By Julia Hower
Youtube star Sam Pepper caused controversy earlier this week when he posted a video entitled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank.” This video consisted of Sam Pepper using a fake hand to make it look like both hands were in his pockets, approaching women on the street to ask for directions, and then proceeding to grope them without their consent. In the video, one woman can be seen jumping back and saying “I don’t like that, I don’t like that,” as Pepper continues to grope her and laugh.
This was met with a very strong response from other successful Youtubers. Many have stated that they will not collaborate with Pepper in the future. He was banned from Vidcon, an annual convention for professional youtubers and their fans. His Youtube account was deleted after he posted a follow-up video saying that this “prank” was a “social experiment,” which many saw as an effort to avoid blame for his truly disgusting actions. Pepper also refused to address the issue on Twitter; in the days following the uproar, he tweeted about Italian food and falling asleep on the bus.
Pepper has a history of creating videos that make women uncomfortable and send very negative messages. One depicts Pepper walking through the streets of London and restraining visibly disturbed strangers with a lasso. Another is simply footage of Pepper forcing women on the street to kiss him on camera, which was supposed to be funny.
Despite a strong movement against Pepper from his colleagues, his fans are still adamant that the video was just a joke, and that he should be forgiven. If any good has come from this situation, it is the outspoken movement to denounce and de-normalize sexual assault, which hopefully has strongly counteracted the base and offensive messages this “joke” video sent. The message Pepper sent is that assault is normal, comical, and to be admired. The message his colleagues are sending him is that his behavior was inexcusable.