In the PBS Frontline episode ‘Generation like’: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/generation-like/ there is a young man named Steven Fernandez who began his online saga as an athlete, became a millionaire and was accused by four young women of sexually inappropriate behavior. This case is interesting for a number of reasons, but I’ll mainly focus on three. How an athlete became a youtube millionaire, the result of cases involving sexual assault; and the implicit bias that exists even in today’s society.
Steven’s youtube career began when he posted some videos of skateboarding tricks being done around town. The likes and subscribers began to increase as he began to do tricks beyond his skill level and started experiencing pain, but in an almost comedic fashion. He then had some older friends/relatives influence him into making videos about how to speak to / hit on / pick up girls. As his behavior became worse, his profits began to rise. As his popularity rose, he began using the promise of helping girls obtain a role in music videos as a power play to sleep with him and his entourage. The parents of one such girl ended up going to the cops, whom then set up a sting operation pretending to be a 12 year old girl and arresting Stephen as well as two members of his entourage.
The court cases are interesting as Steven is not only a millionaire with good lawyers, but was also a minor when during the entire process. The court records, as well as their conclusions, are not publicized, and the girls who were involved don’t want their names out there so they don’t publicize the results either. A year later, when he released his version of events on his channel, it ends up being the final word on the matter. The desire of the system to protect minors could have, we don’t know for sure, protected a sexual predator.
At the age of 13, then known as Baby Scumbag, Steven posted videos and social media content with older women paid $150 to grab his genitals, grinding on him while he was in various states of undress (including a diaper) and generally committed 2nd and 3rd degree sexual assault against a minor crimes that were never prosecuted. Consider this scenario from one of his youtube videos. He points at what appears to be a 20 year old’s butt, turns and she backs up putting her butt in his face while she dances. Change nothing in the scenario except the single factor of their age. Now you have a 20 year old man with his face in a 13 year old’s butt. When presented with this perspective on the situation, the immediate response is to express outrage and start looking up the number for child protective services for most members of our society. The question I present is why this anger doesn’t spring forth until the ages are swapped. It feels like we as a society need to have a conversation about the implicit biases we have as a society. Is it right and proper for crimes to be committed against children because they are getting paid? Should certain criminal behavior only be prosecuted when committed by males?