Why Duke student’s method of paying tuition is degrading, and how Christians should respond

News recently broke about a Duke University freshman who has chosen to pay for her tuition in a way that most students would never imagine. She’s starring in adult films.

Voices praising and condemning the student (who is using the pseudonym “Lauren” to protect what little privacy she has left) have flooded the Internet after her identity was revealed by a fraternity member on Duke’s campus. But perhaps the most notable aspect of Lauren’s story is the fact that she sees nothing wrong with her job.

“I am not ashamed of porn,” she wrote in a blog post explaining her experience. “On the contrary, doing pornography fulfills me.” As a women’s studies major, Lauren claims that American society upholds values that suppress a woman’s sexuality, whereas her job empowers her, setting her free to express her sexuality.

But Lauren’s view of the adult film industry couldn’t be further from the truth. In a Huffington Post article, sociologist Jess Carbino strongly disagrees with Lauren’s idea that “porn is women taking ownership of their bodies,” writing that pornography affects women contrary to Lauren’s views. “The porn industry does not provide sexual agency or choice to women, but rather is a social structure that confines and objectifies women,” Carbino writes.

As Christians, we should respond to Lauren’s story in two ways.

First, pornography is wrong. Not only does pornography objectify women, it also enslaves both men and women in deep sin, often resulting in failed marriages and minds imprinted with images that cannot be erased. Those who view pornography fracture human relationships and drive a wedge between themselves and God.

Nothing portrayed in the adult film industry represents God’s design for men and women, and it unapologetically distorts the proper view of gender roles. It enslaves men and women under its power and particularly robs women of dignity and purity.

Second, how should Christians respond to Lauren’s story?

Fellow students at Duke have taken to verbal attacks and insults: “So being choked, spit on and degraded is now empowering?” one commenter wrote on a CollegiateACB post. “I’d rather have my dignity and loans than work as a prostitute,” wrote another.

Should Christians respond like the hundreds of harassing Duke students? A similar response may be tempting, because Lauren’s industry has utterly ruined lives, and openly defends sin that can severely affect brothers in Christ — the thought is infuriating.

But instead, we should feel a burden for Lauren and those enslaved by pornography. This student represents millions of people affected by pornography, and her story should deeply upset us; but we should be careful so as not to communicate hatred toward viewers or participants of pornography. The burden for sinners should be coupled with a loving heart.

We as Christians must speak the truth in love, inviting fellow sinners to recognize their enslavement and turn from their sin to the Savior. That means declaring both Christlike hatred for detestable sin and Christ-centered hope for all those who humbly seek God’s forgiveness. May we never hinder viewers or participants in pornography by muting the truth about sin or by missing an opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ.