First, a couple important points.

  1. I hate Kink, Inc.1 2 That does not mean I want them eradicated—they have been doing a shitty job of it, but I believe have made the world a (slightly) better place on balance—it means I have incredibly negative feelings for them that are far, far stronger than mere disapproval or dislike or disappointment. As a result, you may feel that the rest of this post is tinged with anger or outright rage. And you would be correct.
  2. The title of this post is intentionally provocative. It equates murder and attempted assassination with what I view as the long-running corrosion of sex-positivity perpetrated by a darling of the supposedly sex-positive porn movement. That may not be fair, an argument for which I’ll only be ready to entertain after I express my indignation, and only from people who make evident they have read this post. Nevertheless, I do not think it is ill-concieved to take the events from one context and apply them to another in an attempt to better understand one another and the world we inhabit. That is my intent here.

Now, there were two events this week that made me feel unspeakably angry. In the first, America sat in horror as Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and 6 others were killed by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona. In the second, people reacted with a mixture of support, indifference, unease, disgust, and resignation to a press release by Kink, Inc. advertising the purported “deflowering” of a (real, live!) “virgin.”

The numerous different reactions (and resulting questions) to the porn company’s press release are pretty interesting. I first heard about the press release on Twitter by way of Dr. Petra Boynton, who caught some flak (more of the conversation) for expressing concern about the way “hymen” was being represented in the company’s marketing material. Several others, notably Heather Corinna of Scarleteen, and Miss Maggie Mayhem had similar concerns. Quoting Maggie:

I do not take issue with Ms. Blue’s fantasy and desire to have vaginal sex for the first time on camera. I do not take issue with the fact that it can be incredibly hot and sexy to watch someone have vaginal sex for the first time. I do sincerely hope that it is a rewarding experience for everyone because I am a big cheerleader for all forms of consensual activity whether or not I enjoy them myself. My life has been dedicated to fighting for that very thing.

I do have issues with press releases that perpetuate dangerous myths.

Maggie goes on to name and debunk several of these myths. However, she also touches on another point that I first made on Twitter and which I feel has been largely overlooked by the rush to correct all the anatomical misinformation.

I find the marketing and publicity around this shoot to be the issue at hand. […] I am not worried about Nicki Blue. I know that she is in very good and capable hands on set. It’s the rest of us that I’m worried about when the packaging of the shoot includes blatant misinformation.

Kink.Com has the right to say whatever they want about their content. I am experiencing disappointment by their unwillingness to rise to the occasion. A press release is, by its very nature, designed to spark interest and by that standard it was inordinately effective. Buzz words were selected with deliberation and it is true that if you want to sell a product, the press release may not be the best place to do so. However, when I look at the pride flags waving in the wind from the rooftop of the armory I have to wonder if they match the words in those press releases.

(Emphasis mine.)

Perhaps as a sometimes-model for Kink, Inc., Maggie needs to be tactful, which I can respect. Thankfully, I’m burdened by no such constraints. I very much agree with her, except mere disappointment is itself a disappointing reaction. Here’s my series of tweets on the matter, reproduced without others’ usernames:

Anatomy issue aside, I view this as yet another of Kink, Inc.’s sexist sell-outs. :( Kink[ Inc.] have become masterful at promoting sexist BDSM gender essentialist fantasy. Nothing wrong w/fantasy but something VERY WRONG w/not acknowledging the distinction. When majority is unable to make that distinction […] it’s not implicit. :( Incumbent on Kink[ Inc.] to do so. The product is not the place to make the fantasy/reality distinction. The PRESS RELEASE is the place to responsibly do that. I’m not concerned about Ms. Blue. I believe she’s well-treated & informed. I’m concerned about [the] irresponsible press release.

It’s also worth pointing out that Kink, Inc. CEO Peter Acworth may ultimately agree, saying he “regret[s] how the press release was worded.” While possibly genuine, I’m sure the company is aware of the economic model simplified in the retelling of John Nash‘s story in the movie A Beautiful Mind: what’s economically best for an individual is to do what is best for oneself and the group/community/others in the same sphere. Call me a cynic, bitter, or whatever, but I remain unconvinced Acworth’s apparent remorse deserves any leniency.

