Since writing about adults with fetishes exploiting children on YouTube, David Farrier has become familiar with the reality for kids on the wild west of YouTube. He explores the troubling subculture of videos targeting children created by adult hypnotists.
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"Um... goodbye YouTube. I'm serious. I have to delete my channel because of perverts," says a boy in a YouTube post.
He looks all of 12, and is visibly upset.
"I'm not saying all you guys are perverts, you're not. There are a lot of perverts though," he continues.
I was contacted last month about 'James' (not his real name) by concerned YouTuber, 30-year-old Fiona Clearwater.
Clearwater is a pseudonym, as the American creates adult hypnosis content, also known as "recreational hypnosis".
"My husband and I make a full time living from producing hypnosis recordings," Clearwater tells me. She and her and her husband, known online as UltraHypnosis, have over 385,000 subscribers on YouTube and over a 1000 Patrons on Patreon, where they make around $6500 a month from their self-hypnosis videos. Hypnotising people online is their full time job.
Hypnosis in the fetish world is reasonably big, with online forums boasting thousands of members. There are multiple erotic hypnosis conventions that take place annually in the United States. Like many kinks and fetishes, the community is both vast and varied, falling into categories like hypnodommes, sissy, submissive training, adult diapers and furries.
"I'll admit I'm nervous because for the most part, my husband and I have remained anonymous and drama free. We never show our faces, we only make content with our voices and with hypnotic graphics, such as spirals. I don't particularly like attention."
She says despite this, she wanted to get in touch because of some disturbing behaviour she's seen on YouTube from other hypnotists.
Clearwater - who also counts Lady Gaga, owls and elephants as interests, and is about to have her first child - is very clear that she makes adult content. What she's alarmed about are recent examples she's found of hypnotists interacting online with underage children.
Back in February, Clearwater and her husband came across an "unusual" video. It showed a young boy, James, giving himself a wedgie on camera, while allegedly hypnotised.
It turns out he was filming a reaction video to this video, created by a YouTube user NovaDura who also has channel called the HypnoBoyProject. As you can see in the video's description, the young boy claims he was in direct contact with Nova: "I contacted the hypnotist and he made it so this time will give myself a front wedgie after I watch the video".
Nova's video, which has over 22,000 views, was made with the intent to hypnotise willing viewers, who when given a trigger word, will wedgie themselves.
"Whenever you are awake, or asleep, whenever you hear me say, or anybody say, 'What's up', you will immediately stand up, grab your underwear, and pull them as hard as you can, and give yourself a self-wedgie," says the balding man with thickset glasses.
He specifically called for video reactions.
For many children, the appeal of YouTube is not just watching videos, but building up their own audience. A popular way of doing this is to engage with the YouTube community, commenting, liking, subscribing, and creating videos based on what others in the community want.
Alarmed, Clearwater looked at the child's YouTube page and found a second video of the child doing the same thing. Other children had also recorded themselves following Nova's instructions.
"In the intro to the video, [the child] said, 'I was talking to Nova, by the way, and he made it so that I will get a front wedgie trigger instead of a back wedgie trigger'. This was also mentioned in the video description," Clearwater told me. She also noted other examples of Nova interacting with other children on YouTube.
"We were immediately alarmed as f**k. James claimed - clear as day - that Nova, a man in his 50s, had interacted with him and gave him instructions on how to wedgie himself, in a way that would cause genital pain."
There is nothing particularly shocking on Nova's own YouTube page, but it does have an unusual vibe, consisting primarily of videos in which Nova hypnotises young men. Nova's other page, the HypnoBoyProject, takes some more unusual turns. It sees Nova paired with a 20-something male co-host called Colby. Channel viewers get to vote on what hypnosis suggestions Nova gives to Colby.
The discussion in the videos sometimes errs towards the more creepy, as they two discuss whether Colby should wear boxers or briefs.
The more you dig into Nova's YouTube channels the stranger it gets, as the world of hypnotism and children combine. One of his videos features fellow hypnotist Brian Ahern, at a 14-year-old's birthday party. Ahern is also known online as BrizyComics. As well as a Minds address that features a lot of rubber suits, he also has a kink-orientated Patreon which is clearly marked as R18, where he creates fetish content like "Pigboy".
If you go digging, Brizy also has a history of doing hypnosis with children in schools. These videos take on a stranger light when you notice how aspects of those videos mimic the content from his adult-oriented Minds and Patreon sites. Here the gumboot scenario from a school makes an appearance on his Minds site called "Giant Boots, Growing Feet". Other concepts also carry over; the waders he uses on school children mirrors the waders in his fetish PigBoy series.
At one BrizyComics appears to have had his own YouTube account terminated.
"My channel had a strict long running policy to never have a guest unless they are 18 years of age and older", says a visibly frustrated Ahern in a video. Brizy now appears on other YouTube channels, including Nova and Colby's HypnoBoyProject.
Earlier in March, Clearwater decided to check back in on Nova's channel that had been bothering her and her husband so much. "Nova and Colby were sitting on camera, mentioning that they are going to have a special guest," Clearwater tells me.
