decision to enter the porn industry as a means to pay for her $62,000 a year tuition at Duke University. Miriam (better known by her porn alias Belle Knox) came to UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday, September 9th to talk about college tuition and her views on what should be done to make college more accessible.
Belle is a women’s studies and political science double major at Duke University and found that upon entering the school, her parents, who are first generation immigrants, could not afford the unusually high tuition that she was faced with. So instead of taking out loans and applying for grants from the government, she did what any other logical person would do. She joined the porn industry. Making about $1,200 a scene, Belle had found an unconventional, yet effective way to pay for her education out of pocket. Needless to say, her decision to pay for college by becoming a porn star definitely made a splash among major news outlets. Belle wrote an op-ed for Time Magazine Online, and has been featured in The Huffington Post, The New York Post, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Daily Beast, Fox News, and the Spectator just to name a few.
Alright, we get it, doing porn to pay for college is a big deal, but she’s probably not the first, so it’s not THAT big of a deal, right? Well no, it’s not that big of a deal in and of itself, but the kicker in this situation is the fact that Belle is a very outspoken critic of the higher education system, and to make things even more interesting, she is a well-versed libertarian who also identifies herself as a feminist. So we have a porn star/libertarian/feminist who spends a lot of her time giving talks about how to fix our higher education system… Before your brain implodes at that thought, allow me to try and do some justice to these labels.
Belle’s talk at UNC focused primarily on her stance regarding college affordability and during that talk, along with the Q&A afterwards, she cast some light on her political beliefs. The problem she outlined with higher education is largely accurate and it really only takes a basic understanding of economics to grasp: When the government gives out subsidies (grants, loans, etc.) it will create a greater demand for education, therefore colleges can hike up their prices because the students are under artificial hope that everything is paid for, when in reality when those students graduate, they are faced with debts that they cannot pay off and are forced to default on the debt, which doesn’t matter to the colleges, because they are getting their money either way.
Belle advocates solutions such as preparing some for trade school, community college, or the workforce. She says that the main issue is that everyone thinks they have to go to college in order to have a quality standard of living, and that isn’t always the case. Those that do go to college, Belle says, should seek financial help in the form of “state aid, charities, and scholarships” rather than seeking loans from the federal government. Belle says that if colleges do not change their ways, “Higher public education will collapse… in the business sense.”
Just from Belle’s stance on education, you can see why she would identify herself as a libertarian, but why the feminist label? When prompted by a student to answer that question, Belle said, “Feminism is not a one size fits all movement… I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t interfere with me.”
Despite the fact that Belle Knox seems to have her life in order, she does have some regrets about her decisions. When talking about choosing Duke over a more affordable public school, she said, “If I could go back in time and do it again, I probably wouldn’t go to Duke (Belle had a full scholarship to Vanderbilt). Also, she says she “would never advise anyone to go into the porn industry”. Belle spoke about how she didn’t really enjoy doing porn, saying it was “uncomfortable and unnatural”. Surprisingly enough, Belle does indeed identify with some moral standards and said that “porn, for me, can be summed up in one word: guilt.” She claims that she feels guilt for putting her family through the ridicule that they have faced (Belle and her family have received multiple death threats since she joined the porn industry).
So what does Belle’s future look like after college? Her plan is to quit the porn industry and attend law school once she graduates. When asked about her association with porn in the professional world, she said “there will be people who will refuse to hire me based on my previous work, but there also will be people who will hire me, despite that. We’re in a progressive age”
Belle Knox is definitely changing up the game when it comes to paying for college, and is using her newfound fame to promote a solution to the problem of high college tuition that many colleges should listen to. You do you Belle Knox, my hat is off to you. When asked how she thought we should approach the tuition problem, Belle said it better than anyone else could; “I don’t think that we should lie down and take it anymore.”
Belle Knox’s talk at UNC was sponsored by the Young American’s for Liberty. For more information, go to http://www.yaliberty.org.