It seems like an unspeakably cruel thing to do: inflicting severe pain on your girlfriend by rubbing chilli pepper on a tampon they are about to use.
However, YouTuber Brad Holmes did just that, filming his partner Jenny screaming in agony and uploading the video so it could be viewed by millions online.
At the time, it was seen as a funny prank, but it is an example of a new trend known as “cloutlighting” where men perform extreme pranks on their better halves then film their upset reactions in order to gain likes on social media.
The phrase is a combination of “gaslighting” – where an abuser manipulates factual information so the victim doubts themselves – and “clout,” a type of social media fame.
The more extreme the videos are, the more likes and views they can receive, meaning they increase the poster’s clout score: a measurement of how famous they are on the internet.
Recent high profile clips include a woman being told her cat has died, another being called ugly by her boyfriend and faking affairs.
While many of the social media stars known for posting these videos say they are set up stunts done with their partners’ consent, experts from relationship charities have expressed concern that abuse could be going on when the camera stops rolling.
The Sun Online took a closer look at the growing trend and those on the receiving end of these often cruel pranks.
Putting chili seeds on his girlfriend’s tampon
Holmes, 27, is well-known for his videos that show him “pranking” his now-fiancée Jenny, and has over 250,000 subscribers to his YouTube account.
He regularly posts content shaming his partner, calling her “thick,” cutting a large chunk of her hair off while sleeping and pretending to propose to her then filming her upset reaction.
However, the tampon video from 2016 was even more shocking.
The video showed Holmes brandishing a red chilli pepper before rubbing the seeds on his partner’s tampon.
He then filmed himself laughing as she shouted in pain and desperately tried to splash water on the fiery area.
The video went viral but was soon pulled from the site after people complained about it being abusive.
This is something Ammanda Major of the charity Relate agrees with, telling Sun Online: “Placing something in the vagina that you didn’t give permission for is abuse, and a woman on the receiving end of that would be in their right to question their safety within the relationship.”
The pair announced a split a few months later, but are now back together and reportedly engaged, with Holmes’s latest video, posted on Facebook in October, showing him farting in her face.
Calling his girlfriend ‘old milk’ and filming her crying
Another recent viral video shows a woman crying after she asked her boyfriend not to eat her food while she went downstairs, but he did it anyway.
The footage shows her crying about her bad day, and getting so upset she calls her mother to talk to her.
“I’m not crying about the [prank],” she says, sobbing. “I’m crying because you aggravate me.”
Instead of comforting her, her partner mocks her reaction, saying he can’t believe she’s crying over a prank and repeatedly calling her “old milk” and “spoiled.”
He also films her without her consent, following her as she tries to turn her face away from the camera.
It is unknown as to whether the couple is still together, but the video is a clear sign of gaslighting as the man is trying to claim he did nothing wrong while he went out of his way to upset his partner.
Major says: “Often these videos showing shame, distress, pain and sadness will be on the internet forever – and this only happens because the person uploading it didn’t care about the repercussions it would have on their partner.”
Pretending pets are dead
When a young man named Jesse pranked his girlfriend using a cardboard cat to make her think her beloved pet had died, it received 35 million views on YouTube.
Understandably, she was distraught, and he filmed her wailing and running around the room sobbing, before showing her it wasn’t real.
In the footage from 2014, she repeatedly tells him he’s so “mean,” and the camera keeps rolling as she struggles to calm down.
Calling girlfriends ‘ugly’
Another popular YouTube influencer is Slaiman, who has over two million subscribers to his channel and 130,000 followers on Instagram.
Much of his video content show him pranking his girlfriend Katie in a range of different ways.
In one video with three million views, the pair sits in the car while Slaiman calls her “ugly,” questions why he is “the bad guy in the situation” and films her crying as she begs him to stop.
He has also uploaded videos where he pretends his parents dislike her then attempts to gaslight her, saying that he hadn’t done that when he clearly has, faked having an affair behind her back, ignored her and also said he no longer loves her.
The pair has said the videos are consensual, and Katie has pranked her man back on several occasions.
‘Cruel and abusive’
Experts such as Major say they have concerns about the rise of cloutlighting, noting the videos are clearly “abusive” as well as being “cruel.”
“People who film them might believe they are entertaining, however, what they are actually doing is displaying their partner’s vulnerability in a critical, ‘jokey’ way for potentially millions of people to see.”
“It’s filming people when they are at their lowest, and if you’re with somebody who does that sort of thing you have to ask yourself very serious questions if you want to stay in the relationship.”
“A joke only works if two people are in on it,” adds Major. “If you’re constantly riding roughshod over people’s emotions and trying to humiliate them, the relationship isn’t respectful.”
“For a relationship to move forward after this, the onus is on the person who made the video to reflect and apologize and say it wasn’t a good thing to do, and to commit to not doing it again.”
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