Madison Young

"Porn stars are the gladiators of the entertainment industry"

Adult performer Madison Young's memoir is a brave sexual bildungsroman -- and a dishy account of the porn industry


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Tracy Clark-Flory
March 16, 2014 3:00AM (UTC)

Porn star Madison Young was on a plane to a fetish conference, along with her infant daughter Emma and partner James, when a stranger struck up conversation. The suburban mother of two across the aisle had a seemingly straightforward question: “How old is your little girl?

But the answer was not so simple.

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Young’s daughter was then 15 months-old -- but the term "little girl" meant much more to her. “The Little Girl inside me is eight years old; she never ages," she writes in her new book, “Daddy: A Memoir.” "She is a symbolic element of innocence, of a time when sitting at Daddy’s feet or on Daddy’s lap really did solve all of your problems, a time when Daddy could make the world better.”

Young, a sex educator and award-winning porn performer and director, is in a submissive/dominant relationship with James. She explains -- to readers but not to her plane-mate -- “I am my Daddy’s Little Girl. James is my Daddy. Emma is our daughter, which is something else entirely.” Then there is Young's father, the man who once provided that paternal comfort upon which her erotic life is mirrored; and her mother, who by Young's account is a bit of a sex scold. It’s these shifting, blurring roles around which the book revolves.

It is as much a book about Young's sexual coming of age as it is a story about being disappointed by men. When she was 4, her father left her mom for a prostitute. Many years of turmoil, and her mother raging after her father's "whores," followed. As a young adult, Young went in search of a BDSM leather daddy. She found it in James, a bondage photographer and porn performer, but he was unfaithful, just like her dad. “I want to believe that we are all a little more heroic than we are flawed, that the honorable role of Daddy does exist," she writes. "I believe in my Daddy.”

It is an intensely personal journey told with brutal honesty about everything from jealousy over her porn-performing partner's on-screen lovers to balancing motherhood with her private kinky sex life. She is just as honest in dishing on the sometimes gruesome realties of the mainstream porn industry (profuse anal bleeding, anyone?), as well as a behind-the-scenes happenings at San Francisco's BDSM palace, The Armory -- from kinky dinner parties to mirrors lined with a white powdery substance.

I spoke with Young by Google video from her home in Berkeley, where she sat in front of an array of Feminist Porn Awards in the shape of butt plugs.

Why write this memoir?

At first I started writing erotic fiction, but then I was like, "The things that I'm doing are actually more exciting than fiction."

The book itself has gone through three full rewrites. I had given [the second version of the book] to a couple of people and everyone gravitated toward the part that was about Daddy. Everyone was like, “Why is this only one chapter?” There was also this real interest in what was one single line of me mentioning that my father had left and that when he left our family it was for a sex worker. People were very interested in that fact and that I became a sex worker.

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I was like, really, I have to go to that part? I have to write about that? That’s the really, really tough stuff. Can’t I just write about hanging from my ankles and the crazy bondage sex that I have? That small part of the book became the entire focus.

Can you talk a bit about what exactly the connection is there between your dad leaving your mom for a sex worker and you becoming a sex worker?

I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of connection there, other than the fact that it was the first time I had heard the word “prostitute” -- and it being another level of sexual shame. Shame around anything that was sexual. A large part of why I do the work that I do is because of that sexual shame that I felt in that environment growing up in Southern Ohio with my family. I made it my mission in life to create space for people to feel free to express themselves and experience their truest desires.

Can you talk about the difference, and maybe the similarities, between your biological father and your Daddy?

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Fetish and kink are not only rooted in what is sexual, but also what feels safe, what feels pleasurable. You can feel aroused and excited and comforted by things that are not necessarily typically sexual. My connection with rope is very deeply rooted. I love the way it feels against my skin, I love the smell of it, but also this wonderful element of me feeling close to my father. My father was always around rope. We worked together doing landscaping, getting our hands dirty as I was planting flowers with him and handing him rope as he’s upping a tree. It’s a tactile experience of, like, a teddy bear that you still like to nuzzle with as an adult, and feeling that safety and security makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin and in expressing myself sexually. Therefore it is arousing to me.

They’re similar roles but they’re still very vey different. The Daddy/Little Girl dynamic is about having this person that is in control and keeping you safe and being able to play the role and go into the psychological submission and space of someone who is much younger.

In my day-to-day life, I’m very Type A, I’m managing a lot of things. I run two different businesses. In my sexual life and in my life as a “little” and as a submissive I feel great freedom in being able to surrender and able to create a structure with my partner in which we’re both building that container for our relationship to exist in equally and then stepping into that container and being able to surrender to my Daddy.

Has the relationship changed since your Daddy became an actual father?

Just time. It’s even more difficult to juggle our time because we simply have less time together. I think everyone, regardless of whether they’re kinky or not, plays different roles in their lives. Mother, executive -- we shift in those different power play roles in our life. I'm Mom or Mommy one minute, but my relationship dynamic with James is different. I can take on the role of mother with my child and be Little Girl to my Daddy. At the same time, we have a very different relationship in terms of household management. I’m often very dominant and bossy, even to him, in regards to running the house. I have a very bold personality. Within our partner relationship we have a different dynamic than in our dominant/submissive Little/Daddy relationship.

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So when is that switch flipped?

