Sex, death and videotapes: College student’s suicide exposes the ugly side of our show-all society

As a New Jersey native, this story about the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate filmed him in a sex act and posted it online caught my attention last night. It is a depressing story that raises questions about both morality and the invasive nature of today’s electronic toys.

Police believe Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge last week after two students filmed him in a private sex act and posted it.

Police believe Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge last week after two students filmed him in a private sex act and posted it.

I am not sure what to say except people can be cruel and that cruelty has a price. How we are raising our kids today that they would think it was funny to videotape another teen in a sexual encounter and post it for the world to see?

But, we have become a nature of voyeurs, whether it’s gawking at the poor woman caught picking her nose on camera this week or a TMZ-surprise attack on some celebrity eating an ice cream cone with his kids.

A friend of mine who threw herself a birthday bash was stunned when a guest posted photos from the party on Facebook. There was nothing indecent about the photos, but my friend was very private and didn’t want photos of her whooping it up for strangers to see.  I told her that we are now all living under the constant glare of a camera, except it’s a cell phone capturing every moment of our lives, even the embarrassing ones.

I am not sure if there is a privacy zone anymore, even in dorm rooms. This is a heartbreaking story.

Here is the story from the Associated Press:

The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.

“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”

Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.

A lawyer for Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

The lawyer has not responded to requests for comment on whether Clementi was open about his sexual orientation.

Clementi’s roommate, Dhraun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.

ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

Even if the young violinist from Ridgewood was not well known at his new school, his death stirred outrage.

“The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous,” said Jordan Gochman, 19, of Jackson, who didn’t know Clementi. “It’s intolerant, it’s upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable.”

Other students who did know Clement were upset that they didn’t do more to help him. “I wish I could have been more of an ally,” said Georges Richa, a freshman from New Brunswick.

About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going home.”

Several gay rights groups linked Clementi’s death to the troubling phenomenon of young people committing suicide after being harassed over their sexuality.

On Tuesday, a 13-year-old California boy died nine days after classmates found him hanging from a tree. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, for being gay.

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick wrote in a letter to the campus, “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.” Coincidentally, the university on Wednesday was launching a new two-year Project Civility, designed to get students thinking about how they treat others.

236 comments Add your comment

Ernest

September 30th, 2010
9:44 am

It is very unfortunate what happened to this young man. How can we as adults ask children not to post pictures on social media sites because they become a part of the public domain when we have shows like TMZ, paparazzi, and other adults following public figures hoping to find them doing or saying something embarrassing. More people probably know ‘Snooki’ from Jersey Shore than who their local, state, and federal representatives are. It really says something about our culture.

David Sims

September 30th, 2010
9:51 am

Sounds like it was a couple for FOREIGNERS with the camera and the uploading computer.

john konop

September 30th, 2010
9:52 am

A bigger issue is learning to accept people without judging them. I have been very outspoken about gay bashing. In my business it is all about productivity and I could careless about race, sex………

Proud Black Man

September 30th, 2010
9:56 am

Malcolm X said it the best upon hearing about the assassination of JFK; “The chickens are coming home to roost.” H Rap Brown also hit on this subject by stating “violence is as American as cherry pie.”

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2010
9:58 am

@John, I agree. I also think we have become a society that has turned embarrassing others into sport.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

September 30th, 2010
10:01 am

PBM, Take a look at this New Yorker piece on that very issue of Americans and violence. The piece begins with the horrible case now in the courts in Connecticut where those two home invaders terrorized a family and ultimately killed the mother and two children by burning the house down as the police encircled the home.
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/11/09/091109crat_atlarge_lepore

Proud Black Man

September 30th, 2010
10:23 am

@ Maureen

Jesus wept.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
10:42 am

Nothing happened to this young man accept what he decided. He is an adult so lets not go shedding tears of this “poor student”. Actions have consequences and he chose his own.

“his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”

HOGWASH.

The gay community one minute wants DADT, then stay in the closet the next. Just like the democrats are now realizing ya cant have it both ways.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
10:45 am

“adults ask children”

Children? What children…?

Proud Black Man

September 30th, 2010
10:46 am

@ Eddie Longs Cadillac

“Nothing happened to this young man accept what he decided”

ooooooookay…

uninterested

September 30th, 2010
10:52 am

How about the idea that he committed suicide because he knew committing homosexual acts is a sin and he felt guilty about it? People feel guilt when they do things they know they shouldn’t, but when nobody else finds out about it, they manage the guilt and rationalize their behavior to themselves. Once it’s no longer a secret, you either control the guilt or it controls you. It looks like his guilt was in control. I am very sorry this young man was outed and he is no longer with us. Had he talked to someone who was willing to listen and could help him deal with his guilt, he might still be with us.

