Lizzie Roberts looks at the recent online backlash to controversial YouTuber Sam Pepper.
On Saturday Ex-Big Brother Housemate and popular YouTuber Sam Pepper uploaded the most controversial “prank” video YouTube has ever seen. In the video his hoodie sleeve is tucked into his pocket allowing his real hand to go under his jumper and feel up women’s bums unsuspectingly in public, all caught on camera.
The YouTube community and the entire Twittersphere erupted in disgust and anger at the video, calling him out on his blatant misogyny. Soon after the video’s release prominent YouTubers came together as a collective, headed by Feminist activist and blogger Laci Green, to take a stand against Sam’s video and asking him to remove it. The open letter to Sam had 50,000 co-signatures in the first day and now has 88,000+ re-blogs on Tumblr.
Yesterday he finally spoke out about the incident, claiming the whole event was one big social experiment. He uploaded the video ‘Part Two’, (which was soon also removed by YouTube like the first), where a woman took the place of Sam and performed the same ‘prank’ this time grabbing male bums. ‘Part Three’ involved Sam talking to the camera and explaining the “social experiment” was to see how we would all react to women being sexually harassed. He thanked his viewers, other members of the YouTube community and worldwide media for mentioning the video and sharing their opinions.
So why did he do it?
Sam goes on to tell a story about a close male friend who experienced domestic violence in his marriage and about how female to male domestic violence is less reported and acknowledged in our society. He wished to “highlight the differences between abuse towards a woman and abuse towards a man, with us as the unwitting participants at the heart of the experiment”. He claimed that no one was as angry towards the video with men being grabbed, as they were in the female video. “I’m happy that the rights of a woman are protected at all costs” he said.
But was this even a fair ‘experiment’? The video of the men being touched was uploaded to his YouTube channel, quickly removed by YouTube and then re-uploaded to his Facebook page. His third video explaining the experiment was uploaded only a short time after this, rather than days after, just like the first video. It hardly seemed like he gave the second video a fair chance to gather the same momentum as the first?
Regardless of his motives behind these videos, his emphasis on ‘protecting women’s rights at all costs’ seems a little ironic to say the least. This latest prank/social experiment is not the first time he has uploaded grotesque content that objectified and took advantage of women and girls.
Last year he uploaded a video where he practically forced women to make out with him in the street. In another, he physically restrained women in public with a lasso and another featured him literally handcuffing women to himself without their permission. In fact, looking through his channel his feed brings up even more videos which I would consider misogynistic, offensive and harmful. Such as “InstaWhore prank”, “stealing girlfriends” and “how to pick up cougars”.
In these videos he uses women as props, set pieces and involuntary extras in his pranks, he normalises sexual harassment by trying to pass it off as comedy.
In response to his Part Three video Laci Green tweeted, “Call it a ‘prank’ or an ‘experiment’, if you touch someone without consent and promote that as comedy, you are part of the problem… PS: Sam Pepper has made MANY videos violating women over the years, so this video isn’t the only point of concern…PPS: Since writing my open letter, I’ve received multiple scared emails from women Sam has harassed and assaulted at conferences”.
Sadly confirming Laci’s tweet another YouTuber, ThisbeDottie, uploaded a video yesterday about her experience when Sam invited her to the cinema, she was 16 and he was 23. In short, she claims he tried to pressure her into doing sexual things she was not comfortable with. When she refused, he literally ran away from her and messaged her later saying “she had tricked him”, blaming her for the whole event. She wanted to make the point that he had made her feel guilty for HIS wrong actions. Since his recent uploads Dottie felt the need to reveal what had happened to her for the sake of protecting other girls.
YouTube has come to replace TV for many young people, with millions of impressionable viewers tuning in on a daily basis. What Sam passes off as banter, a prank or an “experiment” is ingraining into the minds of young boys that it’s okay to treat girls this way. And for girls that it’s normal to be subjected to such harassment.
Remember, every view on his channel is generating him money. So don’t go and watch the video in question, his ‘big reveal’ video or any of his other content for that matter. Stand up to his ignorant sexism, acts of sexual harassment and poor attempts at humour along with the rest of the YouTube community. It looks like most of us don’t buy your cover story I’m afraid Sam.
By Lizzie Roberts
[Image: Greg Skidmore}