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Kickstarter Apologizes, Donates $25,000 To RAINN, After Offensive Dating Guide Controversy

Good News Everyone!

Yesterday we brought you the story of an already funded Kickstarter project to publish a guide called, Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome With Women. It came to the public’s attention after blogger Casey Malone posted some extremely problematic language within the proposed guide, already published online on Reddit, which included suggesting the user force women to do certain things and disregard their wishes to stop. After public outcry, including a petition brought to the Kickstarter offices, we have a positive update to the story. 

We have a few other updates as well, including a response from the author of the guide, Ken Hoinsky. Trigger warnings going forward.

Hoinsky writes:

I am devastated and troubled by the allegations that my book, Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women, promotes rape. That couldn’t be further from the truth. A handful of quotes were taken out of context and posted on Tumblr which steamrolled in a game of telephone where hardly anyone bothered to read the original version.

People took advice from a section on “Physical Escalation & Sex” and posted them online. Devoid of context, they appeared to be promoting sexually assaulting women when that wasn’t the case at all.

The gist of the controversial advice is “Don’t wait for signs before you make your move. Let her be the one who rejects your advances. If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don’t want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. Try again at a later time if appropriate or cease entirely if she is absolutely not interested.”

You can read the entirety of Hoinsky’s statement here but suffice to say, many of us did read the entire original version, since replaced on the Reddit subsection, Seddit, and were horrified by its content. I remain horrified still that Hoinsky doesn’t seem to understand the implications of his unqualified “advice.” He seems to be under the impression you have to wait until a woman is literally screaming at you “SERIOUSLY GET THE F**k OFF ME YOU CREEP” before you stop making unwanted advances. Since some of the offensive material was found in a section meant to advise readers while they’re already on a date with someone, he thinks that makes it ok. It does not. He also writes:

The thing that the commenters on social media are leaving out is that the advice was taken from a section in the guide offering advice on what to do AFTER a man has met a cute girl, gotten her phone number, gone on dates, spent time getting to know her, and now are alone behind closed doors fooling around. If “Don’t wait for signs, make the first move” promotes sexual assault, then “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid was a song about rape.

No, “don’t wait for signs, make the first move” is not terrible advice for someone already involved in a romantic relationship but “Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances,” also in the same section, does promote sexual assault, whether he understands that or not.

Naomi Hirabayashi, CMO of DoSomething.org took a printed version of the petition and signatures (49,000 strong at the time) along with twenty individuals to Kickstarter headquarters in New York City. They asked to meet with Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen but spoke only with an office manager who assured them the petition would be delivered. The company consists of 61 people and it’s not very unusual Hirabayashi wasn’t able to speak with the boss without making an appointment, if he was even there at the time, so we don’t find this reaction surprising. However, an email update from the petition writers mentioned being told by several individuals Kickstarter was deleting comments about the situation on their Facebook page. We have not verified this.

However, earlier today, Kickstarter made an official statement on their blog:

We were wrong.

Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

  • The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.
  • Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.

These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

So what now? Kickstarter says they missed their window to stop the project being funded but have removed it entirely from their website (and linked to a cache version).

“We are prohibiting ‘seduction guides,’ or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter,” they wrote. “Today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN [Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network]. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.”

And excellent response to the outcry, and an example other companies should look to. But ridding the site of “seduction guides” entirely is not the point. This wasn’t about people being uncomfortable with others teaching them how to speak to women, it was about how they were teaching others to treat women.

Kickstarter’s statement also fails to address the wording of their policy which lead them to hesitate on removing the project as soon as it was brought to their attention (or during their own review process for that matter), and whether or not they’ll be adjusting it in the future so something like this doesn’t happen again.

Guide writer Hoinsky said in his statement, “The book contains an entire chapter on sexual assault & rape, preaching men what not to do. Of course no one has seen those parts yet because the book hasn’t been released yet.” Which seems all too convenient now. However, the petition update mentioned reaching out to the author, “offering advice and insight from a professional author and relationship blogger (who works for us!) on how to improve his book so that it does not promote sexual assault. If this book is (apparently) going to be funded and written, we want to make sure nobody is going to get hurt. Our goal isn’t lots of clicks or to embarrass anyone, we just want to make sure violence against women isn’t rewarded…ever.”

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