Getting the Kink out

Statewide crackdown on the porn industry could drive its biggest BDSM filmmaker from San Francisco's iconic Armory

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Mike Koozmin

joe@sfbg.com

The spotlights shone down, the athletes tussled, and the crowd screamed.

The toned and tattooed female wrestler tackled the topless, tanned, blond wrestler from behind, pulling her down like a tumbling tower. The mat thumped. Cheers erupted. In a sudden reversal, the tanned wrestler gained leverage with her right arm and slammed the tattooed fighter's shoulders onto the mat, giving the blond the win.

What happened next was definitely not standard wrestling fare.

The tanned wrestler, triumphant, digitally penetrated the tattooed fighter. Her moans silenced the crowd, who listened, rapt. The fight wasn't sport, but porn, America's real favorite pasttime. Ultimate Surrender is just one of San Francisco-based studio Kink.com's 30 or so paid subscription porn websites, including Fucking Machines, Everything Butt, and Hogtied.

But a new series of proposed state laws threatens the state's porn industry, and the freakiest city on the West Coast may soon say goodbye to its highest profile porn purveyor, Kink.com, which for years has operated out of the historic Armory building on 14th and Mission streets.

The situation raises a question: Is Kink.com breaking up with San Francisco? If legislation requiring condoms on-set in porn and stricter state safety requirements become law, Kink.com CEO Peter Acworth tells the Guardian he has no choice but to leave California entirely.

"We can't do business under those circumstances," Acworth told us. "We can't make a product that can compete."

The tussle between pornographers, porn actors, and state lawmakers is a crucible where worker safety — and the right to choose how that safety is implemented — may soon be decided. Caught in the crossfire, freaky and sex-positive San Francisco stands to get a whole lot less kinky.

 

ECHOES OF LOS ANGELES

California Assembly Bill 1576 would legally require condom use while shooting porn, mandatory STD testing, and pornographic studios required to hold health records of their talent. The bill cleared the Assembly's Committee on Labor and Employment just last month, the first step on a short road to gaining the governor's signature.

Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D-Los Angeles), sponsored the bill, and the day it cleared committee he was triumphant.

"For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety," Hall said in a press statement. "The fact is, adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated."

The concern is largely over HIV infection on the sets of porn studios, and two parallel statewide efforts are working towards safety on porn sets. The state bill is the first, and the second is the renewed vigor in enforcing longstanding California Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulations.

In the early 1990's, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted a bloodborne pathogens regulation, and DOSH adopted a similar regulation soon after. DOSH's standard requires employers to take measures to prevent employees' eyes, skin, and mucous membranes from coming in contact with blood and "other potentially infectious materials," including semen and vaginal secretions.

To some industries, the standard mandates rubber gloves and goggles. For the porn industry, the DOSH regulations are a moratorium on porn stars ejaculating on each others' faces, deeming facials a workplace hazard. That standard porn finale can have life-changing ramifications.

"In 2004, there was a big (HIV) outbreak in the industry," Eugene Murphy, senior safety engineer at DOSH, told the Guardian. "It was demonstrated HIV was clearly contracted on set."

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