David Dobrik Is Under Fire Today, But Internet Prank Culture Has Greenlit Sexual Assault for Years

Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.

We use many different words to describe sexual assault and harassment: criminal, violating, non-consensual. Here’s a word we rarely use in this context: cringey. That’s the word mega-creator David Dobrik might use; in fact, he would go for a tasteful “SUPER CRINGEY.” Dobrik rose to fame on the late video platform Vine (RIP), and later in 2015 through his four-minute-long vlog-style videos featuring a group of boisterous friends, later dubbed The Vlog Squad. In 2019, Dobrik was the fifth-most viewed creator on YouTube, and dubbed “Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon” by The Wall Street Journal. Beyond the YouTube platform, Dobrik went on to voice animated roles in commercial films and host television programs for Nickelodeon and the Discovery Channel. In the social media world, David Dobrik is a bonafide A-lister.

Dobrik has come under fire in the last month for allegations of sexual assault in his vlogs, but his is not the first YouTube channel to hide assault in plain sight. The prank culture which has flooded the platform in the last 10 years has created a breeding ground for unwanted sexual advances, the only real consequence being demonetization of videos and loss of the mighty ad dollar. 

Last month, former Vlog Squad member Seth Francois came forward to discuss a now-deleted video from 2017 in which he was sexually assaulted. Before planning and filming Francois’ assault, Dobrik used him as a prop in a number of racist and antiquated bits (think watermelon jokes and gorilla masks). To summarize the video in question, it follows the formula of many of Dobrik’s vlogs, turning Vlog Squad member Jason Nash into a dancing puppet to surprise unsuspecting friends. Hilarious. In the video, we see Francois agree to a consensual kissing bit with a female member of the group, but to his surprise, Jason Nash enters the room in a rubber mask and proceeds to make out with Francois—without his consent. The Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient,” defining consent as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.” Simply put, any sexual contact without consent is considered sexual assault in the eyes of the law, and YouTubers are no exception.

In a recent appearance on the H3 Podcast, Francois detailed the events leading up to and following the public “bit.” Echoing the sentiments of so many male victims of sexual assault, what followed was a three-year battle of confusion and emasculation for Francois. Dobrik’s removal of the video has not stopped clips from resurfacing in the past two weeks, and while he has yet to make a statement, the internet is abuzz. On February 16th, Jack Link’s Jerky, a product which appeared in the original video, tweeted to clear its name of any connection to Dobrik, ensuring that the brand ” not tolerate or condone any non-consensual conduct such as what happened in this video.” For those taking the video’s removal as a sign of growth, not so fast. Dobrik once reflected on the clip on his own podcast, referring to the bit in question as “the perfect setup,” Nash following up with, “it’s good for Seth, it gets him some air time.”

David Dobrik may be taking the hot seat this month, but assault shrouded in prank is basically a building block of YouTube’s foundation. Just days ago, three YouTubers in Mumbai were arrested for sexual assault and “creating obscene and vulgar prank videos in public places.” Through more than 300 public videos, the accused creators would approach young women, offer them money to act in their videos, and proceed to touch and harass them as a “prank.” The consequences of these types of prank videos are far from consistent, and it’s impossible to ignore the divide in response between male and female victims.

Enter defamed YouTuber, Sam Pepper. Before his “Killing Best Friend Prank” video and public rebranding, Pepper was a huge creator on YouTube with millions of views. In those earlier years on the platform, a video hitting one million views was a big deal. Pepper’s content was viral and almost entirely prank-based, but in September of 2014, he incited his own reckoning. Pepper uploaded the now-infamous “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank” video, in which Pepper would approach women in public, ask for directions, and grab their butts with a fake hand. The internet almost immediately snapped on Pepper, with #ReportSamPepper trending on Twitter. Users called for his removal from the platform. Female creators were quick to speak out against him; one creator publishing an open letter calling on him to “stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street for views.” The letter would go on to collect more than 110,000 signatures.

That was the reaction in 2014. Just three years later, Dobrik would post the video, “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY)” — yes, that’s the title — presenting the sexual assault of Seth Francois as comedy. Where were the open letters for Seth? Where was his 100,000-person army, and why weren’t creators urging Dobrik to stop making his friends uncomfortable for views? Are we trying to protect Gen Z’s future King of Late Night, or is this just another example of the world turning a blind eye to male sexual assault?

According to a statistic of the same phrasing, at least one in six men have been sexually abused or assaulted, and the stigmas that weigh on male victims are short-sighted and dismissive. Men can’t be forced into sexual acts against their will, men are less affected by assault, women cannot rape men. For male victims, mass public support is like shoddy cell service—spotty, inconsistent, and laden with fine print. That said, whether the victim is male or female, the world’s message is clear. We’ll support you if your abusers aren’t primary revenue sources. We’ll speak out if we’ve already unsubscribed. 

