One of Steampunk’s most public figures has been faced with a wave of allegations over the past year. Jeff Mach rose to fame within the Steampunk community for hosting what he claims is the ‘Biggest Steampunk Event in the World’, The Steampunk World’s Fair, which drew around 7,000 festival-goers in 2017. However, former event employees and volunteers are finding voice among the #MeToo movement to report sexual coercion, misconduct, and abuse from the company. In response to these allegations, Mach announced January 26 that he will step down as head of the company and remove his name, turning “Jeff Mach Events” into “Just Magical Events.”
Allegations of Financial and Sexual Misconduct
Despite the success of The Steampunk World’s Fair, the event company has been experiencing financial struggles for some time. Vendors and performers at the Fair, (as well as those of Wicked Faire and JME’s other events), have long complained of both unpaid debts and poor return on investment.
Yet recently some rather disturbing allegations have come to light on how the company may have kept these complaints from coming out sooner. One anonymous ex-volunteer reports:
“I was 16 or 17 I think, from when I first started volunteering for JME. Jeff took me aside, asked to do a favor for him, something about helping with a performer or something. Unthinkingly I was like, “Okay, sure.” So he leads me to some clearly much older dude in the lobby, says, “Hey, this is Black Widow. She’s a Volunteer, and has to do anything I say. Her job is to keep you entertained and happy while we sort things out for you.” “Anything?” asks the guy in a creepy tone. “Yeah, it’s her job to make you happy. She’ll do anything.” … It didn’t hit me until now just what he was implying. It wasn’t the first, or the last time. I’m not the only one.” – Source
David E. Christman, (DJ Dave Ghoul), confirms that Mach offered him sexual favors in lieu of payment as well:
“From 2009 to 2013 Jeff Mach had made many attempts to offer me sexual favors as a means of compensation or payment. The first was in an email sent on January 30th, 2009.… He offered “slaves and beer” as a possible means of compensating me for botching up an advertisement I paid for to be placed within the 2009 Wicked Faire program book. … in 2013 during Wicked Faire offering sex from himself and/or one or both of his two assistants that were with him (both of whom seemed no older than 20 at best) – once again in front of witnesses – as compensation for DJing. And judging by their reactions I’m now fairly certain his offering them up to me was non-consensual.” – Source
A Matter of Consent
For some time, Mach has publicly touted the importance of consent, writing articles on the topic such as this one which has now been redacted:
He had also asked me (creator of Steampunk Parliament and former associate of Jeff Mach Events) to volunteer cover art for a Facebook group dedicated to the subject of consent, which he then refused to officially create. So, I have now created this Facebook group to discuss consent issues in the geek convention circuit. Please show your support by joining the conversation here.
It seems an unfortunate theme for the company, as their ‘consent team’ has undergone a staggering amount of staff changes, while Mach remained the one consistent member. One ex-volunteer who reports experiencing an incident of sexual abuse from Mach himself, explains why she decided not to submit a claim to the JME team that was specifically created to handle complaints of sexual misconduct:
“… a large amount of JM’s staff left around the same time JM publicly announces that he’s getting out of the consent game. He won’t be handling consent issues himself, he’s burned out. … They informed me that at the time of my disclosure the company’s consent panel consisted of JM, and two other people. JM was running the panel and everything would still funnel through him. If I proceeded it was pretty sure that JM would be the one handling this issue, this is not how this should work. … That was roughly last year, 12 months have gone by and nothing has been done. Why not? Because in the last 12 months I’ve watched the names on this panel change regularly, I have no idea how secure my information is. I have no idea if I would have worked with the same person through the whole process. I can’t even be sure that I wouldn’t have just had to work directly with JM .… If we are so worried about outing someone to their abuser how worried are we about forcing someone to work directly with their abuser to solve the situation?” – Source.
Breaking the Camel’s Back
The final straw that broke Mach’s reputation was a damning allegation from his ex-assistant that reports being coerced into a power-based sexual relationship with him for over a year:
“For the end of 2015 and most of 2016 I was in a power exchange relationship with, and assistant to, JM and his events. I was hardly monetarily comped for assisting; rather it was built into our power exchange dynamic. At one point, he demanded that I spend 3-4 hours every day contributing to his social media presence with graphic design content for his events. I also followed him at several of his events, being available to assist him with whatever was needed. … Early on, I was uncomfortable with having sex with him. He coerced me often into having sex with him.” – Source.
The allegation continues that he also used his power dynamic to persuade her to take a variety of prescription drugs during their relationship:
“This is the only time in my life I have had suicidal ideations, and I think it was due to these medicines he was giving me. Through this, he almost killed me.” – Source.
There have so far been over 25 direct accusations of Jeff Mach’s sexual misconduct, coercion and abuse. To date he has not attempted to deny these allegations, stating in his public farewell Facebook Status:
“When one is in a position of authority, one can lose their sense of perspective and lose sight of things that might harm another person. It is no excuse for such errors, and sometimes it can take a public reckoning to bring home a truth that I should have been able to find on my own.” – Source.
Finding a Safe Haven
It is extremely disappointing that such behavior can occur within our own historically accepting Steampunk community. We have ever prided ourselves on being a safe haven for all of those who feel confined or exploited by ‘mainstream’ society. Our community has long provided a home for freaks, intellectuals, artists and rebels, but reports of this nature can certainly shake one’s faith.
We at Steampunk Journal and Steampunk Parliament are dedicated to ensuring that Steampunk is still a safe community for all genders, colors, religions, sexual orientations and disabilities. We are dedicated to ensuring the inclusion of all Steampunks as equals. Those who are part of the Steampunk movement, create the Steampunk movement. We need all of our minds and all of our individualities, and therefore they are all equally as valuable and equally as deserving of a safe home.
We welcome your comments, as well as invite you to join the conversation in the F.L.A.S.H. group on Facebook.
Stay tuned for more on this story as well as safe enjoyment at conventions as a general topic later this month. Connect with Bess at the Steampunk Parliament website.