Duke Freshman Is Also a Porn Star, and We Could Learn a Few Things From Her

Lauren is a freshman at Duke, and she's also a porn star. A piece today in the Chronicle, Duke’s daily independent newspaper, tells the story of the first-year student — a Republican, a feminist, and an aspiring lawyer who moonlights as an adult film actress on her days off. And we could all learn a few lessons about feminism from her.

Prestigious, private universities like Duke can cost in the neighborhood of $60,000 for tuition and room and board, and paying for it can be a nightmare. Students work multiple jobs, take out loans, and often start their careers — in an economy where it’s tough to find any jobs, let alone the ones you trained for — heavily in debt. Meanwhile, consider that adult film industry talent agent Mark Spiegler told Business Insider in 2012 that female performers typically make $800 for girl-girl scenes and $1,000 for guy-girl scenes, with the figures rising depending on the act performed. If a female performer films one heterosexual scene a day for one week every month, her annual income is $84,000.

Well, Lauren did the math. Then she Googled “how to be a porn star.” And now she works a great-paying job when she’s not working towards her degree. During breaks, she flies out to Los Angeles to shoot. Her parents don’t know, but she’s an adult; they don’t need to.

And before anyone says that contributing to the porn industry is anti-feminist, Lauren has a few things to say about it. “I think the thing lacking in feminism is that women are making decisions for other women,” she says. "If the patriarchy is about men making decisions for women and taking away their agency, why do some feminists want to control other women’s decisions?” And she’s got a point. The argument that women should be able to make their own decisions regarding their bodies extends beyond reproductive rights. She continues, “Feminism to me means advancing my personal liberty, my opportunity in the world, while also championing my body and my right to choose what to do with my body.” True. That. She says that being Aurora (her porn stage name) is “probably the most empowered I’ve ever felt.” And who are we to judge that?

Lauren had worked as a waitress in high school — and as anyone who has ever worked in the service industry will tell you, it’s a hard gig. “Not only did it interfere with my school where I was barely sleeping and wasn’t doing my work, but I was also making $400 a month after taxes. I felt like I was being degraded and treated like s—t,” she says. “My boss was horrible to me.”

Here’s the most important thing, though: She loves the work. “To be paid to do what you love,” Jude Law’s character says in Road to Perdition. “Ain’t that the dream?” It is — and for Lauren, porn is it. “For people to tell me that doing porn and having sex, which I love,” she says, “is more degrading than being a waitress and being somebody’s servant and picking up after somebody and being treated like a lesser, second-class citizen, that literally makes no sense. To be perfectly honest, I felt more degraded in a minimum wage, blue-collar, low paying, service job than I ever did doing porn.”

To address the issue of sexism in porn: Yes, the industry is rampant with it. But so are many industries, which is why we need to get more women in all of them — even porn. Especially porn, some might argue — having women in positions of power within that industry will mean that women will be able to better control the narratives and treatment of women in pornography. And that’s what Lauren intends to do. “You’re right, all the directors are male — there may be two female directors in the entire world that are porn directors,” she says. “If anything, that means I need to go in there and I need to change it.” I can’t think of anything more feminist than that.

Image: Mihalis A./Fotolia