The Anti-Porn Activists and Consent

When Kink.com purchased the San Francisco Armory in 2006, Mayor Newsom asked the planning department to host an informational hearing so that concerns could be raised.  Anti Pornography activist Melissa Farley drove in from Santa Cruz to compare activities at kink.com to those at Abu Ghraib prison.

Over the subsequent months, opposition faded as we replaced the boarded up Armory windows, brought in 24×7 security, and worked to become a good neighbor.  We have striven to operate as transparently as possible, and now host public tours daily.  However, central misunderstandings still remain in some minds.  For instance, Gail Dines recently argued that Kink.com violates the UN Convention Against Torture, and she is now leading a charge to ban BDSM porn in Iceland. It is clear that we still have a long ways to go in talking about consent, fantasy, and the rights of models.

The difference between the activities portrayed in BDSM porn produced by companies like kink.com and the acts the UN Convention Against Torture aims to forbid by is quite simple: consent.  The difference between negotiating a BDSM scene and undergoing torture at Abu Girab prison is as clear as the distinction between consensual sex and rape.  The two could hardly be more different.  In the minds of Melissa Farley or Gail Dines however, the activities portrayed on kink.com are so degrading that it is ‘not possible to meaningfully consent to them’. This is a difference of opinion, to say the least.

For us, consenting to a given activity begins with explaining exactly what a shoot entails and making sure the model wants to participate. If the booker senses the model is in it solely for money, or isn’t in a headspace to handle it, we won’t book them. It’s not just ethics, it’s business sense.

To further ensure consent, each model who works for Kink is presented with a Model Bill of Rights.  This lists some common-sense rights which models should have. The right to stop a shoot at any time. The right to verify STD tests before a scene. The right to test any toy or equipment before the scene. Because we know that commerce clouds issues of consent we also let models know that if they choose to end a shoot early, they’ll still be paid a pro-rated amount.

After a shoot is over, we also employ aftercare — another element drawn from BDSM — to make sure that the shoot went well for the model. (Each shoot we do features an exit interview with the model talking about his or her experience.) BDSM is an intense experience, and it’s important for us that we do have those conversations, and address any issues — physical or emotional — that may have resulted from the shoot.

We understand that what we do seems confounding to some. That not everyone understands the relationship between pain and pleasure, and that consent may not always be apparent to an outside viewer.  However, I would like to assure the reader that it is possible to get meaningful consent for intense BDSM acts in the context of making pornographic movies.

I look forward to the coming discussion with readers, the community and with our past, current and future performers — as well as for scholars like Ms. Dines.

14 thoughts on “The Anti-Porn Activists and Consent

  1. Iyiola

    I am also a firm believer that as long as adults are giving their consent for safe activities then the law should not interfere – consent by adults who have been informed with all necessary information about what it entails to participate in a shoot. I salute your courage to carry on your campaign and as long as no one is hurt in these shoots it is all good. Over here in the UK I support the British Collectives of Prostitutes’ mission to decriminalize sex work because as long as a sex worker is not pimped or traded and is of legal age everyone ought to be allowed to earn an income as they think fit, moreover many disabled people’s only access to sexual pleasure is by visiting sex workers – what is your opinion on sex working?
    Finally I want to know your opinion about the latest shoot on Foot worship.com….I have watched it but felt the mockery of the cross and the Christian faith went too far and clearly caused a lot of controversy as depicted by the many poor ratings the shoot recieved. Now, I fully appreciate that in the US the right to speak and express one’s views is entrenched in the Constitution so blasphemy is no problem, but where you have a website that is so popular across the world and subscribed to by many people of different faiths and values do you not think attacking people’s religious values is bad for business and disrespectful or it doesn’t matter what your customers think? What is your honest opinion on that shoot, don’t get me wrong the action in the film was amazing, but I felt offended by the language of the 2 models and their mockery of the crucifix.
    Iyiola (London UK and member of Foot worship.com)

    Reply
    1. Peter Acworth Post author

      Thanks so much for the note. I certainly think sex work should be legal, and that people should generally be able to do what they want with their bodies.

      As for the footworship shoot, this is actually something we have gone back and forth on as a company. “Reference to Organized Religion” was against our shooting rules for a long time and this was relaxed about 2 years ago, so our directors now do have the freedom to shoot this kind of material, and they have done so, albeit rarely. I am sorry it was offensive to you. I don’t see this theme being something that happens too regularly, so hopefully you are still able to enjoy the remainder of the site. Thanks again for the note.

