Local News

A secret no more: Porn pays for Duke student's tuition

Posted February 24, 2014 8:36 p.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2014 3:56 p.m. EST

— The secret’s out – kinda. And it has become the talk of the country.

A Duke University freshman, described as a Republican and aspiring lawyer, is paying for her $60,000 yearly tuition by performing in adult films.

The student, whose real name has not been revealed, has received both criticism and praise. In an online op-ed, "Lauren" said doing porn allows her to “graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love.”

Empowered and happy

In a piece on the website XO Jane, “Lauren” not only details her decision to go into porn but also tries to provide a voice to those who work in the industry.

“I can say definitively that I have never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else,” she wrote. "It is freeing, it is empowering, it is wonderful, it is how the world should be.”

Word of her part-time job spread across campus after one of her classmates, Thomas Bagley, recognized her while watching porn, according to an article in The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper. “Lauren” confirmed the information when Bagley approached her, and asked him to keep her identity a secret.

Instead, he told others at a fraternity rush event, according to the article.

“The storm began when I came back to school from Christmas break, happy and confident in myself,” she wrote in the op-ed.

She first noticed an uptick in Facebook friend requests. Then a fellow student followed her alter ego on Twitter.

“When I got the notification, my heart stopped,” she wrote.

The subsequent reaction on campus and beyond was more than she expected.

”I certainly did not expect that extremely personal information concerning my identity and whereabouts would be so carelessly transmitted through college gossip boards,” she wrote

But while ridiculed, “Lauren” stands behind her decision and has no plans to change her part-time job.

A talker on and off-campus

“Lauren’s” actions do not violate any student code of conduct, said Keith Lawrence, university spokesman.

“While we can't answer any question related to a specific student, there is no restriction in the Duke Community Standard related to appearing in adult films,” he told WRAL News.

“Lauren” has been talked about on CNN and her story has been retold on news and magazine websites across the country, including Cosmopolitan. Online comments to her story, minus many that were deleted, highlight a discussion about elements of the porn industry, including drug use, how women are treated and the role porn plays in society.

But in Durham, the reaction has been mixed.

"A lot of my close friends support her, but I know there are a lot of other people who take a very moralistic perspective on it," said Colm Humphrey, a Duke freshman. "I don't think we have any real right to say that this is a wrong way to do because...Duke's an expensive school."

Many students learned about "Lauren" after the Chronicle article ran on Feb. 14.

"I read it and there was like a hundred comments," said Rachel Silver, a Duke student. "I admire her for coming out and sharing her opinion on the matter and clearing a lot of rumors up."