When news broke last week that Peter Acworth, the founder and CEO of local porn companyKink.com, had been arrested for cocaine possession, many were surprised by the misstep from a man who's built his empire on a strict code of ethical behavior and transparency. He's been lauded in the Wall Street Journal and theNew York Times for revolutionizing the porn industry and improving the neighborhood around the Armory, his headquarters at Mission and 14th streets. Kink is also the subject of the eponymous James Franco-produced documentary that premiered at Sundance. So the details of Acworth's arrest — police discovered the drugs while investigating a complaint about a makeshift shooting range inside the Armory — seemed in stark contrast to his usually upstanding image.
This image has been essential to Kink's success. While the idea of any porn company in the neighborhood might raise a few eyebrows, Kink's BDSM content sparked protests when the company moved into the Armory in 2007. (If the recent Fifty Shades of Grey craze hasn't turned you on to the acronym yet, it stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism.) Whatever the fetish,Kink.com caters to it; the company hosts nearly 30 subscription sites, offering everything from foot worship to gangbangs to electric play to bondage.
Acworth responded to the opposition the way he often handles criticism — by pointing to his ethics and opening the Armory doors. Part pornographer, part activist, Acworth has devoted himself to demystifying BDSM for those outside the lifestyle and protecting those within it. Kink outlines its tough ethical standards in its lists of models' rights and shooting rules, both of which are posted on the site. These tenets protect models and go a long way in combating the critics who are quick to conflate BDSM with abuse.
However, even as Kink flourishes — it's nearly doubled the number of sites it operates since moving into the Armory — doubts about its ethical standards linger. The company attracted unwanted attention last summer when it abruptly switched its cam girls' pay rate and sparked a debate about its commitment to models' rights.
Now, two former models allege they were denied workers' compensation when injured on Kink sets, one of whom further states she was coerced into a performance that left her with long-lasting injuries and was offered money in exchange for keeping quiet about those injuries. Other workers claim to have been terminated or chose to resign when they questioned Kink's business practices, including the use of an erectile dysfunction drug called Trimix.
These allegations threaten the company's conscientious reputation, and conflict with the stories offered by current directors and models who say their experiences inside the Armory have always been ethical and enjoyable...