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Are the Simple Pickup videos harmless fun or sexual assault?

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Though the pickup artist YouTube channel Simple Pickup has been around for at least two years and has more than 1 million followers, the videos didn’t come to Tumblr’s attention until a recent upload called “Massaging Random Hot Girls.” The clip shows the trio randomly rubbing unsuspecting women in public. A post about the three men—Kong, Jesse, and Jason—went viral after a signal boost by feminist blogs following the video’s release.

At the end of the video, a girl is so freaked out that she stops two men walking by and asks them for help getting rid of the unwanted masseuse. The guys stand up for her, telling him to leave her alone. 

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Pick-up artistry is a hot topic online. Recently a Kickstarter for a book about how to pick up women was labeled a “date rape guide.” It led to Kickstarter banning all seduction guides.

In a video about Comic-Con, Kong asks a woman in costume if he can motorboat her breasts. When she says no, he does it anyway. In another, a woman asks to be left alone, and the camera pans down and zooms in on the butt crack peeking out of her shorts.

Twice, in a video made at San Francisco Gay Pride, Kong leans in and kisses women without asking. When two gay men put their hands on his back, he says, “Too much.”

In the controversial massage video, he sits down on a sunbathing girl’s back so that she can’t get up. Many of the women jump when they feel a stranger touching them.

But, perhaps through clever editing, we see women actually give these guys their numbers. (It’s unclear how many they approach to make it seem this way, and what rejections they’re not showing.) They are also somewhat flat out rude to the women they interact with in the name of “challenges” or “pranks” using rap lyrics to tell them they have big butts or asking inappropriate questions about their vaginas. 

In a May 1 post, Tumblr user Kate Matty calls the three men “sex offenders” and says, “They harass numerous girls in their videos and encourage their male viewers to do the same thing. They sexually humiliate women by ambushing them on the street and saying hideously inappropriate things, like ‘do you shave your vagina?’ or ‘your nipples are obviously pierced.’”

In another video, the Simple Pickup guys pretend to be gay to pick up women. Jesse tells a group of girls, “Are you trying to get raped? Because I’m down to rape you if you’re down to get raped. Just kidding. I’m not gonna rape you yet.”

This week, Matty’s post finally made the rounds among feminist Tumblr users.

The outrage spread to YouTube, where the comments of the trio’s videos were overtaken by women explaining why the videos were problematic, and asking that YouTube shutdown the channel. Many said they’d reported the men to YouTube as violating the site’s terms. 

They’re not the only ones. A notable example includes another popular YouTuber named Vitaly who, in this video about “Picking Up Black Girls,” grabs a random girl’s hand, licks it, and tells her she tastes like chocolate. Vitaly and the Simple Pickup guys often collaborate on videos.

“They touch girls without permission, even fondle their breasts without consent,” Matty, who lives in Australia, wrote. She claimed two of the men are currently trying to get US citizenship and wrote, “If you live in California, report them. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it will ‘do’ anything these men have committed sex offences and deserve to have their names dragged through the mud, not celebrated for their victimisation of women.”

Matty’s post has since been shared more than 36,000 times. Another user added that since many of the videos are filmed on USC’s campus, people should report the men to the USC campus security.

We reached out to Simple Pickup and are awaiting a response.

UPDATE: Simple Pickup sent the following response to the Daily Dot: 

Our intent is always to make people laugh. We never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable afterwards. After we film a prank, we inform everyone involved that it was just a joke. If anyone for any reason does not feel comfortable with it, we take down the video immediately. Which, out of over 100 videos, has only happened once. The girls find it hilarious after finding out it was a joke. 

In the case of the tumblr backlash, the videos are being presented in a non-humorous light. If someone is presented a prank video out of context, then the video loses it's initial meaning. Again, our intent with our videos is to make people laugh and when a video is taken out of context then that meaning is lost. 

H/T Tumblr | Photo via YouTube