Ethics and morality in this country have been decaying since the 1960’s and it’s only going to get worse.

R

September 30th, 2010
10:54 am

uninterested, DIAF.

ChristieS.

September 30th, 2010
11:05 am

Hey, Eddie Long and uninterested… How’s about the cretins who violated the bounds of decency, not to mention privacy, pay some kind of price for being wastes of flesh? What gave them the right to record this student without his knowledge and THEN have the unmitigated gall to post the live stream on the ‘net? What is WRONG with you? Bah…I’ve got to get to class, so I’m done with this thread.

re: Maureen’s link to CT incident: PBM, Jesus wept, indeed.

V for Vendetta

September 30th, 2010
11:07 am

I think the voyeurism of our society is a given. We’ve enabled it via technology. It is what it is. However, being gay is as individual as being blue-eyed, short, tall, black, white, etc. This wouldn’t be a problem if people were accepting and understanding of those different from them.

Peadawg

September 30th, 2010
11:17 am

” being gay is as individual as being blue-eyed, short, tall, black, white, etc”

Wrong. You don’t your eye color or skin color. You chose to be gay.

EnoughAlready

September 30th, 2010
11:18 am

We need to learn to accept people for who they are and not whom we want them to be. It should be a crime punishable by jail to post videotapes and pictures (any image) of anyone without their consent.

This does make me think about how hard it must have been for the four young men to come out and accuse Mr. “Bishop” Long of taking advantage of them.

Also, this country was built on a lack of ethics and morality from conception. I have seen the words “Land of the Free” written and spoken. However, you don’t enslave people and kill thousands of natives with the consent of the majority. The history is just a “Feel Good Story”.

HS Public Teacher

September 30th, 2010
11:23 am

@Eddie Long’s Cadillac,

Huh? You can speak for the entire gay community? Wow. Are you the leader of said community and have taken some poll?

The bottom line is that there remains a stigma to this minority group. There remains a discrimination that is sanctioned by our society. Every day, teenagers use the term “gay” as a negative word even though the actions may not be sexual in nature at all. It really is that society substituted the word “gay” for the “n-word” to mean bad or something negative. This is not acceptable at all.

No minority individual or group is lesser than any other. No one person or government body in the US has the right to make them lesser or even feel lesser. That is THE bottom line.

Regardless of your religon, beliefs, sexual orientation, whatever – do the right thing. And, it is NOT to hurt others.

HS Public Teacher

September 30th, 2010
11:27 am

@Peadawg – Although you have the right to “think” what you want, you do not “know” that being gay is a choice.

You can “think” that the moon is made of cheese. It does not make it so.

Are you so hard-headed and so close-minded that there is not even a little part of you that believes that maybe, just maybe, you could be wrong?

Do you “chose” to be straight? Do you have a choice? Could you have sex with a man? Really? If you think that it is a choice, then you are admitting that you could have enjoyable sex with a man. Are you really able to admit that?

Peadawg

September 30th, 2010
11:31 am

“If you think that it is a choice, then you are admitting that you could have enjoyable sex with a man. Are you really able to admit that?”

With Mark Richt if he ever wins a National Championship? Hell yeah.

Atlanta mom

September 30th, 2010
11:33 am

This isn’t about being gay. This is about two imbeciles who thought it was cute to broadcast another person’s sexual activities

john konop

September 30th, 2010
11:38 am

Uninterested,

Do you have the same standard for people who got divorces……..or do you just pick and choose the sin like ordering a pizza?

Kitty Conrad

September 30th, 2010
11:42 am

Peadawg, crawl back under your rock. Being gay is not a choice.

john konop

September 30th, 2010
11:44 am

Atlanta mom,

….This isn’t about being gay…..

NOT TRUE! The kid was only kissing another guy no sexual act. The news reports were clear the kid was mortified to have his parents find out. And obviously this has to do with lack of acceptance and or tolerance of gay people.

I am more into trying to walk in another man’s shoes and not casting stones on personal life style issues. I am more focused on improving myself not others. I thik actions speak louder than words!

pj

September 30th, 2010
11:44 am

The issue is not about whether he was gay or not. WHY is it such a low level crime to videotape and BROADCAST LIVE sex acts??? What sick people who did that. They deserve the full extent of the law re punishment. Let’s start with broadcasting theirs…

Peadawg

September 30th, 2010
11:48 am

“Peadawg, crawl back under your rock. Being gay is not a choice.”

