Kickstarter Embroiled in Offensive Content Controversy

By Cameron Scott 

kickstarter, violence against women, rape, seduction guides, apology

Hoinsky’s promo picture

Kickstarter has faced allegations of elitism for its aggressive curation of projects hosted on its crowdfunding platform, but this week the company is apologizing for facilitating the funding of a crass guide for straight men to get laid.

The guide to “getting awesome with women” included advice that veers very close to being a how-to guide to sexual assault. Its chief advice is: “force her to rebuff your advances.”

The project was close to closing its fundraising period — it brought in $16,369 in funding on a $2,000 goal — when Kickstarter began to receive user complaints. Kickstarter did not remove the campaign and Hoinsky got his money.

“The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t. We were wrong,” the company said.

The complaints were spurred by a blog post by comedian Casey Malone. Malone dug up parts of the project its creator, Ken Hoinsky, had made available on Reddit to find some of the most outrageous (and, needless to say, not suitable for work) content. He encouraged readers of his blog to let Kickstarter know they found the project offensive.

Kickstarter has published an apology for mishandling the situation. The company says it had to make a very quick decision about whether to pull the project, and that its processes are structured to support creators.

“Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong,” the statement said.

It has also donated $25,000 to a women’s group and has banned seduction guides from the platform. (This writer isn’t sure why seduction guides ever ranked among the cultural projects Kickstarter supports, for what it’s worth.)

Malone said he was satisfied with the response.

“I see a lot of people and companies called out online when a mistake is made involving social justice, and what I typically see is people and companies either lashing back out or just waiting for it to go away. But what happened here is what should happen every time – Kickstarter listened, apologized, changed the way they do business, and made a gesture of good will by donating to a charity. I’m very happy that the outcome of so many people speaking out was money going to help women, and a lot of people having a much-needed conversation about rape-culture in general,” he said in an email.

Hoinsky, for his part, maintains that the offensive content was “taken out of context.” (Full response here.)