Sep 302010

Sexual predator Dharun Ravi and his pal Molly Wei really piss me off. I posted Student Who Was Secretly Filmed Having Sex Commits Suicide to Facebook. If you haven’t already joined our conversation, do it now. Reading about Tyler Clementi’s death, one of my readers asked a wider question: “How are we going to keep the cyber community a safe place for our children?” Rabidly online since coding my first website in 1995, I know we need to strengthen laws and get our courts up to speed with technology.

For a moment, pretend the internet doesn’t exist — because, quite frankly, that’s when most laws were written. I could be wrong, but I’d be hard pressed to believe Dharun would’ve placed an ad in his local newspaper, thus broadcasting his plan to create a secret porno of his unwitting roommate. Also, I don’t necessarily believe Dharun would’ve hid in the closet with an old fashion camcorder, filming his roommate so he could burn the tape to DVD, CD or VHS and distribute it. That’s not to say people haven’t done shit like that in the past. My point is this: Had Dharun Ravi done those things, people might more readily consider him a sociopathic sexual predator. Further, criminal punishment might be more stringent and the hard evidence against him would be stronger — that is, a copy of the paid, printed advertisement instead of a deleted Twitter confession. Judges and juries understand newspapers, camcorders and spying. They don’t always understand ustream, iChat and “the Twitter.”

When you strip away the bullshit, what we’re left with is this — Dharun Ravi sexually violated Tyler Clementi by forcing him to unwittingly star in gay pornography, then actively promoted and distributed the footage. I can only imagine Tyler felt raped and violated by the betrayal. Though they haven’t pulled the body from the water yet, his family and witnesses say Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Read Virtual Homicide, Real Suicide. Dr. Keith Ablow is both right and wrong. No, technology isn’t the problem — dehumanizing another human being is. However, he’s correct when he says, “If guilty, Wei and Ravi are killers, though they will never be charged with murder.”

GW Bridge

Let’s talk about Dan Savage’s latest project. While I appreciate what he’s done to push sex information out to the public, I disagree with his blame-black-people views on the very real problem of American homophobia. Having said that, I totally commend him for launching his deeply touching It Gets Better Project to combat LGBT teen suicides. LGBT youth are up to four to eight times more likely to consider suicide than their straight peers. In recent years, kids such as 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and 13-year-old Ryan Halligan have hanged themselves simply because their schoolmates thought they were gay. I give a damn about Tyler Clementi and LGBT youth because I write about sex for straight, gay and otherwise-oriented people. Professional terrain aside, I’m saddened whenever any child or young person kills themselves. What decent fucking human being isn’t?

Image of GW Bridge by Mary. Excerpts of this post originally appeared as a Facebook conversation.
Shout out to Nicky for reminding me to post the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-8255 as well as info about the Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth in crisis.

  23 Responses to “Sex & Cyberassholes: Did Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei “Kill” Tyler Clementi?”

  1. The internet, such as it is, is nothing more than a portal by which we view the outside world, but it also serves as a buffer. Much in the same way that we’re more likely to be rude or crass to people over the phone or curse at other drivers , while in the sanctity of our own cars, this buffer has changed who we are as a culture. We have this faux annonimity that gives us the cajones we wouldn’t normally have. 
    When that woman in the Midwest created a fake persona online for the expressed purpose of hurting a teenager, who later commited suicide. She did it ffor shits and giggles, and her only defense was it was just harmless internet play. She KNEW that the girl was unstable and still she manipulated that girl as a joke.

    My hope is that both of these idiots do  ” hard time” none of that white collar country club crap. We need to lift the veil and make people accountable for what they do.

  2. I cried, when I read this post—Twanna— I hate crime against anyone, especially suicide related, exploitation — and trying to break someone down. Gay youth rock and they need to be proud– not hurt! Thanks for the post…

  3. When will the bullying of people who are different stop?” How many young people must take their lives in order for something to be done about this?? That young man and the countless others did not deserve that humiliation,   whether they were gay or straight. People should be treated like human beings regardless of their sexual  orientations and these “innocent ” pranks  are anything but. Bullying in any for should not be tolerated any longer. I feel sorry for the family of Tyler Clementi and I will pray for them as they are going through this nightmare. People need to be taught are humanity and respect for all and it starts at home.