The sex-positive community is typically slow to criticize and quick to dole out praise for their darling Kink, Inc., but absolutely nothing the company does excuses the total self-absolution of their responsibility to promote their product with at least some shred of integrity. This is far from the first (see Adele Haze) and won’t be the last time they fail to do so. This press release—and I reiterate that I’m only referring to the press release, not the upcoming performance—while perhaps a marketer’s version of a wet dream, had none.

Here’s the thing. Phrases like “true virgin,” “the winner,” and “sacrificing Nikki’s innocence,” are (it needs saying again) totally acceptable fantasy. Go ahead, “winner,” call Nikki an innocent sacrifice while you’re fucking her—more power to the both of you. However, do not pretend it is acceptable for business as usual to include demolishing the line between business communications and fantasy sex. These phrases have absolutely no place in a press release being circulated to news agencies, and any company run by responsible sex-positive adults should fucking know better.

Undoubtedly, several self-identified pro-porn advocates will be breathing down my throat about this. How dare I tell a porn company what to do? Should you have the urge to toss this straw-man at me, consider for a moment your own views on things like occupational health and safety regulations, or asbestos regulations for contractors. The issue is not telling a company what it may or may not do, it is about how to create an atmosphere of genuine health for both the company, which is made up of individual human beings, and its consumers.

While I, personally, feel that there shouldn’t actually be regulations for how porn companies may or may not craft press releases, or use certain words, or anything as inane and utterly, mindlessly, pathetically stupid as that, this does not mean there should be no oversight on the matter.

Porn companies are companies, and they have a product. What makes their product different from, say, a steel mill or a coal mine is that their product is largely cultural, not material. They operate in a completely different arena; they do not have to deal with resource scarcity or distribution in the same way, for example. But this does not mean they do not pollute. They do. Kink, Inc. is a massive polluter.

What baffles me is that almost all of the simple-minded (read: the anti-porn lunatics) understand this intuitively yet a staggering portion of my peers seem oblivious to it. The simple-minded, in their never-ending idiocy, lobby for government regulation to solve this problem, but that is so obviously the wrong tool for this job. Their’s is the lazy solution, forcing us to work twice as hard to resolve things. The right tool is the more difficult road: corporate social responsibility.

What do I mean by corporate social responsibility? Well, let’s look at the Giffords shooting. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik immediately brought attention to the “vitriolic rhetoric” permeating the political climate in this country when he spoke of the tragic events this weekend. Although Sheriff Dupnik named no names, it is far too easy for any one of us to do so. And some unnamed examples aren’t merely rhetoric, they are literal calls to arms, and to violence.

Regardless of your political views, and setting aside the many entanglements this most-recent domestic American massacre has raised, most people seem to agree that one thing is far beyond dispute: words have consequences. Language matters.

In the wake of the Giffords shooting, scumbags all over the Internet are tripping all over themselves arguing about which rights we should restrict next in a sadly predictable, misguided at best and opportunistic at worst, fascistic attempt to prevent the next American gun massacre from happening. Bring back involuntary commitment! Stricter gun control! Even, and this is completely insane, let’s pass a law to ban violent rhetoric! (Oy, the stupid. It burns.)

Again, set aside your political views on any of these topics and look, I beg of you, at the paradigm each of these ideas have come from. More laws are not the answer. The answer must come from mindfulness not merely of our own political message but the environment we are in, the overarching context. Expediency through intellectual myopia is not an inevitability, nor an optimal long-term strategy.

Back to Kink, Inc.’s über-fail. I’ve long condemned that company for their utterly sexist attitude to porn-selling, if not porn-making (although there’s some of that, too). But I’ve been largely alone among my peers in this. That does not highlight Kink, Inc.’s most recent inevitable failure, it highlights the failure of my fellow sexuality community members.

Kink, Inc. is either not a company run by socially responsible people or it is one filled with people who, pitiably, are so disconnected from the reality of others (like me) that they are truly clueless about the effects of their actions. Worse, if we are to ascribe to them simple stupidity rather than malice, then they are like the global warming deniers who can’t tell the difference between weather and climate.

Sadly, the rest of the mainstream porn industry (and, yes, Kink, Inc. is part of the mainstream porn industry) is so much worse that Kink, Inc. still rightfully earns the gratitude of many performers, producers, and consumers. I have personally befriended numerous people who work or worked at the company and have only occasionally heard anything save positive things. For that, bravo. However, it should be seen as small praise, not a laudable accomplishment, to be the most perfectly formed piece of shit at the top of a steaming, stinking pile of the stuff.

