She looks young, younger than her 18 years. Sitting on a bed in a hotel room wearing baggy pajamas, glasses, and a far-away look, she looks at the camera and says bluntly, “A lot of s**t in my life has been ruined because of sex.”
It is then that you see her eyes. They look somehow old.
Hundreds of thousands of fans know her as Belle Knox, one of the most popular names in porn. The media often refers to her as the “Duke University porn star,” after a classmate revealed that she was paying her tuition by starring in porn shoots. We later discovered that the name her friends and family know her by is Miriam Weeks.
She has been touted far and wide as proof that porn can be empowering and evidence that feminists can sell their bodies as objects and still be, well, “feminist.” Here, porn supporters told us with satisfaction, is a nice girl from a Catholic home who loves to do porn just because she loves sex. Porn is, as Weeks told the cameras, “empowering” and “freeing” and “the way the world should be.”
And then, recently, Weeks did a series of interviews for an upcoming documentary. In them, she paints a much different picture than the freeing, empowering, sex-fueled fantasy world her fans and porn supporters claim she inhabits.
Is it any wonder that many fathers have a harder time connecting with their daughters, when they spend countless hours watching girls their daughters’ age being beaten up, raped, and subjected to every imaginable type of sexual degradation?
“The sex industry has a way of making you very cynical and very bitter,” a tired-looking Weeks tells an off-camera interviewer, “In a way I’ve started to become kind of a bit bitter and a bit cynical.”
Why? “It teaches you to be street smart and not to trust people…I’m so used to being on the lookout for scammers, people who are going to try pimp me out or traffic me. I think my experiences have aged me. I don’t have the mind of an eighteen-year-old. I have the emotional baggage of someone much, much older than me.”
Some of this baggage is what propelled her into the porn industry in the first place.
In many interviews, Weeks talks obsessively about how porn gives her control over her own sexual destiny: “In porn, everything is on my terms. I can say no whenever I want to. I am in control.” Later on, we discover why this is so important to her: Weeks reveals that she had been raped. “What porn has done for me,” she says firmly, “is it has given me back my agency.”
Even amidst the perverted adulation of porn-addicted fans, however, she still bears the scars of self-loathing. In some cases, literal scars. One day looking in the mirror, she became so overcome with self-hatred that she smashed the mirror and cut herself, slicing the jagged letters “FAT” into the flesh of her thigh. Thus, the reactions of many who found out that she had done porn shoots – who called her “ugly” and “a dumb whore” and said that she “should die” - proved devastating to Miriam. It is this ugly misogyny that increasingly fuels many porn viewers, and gives delusional publications like Salon the excuse they need to claim that working in porn has not hurt Miriam Weeks, but only opponents of porn who try to “shame” her.
Listening to Miriam tell her story, it boggles my mind that people can still defend the porn industry, or call it “empowering” or “the way the world should be.”
Miriam herself admits that her first scene, shot for a company she refers to as “Facial Abuse,” was “a really, really rough scene. I wasn’t prepared for how rough it was. It was weird having some random photographer watch me have my a** kicked on camera.” She talks about getting literally torn up during porn shoots. She admits that porn shoots in which she was physically beaten up until she sobbed were probably shoots she should have refused. Yet she didn’t.
The control is a myth too, of course. The porn industry has many ways of coercing the human beings they market into doing what they want. For one shoot, Miriam recalls almost tearfully, her agent wouldn’t tell her who she had to “work with.” When she arrived at the set, she realized he was fifty years old. She wanted to leave, but then she’d have to pay a 300 dollar “kill fee,” the director would have been furious, and, she says, she could never have worked for that company again. So she did it.
“I felt like crying during the entire scene and afterwards I was really, really upset,” Miriam says tearfully to the camera, looking like nothing more than the hurting 18-year-old girl she is. “I just thought of my mom, who was always there for me and always protected me…I think about my mom a lot when I do porn scenes. Just how sad she would be that her little daughter was doing this.”
And Mrs. Weeks’ little daughter does these things in part because of the demand. The demand of creepy grey-haired men twice her age or more who line up to get her photo autographed at porn conventions. Is it any wonder that many fathers have a harder time connecting with their daughters, when they spend countless hours watching girls their daughters’ age being beaten up, raped, and subjected to every imaginable type of sexual degradation?
Miriam Weeks, we see in her heart-breaking interviews, is just a hurting 18-year-old girl being used by an industry that takes girls like her, exploits their insecurities, promises them empowerment, and then subjects them to abuse and degradation until they can’t handle it any more. Then the carnivorous recruiters simply go out looking for fresh flesh to feed the baying cannibalistic mob, burning with insatiable lust and shouting their demands for new girls, new girls to degrade and discard.
A new day, a new human sacrifice at the altar of Eros.
The more fortunate girls realize they need to leave the industry. One of Miriam’s friends has told her that when she can no longer distinguish between her porn alter-ego and herself, it’s time to leave. Miriam is not quite sure what this means, she tells the interviewer, but she finds it interesting.
“People see Belle, but they don’t see Miriam,” she says sadly, “I think I’m…Miriam right now?”
And for all the world, she sounds as lost as our morally bankrupt culture.