The F’s we give F’s about
SEX. PORN. XXXTRA HOT GIRLS. FIVE GIRLS, ONE ANTIQUE VICTORIAN VASE.
Now that I’ve roped you in, I’m sorry to disappoint. You’ll find no more porn here than on my well-maintained browser history—which, frankly, never had any porn on it but did have some embarrassing queries, mostly from Cards Against Humanity terms I didn’t understand. (Seriously, who just knows what “smegma” is off the top of their head?) Yet in recent days, it seems that, unless it’s about porn or sex or prostitution, this campus doesn’t want to talk about it.
Now, I’ve always been a proponent of open and honest dialogue about all things sexy. Yet, the current campus conversation is not about consent or sex-positive feminism or discovering your sexuality. It’s about one student who, for better or worse, opted for work in the porn industry over a job waiting tables or cleaning toilets at McDonald’s. When news of this “rising porn starlet” broke on campus, it exploded. I haven’t seen students more obsessed with porn since eighth grade, when it was the cool thing to do to make your friends Google “kids in the sandbox” and click on the first link, then laugh hysterically as you sexually scar them for life. Seriously, the fact that that was the first time I ever saw a penis probably explains a lot about our generation.
All in all, at this moment, campus is a big, sloppy, probably over-lubricated mess of meddling, slut-shaming and unhealthy obsession with one person’s sex life. Perhaps you think porn is immoral. After an open intellectual discussion, most of us would probably agree the porn industry is inherently sexist, racist and frequently homophobic. (But it’s just so darn fun, am I right?) But why have we concerned ourselves so much with this one particular participant in it? To me, it begs the question: Why give a f---?
Seriously though. Why are the details of a random student’s sexploits the fodder of our conversations? Porn isn’t really the craziest thing someone could do. Sure, maybe porn stars have sex with someone they don’t know all too well. Is that any different than what many Duke students do—according to the laws of our (very white, very heteronormative) hook-up culture?
And sure, porn stars get paid to have sex. Again, despite that there are certainly problems with the industry, I fail to see how that is problematic on an individual level. How does a person being willing to have sex for money make them any more promiscuous or “slutty” than someone who has casual sex without being paid? Getting paid for your awkward college sexploits in money sounds a hell of a lot better than getting paid in awkward morning bus rides, terribly-placed hickies and the long-lasting taste of Shooters dick. As a matter of fact, I don’t know why I haven’t been charging all along. Look out, previous sexual missteps: My bill is in the mail.
What’s further interesting to me is that, in this age of over-sharing, I would be surprised if Duke doesn’t have more than one “rising porn star.” Tinder and Snapchat are basically begging for you to broadcast your dick pics across cyberspace, and for all we know, NSA agents probably touch themselves to your dick on the weekends. But more likely, I’d bet there are at least 50 Duke students who have, at some point, been a star of Reddit’s r/GoneWild subreddit (or, perhaps more terrifying, the r/SpaceDicks subreddit), where hundreds of people post naked pictures every day. What’s the difference between your genital GIF and a porn film, other than that you didn’t get paid?
Yet perhaps what is most infuriating about the backlash against Duke’s “porn starlet” is that people on this campus are demonizing a girl for consensual sex. Although sex work can be viewed as inherently coercive and the porn industry is truly warped, in interviews with the Chronicle, Duke’s resident porn star expressed agency in her choices. The campus uproar over her actions, then, brings me back to the question: Why give a f---? The sexual decisions a person makes are his or her decisions alone. Sure, you may be curious about the life of a porn star, but there is no need to hunt them down, out them and belittle them online. The freshman porn star at Duke had consensual sex with someone. Whoop-dee-doo. Where is the huge campus backlash and witch-hunt when someone gets reported for rape? Although not unexpected, it is repugnant that our campus is in uproar over one freshman’s consensual sex, yet no one bats an eye about the many known rapists who live on this campus alongside their victims every day.
Duke’s warped relationship with sex did not begin with and does not end with one porn star. There are entire websites devoted to the “biggest sophomore sluts” and the frats that are secretly (or not so secretly) the “most gay.” Mornings after, frat bros sit in common rooms, casually discussing intimate details of their hook-ups for anyone to hear. We’ve inflated the importance of the sex lives of others so much that we literally call down national news outlets to come pass judgment on them. And when some sex scandal inevitably breaks each year, we take it upon ourselves to judge the lives and decisions of others.
An on-campus conversation about sex that centers on rumors, gossip and slut-shaming is not productive, for either positive sexual health or for the prevention of sexual assault. As Duke’s latest sex scandal comes to an end and another one inevitably rears its (probably-not-actually-that-ugly) head, I urge you to ask yourself if you should really be giving f---s about the f---s you give f---s about.
Lillie Reed is a Trinity senior. Her column is part of the weekly Socialites feature and runs every other Wednesday. Send Lillie a message on Twitter @LillieReed.