Until yesterday, I thought that I had had only appropriate, though occasionally manipulative relationships with women. However, the model of consent that I followed, not that I specifically thought about it at the time - was that only “no” meant “no.” That is not what consent is.
The result of that belief that ‘only no means no’, is that I spent a long part of my life doing shitty things to good people and barely ever realising or acknowledging that I was doing the shitty things.
I’m grateful that victims have come forward to help me recognise how awful that was. And, to clarify - it was an awful way to treat the people in my life. I became an incredibly manipulative person and didn’t really care about people’s feelings. In my sexual experiences with people, nobody ever outright told me “NO, STOP” or pushed me away, or I’d immediately have stopped doing whatever we were doing; everyone I’ve done stuff with has been above the age of consent; and, in all the cases of me having sex with people, everyone says they consented to it.
But there were clearly times where I would try to initiate something, because I thought the other person wanted it, and I trusted my own read of the situation (“they agreed to stay over/they said they wanted it earlier/etc”) rather than paying attention to what the other person was doing and saying in that moment. That’s where I massively fucked up.
It’s only in the last 24 hours that I’m realising how much I created situations that put people under enormous pressure. I wasn’t being responsible enough to be aware of it, and that’s my fault entirely. I want to be clear that I’m not blaming this on my lack of awareness or knowledge of consent and boundaries. I’m blaming myself. I’m deeply, deeply ashamed of this.
Thank you to the people who have shared their stories. I know it was very difficult but it helped me realise how terrible my actions were, and I want to respect their bravery by reiterating that only yes means yes.
P.S. I’ve asked DFTBA to take my merch down from their site. I know they’ve been unsure of what to do since I asserted earlier that I didn’t do anything wrong. But I realise now that I did, so I assume they’d want to take it down anyway.
I don’t consider myself a particularly good person, although I am trying to be better. There are definitely things that I’ve done in the past that were not good things to have done. I have, sometimes, treated people badly, manipulated people, been rude or mean to people, even cheated on people in the past. It’s awful. Of course it’s awful. I’m telling you about it because it’s in my past, because people are flawed, some much more than others, and because I believe the mark of a good person lies in that person’s capacity to apologise for what they’ve done, take responsibility for their actions and make sure they learn from the pain they’ve caused in order to make sure they never do anything like it again.
At no point in my life have I ever had a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent. (For full disclosure, I’ve said publicly that I lost my virginity at age fourteen, but the girl in question was sixteen - the UK age of consent - so this point stands.)
At no point in my life have I ever undertaken any romantic activity, sexual or otherwise, without being sure the other person wanted it.
I’m sure there are other people on the internet - and in the world - who have had problems with things I’ve done in the past. I know this because I myself have many problems with many things I’ve done in the past. But to reiterate the bold points once again: I have never had a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent, nor have I ever undertaken any romantic activity, sexual or otherwise, without being sure the other person wanted it.
I feel incredibly ashamed to have mistreated people in the past, and for the unhealthy relationships I have previously instigated or allowed to carry on when I should have been more responsible. I’ve been honest about that in the past and will continue to be honest about my past failures, as well as my attempts to make amends for them. Honestly, right now, I’m absolutely terrified of losing everything in my life that I care about because of this. I’m terrified that I’ve misinterpreted signals from people who didn’t want things to happen like I thought they did, and that I’ve caused genuine harm to people without meaning to. But I also can’t help acknowledging that this discussion is good. People should always be encouraged to speak up in cases where they feel uncomfortable or mistreated, and the signal boosting of such cases are necessary to help other people that have been mistreated to a) speak up themselves to make people more aware of how their actions are interpreted and b) feel more empowered to voice their concerns next time before things go too far.
Ultimately, the decision to believe me, or continue to support my work, is yours alone.
As a follow-up to my post yesterday I thought I’d add an extra something to the discussion:
Every year, I have an email chat with someone who works for VidCon. They ask me if I’m gonna go and every year I say no, but every year I try and explain why, because I love the people that run VidCon and I don’t want them to think I have anything against them, the con, or the other people who go there.
For the sake of disclosure and additional clarification, I thought it’d be interesting to post the email I sent them this year (with the permission of Laura at VidCon who was the recipient of this message).
-AlexLaura,Every time we have these conversations I wish I had a better answer for you, because I promise (and I hope Hank also knows) it’s not you, or anything you guys do, or any animosity I have with YouTubers or anything similar that puts me off from things like VidCon - and I don’t go to Summer In The City so it’s not a travel issue either. I think I’ve said it before but just to reiterate, I just find the whole environment of being adored very uncomfortably strange. I don’t really like the attention, especially since YouTube is so much of a peripheral activity to me so it feels especially undeserved. This isn’t to undermine YouTube in general, because I think online video is amazing, but where I think John and Hank (for example) are complete pioneers and frontrunners in that field and deserve the attention, I feel more like a guy with a day pass running around until someone tells me to stop, and the idea of indulging in that much attention for a few days seems … I dunno, a bit immoral, given how little I’ve worked for it.I suppose the distinction is between my videos and me; having people like what I’ve created is very different from having them like me. I like the idea of people being a fan of my music, or my book, and I’ve done signings for CD releases and always found it totally fine, because they’re there for the music, not just me. I know if I ever went on tour, I’d feel more comfortable with the attention I’d get for it, because if I’m performing on stage and people are screaming back at me, I know I’m putting as much into that as I’m receiving back, I’m creating an experience which isn’t just about me, whereas at things like VidCon, people literally scream at me when I’m just standing near them barefoot half-asleep eating a banana, and I’m not doing anything, I’m just a person just like them. I don’t really know how to deal with it. I just have the unshakeable feeling that indulging in people liking me just feels a bit vain. Not when anyone else does it, I should stress again; just for me, personally. Also, it’s never something I feel when I bump into people randomly and we have interactions person-to-person, it’s only when it’s en-mass at an event like this that it becomes a bit overwhelming.I’m planning on making a video about this nearer the time so my audience also understands it. In fact, I might just post this email on to Tumblr, with your permission. Either way, I’m sorry again I don’t bring happier news :(
This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, but it feels particularly relevant right now, on the eve of Playlist Live and amongst other relevant discussions happening currently amongst specific circles of the YouTube community.
