There’s something wicked in the state of YouTube. Those of you who have spent any time on the website on the past year or so will know the problem. Starting with Ed Blann (Eddplant) in Summer 2013, at least 5 prominent members of the British YouTube community have been outed as sexual and emotional abusers, with many pressuring fans and underage girls into performing sexual acts. With this many incidents of sexual abuse being revealed in the past 14 months, it is clear to see that it’s a serious problem in the online video community.
One of the most recent outings has been Sam Pepper, although his apparent disrespect for women has hardly been kept a secret, his past videos include “How To Get A Girlfriend Easy”, in which he handcuffed himself to unsuspecting women and told them that they are ‘[his] girlfriend now’ (even forcing one woman to kiss him in order for him to remove the handcuffs), and ‘How to Pick Up Girls With a Lasso’, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Despite the women involved in these videos looking clearly distressed, comparatively little was done about it in the YouTube community until one of Sam’s more recent videos ‘Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank’ was uploaded. This ‘prank’ featured Pepper wearing a fake arm to fool women he groped with his real hand into thinking the sexual harassment was being perpetrated by innocent passersby. Many of the women angrily confronted him with one woman telling him, ‘I don’t like that’. However, despite her protestations, he laughed and continued to grope her.
Understandably, the YouTube and wider internet community was in uproar when ‘Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank’ was published, resulting in an open letter from prominent sex education YouTuber Laci Green. This open letter has now been cosigned by numerous heavyweights in the online video community, such as the vlogbrothers, Tyler Oakley, and Grace Helbig.
Following the open letter, Pepper went on to upload a ‘second part’ of his video series, in which women groped men, and a final video explaining that the previous two had merely been ‘social experiments’ that had been staged and scripted to highlight domestic violence. However, several women featured in the first video have since come forward on twitter and revealed that prior consent wasn’t obtained before filming.
While Sam Pepper’s videos grabbed media attention, his response to Laci Green’s open letter was kept under wraps.
While Pepper claimed that his emails had been hacked, it appears that this isn’t the first time that he has sent inappropriate messages to women. The Gryphon speaks to Emily* about her experience with Sam Pepper:
I was a fan of Sam at the time, it was 2012 and he’d just started a business selling his own hats. He put a status on his Facebook asking for girls to send pictures to his email address to be considered to model the hats on the website. The website already had photos of a girl wearing underwear and some of his hats.
I thought I’d email some photos, thinking nothing would come of it and, that there’d be dozens of professional models emailing him photos. He emailed back straight away, asking me to take photos in my underwear “like the girl on the website”. I assumed that that would be the brief the model would be given, and that he was talking on a professional level. I was in two minds about it, half-thinking that it could be professional, but part of me didn’t trust him. I told him that I didn’t trust him with underwear photos, and told him that I thought that he might post them to his Facebook and slut-shame me or something. He said “I won’t” and then asked for my skype. The part of me that was a fan of him was quite keen on talking to him on skype, but it just seemed dodgy. I told him I didn’t trust him with photos and he said “I won’t trust me. I want them DIRTY.”
He then proceeded to keep asking me for dirty photos. I said “I’m not gonna do it, obviously” and he said “fair enough. This could have been fun” Partly due to his fame, and partly due to the fact I was still his fan, I didn’t want the conversation to end there. So I asked him if he was doing any fan meet ups soon and if I could have a hug at one. He said “no hugs for you, you’ve not been nice.”
It made me feel pressured to send him dirty pictures, otherwise he wouldn’t like me; being a fan of his, I didn’t want that. I think famous people have power over their fans, they idolise them. I think he was using that power to his own advantage and not thinking about anybody else’s feelings, he got caught up in fame and his power.
I posted the screenshots to Facebook because I found the whole situation a bit unbelievable and laughable. Then I had three of my friends saying that he’d done the same thing to them, one where he’d asked for photos, one where he’d told her she was cute (she was underage), and one where the girl messaged me to warn me off him, because she’d had personal experience of physical relations with him, and she said he “uses girls” and that he only spoke to her when he wanted sex.
As of then, I’ve seen him in a different light to how I did before, I’ve been wary of him ever since. I watched his videos to observe his behaviour, not as entertainment. As soon as I saw the lasso videos, I felt uncomfortable and extremely sorry for the girls in the situation. Imagine feeling a rope around you completely unexpected? You’d feel like you were being kidnapped. I thought it was inappropriate, but since it was labeled as a prank and most people seemed to find it funny, I thought I was just being sensitive and kept my feelings to myself.
I think that that is part of the problem of the power famous people have. You feel as if you can’t say bad things about them. You follow them completely blindly. I’ve read what some of his supporters are saying on twitter. Like “oh Sam, I’d let you assault me” and I think that they’re so blinded by it all that they can’t think straight. Celebrities shouldn’t use their fame in this way, they shouldn’t use it to get people to do whatever they say, they should use it to change the world. People listen to their every word, they could make such a difference. But instead, he seems to use it to make girls do what he wants. I think that he’s lost sight of himself. He needs to look in the mirror and bring himself back to humanity, and think about other people’s feelings. I think that goes for any celebrity,they have followers. and should inspire them in a positive way, not use them and then throw them away once they’re done with them.
In my opinion, the way he’s trying to cover up it all is him panicking, hoping he can make things right for himself again. He knows he’s done something wrong. But he’s chose the wrong path and tried to get out of it by lying and acting like nothing has happened, pretending that he was in the right all along. I feel sorry for him, because he’s got himself into a difficult situation, and saying sorry is so incredibly hard, but it was the right thing to do, and I don’t think he was strong enough to come out with it. I don’t think he quite knows what it’s like to get hurt and used. I feel like I’d have so much more respect for him if he’d just said “Sorry.” And I hope that he gets the strength to do that, rethink his life choices, and move on.
I think that it’s important for people to not keep quiet about any opinion they have, I think if something makes you uncomfortable, you should voice your opinion, because there will be other people who think the same way as you that have also been too scared to say anything. And you can make a difference to the way things are if you’re strong enough to say what you feel. It’s a domino effect and I think that’s exactly what has happened with Sam. One person has had the strength to say he was being inappropriate, and other people have followed. And that’s why everybody is coming out with stories about him now. Power in numbers. Not because they all want fame or are attention-seeking. Because they were too scared to do so beforehand.
*names have been changed