Local Legend of The Week: Founder of Kink.com, Peter Acworth
We here at BrokeAssStuart.com like to show love to the people who make cities like San Francisco and New York special. That’s why we’re doing a series called Local Legend of the Week. This is our chance to hip you to some of the strange, brilliant, and unique folks who populate these towns and give them the character that people from around the world have come to love.
Peter Acworth is not your typical pornographer. Of course if you’re like me, you don’t know any other pornographers, so you might be basing your judgements on something like the movie ‘Larry Flynt’, which featured a fowl mouthed pervert making millions at the expense of good taste and ‘American values’. No, Peter is not that guy. He is a Cambridge educated Londoner, who dropped out of Columbia University’s PhD program in Finance for a career in asking beautiful woman to tie him up…and of course film it. In 1997 Peter arrived in the Marina District of San Francisco, and began filming bondage in his spare bedroom and garage, finding woman on craigslist and paying them $100/hour to dawn the mask and crack the whip. Fast forward to now, Peter has 130 full time employees, uses 800 to 1000 performers annually, and oversees the world’s largest porn castle ever conceived. His company Kink.com publishes about 1,000 videos a year, they host adult themed wrestling matches, classes, run a neighborhood bar (the Armory Club), put on a massive NYE party, and just finished running a very sexy and crazy haunted house for the Halloween season.
I chatted with Peter about the challenges facing the adult industry, its safety, politics, and the ‘free’ content sharing model. We also talked about what it’s like being the ‘CEO of Bondage’, and of course, I asked him which celebrities he’d like to make an adult film with:
What’s trickier, being an adult film star or a CEO?
Not at all easy being an adult film star, male performers especially have a great deal of pressure to perform, some are naturals at it, others are more naturally private. Being a CEO especially in the porn industry can be quite isolating. For example there is a sort of club of CEO’s called Vistage, and twice they have approached me to join and then twice declined my membership, because some the other members ‘object to what I do’. Other things like borrowing money can be more difficult, we had a difficult time getting a mortgage on the Armory (Kink.com’s giant and historical porn studio in the Mission District of San Francisco) because banks were calling us a “reputational risk”.
When did you discover that you were into bondage?
It’s one of those ‘always have been’ scenarios, I can remember as a child of 7 or 8 being turned on by cowboy movies when someone was being tied up, and being very interested in seeing handcuffs in store windows, walking back and forth to primary school, not really understanding that it was something potentially sexual at the time. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I bought bondage magazines that were illegal at the time, and I found out that other people were into what I was into. (if you’re interested in learning about BDSM here are some educational organizations: (SF: The Society of Janus NY: The Eulenspiegel Society)
How does one become a pornstar at kink.com?
We have a great talent acquisition department. A lot of our performers fly up from Los Angeles. For new performers our talent department (http://www.kink.com/k/model_call.jsp) will ask: ‘Are you really into this? You do realize that this work is going to be posted and copied and seen by an unknown number of people etc.’ We often try to talk people out of it more than talk them into it.
How do you feel about the passing of Prop B (making it illegal to shoot adult content without condoms in Los Angeles)?
I’m in favor of people using condoms I just think it should be a choice. What people don’t notice is that the industry is very diligent in keeping it’s performers safe. We now test performers every 14 days (for sexually transmitted Infections) we keep a database (PASS) of all performers and their test history, and only allow people who are not infected to work (while protecting the privacy of performers). Under the protection of the PASS system there hasn’t been an infection of HIV on set in over 10 years. Measure B has the opposite effect of keeping people safe, it’s causing people to shoot un-permitted and underground. If the measure B spreads to other places, studios will simply move to Vegas or offshore to Budapest. The outcome will be the worst possible thing for performers.
Would you like to comment on recent headlines concerning safety in the adult industry, the defeat of AB 1576 (mandatory condom use statewide), and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation?
