Madison Young, rape apologism, and HackerMoms

[Content warning: sexual assault, rape apologism, victim-blaming]

Madison Young describes herself as “a sex positive Tasmanian devil”; she’s been active in the feminist porn community for some time, and founded the Femina Potens art space in San Francisco. She’s also on the steering committee for Mothership HackerMoms, serving as their director of programming. Mothership HackerMoms describes themselves as “the first-ever women’s hackerspace in the world”.

Last week, a video resurfaced that Young, along with Billie Sweet, made after the filming of their movie “Heartland: a Woman’s POV”. “Heartland” was nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, but the clip (which appears to no longer be available online) probably wouldn’t win any feminist awards. In it, Young — an alum of Antioch College — discusses having sex with another student at Antioch while both women were drunk. She observes that this encounter violated Antioch’s much-misunderstood SOPP (Sexual Offense Prevention Policy), which requires people on campus to ensure that explicit consent is present before initiating a particular sex act. She goes on to deride the SOPP — this isn’t exactly an original sentiment, but what I think we’re meant to take away from the dialogue is that clearly, Madison Young couldn’t possibly be a rapist. And therefore, the SOPP — a policy that she violated by initiating a sex act with someone who was too intoxicated to consent — must be ridiculous, since what kind of policy would censure someone like her for having some innocent undergrad fun?

Young issued an apology for the video and for her initial — highly defensive — comments on Twitter when the video resurfaced. But as Kitty Stryker at Consent Culture does a great job of explaining in her post “Consent, Critique, & Feminist Porn: Madison Young’s Hard Lesson”, the apology itself is still very defensive. In it, Young does not demonstrate understanding of why it was wrong for her to indulge in victim-blaming rhetoric, both in the original video and in her comments about it in July 2014.

I find it especially worrisome that Young characterizes a code of conduct that simply seeks to affirm the need for sexual consent as “censorship”: “Although SOPP is an extreme policy around consent, that came out of the now defunct Antioch College, I do applaud its effort. Like many things that were generated from Antioch College it started with good intentions but went too far to extremes to be useful and effective in practice. There was an inherent policing at Antioch that bordered on censorship.” (n.b. Antioch College is not, in fact, defunct.)

Can a hackerspace be a safe space if one of its organizers is somebody who styles herself as a consent advocate while engaging in derailing and victim-blaming speech about sexual assault? If you are directly involved with HackerMoms, I encourage you to start that dialogue.

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