      Peter

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      1. N

        Rarely? I would like to point out that organized religion shoots are frequent. – Just two other recent examples:
        In the James Deen, Remy LaCroix, Isis Love shoot, where Remy was punched in the eye by Deen which resulted in a contusion, Deen was a Catholic priest.
        There is a brutal and controversial “Christian Speed Dating” Bound Gang Bang “feature” with James Deen where the victim/model is Catholic.
        From a review of “Christian Speed Dating” on James Deen’s Blog – There are 4 guys who “threatened” to rape Jodi Taylor’s “virgin pussy” if she didn’t stop resisting and let 
them fuck her in the ass. In the end, they “raped” her pussy. One of them asked her, “Who are you 
saving it for, Jesus?” They made her say things like “Jesus loves me because he gave me an asshole 
to use instead of my pussy.” …..The comments to this feature range from subscriber offense to subscriber requests that Muslim/Persian girls be raped next.
        I suspect there will be more with crowns of thorns and crucifixions which will be released shorty.

        Reply
        1. Peter Acworth Post author

          That’s a total of 3 out of about 26,000 shoots you have found. Like I said. Rare.

          It is clear you dislike like this style of fantasy material, and that’s absolutely fine 🙂 My advice would be that you exercise your right to not watch it.

          The model is interviewed before and after – it’s clear that she wanted to do it, and had a great time. Again, consent is the core differentiating factor between a role-play scenario and a crime. While I agree incorporating religion makes this shoot more controversial, I personally found Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ rather more difficult to watch than this erotic fantasy.

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  2. N

    I don’t think you can legally consent to be maimed, seriously injured or killed.
    Doesn’t “meaningful consent” require consciousness? (choking, hitting the head, oxygen deprivation to the brain all affect consciousness – not to mention drugs and alcohol)

    According to “The Crime of Torture in California Law” Penal Code 206 PC —-
    “In order to convict you of violating Penal Code 206, California’s torture law, the prosecutor must prove the following three facts (otherwise known as “elements” of the crime):
    ……. you inflicted “great bodily injury” on another person,
    ……..with the specific intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering,
    ……. for revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose.”
    from http://www.shouselaw.com

    The law makes no mention of consent, meaningful or otherwise, or complicity of the victim.

    As the employer, when someone really gets hurt (or worse), the director, and kink.com will have a challenge in court using your arguments.

    Reply
  3. Peter Acworth Post author

    I said “It is possible to meaningfully consent to [what Gail Dines calls] ‘degrading’ activities”. You said “Consent is not a legal defense to inflicting ‘great bodily injury’ “. I agree with both statements.

    In answer to the mental state a person has to be in: Consent requires sobriety, consciousness and sanity at the very least. That is why at kink.com model limits are first discussed and agreed to in writing prior to the shoot taking place, and then kept in place for the whole shoot. If someone appears intoxicated or is otherwise considered to be in an inappropriate position to consent, they’re sent home prior to the shoot starting. (I’d additionally like to point out that “hitting someone over the head.” is against our shooting rules.)

    Reply
  4. Rosendo Frank

    §90 of the criminal code declares bodily injury (§§ 83, 84) or the endangerment of physical security (§89) to not be subject to penalty in cases in which the “victim” has consented and the injury or endangerment does not offend moral sensibilities. Case law from the Austrian Supreme Court has consistently shown that bodily injury is only offensive to moral sensibilities, thus it is only punishable when a “serious injury” (a damage to health or an employment disability lasting more than 24 days) or the death of the “victim” results. A light injury is generally considered permissible when the “victim” has consented to it. In cases of threats to bodily well-being the standard depends on the probability that an injury will actually occur. If serious injury or even death would be a likely result of a threat being carried out, then even the threat itself is considered punishable.

    Reply
  5. Jefferson Benson

    rules for shooting in public When the site was launched this fall, there was a lot of concern being shown in the members forum about the legality or appropriateness of shooting in public. The outdoor scenes were deliberately shot in Eastern Europe, where laws are less strict than in the US, as well as the fact that penalties and fines are lower. Immediately members from Eastern Europe had a lot to say. What also generated a lot of criticism from members was that many scenes seemed to show no concern if children, or even adults were witnesses without their consent. The rules at present do not permit children to be witnesses, nor unwilling adults. Many scenes have cars passing by. How can anyone know if there are children in the cars? How can anyone know if the adult passengers consented? These are still unanswered questions in my opinion. While the site is very exciting, are they following their self imposed rules? Are they violating any laws? Who knows.

    Reply
  6. Hung Webster

    California ties Nevada for the highest rates of unemployment in the country. If you are a webcam model, producer, director, performer, and fan of adult movies/California resident, contact Assmeblymembers Roger Hernandez, Jeff Gorell, Mike Morrell, Luis Alejo, Ed Chau, Jimmy Gomez, and Chris Holden of the Labor and Employment Committee [link here ] and urge them to vote NO on AB-332 before April, 24th–next Wednesday! Don’t be fooled into thinking your voice doesn’t matter. AHF won last year’s Measure B vote 57-43 because the average person doesn’t fully understand that the initiative is an effort to bully and punish consenting adults; people who otherwise function legally under the law; people with families who contribute to California’s economy and pay their taxes. These people stand to go to jail for entertaining people. They are being bullied because they understand basic economics and the risk involved in what they do.