Our culture is so thoroughly sexually unhealthy, and so totally poisoned by acrimonious greed, that we as a sex-positive community have become used to eating whatever shit-covered scraps of consensual sexual fulfillment we get. So when Kink, Inc. merely feeds us shit-laced scraps, many people swallow it with ease. Those who swallow this crap without a second thought may even disgust me more than the imbecilic anti-porn crusaders, because I’d like to think those people actually have the mental capacity to demand better, and then they lazily, selfishly don’t. And with astonishingly self-righteous self-gratification (“look at how sexual/sex-positive I am!”), to boot.

People who are shocked (SHOCKED, I say!) that Kink, Inc. would behave in such a way have been asleep for the last 2 years. They remind me of the people who were shocked (SHOCKED, they insist!) to note the violence in Arizona this weekend. I don’t blame Kink, Inc. They’re doing what they have always done: they’re making money. This is simply the latest public example of their (perhaps begrudging) buying in to the kind of self-debasing, racing-to-the-bottom cancer endemic of our economic system.

Instead, I blame you, writer with a sex blog who hasn’t demanded better, and loudly. I blame you, friends who purchase Kink, Inc. material knowing full-well what economic company you’re keeping. And I blame you, sex-positive-turned-sex-negative apologists who are so blinded by anti-porn arguments you have not yet done the difficult, painful work of self-reflection on your own priorities. You, like me, are part of the chorus of influencers on our own 24-hour news cycle who have, working together, utterly failed to shun this and other sexism in BDSM porn within our own metaphorical political party.

Those of you with a sense of loyalty stronger than a sense of principle are complicit in the failure of your own movement. On this occasion, shame suits you. And if Kink, Inc. gets blasted for this in the mainstream, I dare say that, this time, they deserve it.

Let us never forget that most of the rhetoric surrounding virginity is inherently sexist. Remember, also, it is far more pervasive than violent political metaphors. Appallingly, it is even the basis on which some men justify murdering their own daughters, sisters or would-be wives upon learning that the woman in question is not, in their mind, “sexually pure.” Let me say that again: some women around the world are literally killed for losing their perceived virginity, sometimes because they were raped. And for my own pain, which hardly pales in comparison, I’ve written at some length how unabashed sexism negatively affects sexually submissive men, and I will be continuing to do so for as long as I have the will.

So, tell me, why does spreading misinformation about virginity, or tearing down the distinctions between fantasy and reality not amount to sexually violent speech? Why are those creepy men who open conversations with “May I rub your feet, Mistress” not viewed as our community’s equivalent of Jared Lee Loughners? And from that perspective, how can Kink, Inc.’s press release be viewed as any different than Sarah Palin’s gunsight poster?

And, most importantly, what are you going to do to help make sure it never happens again?

Update: Maggie wrote a somewhat verbose and generous follow up, which is worth reading. You also may find my comment, reproduced here for posterity’s sake, interesting:

Pardon my soap box, you’re probably correct that it’s not as much fun as your porn shoot. That said, I suppose you didn’t feel compelled to dispel the misinformation in Mr. Acworth’s apology, just his press release?

…Nicki feels that Kink is the place where she can best live out a fantasy she’s had for many years – to break her hymen during her first vaginal sex experience…

Or did we all just uncritically read past that little slip?

So, sure, why don’t we all go back to sucking on our little Kink, Inc. pacifiers. Or maybe I’ve just already gone mad by trying to push you people onto the next small steps towards actual social justice for so many fucking years.

Augh. Still totally disgusted.

  1. I beseech you, we must begin to call this company by their name—NOT the endearing, self-promotional “Kink.com” but Kink, INCORPORATED, for that is what they are, and we would do well to remind one another of that at every opportunity. []
  2. Several people have correctly pointed out to me that “Kink, Inc.”‘s business name is actually Cybernet Entertainment, LLC. For the interested, their business entity number is 199821910013, which can be retrieved at the Secretary of State’s Business Search page. I use “Kink, Inc.” as a colloquialism, in case that isn’t obvious to you. []
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