Friday, March 16, 2012

The Dharun Ravi Verdict

In case you haven't been following along, Dharun Ravi was a freshman roommate of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers.  Rhavi filmed Clementi having an intimate encounter with another man without his knowledge.  Many believe the incident led to Clementi's eventual suicide.  Today Ravi was found guilty of some charges of bias intimidation (hate crimes) as well as invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence.

I truly feel for the Clementi family.  No one should have to endure the suicide of a loved one, let alone a child.  But I want to focus on Ravi, because in some ways understanding what drove him to do what he did is every bit as important.  A few weeks ago I read a multi-page spread on the incident (which I will link if I can find).  Although it highlighted Ravi's antics as the catalyst for Clementi's suicide, it was painfully clear that Ravi is not the homophobic monster some might think.  In fact most accounts paint Ravi as a pretty typical teen, and that's where the trouble lies.

It shouldn't be typical for a teen to be so uncomfortable around and so poorly prepared to deal with someone different.  And I think that is largely what drove Ravi to do what he did, not an outright hatred of homosexuality, but an inability to maturely handle Clementi's attraction to men.  It can be a bit of a slap in the face to encounter someone whose core is so different from your own.  Ravi wasn't motivated by hatred, but fear, fear borne out of a lack of knowledge.

Ravi was curious, he wanted to know what his roommate was up to, wanted to know more about his attractions.  And at the same time he was insecure, bent on proving his masculinity to those he considered his friends, especially in the presence of someone who shunned much of that masculinity.  In filming his roommate, Ravi was both showing off, and burying his own insecurities.  That's a problem.  These things shouldn't be so shrouded.  Gays shouldn't be such a mystery, and their lives definitely shouldn't make us insecure about our own.  Just because one gay man loves another doesn't put a straight man's masculinity in question.  We, as a relatively (just go with it) evolved society should be better than that.  Ravi's actions show that we aren't.

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