SF Weekly Letters

Working Out the Kinks
Forty lashes for Smith: I can't help but be surprised that a reporter writing for a “progressive” San Francisco paper would demonstrate such an ignorant, narrow-minded, poorly researched perspective. In his article [“Whipped and Gagged,” 4/22], Matt Smith seems to attempt representing both sides of the argument, but undermines any semblance of objectivity by using sensational, inflammatory, and inaccurate language every time he mentions the BDSM and fetish play that comprise the content of Kink.com's videos.

Smith's repeated use of the terms “torture” and “impalement” to describe BDSM and dildo play demonstrates a total lack of understanding for the respectful, consensual, prenegotiated, intimate, and often-joyful interaction that is BDSM. In addition, to decontextualize an image from one of Kink.com's Web sites, as Melissa Farley does, and compare it to an image of nonconsensual torture (yes, the incidents at Abu Ghraib can accurately be described as torture) is to dismiss the incredible amount of caution, care, and attention that goes into making a BDSM scene, particularly one that occurs at the Armory under the careful orchestration of Kink.com's employees.

I don't think I should have to explain to Smith the basic tenets of BDSM (a visit to any bookstore could help to educate him on this topic), but I'm compelled to say something about the working conditions at Kink.com, where I have been employed as an independently contracted model and performer many times during the past seven years. Without reservation, I can say that far from being the “medieval” company that Smith described, Kink.com is the most ethical and conscientious company I've ever worked for. Every staff member, from the talent department to the directors to the production assistants, has been trained to make the health and safety of the models a priority. This policy is in obvious contrast to many other big employers in California.

I find Smith's implication that I, as a model and porn performer, have been coerced, victimized, or exploited by my job to be profoundly degrading and insulting. To imply that I have not exercised the same autonomous judgment as anyone else has in choosing a career, is to completely dismiss my will, intelligence, and rational capability.

Lorelei Lee

San Francisco

Fit to be tied: First, we want to thank Matt Smith for bringing attention to the Employment Training Panel (ETP) program and the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) in his recent article. As a 33-year-old nonprofit that relies primarily on word of mouth to publicize our various services, we hope that his article will encourage SF Weekly readers to check out our programs for media professionals. Particularly during this down economy, maintaining relevant and industry-standard skills is critically important.

Through the ETP program, BAVC has provided training to a wide range of employees at various companies for the last 10 years. Companies trained include Pixar, Safeway, Thrasher, Sierra Club, Wells Fargo, Exploratorium, San Francisco Ballet, and Ubisoft. Even Smith has taken 184 hours of classes here at BAVC through the ETP program. Perhaps he was just doing research, but we expect he has already added those skills to his résumé. And, yes, employees of Cybernet Entertainment LLC (owners of Kink.com) have been part of that program.

Cybernet is legally recognized by the state of California. It employs more than 100 Bay Area residents, 40 percent of whom are women, with a diverse mix of communities of color and a strong representation from the LGBTQ communities. Those employees are well paid; they are protected in a safe, sane, and consensual environment; and they receive full benefits: health, dental, vision, and employer-matched 401(k). As a corporate entity, Cybernet pays its fair share of payroll taxes (through which the ETP program is funded), and makes significant in-kind and cash contributions to the community every year.

The ETP program is critical for both BAVC and the state of California. Countless studies have shown that the future of California will depend on the creation of a highly skilled workforce. The training BAVC provides through the ETP program is vital to the growth of California's economy and the individual workers upon whose shoulders it rests.

Smith's lazy attempt to jump on the bad-government-spending bandwagon is dangerous in its disregard for this bigger picture and the economic realities of our state. His questions of government spending and censorship are an unfortunate case of reactionary sensationalism that could threaten the ETP program at BAVC.

Ken Ikeda

Executive Director, BaVC

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