*trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault and abuse*
What happens when someone you are a fan of, someone that you respect and look up to, and/or someone you know is outed as a sexual abuser? Let me tell you: it sucks. This is something that the YouTube community has been dealing with for months now, and it seems like the list of popular YouTubers who have been outed for sexually assaulting their fans is growing by the day.
The topic of sexual abuse on YouTube is huge, and there is so much that I can talk about that I don’t know where to start. Not only that, but I have been a part of the YouTube community for most of my teenage to adult life. I’ve been watching and making videos for over 7 years, and many of the people who have been outed as abusers were among my favorite content creators. In fact, I have met some of these YouTubers. Pictured below is my 17 year-old self with Mike Lombardo, a YouTube musician who is currently serving a 5-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
This pattern of sexual assault on YouTube is something that has been happening for years and is just now beginning to unfold to the public. For those of you who don’t know, YouTube is not only a website devoted to music videos and adorable kittens—there is a whole community of content creators that make videos for their own YouTube audience, gaining millions of views and subscribers. These content creators are so popular that they are able to make YouTube a full-time job, gaining a large amount of money and an even bigger audience. These YouTubers are in a very powerful position, and a select group of YouTubers abuse this power.
The most recent story in the world of YouTube sexual assault started with a video made by YouTuber Sam Pepper. Last week, he posted a “prank” video in which he pinched girls’ butts on the street as a joke. This video caused a huge outcry from the community. A very popular feminist/sex-ed YouTuber, Laci Green, wrote an open letter to Sam, which gained the support and co-signatures of over 100,000 people. After this public outrage, Sam’s video was taken down. However, Sam’s original video was just the beginning—Sam released another video, stating that his “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank” was actually a social experiment to shed light on male sexual assault… I’m sorry, what? How does assaulting women shed light on the issue of male sexual assault (a REAL, SERIOUS issue)? But I digress.
Ok, so it appears that Sam Pepper is guilty of sexual harassment and assault from his original butt-pinching video, as well as from some of his other videos. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Many, many women, some of whom were underage, began coming forward with stories of Sam Pepper sexually assaulting them in real life. These women may be pressing charges. Laci talks about many of these girls personal stories, along with a comprehensive overview of the Sam Pepper situation, in this video:
The thing that bothers me most about the Sam Pepper situation is how common sexual abuse and assault is on YouTube. Although other YouTubers have not made videos publically harassing women, many formerly-popular YouTubers have been accused of sexual assault over the past few months. There is a masterpost with all of these allegations, which has been growing as more and more people are coming forward to tell their story. Among the accused, Luke Conard and Alex Day were two of my personal favorite YouTubers, but I can never look at them the same way again.
I have so much more to say about this, but I don’t want to get redundant, so I am going to list below some videos that people have been making about abuse on YouTube. All I’m going to say is that this has to end, and the only way that it will end is if people start talking about it and if people completely cut-off the abusers from the community. The people that have been coming forward to tell their stories have been amazing, and so have the people who have been making videos about consent. Keep these stories coming. It’s hard to let go of people who you formerly admired and respected, but seeing the victims share their stories and seeing other YouTubers stand in solidarity with the victims is one positive step forward in an otherwise horrible situation.
^there are so many more videos just like this. Search “YouTube Abuse” on YouTube to see more.