YouTuber, makeup guru, and influencer James Charles is in trouble — yet again — for having inappropriate relationships with underage boys.
Surprisingly though, this time the scandal was revealed through his own admission (there’s a 15-minute long video available, if you can stomach it). It’s likely that he thought he’d have a better chance of downplaying the truth of the events or minimizing the criticism that would inevitably follow if the revelation came directly from him. Unfortunately for James, that tactic had the exact opposite effect.
This Isn’t the First Time
If you didn’t know, this isn’t the first time James Charles has been put on blast for inappropriate words, actions, and social media posts. His short career has been verifiably rife with controversy, yet he’s somehow still managed to garner support from his (here’s the keyword) young fan base.
Specifically, James Charles has a history and a proven pattern of pursuing both straight and underage men. While the general mainstream consensus is that James is homosexual, he once quipped that he’s not “full gay” because he finds himself attracted to transgender men. You can imagine the Twitter response to that without me spelling it out for you…
James Charles has a history and a proven pattern of pursuing both straight and underage men.
In Tati Westbrook’s “Bye Sister” video which spurred the 2019 YouTuber Dramageddon 2.0 — an online reckoning of those with influence and power, including James — she alleged that he had behaved inappropriately (in a public setting with her family) towards a straight man and was using his celebrity status to excuse Tati’s understandable concern. Jeffree Star, who was everywhere and anywhere James was during Dramageddon and who has been noticeably absent this time around, backed up Tati’s claims and even said that his then-boyfriend had banned James from their home for his behavior. Exhausted yet?
Around the same time, then-20-year-old Gage Gomez alleged that James had made sexual advances toward him at Coachella, even when he knew that Gage was straight. Most recently, a 16-year-old fan came forward saying that James had sexted him over Snapchat. Two more boys, both under the age of 18, came forward with similar stories. Another incident soon followed, coming from a 15-year-old TikTok user.
A Dangerous Repetition of Predatory Behavior
What you have here isn’t just one or two unfortunate fan encounters. It’s a systematic pattern of grooming, inappropriate sexual behavior, and eventual perfunctory apology.
You’re probably wondering what the goings-on of a YouTuber and influencer with tons of money and millions of followers have to do with us average people. If you have kids, especially teenagers, they’re most likely on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. There are likely tons of people out there doing exactly what James Charles has been up to. The only difference is they’re getting away with it.
There are tons of people out there doing exactly what James Charles has been doing and getting away with it.
This most recent scandal is a bit of an anomaly though, given that James attempted to get out in front of the headlines by outing the scandal himself before the media had a chance to. The video, titled “holding myself accountable,” was 15 minutes of the usual apology outline: admission, explanation, excuses, and assurances of doing better.
James’ reasons behind messaging (correction: sexting) underage fans were as follows: He didn’t know they weren’t 18 (both victims — because that’s what they are — led him to believe they were of age when in actuality they were 16). He trusted the information they gave him (effectively putting the blame on them). He was desperate and inexperienced. Apparently, that and a promise to hold himself accountable and do better are all that was necessary to exculpate his actions from any real blame or punishment.
The Double Standard Lets Him Escape Accountability
Naturally, the internet had a lot of thoughts. The general consensus seems to be: How many more will have to be victimized until James Charles no longer gets away with grooming underage boys and engaging in sexual misconduct?
Commentator Smokey Glow analyzed how James attempted to downplay his role in the incidents by putting the blame on the victims — remember, in his words, they didn’t tell him they were underage. He was “desperate” for a relationship and “inexperienced.” Somehow, these reasons are supposed to enable him to escape any form of criticism? She went on to point out that not knowing someone’s age and engaging in inappropriate behavior despite being unaware or not even bothering to ask has never been a valid or effective legal defense used in these types of incidents.
James isn’t seen as a predator since he presents his sexual preference in more of a feminine way.
Another YouTuber, Blaire White, did more of a deep dive on why James has escaped accountability despite the many incidents and piles of evidence mounting against him. White (correctly) assessed that James isn’t seen as much of an archetypal predator since he presents his sexual preference in more of a feminine way. As a feminine gay man, White asserts, it’s easier for him to not fit the mold of what we usually think of when we think of people who groom underage victims.
The additional reasons also provide valuable insight into not just James’ behavior, but the behavior that now runs rampant on social media and allows predators to thrive in our culture. James’ fan base is a younger audience and isn’t really made up of adults, meaning those young fans are more likely to make excuses for him without fully understanding the gravity of his actions. Additionally, all the victims are male. White theorizes that if James had been a straight man and the underage victims were girls, everyone would be taking this individual more seriously.
The societal stigma around seeing men as victims of misconduct and abuse, who are just as capable as women of being taken advantage of, has enabled James Charles to escape accountability and has allowed him to continue to perpetrate his inappropriate actions over and over again.
This isn’t just another incident of a YouTuber acting out dramatically or behaving irrationally. It isn’t just controversial or problematic. There are actual verifiable victims here, and those are just the ones we currently know of.
James has long been viewed as a quintessential influencer — entitled to the point of escaping all forms of responsibility and accountability. But this isn’t the same as promoting supplements or flaunting wealth and status on social media. It’s much more serious than any of us could have ever fathomed at the dawn of the social media rise and influencer age.
Actions have consequences no matter how many followers you have or how much money your brand sponsorships have given you. Here’s hoping that realization finally sinks in for individuals like James Charles.
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