In an Instagram photo posted Monday Mia Khalifa looks like any 21 year old complete with plush robe, MacBook, school spirit (a Florida State Seminoles mug) and hipster-eque black rimmed glasses.
A closer look reveals she is anything but. First you see the cleavage. Then you read the comments that range from genitalia references to slander to support, in both Arabic and English.
Khalifa is a porn star, and not just any porn star, a damm good one. After only 3 months in the industry she's become the most searched name on PornHub, the Internet's largest pornography site and the 71st most frequently visited website in the world (nytimes.com ranks 97th).
Khalifa is 5'2" with 34DDs. She's also Lebanese, a fact that's making her new found fame controversial. Born and raised in Lebanon Khalifa's family moved to Maryland when she was 10 years old. She got her B.A. in history from the University of Texas El Paso and now lives and works in Miami where, despite not attending FSU, she is a raging Seminoles fan.
Khalifa claims not to be concerned with politics but she is proud of her heritage. One of her tattoos reads "All of us! For our Country, for our Glory and Flag!" in Arabic. It's the first line of the Lebanese national anthem. Despite her pride many Lebanese, and Middle Easterners, including her own parents, are not proud of her.
Since news of Khalifa's porn-world fame made it's way to the Middle East she has received death threats and millions of hateful social media comments. One Twitter user told Khalifa she'd be the "first person in Hellfire" another threatened to cut off her head.
Lebanon, a primarily Muslim and Christian country, is considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East but it is still divided between those elite liberals and the highly conservative.
When a topless photo of Lebanese skier Jackie Chamoun was discovered during the 2014 Olympics the Lebanese minister of youth and sports said it damaged the country's reputation and called for an investigation. For Khalifa, a woman with much more than one topless photo to her name, reactions have been extreme.
Daily newspaper The Lebanese Examiner wrote, "natives [are] upset and offended by her work, especially because she often boasts her Lebanese heritage on Twitter and Instagram."
Others worry about what Khalifa's notoriety will do to the image of Middle Eastern women, who fight sexism on a daily basis. Lebanese blogger and self-proclaimed feminist Juliana Yazbeck wrote on the Lebanese news site NOW:
"'Of the very few Lebanese women who are making global headlines, it had to be a porn star?' It felt like I had traveled for months, and just as I was nearing my destination, someone used my passport to wipe their ass, undoing all my hard work and sending me back to square one."
But not everyone is against Khalifa. She gets almost as much support as she does criticism. One young Lebanese native tweeted "I prefer to follow a Lebanese pornstar rather than a Lebanese politician anytime." Thousands of tweets defend her from critics, asking that Khalifa simply be left alone.
Others, like British-Lebanese author Nasri Atallah, have made more formal arguments in her defense. Atallah posted the following on Facebook:
The moral indignation about Mia Khalifa, presumably the first Lebanese porn star, is wrong for two reasons. First and foremost, as a woman, she is free to do as she pleases with her body. Secondly, as a sentient human being with agency, who lives halfway across the world, she is in charge of her own life and owes absolutely nothing to the country where she happened to be born. There is this odd perception that being Lebanese is a vocation and a duty first and that your personal life comes second.
Khalifa herself responds to haters with confidence. "Doesn't the Middle East have more important things to worry about besides me?" she Tweeted. "How about finding a president? Or containing ISIS?"
She often retweets criticisms with her own witty response. To the man who threatened her with hellfire Khalifa wrote "I've been meaning to get a little tan recently."
In an interview with Newsweek Khalifa said she plans to 'ride' the porn wave as long as she can, pun intended, but ultimately it is not what she wants for a career. Until then she simply asks that the media leave her alone and let her do her thing, whatever that may be.