Statewide crackdown on the porn industry could drive its biggest BDSM filmmaker from San Francisco's iconic Armory
These infections mostly occurred in Los Angeles, once the center of the porn universe until Measure B arguably changed that. Los Angeles voters mandated porn studio condom use in 2012, and two years later, LA newspapers reported many pornographers have relocated to Las Vegas to escape the regulatory requirements.
The statewide pushback on porn is largely driven by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, whose President Michael Weinstein has smiled for the cameras alongside Hall and other lawmakers every step of the way.
DOSH began its part in the porn crackdown in Los Angeles, but Murphy was charged with looking into San Francisco's Kink.com, where Acworth is chafing against the idea of mandatory condoms.
Acworth said he used to believe condoms should be mandatory for performers. After the porn set HIV infections in 2004, Kink.com buckled down.
"I attempted to run the business as condom mandatory for about a year," Acworth told us. He even pronounced their necessity in an interview on CNN. But there were complications.
"There was pressure from the models themselves because of the chaffing issues," he said. Porn performers have echoed those sentiments as well.
In an interview with entertainment site Nerve, popular porn star James Deen (see "Dick and smile," 7/31/12) said he had no problem with personal condom use, but women he's worked with often complained of chafing.
"I was talking to a girl about it and she was like, 'Dude, I'm in pain everyday and constantly swollen,'" he told Nerve. "Condoms are intended to be used on an average-sized penis for average sex, and we have entertainment sex, for anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours."
The condom effort tanked at Kink. Acworth said he withdrew the policy after listening to his performers' wishes. The studio does adhere to 14-day HIV tests, and condoms are available in a "double-blind" agreement, by which actors can purportedly safely ask for condoms and not fear retaliation.
Despite those efforts, Kink was later awash in condom controversy. Earlier this year, DOSH fined Kink $78,000 in violations connected with the alleged on-stage HIV infections of two actors in 2013, one of whom alleged that a shoot continued despite one actor having a bleeding cut on his penis.
Acworth adamantly asserts the HIV transmission happened in these actors' personal lives, and says the issue is used as a wedge by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to push a political agenda. The Guardian attempted to contact the foundation but did not hear back by press time.
Regardless, Murphy said, DOSH is pursuing regulatory requirements around bloodborne pathogens at Kink, and the enforcement of those regulations is not tied to the whether the initial HIV infection case was verified or not.
"My concern," Murphy said, "is whether there is a healthy and safe workplace."
Acworth came to San Francisco for the reasons many do: he wanted a place to be weird, or in his case, kinky.
He wanted a new home from which to shoot his leather porn site, Hogtied.com. New York City was big, but at the time (the '90s), he felt San Francisco had a more established leather scene in the Folsom Street Fair and leather shops like Mr. S.
"San Francisco," Acworth said, sitting across from us in a leather bondage chair, "appeared to be more geared up."
Although not universally loved within the BDSM community, the studio is popular in San Francisco. Part of the credit may go to Kink's recent revitalization of one of the largest spaces in its 200,000-square-foot historic brick fortress: the Drill Court.
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