For Francois, the aftermath of his assault mirrored the fallout of so many survivors before him, male and female. He struggled with identity and masculinity and fought hard to accept that he wasn’t at fault. He fielded overwrought questions like, “why has it taken years for you to speak up?” His response is simple. “When he pulled the mask off, it was a split decision,” says Francois, “I could either give in to my natural instincts and be the angry Black guy in the room, or I can just go along with it, and I made that decision.”

In his appearance on the H3 Podcast, Francois speaks on the situation in the simplest terms he can: “I was touched by someone I did not consent to.”

In the last few years, we’ve made serious strides in the recognition of unjust behavior and created space for victims to speak out, but the conversations surrounding male sexual assault need to catch up. 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit their website to receive confidential support.

Images: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Jaden & Jada Pinkett Smith Came After YouTuber Shane Dawson

Over the last month, social media apologies have been a regular occurrence as celebrities, media personalities, reality stars, and the like have faced heightened scrutiny for problematic behavior. These revelations about insensitive behavior seem to be affecting different industries in waves, and now, it’s YouTube’s turn in the hot seat. The YouTube community is generally known for being a breeding ground for drama and messiness, but racist content goes a step above the usual beauty guru feuds. In the past week, several of the platform’s top creators have been taken to task for their problematic content, but none has come under fire more than Shane Dawson.

Shane Dawson has been one of YouTube’s top creators since the site’s early days, and his videos have racked up over four billion views. In the last few years, Shane has mainly been known for his documentary series about other YouTube personalities like Tana Mongeau and Jeffree Star, but a decade ago (we’re old), it was his over-the-top sketch comedy that made him a YouTube star. But those videos were littered with racist characters, racial slurs, and even blackface, and in 2020, they’re finally catching up with him.

Last Thursday, another megastar of YouTube’s early days, Jenna Marbles, announced that she is “done with this channel, for now or forever”, after receiving backlash for several of her old videos. The videos at the center of the controversy included a Nicki Minaj parody, which featured Marbles in blackface, and a rap video in which she used derogatory language about both Black and Asian people. In her apology, she said she wants to “make sure the things I’m putting in the world aren’t hurting anyone”, and will be taking an indefinite break from YouTube.

After Jenna Marbles uploaded her apology video, social media turned its attention to Shane Dawson, calling out similarly problematic content in his videos. On Friday, Dawson uploaded a 20-minute video titled “Taking Accountability,” which he said was inspired by seeing Jenna Marbles’ video.

Right off the bat, he addressed apology videos he’s made in the past, saying that they were made out of “fear” that everyone was mad at him, rather than a desire to actually hold himself accountable. In the video, he apologized for using “stereotypes of Black people, or Asian people, or Mexicans, or pretty much every race.” He added that he is also sorry that he “added to the normalization of blackface, or the normalization of saying the n-word.”

The video is pretty standard YouTube apology fare—thankfully without any fake tears—but it’s not for me to accept or reject. Shane Dawson has lost around half a million subscribers in the last week, but one very famous family has made their disapproval extremely clear. Along with all the other problematic content on his channel, a clip surfaced in which Dawson pretended to be aroused by a picture of Willow Smith, who was 11 years old at the time. In his apology video, Dawson apologized for making jokes about pedophilia, but didn’t reference this specific clip. The day after the apology video, Jaden Smith and his mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, made their thoughts known on Twitter.

SHANE DAWSON I AM DISGUSTED BY YOU. YOU SEXUALIZING AN 11 YEAR OLD GIRL WHO HAPPENS TO BE MY SISTER!!!!!! IS THE FURTHEST THING FROM FUNNY AND NOT OKAY IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT.

— Jaden (@jaden) June 27, 2020

To Shane Dawson … I’m done with the excuses.

— Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) June 27, 2020

Look, all I’ll say is that you know you’ve f*cked up when Queen Jada is dragging your ass on Twitter. Shane hasn’t publicly responded to the Smith family.

It’s unclear where Shane Dawson will go from here, but given that he still has over 22 million subscribers, I’m sure he’ll figure something out. And in just a few short days, the tide of YouTube anger has already turned to a new subject: Liza Koshy. Another creator whose video views number in the billions, she and her ex-boyfriend David Dobrik were called out for a 2016 video in which they “imitated Asian accents while tasting candy from Japan and Hawaii.” In the video, Dobrik specifically says, “It’s not racist, that’s like the sounds I hear when they talk,” which like, no. And in a second video with the same concept, they not only imitated the accents, but “pretended to speak Japanese.”

 

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On Sunday, Koshy shared a lengthy statement on Instagram, which conspicuously featured no actual mention of the videos in question. She said that she “unknowingly perpetuated racist ideas” through her content, and that going forward, she is “taking note that my impact and influence will weigh greater than my intention.” So far, David Dobrik hasn’t made any public statement about the controversy.

