After allowing a project that promoted sexual violence to reach completion, Kickstarter has acknowledged its mistake. The popular crowd-funding site has attempted to make things right with revised policies and a sizable donation to a relevant cause.
The controversy began on June 19, when comedian Casey Malone took to Tumblr to call out an objectionable Kickstarter project: "Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women" by Ken Hoinsky.
Hoinsky is a member of a subculture known as "pick-up artists" (PUAs), who attempt to hone their skills wooing women through repetition of prepackaged routines. Instead of being "nice guys," PUAs urge each other to be assertive, flamboyant and persistent when trying to court women. This behavior works often enough to foster a viable online community and a small industry for PUAs.
The Kickstarter page itself was fairly predictable: Hoinsky wanted some seed money to write a book that would leverage his expertise with PUA techniques and teach it to a new audience. In fact, save for the potentially troublesome PUA philosophy itself, the page contained nothing offensive.
However, Malone was quick to track down Hoinsky's page on Reddit, where he previewed some of the book's content. In some instances, "Above the Game" appeared to flat-out promote sexual assault, especially when dealing with women in escalating sexual situations.
"Pull out your [genitalia] and put her hand on it," wrote Hoinsky. "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 [genitals]."
Hoinsky earned more than $16,000 (his initial goal was $2,000), and the project succeeded. Kickstarter allowed the funding to go through, but later regretted its actions. [See also: Top 10 Kickstarter Tech Projects of 2013 ]
"We were wrong," reads a post on the Kickstarter blog. "Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited … If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn't), it never would have been approved."
Even so, Kickstarter removed Hoinsky's page from its site and will prohibit "seduction guides" or similar material in the future. "This material encourages misogynistic behavior," reads the post. "These things do not belong on Kickstarter."
Kickstarter has also donated $25,000 to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which is dedicated to ending sexual violence and providing resources for survivors.
While commenters on both the Kickstarter blog post and on Twitter are generally happy with the organization's apology, it does raise some questions about the future of crowd-funding. The right to free speech does not guarantee a right to a platform for speaking, but the next misogynistic manual will crop up somewhere, even if it's not Kickstarter.
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