Sometimes it’s in the bedroom. Sometimes it’s in the dungeon. Sometimes it’s in a moment that we have alone together in the kitchen. It can be a name that he uses or that I use. A way that we look at each other, a way that he touches me. I can move in and out of those roles pretty fluidly.

Were you surprised to encounter jealousy when it came to your partner shooting with other women?

No, I wasn’t surprised to have experienced jealousy. I think the surprising thing was my partner not communicating with me, which was the problematic part. He’s also experienced jealousy with me being with other people, but we talked about it. The problems arise when things aren’t talked about or that negotiations or agreements that are made are broken. It means there’s something underlying that. James ... alcoholism was a part of his life that I wasn’t familiar with and I didn’t acknowledge and I didn’t realize was so deeply a part of his life. I think that non-communication was very much tied to that.

You’re incredibly honest about the infidelity in your relationship. How did he feel about that; how do you feel about that?

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It was hard. I often take on the role of educator, the revolutionary -- this hero persona you try to live up to be, that the Daddy tried to live up to be. But the thing is, we’re all flawed and we’re all human. All of those flaws and bits of humanity make up why we do the work that we do. We persevere through that. I hope that in showing those really challenging bits and us working through it that that inspires others to live through it and find their own heroism.

Some people will be confused to hear that it’s possible to be unfaithful within a relationship where both partners work in porn.

[Laughs.] Well, again, I identify infidelity as lying or not communicating, breaking promises around the sex that you’re having. The problem for me is not around the having of sex, it’s around the non-communication and breaking of trust. That’s what the key issue is, it’s not the sex. The challenges happen when there is that breach of trust.

Your decision to do porn in the first place was rather casual. You needed rent money for your feminist art studio and happened to come across an ad from Kink.com looking for models. Can you see an alternate reality in which you didn’t do porn, or is that something that was inevitable for you?

I think that it makes a lot of sense in the work that I do as an activist and as an artist. I work a lot with my body and sexuality. The performance artwork that I do and visual artwork that I do and the curatorial and community activist work that I do. Especially working within sex education and feminist pornography, it’s really an extension of my activism.

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So you might have ended up getting into the business anyway, even if it weren’t for that month of rent that you needed?

Yeah. I really don’t see how else I would have possibly been able to support my organization for as along as I had. It would not have been possible without sex work. In San Francisco there’s just a huge overlapping of artists, activists and sex work communities. I think for many artists it's a way in which we’re able to support our art.

How did you refer to it in the book, again? Anal for art?

Anal for art, yes. I’m going through some of my books for some of those years and it’s like huge $10,000 transfers into the account a month. It’s a lot of anal! It paid for everything from marketing to interns, everything.

This is a horrible transition but I can’t help myself: Speaking of anal, there’s a scene in the book where you are on a shoot in Los Angeles and experience profuse anal bleeding. You have to go to a hospital. How common are those sorts of injuries in the work that you do?

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I think there’s a lot of different kinds of injuries that happen. Especially in L.A., it’s like porn stars are the gladiators of the entertainment industry. Your body is totally on the line. I had been working in the BDSM industry for five years before I started working in L.A. I was known to be a tough chick. I was like, "All they’re doing is having sex. That’s so easy! Have you seen what I do?" But it was totally different. I love anal sex, but it was a lot of sex. There are a lot of different injuries that happen. There are vaginal tears, anal tears, genital warts, lots of STDs, STD vacations.

What’s an STD vacation?

An STD vacation, that’s when you get off work. You’re being booked every day for scenes, unless you have an STD. That’s when you have a week off in which you’re on medicine.

It was really scary when [the anal tear] happened, and just the amount of blood that was happening, and trying to communicate that to my agent and just the fact that he was like, “You’re gonna be back [shooting] on Tuesday, right? He’s got a short dick, it’ll be fine!” Everyone’s like, "Oh, it’s fine that you have cups of blood coming out of your anus!" Luckily it did stop. It actually wasn’t a serious tear, so there were no stitches that were needed.

The way you write it in the book, when you found out that you had herpes, your agent was like, “Oh that happens to everyone.”

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Yes, which also wasn’t something I knew happened to everyone. I wouldn’t say 100 percent of the people in the porn industry have herpes, but it’s an extremely high percentage. I mean, even in the general population [outside of porn] it’s a high percentage. I talk to a lot of people who are getting into the industry or planning to go from the queer porn industry here in San Francisco to L.A. and they just need to know that there’s a great possibility of that happening. Some of the people I talked to didn’t even realize that they shoot without condoms in L.A.

Where do you stand on the whole condoms and porn debate?

I’m an advocate for safer sex and condoms being used. I think it should be something that the producers mandate instead of the state. I don’t like the idea of the government having a say over my body. But it’s really tricky because, especially within the mainstream industry, they see their talent as very disposable. That’s the huge difference between feminist pornography and the more fast-food porn of L.A. You’re not just a hair color and a bust size, you’re an actual individual.

Your mom was not very happy about your going into porn. How does she feel about it now?

She’s happy that I'm doing more work within the educational field rather than performing. I do still occasionally perform, but I mostly do workshops, lectures, directing, presentations and writing. I’ll occasionally do a solo scene or a scene with another woman in one of my films. But also, with all of the STD scares going on in L.A., I don’t really feel safe working in L.A. personally.

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That raises the question of how you would feel about your daughter going into that line of work.

I think whatever Em grows up to do, I want them to be happy and I want them to be educated about what they’re doing, and thinking about whether it’s gentle to themselves, to others and to the world around them.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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