Apologies, because this story is old now. Very, very old, at least in terms of the 24-hour news cycle. Heck, it was old when I wrote it, in a way, because these things play out so fast on the internet that it’s really hard to keep up. But I like to think we do a good job of that over at Penthouse.
When my editor asked me to do this interview, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I’d followed the news of the story, of course, but it felt like everything was already out there. Plus, this was an 18-year-old college student, and she was in the middle of a media frenzy. I couldn’t imagine having to contribute to that chaos. But I never say no to a good story (ask my editors), so I read everything I could find and tried to figure out what hadn’t been covered yet.
Of course, it should be noted that I had a bit of an advantage: I work for Penthouse. I can’t think of any girl in the adult industry who doesn’t want to be in our magazine, so it gave me a bit of an edge. Plus, unlike a lot of the reporters who were doing stories for mainstream outlets, porn was my beat. I’ve interviewed more than my share of X-rated ladies, and am friends with plenty of them as well, so I had a better idea of what the business was like than all those news reporters who’d beat me to the story.
It felt strange interviewing someone who was creating such a big hurricane of news at only 18. I remember being 18, a freshman in college, and what that was like, and I have to say, I did not envy Belle’s predicament. It was hard enough figuring out how to balance school and a social life and extra curriculars without the rigid structure that high school had provided. I’d also once interviewed a freshman rape victim at my college, and though her story created only the tiniest buzz, and only in our city, I saw firsthand what the media attention did to her. So multiply that by about a million and my mind was spinning just thinking about the everyday challenges Belle was facing—like should she just throw her phone out the window and hide in her room until it all died down. And while that seemed like a fine idea to me, it wasn’t quite what Belle had in mind.
She carried on a great conversation, and was very intelligent, but her youth and naiveté showed through. I had to remind myself over and over that although I was only 10 years older than her, I’d also spent most of those 10 extra years of life working in the adult industry. I had years of anecdotal evidence about what life is like on the inside, and when you “grow up” and try to get out. Her notions of going on to become a lawyer and do all these other things, they’re sweet, but they’re naive. In a world where everything you do is on the internet forever, it’s hard to imagine there being many jobs for a former porn actress, even if she gets a law degree. I mean, I hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to see the world stop caring about what people do in their personal lives, but it’s hard to imagine. I’ve faced plenty of discrimination for working in this business, and I’m simply a writer and editor, and a fully clothed one at that.
The thing I found most interesting about Belle, though, was how positive she was about the whole thing. Whatever you think of her or porn or the choices she’s made since her story broke, she’s managed to find a way to spin things her way. At 18, I don’t think I could have stayed so positive and kept up a happy appearance if I were being bashed in the news every day, and I don’t know many others who could, either. And for that, I’m totally in awe of Belle.
If you want to get to know more about Belle Knox (or see a little more of Belle, I suppose), please check out my interview with her, “The School of Hard-core Knox,” from the June issue of Penthouse.