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La Belle et Le Bête

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 Should anyone object to the total acceptance of promiscuity they are regarded as out of date, out of touch prudes.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 is an Anglican convert to Catholicism. He is married with four children and lives in Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church. He is an acclaimed author and blogger.