"Then James, the wedgie kid, appears halfway through the video, physically there in the same studio. I'm beyond flabbergasted," she says. "The kid that I think is being exploited is now physically in the same room as the men I think are exploiting him."
She tells me she immediately called Child Protective Services, primarily wanting to make sure the child's parents were aware of what their child was filming. She says they were receptive to her concerns, and helpful.
A week later, James had removed the two wedgie reactions videos and all of his old vlogging videos. A playlist on HypnoBoyProject that had previously featured underage children had also been edited to remove the kids.
I reached out for comment from both Nova and Ahern/BrizyComics, and so far only Ahern has replied (Brian Ahern/BrizyComics' full email to Farrier can be found here). He says YouTube did take down his old channel, but disputes their reasoning. "I was told I had broken the guideline about 'Child Endangerment'. When I pointed out that everyone featured in my BrizyComics channel videos was 18 years old or older (all classroom demos were on a separate channel), and requested they point out which specific video struck them as inappropriate, they went silent."
Ahern also disputes that any videos I raised fell into "fetish", apart from PigBoy. "The similarities in my content can be summed up by the simple fact that 'fetish' is where you find it and what the beholder - or more often, some finger-pointer - chooses to call it," he told me.
He has also stopped his classroom hypnosis sessions (which he says were all done under adult supervision, with parental permission). "I was never given a definitive reason the psychology class demo series was discontinued, only that 'someone complained'," he told me. "20 or 30 years ago, someone making such a complaint could well have been dismissed as overreacting, but in our society's current state of heightened paranoia, that was all it took to shut down a successful series of demos enjoyed by students and teachers alike that had been running every semester for six years. Go figure."
I ask Clearwater what she makes of children interacting with hypnosis videos online. Like so many similar situations on YouTube, no immediate laws appear to have been broken, but something is off. "I'm not against their kinks. People can be kinky and that's perfectly okay," she says. "People with kinks can interact with kids without being immediate predators. But people with kinks or fetishes should not interact with kids in ways that involve their kink or fetish."
I reached out to comment from Google's PR representative in New Zealand, outlining the basic premise of this story.
They replied: "Protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us. When we become aware of new and evolving patterns of abuse, we take swift action in line with our policies. This action includes terminating channels and reporting abuse to local law enforcement when appropriate."
But Clearwater says YouTube has a long way to go when it comes to protecting children on their platform. "One major flaw with the YouTube system is if a predator reaches out to a child through the YouTube direct messenger system and asks them to film a request, the child will usually say in the beginning of the YouTube video, 'I got a request from so-and-so, and they want me to react to X'."
This means they're connected to the video verbally, but not via any hyperlink.
"Unless [the adult YouTuber] left an inappropriate public comment, I can't report them. I have to reach out to the kid and try to explain the situation," she says. "The YouTube system will never be perfect, but it could be a hell of a lot better."
Last week, James uploaded a new video.
"I personally did not delete my videos. I was forced to by my parents," he says.
"Some stuff happened, my dad won't get into detail with me. He said 'the cops called me, and you've got to delete your videos'."
Meanwhile, Nova has also made a video explaining that he would be missing his regular live chat because he was "sick".
He also stated that, "We have made a collective group decision to on the HypnoBoyProject that we will now be removing any videos that contain kids who appear to be 18 or under. We've said from the beginning that if anyone makes a reaction video please disable the comments because there are just so many creeps and weirdos out there".
Clearwater isn't sure if her call to CPS is what created this change, but it doesn't seem like a coincidence. "In the past I've seen hypnosis videos with kids involved and I was not alarmed by those.
What stood out the most was James was put on display. James and his wedgies were the thing to be experienced by viewers."
This isn't the first case like it she's seen on YouTube, and she doesn't expect it will be the last. "My husband and I have seen the horrible cycle kids can get into when they make soft-fetish material. Years ago we came across another young boy. He wanted to originally make gaming videos, and someone sent him a request to film a hypnosis reaction video, under the guise of a 'hypnosis challenge'.
"So he filmed it, then immediately got more views than ever before and a flood of new subscribers. The new subscribers all demanded that he film more hypnosis reaction videos. The kid complied and filmed a handful more.
"As soon as the kid tried to film anything other than a hypnosis video, his subscribers started to bully him and threaten to unsubscribe unless he made more."
I ask Clearwater how she sees her role in all this, as somebody making adult content, who is essentially policing other adults doing the same thing. "I full heartedly believe someone involved with a kink or fetish can interact with kids. There are kinky people who can accurately place that separation and distinction of what is appropriate and what is not.
"These men I'm addressing are blurring those lines, and doing it in front of a thousand subscribers," she says.
As this story was being prepared for publication, I checked my emails again. There was still no word from Nova in regards to his NovaDura channel, or the HypnoBoyProject.
I thought I'd quickly check those channels again for new content, and discovered that the HypnoBoyProject channel had been terminated by YouTube at some point today (April 2nd as I write), for "violating community guidelines". The NovaDura channel had also vanished, either terminated by YouTube, or removed by Nova himself.
I continue to wait for Nova to reply to my enquiries.
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