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Porn Problems

UPDATED: Groupon Boycotted for Offering Kink.com BDSM Porn Tour

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Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 8:38 AM

click to enlarge That looks so...comfortable?
  • That looks so...comfortable?

UPDATE: From Kink.com founder Peter Acworth:

"I have long respected Groupon and have felt fortunate to be able to partner with them in raising the visibility of our Armory Tour program. Prior to our (admittedly unusual!) use, the Armory was vacant and was boarded up for 30+ years while many rehabilitation efforts failed. We've been amazed by how many people have been fascinated by its history. We are grateful to Groupon for helping us open the doors of the Armory to the public -- doing so not only satisfies folks' curiosity about the building, but also helps fulfill our mission of demystifying and celebrating alternative sexuality."

Groupon sold a discounted tour of fetish porn company Kink.com's historic San Francisco armory headquarters and -- GASP! -- people are pissed.

The adult industry's favorite anti-porn advocates (next to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation) Morality in Media (MIM) is calling a Groupon boycott after the discount site offered patrons the chance to check out the dank nooks and crannies that Kink.com uses to shoot its myriad BDSM and uber-fetish films.

This is the second time Groupon has offered this option, so chances are it's a popular choice among locals looking to learn more about what goes down in the Bay Area's former military training base. Risky -- but presumably profitable -- move on the discount website's part.

"Selling coupons supporting the degradation of women is as low as a publicly-traded company can go," MIM executive director Dawn Hawkins said in a statement. "Groupon frames the tour as a historic one, comparing the opportunity to visiting the Smithsonian Institute because the building that houses Kink has an 'historic history in San Francisco.'"

MIM and the Kink.com tour's other opponents argue that offering tours of the facility promotes the degradation of women and the consumption of what it calls "torture porn." This term blankets all categories of pornographic and erotic content, including domination, financial humiliation, submission training, and sex with "fucking machine" sex toys.

click to enlarge At their service...
  • At their service...

"A huge part of Kink.com's mission is to empower people to explore their sexuality," Kink Communications Director Alison Voss said. "We are in the business of fulfilling fantasies -- especially those relating to consensual bondage and BDSM. While many misinterpret BDSM as degradation, we celebrate it as a positive, authentic expression of human sexuality."

A visit to Kink.com's website will surely alarm any man or woman not used to viewing men and women hogtied with rope, covered in sweat and sticky things, and often chewing on some kind of gag. Clicking around visitors can view screencaps of some less-than-savory sex acts, including electrostimulation and even urolagnia. (That's pee play.)

But click around further and one will see Kink.com's cadre of content runs the gamut, and its lineup of membership websites shows the company certainly makes some creepy-looking content -- but it's not all about treating women like shit.

It's about treating EVERYONE like shit. "Femdom," a category devoted to domineering women emasculating men, features professional dominatrices demanding male participants to do a variety of un-manly things, including boot-licking, crawling on the floor, and even anal sex acts. Similar sites include "Men In Pain," "Divine Bitches" and "Whipped Ass."

"Kink operates 17 active subscription sites, and of those, four are focused on the domination of men (whether by female dommes, TS dommes, or other men)," Voss said. "Seven of our sites feature female submissives with male dominants. Two focus on female subs with female dommes."

Another section of the site -- which has its own production area in the Armory all to itself -- caters to fans of girl fights. "Ultimate Surrender" features women wrestling each other (sans clothes, of course), pinning and flipping each other around using techniques usually seen on UFC channels.

There's also an entire production department for gay and lesbian performances.

While MIM has an understandable point, Kink.com's degradation content -- featuring both men and women -- features models who actively seek the roles, are interviewed pre- and post-shoot, and share how much fun (?) they have being spit on, pushed around, and forced to have Hitachi-operated orgasms while hanging suspended, tied to a table, or simply lying face down on the floor.

And believe it or not, Kink.com has played a role in the local community, helping to breathe life into the Mission District through charitable donations and co-sponsoring the annual Folsom Street Fair, and though some community feathers remain ruffled from the company's arrival five years ago, what goes on within the Amory's walls are not visible or audible to the public.

When approached with concern for offering a Kink.com tour, Groupon simply said:

"We thoroughly vet the businesses we feature...Fortunately, this business has proven to be a responsible member of their community."

Really?

In December Kink.com founder Peter Acworth announced plans to turn the armory into a community center to hosting farmers' markets, fairs, flea markets, and even youth sports in what was once the National Guard unit and currently stands as what he calls a useless parking lot.

Acworth also reportedly donated $5,000 to non-profit Arriba Juntos, a center that offers vital occupational and educational services to healthcare, transportation and technology workers. The organization is one of Kink.com's Mission District neighbors.

Additional charitable funds were gathered thanks in part to the public's curiosity and intrigue, which attracted crowds to the facility for tours of its basement production studio and helped raise $6,000.

But these acts don't phase MIM, which still adamantly condemns Groupon for its irresponsible promotion of a torture porn company that profits from female degradation.

"Groupon evaluated our business practices and found us to be a responsible member of our community providing a service to those who are interested in learning more about the past and present uses of a historic landmark," Voss said. "We've offered two deals through Groupon and several offers through other sites such as Yelp. You can see from our Yelp reviews (many from Groupon customers) that the vast majority of visitors have a very positive experience at the Armory."

The San Francisco Armory is a fascinating piece of historic architecture, modeled after a 1914 Moorish Castle and used by the National Guard until the 1970s. Acworth purchased the Armory in 2007 to much local debate, complaint and uproar and turned the abandoned landmark into a combination porn studio and living space for the company's cadre of directors, performers and others involved in the intricate production process.

"The tour takes attendees on a 90-minute walk through all five floors of the Armory. They see many of our cinematic sets (everything from dungeons to Edwardian lounges to alien space ships), the Mission Creek that runs through our basement, the enormous Drill Court where parts of Star Wars were filmed, and much more," Voss said. "On occasion, the tour group will have the opportunity to see a scene being filmed, but generally not. When it happens, the models and director have consented to allow the group in, and attendees who do not wish to participate are invited to stay outside the room with the guide."

Sign me up!

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