Have you heard about this? It is making me extremely sad. From what is being reported so far, it appears that freshman Tyler Clementi was recorded remotely by his residence hall roommate, being intimate with another man. It now appears that Mr. Clementi jumped from the GW bridge, killing himself.
There are two aspects to this story that I’m mulling over right now. The first is the ridiculousness of the two alleged defendants. I understand that 18-year-olds may be adults legally but are still figuring some things out. However, while I do not think it is likely that they acted with the idea that Mr. Clementi would end up killing himself, one would have to have never lived in the world – let alone attended high school – to recognize that what they were doing would be highly humiliating and emotionally hurtful. Whether it ended up being made public or just circulated among friends, having photographic evidence of someone doing something they would not normally do in public only serves to embarrass them. Emotional harm can be the only outcome.
The second aspect is whether they would have considered doing this if Mr. Clementi had been intimate with someone of the opposite sex. Was he taped solely because the two people who taped him were thinking it would be funny? Or were they thinking it would be funny because they could humiliate him even more because people are still bigoted towards gay men and lesbians?
Both possibilities are disturbing to me. The fact that young adults still think that humiliating people they do not know or do not like is fun saddens me. Perhaps kids have always been this way, but now the actions can be magnified and sent out across the planet instantly. Once a video is sent to someone, there is no way to get it back. Even if the person who filmed it later realizes that he screwed up, he can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. It may be unfortunate, but it is the reality, and I think there needs to be more of an effort to explain what that actually means, to try to get these kids (and adults, too, in some cases) to think more long term. I post some silly things on Facebook, but everything is set to private, and nothing I post there would get me in trouble (mostly because I don’t do anything that troublesome). Do young adults not realize that their moments of being obnoxious could have lifelong consequences not just for others, but for them, too?
A sex tape of anyone at any age that was made without his consent is going to be disturbing. I certainly don’t want my intimate moments viewed by anyone else. But if it’s thought worse because it involved two people of the same sex, that’s another example of what is not right in the world. Life can be hard for people who are gay because of people who decide to make life hard for them. Sexual orientation is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, and the fact that there is a chance that the people who chose to be bigots are what lead this young man to kill himself should be distressing to everyone.