Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are we learning anything from these web sex scandals?

And by "we," I mostly mean students who haven't learned the hard way yet.

Last week, we had the horror of Rutgers' freshman Tyler Clementi's suicide, after his roommate streamed live footage of him making out with another guy in their dorm room.

The only upside of that tragedy was the exposure it provided to the 1) the potential impact of any web posting, and 2) the ongoing problems of gay teen harassment and suicide.

This morning, the Today Show broadcast the story of a recent Duke graduate whose elaborate 42-page powerpoint "F*ck List" presentation has gone viral. Karen Owen was graphic and ruthless rating their looks, personality, penis size and stamina. (And reveals her own predilection for violent sex in the process. And her obliviousness to her own role in how "good" the encounters went. )

I won't link to the Today segment, because it's reported by that horrible Jeff Rossen. But has full coverage, with scans of Karen's critique of all thirteen "subject," with their names removed and faces blurred.

In this Karen's case, she has probably done the most damage to her own reputation, though it can't be pleasant to be any of those thirteen guys right now. (I'm not sure getting an all-star rating from this character is all that big a plus.)

You can bet life will be crappy for a whole lot of people at Duke University for awhile. And worse at Rutgers.

Last week, the roommate knew he was putting the stream out to everyone on the web. Karen Owen says she just emailed the powerpoint to a few friends--unaware of the forward feature now provided in some email systems?

In both cases, though, it's unlikely that the perps had any clue just how far the "prank" would go--that there is no eraser on the internet, and that sharing with one person = sharing with the whole world.

It's helpful that in both cases, the perp has been universally portrayed as complete douchebags. (And in the first case, facing multiple felonies. No word on legal action on the latest.)

We are never going to live in a world where everyone learns this. Some of us have probably done something potentially stupid in the past week. We are only saved by the discretion of our friends, and/or the dullness of our encounters. (Are a million viewers really interested in our emails? Not so far.)

But most of us learn something every time we hear this shit--at least for awhile. Hopefully, some 20-year old who still thinks she's invulnerable will shudder as she reaches for the enter key and remember what it did to these people.

I've definitely been shuddering. Am I the only one who's spent the past week with period bouts of that sinking feeling that the web is already scattered with the seeds of my future humiliation?

Thanks God for all the stuff I didn't post.

So . . .

Later this afternoon or tomorrow, I plan to start posting a youtube series on my life in New York City. Hmmmmm.

Haha. I'm serious about posting it, but I think it's pretty tame. As far as I know.


  1. At risk of outing myself (no pun intended) as the sociocultural elitist that I am (but try really hard not to be), I think the biggest problem that the internet and related technology have caused is that people think that if they have a voice (be it a microphone or a blog), that the voice is worthy to be heard. This is simply not the case. Someone thinks that because they have an opportunity to speak, they somehow deserve to.

    I'm certainly not advocating censorship, but I am advocating more people being selective about what they intake. Just because something's on TV doesn't mean you need to watch it, and just because you had sex with thirteen dudes doesn't mean you have to write about it. Like most contemporary movies very clearly illustrate, most people have very boring sex scenes/stories.

    Regardless, sorry to climb atop my high horse at the possible expense of the tragedy that inspired half of this post. It's awful that these things keep happening and it's terrific that people like you--people that both have a voice and something to say that's worth hearing--are using that voice to illuminate these senselessly cruel acts and the damage and pain that they cause.

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I find this whole story interesting. Karen Owen has sparked an interesting debate. I like your blog. I stumbled across this blog like I stumbled across yours. I found it interesting in its thoughts on Karen Owen:

    I’d love to see more like it. Thanks!