An open letter to Lauren/Aurora
Whoever you are, I want to laud your courage in coming forward, speaking up and bringing your story into the light. I want to thank you for initiating a discourse that this campus, and this country, desperately need. No one talks about porn, really, and when they do, very rarely do people talk about the perspective of the actors involved, especially women.
I also want to apologize on behalf of everyone who has violated your privacy and insulted you personally. I made the mistake of reading through the comments on your Develle Dish post, and I was disgusted to see all of the responses that refused to acknowledge the validity of your position, refused to respect your personhood and autonomy and instead insisted upon squeezing you into the very box that you are trying to break out of. I noticed that you tried to respond to most, if not all, of the comments, and, while I appreciate the effort, my personal advice to you would be to limit the amount of time you spend responding to bottom feeding trolls. It's nice outside. Go take a walk in the Duke Gardens. Spend some food points at the WaDuke.
More to the point: I cannot support your decision to be complicit in pornography. I cannot condone your participation in an industry in which an overwhelming percentage of workers suffer rape and sexual assault. I cannot see your behavior as anything less than reinforcement of a status quo that actively harms and oppresses women.
Once upon a time, I was a liberal feminist, like you are now. I believed in female empowerment through sexuality, and I believed I could somehow destroy the patriarchy while wearing red lipstick, expensive bras and sexy high heels. I believed in porn and sex positivity and basically everything—as long as it was consensual, of course. I believed the most empowering thing for a woman was choice and that gender equality was the ultimate goal of the feminist movement.
But then I began to realize equality, whatever that means, would never be enough. Under the Constitution, men and women are treated “equally,” but women are paid 77 cents to a man's dollar, and our bodies are regulated by congressional committees while theirs are not. We are raped and sexually assaulted at rates as high as one in five, and identical resumes with a female name will be turned down while one with a male name is not. What's the meaning of equality when women are still being oppressed?
The thing about liberal feminism and “choice” is that it's based on a fantasy at best and an outright lie at worst. And the lie is this: As long as we make our own choices, we can be free.
That sounds reasonable, until you think about how you became the person you are and what past experiences and life philosophies you have that go into making your decisions. We were both socialized as women, and, consequently, we have both been taught that our values lie in our bodies and appearances, that we should be silent when men are talking, that our opinions are worth less and that, when we speak up, we should qualify our thoughts with phrases like, “Well, this is just what I think...”
In reality, the choices that we make concerning sex, gender and femininity don't happen in a vacuum. Our choices are based on our surroundings and our upbringing, and the consequences of our actions affect the choices that other women can make in the future. In becoming a porn star, you have played into a system that values a certain race, body type and class. You are able to make this decision because of your race, body type and class.
I have been lucky enough to receive financial aid so I can attend Duke, but if I had not, the same sex work opportunities available to you would not have been available to me as an Asian woman. We can try to reclaim words like “slut,” but we've got to remember that women of color are already labeled sluts, that, even as we try to find empowerment in our sexuality, women of color—black women in particular—can never escape being sexualized, even as children. What is truly “distressingly naïve” about this situation is that, often, we make choices without thinking about the systematic and institutional consequences of our actions.
You are on your path, and I am on mine. I am a radical feminist, which means that I believe in the abolition of gender. I no longer believe in “gender equality,” and, instead, I fight for women's liberation and an end to patriarchy and sexism.
Who am I to say that, if I were in your situation—if I were white, conventionally attractive, desirable, struggling financially and confident with my body—I would not have done the same thing? We read these articles on the Internet and, for a brief moment, we feel a flicker of superiority to someone else in a situation completely foreign to ours. We shake our heads, cluck our tongues and keep scrolling, thus forgetting the empathetic, compassionate people we are capable of being.
Once again, thank you so much for sharing your story. I wish you the best of luck for the rest of your journey.
Danica Liu is a Trinity sophomore.