TW: sexual abuse. Disclaimer: Just a girl with thoughts and a hope for a better community.
Last night I stayed up until 3:00AM following a trail of links around the internet. Although I wish I now had cute cat videos and fail gifs to share with you all, unfortunately the endless videos and tumblr posts I was viewing were from this masterpost. That, my friends, is a masterpost documenting the accounts of sexual harassment, abuse and even assault that various people have opened up about, and the responses (if any) that the formerly (and, sickeningly, even currently) idolised, respected, successful YouTubers have made.
You’ve probably heard that Sam Pepper has been accused of rape. I say ‘accused’ because I am not those girls who have shared their stories and he has not confessed, but there is absolutely no doubt in my heart and mind that the accounts and claims linked in the masterpost are honest and true. Sam’s actions and his victims’ responses and stories present an extremely fascinating and disgusting story (the disgusting part being his actions, the fascinating part his pathetic attempts (and lackthereof) to defend himself), a case I think is worth learning more about.
Now, after watching a few videos regarding Sam’s actions, I was sickened. But if after only watching a few videos I was having a mild flu, then opening the masterpost gave me a terminal illness. The amount of YouTubers that have been ‘outed’ as sexual harassers and abusers, some of minors and of other YouTube content creators, is something I did not realised existed. I was aware of the issue of “YouTube culture” but I did not know that the abuse of power briefly mentioned in many videos regarding the platform’s culture was something that had actively occurred in the past, is occurring now, and to such a severe extent. Sam Pepper’s story is only one of the many cases of successful YouTubers taking advantage of their platform and fan base, manipulating girls and boys, most underage at the time, into unwanted sexual encounters. This is an extremely serious issue that much of the wider YouTube community is not aware of or had sort of brushed aside like I had before curiously clicking that first video regarding Sam’s actions.
I’m not going to into detail about each case, there’s a shitload of stuff linked on the masterpost (unfortunately) that you can check out, I assure you it’s worth a read/watch. Instead, I want to talk about what we, as consumers and creators in the YouTube community can do.
- Awareness | watch the videos, read the posts, familiarise yourself with the situation. Know that:
- A few content creators on YouTube have taken advantage of their fan base, sexually harassing and even raping some, many underage. This includes YouTubers such as Sam Pepper, Jason Sansome (VeeOneEye) and Mike Lombardo, who was imprisoned earlier this year for charges regarding child pornography (I do not know the specific sentence, but he will be serving five years).
- More YouTubers, listed on the masterpost, have been ‘outed’ as extremely manipulative, sexually abusing others (for some, underage). For some, this has been shared through accounts from those who have been in romantic relationships with the content creators. This includes Luke Conard, Alex Day and Alex Carpenter.
- Most of these YouTubers, even those who have admitted that the allegations are true, have not had legal consequences. Sexual actions and advances without consent is harassment in the least, which is illegal; and as Hank Green puts it, “not saying no is not the same as saying yes”.
- A few continue to make content/are trying to return. This includes Ed Blan (eddplant), Alex Day, Craig Dillon and Jason (VeeOneEye). I mention these few, as they directly abused the power they gained through YouTube, and while absolutely everyone on this Earth can change and deserves a second chance (although the fact that the sexual harassment occurred in far more that one instance per perpetrator, which is what prompted the victims to share their stories), I, and obviously many others, feel that they should not be trying to take back the power and privilege they blatantly abused in the first place. Illegally. At least not now. Not here. (more below)
- Many support the accused YouTubers, accepting apologies made or even denying it happened in the first place. The apology thing isn’t particularly a good or bad thing, it varies from case to case.
- Those who have admitted to being victims of sexual harassment, abuse and/or assault have been receiving severe backlash, many claiming the victims are only seeking attention or “asked for it”. The latter is victim shaming, and the whole idea of sexual harassment is that the advances and actions are not consented to, regardless of whether either party was even flirting beforehand. As for seeking attention, I understand the doubts, in fact some have claimed to have had similar encounters with YouTubers such as Dan and Phil and Tyler Oakley, however they have been proven to be false. Despite this, each claim must be taken seriously and with caution and concern. Regardless of whether someone is telling the truth or not, this is a very serious issue and our only option is to treat it as so. If we do that, people learn very quickly that this is not an issue to be tampered with in hopes of personal gain, and those who lie will receive consequences for their actions, and it is not up to us to deliver those consequences before we even know the verdict.
