Today, I came across a post on Jezebel which discussed the recent “prank” which Youtube star (and surely “star” is a loose term here) Sam Pepper uploaded. The response was largely one of outrage, quite rightly. The other horrifying response was that of aggression towards those who were offended by the video.
I haven’t watched the video – I don’t want to give the idiot responsible any more views that he might take as justification for his actions. I also don’t particularly want to watch women being touched in a sexual way by some predator in the name of entertainment. There’s another category of videos on the internet where that happens too, and those are illegal. They’re not pranks. Neither is this.
When I read the articles that discussed the video, my initial reaction was a powerful desire to punch the perpetrator in the face. I wanted to be violent right back at him. I imagined how I could kick him, yell at him, make him uncomfortable and frightened and violated. See how he likes it.
It’s not the answer. Another viral video that I watched in recent months was the one where two men experience simulated childbirth pain. One of the men was so shocked at how bad childbirth might be, he said he wasn’t sure he wanted his wife to go through it. That was a consensual experiment, the participants were fully aware of what they were signing up to and could stop at any time.
But for men to understand how it feels to be groped, assaulted, restrained, coerced, forced, humiliated, degraded, and all of the other things that women have been put through, there can be no informed consent. They couldn’t be allowed to stop the experiment when they got uncomfortable. People don’t get the chance to opt out when they’re sexually assaulted. How do we explain that to those who don’t seem to see what the problem is? He even posted the reverse scenario as part of the “prank” – a woman sexually harassing and assaulting men on film, for entertainment – that doesn’t make anything better. He says it’s OK for women to be violent and predatory towards men, so it’s OK for men to be the same? That perpetuates the problem.
Still, attempting to talk about the issue like grown-ups and educate people about how this kind of behaviour is not OK very often seems to produce accusations that women have no sense of humour, that it’s just a bit of fun, that women have misunderstood what has happened and are ruining it for everybody else. How frustrating that the accusers have completely missed the point. It’s enough to make all of womankind want to smack their heads against a brick wall. It would be more productive.
I am buoyed by the response from other Youtubers, who have openly condemned Pepper’s video and made it very clear that he will not be welcomed back to the community. Many of them are kind, conscientious, respectful men. I know there are a great number of these men out there in the world, and it is a good start that men are beginning to speak up for women too. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if women could fix all of the problems they face in the world all by themselves? The reality is that women’s problems aren’t women’s problems. They are problems for everybody. It shouldn’t be up to women to “fix” sexism or rape or domestic violence. These things don’t just happen to women.
What can I do? I can put my one voice in with all of the other voices and speak out for what I believe in. I can do everything in my power to raise children who believe in equality and respect, and who understand social boundaries. I can choose not to watch Sam Pepper’s video. I can push for an end to this vicious culture that says women should put up and shut up. As one of his victims put it: I don’t like that.