The Mission district’s fortress of bondage fetish pornography has become well-stitched into the welcoming fabric of San Francisco, but some in the outside world don’t think it’s so acceptable.
The towering San Francisco Armory at 14th and Mission streets — which serves as the headquarters of Kink.com — has recently sustained direct fire from a Washington, D.C.-based group called Morality in Media. Kink.com offers paid tours of the historic military site, and discounts for the excursions were twice offered on Groupon, the popular online deal aggregator for restaurants and other destinations.
Calling Kink.com’s product “sadomasochistic torture and rape pornography,” Morality in Media called on its supporters to boycott Groupon last week after the company sold out of 1,000 coupons for the tour.
“They’ve cleverly disguised the coupon as being a historic tour and compared it even to the Smithsonian Institute,” Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in Media, said in an online video about the boycott. “But they are enticing people further to buy it, saying, depending on your timing, you’ll be able to glimpse a live filming.”
Kink.com doesn’t guarantee that tourists won’t see live sex as they weave through the building’s cavernous basement — which is lined with dungeon sets, strange novelty props and industrial-sized barrels of lubricant — but that’s not the focus of the tour, according to company owner Peter Acworth.
“We’ve been amazed by how many people have been fascinated by its history,” Acworth said. “We are grateful to Groupon for helping us open the doors of the Armory to the public.”
Acworth added that the tour also “helps fulfill our mission of demystifying and celebrating” consensual bondage sex, which Kink.com regards as “a positive, authentic expression of human sexuality.”
After being met with initial skepticism when they bought the Armory in late 2006, Acworth and Kink.com enjoyed at least a modicum of community support after the company kept promises to keep its activities within the thick walls of the building. Positive response increased when Acworth began floating the idea of turning the Armory’s expansive drill court into a community center to serve underprivileged youth in the area — a plan that is making progress through a multi-tiered City Hall approval process.
Kink.com also recently upped its status in the film community by providing the Armory as the backdrop for “Cherry,” a well-received film about a woman’s foray into the pornography business that is currently playing at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Morality in Media did not return requests for further comment on the matter. Likewise, Groupon did not return two requests for comment and a customer service representative would not hazard a guess as to whether the Armory tour would be offered again on the site.
San Francisco Armory through the years
1913: Armory is built for the National Guard in Moorish revival style to replace an older armory destroyed in the 1906 earthquake
1920s: Armory serves as a venue for boxing
1976: National Guard closes the Armory for a new home at Fort Funston
2006: The long-shuttered Armory is acquired by Kink.com owner Peter Acworth for $14.5 million