- Talk about it | As a community, we need to make sure we do not forget about this issue. We must forgive and move on, but this is not an issue of the past; it is something that we are in the middle of right now. Many YouTubers are already walking away, legally unscathed, some even making a U-turn and coming right back to the YouTube platform (more below). YouTube can be and still is an awesome, positive platform, and addressing this issue, protecting those who have been hurt by these severe actions and ensuring that we do not desensitise ourselves to the issue of abuse is something that will help remind all members in the community, creators and viewers, that this is not okay.
- Admire, not idolise | No matter how much you love your favourite YouTuber, it is important to remember you admire their work, you admire the personality you see, however if you don’t know them, you do not know them and you cannot even begin to truly idolise someone you do not know on a very personal level. We are all consumers in the YouTube community, even the creators you know and love, so if we do not say and do things that put others far above ourselves in our own minds and in theirs, then we can help fill that great gorge that has split viewer and creator on YouTube. Content creators with followings must respect the people supporting their work, and the supporters must remember that we see only what the creator wants us to see. We are on the outside, looking through a tiny window into a grand art museum, full of displays we like but also many things we cannot see through our glass bubble. Of course, I am not saying in the slightest that all YouTubers are not genuine, nor that they need to be sharing more or less of themselves in any shape or form- content is supposed to be unique, individual and how the creator intends for it to be. These recent events, however, remind us that we don’t truly know someone just because we know facts about them or have witnessed parts of their life, whether that’s online or in real life. Familiarity does not mean closeness. Many who were best friends with and even lived with those who were sexually harassing others were not aware it was happening, nor that someone they had grown so close to would truly commit such disgusting actions (e.g. read Charlie McDonnell’s post or watch Jack Payne’s video). Everyone has secrets, just some much darker than others.
- Respect each other | This tends to be quite an issue in the comment section of YouTube and is part of the reason why I often don’t bother reading the comments in the first place. I almost always scroll back up annoyed and frustrated that it seems we can’t have mature conversation, usually due to one fucker that makes a comment but clearly isn’t there to discuss, listen, accept (whether it’s being wrong or just having different views) or even converse (and conversing’s a pretty integral part of conversation). Be respectful of each other (not well exemplified by my cussing, my apologies), understand that we’re all just humans who each have opinions and sometimes, our opinions are wrong, our opinions are different, our opinions need to be heard, and our opinions don’t need to be said at all. Everyone you will ever meet in real life and in the comments section of cute puppy compilation video knows something you don’t, so don’t ever be too quick to judge. Conversation, relationships and life in general requires patience.
- Do not support those returning | As mentioned before, many YouTubers who have taken advantage of their audience and/or others are returning to the platform, or never left in the first place. Cases such as Onision and Luke Conard are slightly different, as they did not directly abuse their YouTube audience in the form of sexual harassment, however they are guilty of abuse and you can of course read about their cases yourself and decide whether you want to support them (I’m guessing no.). In terms of those such as eddplant and VeeOneEye, they have made videos addressing the issue (which I personally find hardly sincerely apologetic) and these YouTubers did abuse their audience and did commit serious crimes- rape. And have admitted to it.
As I said before, everyone deserves another chance and I truly believe we should not judge and condemn one another (badly exemplified by myself in this post, unsurprisingly it’s difficult not to in this case), however not allowing these YouTubers to remain in the YouTube community is what’s best for the victims of their actions and the community as a whole. It indicates that we will not condone these actions, will prevent others from committing similar actions and help protect everyone in the community, even (and probably especially) those who have chosen to continue to follow (for serious lack of a better word) ‘outed’ YouTubers, even after confessing guilt.
If you’re curious about the content some of these YouTubers have returned with, you can find links to re-uploads and/or transcripts of the videos on the masterpost. Don’t watch the original videos, they’re monetised and funding their return, even just by the attention of one view, ain’t worth it. To unsubscribe from all abusers on YouTube, go to unsubscribe together. You can also visit YouTube Speaks for more.
By now, I guess you can see this is a big issue, much bigger than I ever realised, apparently. But we can all help. We form this community, so we have every power to change it. Abuse exists and it’s common amongst every race and gender, but while we can acknowledge it’s a part of our society, we do not have to condone it; and a butt pinch ‘prank’ on the street doesn’t have to be normal. Reach out and support those who have been hurt, treat abuse and sexual harassment like the serious issue it is, and spread the word. If you’re experiencing abuse or have before, please reach out- whether its asking for help or providing it. You can find an abundance of resources on the bottom of the masterpost (everyone there is much more experienced than me by a million miles. times nine thousand).
Much love, God Bless, stay safe, and DFTBA!