Controversy in the YouTube Community

YouTube, which was created in 2005, is now a household name, and YouTubers have achieved full careers through it.

YouTube, which was created in 2005, is now a household name, and ‘YouTubers’ have achieved full careers through it.

Zoey Becker, Online Opinion Editor

On Sept. 20,  YouTube star (commonly known as a ‘YouTuber’) Sam Pepper uploaded a “prank” video to YouTube in which he asked girls for street directions while hiding his hand in his shirt. He then proceeded to “pinch their bums” when they turned around. Unsurprisingly, the Internet quickly exploded with outrage. With the sexualization and harassment of women which is already such a tragically common horror these days, why would a famous YouTuber think its okay to put something like this on the Internet?

No one truly knows the answer to that. However, many YouTube fanatics are accounting for it with the fact that Pepper is a terrible person. That has always been something of a commonly known fact in the YouTube community. Hank Green, creator of many YouTube conventions, tweeted an announcement that Pepper was banned from all future YouTube events, such as Playlist Live and VidCon. Other YouTubers such as Nathan Z and Tyler Oakley tweeted that they were shocked he wasn’t banned from YouTube altogether. His video was flagged and taken down. After the extremely negative response from the Internet, Pepper made two more videos adding to the “series”; the second one showed a girl doing the same thing as shown in the first video to guys, and the third explained that the whole thing was a “social experiment” to prove a point about sexual harassment and abuse.

Pepper’s third video, his ‘explanation video’, somehow managed to make it even worse. In the video, he claimed the whole series was a “social experiment”, and he wanted to show to his viewers how he feels when fans “pinch his bum” at his meet-and-greets. He also stated the whole video was staged and scripted, and the women in the video were actresses. He said he was inspired to create the video because a male friend of his recently confessed to being involved in a physically abusive relationship, and he wanted to show support and spread awareness about male abuse.

Many of his viewers, including myself, don’t understand his thought process towards this video. Other celebrities, such as Cole Sprouse, have conducted social experiments, but they tend to be harmless, unlike Pepper’s. Sprouse’s, which was done for his college sociology class, was to see how many people gathered to his Tumblr account (now deactivated) and how they reacted to it. This reputation of social experiments of being harmless but confusing makes Pepper’s “experiment” seem even more extreme. No one seems to understand how it makes sense to make a video spreading awareness to sexual harassment by committing the very act he is preaching against.

His thousands of followers quickly responded with furious debate. Many people think what he did was admirable, and he just happened to get caught up in hate. Others said that prank or no prank, it was rude and ignorant. Most are just confused about how a video of him blatantly harassing women has to do with abuse awareness.

In our present world, where women are scared to walk into parking lots alone, any video touching on the subject of harassment  is sure to get a strong reaction. In my opinion, it was stupid of Pepper to begin with, whether it was a social experiment or not. I do not think that Pepper is a good person and I, along with many others, have lost all respect for the former YouTube celebrity. Since the video was posted, he has lost over 300 thousand subscribers. This situation is a warning to other YouTubers- while it is easy to make mistakes on camera, it is not always easy to fix them. Sam Pepper’s video series just proves that instead of making up excuses, you should always just say sorry to apologize to anyone offended by your actions.