ROME — Italians reacted with shock Friday as television stations aired the funeral of a 31-year-old woman who took her own life on Tuesday after failing to escape notoriety from a three-year-old sex video that went viral.
Tiziana Cantone, a native of Naples, sent the video showing her in a sex act with her then-boyfriend to a few friends. Eventually, it was posted online.
Once the video was out, Cantone began drinking heavily before moving north to Tuscany and starting the process of legally changing her name, according to media accounts. She sought protection under Italy’s “right to be forgotten” law, which allows certain online content to be scrubbed from websites. But $23,000 in legal fees left her broke, and by then the video had been republished on too many sites for the ruling to have an impact.
In the video, she looks up at one of her partners and says, “Are you making a video? Bravo!” The phrases became a meme in Italy, trending on social media, and, according to a Naples website, LineaPress, appearing even on t-shirts and mobile phone cases sold in Naples. She was recognized and laughed at on the streets.
“She suffered from all of it, everything she saw and heard, and especially from the lawsuit, because justice had not been done,” Cantone’s mother, Maria Teresa Cantone said in a televised interview. She called her daughter a “sensitive girl” who considered the legal costs associated with the lawsuit “a final insult.”
Cantone killed herself at her aunt’s house near Naples. How she took her life was not disclosed.
Naples chief prosecutor Francesco Greco said Friday that an investigation was underway into possible charges of instigating suicide in conjunction with another investigation into a defamation complaint Cantone brought against four individuals last October.
Friday’s televised funeral and national news stories about her death sparked a public debate. Walter Caputo, a city councilman in the northern city of Turin, said on Facebook that Cantone was “no saint” and that she was “aiming for a certain kind of notoriety” by sending the video to friends.
Caputo’s comments were attacked as evidence of Italy’s sexism and sexual conservatism. Several commentators noted that if Cantone had been a man, she would have been treated very differently.
Roberto Saviano, an author and social commentator, said Italy’s “morbid” view of sex was the main culprit. Cantone “killed herself because she was a woman in a country where uninhibited and playful sex remains the worst of sins,” Saviano said.
On the streets of Rome, Cantone’s death sparked both anger and sympathy. “How could it have gone so far?” asked Roberto Bianchi, 39, a delivery driver who watched video of the funeral in a coffee bar. “It must have been clear to anyone involved it was not going to end well. The people who posted that video should be jailed.”
Antonella Mari, 79, a retired teacher, said she would pray for Cantone’s family. “What a tragedy that such a beautiful girl ends up like this,” Mari said. “The modern world is a tragic place.”
Teresa Petrosino, one of Cantone’s friends, said in an interview with the newspaper Corriere della Sera that those who insulted Cantone should be ashamed. “All those people who filled the Internet with insults all meanwhile secretly watched and re-watched the video,” Petrosino said.