What do Jodi Arias, Casey Anthony, and Amanda Knox have in common? Besides being accused of murder: It’s how they were portrayed to the media and as a result to the world.
While Jodi Arias was on trial for the murder of her boyfriend, the court allowed sexually explicit audio evidence to be played in the courtroom and to the jury. It was an incredibly explicit tape of phone sex between Arias and then boyfriend Travis Alexander. The contents of the phone call were pure sex, the court and jury listened to the phone sex tape as it detailed the rather violent fantasy the two shared. The “evidence” it provided was that Arias was going to blackmail her boyfriend and embarrass him in his religious community and that Arias was a supposed sexual deviant, despite Alexander’s direct participation in the call. Arias was painted as a sexual deviant who had perverted the pure and religious Travis Alexander.
That is another large commonality between the three women. These women were on trial but so was their sexuality and their sex life.
A caveat: But discussing this common trend, I do not intend to prove the criminality of these women. This is a discussion of how when women are put on trial, their sexuality is also on trial.
Again, the implication with Jodi Arias was that the she had perverted the pure Mormon Alexander, despite his direct and consensual involvement in the phone call. She was a lying seductress who wrapped him around her little finger and then when she was done with him, killed him brutally.
Things in the same vein were said of both Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox. For Anthony, it was the photos of her clubbing and getting a tattoo while her toddler was missing. In this case, the image was said to be of a promiscuous young woman who killed her three-year-old daughter so that she could maintain her lifestyle. While there was ample forensic evidence of her involvement in the disappearance and murder of her daughter, the photo of her nightlife was plastered across magazines in grocery stores and televisions across the nation.
Just like Arias, Anthony’s sex life and sexuality became the main focus and was even sensationalized by the American media and most recently, herself. In the case of both women, it seemed almost as if their crimes were not murder, but being sexual young women. Both were around the same age when their respective trials occurred.
The situation was even worse for Amanda Knox, who arguably got the worst of the three. The Italian prosecution viewed the murder entirely as a sex game gone wrong that Meredith had refused to participate in and had been brutally murdered for it. The human right’s violations and sloppy crime scene investigation work involved in Amanda Knox’s arrest were ignored, while her sexuality and abnormal behavior were once again the main focus of the media frenzy.
Her childhood soccer team nickname was even used against her, twisted into a vile phrase infamous with the murder: Foxy Knoxy.
In all three cases, whether or not the committed the crime they were indicted for, all three women were judged and tried by their sex lives and supposedly abnormal behavior. While physical evidence was presented in court the media and glove focused on their sex and behavior. While behavior most certainly can be (and often is) important to a case, human behavior is not consistent, or predictable. A whole case cannot be made on it.
Women have been judged for centuries for their sexuality, for being a slut or for being a prude. And all three of these women were victims of sexism that has made its way into the justice system. Sexism is more than sexist images on glossy magazine covers, and there is much more at stake.