Kickstarter has backed off from support of a user who launched a successful but highly controversial "guide to getting awesome with women," issuing a blanket ban on what it calls misogynistic how-to manuals. On June 19th, a Kickstarter user completed a round of crowdfunding for Above the Game, a book that offered pickup artist-style advice to men meeting women: it closed with over $15,000 with a goal of $2,000. But as comedian Casey Malone found, the advice ranged from standard truisms to veiled endorsements of sexually assaulting women. Malone reported the project to Kickstarter, saying it was an inappropriate use of the platform and asking the company to cancel the project rather than go through with funding it.
Now-deleted excerpts of the book, posted on Reddit's "seduction" board, suggested that men touch women or sit them on their laps to establish an early connection, regardless of how the women responded. "Don't ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances," the author wrote. "If a woman isn't comfortable, take a break and try again later." Basic and non-controversial advice about sex was garnished with repeated admonishments to ignore what women say they want. "Pull out your cock and put her hand on it," reads one frequently cited passage. "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." Malone furiously called the project a "rape manual" that urged men to ignore consent.
"This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works."
Kickstarter responded to Malone, saying that it was disappointed in the project but didn't believe posting the exerpts on Reddit violated its guidelines. "Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project." Malone and others petitioned for the company to change its mind, and in a blog post entitled "We were wrong," it did just that, albeit too late to cancel the project.
Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don't approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn't), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.
Where does this leave us?
First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers' money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.
While the project will be funded, it's been removed from Kickstarter, though an archived page is still available. But in the future, Kickstarter is taking a nuclear approach, banning the entire category of guides. "We are prohibiting 'seduction guides,' or anything similar, effective immediately," the team wrote. "This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter." Kickstarter will also donate $25,000 to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
It's not clear what this ban will entail, and just as Kickstarter admitted its initial decision to not cancel the project was made very quickly, this is clearly a response to backlash in the past day. But it's a strongly worded repudiation of its earlier decision. As Facebook looks over its guidelines after being accused of ignoring violence against women, Kickstarter has drawn a line in the sand.