I am disheartened that the Reader chose to run an article that described the cruel prank pulled by Julia Rickert and her roommate Derek Erdman in 2001 ["My Muff Has Tusks!" August 19]. The snarky tone of the article, posted under the heading High Jinks, is clearly meant to entice us to find their stunt clever and amusing; instead I am thoroughly disgusted. It does not seem that the men who responded to the chat room invite were looking to commit statutory rape or a crime of any kind. Rather it seems that they were just men with a mild kink looking for some clean fun with a consenting adult. The Reader, after it has made a fortune in advertising revenue from phone sex and other adult-themed services, now sees fit to mock the people who patronize these services.
But Ms. Rickert and Mr. Erdman didn't just lure them to phone; they then proceeded to humiliate them with messages that insulted them with stock phrases recorded on a sampler. All of this is lurid and debasing for all concerned, but where Rickert and Erdman descend into the truly creepy is in recording the voice mail and releasing a CD. I am pretty sure that after Steve Allen, the FCC does not approve of phone calls being unknowingly used for entertainment purposes. Are we supposed to find their illegal behavior funny?
Look, I understand that there is something pathetic about people trying to meet sexual needs over the phone with strangers. But what's disgusting is the willingness of people like Rickert and Erdman to embarrass others simply because they are vulnerable. Simply put, they are bullies. And Ms. Rickert's attempt to justify this sadism is lame, to say the least.
Suppose Rickert and Erdman had posted a picture of a young stud and enticed gay men to call with their fantasies and then be held up for mockery. It is hard to imagine that such an article would have been allowed to be published. But what exactly is different?
I have always felt like the Reader existed in a slightly utopian space, where if we were just a little more tolerant of other people's quirks the world would be a better place. To find the Reader glorifying the wanton humiliation of mild deviants and rewarding one of the perpetrators with a job is a dispiriting sign of the times.