Considering the amount of messiness in the YouTube community, there will almost certainly be more of these apologies, and hopefully they’re sincere. But in the meantime, why not freshen up our feeds with more BIPOC creators? There are so many, but here are a few of my favorites that you should definitely check out:

One of my personal favorite beauty gurus, Jackie Aina is beautiful and hilarious, and usually steers clear of the drama in the YouTube beauty community.

Rachel Ama makes amazing vegan recipe and lifestyle videos, and even if you’re not into cooking, her videos are beyond soothing. Just trust me on that one.

My number-one weakness is watching luxury handbag videos, and Mel in Melbourne basically unboxes a new Hermès bag every other week.

KarenBritChick is possibly the most chic person on the planet, and her mix of high-end and thrifted fashion is enviable. If you like fashion content, she’s a must-watch.

If you like knowing about YouTube drama but don’t actually know who most of these people are, As Told By Kenya is essential viewing. She breaks down YouTube scandals and pop culture messiness better than anyone else, and she’s also funny AF.

Those are just a few of my favorites, but the best part of YouTube is that you can easily spend hours going down a content rabbit hole. And with that, I’ll be spending the rest of the day watching handbag reviews if you need me.

Images: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com; Shane / YouTube; Jaden, jadapsmith / Twitter; lizakoshy / Instagram

People You Need To Follow On TikTok

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article explaining WTF TikTok is, and exploring whether or not it’s an app you need to download. A lot of you seemed to share my confusion about the biggest social network for Gen-Z, but we’re all in this learning process together. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time on the app, and I’ve gotten a little bit addicted. There’s honestly so much creative content out there, from people making cool art to hilarious teenagers that I feel uncomfortable following.

TikTok is the kind of app where you can just scroll down the featured page and see some good stuff, but it’s more fun to follow people you really like. It can be a little tough to figure out who you should follow, so I spotlighted some accounts that are definitely worth the follow. Oh, and all of these people are at least 18 years old, because I don’t need to be talking about literal children on the internet.

Brittany Broski

Even if you still don’t understand how TikTok works, you’ve definitely seen Brittany Broski. She went insanely viral for her video of her trying kombucha for the first time, which has been memed approximately a billion times. For example:

 

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“People ask me almost every day to explain TikTok to them. TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular apps among Gen-Z, but it’s still a mystery to most of us in the post-college crowd. Lucky for you, I’m venturing into the depths of the youths to figure out wtf TikTok is, so STOP ASKING ME.” Hit the link in bio to have all your questions answered, and to feel old af. @brittany.and.the.jets @dietstartstomorrow

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But all her videos are great, and she’s definitely worth a follow. Her Love Island impressions are scary good, and she also makes hilarious observations about TikTok culture as a whole. My favorite thing about Brittany is that she seems like an actual adult, rather than most of the 16-year-olds on this app filming videos in their parents’ kitchen. She might be kind of a mess, but that’s the most relatable thing about her.

Hope Schwing

Hope Schwing is hilarious, and she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself. She’s in college, which makes me feel old, but at least she’s not a minor. Actually, her story time videos about stuff that happens at college make me kind of nostalgic, and she hops on a lot of TikTok trends, but in a more relatable way that’s not obnoxious. Recently, she bought a grey wig online thinking it would be cute, and it ended up being a Gandalf wigs, so that has led to a lot of amazing #content.

Scott Hoying

Scott Hoying is best known as one of the members of Pentatonix, which is honestly kind of turn-off to me. But he recently started making TikTok videos, and they’re actually really funny. He knows that he’s too old to be here, but like same. One of my favorite things about TikTok is when relatively older people make fun of the younger people on TikTok, and Scott does it well. It remains to be seen if he keeps up the level of content, but right now I’m really enjoying it.

Tayler Lockwood

Tayler is so f*cking funny, and the way he makes fun of all the stereotypes of TikTok (which I aim to get into in a later article) is perfect. This video of him parodying Kim and Kourtney’s epic fight from last year on Keeping Up With The Kardashians is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. Tayler was one of the first people I followed on TikTok, and I definitely haven’t regretted it.

David Dobrik

David Dobrik is absolutely huge on YouTube, where he’s the de facto leader of a group called the Vlog Squad. But if you’re still a little too scared to dip your toes into the cesspool that is YouTube culture (I don’t blame you), following David is a good way to get just a sneak peek. He posts funny, off the cuff videos with his friends, who all just happen to have a ton of money.

James Llewis

Remember when Facebook was half videos of people drawing? This is like that, but better. James does amazing paintings of logos and other cool graphic things, all set to music. I have never been more mesmerized looking at the Pringles logo.

