SAN FRANCISCO — Perhaps no other adult studio operator in the state of California has more at stake with passage of Assembly Bill 1576 than Peter Acworth, who leads BDSM adult producer Kink.com.
After all, Kink occupies 100,000 square feet of space at the historic and castle-like San Francisco Armory building. Kink purchased the property in late 2006 for $14.5 million and has been shooting content for its websites and DVDs ever since.
If AB 1576 were to pass both sides of the Legislature, and if the bill is signed into law by the governor, Kink would have much to lose.
While Southern California porn studios have found ways to mobilize and contract out shoots, the Armory is where Kink maintains its production facility and shoots all of its content.
The adult production company simply sits in the line of fire, a sitting duck for those advocating for condom-only porn and those who want to regulate the industry.
XBIZ spoke with Acworth on Friday, two days after AB 1576 passed the state Appropriations Committee, a key panel that moved the bill on to the full Assembly, to ask for his take on the possibility of increased regulation for pornographers.
XBIZ: Already, some state Assembly legislators are questioning the enforceability of AB 1576, if passed. Do you think the condom bill stands chance passing the full Assembly?
PETER ACWORTH: As I understand it, there are 80 legislators in the full Assembly. I think it may pass, but I think we have a good chance of swaying a number key people. I also believe we have a shot at defeating the bill in the Senate committees or with the governor or in the courts.
XBIZ: If the bill does pass, do you think the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will take a continuing vigilant role and become chief complainant over shoots?
ACWORTH: Yes. One aspect of AB 1576 is the record-keeping. A complaint from AHF to Cal/OSHA would give access to these records to Cal/OSHA for their agenda. As you know, proposed Cal/OSHA draft regulations include protection of eyes and condoms for oral. These new regs would be very easily and quickly enforceable with this new record-keeping in place and that is where I see this going.
XBIZ: You've taken a stand over the bill and have attended and spoke at hearings over legislation that would affect porn productions shot in the state. Why do you think other adult entertainment CEOs haven't done the same in advocating against condoms in porn productions?
ACWORTH: Kink.com has invested a small fortune in a physical studio here in San Francisco. We have built a community around our company and products with a bar across the street and a community center. In a very real sense, we are part of the fabric of the local neighborhood. Arguably, we have the most to lose from a move. Many companies already contract out their production and shoot worldwide; to them, a move out of state is less of a burden and many such companies are already planning to move or already have. Other companies plan to shoot illegally due to their smaller size. I spoke with one such producer yesterday, for instance.
Additionally I think many companies want to stay under the radar — they are worried about AHF fueled Cal/OSHA complaints or lawsuits. I have had Cal/OSHA at my facility so many times that I have little left to lose in this respect I'd like to add that I feel we will ultimately prevail in our Cal/OSHA case.
XBIZ: AHF President Michael Weinstein has not stopped with his crusade to make condoms mandatory in porn productions since as early as 2004. Why has he been so persistent over those 10 years? What's motivating him?
ACWORTH: It is very hard to say. There was a time prior to 2004 when he was supportive of [performer-testing clinic] AIM Healthcare. Something changed and he saw an opportunity. Whether the catalyst was the 2004 infections is unclear, but certainly that was his opportunity to strike. Interestingly, Weinstein has been equally critical of Pfizer and Gilead over Viagra and PrEP respectively, presumably just because he believes both promote promiscuity. Possibly, he feels condom-less porn promotes unsafe sex. One other theory is that this is a PR campaign for Weinstein — he certainly conceded that this campaign is a PR windfall.
I continue to hope for a brighter day when people like me can sit across the table from leaders at AHF and engage in dialogue about how best to protect performers with protocols, legislature and education.
XBIZ: Are you still contemplating moving Kink out of California?
ACWORTH: Unfortunately, yes. We have applied with the local planning department to add "office" as a future use of the Armory in case that becomes necessary.