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La Belle et Le Bête Print E-mail
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker   
Thursday, 20 March 2014

Beauty and the Beast is, of course, the story of a beautiful young maiden who enchants a beastly bloke and turns him into the noble prince he was destined to be all along. Beauty conquers the beast. Belle bests the Bête. 

All of this took a turn some weeks ago when a Duke University freshman named Miriam Weeks revealed that she was the beauty with the nom de porn of “Belle Knox.” This version of the fairy tale had a sting in the tail. This college beauty had turned into a beast. Oh, she was still pretty enough, but she admitted that she was making pornographic movies to pay her college tuition.

What was most revealing was not that she was prostituting herself, unscrupulous or desperate young women have been doing so from time immemorial. Otherwise we would not call it the oldest profession. What was unusual was not her profession, but her confession.

Belle Knox appeared on the Piers Morgan television show to defend herself. The women’s studies major pointed out that she had chosen to be a porn actress. She denied that she was being exploited. Everyone she had met in the porn industry, she claimed, was friendly, polite, and professional. Furthermore, she hoped to open a charity in the future to help abused sex workers.

Her confession revealed the morality not only of Belle Knox, but of the majority of our country. Most Americans can’t really have any argument against Belle’s beastly choice. 

They already seem to believe that sex is for recreation not procreation. They accept that it is perfectly natural for a healthy young woman to sleep with as many men as she wants, and that college is the time to “hook up.” Should anyone object to the total acceptance of promiscuity they are regarded as out of date, out of touch prudes.

The common assumption is that anyone is welcome to have sexual intercourse with anyone else in whatever way as long as everyone consents. Sex is like tennis. It’s fun if you have a good partner.

When you follow the logic, if Belle decides to get paid for her hobby why should anyone have a problem? For the typical American, why should her decision to get paid be any different than a college basketball player who decides to go professional? 

No doubt some will be “offended,” but are they really? No. It’s just the “yuck” factor. It’s a question of snobbery not morals. They think porn performers are all trashy people from the wrong side of L.A. When a smart, pretty, middle-class girl turns to porn, they’re shocked, not because of the morals, but because it was an error in taste. In other words it’s okay for Belle to sleep around, but it’s not nice if she does so with the camera rolling and the porn exec counting out the loot. It’s not something Mummy would like to brag about at the country club.

The gigantic beast in the room is the fact that the vast majority of Americans do not have an intelligent and intelligible reason for not endorsing the sexual free-for-all. Even worse, the majority of Christians have no good reason to encourage chastity and restraint.

For generations the only weapons the Christians had against sexual immorality were prohibitions based on Bible texts and fear. So the lecture started: “You shouldn’t fornicate because the Bible says you shouldn’t! If you do that you’ll get the girl into trouble! Good girls don’t do that. You might get pregnant! You’ll get a horrible disease and go insane. Don’t do that.”

With improved health care and the invention and acceptance of artificial contraception young people had an answer. 

“You’ll get the girl pregnant…”

“Its okay. She’s on the pill.”

“You’ll get a disease!”

“They have penicillin.”

“The Bible says you shouldn’t fornicate!”

“That was then. This is now.”

Christians can now do nothing but huff and puff and threaten to blow the house down. Nobody believes them. Pandora’s box has been opened, and the sprites that have emerged are too delightful to imprison once again.

The only Christians who propose a coherent and consistent answer are the Catholics, and our reasoning is simple and profound.

The reason Belle should not behave like a beast is because she is not a beast. She is a child of God. Her reproductive system was designed to give life, not just pleasure. Her choice to live only for pleasure and not for life means she is denying life and if you deny life you choose its opposite. 

John Paul II’s theology of the body teaches that every human soul is enmeshed with a physical body and that our bodies are the means by which we experience the eternal. The metaphysical dwells in and through the physical. Our bodies are the transceivers of the transcendental.

To put it simply, because our souls and bodies are entwined, what we do with our bodies affects the state of our souls. Only a sacramentally based religion can transmit this truth. Protestantism won’t do.

Therefore choices are to be made. Our destiny as human beings is to participate in eternal beauty. Every physical choice for the truly beautiful leads to the ultimate Beauty.  It follows, therefore, that if we choose to behave as beasts with our bodies, we may finally find ourselves at the feast of the Beast.

 
Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s latest book is The Romance of Religion – Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Visit his blog, browse his books, and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (16)Add Comment
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written by Rosemary, March 20, 2014
I agree with you totally, Fr. Dwight, but Belle's words and actions tell me that she is hardly interested in her reproductive system, much less the state of her soul.

What is truly sad to me is that she treats herself as an OBJECT. It's bad enough when others objectify her but when she does it to herself it appears to be like some type of masochism. Why does she see herself that way? Does she really see herself as a piece of meat with a brain?

Everyone, yes, everyone wants to be loved for THEMSELVES. As JPII said in the Gospel of Life, God created us "for our own sake" before all else, so great is His love for us. If we were not so afraid of knowing ourselves, of seeing ourselves as the lovely creatures that God made, we might see that we are not so bad after all! In fact, we are amazing, thanks to God.

