In fact, on first glance inside, the place is almost disappointingly tame.
Acworth himself hardly looks like a porn kingpin. He's sweetly attractive in an unmenacing, mainstream way, with an easy smile and casual style. His office, a room near the entrance to the armory, is large and comfortable, but bears no hint of his livelihood save for one tasteful bondage statue. Next to his desk are water and food bowls for the armory's two live-in cats: Rudy and Lala. His assistant, a young girl in a minidress, leggings, and hoop earrings, looks like she could be working at American Apparel. Even the desktop pattern on Acworth's Dell computer screen is vanilla: rolling green hills beneath a blue, blue sky. This sense of normalcy seems to be Kink's main point.
Van Darkholme, Peter Acworth, and Princess Donna in the Armory boiler room. Photo by Pat Mazzera
Acworth remembers getting turned on as a child in England by scenes in movies where women were tied up and wondering if this signaled violent tendencies within himself. It wasn't until adolescence that he discovered the relief (and release) of bondage porn. At the same time, he was already a burgeoning entrepreneur, a child who grew vegetables behind his house and tried to sell them to his parents. By the time he read a magazine article about a man making millions from Internet porn, as a Wall Streetbound doctoral student in a Columbia University finance program, it seemed almost inevitable that Acworth would find a way to marry his two lifelong interests: bondage and business. When he founded Kink.com in 1997, the idea was not only to jump on the dot-com money train, but also to demystify and promote fetish porn as an acceptable form of sexual stimulation.
Now, each of Kink.com's Web sites is geared toward a particular fetish, run by a Webmaster who's not only an expert on that particular kink but also has an interest in it, just as Acworth started Hogtied.com, which features women tied up, and Fuckingmachines.com, which showcases women having sex with machinery, because that's what turned him on. These Webmasters act as director, producer, human resources manager, and often participant as well as Web developer.
"It's hard to guess what people want," he explains, pointing out that it's easier to make what you know.
Which means models aren't actors. Just as directors are expected to be interested in the fetish they're promoting, so are participants expected to enjoy the scenes they're in. This isn't about fake-breasted women pretending to like a face full of come. In fact, Acworth has had trouble in the past working with models from Los Angeles, trying to get them not to act. Kink's sites feature actual people enjoying a private play party that just happens to be taped. Videos are intimate, personal, and disarmingly real models talk to each other before, during, and after their sessions, just the way they would in their own bedrooms. They're encouraged to smile on camera. Whether it's shocking a woman with electric instruments or forcing a man to eat from a dog bowl, you get the sense that these people would be playing out these scenarios anyway Kink just provides a salary, benefits, and a really nice location.
THE KINK CASTLE
As for the building itself, Kink has just begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities. The first floor, perhaps the most institutional-looking of the four, houses offices for Acworth, the marketing team, the production team, and the break room, which features a pool table, a disco ball, an espresso machine, a drum set, and a DJ booth (all for parties as well as employee use). Directly opposite the front doors is the Drill Court, a monstrous space that looks something like an airplane hangar crossed with a European train station.