SF in Danger of Losing Its Kinkiest Institution
By Emma McGowan
Any San Franciscan who loves a little slap with their tickle is familiar with The Armory over at 14th and Mission. The former National Guard building houses Kink.com, the city's most visibly kinky porn site, a fact that that may change if owner Peter Acworth’s plan for converting the porn studios into standard office space becomes a reality.
Unlike other local erotic favorite, Mission Control, Kink isn’t considering moving because of changes in the neighborhood or local politicians ratting it out. Its problem is actually unrelated to SF's current housing crisis and instead arises because of a Los Angeles Assemblymember on a crusade to seriously regulate the porn industry.
According to The Chronicle, Isadore Hall III, D-Compton is pushing for mandatory condom usage in adult productions as well as a "log of each sexual act a film performer engages in and a list of what 'protective measures' were taken in each instance" with his bill AB1576. On top of that, Cal/OSHA pushes for condoms, dental dams, gloves, and eye protection for all “non-simulated” sex acts. Yeah, you read that right: eye protection. State regulation calls for all mucous membranes to be covered and – surprise! – that includes eyeballs.
The Chron also reports that porn studios have already started decamping for less-regulated states (read: Nevada), where actors can do it sans eye wear. In fact, when another adult filmmaker decided not to rent the third floor of the Armory, but to head over to Vegas instead, the decision pushed Acworth and crew to consider the conversion from porn studios to office spaces.
“We'd much rather stay here than move to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the political climate in California is becoming increasingly hostile to adult film, and adult film performers,” Kink’s PR guy Mike Stabile told me. “The new condom bill AB1576 is a moral crusade cloaked in science.”
And that moral crusade may cause San Francisco to lose its most prominent bastion of sexual diversity.
Because The Armory building is a historic landmark, the Kinksters are limited in what they can do with it. They can set up a fully functioning porn production company but they’re only allowed to hold one “non-arts” event monthly, usually on the ground floor Drill Court. Acworth is proposing opening up the Drill Court to more events, building out offices in the basement and on the second and third floors, and converting another floor into a private party space. But we'll lose the elaborate fuck machines, realistic sets, dungeons, and Ultimate Surrender room – and you can forget all about those industrial-sized barrels of lube in the basement.
Sex should be safe and consensual, but it should also be realistic.
The irony of regulation pushing Kink out of its home is that the company has been pretty good at self-regulation. Filming violent scenes can be especially hard on performers, but Kink has developed a method of production that includes giving every “model” (the Kink name for porn stars) a “yes, no, maybe” list before they start working. This ensures that they're only being filmed doing things that actually turn them on, rather than simply being told what to put in which orifice. They also have a strict set of safe words that includes a call of “red” if a model needs to stop a scene and “yellow” or “mercy” if they need things to be taken down a notch. After every shoot, the directors sit down with the models and interview them about how things went.
“Kink allows performers to control the scene, makes sure that those who want to use condoms do, tests for STIs every 14 days, [and] creates an environment that celebrates alternative sexualities,” Stabile says. “But if AB1576 passes and the newly proposed Cal/OSHA regulations that would require performers to use facial barriers and goggles are approved, film production is untenable. Sex should be safe and consensual, but it should also be realistic.”
Ultimately, Kink is one of the good guys – taking care of its actors and providing a very visible and open space for San Francisco's kinky community. A decampment to Las Vegas would be a major loss for a city that has seen too many cultural outposts close down over the past couple of years. While I’m all about protecting workers in any industry, Kink is doing that just fine without Isadore Hall III.
Image from Castle of Kink