When James Franco approached us about producing a documentary on my company last year, I was flattered — but hesitant. As the founder of Kink.com, the largest producer of fetish and BDSM pornography in the world, I’ve seen a lot of harmful misconceptions construed about the company, and BDSM in general. Next week, the documentary, kink, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It will be controversial, but I hope that it starts a conversation about sex and sexuality that goes beyond the walls of the Kink.com Armory.
Fifteen years ago, I started Kink.com out of my dorm room at Columbia Business School. I had been studying for a Ph.D. in finance, on my way to becoming a professor or Wall Street bond guru, but had always wanted to run my own business. After stumbling onto a newspaper article about a firefighter who was making thousands of dollars selling adult pictures over the then-novel Internet, it became clear that I could make a living creating fetish porn — a genre that speaks to me personally — and I jumped at the opportunity. But for me, porn has never been just a business — it’s about providing access for hundreds of thousands of people like me whose fantasies live outside the bounds of conventional sexuality.
I grew up with an intense desire to be tied up. Indeed, as a young child I remember getting turned on by cowboy and Indian movies where someone was being restrained. When walking home from elementary school, I remember gazing at a pair of handcuffs in the window of an Army supply store. However, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I discovered erotic bondage magazines in seedy London sex stores, which lead me to the conclusion that maybe bondage could be enjoyed with a consenting partner. Maybe, I reasoned, there was nothing actually wrong with me! I struggled to find others to continue this dialogue. Several years later when I began frequenting S/M clubs in the dead of night, I recall all the patrons wore only black leather and many had a secondary “scene” name for anonymity. Even then, it struck me that kink probably had a far wider appeal than those willing to frequent these clubs and I was confused by the shroud of secrecy.
As someone who has grown up with these feelings, I believe that the widespread availability of erotica depicting diverse sexual acts is a very good thing. Anyone with a fetish is likely to find content that appeals to them specifically and thus feel less isolation, shame or confusion. Such negative emotions about sexuality are not healthy for any of us.
The work we do at Kink.com focuses on a subset of those activities encompassed under “BDSM” (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, and Sado Masochism) — which is in turn a subset of the broader idea of sexual “kink.” As a commercial enterprise, our products gravitate toward that which sells — beautiful people, elaborate sets and props. Having said that, authenticity to the underlying fetish has always been very important to us, and making porn is not merely about money.
Kink.com’s mission statement is “to demystify and celebrate alternative sexualities,” and in service of that mission, we have always taken a certain pride in the way we do business. We have an open-door policy and have never shied away from scrutiny; we host public tours of our Armory daily, conduct sexual education workshops and provide community forums. We’ve even opened a bar, the Armory Club, across the street from our studios. Generally speaking, when people see us as a company and community first hand, any fear or misconception is resolved, and they leave with a better understanding of what we are about and what motivates us.
In this context, we were ultimately very pleased to welcome James Franco and director Christina Voros into the Armory to film kink. We hope through the documentary, our world at Kink.com will be seen by an entirely new set of eyes. I dare say many will initially be offended, seeing what we do as perverse, immoral or harmful. By the end of the movie, however, I hope that most will come to understand what motivates us — the producers, the performers, and the fans of Kink.com.
(This post originally appeared on Huffington Post)