Sam Pepper has finally completed his opus — a trilogy of videos with the stated purpose of conducting a "social experiment" and making us think about the nature of acceptable behavior between genders. But, let's make one thing clear. This ain't the Up series.
Sam Pepper is, and has been, one of many YouTube "pranksters" to perpetuate the juvenile view of women as an easily-manipulated commodity deserving of such treatment. His fans revel in his staged antics and are all too happy to come to his defense when he is justifiably called-out.
In case you're just joining the party, here's what's been going on.
Sam Pepper posted a video to YouTube (which the website has since removed) called the Fake Hand Butt Pinch Prank. In the video, he approaches young women on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, distracts them for a moment by asking the location of a store, and then grabs their asses when they're turned the other way. The women react in a variety of ways: some just walk away, others say "that's not cool." All the while, Pepper laughs and laughs.
The original video garnered swift condemnation from YouTubers, among them some of America's most prominent online voices, including Hank Green and Laci Green (no relation). After YouTube removed the video for violating its terms of service, Pepper posted Part II of the video series, featuring relative unknown Alanah Cole. Note: The Facebook post of this video has since been removed. It's unclear whether Facebook or Pepper himself took it down.
This is the exact same "prank," but with a woman grabbing men's butts. The men react in a similar manner to the women: "that's not cool" or just walking away. The comment section, however, was no less brutal to Pepper. This video, as well, has been removed from YouTube, but here is a sampling of comments on Sam Pepper's Facebook page, which has nearly 700,000 likes:
-"Is this supposed to make us feel better?! I don't think this is better in ANY way than when you pinch girls bums if that what you tried to do! Both genders no matter who's touching who if you don't have the consent DON'T DO IT. Gosh this is ridiculus..."
-"You're still full of shit."
-"It's not funny."
-"so... your apology for sexually assaulting women is 'no it's okay! i sexually assaulted guys too!!' ??"
In fairness, Pepper does have his supporters, though most of them argue that neither of these videos is particularly offensive and that nothing damaging to either gender has been perpetrated.
After posting Part II, Pepper broke his silence and tweeted the following:
So something else is going on here. Pepper is doing what he has never done before: asked his audience to think. But, about what? The answer to that would come this morning, with Part III.
Okay....okay. So both videos were scripted and we, the viewers, have all jumped to conclusions and acted as Sam Pepper's judge, jury and executioner. But...was the reaction to Part II really that different from Part I? Is the sexual harassment faced by men in any way comparable to the bombardment women have to deal with from the time they're 13 years old? The answers to these questions, in my opinion, are "No" and "No." But, that's beside the point.
Anyone who's seen all three videos has an opinion, but I'm not convinced that we've heard the real opinion of the YouTube creator himself. So, here are my three questions for Sam Pepper.
1. Will you respond to the commenters coming out in defense of the first video?
Mr. Pepper, can I call you Mr. Pepper? (You're conducting a social experiment, a la Dr. Zimbardo at Stanford. Can I please please call you Dr. Pepper?) You have admitted that the behavior displayed in Part I of the "Butt Pinch Prank" was staged, and that the women all gave their consent before shooting. However, this video was posted under the pretense that the actions were real, and many of your fans absolutely LOVED it.
Do you have a message for them about how this behavior is unacceptable? Will you go back through your catalog of videos, find those who support this behavior, and correct them?
2. Will you remove, and apologize for, your other offensive pranks?
Now that you're such a feminist — a freedom fighter, as it were — for equality between the genders, will you remove your videos that belittle women, or admit that they, too, were all staged?
I am referring, specifically, to the following:
In the "InstaWhore" "prank," you ask a girl for her number and are denied. Then, she sees how many followers you have on Instagram, and suddenly wants to get to know you better. The video is obviously staged — it's hard to capture sound from someone speaking without a microphone.
Will you apologize for calling a woman an "InstaWhore" and admit that this video was scripted in an effort to make you look like an alpha male?
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In this video, you physically restrain women with a rope, but offer to set them free if they will kiss you or Vine bro Logan Paul.
Will you apologize for the subjugation of women in this video and admit it was staged?
(Keep in mind, both of these videos have been released in the months since the Isla Vista shootings, after the #YesAllWomen hashtag flooded America's social media consciousness. Mr. Pepper intentionally ignored the discussion surrounding women's rights to produce his offensive and childish "pranks.")
In January of this year, Pepper staged a video where he actually handcuffs himself to women on the Third Street Promenade, and then tells them "we're dating now." Millions of years of evolution, and Pepper's strategy is barely the level of a caveman in a Far Side comic.
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3. Are all your prank videos fake?
These videos are all intended to produce the same result: You look like a badass, and women look like flimsy, scatterbrained pawns in your sexual game. Of course, none of this could be farther from the truth. These videos are all carefully crafted — which I will begrudgingly give you credit for — to ignore that you are insecure like the rest of us and that you need to degrade women online in order to make yourself feel good.
It's actually quite common among Internet pranksters, so you're hardly alone.
Vitaly's got the Lamborghini car rental folks on speed dial to pull off his obviously-staged, misogynist gags:
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You really have only two options. Deny that the videos are fake, and stick to your story that you really believe that women act this way, and you are the real victim. Or admit that they're all fake and find a new way to entertain your viewers.
Ultimately, I'm not worried about you, or Vitaly, or any of the other Internet pranksters who get their kicks scripting scenarios to make women look gullible and stupid. You have 2.4 million subscribers. You'll be just fine.
I'm more concerned about the kids who find you entertaining and absorb your videos as truth. I'm concerned that, instead of apologizing and trying to regain your standing in the YouTube community, you chose to make yourself appear to be the martyr, the poor, attractive white man caught on the wrong side of a sexual double standard.
Now, I've been to Vidcon, and I saw you get mobbed by 14-year-old girls. I have no doubt that your ass was grabbed. This is wrong and I think your fans should learn this lesson. I just doubt that you'll earn enough respect to teach that lesson as long as "InstaWhore" remains on your YouTube channel. I believe you were sincere when you tweeted this:
You're right. We can all do things better. I'm sure you're not a bad guy. (UPDATE: If these sexual assault allegations are true, I will rescind the previous statement.) I just don't think you fully understand why people are still so mad at you. The sooner you do, the sooner we'll have strong, mature voices on YouTube, teaching girls that they don't have to act like bimbos to get attention, and teaching boys that they don't need to play tricks or drive a rented Lamborghini to get respect.
I'll leave you with your own words, and hope they inspire the potent discussion you originally intended.