When I first clicked play on this video of Steven Fernandez, a 12-year-old skateboard prodigy who gives advice on "how to get girls," I thought it would be dumb and maybe a little bit funny. After the first minute or two in, it seemed like my first impression was right. The kid was a jerk, but in a way that a lot of tween boys are jerks — he tells dudes to stop sniffing tampons because "it's creepy" (like this is a thing that lots of guys do) and thinks it's hilarious to ask older teenage girls — strangers — whether or not they fart. But then things take a weird and upsetting turn. This boy, who's barely old enough to know what a boner is, is suddenly surrounded by adult women in thong underwear who, well aware of the boy's age, are willing participants in his video. Unsurprisingly, it's at this point where Fernandez's swagger becomes sexually aggressive.
It gets worse.
Fernandez then takes his camera to the street where he goes from being a posturing kid surrounded by inappropriate adults who should know better (if gender roles were reversed and this was a video of a female child surrounded by men wearing as little clothing as the women in this video are, there would be an uproar if not a police investigation) to a sexual threat. It starts with Steven attempting to get a female stranger to kiss him on the cheek and, charmed by his youthful appearance, the woman agrees. Every time she leans in, however, Fernandez turns and attempts to kiss her on the mouth. The behavior then escalates to the point where the boy comes up behind a woman on a dark street and grabs her in a hug. The woman, reacting reasonably, becomes upset and tells him that he shouldn't touch people he doesn't know. The boy immediately becomes defensive, but continues to aggress, telling her that he's "not creepy." Later, when another two woman walk away after he verbally sexually harasses them, he immediately turns the table and calls them rude. The video ends with him once again surrounded by adult women acting provocatively in their underwear.
The emotional energy that went into watching this video was profoundly exhausting. It started off dumb, but harmless and quickly becomes actively upsetting. The most distressing thing about all of this is that Steven Fernadez is clearly being egged on by adults — his parents, whoever gave him a camera and internet access, the adult women who are voluntarily sexualizing themselves around him, the commenters on YouTube who call him a "hero" and the companies that sponsor his skate career (DGK, Diamond Supply and Primitive to name a few). And who is to be held responsible? While the adults' actions in the video are borderline criminal, I don't think they're technically illegal (I would love to know if I'm wrong). We can write off Ferandez' actions as "boys being boys" or "no big deal, he's just a kid," but the fact of the matter is that those excuses are damaging under normal circumstances and these circumstances are far from normal.