  4. I think it is a bit early to call it a hate crime, as some public figures have been doing, because I can easily envision how a thoughtless, bullying person could just find it a lark to embarrass someone without considering the possible consequences of his actions.  It remains to be seen whether homophobia was a part of it or not, or whether he would have acted the same way if his roommate had been with a woman.  That is why I appreciate your response, Twanna, for using the right words to describe this: sexual predator, while at the same time recognizing that GLBT individuals suffer bullying disproportionately.

  5. Note that when I say “just a lark” I mean from the perspective of the bully, not how society should respond to bullies like this.  I am not excusing them: what they did was deeply wrong.

  6. One is South Asian, the other is Chinese.Tyler was a white male, therefore the two arrested should be set free because hate crimes against white males do not exsist.

    Let’s celebrate diversity!

    • [giggles, giggles]

      You just made a funny!  :)

      When you say “hate crimes” against white men don’t “exsist,” I assume you mean “exist” instead of “exsist.”

      And, by hate crimes, I’ll assume you mean stuff like the Matthew Shepard Act … Shepard, of course, being the palest non-white dude who ever “exsisted.”


      • thats how far we have come, two asians murder a splendid white chap and a black woman has the indecency to mock him. welcome to the new world.

  7. Nice post.  Good to see the extra publicity for Dan Savage’s project, too.
    I have such mixed feelings about the internet.  One the one hand, without it I would be 1) unemployed, and 2) Mrs-Doodlius-free; both of those are bad.  On the other hand, the internet really does change people’s behavior, as has been mentioned before – because it is “removed from reality”, people are frequently nastier there than they would be in person, and this bad behavior sometimes results in bad shit happening in real life.
    Whatever.  Those assholes need to go to prison.

    • The internet/tech question is a tough one. Someone recently told me, “The internet is our generation’s rock & roll.”

      So, then, the question is: (1) Are people behaving differently because of the internet or (2) Is basic humanity the same but are people using the internet to do things they’ve always done?

      Over at New York magazine, someone commented about the Ravi/Wei stuff by saying something like, “People are waaay meaner now then they were when I was a teenager.” Someone responded, “Have you seen the movie Carrie?”

  8. On the question of the role of technology in this, I do think that technology is an enabler.  You pointed out the steps that would have been necessary to do this act in a more analog way, and it seems likely to me that if it had entailed that many steps, there would have been more opportunity for the conscience of either party to pipe up.   When acts take more time, it is more likely that deliberate malice is involved.  When it can be accomplished easily, it will also be done at a moment’s whim by someone who isn’t thinking, and isn’t empathetic.   More people will do things like this, because there are not so many malicious people, but there are many, many, thoughtless, careless, and impulsive people.  They are the same people who, 30 years ago, would have been committing vehicular homicide while driving drunk.
    So, in once sense, technology enables more people to commit crimes like this one, but, in the other sense, this crime is fundamentally not a result of the internet, because some people who behave like this will end up committing crimes regardless of the technology available to them.  It is now ethically unacceptable to drive drunk, but our collective ethics lag behind our technology.  Thus people without a strong sense of internal moral guidance will use new technology to commit their crimes, because they have not learned (by rote) that they are “not supposed” to do that.
    If you agree with scholars like Twenge, the rise of technology has coincided with a rise in narcissism.  Perhaps this should also be examined as a potential root cause: are there more people today who lack internal moral compasses?

  9. This is why it’s VERY important that kids can come to their parents for help and not feel ashamed. And even more important that parents stand up for their kids. It’s crazy that the parents didn’t get involved way earlier with school faculty. Hell, If my son came telling me that kids at his school were bullying him, I’d be up in there kicking ass all over the place 24/7.

    • Right?? This story makes me want to punch someone in the face, and I’m not even related to Tyler nor did I know him. His parents must be soooo angry (and, of course, hurt) right now.

  10. I have seen this kind of bullying behavior pretty much all of my life.  It’s just that now, with the web and other technologies, you can do it bigger and splashier.
    The bottom line is that they belong in prison PERIOD.

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