SF Weekly vs. Kink.com

You’d think that living in the San Francisco Bay Area would mean that your local alt-weeklies* would be a bit more open-minded when it came to alternative sexualities.

Check out this SF Weekly article about how, according to author Matt Smith, “California’s government has been subsidizing torture-based pornography.” By which, of course, he means that a few Kink.com employees have received training from a nonprofit called the Bay Area Video Coalition, which is funded in part by an agency called the California Employment Training Panel (ETP). The ETP was designed to “make state businesses more competitive with foreign and out-of-state ones by paying contractors who train in-state workers,” according to Smith.

That could be the basis for an interesting story—what exactly does it mean to “make state businesses more competitive”? Which sort of businesses get this special funding, and which don’t? Who are the contractors involved with the whole process? Who gets to decide where the money goes? The problem is that in order to spice up the article and turn it into an extra-shocking exposé, Smith sets up the piece with his “torture porn” lead and follows it up with, yep, more smearing of BDSM and BDSM pornography.

Because Smith’s notion of a “hot story” also involved his asking the ETP about how much money they were giving to pornographers (and, I’m guessing, why they were giving it to them), the ETP ended up pulling their funding. According to Smith, “the government had been unaware that Cybernet was in the business of narrowcasting videos depicting sexualized torture.”

The word “torture” is brought up multiple times throughout the article when referring to Kink.com, and Smith even brings in an anti-porn activist to compare Kink.com’s work to the torture at Abu Ghraib. (For no apparent reason; it doesn’t add anything to the piece, except to further represent Kink.com and BDSM as “torture.”) He then gives a bit of lip service to the legal issues of treating businesses that engage in pornography equally with other businesses:

The stripping of Kink.com’s funding raises an intriguing question: Does the state’s refusal to train porn-makers violate constitutional free-speech guarantees? I’m not joking. Some serious and credible people says it’s worth considering whether it’s legal to deny training to porn workers merely because they film naked, shackled women with live electrodes clipped to their genitals.

Can you believe it? Some people think that porn workers are workers, too! Silly people.

He also describes the “marketing mojo” of Kink.com:

The company has passed itself off … as a hip, if esoteric, high-tech media startup. Yet its business plan is more medieval than modern, consisting, as it does, of giving people money if they’ll agree to being on camera while being stripped, bound, impaled, beaten, and shocked.

“Giving people money if they’ll agree to being on camera.” Because, y’know, there’s no possible chance that anyone could enjoy that; they’re just gritting their teeth and bearing it because they’re getting paid, right? What’s that? Go and interview some actual Kink.com models? Nah. Too much work.

Now, check out the response over here at the online newspaper SF Appeal. They point out that the BAVC training is not to support Kink.com in particular, but to train anyone who is going to then go on and work in multimedia production. The trainees in question don’t just work for Kink.com, but work on all kinds of other films as well. Interestingly, the SF Appeal notes that Smith himself has taken a whopping 184 hours of classes at the BAVC through the same program—despite the fact that his day job, at least, doesn’t involve multimedia production work.

* Note, however, that the SF Weekly is owned by the national chain Village Voice Media LLC, based in Phoenix, AZ. They are also a terrible, terrible paper, so that they’d publish garbage like this isn’t really all that shocking.


In other news, I’ve reached the 70 page mark for my screenplay and am starting to think I might actually finish it in the next week…

4 comments so far

  1. spokewench on

    “SF Appeal notes that Smith himself has taken a whopping 184 hours of classes at the BAVC through the same program—despite the fact that his day job, at least, doesn’t involve multimedia production work.”

    He probably met some people from kink.com at school. I bet that’s how he found out about it in the first place!

  2. Sev on

    This is a very interesting post. In the UK this year, we have seen a law making the distribution of so-called extreme pornography (images depicting actions that are *or appear to be* life-threatening; images depicting acts likely to result in *or appear or result in* permanent damage to a sexual organ) an offence punishable by imprisonment. Several European countries are facing or have already seen the introduction of similar legislation. I’m not sure what the legal US position is, but if these filmmakers are having their state funding removed, rather than being incarcerated, it sounds as if Europe is lagging a bit behind in human rights terms. For more on the UK extreme images law, see the website of excellent activist group Backlash:
    http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/
    I love the honesty of your blog, by the way. I have been lurking for some time and this post on an issue related to one I’ve been campaigning for, forced me out of the shadows 😉

  3. d on

    It is hilarious that people are attacking Kink.com’s “torture” while CIA/law enforcement torture is defended or apologized for (if not ignored) across the political spectrum.

  4. subversive_sub on

    @Sev: Nice to meet you! I did hear about that legislation passing in the UK earlier this year…I’ll check out the link, thanks.


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