Defensive statements are being made on behalf of the roommate, Dharum Ravi, who put online sexual encounters of his roommate Tyler Clementi which led to his commit suicide. A friend of the offending roommate (Dharun Ravi) said that Dharun was a good person and that he would have done the same recording if his roommates had sex with a girl. This statement unintentionally launches the first line of defense for the roommate which aims to whitewash the actual crime committed. The problem is that we celebrate what Dharun Ravi did in the form of our entertainment choices. We laugh at people who humiliate others sexually and we indulge in stories where victims fall over themselves in love with their abusers.
What’s in the movie theaters right now reflects what happened.
In the theatres right now, we have The Virginity Hit which laughs at kids secretly videotaping their sex act (sound familiar?) The movie The Social Network starts with the main character broadcasting sexual insults online about his ex-girlfriend (and the rest of the film is a long parade of other women all shown as the same exploitable stupid sexual playthings). In the movie The Town, the abuse victim falls in love with her kidnapper. In George Clooney’s The American, the prostitute mindlessly falls in love with her client who mistreats her and almost kills her. Our movie houses are filled with these “abuse as humor” or the “abused as loving their abusers” story lines which does nothing but inspire the next generation of Dharums.
What’s on the radio right now reflects what happened.
The chart topping Eminem song “I love the way you lie” is about a woman who loves (yes loves) to be battered and hurt. Eminenm sings “If she ever tries to (censor) leave again I’mma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire” and Rhianna replies in the song with “ Just gonna stand there and watch me burn. But that’s alright Because I like the way it hurts.” If you are not listening to pro-violent songs on the radio you can hear the local DJ’s do prank calls on air. This is where they publicly humiliate poor low-paid workers answering the phones. Why is this legal and why are we laughing at it?
Why not exploit people?
If the future Dharum’s act this way they have few consequences to stand in their way. At Rutgers it looked like the Tyler Clementi ‘s complaint to the dorm leader was not taken seriously. The laws against both public and private invasion of people’s privacy are not uniform, effective or enforceable in many cases. Privacy concerns are not taken seriously and treated as a joke – as if you could hear the laugh track behind you. Think about it. Every time someone of notability makes headlines because their ex-lover of 10 years ago happened to record their sexual encounters, that video is sold on the open market. I have never seen a court block the video from being made public unless a big dollar settlement was involved. How have we reached the point where we sacrifice our privacy rights simply because there were two people involved?
As long as we see exploitation as entertainment and privately laugh at it then we can expect little changes in our campus rules, courts, privacy laws or in public behavior. We can help reduce future gay bashing and sexual harassment if we remove the tools of these harassers on how they justify abuse to others. This is a wider struggle worth fighting.