Addendum 2/Postscript: Kickstarter has (take note, CFI) issued an apology, owned their failings, and put new policies in place to ensure such a project as described herein never darkens their doors again. Still I encourage everyone to get behind Advantageous (and heck, even my little thing, if you like).
Original post begins: In case you’re one of the three or four people out there who still haven’t heard of Kickstarter, it’s the popular crowdfunding platform where the public can go and support creative projects with their dollars, most of which are the sort of dream projects no artist could ever get traditional funding for. It’s a tougher platform than most creators realize, getting into it, but when it works it’s wonderful.
The community there does a pretty good job of self-policing. There have been far fewer scams to slip through the door than you might expect. Recently, a big one was caught, ironically by a couple of documentarians looking to Kickstart a film about Kickstarting. (If anything more meta exists, I haven’t heard it.) As a guy who is currently funding his own film there, I sent those guys my kudos. The scammers ruin the party for the rest of us, and I like seeing them exposed as the roaches they are.
But not everything gets caught in time. Lately there has been outrage over a project called Above the Game. This was to be one of those preposterous “pick up artist” (PUA) guides for embittered, can’t-get-laid dudes who have internalized the message (they hear repeatedly online from embittered, can’t-get-laid dudes) that women really are only attracted to blustery assholes, and expect their own success to be markedly improved by becoming one themselves. The idea that no one alive is entitled to anyone else’s romantic or sexual desire and attentions, and that such things are usually won by displaying attractive rather than unattractive qualities, is alien to the PUA way of thinking, however obvious it may be to those of us who’ve worked out that it’s a rather impoverished life, going around assessing your fellow human beings as slabs of meat you have to get stuff from and nothing more.
But this book appeared to take it way too far. Blogger Casey Malone found some choice excerpts on Reddit. Feast your eyes.
All the greatest seducers in history could not keep their hands off of women. They aggressively escalated physically with every woman they were flirting with. They began touching them immediately, kept great body language and eye contact, and were shameless in their physicality. Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically….
…Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
…Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”
I’d think common sense should tell you that if you’re going to put your cock in a woman’s hand without her permission, you shouldn’t be dismayed if she decides you must not want it anymore. Everyone will understand if you can’t stop screaming, though.
So this is pretty much a guide to sexual assault, and following Malone’s post, the news went viral and a push was made to report the project to Kickstarter in the hopes of getting it taken down — not for being a fraudulent product, but for being one that’s essentially advocating criminal behavior. Seriously, following this guy’s advice is not how to land a hot date, unless he’s your cellmate, at which time you’re likely to learn the hard way just how unpleasant it is to be handed an unsolicited cock.*
But apparently the complaints came too late, and the project funded this morning, bringing in a little over $16,000. That’s a lot of lonesome, horny idiots about to be parted with their money. So further complaints to Kickstarter won’t do much good, unless the hope is to get a response from them indicating that they’ll be more careful in their vetting processes in future. Then again, it’s hard to see how they can be. None of the above passages were published to the Kickstarter listing itself, the content of which is the only thing the site looks over in deciding to accept a project. It took digging into Reddit posts to find it. Community policing will continue to be necessary, going forward.
But for people who are outraged that a rape manual got Kickstarter funding, allow me to suggest a more positive and proactive (I love those marketing flack terms) alternative: Find something awesome and back it.
I have just the project. And it isn’t even my own (mine’s made its goal, but there is still time, and if you would like to support it towards its stretch goals, I’d be very grateful to you). It’s an independent feminist science fiction film called Advantageous, which began life as a short. I saw it at Austin’s Fantastic Fest last year, where the shorts are usually like sketches where you go, “Well, that was cute.” But this one, which was actually better than the feature it opened for, immediately struck me as intelligent, sensitive storytelling for adults, dealing in rather unflinching terms with a near-future world in which scarcity of opportunity for women has reached crisis proportions.
So now director Jennifer Phang and her co-writer and star Jacqueline Kim want to turn it into a feature. It deserves it. Go give them all the money.
It’s like this. We can be people who piss and moan and wail and scream and bitch all day long on the internet when some sexist douche succeeds in crowdfunding his lousy little project. But if we don’t want to live in a world where that happens, while talented and driven women artists can’t get funding, then we have a simple choice: vote with our dollars, and make it so that this isn’t that world.
But if we complain about the evil while shrugging our shoulders and not supporting the good, all our angry blog posts and tweets and all our righteous petitions are little more than empty wind.
* For people inclined to react in a triggery way to that remark, let me assure you that is not advocacy of nonconsensual prison butt-secks, only my way of suggesting PUA’s might want to put themselves in the shoes of the person they so glibly justify victimizing, before actually being stupid enough to try it.
Addendum: Above the Game creator Ken Hoinsky has responded to the outcry about his book, appended to this Forbes article. It’s up to you whether you buy his response. Hat tip to DW.
My main motivation for writing this piece was that I had already heard a couple of people going all “I’m never going to use Kickstarter again!” about all this, and while that’s all well and good if your goal is self-righteous moral indignation, just be aware that the people you’d be hurting by that stance are everybody but the creator of this grotesque manual, who gets to skate away with all his money while someone trying to write a novel, or make a movie, or draw a comic, or record their first album, will now be denied that chance over something that they had nothing to do with and would almost certainly hate as much as you.
Don’t abandon Kickstarter and punish thousands of worthy creators for the sins of an unworthy one. Instead, find great, noble projects and support them instead. Blogger Casey Malone, who exposed this to begin with, echoes this sentiment.