It has taken me years of life experience and book education to understand the paradox of what it means to be a woman, specifically when it comes to sexuality. The contradicting expectation is that we are to be chaste while simultaneously experienced. When females fail to live up to such an impossible definition - the "virginal whore" - we pay the price.
There were two cases in the news last month that made this fact painfully clear.
On April 16, a straight-A college freshman from Minnesota committed suicide after being bullied about making a porn video. Days after the film was released online, Alyssa Funke was hounded by old classmates at Stillwater High School via text, email, Facebook and Twitter.
As news reports have explained, Alyssa left home to live with a grandmother in her teens. She was a biology major at school, and an aspiring anesthesiologist. She started studying at St. Catherine's University, a private school, but money was tight. Last year, she transferred to a public university, Wisconsin-River Falls.
It was then that Alyssa decided to turn to porn.
Online, she tried responding to attacks with a positive attitude, posting on Facebook, "pornstar status, a-okay." But two weeks after the video was released online, she drove to a boat landing on Big Carnelia Lake, and shot herself.
The other disturbing incident happened on May 23 when a gunman killed six people and wounded seven others in a neighborhood near UC Santa Barbara. He left behind a video explaining his actions. (I haven't included the perpetrator's name or the contents of his rant in the hopes that would-be murderers will no longer expect a killing spree will help their manifesto go viral. They're public if you're interested.) He shot into a sorority house, as promised, as "retribution" for the women who had denied him the sexual attention that he thought he deserved for being a "gentleman."
Both cases were horrific in and of themselves. Additionally alarming were comments men continued to post online afterward, specifically blaming the women for their deaths.
On her blog sexologist.tumblr.com, Dr. Jill McDevitt, a nationally recognized sexologist, speaker, writer, blogger, media personality, and activist, listed some comments that have been posted for the two women.
For Alyssa: "Don't be a slut, this won't happen," and "She is incredibly hot. Too bad she committed suicide. Gonna (enjoy her video) anyway. Lol." And for the California women: "Well girls, keep that in mind the next time you friendzone somebody," and "I don't blame guns. I blame blondes for this one."
As McDevitt points out, the double standard for women is no longer damned if you do, damned if you don't. It's, "dead if you do, dead if you don't."
We must stop policing other people's sexuality, and parents must teach their children to stop doing it as well. It's nobody else's business, plain and simple. We need to petition the media to address the misogyny and sexual double standards of these murders. And we need to report harassment and bullying as soon as we see it online.
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com