Madison Young’s “Daddy” is articulate, authentic, disheartening.

I love Madison Young and what she stands for. I met her first through Rough Sex #2, which was incredibly hot and in which she was phenomenal. I like to watch her because she seems like a real person- she attains real pleasure, and engages in real eye-communication with other performers- rather than the forced into-camera eye-flirt that so many others do. Madison is a self-identified feminist and highly accomplished BDSM educator, director, and actor- among other things.

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Perhaps my hopes were too high- or unfair. I hoped that this memoir would be a holy grail of How To Do Daddy Stuff Right. It was not. In fact, it ended up making me more afraid that Daddy play may ultimately prove risky or even harmful to those of us who have trauma histories or are especially vulnerable to powerful people who take advantage of us. I was hoping that this book could be a resource for mental health professionals who are trying to understand how a little girl/ Daddy dynamic, which makes many people have a knee-jerk squick reaction- can be played out lovingly by two well-adjusted, happy people. This book is not that. Truthfully, it made no claims of being so. Madison herself is only 34 (according to a likely-unreliable web source.) She is an actual human being who is every bit as entitled to making mistakes and bad choices as any of us. At no point did she claim that this book was a how-to guide. That expectation- or hope- is on me.

“Daddy” begins with a happy family- giving us a pristine snapshot of “after.” Madison is letting us know not to worry too much- that everything here turns out ok. She takes us on a journey of explaining how she came into her own sexuality- of the how and why she enjoys submission. It was well-written, even-headed, and sweet. I related here. I thought, “Finally- I can give this to people and they will understand!” Everything looked healthy. Dynamics were ultimately mutually caring. Things were good.

Some vignettes did make me worry for her- the initial pattern of trying intense BDSM for the first time in front of a camera, instead of on her own where she was able to have her own reactions without fear of losing a job. The time when she severely injured her rectum, continued with a scene, gushed “about a cup of blood” and then, rather than going to the ER, flew back to where her partner was before seeking medical attention. This, to me, was the first sign of dependency that seemed harmful. This is where I began to worry.

As the story progresses on, Madison develops a deeper relationship and connection to James Mogul, who we know from the beginning is her current partner. James seems to care for her sometimes- but frequently violates the terms of their poly relationship and treats Madison like she’s being unreasonable when she discovers and voices her hurt.

Madison tiptoes into wisps one hopes will turn into self-aware insights as to how she utilizes kink to heal old wounds, but she never quite gets there. She seems like an approval addict who will do anything for a fix. By three quarters of the way through the book we watch our heroine endure lying, cheating, drug use, emotional stonewalling, being abandoned in times of concern and crisis. Madison is surrounded by gentle, loving, and supportive friends and still focuses solely on the meager crumbs of loving from her Daddy. It is heartbreaking. You cannot blame Madison, but you want so badly to help her move forward from this seemingly endless repetition compulsion.

Ultimately Madison doesn’t explain much about how James came around. It seems like he did his own thing until he grew tired of it, never acknowledged or apologized for the enormous hurt he caused Madison, and quit the industry. We zoom forward into a birth scene- which chronologically could only be a few months away from the days when he was ignoring her entirely- and then snap right into the present.

My heart aches for Madison. I am deeply disappointed to report that this book gave me the sense that for her, the Daddy play significantly contributed to an extremely harmful dynamic wherein the powerful party abused and took advantage of the other, who was too lost in subspace to realize what was happening. Madison’s trust, love, and faithfulness were used as weapons against her by the man in whose hands she decided to place her well being. I found myself rooting so hard for Madison. But where she appeared willing to forgive her Daddy on faith without explanation or understanding of what had happened- and I felt like she invited her readers to do the same- I simply could not get on board. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch porn starring James Mogul without feeling disgusted and turned off.

Though she is an educator, Madison makes no claims that this book is intended to tell people how to do things. It is not fair for me to fault her for being imperfect. But I was hoping for some lesson learned from all of this- some way in which she grew or progressed or learned how to care for herself, or thought about how to talk to her daughter about how to identify healthy relationships. There was none of that. Perhaps the painful parts of this book struck me with such force because I related to them and saw myself in them. (This is more than a “perhaps.”)

So is this book true, and authentic, and descriptive of the submissive experience? Yes. But overall I found it troubling and sad. I hope that Madison is able to treat herself with love and respect, and someone with whom she can play with Daddy dynamics in a way that is truly safe and loving and caring. I hope that people outside of the scene will not take this memoir as proof that all Daddy/little girl relationships are abusive, manipulative, or harmful. And I hope that those who do read it will both have compassion for Madison and also try to look for something better.

I thank Madison for sharing her story and for not whitewashing it. Books like this help us gain an accurate perception of others’ experiences so that we can relate to their struggles and mistakes. It takes bravery and love for others to choose to open ourselves in that way. Madison surely knew that some readers would look down on her for including the less- than-pretty, not-perfectly-empowered pieces of her story and she included them anyway. This was a very conscious choice, and one that comes from the queer, feminist, radical Madison I know and love.

I can’t rate this book because it would feel like I am rating someone else’s life. So instead I will say: this is a worthwhile, if uncomfortable, read. This is a work of bravery, strength, and love. This is the beginning of a conversation.

Thank you, Madison. And good luck.

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