CHATSWORTH, Calif.—For weeks, a media maelstrom has swirled around the Duke University freshman who's opted to pay her way at the prestigious Durham, N.C. school by performing in triple-X videos—and the natiowide fascination with the story is only picking up steam.
Until now, however, the fledgling women's studies major/porn starlet has kept her face and stage name unrevealed in all the interviews and statements she's offered on the matter. For the first time here, she has granted permission for her porn identity, Belle Knox, to be published, and she gave AVN a little more insight on herself and how her life has been turned upside-down since the public frenzy over her chosen sideline erupted just a few weeks ago.
One thing that may make Knox's story so fascinating to so many is the commonly held (and largely inaccurate) perception of porn performers as reckless delinquents with wayward pasts and no viable aptitudes to offer—in other words, the very antithesis of someone who could ever dream of getting into Duke.
Obviously, Knox defies that stereotype entirely. "I definitely had good grades, and I was very involved with my community," she told AVN. "I think the thing that differentiates Duke from other colleges is the insatiable passion its students have. We are extremely passionate, dedicated, driven people. I think that my passion was apparent in my application."
Of course, Knox is far from the first porn star to defy stereotypes, or prove highly intelligent (Sasha Grey being the forebear who most readily comes to mind), but something about one actually being enrolled at an institution like Duke nevertheless still seems jarring to many—like hearing one's grandparents spill the details of their wedding night. It just isn't supposed to happen.
But why not? Does somebody being intelligent somehow preclude them from enjoying porn and/or sex? It's clear that porn watching is completely prevalant on the Duke (and every other) campus—if it wasn't, Knox never would have been found out to begin with.
"I've been watching porn since I was 12," she said. "Even now, I sneak in some porn/vibrator sessions when my roommate leaves the room."
So how big a leap is it, really, for a student such as herself to do exactly what she did and actually give being in porn a try? She took all the proper steps in going about it: "I half-heartedly sent in my pictures to several porn agencies. Within days, I was inundated with calls from agents telling me that they saw potential in me and they wanted to fly me out to L.A. right away. I researched every agency that contacted me, and from there I was able to weed out potential scammers or people I wouldn't want to work with.
"Matrix Models [which also represents 2014 AVN Best New Starlet Mia Malkova] stood out to me," Knox continued, "both because it manages so many top models, and because the owner, John Steven, is an incredibly savvy person who genuinely cares about his girls' safety and well being. He is very relaxed and has never pushed me to do a scene I felt uncomfortable with."
Still, just because she's been responsible about how she's pursued this path doesn't mean Duke is going to be any more accepting of it. Pleasantly to the contrary, however, Knox says, "The Duke administration has been completely supportive of me. Their priority is my safety and well being, and they've made that very clear to me. I am not breaking any rules and am regarded as a student in good standing. If they were to try and sanction me for my legal activities, I would raise hell. Same goes for any college administration that tries to sanction a student for engaging in sex work."
The much bigger problem facing Knox, it would seem, is navigating life among her fellow students now that everybody knows her as "that girl."
"My day-to-day life is drastically different than how it was before I was outed," she expressed. "I feel the stares and occasional glares from other students as I walk to class. I feel like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. I go to class and try to ignore all of the resentment."
And on the flip side of that resentment—embodied by scathing comments on student message boards, campaigns on social media to have her expelled and more—is the ill-informed enthusiasm for her presence among a healthy portion of the school's male populace predicated on the notion that because she does porn, bedding her is a sure bet.
"Don't ask me just because you think I'm super promiscuous and will have sex with you," Knox warned. "It's not going to happen. I hate being manipulated and it will piss me off if you try to use me. I'm totally down with casual flings, but I want to spend time with someone who likes me for me. Not Belle."
She does have her genuine supporters on campus, she attests: "The LGBTQ community at Duke has especially rallied for me and supported me, for which I feel so blessed."
Above all else, perhaps Belle Knox's story signals a shifting point of sorts in the normalization of porn. AVN Mainstream Star of the Year James Deen, for one—who performed with her (and Jenna J. Ross) in a scene for X-Art.com—thinks so.
"I'm not proof of porn going mainstream," Deen opined. "All I did was make some movie. This is proof of porn going mainstream. It's further legitimizing it. Because all this is, is press. I would hire her because I worked with her and she did a great job and she's super cute, and people might Google her and I might get some clicks on that, but she's not going to necessarily sell any more porno.
"But what she would do is be able to take this and leverage it into a book deal or something like that, just like a reality star," he suggested. "Because porn has become more mainstream over the years, and now she can actually market the fact that she is the Duke porn girl, like Teen Mom can market the fact that she's Teen Mom."
Whether or not Knox might consider any such option, she maintains, "My plan is to do porn to pay my way through school, but I would love to be a women's rights lawyer and advocate. I'm confident that my experience in the industry will inform my knowledge and help me in my future career."
Belle Knox can be found on Twitter @belle_knox.
Photo of Belle Knox courtesy of Kelly Madison Media.