Monday 22 September 2014

Why Youtube is Mad at Sam Pepper

By Courtney Lockhart

On an unsuspecting Sunday afternoon cruising Youtube and Tumblr,  I saw something that bothered me. However, it was quickly followed by something that gave me hope.

Sam Pepper
Sam Pepper is a Youtube vlogger with over two million subscribers to his channel. He originally reached notoriety as a contestant on Big Brother U.K, however he is better known these days for his questionable prank videos. Past ‘pranks’ have included licking random strangers and trapping women with a lasso as a pick-up manoeuvre.  This weekend Pepper uploaded a video where he proceeded to stuff his sweatshirt with a fake arm and pinch women’s bums with his real hand while they were distracted.  People were quick to point out that this wasn’t a prank- this was assault.  

“We are really tired of people conflating 'offensive' with ‘edgy’." Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback! Ottawa lamented when asked about this particular brand of humour.  “The idea that harassing women in public is somehow 'new' and 'cutting edge humour' is incredibly misguided. Harassment and sexual assault by strange men against women in public space is far too common for someone to make a profit from such ‘pranks.' It's not about needing to loosen up or not having a sense of humour. We love a good laugh and there is no shortage of amazing Youtube videos out there. Sam Pepper, and others like him, think they are performing edgy humour when in fact, they are perpetuating the same old tired tropes that make every women the punchline. It's tired, it's sexist and it's definitely not funny.”
Via Youtube
Someone posting horrible things on the internet is nothing new. There is a whole section of the population that believes that is in fact the web’s primary purpose. What was different this time is that the protests and outrage on the video didn’t just come from the viewers, but from fellow Youtube creators.

Laci Green, host of Sex +, took to Tumblr with an open letter demanding that Pepper take down the video.  She asked Sam to “Please stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street
Laci Green
for views.  Please stop physically restraining them and pressuring them to be sexual when they are uncomfortable.”  The letter was co-signed by over 60 prominent Youtubers including Wil Wheaton, John and Hank Green, Hannah Hart, Grace Helbig and Tyler Oakley. As a direct result of the video, Pepper’s planned appearance at Playlist Live! was cancelled. He’s will no longer appear on the Fine Brothers’ Youtubers React series, and has been banned from the two biggest Youtube gatherings on either side of the atlantic: Vidcon and Summer in the City.  The video was eventually pulled after a massive campaign under the tag #reportsampepper

Seeing the creative powers of YouTube take a stand made me incredibly happy. It proved that this serious issue is being given the consideration it deserves. It is one thing to see an audience up in arms about content but for his peers to do likewise elevates the whole discussion. The Youtube community prides itself on being safe and welcoming to everyone. Sam Pepper harassing and assaulting women put that in jeopardy. 

As for the man himself? This is his only statement so far:  

Courtney Lockhart lives in the west end of Ottawa with her husband and step-cat.  She is polishing her skills to pursue one of her dream careers as either a costume drama character, Torchwood operative or executive assistant to a billionaire vigilante. You can follow her daily mission to DFTBA on Twitter @corastacy.

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