Chapter 10: “Motion to dismiss”: Invasion of privacy, heteronormativity and the sex lives of others online in N.J. v. Ravi – Andrea Slane


Slane examines the nature of online sexual violence by analyzing the arguments made in the NJ v. Ravi case. In 2010, Dharun Ravi, a student at Rutgers University, used a webcam to film his roommate, Tyler Clementi, having sex with another man. Clementi subsequently committed suicide and Ravi was charged with a series of offences, including bias intimidation. Slane focuses on the meaning ascribed by both the prosecution and the defence to Ravi’s and Clementi’s online conversations in the context of the bias intimidation charges. She argues that online communications must be understood in context, especially when criminal charges have been laid against a young person, particularly with respect to: the degree of privacy/publicity expected in relation to communication on particular online platforms; and memes like “lol” and “hehehe” that superficially suggest levity, but can also be used as “covers” for deeper concerns. Her discussion of the relationship between homophobic expressions and heteronormative performances of masculinity underlines the importance of addressing the complexities that equality-seeking groups face in online communications.