The Death of a Girl

Recently, 19-year old Minnesotan Alyssa Funke, despite getting straight A’s at the University of Wisconsin, decided to star in a pornographic video. Shortly after it was posted online, someone watching it recognized her. Word spread. Harassment via social media ensued, as more and more people from her high school heard the news. She remained superficially defiant, tweeting “Pornstar Status” and “FAMOUS for dayzzzzzzz.” Three days later she shot and killed herself. To put it in cold statistical terms, that put her at about the halfway mark for the average life-expectancy of a pornstar — which sits at about 36. And in an odd coincidence, it happened almost exactly thirty years after Colleen Applegate committed suicide, also by a shot to the head. Ms. Applegate was also from Minnesota (her town is about a 45 minute drive from Ms. Funke’s), and had decided to become an “adult actress” in her teens. She lived to be twenty after a brush with fame.

The news story of Ms. Funke’s death is of course traveling like wildfire, and will of course completely disappear from the headlines in one week. What is most shocking, is how much shame and self-hatred this girl felt for what she had done, despite living in a pornography drenched society. A quick Google search can reveal statistics like, “Every second, there is an average 28,258 internet users watching pornography. Over 35% of internet downloads contain pornographic matter…. every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is made in the United States.” It also goes without saying how pornographic advertisements for clothes, perfume, etc. have become.

Pornography, and crass sexuality more generally, is part of the current American cultural landscape; and this has been so for at least a decade now. If this is the case (I can’t imagine a counter-argument), then how is it that someone can still be made to feel so ashamed of their formal entrance into porn that they take their own life? Given how much porn the US produces, consumes, and displays, why would anyone shame someone they knew who had entered the industry? It is a truly cruel irony. Alyssa Funke is like a sacrificial lamb for society as a whole; paying the ultimate price for a guilty populace that rather find an occasional whipping boy than change its destructive habits.

Originally published by Chronicles on May 24th, 2014

The Death of a Girl

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