I don’t really like going to gatherings and the first thing I want to clarify is that not going to gatherings has nothing to do with not being grateful for the people that watch my videos and support my work, because I am. In fact, I used to go to gatherings ever since I first started making videos back in 2007, but back then, everyone was an equal: everyone who was at a gathering was simultaneously a YouTube viewer AND a YouTube creator. Everyone had a camera. They didn’t want to take a picture, they wanted to film a collab. It was an exciting and creative atmosphere with all kinds of people from all kinds of places. And nowadays I find that’s not the case.
My recent experience of gatherings has been that there are two groups of people who go: people who make videos and people who watch videos. Or to put it another way, people who make videos and people who want to meet the people who make videos. In many cases - not all, but many - the second group have a sense of fandom toward the first group. I don’t think this is conducive to a thriving community atmosphere when it’s placed in a live setting, and without needing to name any names, there have been various examples in our community already of YouTube users taking advantage of such an atmosphere.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be a fan of stuff. But I think treating certain people like they’re better than us, or better than others, has - to my knowledge - never ended well. I think it does several things, including inflating the ego of those being treated better, and deflating the aspirations of those who might want to make videos, and might be very good at it, but don’t because they feel like they don’t have the right charisma/talent/charm/looks/attitude that their favourite vlogger has. Or, the opposite can also be true; it’ll encourage people to get into vlogging for the wrong reasons, because they want to lap up the attention we’ll inevitably give them, which I don’t think is particularly good for our little corner of the internet either.
This is why I don’t go to gatherings. By and large, I think they are part of the exacerbation of a long-standing problem with our community and I feel a little irresponsible attending on that basis. This is not to say I have any judgment for people that want to go to gatherings. Many of my dearest friends go and I know they have a great time, and I do know people (like Carrie and Charlie) who go for entirely the right reasons and don’t partake in any of the more self-indulgent aspects of those events. In short, I just wish everyone - on all sides, whether it be YouTube vloggers, viewers, event organisers, parents or anyone else - would be a little more aware that we are all just people. By all means, we all have the right to respect and value and even idolise the people we find entertaining or inspirational, and we have every right to enjoy and appreciate that respect when it comes our way, but nobody should forget that, first and foremost, we are all just people, because if either side forgets that, things get messy.
cloudywithachanceofawesome, asked a question:
Nah, we’ve both found our own musical niches and I think we’re pretty happy doing what we’re both doing. Also he used to routinely slag off my solo work on social media, so, no, can’t see it happening.
amoosewalksintoabar, asked a question:
We still talk. We’re still friends :p
connectyouwithyourshadow, asked a question:
I highly doubt it - I’m much more of a producer and don’t really like the attention, I’m much happier spending ages crafting music in the studio and sharing that with you. I don’t really go to gigs, either; there’s not much appeal there for me either way. Plus I don’t have to leave the house.
xniih, asked a question:Hi Alex, I was wondering how you started out as a Youtuber? I just recently started my own Youtube channel, but I'm constantly in doubt about what content would be interesting to watch, and not just fun for me to make. So, if you remember, I'm very curious about what video that made you such a popular Youtuber :) Much love from Denmark! xx
Well I was already making videos. I started making them before YouTube even existed. So I wasn’t worried about what people wanted to watch; I just made stuff as and when I wanted to and they sat on my hard drive doing nothing. I only put them on YouTube because I thought people might be interested. (That’s all I do now, to be honest.)
animatorpete, asked a question:
Not in the slightest, because I’ve already accepted and know for a fact that they definitely will!
ignite-the-spark, asked a question:
ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Mainly by you lot, who have already hedged me as a ‘YouTuber’ despite that being the least important of all the things that I do.
My current worry is that, because my first book is non-fiction, it’ll be much harder for me to write fiction. That said, it’s not going to stop me. I’m just going to worry all the way there. xD
girlsaregettingbackrubs, asked a question:
my-name-is-josh, asked a question:alright alex, i think its great that you've had a good start to the year and i hope the book is a success too (i will be buying it when it goes on sale). More a question about sopio cards, how/what company did you use to make the cards into proper trading cards? Very intrigued. Cheers, and good luck in 2014!
Thanks! :) The company is called Cartamundi and they manufacture pretty much any playing cards you care to name (including Magic: The Gathering, when it first started).