College sophomore Miriam Weeks found herself at the center of an international controversy last year when she became infamous as the “Duke porn star.”
Now, Weeks wants to make waves in the political world.
She’s working with a libertarian group on her campus and has a burgeoning public speaking career. In a phone conversation with Business Insider on Monday, Weeks discussed how her adult film career influenced her libertarian activism.
“I think that my work and being in the porn industry definitely hits on so many libertarian themes like free speech, and censorship, and, you know, choice and autonomy over our bodies,” Weeks explained. “So I think that I’ve really become passionate about libertarian issues because of the intersection.”
Her public life began after a fellow student at Duke University revealed to their classmates that Weeks was performing in adult films using the alter ego “Belle Knox.” Weeks took control of the situation and gave a series of interviews where she said she entered the porn industry to help pay for college and discussed the social stigma against sex workers. She also identified herself as a libertarian.
“I’m conservative,” Weeks said. “I’m very socially liberal, but I’m very economically conservative.”
According to Weeks, a friend who saw these early interviews referred her to Students For Liberty, an organisation that bills itself as “the largest libertarian student organisation in the world.” She joined the group last summer, in between her freshman and sophomore year, and participated in its training programs online and in Washington, D.C.
Now, Weeks is the campus coordinator for Students for Liberty at Duke. In this capacity, Weeks said she brings speakers to campus, attends conferences and seminars, posts flyers, and maintains a presence for the group at school events. On the Students for Liberty website, Weeks identifies her “favourite figures in liberty” as Ayn Rand, economist Milton Friedman, and two other activists whose careers have included both sex and politics: porn star Nina Hartley and former call girl Maggie McNeill.
Weeks brought her first speaker to Duke on Tuesday: Ayn Rand Institute head Yaron Brook. She immediately rattled off two names when asked about whom she would ideally hope to bring to the school next.
“My dream list would be like Ron Paul, or Rand Paul would be really cool,” Weeks said, adding, “That would be pretty awesome.”
And given her affinity for the libertarian political dynasty, it should come as no surprise Weeks is ready to support Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) if he goes forward with his widely expected 2016 presidential bid.
“I totally endorse him,” Weeks said. “He actually graduated from Duke, so that’s just another reason for me to love him.”
Weeks declined to comment when asked about whether she’s still filming adult movies. However, she was clear she’s interested in going “further” in the political realm.
In addition to her work with Students for Liberty, Weeks said she was recently appointed to the national board of directors for the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Weeks also said she has given speeches at other colleges. In October, Weeks is scheduled to speak at LibertyFest, an annual libertarian event in New York City.
Weeks plans to focus on college costs and the decriminalization of sex work as she enters the world of political activism. She’s also interested in feminism, free speech, and censorship.
While her work in porn helped fuel her political beliefs, Weeks says she began developing her ideology earlier in life.
“I grew up Catholic, so I grew up in a very, very, conservative background and that, I think, really was kind of the impetus for why I wanted to become a libertarian. I was always being told to cover up my body and I was always being told to wait until marriage to have sex, that my body would go down if I didn’t wait till marriage to have sex,” Weeks explained, adding, “That really made me become a libertarian and become a feminist.”
After she came forward last year, Weeks said she faced a “lot of backlash both from people at school, people in the industry, and just the population in general.” She attributes this to those who believe porn is “bad for women” and a “puritanical attitude” that she said runs rampant in the country.
“I think that America has really deeply-seated kind of Christian puritanical values against sex. Our values really place the family unit at the center of our culture,” Weeks said. “You see it all the time in political rhetoric and people really view porn as a threat to the family unit. They really view porn as a threat to marriage and I really think that’s why some people have an issue.”
In contrast, Weeks said libertarians have generally been “really accepting” of her background.
“I think that it’s actually helped me within the libertarian community because I think that people have been able to kind of look past it and they do respect it. And I think they also do respect it that I made it into more of an academic thing and more of an educational thing,” she said.
Still, Weeks concedes there have been some exceptions to this accepting attitude.
“There’s, of course, been people in the libertarian community who have an issue with me, but it’s been because they have an issue with porn,” Weeks said.
And Weeks is definitely attracting attention in the libertarian world. Along with her growing list of affiliations and speaking engagements, Weeks pointed out that this week the website Liberty Viral included her on a list of “The 20 Hottest Libertarian Ladies of 2015.”
“That was neat,” Weeks said.
While she’s getting noticed in the libertarian world, Weeks said she hasn’t received mainstream media attention. She attributed this to bias against porn.
“People want to focus on the negative. … My story really has so many angles to it and there’s a narrative of women who do porn and women who do sex work of a victim. And I don’t fit that narrative because I am doing really positive things, like really cool academic and positive things,” Weeks said. “I think that media is scared. Like, if they write this article, ‘Belle’s Really Doing Well,’ then girls everywhere are going to want to do porn.”
Weeks hasn’t yet made a ton of headlines in the political world, but she sounds like she’s planning to. She said she definitely plans to work in politics after finishing college. Weeks indicated she wants to work as a legal advocate for women.
“People always laugh at me when I say this because everyone always thinks I can’t do it, but I want to be a lawyer for women. … Gloria Allred, she’s like my idol and I want to be her,” Weeks said. “Once I have my law degree and I kind of have that background … I would love to be somebody who could testify in front of Congress or somebody who does advocacy.”
Weeks also hinted she might even want to run for office one day.
“If someone would want to have me as their campaign assistant I would love to do that. I don’t know if I could ever win if I ran for political office because I’m very radical. I’m kind of very radical or extreme on the spectrum I feel like and, obviously you have to appeal to the average person, but you never know,” Weeks said, adding, “There’s a porn star in Italy who’s now a politician, so, you never know.”