*This post discusses sexual assault, emotional manipulation, and victim-blaming*
Y’all know YouTube, right? Everyone’s favorite procrastination destination, an endless font of videos of cats getting into boxes and babies trying lemons for the first time.
What you may be less familiar with is the side of YouTube that has become a platform for individual artists and content creators to build audiences, express themselves, and form co-creative communities. The most famous of these YouTube artists make their living doing it. They perform at conventions such as Vidcon, where they are greeted by their (mostly younger, female) fans with adoration that falls somewhere between rockstars and best friends.
The YouTube community as a whole is a vibrant, exciting non-place where predominantly young people come together to share their enthusiasm and make amazing things happen. However, the emotional intensity and power inequality of some fan-creator relationships has a downside.
Earlier this week, a young woman by the name of Olga, who had dated one of these famous YouTubers (by the name of Tom Milsom) came forward with accusations that he had initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 16 and he was 22. She states that he was emotionally abusive and sexually coercive. A masterpost of her statements and some of the responses can be found here.
Predictably, Tom’s fans leapt to his defense, calling this young woman a liar (among other things). I’m not going to link to that bullshit here. I’m far more interested in discussing the positive, supportive responses to her statement. A hearteningly large percentage of the community has stood behind this young woman, including and especially the unofficial leaders of this co-creative community, Vlogbrothers John and Hank Green. They spoke out on Tumblr about the issue shortly after it happened, and removed the artist’s merchandise from their store, DFTBA Records.
Emboldened by the support that Olga received, several more people began to come forward with allegations against another famous YouTube artist by the name of Alex Day. A masterpost with all of the accusations, and Alex Day’s replies, can be found here. Alex Day’s merchandise has also been removed from DFTBA Records.
I’m not sharing all of this here because I think it’s news that a close-knit community with an unequal power structure has had multiple cases of sexual assault. I’m sharing it because the actions of the leaders of this community – discussing their feelings openly, expressing support for the victims, immediately removing all financial support for the perpetrators – is a model for how to be human in these situations. They didn’t respond perfectly or immediately, but it was still leaps and bounds above pretty much anything else I’ve seen so far. And I really believe that their vocal and unequivocal support has made a difference in how the rest of the community responded – theirs, and the support of other, less famous heroes, like DDP’s own Paul Roth (known in comments here as paulidin).
(Skip to 2:45 or click on the jump-cut to get to the relevant part. And don’t forget hit like and subscribe!)