Gayish is a podcast that explores gay stereotypes through personal stories, recounting news articles and studies, and guest interviews. To cover the topic of BDSM, we were connected to Max Cameron, a well-known and experienced BDSM teacher and coach, through a close mutual friend. We invited Max to make a guest appearance on our podcast to both educate us on BDSM and perform actual demonstrations with us. During our pre-interview with Max, he disclosed allegations of consent violations that have been made of him. He denies these allegations. As an independent podcast, we don’t do a background check on our guests. Because of Max’s disclosure, we did a cursory search for publicly available indications of legal charges against Max. Finding none, we proceeded with recording the episode as planned. Soon after recording the episode, we received messages with additional allegations and links to relevant organization sites with specific details. Because this was new territory for our podcast, we opted to detail our thought process through this letter as a way to provide full transparency and lay the groundwork for how we would handle these types of situations in the future, should they arise.
We spent time researching the available information and discussing possible courses of action. Through our discussions, we affirmed that we are not investigative journalists or arbitrators. Our goal in researching was not to gather primary source information and come to a decision about innocence or guilt, but rather to understand what decisions, if any, had already been made by existing third-party organizations, given we could not quickly find anything indicating legal charges, actions or decisions. It is clear through the information we found there was an incident that resulted in at least one organization cutting professional ties with Max. At the same time, this organization indicated it was not providing any recommendation about how other people or organizations should engage with Max and, “[i]f you choose to socialize, play, or collaborate with Max in any way, do so with our blessing.”1 As a result, we decided to air the episode as planned, albeit delayed several weeks due to the conversations and research we undertook. In addition to this letter, we aim to provide as much transparency as possible by providing links to the most relevant documentation we found on this situation and the allegations:
Two additional notes about the episode we published. First, we intentionally decided not to ask Max about these allegations during our recording. We don’t believe it would be fair to air statements by only one side in this type of dispute. Second, we recorded about three hours of content, including our discussion with Max. As with all episodes, we cut content to package our conversation into a more digestible format. In the final cut of the episode, listeners will hear Max ask us for consent for the actions we took part in and check in during the course of those actions. We decided to cut many additional instances where Max explained what he was about to do, set up ground rules, provided options if we wanted to stop at any point, and asked about previous injuries. While we don’t believe our experience is indicative of what all others have experienced with Max, we consented to everything that was heard in the episode and felt safe and supported during our BDSM activities.
Finally, we want to be clear that we believe it is very important to listen to and trust those that speak out with allegations against any person, particularly men with power. We believe the allegations contained in the messages we received and understand the gravity of those allegations. At the same time, we believe in the importance of assuming innocence until proven otherwise. In this case, these ideas were in direct conflict with each other, but we continue to hold on to and believe in these contradictory ideas. We understand that listeners will form their own opinion of what the right course of action should be if they were in our shoes. We hope that, at a minimum, this information serves to explain our thought process in airing this episode. We welcome questions, comments, and respectful criticisms of our approach as we continue to shape the process we plan to use for guests going forward. While we will do our best to monitor all of our social media, please direct any of these comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For reference, the episode referred to in this letter is Gayish: 061 BDSM (w/ Max Cameron).
Be butch, be fabulous, be you,
Mike and Kyle
1. “An Open Letter To Our Crew,” published by Suspended Animation on 6/8/16. Link: http://www.suspendedanimationcrew.com/letters/2016-06-08_letterToCrew.html↩