Whether you watch porn or not, you’ve probably heard of the Duke University student who was so overwhelmed by tuition costs ($4,000 a month!) that she began shooting porn to pay for her education.
What you may not know is that this young woman has a name. It’s Miriam.
Miriam allowed some filmmakers to shoot a documentary on her journey, how an 18-year-old college student turned to porn, a film which I viewed recently (no, I won’t link to it), all the while shaking my head in sad recognition.
Honestly, none of Miriam’s story surprised me because, in the 16 years XXXchurch has been around, we’ve heard the same story so many times. Just like most everyone in porn, Miriam chose a “porn name” (Belle Knox) and would eventually come to refer to Belle as her alter ego, a creation that helped her transition between who she really is and what she was doing to make money.
We see it all the time: in order to keep going, most girls have to be able to turn it on and off; should those two worlds collide, it’s usually over for them.
According to the documentary I watched, Miriam grew up shy and kept mostly to herself. Though she became captain of the debate team in high school and was exceptionally smart, she was awkward and nerdy, which led to her being bullied as a kid. (And we all know that being isolated and being bullied can beat a person down and make them feel inferior.)
Fast forward to Miriam in college, with bills coming in, knowing her parents spent a lifetime in debt over their own educations. She started thinking about ways to pay for her education and considered what she had: a nice body, youth, and an enjoyment of sex.
So she simply Googled “How to be a porn star.”
Miriam quickly found her first job opportunity: the money was good and the producer’s talk was smooth, so she said yes and her career in porn was birthed. But although the $1,200 came fast and easy, the scene did not – it was a really rough scene she did not feel prepared for. After it was over, she was regretful and worried but fairly confident she would not be caught.
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I’m sure she felt empowered when she transitioned from Miriam to Belle, from a girl who never received much attention growing up to someone who was ogled by viewers around the world. She stated that her porn career puts everything on her terms, that she is in control. She can be Miriam in the day-to-day and then turn on Belle when it comes time to shoot porn or stand before crowds of men who pay to have their pictures taken with her during adult conventions.
Speaking of that last part: I found that to be the most difficult and troubling aspect of the film, watching grown men throw money at her like treats to a dog to be able to rub up against her in photos or to lift her skirt and touch her for a photo op. Truly unsettling.
I saw the end of the film coming from a mile away, because I’d seen it already in so many other young girls who are momentarily in the spotlight and feel empowered – it all came crashing down. Miriam started encountering whispers at school until her identity was fully exposed. She says her life is over, her family no longer speaks to her, and she has lost her best friends.
Miriam becomes so transparent stating that, “The industry has a way of making you bitter – it teaches you not to trust people and it ages you.” She said she no longer has the mind of an 18-year-old girl, but instead often feels like crying during scenes. It’s evident to me that the life she now has is not the life she thought she was signing up for.
Miriam is a young woman who once just wanted to be known and to fit in. And while she’s definitely now known, when most people look at her, they only see Belle.
Same old story.