Q&A: Madison Young Discusses 'Daddy: A Memoir'
BERKELEY, Calif. — Feminist pornographer Madison Young may identify as the diminutive half of a Daddy/little relationship, but it doesn’t dwarf her insights in her new memoir, “Daddy,” which manages, with patience and perseverance, to apotheosize a hero — riddled with flaws and all, for the sake of love, lust and plain old romantic idealism.
“Daddy” delievers more as a kinky philosophy than pure memoir: almost all of its biography is wrangled for the singular purpose of defining, finding and redefining “Daddy,” as Young struggles with her own need to find a strong, masculine safe haven. Young’s Daddy is repeatedly lost and found, physically and metaphysically, as an aggrandized archetype and as a befleshed, beflawed partner, as her biological father and later as her chosen Daddy/Dominant, James Mogul.
The book opens in the air. Or rather, on a plane. Young, Mogul and their infant daughter Emma are flying to a sexuality conference in Canada when Young lays out her Daddy-as-Tao that defines the pages to follow,
“When the world feels like it’s just too much to bear, like it would take a superhero to handle the chaos of everyday life, it seems essential to have an entity to look up to, someone that can make everything okay with the touch of their powerful hand and a kiss on the forehead. Some people have prayer; they believe in God or a higher power. I believe in Daddy.”
Young espouses her faith midway through an anecdote about one of her Daddy’s unheroic truths — his most recent infidelity. She makes a conscious and impossible parallel that effectively validates the double edged sword of any hero. “I want to believe that we are all a little more heroic than we are flawed, that the honorable role of Daddy does exist.”
But that first chapter is really the end of the story, and the beginning of the journey: i.e., Young’s evolution from her given identity of Tina Butcher, a girl living in the confines of conservative Suburbia, to a feminist porn icon hanging from anal hooks in Kink's famed Armory and stints in Porn Valley's less glamorous but equally iniquitous loci.
Defining herself against her largest looming Daddies, Young carves out her own bold outline. Almost improbably embracing even the nethermost regions of her kink just after fleeing her small town stomping grounds, Young’s memoir provides readers with not only some jerk-worthy written erotica, but also a glimpse into her goings-on as the curator of art gallery Femina Potens, as well as her adult work dedicated to documenting authentic pleasure on camera.
In choosing to chase Daddy down the literary rabbit hole, Young lets a lot of history slip by the wayside, devoting very little of the memoir to her pre-Mogul life; and, perhaps because of her strong belief in her hero, lets some of the tougher dilemmas mentioned (such as Mogul’s struggle with drug addiction) remain largely unexplored to expedite the ultimately positive, albeit grounded, outcome.
XBIZ caught up with Madison Young, Liv Ullmann lookalike and self-described sex-positive Tasmanian devil, to get her take on “Daddy.”
What is “Daddy” about? What inspired you to pick up the pen and write it when you did?
I'm an artist and activist so I've been creating personal works of art of different mediums about my life for about 15 years. I write because I am a writer. I make art because I'm an artist. I've been writing essays and short non-fiction pieces about my experiences in the adult industry, throughout my sexual journey. It's one of the many ways that I self reflect, that I learn more about myself, sexuality, relationships and the world around me.
I had been working on different variations of "Daddy" for a few years. In the summer of 2012, I met with my publisher Tyson Cornell at Rare Bird. I had handed him the memoir I had been working on and then we had this really great conversation about the book. Through that conversation I discovered the much more challenging and compelling story that needed to be told — a story of a girl finding a place of belonging, needing to believe in something outside of herself, and then watching as everything she thought she knew and that she thought she believed in started to crumble before her eyes. That is when we discover our real strength, our power, our courage, our inner hero, our inner "Daddy."
I write because I'm a writer. I wrote this book because we all crave human connection. When I write or create art that is visceral and raw and honest, I am exposing vulnerability, human fallibility and the reader or viewer feels right along with me. It's a journey we are taking together. Within that experience, that journey, the reader experiences not only empathetic feelings along with the artist/the writer, but experiences a validation and permission to explore their own vulnerabilities, their own emotions, to question their perspective of love, sex, power dynamics and relationships.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
I hope people will feel. I hope they will feel inspired. That they will question, that they will discover their own inner "Daddy." I hope that this book opens up part of them that they didn't know was there. I hope that it blurs some lines, that it empowers and creates space for questioning and reflecting and inspiring inner strength.
