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Mia Khalifa's Marriage Advice Is Good
And censoring her is bad.
Former adult film star Mia Khalifa went on TikTok to offer marriage and relationship advice to her fans. That advice was straightforward; if you’re unhappy in your marriage or your relationship, leave. You deserve to be happy.
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"I am Tom Brady at this game. Married at 18. Divorced at 21. Second marriage. Married at 25. Divorced at 28. Third engagement. Engaged at 29. Ended it at 30, but I kept the ring. I’m still keeping Tom Brady on his toes….”
We should not be afraid to leave these men. We are not stuck with these people. Marriage is not a sanctimonious thing. It is paperwork. It is a commitment you make to someone, but if you feel like you’re not getting anything from that commitment and you’re trying, you got to go. You got to go. You have to go. I know it’s difficult to fill out paperwork, and to make appointments and to do all of these things, but this is your fucking life, you want to be stuck with someone?"
As someone who has been with my wife for 25 years, this all seems pretty reasonable. Marriage is a personal commitment, and it’s a government contract (paperwork), but it’s ultimately meant to be about the happiness and flourishing of the people involved. If your marriage is making you miserable—or worse than miserable—you don’t have an obligation to stay, and may well have an obligation to leave. No-fault divorce is a core foundation of personal liberty, especially for women.
Again, none of this seems especially controversial. But on twitter, and on right wing news hate networks, people reacted as if Khalifa had suggested burning Tom Brady at the stake. Most of the attacks were ad hominem—how dare an adult actress with multiple divorces presume to know anything about marriage? There were the expected Christofascist denunciations of her as a sinner and agent of Satan. People attacked her for keeping the ring from a failed engagement. And people suggested she wasn’t taking marriage seriously enough.
It’s telling, I think, that slut shaming of Khalifa fits so easily into a never quite articulated belief that women shouldn’t be allowed to end marriages if they’re unhappy in them. People despise Khalifa because she’s had multiple sexual partners—but they also despise her for being divorced multiple times. Women are just supposed to have one man, and if they have more, they’re disgusting, broken, ridiculous.
Khalifa has certainly heard those slurs before. She grew up in a strict conservative Catholic family, so she was almost certainly told by her family that divorce (and porn) were evil. She’s speaking, then, in part to her former self, and in part to other people who might have been raised in similar restrictive traditions. She probably knew she’d be targeted and dogpiled too; she’s gotten death threats from ISIS for doing a porn scene in a hijab, and the right wing hate machine has come for her before.
When you argue that adult performers should have be allowed to speak—on for example substack or Patreon—you get a lot of pushback. “You can see porn anywhere,” people say. Or, “I don’t want to see that.” Or, “Pornography doesn’t contribute anything important to public debate.”
Khalifa’s comments though, and the backlash, demonstrate I think that adult performers, and adult performance, is a vital issue of public discussion. Khalifa’s comments obviously are not pornography. But the attack on her is inseparable from a context in which her work in porn is seen as shameful. More, her argument—that sexuality and relationships should be about consent and happiness, rather than about, say, religious self-abnegation—is also linked to her work. “Have sex with and love who you want, and don’t be ashamed.” That’s a message that’s controversial, important, and consistent across her career.
Khalifa’s TikTok can be shared widely. Her work in porn is censored on many platforms, including this one. That censorship is itself a message—about who is entitled to speak on important issues, about who has the right to control images of human bodies, and about which is shameful—having sex or viciously attacking someone because they dared to have sex. Substack, Patreon, and all the other platforms rigorously censoring adult content claim to support free expression. But Khalifa’s speech is a reminder that respectability and traditional morality around sex and love are a major, ongoing threat to freedom, equality, and happiness.
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