The Daddy Issue: A Real-Life 50 Shades

“I want to believe that we are all a little more heroic than we are flawed, that the honorable role of 'Daddy' does exist. … Some people have prayer; they believe in God or a higher power. I believe in Daddy.” — Madison Young

One easy way to dismiss a woman's experience is to say she has “daddy issues.” If that woman is in the sex industry or is sexually promiscuous, then she is assumed to be “looking for daddy.” Madison Young takes that cliché head-on and bravely deconstructs it in her new memoir, Daddy.

Young is a Bay Area-based porn star, director, and sex educator. We've worked together on and off over the years, and I've always been impressed by her hard work on both sides of the camera. Like me, she entered the sex industry for many reasons, but one of them was to fund her queer feminist art gallery, Femina Potens: a noble venture that that she lovingly called “Anal for Art.”

“Four anal scenes paid the gallery rent, another four paid the deposit,” she writes. (Please note: These figures no longer apply in San Francisco. This was pre-Google Bus.)

The first film I did with Madison Young was a lesbian porn parody of 50 Shades of Grey in November 2012. I was an extra in the final scene in which the leading character is presented as a plaything to a group of masked women in lingerie. It was silly, and meant to poke fun at the international bestseller that captivated the attention of mainstream readers, inspiring millions of suburban housewives to explore their kinky desires. The author of the 50 Shades series, E.L. James, is a middle-aged British woman who admits that the series is a manifestation of her midlife crisis. The book is problematic, but it certainly sparked a conversation about BDSM in mainstream media that had previously gone ignored. Can a woman identify as a submissive sex slave and still be empowered?

Young raises similar questions in her memoir, but unlike James, she has the real-life experience to inform the answers. Daddy is what 50 Shades of Grey could never be: an honest and brave story of a real life BDSM relationship.

Some think of Young as porn royalty here in the Bay Area. She began her career at long before it inhabited the looming castle that is the San Francisco Armory. In the book, Young recounts her journey as a small-town girl from Ohio on a quest for chosen family in the Oz-like city of San Francisco. She encounters plenty of lions and tigers and bears in the form of sleazy agents and conniving porn stars. She also meets the Wizard. James Mogul is the mastermind behind the wildly successful sites The Training of O and The Upper Floor which showcase “24/7 slave training” as well as lifestyle Dominance and submission. Mogul is what Christian Grey wants to be when he grows up.

Young and Mogul fall deeply in love, and in Daddy we watch their story unfold on the page. Young speaks to the strange reality of functioning in a relationship while a camera is often rolling. The lines between personal and performance become blurred as the unconventional love story is documented in their pornographic work together and with other partners.

The book is unique in that many of the scenes have the option of a visual aid. Porn can often just be bodies writhing around a thin plotline. The medium is largely about visuals and titillation, but Young's memoir reframes her scenes with Mogul as chapters of an epic saga. Their performances on the screen are steeped in authenticity, and now Young's memoir adds yet another layer. And, let's be honest, reading is way more fun when you can watch porn in between the chapters.

It would be easy to dismiss Young's story as yet another tale of a girl with daddy issues in the porn industry, and certainly some readers will. But Young shows sex work, BDSM, and relationships as they are: messy, imperfect, and sometimes heartbreaking. She shows that a real BDSM relationship is fraught with the same complications of any relationship. It can't be tied up neatly with rope or a gray necktie.

Listen to Siouxsie's podcast on daddy issues.

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