Poor Belle! She's not a beast. She's a "thing". An instrument that does porn. She has no idea about who she is or how wonderful she was made to be. Perhaps someday she will. I pray.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, March 20, 2014
And if Belle goes on enough talk shows with the likes of Mr. Morgan (also a child of God even if he doesn't know it) she might eventually convince herself that the lie she promotes is really the truth. But God knows that there are not enough talk shows to achieve this aim. Belle, the truth is in there - somewhere. If you just quit talking for awhile, it just might surface.
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written by ron a., March 20, 2014
Good article father. Your faith and understanding inspires. As I see it, to ignore, to spin, to rationalize is the secular game. To not obey is the ultimate gamble. I'll take Pascal before Hefner, to eternity, before he can blink his wandering eye.
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written by schm0e, March 20, 2014
I avoid topics like this - base, vulgar, debauched - when I see them in the news. I find it desensitizes and makes base and vulgar that which contemplates it. But alas, this one was delivered to my email account, and dressed up as something edifying. And with such flourishes of wordplay!

Some topics should not be trifled with. The devil is not a pet.

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written by Myshkin, March 20, 2014
I agree with schm0e: why does TCT run this kind of puerile post? It really is tabloid stuff better left to other more scandal-driven websites. Like Fr. Longenecker's own blog on Patheos. There's something unseemly here ...

Please return TCT to the high ground. If you want to run a post on the evils of prostitution or porn get someone to do it properly, like Mary Eberstadt.

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written by maineman, March 20, 2014
I believe the proper response to learning of this is not disgust but sadness and pity. This young woman is a tragic figure, and it is not too difficult to fast-forward to the moment when reality intrudes and she realizes what she has done to herself.

The same will happen, eventually, to the rest of the world as it awakens from the nightmare it has fashioned for itself.

We need to be there for her and for them when those moments of reckoning arrive, as Jesus was for the prostitute with the ointment who barged in while he was a dinner guest. To take the stance that this essay is unseemly seems to me to be the attitude of the Pharisee.
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written by Athanasius, March 20, 2014
I think this is an excellent article, and very appropriate for publication at TCT. It addresses the dignity do the human person and the damage that modern culture is doing to it. This is what is out there, folks, and you can't fight it if you hide your heads in the sand and pretend it isn't there.
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written by Bruno, March 20, 2014
In Walker Percy's "Love in Ruins", the protagonist is a lapsed Catholic who has fallen away after losing his child to a terrible disease and being abandoned by his wife for a British fake guru. Since then, he spends his days drinking and fooling around.

At some point in the book, we realize that part of the spiritual drama of the protagonist (a descendant of Thomas More with the same name) is that he can't bring himself to repent for fornicating. So he doesn't even bother confessing, as he knows he cannot get absolution.

I beg to disagree with schm0e and Myshkin. Sexual morals is one of the major problems faced by the lay Catholic today. Gone are the times when we were protected from sin by collective morality. Each and everyone of us must now make an effort of remembrance and reasoning to resist the overwhelming tide of change and degeneration. With the antinomian mood currently in the air, outside of but also inside the Church, searching the purpose of the law is essential to understand that it is not arbitrary, but a commandment of love.
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written by Chris in Maryland, March 20, 2014
Athanasius is right.
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written by WSquared, March 20, 2014
Excellent article, and timely. There's just so much to ponder here. Complaints that it's not "appropriate" are unfounded.

It addresses the dignity due the human person and the damage that modern culture is doing to it.

And it addresses all the more why that damage is in fact subtle, and why Catholics do themselves no favors if they can't address it. Ignoring Humanae Vitae bears bad fruit in a range of ways whose scope is much bigger than just contraception, abortion, "smaller families," and "fewer vocations," even if those things are important.

For generations the only weapons the Christians had against sexual immorality were prohibitions based on Bible texts and fear. So the lecture started: “You shouldn’t fornicate because the Bible says you shouldn’t! If you do that you’ll get the girl into trouble! Good girls don’t do that. You might get pregnant! You’ll get a horrible disease and go insane. Don’t do that.”

Many ill-catechized Catholics leaning either too strict or too lax essentially ignore or misrepresent Church teaching on sexuality, because they pick up what the larger "Christian" culture throws down: as such, they essentially reduce the Church's teaching on sexuality to middle-class "respectability" and some version of "God hates sl_ts." Not for a moment is it ever about having a more holistic understanding of the human person, which is what "having the fullness of the Truth" offers.

Also, that "Christian" culture tends to assume that faith and reason don't mix. Which is not what the Catholic Church teaches. The coexisting extremes of both "kumbaaya catechesis"/dumbed-down "coloring-book" Catholicism and self-professed "true" Catholics mandating what the Church does not of course just makes things worse: what the Church actually teaches and why gets lost in a culture that presumes that religion has nothing to do with metaphysics.

