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Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009

Madison Young: Just Another Wholesome Porn Star from the Midwest

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Last month, actor and filmmaker Madison Young visited our fair city to present "Reclaiming Pornography One Orgasm at a Time," which examined the differences in and the debate about mainstream, independent and feminist pornography. After she gave this talk to a standing-room-only audience clad in nothing but her underwear (due to the heat of the packed room, of course), we took Madison out for vegan chicken-fried steak at Palomino and discovered that she has some interesting ties to the Midwest, through both her roots and her current projects. Below are a few of the questions we asked her about Milwaukee, Ohio and the sexual culture that we live in.

Was this your first visit to Milwaukee? What are your impressions of the audience for your Milwaukee presentation compared to other cities in which you've talked about feminism and pornography?

Yes, this was my first time in Milwaukee. The audience for my presentation on feminism and pornography was truly amazing. I was very surprised and pleased to see so many people in Milwaukee coming out on a rainy Monday in the Midwest. I grew up in the Midwest (Ohio) and didn't have a sex-positive resource like the Tool Shed in my town, so it was a very heartfelt moment to see so many open-minded and supportive faces in the audience all ready to learn and dialogue about the relationship between feminism and pornography and the positive contributions this medium can contribute to our sexual culture. I think that in some of the other cities that I teach in, such as San Francisco, we become a little jaded. It is such a liberal area, and we are constantly having radical sex workshops and discussions. I feel like the presentation meant a lot to the audience, and it felt truly appreciated. One woman told me afterward that the presentation made her feel like she isn't alone. I remember that feeling of isolation around who I was as a sexual being, and it really warms my heart to connect with the audience like that.

You are currently touring the Midwest, working on your next film project. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

The film I'm currently working on is A Woman's POV: Heartland, which I'm directing and filming for Good Vibrations (www.goodreleasing.com). This will be the first POV film from a woman's point of view and is part of a series of POV films that I will be shooting that documents the female gaze on sex in cities [and regions] around the world, including Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Tuscany, Italy, and Las Vegas. I've been having a lot of fun shooting the film. Usually I have a crew of around eight people on set, which can be really helpful with my larger features, but it has been quite liberating in this film to just have the two performers and me. It makes the experience that much more intimate. All of the performers featured in this film are not porn stars. They are really the girls next door. Not only that, but they are intelligent, amazing women who admire the work that I'm doing and specifically sought out working on this project. It's really beautiful to help guide them through their first experience.

You're a native of Ohio and were headed there after your visit to Milwaukee. How does it feel to return to this area of the country? Do you think the sexual culture of the Midwest has changed since you grew up here?

I have a deep-rooted relationship with the Midwest, since this is where I grew up. Growing up, I really struggled to find sexual connection and find a space where I could grow and flourish and unravel the shame that was instilled in me as a kid around my body and around sex and desire. I found that playground for growth in San Francisco. And it does scare me a little bit every time I return to the Midwest. I know that I have to censor myself a little bit more when I'm in this area of the country. But I do think things are changing. And I do think there is a deep need and desire for change and education around sex. I think there are a lot of people here that do live in isolation, fear or shame around their sexual desires. And I do believe that people want to unravel that fear and find connection. I think the Midwest is ready. And it really fills my heart with so much hope and inspiration to know that spaces like the Tool Shed and Smitten Kitten (a feminist sex toy store in Minneapolis) are coming together and bringing in presenters and creating a space for dialogue and education to happen.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.

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