By Richard Ammon
October 3, 2010
I find it strangely ironic that the two Rutgers University students charged with invasion of privacy that led to the death of a gay student, Tyler Clementi (photo right) are both from ethnic minorities in America. Dharun Ravi is of Indian (Asia) descent and Molly Wei is from a Chinese family.
This is not a racist blog but rather the opposite: I am puzzled that two students with different foreign-culture backgrounds–who certainly understand they are ‘different’ and are aware of minority-bias in America–could have turned on another minority person, even if jokingly, in an attempt to humiliate him. Was his homosexuality more marginal, of lesser status, or ‘worse’ than their ethnic difference to the degree they felt permitted to target him for public mockery? Minorities turning on minorities of lesser status? Like blacks picking on Puerto Ricans picking on Mexicans, picking on Guatemalans, picking on native Kuna indians?
I do think Ravi and Molly‘s (photos left) behavior smacks of homophobia, perhaps not overtly intentional but distinct nevertheless. Would they have videoed anyone having sex? A straight black person with a white one? An Asian with an African? Or just a ‘regular’ guy and a girl? I doubt it. There was something about Tyler’s sexuality that intrigued-attracted-excited–titillated them, even baited or repelled them enough to draw them in to commit what they knew to be an ethical and social breach of decency–and a legal offense of privacy invasion. Their ‘joke’, their thoughtless wickedness, was a homophobic crime of debasement with intent to cause emotionally injury to a gay man, not unlike the irrational homophobia that plagues most of the world. (In many places the debasement includes physical injury or murder.)
Behind this intent to injure I think there was a prurient sexual urge behind their desire to watch two guys getting it on. It is a researched fact that fantasy plays a strong role in people’s sex lives. Straight men get off on watching two lesbians, as revealed in statistics from the porno industry. Many gay men like heterosexual sex videos. The industry serves every variant of sexual desire. In this case, two (presumedly) straight people wanted to oogle two homosexual men having sex.
Why? Why would they even give a second thought to two consenting adults behind closed doors? Let along want to spy on them? Let alone video them and knowing, at least, the likely college dorm consequences (and obviously blind to further repercussions).
The explanation for their trespassing moves into the subconscious, a huge morass of human desire, fantasy, hunger, emotion, symbolism, unmet needs and vague sprawl–a place that few people want to understand. Yet ignorance of such motives leaves us at to the door of darkness about their (and our) behavior. Ravi and Molly operated in the dim fog of their own separate desires. When questioned they will say they were just goofing around, having fun, or “I dunno…it just happened.” Hardly.
There is now a public outcry against bullying and harassment resulting from this and other recent gay suicides. The focus will be on outward behavior, learning respect and tolerance and kindness, as it should be. Dealing with the hidden desires of perpetrators to hurt others unfortunately will take deeper insight. Homophobia is fueled by many sources in our society–religion. politics, sports, corporations, family bias, personal fear, government, military, schools…
I doubt it will ever be eradicated since its deepest source of fuel is hidden in the recesses of our unconscious souls where tribal conflict, nationalistic wars, territorial rage, sexual confusion and fear of ‘differentness’ lurk.
For now, perhaps Tyler’s and the other six recent gay suicides may at least cause a tiny light to shine into that darkness and evoke a bit more tolerant behavior toward other students and neighbors.
Last week, columnist and adviser Dan Savage and his husband, Terry, sat down before a camera and talked about their experience with bullying and how good their life became once they left school. “We wanted to show them that happiness was possible in the future,” Savage said in a phone interview. He asked people to submit similar videos to a YouTube channel, It Gets Better. More than 200 videos have been uploaded to the site. “It’s not a solution; it’s not a magic curative,” Savage said, but it is a small step to counteract the bullying, to give the teenagers an idea that they are not going through this alone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IcVyvg2Qlo&feature=player_embedded#!
Support and other resources for gay young people:
The Trevor Project Hotline: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ 866-488-7386
Campus Pride. Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Read more.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call these Helplines:
(USA) 1-888–843-4564 (4pm to mid-night Mon-Fri, 12-5pm Saturday) (Gay and Lesbian)
(USA) 1-800-784-2433 (National Helpline, Los Angeles, California; 24 hours, 7 days week)
(UK) 1-800 18 45 27