YouTube gamer Jared ‘ProJared’ Knabenbauer has been accused of soliciting nude photos from two underage fans.
The allegations first came to light after Knabenbauer announced that he and his wife, cosplayer Heidi O’Ferrall, were divorcing. Shortly after Knabenbauer announced the split on Twitter, O’Ferrall responded in kind, alleging that her husband had cheated on her with Twitch star Holly Conrad. O’Ferrall also tweeted that Knabenbauer had been soliciting nudes from his fans — a fact that he has been open about on his Tumblr account, Kotaku reports.
“In the beginning, it was a joke on Tumblr,” O’Ferrall wrote of the solicitations. “Then it was its own Tumblr account just for nudes. It was ostensibly a body-positive space for consenting adults, and I approved on that basis.” However, in hindsight, O’Ferrall now perceives the exchanges as an abuse of power. “I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine. Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man. I would like to apologize for my role in enabling this.”
Kotaku reports that at least seven fans have come forward to confirm that they either sent or received naked pictures from Knabenbauer — one of whom, who goes by Chai, claims to have been 16 years old at the time. The Verge reports that another individual named Charlie also claims to have sent explicit photos while being underage.
Knabenbauer first rose to YouTube fame in 2013 for his ‘Let’s Plays’ and gaming reviews, Kotaku reports, and previously counted 1 million subscribers — though he has lost roughly 100,000 subscribers in the wake of the controversy. While Knabenbauer has not been charged with any crimes, the allegations illuminate the potentially damaging relationships that popular digital stars can forge with young and impressionable followers. The YouTube musician Austin Jones, for instance, was sentenced to 10 years in jail last week for coercing underage fans to send him sexually explicit videos.
Knabenbauer has not responded to the allegations beyond his divorce announcement yesterday. “During this time, you may see a lot of rumors, speculation, and gossip going around,” he wrote. “I ask that you make your own observations and come to your own conclusions.”
The Verge reports that Knabenbauer and NormalBoots, the creator collective to which he formerly belonged, have mutually parted ways.