Alternative title: In which the internet has finally realized that Sam Pepper is a bastard.
The first time I encountered Sam Pepper was when he appeared as a guest in the show Virtually Famous in which they featured his video “How to Make Out with Strangers”. As I watched, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that this guy was an asshole and was baffled by how many people saw him as a “legend” due to his ability to coerce women into kissing him.
There has since been worse videos including acts such as him handcuffing himself to strangers until they kiss him and more recently there was the infamous ‘bum pinch’ video in which he “pranked” women by pinching their ass while not looking.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that a wide number of people were similarly appalled with this video and thus #reportSamPepper was born. Of course, with all issues which could be deemed feminist, there was a significant backlash with people saying that it was nothing more than a harmless prank. However, any sane minded person who has viewed the video should view it as an invasion of personal space and sexual harassment.
I have no problem with pranking as a concept. But it should NEVER be done to strangers. Sam Pepper often approaches random women on the street, forcing them to participate in their videos, with absolutely no idea of their backgrounds. The women who he force to kiss him may not be attracted to men (and I can guarantee that none are attracted to the grease-ball himself) or may be adverse to any kind of sexual contact. The women he handcuffed may suffer from PTSD and be triggered from a feeling of being trapped. The women he harass could have been sexually abused in the past and could be traumatized by the invasive contact. These are extreme examples of course, but the point still stands that when it comes to strangers you have no idea what the boundaries are and shouldn’t make it your mission to push them. I can guarantee that none of the featured women will look back fondly on their time in Sam Peppers videos where their harassment was turned into public entertainment.
Thankfully there was a strong enough backlash to get the video removed and even a lot of famous youtubers weighed in on the subject. Most notably Laci Greens open letter and Hank Green publicly banning Sam Pepper from VidCon.
Since the video was removed, Sam Pepper has back-pedaled, saying that it was all a “social experiment” and a PSA about sexual harassment. I do feel better that the women in this video had given their full consent to be involved. But the fact remains that this video just highlights the problems with every one of his other videos.
The main problem with this situation is that Pepper has wrongly assumed that all of his viewers will have watched the explanation. Some people will have just watched the offending videos without having heard his weak excuse for his actions. So many people will see the videos and think that this is acceptable behavior. It legitimizes the behaviors and assists in the normalization of sexually harassing women on the streets. And that’s the real issue that needs to be addressed.