By Holly Henrichsen
In mid-September, YouTube star and former Big Brother contestant Sam Pepper uploaded a trio of videos blatantly showcasing sexual harassment. The first video, titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank” showed Pepper hiding his arm in his jacket and pinching women’s butts while they weren’t looking. The women all seemed very uncomfortable and some even voiced their discomfort. The backlash soon started rolling in.
The video was removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service days later. Pepper re-uploaded this video to his Facebook account but that was removed as well.
Days after the first video was uploaded, Sam uploaded a second and third video. The second video reversed the gender roles and showed a woman pinching men’s butts. This video was also taken down for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service. The third video was a reveal video, in which Pepper attempted to explain that the first to videos were to raise awareness for sexual harassment against males. Many people don’t believe that Pepper was genuine and that he was simply trying to backpedal from the backlash that happened after the first video. The backlash continued.
Whether or not Pepper meant to, he did bring awareness to the topic of sexual harassment (for both men and women). People took to social media outlets like Twitter and YouTube to voice their opinions and, although each was was told in a different way, the message was the same: touching anyone, male or female, in an inappropriate manner without their consent IS sexual harassment and it’s NOT okay. Here’s a compilation of tweets in reaction to Sam Pepper’s videos as shown through Storify.
This situation brought to light a topic that needs to be talked about and acted upon but, although there are so many people who know that sexual harassment is wrong, unfortunately, there are also many people who don’t understand just what sexual harassment is and don’t know why it’s wrong.
Part of this reason may be that public figures (like Sam Pepper) and the media downplay sexual harassment and this can have a large effect on the way it’s viewed by the general public. Havier Reveles, president of Texas State’s Men Against Violence, said “Anytime the media or a public figure downplays harassment it confuses people on what it could actually mean and what it could be. I guess the harmful effects from any type of bullying or harassment or stalking or violence because people look at these individuals as role models… they’re out in the public, they’re famous or even somewhat famous this [says] this must be okay if they’re getting millions of hits on YouTube, if they have a lot of advertisers, if they’re somebody of importance then they’re behavior isn’t bad. So that’s one of the levels of the continuum of violence is that media portrays behavior as minimized and so anybody else who’s looking on can say ‘Well, it’s not a big deal then, so I can do it. So, then the violence escalates in the community.”
If there’s so much confusion about it, how do we know what sexual harassment is? Reveles said “Sexual harassment is anytime a language or behaviors that are sexual in nature are used to use against somebody. It may not be meant to make somebody feel uncomfortable but that’s what sexual harassment is, whenever somebody feels uncomfortable with behavior that is being exhibited towards them or even in their general vicinity… it could be language, actions or body language as well. It could also be posters or text that is put up for everybody to see; anything that makes somebody feel uncomfortable is technically harassment.”
Men Against Violence aims to increase awareness of sexual violence and harassment, hate crimes, intimate partner violence and increase the knowledge of healthy relationships. Reveles said “Men Against Violence stands for equality for all genders, feminism if you want to put a label on it… What we’re trying to do here (at) Texas State is educate students, educate the Texas State community and even try and get out into the San Marcos community and educate everybody on what sexual violence is, what we can do as a community to stop (harassment and) what perpetrators can do to stop (harassing)… and then changing the idea of what masculinity is supposed to be about…” The organization has several outreach events throughout the semester to educate and raise awareness for different themes of violence.
What Pepper did was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that he, or anyone else with a history of sexual harassment, can’t change. Revels said “It’s never too late to change. The behaviors that Sam is exhibiting and anybody else who’s… harassing somebody, those are all behaviors that we learned whenever we were younger or growing up as a teenager or even in college or in our early 20s; these are all behaviors that are learned. We weren’t born being aggressive, we weren’t born… trying to exert our power and control over somebody just because of their gender. So, if they’re learned behaviors then they can definitely be unlearned. If that’s something you want to do definitely take the effort to relearn your behavior.”
If you’re interested in joining Men Against Violence, the organization meets at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday in the conference room of the second floor of the Student Health Center. Anyone is welcome to join.