In Honor of Alyssa Funke: Ways to End “Slut-Shaming”

I try really hard to stay positive here in Girl Boner-land, but sometimes sexual empowerment requires looking into dark issues—particularly when lives are being needlessly ruined or lost.

Judging others sexuality

Last month Alyssa Funke, a straight-A college freshman from Minnesota who had dreams of becoming an anesthesiologist, committed suicide after cyber-bullying over her decision to appear in pornography pushed her past her emotional limits. A friend shared the news with me recently, rightfully stating that had Alyssa been a man, the tragedy wouldn’t have unfolded. The double-standards regarding female versus male sexuality are immense, heartbreaking and run deeper than many folks realize. Regardless, no one should be ridiculed or judged for choosing to engage in sexual activity, on or off camera.

Conversations about Alyssa throughout social media and the news have used the term “slut shaming,” an increasingly prevalent term Wikipedia defines as “a concept in human sexuality used to describe the act of making a person, typically a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered contrary to natural or religious law.” Examples include dressing provocatively, requesting access to birth control, having premarital or casual sex or being raped or otherwise sexually violated.

If I could choose one term to do away with in our culture, slut-shaming may well be it. While I’m grateful that these issues are beginning to gain necessary attention (but not for the tragic reasons), woman-shaming seems far more appropriate. Sex is just as much a part of being female as it is male. If our world embraced this fact rather than making much of female sexuality taboo, Alyssa might still be with her loved ones today.

It doesn’t take a genius or much heart to recognize that any shame should fall on the person shunning a woman for dressing as she wishes, engaging sexually as she wishes, responsibly requesting birth control or (GOOD LORD) being attacked—not the woman herself. Bullying, criticizing or ostracizing someone for embracing sex as she sees fit, something as equally natural and health-promoting as digesting food, sleeping and breathing, simply because they’re female makes no sense. It’s cruel not only to the woman being shamed but all females, and the derivative damage affects us all. In some cases, the consequences are profoundly tragic.

So what can we do? We can start by analyzing our own beliefs and language, then making positive changes. Providing positive role models our culture lacks and not buying into sex-negativity will help ensure that Alyssa Funke and others like her won’t have died in vain.

women sexual empowerment

Here are some simple ways we can set more positive examples for girls and women regarding sexuality. While many of them apply to all genders, they most often affect women:

  • Don’t describe anything sexual as “dirty” or “naughty.”
  • Cut “slut” and “slutty” from your vocabulary unless you’re discussing their harm.
  • Don’t inwardly or outwardly judge girls or women for wearing tight, short or low-cut clothes.
  • Don’t make negative remarks about your or others’ shape, appearance or size.
  • Avoid telling and laughing at sexist jokes.
  • Respectfully call people out when they shame or demean others for their sexual choices or behaviors.
  • When necessary and possible, report sexual shaming.
  • Support sex-positive publications, activists and events.
  • Communicate more about sexuality with loved ones, particularly your partner(s) and, if you’re a parent, your kids.
  • Cultivate positive body image and a happy healthy sex life, however you define it.

As we honor those who’ve given their lives for our country this Memorial Day, I hope you’ll also keep Alyssa Funke and her loved ones in her thoughts. Thanks so much for the ongoing support. Even when darkness prevails, I believe we can change the world. ♥