The About section of the book is enticing in its mystery – it says that your ideal (or ideal notion of) “Daddy” was shattered. What was the end result of that realization? What does “Daddy” mean to you now, following that revelation?
The role of "Daddy" within the book is a constructed archetype of "the hero," a pillar of unfaltering strength. And we all have our moments of "Daddy." But the expectation that one person hold that role at all times doesn't give room for the beauty and challenges of being human — it's only one part of the human experience.
We can all aspire to moments of "Daddy." My partner, my Daddy, my lover, the father of my child is human and I love him for all that he is, not just the heroic moments of "Daddy." We continue to have a strong "Daddy/little" relationship dynamic, but that is just one relationship dynamic that we have with in our multi-layer loving partnership.
What has having an “alt sexuality” been like? I have read accounts of people struggling with their identity as feminists and, let’s say, as submissives, or any taboo fantasy really. Did you have that sort of inner-conflict? Do people ever express discomfort to you about the whole taboo of Daddy-as-sexual-object?
Well I don't really know what it is like to have a "non-alt sexuality." Growing up I always felt a sense of difference, which was very isolating growing up in small towns and suburban areas of Southern Ohio. As soon as I started experiencing my body and sexual desire, it was an alternative desire to what I was surrounded by. I had sexual desire for women and often experienced exhibitionistic and kink fantasies as early as 12 or 13. I delve into the sexually suppressive environment in which I grew up in my memoir.
Regarding my own feelings around my sexual identity, I don't really experience any conflict. I follow what is authentic and true for myself and give myself space and time and permission to explore ever evolving desires, needs and communicate those with my partner/s. My feminism empowers me to articulate and explore my sexual desires — whether those desires be submissive or more vanilla in nature.
I have agency over my own body, my own sexuality, my identity. I am no less of a feminist when I am submissive to my loving dominant and Daddy of nine years than I am when I'm presenting at a university or managing a staff at my arts organization or directing on set. My feminism informs my work life and personal life and I believe that authentic expression of female pleasure is downright feminist.
What has the response to the work been so far? Any favorite reactions? Has the title and central theme sparked any controversy?
The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been so very touched by the dozens of emails I've received from folks that have read the book and that resonated with the work. I hear a lot of comments from people that say they couldn't' put the book down or that they cancelled their plans to stay in and read all night with "Daddy."
I've had mothers in Ohio writing me that it has awakened and empowered a newfound sense of desire and pleasure. I've had women email me about their relationships, their break ups, their conflicted and muddled feelings of love with their partners. I've had lovers email who have each bought copies of the book for each other and they read the book together … Dominants and submissives reading it during BDSM scenes sending me photos of the copy of the book bound to bondage furniture. It means so much to me to have this piece, this work, inspiring connection, love, healing.
Of course there are some fowl comments. Mostly from Internet trolls who haven't even read the book and are going to beat down on anything associated with sex work or kink. I'm always up for discourse around art, but I don't appreciate or engage with junior high bully mentality. If they read my book they would know that!
Are you working on anything else that you’d like to plug? How much producing and directing are you doing these days?
I always have so many projects going simultaneously. I just returned from the Feminst Porn Awards, where my recently released film (Documentary/Porn) “Women Reclaiming Sex on Film” won Best Lesbian Vignettes. I'm currently editing a film I directed last month that is inspired by Ziggy Stardust starring myself and Siousxie Q, entitled “Starr Lust.” I recently received my certification as a sex educator and have been teaching a lot of sexuality workshops and intensives, such as Manifesting Sexual Mastery and How to F@#k Like a Porn Star .
I also teach sexuality coaching for couples and individuals. I'm gearing up for facilitating the Erotic Film School in Brooklyn in October. It's the first-ever 30-hour erotic film program. The program lasts over three days and will take participants through every step of production. I'm curating and recruiting new feminist porn studios for my site Feminist Porn Network and currently working on my next book "DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution."
Young recently returned from an East Coast book tour, with events in New York, Toronto and elsewhere. This month, she will be holding readings and signings in San Francisco and Berkeley, as well as a "Double Daddy Book Party" at Good Vibrations in Oakland, Calif. on May 20.