You have your opinion, I have mine.

WE lost our way

September 30th, 2010
11:52 am

He was a Human Being.One of God’s Creation.Gay has nothing to do with this. It is about two people who violated his privacy and the made fun of his actions on the Internet. I wonder how they feel today about their actions? I feel for his family.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
11:54 am

ChristieS.

September 30th, 2010
11:05 am

You are being filmed everyday whether you know it or not. Just be sure the camera is off next time you do it. AH HAHAHAA!!

G.O.A.T.

September 30th, 2010
11:57 am

Tyler Clementi was weak willed. Life is about coping with obstacles. He took a permanent solution to a temporary problem and the fact that this is being raised to the level of a felony only validates this. If more of you helicopter parents would spend lest time covering all the sharp edges of the world and teach your children that the world is not centered on them the better they and society will be.
What Wei and Ravi did was not cool either but it is the same level of prank that pantsing someone or running their underwear up the flagpole. Embarrassing and childish but harmless. Having and maintaining a healthy self esteem is not anyone else’s problem

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
11:57 am

“It really is that society substituted the word “gay” for the “n-word” to mean bad or something negative. This is not acceptable at all.”

*TEWY* Thats all just bluster and policitcally correct BS. You Obama voters are gonna learn.

Jen4839234

September 30th, 2010
11:57 am

I definitely think homosexuality is a sin….but there is no excuse for this. These people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If this guy was having sex with a female and it was posted on the internet, then it is still wrong. The guy was in his own room and not in a public place. If I rented a house from somebody, is the owner allowed to have video cameras in my bedroom?? I don’t think so.

The Sage

September 30th, 2010
11:58 am

The roommate with the webcam is in violation of state and federal wiretapping laws. Since he wasn’t in his room at the time, the kid who committed suicide had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The roommate with the webcam wasn’t a part of the conversation and activity taking place in the room, so recording it and transmitting it is a big violation of the law. He could face up to 5 years in Federal prison for each offense. But it looks like NJ has state laws that are identical to the federal statutes that he will be prosecuted under.

Whether you are tolerant of homosexuality or not is really irrelevant. If anyone here had their private conversations or actions surreptitiously recorded and by another person and then broadcast all over the internet they would be furious. Yes, we live in a world with cameras on every street corner and in every grocery store. But that’s in public. You have a right to your privacy in your own home.

TK

September 30th, 2010
11:58 am

Speaking as a Gay man. It’s not a choice. I did not wake up one day a select a sexual orientation. I vomit just a little in my mouth every time I hear the word “lifestyle”.

These two should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They “outed” this young man for sheer sport.

Sadly, Clementi chose the wrong avenue to deal with the issue.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
11:59 am

And another thing. Commiting suicide for any reason, other than being on ones death bed, is 100% a seflish and stupid act. Suicide is about ME ME ME. Poor Me, Lonely Me, Broke Me, Embarrassed Me, Drug-addicted Me.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
12:00 pm

No they should not and will not be prosecuted.

Tosh.No

September 30th, 2010
12:02 pm

PeaDawg – Please change your name so as not to associate yourself with Georgia football because your an embarassment, homophobe. The two kids that put that video up need to be locked up for a long time. There is no excuse for what they did, and they need to be severly punished. Seen some other cases as well of things like this in high schools, and it is just bullying on the next level. These kids were not raised to respect anybody else, and they need to face the consequences of their actions or something is wrong with this country.

Dee

September 30th, 2010
12:05 pm

This is a sad story, but he commited suicide………..unlike the matthew Shepherd case where he was murdered for being gay.

and Gay is as much as choice as Pepsi or Coke!!!!

The Sage

September 30th, 2010
12:05 pm

There have been cases of heterosexual females committing suicide because sex tapes or provocative photos of them made it online. Some people are just very easily embarrassed. That’s what happened here. Yes, he was gay, but getting embarrassed over stuff like this isn’t limited to gay people. Maybe he wasn’t comfortable with his sexuality yet. Guess what! It’s no one else’s business!

Tosh.No

September 30th, 2010
12:06 pm

Did someone really compare what the two little d-bags did to pantsing or running someones underwear up a flagpole? You’re joking right? There are some real winners in here today. I’ll be over there to set the web cam up to film your gay sex session later then buddy. Stay Classy Atlanta.

proudstraighttolerantwhitewoman

September 30th, 2010
12:10 pm

Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt.

