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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kink.com, Local BDSM Porn Company, May Leave S.F. Over Condom Requirements

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:37 PM

click to enlarge The Armory, currently home to local porn company Kink.com, may be converted into an office building. - MIKE KOOZMIN
  • Mike Koozmin
  • The Armory, currently home to local porn company Kink.com, may be converted into an office building.

Local BDSM porn company Kink.com has faced growing pressure from the state legislature and regulatory agencies to use condoms on its shoots, and now, the company may confront a lawsuit from a performer who faced an HIV scare in the porn industry last year. A demand letter obtained by SF Weekly shows that an "aggrieved former employee" of Kink.com is seeking restitution for nearly 25 alleged violations of California Labor Code, including one pertaining to bloodborne pathogens.

The demand letter goes on to state that the former employee attended a shoot "wherein there was no exposure control plan, untested audience members participated, and other illegal acts and omissions occurred."

The letter also describes the porn industry's current database for STD testing, known as PASS, as a direct violation of California law. This database, the letter asserts, freely shares performers' legal names and personal medical information, including STD test results.

Kink spokesperson Mike Stabile says, "The letter is not only disingenuous, it's demonstrably false across the board, and we're absolutely fighting it."

As Kink.com faces legislative and regulatory pressure -- and a potential lawsuit -- it appears the company may pack up and leave San Francisco. Uptown Almanac reported that Kink.com, currently headquartered at the Armory in San Francisco's Mission district, had filed paperwork with the city's planning department to convert the building to office space.

The Armory, a historic building that housed the U.S. National Guard during the early 20th century, was purchased by Kink.com's founder and CEO Peter Acworth in 2006 for $14.5 million. But this is not the first time Acworth has proposed renovations to the Armory -- in 2007, he floated the idea of converting a portion of the building to condos, complete with webcams so voyeurs could watch the occupants online, and, more recently, he renovated the Armory's Drill Court for use as a community center.

However, the current proposal to convert the building to office space stems not from a desire to innovate the way porn is made, but rather to keep production the same.

See also:

Bay Area Porn Companies Slapped With Fines for Not Using Condoms

Gag Order: Sex Workers Allege Mistreatment at Kink.com

Is Porn Darling Kink.com Ripping Off Its Webcam Girls?

As SF Weekly previously reported, Kink.com and other local pornography companies have faced increasing pressure to require performers to wear condoms while filming. In February, Kink.com was fined $78,710 by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the majority of the fine related to the lack of condom use on set. (A $3,710 portion of the fine was incurred due to other workplace safety hazards.) The complaints that initiated Cal-OSHA's investigation were filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on behalf of several performers. Kink.com is currently appealing the fines.

Stabile says, "Kink has always left the decision to use a condom up to the performer. Some of performers regularly use them, but most prefer not to, for the same reasons that other people choose not to. They can be uncomfortable, something that's magnified on a long shoot."

The Cal-OSHA fines come in the wake of a 2012 Los Angeles law requiring condom use on porn sets (the law was also backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation). Since condom use became mandatory, the porn advocacy organization Free Speech Coalition reported a 95 percent drop in adult film permit applications in LA County, indicating that filmmakers are moving away from Los Angeles. Lawmakers are also pushing for a statewide law to require condoms in pornography -- California Assembly Bill 1576, which would require condom use in adult films made throughout the state, cleared the Assembly Labor Committee last week in a 5-0 vote.

Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, praised the vote, stating, "AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California's adult film workers on a statewide basis." The bill will soon be considered by the Legislature's Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee.

Acworth told the San Francisco Bay Guardian that the Cal-OSHA fines and the impending condom legislation are behind his idea to turn the Armory into an office building. "I would still think of Kink.com production moving out as a question of 'if' as opposed to 'when,'" he told SFBG's Joe Fitzgerald. "This move represents an insurance policy. If the various regulations that are being considered currently in Sacramneto and by Cal-OSHA become law, we will likely have to move production out of California to Nevada."

Stabile says, "But the decision to consider a move to Vegas isn't just about condoms -- it's also about proposed Cal/OSHA regulations that require barrier protection such as a condom, for things like oral sex. The fact of the matter is that there hasn't been an on-set transmission of HIV in the adult industry since 2004, but the political climate in the state has become increasingly hostile to adult production. We want to stay, but it'd be foolish not to look at other options."

As Kink's appeal of its Cal-OSHA fines progresses and AB 1576 moves through the legislature, it will become clear whether or not San Francisco's kinky castle will become just another office building.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF

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About The Author

Kate Conger

Bio:
Kate Conger has written for SF Weekly since 2011.

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