The ongoing saga of Sam Pepper’s very public self-immolation took a sharp turn this morning as the controversial creator released a follow-up to his video,“Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank.” The original video, which featured Pepper groping women on the street, garnered a predictably negative response from the public, the media, and the YouTube community. Within a day Pepper had earned himself a lifetime ban from VidCon, Playlist Live and the set of the Fine Brothers’ “YouTubers React,” and the contempt of the YouTube community at large. The original video was removed by YouTube, as was a follow-up posted late last night in which a young woman similarly gropes various men. This morning, Pepper posted a what appears to be a somewhat rushed third installment to the series, “The Reveal” which claims to clarify his intentions.
To summarize, for those of you not inclined to watch Pepper’s somewhat meandering ramble, he claims that the series was created in an attempt to shed light on the sometimes invisible sexual abuse of men. According to Sam the disparate reactions to the two videos illustrate the ways in which society recognizes sexual violence toward women more readily than that against men. Furthermore he claims that both videos were scripted though it is unclear if he is suggesting that all of the “victims” were actors who had been prepared for, and consented to, being touched. If that’s true it remains a misguided attempt at best. Creating a teachable moment by glorifying sexual assault as entertainment does not mitigate the assault itself.
The consensus from the viewing public is that Sam’s latest video is a transparent attempt to spin a very damaging prank by tacking on some lip-service about sexual assault awareness. Viewers and community members have pointed to Sam’s history of creating sexually exploitative content without any clear social message. There has been no “Reveal” video to show viewers what they should have learned from videos like “How to Pick Up Girls With a Lasso,” “How To Steal a Girlfriend” and “How To Makeout With Strangers,” all of which also feature Sam forcing unwanted physical contact on strangers.
Like a true narcissist, Pepper eventually brings the focus back to him. After an aside about an anonymous male friend who was the victim of assault and violence, Pepper brings the conversation around to his own experiences being groped by fans at gatherings. It’s a complaint we’ve heard from other creators who find themselves in high pressure fan-mob sitautions and it is easy to empathize. However, it is also easy to see that the correct way to respond to being assaulted in public is not, in fact, to assault others.
Ultimately, and against all odds, Sam’s personal reveal does give this whole unfortunate incident a happy ending. The YouTube community has been forced to grapple with more claims of sexual abuse against one of its members, a handful of individuals have had their bodies and personal space violated, and a bright young creator has lost the trust and respect of his peers, but there is a silver lining: Sam Pepper will no longer have to worry about handsy fans groping him at YouTube gatherings, because he’s banned from all of them.