When a smart, pretty, middle-class girl turns to porn, they’re shocked, not because of the morals, but because it was an error in taste. In other words it’s okay for Belle to sleep around, but it’s not nice if she does so with the camera rolling and the porn exec counting out the loot.

The conspicuously operative words in that paragraph are "nice" and "taste." For the average American, it's "okay" for a smart, pretty, middle-class girl to sleep around, supposedly, because everybody "consented" (how "nice" of them...), she's going to college at a top school, is "nice," and "has nice things."

Fits in perfectly well with Mummy and Daddy and their country club, to say nothing of the pervasive idea that "it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you're a 'good' (qua 'nice') person." But it's all very... "respectable." Not for nothing did Ven. Fulton Sheen remark that "Christ did not come to make us nice people. He came to make us new men." Again, a spiritual reality that is unintelligible to a culture that presumes that religion has nothing to do with metaphysics.

To put it simply, because our souls and bodies are entwined, what we do with our bodies affects the state of our souls. Only a sacramentally based religion can transmit this truth. Protestantism won’t do.

Bingo. Catholicism is the religion of the Incarnation. Professed belief in the Incarnation-- and that God can and does act through matter-- has logical consequences. As does any denial thereof. ...something that Joseph Ratzinger gets at in both prefaces to Introduction to Christianity and also in his Jesus of Nazareth books. To paraphrase some of what he wrote in the "Infancy Narratives" volume: we like to think that God is only "allowed" in the "spiritual" realm-- in our private thoughts and emotions. We think He's "not allowed" where matter is concerned. But either God can act through matter, or He's not really God.
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written by Augustine, March 20, 2014
Morgan's show is being cancelled, so it's no surprise why he invited the Belle Bête over. What is surprising is her denial actually. For why does she feel that a charity to help abused sex workers is needed if only one here or there were abused, but par for the course in this cruel business?
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written by nady, March 20, 2014
This is an excellent article.To those who think this is not appropriate,what do you want to read that everything is alright out there?
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written by JRF, March 20, 2014
Excellent article! Timely and Catholic in its argument and reasoning. It always troubles me to read the comments to articles in TCT that are spot on in today's wrenched world written by "cafeteria Catholics". The only thing worse for me is dealing with priests who are cafeteria Catholics of which there are many.
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written by CCR From Buenos Aires, March 20, 2014
"Christians can now do nothing but huff and puff and threaten to blow the house down."

I agree that most Christians can do nothing about the onslaught of lawlessness everywhere. In fact this has happened because we Christians have been long asleep at the wheel. When did I hear a homily stressing the relationship between the pill, abortion, pornography, and the never ending economic problems of the world? [crickets here] What do people do when they are left rudderless and poorly educated about the fundamentals of their faith? Answer: they go with the flow and the flow ultimately goes to Hell.

Certainly the case of this poor girl should be the matter of a lot of reflection, prayer, etc. I hope she gets to understand one day how badly she is being used and repents but I also hope WE ALL realize how we have been derelict from duty for generations now. Belle is the victim of my (our) slacking on taking the Gospel to her. I think this due to ignorance for most of us. I find most Catholics are appallingly ignorant about their faith. We do not know how to connect the Gospel of Christ with our day to day. We do not make disciples (except the likes of Scott Hahn,) we are the lazy servants who fail to feed our co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. The situation is out of control because a lot of leaders failed to lead, and a lot of disciples had no one near to follow. I do not see signs of change in this respect. If “God ... shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We are going to experience, in fact we are experiencing these pains today because of our laziness.

I know I am guilty and I hope I can wake up as many of my brothers and sisters as I can. We can't continue to live pretending that we belong to a salvation country club. The association with Christ means Cross & Gospel, witnessing and making disciples. There is no way around that.

Marveling at the depravity of this world will get us nowhere.
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written by Lsia Andrews, March 21, 2014
I find it interesting that in the article and all the comments, no one has talked about the elephant in the room: who will view the films she has made, how it will impact them, and her complicit role in the results. This is not just about her own behavior and the state of her morals. She is enabling viewers (presumably predominantly men) to enter a state of mind and being that is intrinsically damaging to themselves, and those close to them. It also might be a catalyst for violence against others. Is this not a major reason to decry her "decision"?
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written by CCR From Buenos Aires, March 21, 2014
@L. Andrews: You are right but then accusing her would get us nowhere. She is a free moral agent, I am a man and also a free moral agent and I can watch that or not. If no one was watching she would have no occasion for sin. If there was no porn then no one would have an occasion to watch it. The article points a one among many symptoms of degradation in our society. I think the missing point here is not how degraded our society is but how do we go back to Christian moral standards freely accepted by most. I think the Russians got the point. After 70 years of "do as you like" so called freedom now they are massively turning to Orthodox Christianity. Even their leaders are openly devout. They have learned by experience. It looks like we are also going to have to learn by our own experience.

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