The recent onslaught led by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)…at first sight it looks like a group of pornographers against an AIDS charity, and it’s very difficult to persuade the press, the public or politicians to take the side of pornographers on any issue let alone against a charity. But when you look at the AHF, you find that they are very unpopular with the gay community and with other aids charities as well. These are the people who sued Pfizer over Viagra on the basis that it would ‘promote promiscuous sex’, then they attempted to prevent the FDA approval of PrEP labeling it a ‘party drug’, but it’s a medicine that can prevent people from contracting HIV. Why they take those positions I don’t know. But they were defeated in the state senate on AB 1576 (mandating state wide condom use on all porn sets) and we are continually finding and hiring experts in the field to fight unfair regulation and protect the industry.
When you’ve read about an AIDS scare in the porn industry, it’s because a performer contracted HIV in their private lives, and then the PASS testing system detected it, HIV HAS NOT BEEN TRANSFERRED on a porn set in over 10 years. Above is “the dungeon” one of many sets at the San Francisco Armory.
Anything on the local San Francisco Ballot you advocate?
Yes on Prop 47. (Reform Sentencing) I’m firmly against incarcerating people for extended periods of time for nonviolent offences, often drug offenses, it’s terrible. I’m firmly for reducing the 3 strikes law, and decriminalizing possession of hard drugs is a big part of that.
Is there a difference in regulation for Gay vs Straight porn performers?
Straight porn actors have mandatory testing every 14 days and condoms are optional, and on the gay side of the industry it’s testing optional but condom use is mandatory.
Peter speaks on the new ‘free’ face of the porn industry. Like Facebook in social media, or Coca Cola in soda pop, internet pornography has it’s own multinational conglomerate, and it’s called MindGeek. It owns most of the free adult content sharing sites on the net, you may recognize it as pornhub or redtube, yourporn, brazzers…the list goes on and on, of course you would never know it by visiting their parent company’s website. Much like Facebook, MindGeek figured out how to create an advertising model out of content sharing, and this model creates both problems and opportunities for adult content creators like Kink.com.
What do you think about massive ‘free’ content sharing adult sites?
They’ve become huge, they are more or less have a monopoly over supply and distribution. Much like what happened in the news industry, they began giving content away for free, this model devalued adult content and put a lot of studios under, then they (MindGeek) bought up those studios and began producing their own content, so they own the whole process.
What do you do to protect Kink.com content?
Our content is quite distinctive, we have a tight niche and our own brand. We slap people with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices to take down our content if they do not have permission, we are involved in a couple lawsuits right now with smaller sites…But not with MindGeek, it’s the monopolistic giant, they are everyone’s biggest affiliate. You don’t want to upset them, if you upset them they can just decide not to send you any traffic, not to place your banners on your own content, and just do what makes them money (advertising)
How does Kink.com keep things (ideas & content) fresh in the adult industry?
We created an environment to foster creativity, we’ve transformed the basement of the armory into a myriad of different sets and we keep a full workshop, we have a big prop area and have hired a lot of creative people. We want to keep the content experience new and fun as well. We are working toward allowing our members to subscribe to individual models and not only interact with them online, but be notified when he or she is in a live show. We’re also instituting ways to purchase the props and toys that are actually being used in the scenes you’re watching or purchase props for a model to use in future performances.
If you could make an adult film of any duo, politician, celebrity, etc, who would it be?
Kate Upton and Barrack Obama would make an interesting pair..
Are there any politicians you suspect of being kinky or into bondage?
My wife says Hilary Clinton (Laughs) I reckon the Clintons are pretty kinky (laughs)…open minded
What’s the best selling product at kink.com?
Sex and Submission by our very talented director Martin
What’s the most important rule at Kink.com?
Knowing and respecting safe words…the house safe word is “Red”…when you hear the safe word the scene has to stop, long enough for the performer to come out of character and collect themselves.
Any Kink.com news you’d like to share?
We would like create a museum of sex at the armory, (for more info: www.armorycommunitycenter.com) along with continuing to provide classes and a community center.
Peter the Knight