Cassie Randolph

Cassie from The Bachelor recently made a TikTok account, and while her posts so far are nothing revolutionary, she’s probably worth a follow if you’re a member of Bachelor Nation. Colton hasn’t made any appearances yet, and honestly, I hope it stays that way. You guys, Cassie has a personality!!

peopleareawesome

It can be tough to find the right mix of people to follow on TikTok, so compilation accounts like this are a good place to start. peopleareawesome has a lot of people being flexible, doing cool stuff like hooping, and just general dumb-yet-fun stuff that makes TikTok a great way to waste time.

Betches

And because TikTok is the future (maybe), of course we had to make our own account. Follow us for pathetic attempts at viral challenges, funny original vids, and behind the scenes moments at Betches HQ. We’re all on this journey together.

If you’re already all over TikTok, let me know in the comments some of your favorite people to follow, because I’m always looking for more.

Images: Shutterstock; brittany_broski, hope_schwing, scotthoying, taylerlockwood, daviddobrik, jamesllewis1, cassierandolph3, peopleareawesome / TikTok

WTF Is TikTok, And Should You Download It?

Let’s face it—we’re not that young anymore. Our transition into relative old age means that there’s a whole generation of people younger than us, and with that new social media apps and trends that we’re just not meant to understand. Chief among these is TikTok. Seriously, people ask me almost every day to explain TikTok to them, and honestly, I barely even know what to say. TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular apps among Gen-Z, but it’s still a mystery to most of us in the post-college crowd. Lucky for you, I’m venturing into the depths of the youths to figure out wtf TikTok is, so STOP ASKING ME. Thank me later.

In less than three years, TikTok has become a global force, with over a billion downloads in 150 countries. As you might recall, the current app was originally known as musical.ly, which was already super popular with teenagers. Last year, TikTok’s parent company bought musical.ly, and rolled the two apps into one. But like, what is it?

The easiest way to describe TikTok is that it’s like Vine, but on steroids. Instead of six-second clips, TikToks can be up to 60 seconds long, and you can incorporate music, stickers, filters, and text. Just like Vine, you can record a lot of short video clips and put them together, which makes it easier to get creative than on, say, Instagram stories. There’s a lot going on, which is both a blessing and a curse. People get really creative using all the features that the app has to offer, but actually creating the videos can be a little overwhelming.

Here’s the first TikTok I ever made, which was approximately one hour ago when I was starting this article:

Look, I’m no Quentin Tarantino. I have approximately one follower on TikTok, and both the comments on this video are total spam, but you have to start somewhere.

I decided to keep it simple for my first time, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to TikTok. One of the most popular features, which was a staple of musical.ly, is adding music to videos. You might recall this video of TikTok user Reese Hardy dancing to Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed,” which went viral last month:

This video has over 20 million views, not counting on Twitter and Instagram, and even Mariah Carey herself responded to the “Obsessed” challenge. While the whole world of TikTok is a lot to dive into, it’s not that different from any other kind of memes. While there’s a lot of original content being made, there are certain popular formats that come and go.

Right now, one of the biggest TikTok memes is using E-40’s song “Choices (Yup),” which was originally released in 2014. I don’t know how this stuff gets resurfaced, but I don’t make the rules. Here’s David Dobrik’s take on the meme:

You might not know who David Dobrik is, but literally every Gen-Zer does. He started his career as a Vine star before moving to YouTube, where he has 13 million subscribers. His friend group is known as “The Vlog Squad,” and they basically run sh*t. Or, to put it in easier terms to understand, he has eight million followers on Instagram, and he just bought his best friend a Lamborghini. Joke’s on you!

But even if you don’t get the whole TikTok culture, a lot of the stuff on there is just objectively funny. If you’re the kind of person who follows 87 meme accounts on Instagram, you should probably download TikTok. Even America’s Funniest Home Videos is on TikTok, and now I’m not going to get any work done for the rest of the day.


I’ve basically spent the last day messing around on TikTok, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep using it. Sure, it’s a total waste of time, but I spend approximately 100 hours a week wasting time on Instagram, so I’m not really precious with how I use my time. The thing is, as someone who was born before 1999, I don’t really know anyone who uses TikTok. There are lots of random funny people out there, but there’s no one that I’m invested in yet. Just wait though, because by the end of the day I’ll probably have a huge crush on some 20-year-old straight boy who makes dancing videos. We all have weaknesses.

If you’re one of those people who still watches Vine compilations on YouTube after all these years, you definitely need TikTok. If you’re scared of getting older and are desperate to keep up with youth culture, you probably also need TikTok. But if you already feel like you spend too much time on your phone, and still feel like you don’t get it, you can probably skip it. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

Images: Shutterstock; dylanhafer, reesehardy_, daviddobrik, afvofficial / TikTok