Peadawg

September 30th, 2010
12:11 pm

“homophobe”

So I’m a homophobe just b/c I think it’s choice? Nice try. I’ve met many gay people, worked on group projects with them in college, etc. The issue was never brought up.

“The two kids that put that video up need to be locked up for a long time.”

I agree. I never said what the 2 kids did was right.

about time

September 30th, 2010
12:21 pm

the whole situation is very sad. Unfortunately lots of teens still feel bad about being gay. There is a group in Atlanta called Youth Pride which is based out of a church in Inman Park. The group does great work in helping teens/young adults overcome these feelings of shame. Too damn bad Nathan Deal chose to ridicule the group. They’ve helped lots of people.

Marty

September 30th, 2010
12:22 pm

Some parents are so homophobic that they won’t admit they have a gay son or daughter. This in turn makes those kids fear being outed to the extent that they would rather kill themselves than to be out to mom and dad. Now that’s f’d up. LOVE YOUR KIDS!!!!

Light

September 30th, 2010
12:23 pm

A very unfortunate situation. I just really don’t think the world was intended for us to torment one another, regardless of our individual beliefs. Wouldn’t it be nice if we just accepted and respected one another. I don’t have to agree with you but I should respect your difference and that’s all anyone should really expect from another person.

Floyd

September 30th, 2010
12:23 pm

Well, sadly there is a connection — Saxby Chambless staff are correct when they send out emails saying, “All Fags must die!” It is actions like the office of Senator Chambless and the damaged lives caused by Bishop Eddie Long that cost lives like this poor boy. The sooner Senator Chambless is able to stop his staff member from the deadly emails, the nation can move forward with less hatred and teasing.

joann

September 30th, 2010
12:24 pm

To ChristieS:

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!. wHO ARE THESE PEOPLE TO THINK AIRING THIS YOUNG MANS ACTIONS. I JUST KNOW THAT THEY WOULD WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW THEIRS CARNAL DESIRES. LETS FILM THE, BASTARDS THAT THEY ARE.M.

Allison

September 30th, 2010
12:25 pm

This is a tragic story. I couldn’t imagine having my personal encounters being broadcasted over the internet like it was no big deal…and I’m straight. This young man wa so humiliated that he felt the one thing he could do was jump off a bridge? Not only is what those two students did invasion of privacy I would go as far as call it a hate crime as well. I hope they wake up every day with the guilt that their stupid actions cost a young man his life. He chose to end it that is true, but those ADULT students chose to humiliate the man. You would think students who got straight A’s in high school would have the common sense to know what htey were doing was wrong. It’s so sad what this world has come too. THey should be ashamed of themselves I would go as far to say it should have been them jumping off that bridge not him.

joann

September 30th, 2010
12:28 pm

TO CHRISTIES:

THANK YOU!!!!! WHO ARE THESE 2 FOOLS TO THINK THAT AIRING THIS YOUNG MANS PRIVATE MOMENTS WAS FOR THE WORLD TO SEE. I KNOW THAT THESE 2 IDIOTS WOULD LOVE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE THEM AT THEIR MOST PRIVATE MOMENTS. MAYBE THEY SHOULD BE FILMED EVERY SECOND OF THEIR LIVES.

Dr. Tim

September 30th, 2010
12:30 pm

So, who draws the line as to what is appropriate and what is not? Societyused to do this “social norms” which we all accepted; but foul jokes and childish sniggering do not equal the effect of the WWW world. If we choose now to “police” the net, what will the reaction of the AJC and other media based editorial voices be? I think we know. It seems that in this case we have an obvious invasion of privacy, for which there is a remedy for in the courts. Sadly, the young man who took his life chose another course.

Yo

September 30th, 2010
12:31 pm

He killed himself. The guy who video taped him didn’t make him jump off a bridge. A lot of roommates in their freshman year do a lot of mean stuff. Being a fag is an easy target to make fun of. Obviously he was unstable and freshman make fun of people they are not used to. The roomate is going to regret his actions and learn from them but by no means should get jail time.

Starqueen

September 30th, 2010
12:32 pm

@ MARTY – that is the stance I have had from the very beginning. As a mother, the fact that this boy was so scared for his friends/family to find this out that it was worh ending his life over, completely breaks my heart. May my son never be in that dark place in his mind, that he feels he’d rather die than let me find something out about him. By the same token, if my son was the one who did the videotaping, I would want him prosecuted. This was cruel. And unlawful.