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College Student Commits Suicide After Being Cyberbullied For Appearing In Porn

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"College Student Commits Suicide After Being Cyberbullied For Appearing In Porn"

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Alyssa Funke

Alyssa Funke

CREDIT: Screenshot via Fox9

Alyssa Funke, a 19-year-old who was earning straight As at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, committed suicide last month after her former high school classmates found out she appeared on an amateur porn site. Her parents believe that the online harassment she received over her porn shoot “played a significant role” in her decision to end her life.

When Funke was 18, she recorded a video for the amateur porn site Casting Couch X. According to a KMSP investigation, her high school classmates found the video and started sending her judgmental messages on Facebook and Twitter. Some of them called her a slut and a prostitute.

Funke initially appeared to be trying to brush aside the cyberbullying. “The people that envy & hate you the most, stalk you on social media the most so, hey hi hello how r u doing, this ones for you,” she posted on her Facebook page. Her last tweets before her death referenced how famous she had become for her “pornstar status.”

But on April 16, the college freshman killed herself on her family’s boat.

Funke’s family told KMSP that she had struggled with depression in the past. They believe that being subject to cyberbullying contributed to her suicide, and recently set up an “Alyssa Stop Bullying Fund” to raise awareness about the harmful effects of online harassment. Local police, on the other hand, say they don’t plan to press charges since the comments that Funke received on social media don’t fit their definition of criminal harassment.

Funke isn’t the first young college student to be outed for doing porn. Recent Huffington Post investigations have found that it’s hardly unusual for college students to choose to appear in adult videos, although young porn stars often struggle to protect their identities. Earlier this year, news about a Duke University freshman’s decision to appear in porn spread like wildfire after a fraternity brother leaked the information to the rest of the campus.

That student, who goes by her stage name, Belle Knox, was “mortified” about being exposed. Knox faced significant bullying from her peers. In a personal essay on xoJane, she criticized the culture of “slut shaming” that contributes to the harassment of women who are outwardly sexual. “I ask people to deconstruct why they treat female sexuality with such disdain. Why do we call women sluts and whores? Why do we use synonyms for prostitute as some of the worst insults in the English language?” Knox pointed out.

Indeed, this type of backlash is one of many ways that women are unfairly punished for their sexuality. Women are simultaneously encouraged to present themselves as objects of male desire and condemned for being too “slutty” if they don’t cover up their bodies. From a young age, they’re told that it’s their responsibility to prevent men from being too tempted by them. That dynamic ultimately fuels the concept at the heart of rape culture: the myth that women who get raped must have been “asking for it.”

Unfortunately, because of the link to rape culture, even young women who didn’t choose to engage in consensual sexual activity are still on the receiving end of this type of bullying and harassment. Over the past few years, several high school rape victims have been subject to slut-shaming cyberbullying — and in a few cases, it’s driven them to take their own lives, too.

“I truly believe that American culture prefers girls chaste and dead over slutty and alive,” Jessica Valenti, a feminist writer who has published a book about the damaging effects of our culture’s emphasis on purity, pointed out on Twitter.

If you need help, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

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