Two UVU students have found themselves under skeptic fire due to their prank videos that went viral this week. In an effort to defend the various reactions to these videos, four philosophy students concluded ethics awareness week by creating a panel discussion on the videos.
The two videos entitled “Greeting People with a Kiss” and “Sweeping Girls off Their Feet” took place at UVU and were a collaboration of YouTube personas Andrew Hales and Stuart Edge. The videos amassed over 2.5 million views since their release and were featured by various sources including Slate.com, The Huffington Post, and the Salt Lake Tribune.
Panel members included senior philosophy club members Erin McClure, Josh Anderson, Brittany Hoffman, and Adam Wilson. McClure began the discussion by briefing the audience of the controversy surrounding the videos.
“In one video we meet two men who share with us that people in other cultures often greet each other with a kiss. They then proceed to kiss twelve women and two men at UVU without their consent. In almost all the cases dealing with women, we observe the women leaning away, putting up an arm, or pushing the men away to escape,” McClure said.
Although the videos were made in lighthearted humor, McClure believes that they serve as a representation of ‘rape culture.’ Rape culture is a term that depicts how society can make light of sexual abuse through victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.
According to the Utah Department of Health, Utah has the highest percentage of reported instances of rape in the nation. McClure shared the statistic that the CDC reports 46% of women in Utah have been sexually assaulted. She believes UVU students must confront acts of dominant discourse such as those portrayed in the prank videos.
In contrast, Hoffman believes some jokes are funny because they push the rules, but that it’s also hard to tell where the boundaries are. The video was referenced by the pranksters as a “social experiment” and the results demonstrated exactly how difficult drawing boundaries in this modern era can be.
“How does one defend the right to laugh at a joke?” Hoffman said, “This video isn’t about the pranksters or women or UVU, this prank is about us. Our laughter isn’t about the discomfort of the women; we’re laughing because uncomfortable situations are funny.”
She continued by saying that there is a difference between “good funny” and “bad funny” and that laughter is not an excuse to push anyone’s limits. She explained that a joke can either create more oppression, or if it’s used as it should, to give a voice to the victims that can free from further fear and oppression.
A hot topic for the panelists was the backlash the videos have received from the general public. Anderson explained how some students have contacted authorities at UVU over the prank videos, but others have chosen to write “hate comments” on the videos or send the pranksters hate mail.
“While I wholeheartedly disapprove of the actions of the pranksters, I believe some of the reactions to the video are inappropriate and ineffective at negotiating change. They may feel like they have the moral obligation to respond, but belligerent comments are in no way going to change anything,” Anderson said.
It was later revealed that Stewart Edge requested to be on the panel, but was refused due to the panelists wanting their place to speak out against sexual harassment. Concluding panelist, Adam Wilson, discussed the matter of privilege and how society can make allowances for men- such as the phrase ‘boys will be boys’. He urged those who believe they are witnesses to sexual harassment to speak out, or else the consequence will be that nothing will change.