    Reply
  7. Walter Clark

    His attorney states that “This charge amounts to $60 dollars worth.” That means he had a damn small amount of coke on him, and usually when you have a very small amount of a drug on you, it’s your personal stash. Forcing models to take drugs is tabloid-level outrageous for a number of reasons. It’s an expensive drug in a bad economy, especially for the porn industry right now. If he was forcing models to do coke, he’d also need to be selling it to offset the cost of supply to all these new addicts he is creating (most kink.com models appear multiple times after all, so he can’t just get them hooked and let them loose). The CEO of a porn company dealing coke, that would be pretty hard to keep on the [down low], no? Not to mention, cocaine is a horrendous choice if you want to manipulate anyone into anything… feeling hyper, invincible, egotistical, impatient and somehow, physically stronger? If anything, that’s the recipe for a LESS obedient/maleable model – it’s basically just going to make her or him want to move around nonstop and talk superfast and do more coke. and, i never did professional sets and was usually one or two on one when I worked, if not completely alone producing content or performing, but i get the impression that there are generally crew present on professional sets and eventually someone would witness such a crime as forcing a person to consume an illegal substance. You can’t get THAT many performers and crew members to all conspire together – and not have *one* with loose lips who spreads the word like wildfire? Not to mention a lot of models working for kink.com would probably go straight to the cops if they were put in such a situation. The reality of the cocaine that was found? People in all walks of life have addiction problems. It’s that simple. It doesn’t invalidate a person to have a disease like addiction.

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  8. Rowena C. Wooten

    But if that’s not enough, there’s a broader reason to oppose the deployment of tasers or other “nonlethal” weapons, and that is in order to avoid a shift in the nature of our policing and interactions between the police and citizens. At the moment, our police operate under a principle known as “policing by consent”, which basically means they focus on actually talking to people, workign with communities, de-esclating conflicts, and minimising the use of force. Increasing the force available for routine use by individual officers runs the risk of shifting this to the American model of “compliance policing”, where the police simply order people about, and threaten to shoot/beat/tase/pepper spray them if they refuse. Many of the deaths attributable to tasers are all the more shocking because they are products of that sort of police culture, where police went straight for weapons rather than seeking to reduce conflict, and we’ve had some disturbing incidents in New Zealand which suggest that the availability of pepper-spray is creating this sort of mindset . And that is a disease I really don’t want to see spread. If our police start behaving like Americans, swaggering around with a taser on their hip and their hand hovering near it whenever they talk to people (as Greg O’Connor and Ron Mark seem to think they should), then they will have become more of a threat to ordinary New Zealanders than the people they are supoosedly protecting us from.

    Reply
  9. Sublithium

    Great Article. As far as anything offending anyone…people do have a choice to not watch, subscribe, or otherwise to BDSM sites. Simple click the exit button. I really haven’t seen videos from all of the Kink.com community of sights, the ones I have (Divine Bitches, and Men in Pain) clearly start scenes with an interview in the beginning which safewords, and actions are discussed, and made clear before the actual scene starts. Why would anyone be such a “Moral Crusader” that they would go to the U.N.? An organization that refuse to even stop genocides.

    The moral is, if you don’t like, or are not into BDSM (especially if you don’t understand it) exercise your free right to NOT watch it. I could care less what consenting adults do with each other, and neither should anybody else. As long as there is safewords or actions that allow someone to stop a scene when it ventures into an area that one partner does not feel safe in, then there is no need for people that don’t understand or like it, to feel a need to get involved.

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  10. Deon Owen

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment define torture as: any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

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  11. Janis F. Livingston

    Whether good or bad, it seems their shooting rules regarding marking have more to do with PR. In the scene marks are incredibly common, and whips can easily leave marks that appear permanent but fade after several months. I’ve had them. There is no ethical question about whether this is okay so long as the bottom has consented to it. Kink has a shoot – I believe the models were Lorelei, Princess Donna, and Sara Scott(?), where Sara took a caning that left very deep bruising. It violated the shoot rules but Sara continually affirmed her consent, so the shoot continued. However, her body was blurred out in the video available from the site to hide the marks. This leads me to believe this rule is to prevent opponents from being able to find “shock” photos, not something Kink deemed an ethical line they will not cross. That is certainly understandable given the prosecutions made over the past 10 years or so.

    Reply

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