Madison Young’s memoir Daddy tackles head-on the daddy issues sex workers are always accused of having. Young skillfully and responsibly presents her journey from a little girl who misses her daddy to an accomplished gallery owner, feminist erotic film producer, author, and “sex positive Tasmanian devil.” She begins by tackling the issue of consent: yours. “I cannot hear the consenting ‘yes’ seep from your lips,” she writes, “but by the simple turn of this page you will be physically consenting to this journey, this scene, between you and I.”
I remember first hearing of Young years ago when a friend quoted her now-famous line, “How many anal scenes does it take to open a feminist art space?” Young made her place in the few areas of the sex industry I have no experience with: San Francisco, the mecca of sex worker culture; pro-subbing on Kink.com; and shooting dozens of anal scenes for mainstream porn. Although our experiences are different, I found myself nodding and occasionally clapping through every interview and article of hers I read over the years.
Usually, I am eager to read sex worker memoirs because of the ways that other peoples’ stories of sex work echo and offer new perspectives on my own experiences. Madison Young’s book was different: I had no idea what it was like to be a pro-sub porn star in a full time D/S relationship, and I wanted to know.
The first thing I noticed was the beauty and honesty of the writing. Young obviously has major skills with words and relating to an audience. She promises to lay her “heart bare, simple, raw, beating, human, and emotional with truth of honesty and vulnerability, fear and heroism,” and she delivers.
Young starts shooting with Kink.com as a youthful women’s studies graduate, full of ideas and a little light on experience, fresh from the Midwest, and having trouble keeping up with the bills while running a feminist art gallery in San Francisco. She asks a friend’s advice, and they enthusiastically tell her that “sex work is probably responsible for funding more marginalized artists than the National Endowment for the Arts! If you ask me, they should offer a class in art school called Baristas or Brothels: How to Fund Art on the Fringe.”
Although she was shooting porn, not stripping or turning tricks, Young’s initial feelings about sex work were familiar to me. She describes receiving her first check and taking the money straight to her landlord, feeling like she’d fallen into a fairy tale. Becoming a sex worker “meant that anything in life was within my grasp; I just needed enough anal scenes to get there.” That’s how I’ve always felt, too: as if sex work gives me superpowers to hustle my way into anything I want.
Young portrays feminine submission as beautiful and strong. She describes women in bondage photographs: “…their faces set permanently in orgasmic pleasure, perseverance, and strength while mascara dripped down their cheeks. It seemed genuine and uncontrived, like a documentary photo exhibit on sex and emotional vulnerability.”
My experiences with pro-submission are limited: I used to let a strip club regular spank me for $50/stroke; sometimes I play along while my hypnosis clients “hypnotize” me. In my personal life my experiments in bottoming have been similarly limited to sensation and energy play. Before reading the book, I couldn’t imagine hardcore pro-subbing or being in a full-time D/S relationship, but in Madison’s text submission is described so fully and beautifully that I soon found myself yearning for a Daddy of my own.
The book opens on Young’s childhood relationship with her loving, yet mostly absent, father. It soon returns to the topic of daddy issues as Young falls in love with James Mogul, her Daddy. Mogul is an experienced top and producer who quickly becomes the man behind (and on the screen of) Kink.com’s The Training of O, and The Upper Floor.
Mogul is the hero of Young’s little girl dreams. She feels safe and at home in his arms and ropes. Young describes the emotional and physical aspects of submission exquisitely. The feel of jute rope against her skin makes her come to life with pleasure, and the feeling of being taken care of, having a Daddy, fulfills a deep need. Finally Madison has her very own fairytale hero who makes everything okay.
Can it last? Can a feminist art gallery owner be a submissive sex slave and still be empowered? Can a committed relationship work when both partners are fucking (sometimes the same people) for a living? What happens when your job, your social scene, and your relationship are all tied up in the same strands of exquisitely thick jute rope?
The tension builds as Mogul develops more projects for Kink.com and spends more and more time at the Kink.com castle, managing the filming and play of a 24/7 site. In the meantime, Young travels the world as a model, shoots porn in LA, and runs a feminist art gallery. In the moments that her whirlwind schedule allows for time at home she finds that her Daddy has fallen far from his superhero pedestal. His life has become a 24/7 Kink.com party, fueled by cocaine and the adoration of dozens of beautiful young submissives.
That’s when Young gets pregnant. What happens next (it would spoil the book to discuss it here) is heartbreaking and inspiring as Young rises to the challenges that present themselves.