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Kink.com: Nothing says summer vacation like a family trip to a porn-film palace

When visiting Kink.com, ensure discomfort for the whole family by posing together in a cage.
When visiting Kink.com, ensure discomfort for the whole family by posing together in a cage.

When my sister asked if I wanted to join her and my brother on a tour of the Kink.com studios in San Francisco, I initially declined. I hate porn -- mostly because I don't understand it -- and I didn't want to be that kind of uncomfortable in public. But then I found out that the company was housed inside the hundred-year-old, 200,000-square-foot San Francisco Armory, and I was swayed by the thought of looking at an old building for an hour.

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Much to my surprise, I discovered that the troubling part of visiting a company that makes BDSM-oriented films isn't doing so with your family; it's all about who else is on the tour with you. And when you have a weird older gentleman asking a more than considerate tour guide way too detailed questions about specific pornographic films he has clearly viewed repeatedly, it can make a trip to Kink.com uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Our guide was an incredibly patient sex educator who clearly had experience in dealing with corralling creeps on these daily tours, and she did her best to keep the group on track as we wandered the academic-feeling halls of Kink.com. She began by giving a brief history of the building's usage by the United States National Guard from the early 1900s through the '70s, before its acquisition by Kink.com founder Peter Acworth in 2006.

We stepped in spaces with chains hanging from the ceiling, cages for "slaves," and even a fully replicated kitchen and bathroom, for more domestic-looking bondage scenarios. Everything in the space was meticulously crafted by set designers; a padded room with a two-way mirror and an interrogation room on the other side came complete with fluid stains on the walls.

All of this was fascinating to someone like me, who has never watched a full pornographic video in her life and clearly has no imagination -- because I had no idea why anyone would be interested in sex play involving a slaughterhouse or an industrial-strength garden hose. Our guide gave descriptions of what might take place on some of these particular sets without being graphic at all, in the process convincing me that Kink.com would probably be a wonderful place to work. It has company-wide safe words, clear conduct guidelines (shared with the public on its website, too), and what sounds like a lot of fun -- for smart, mature, consenting adults.  

Pick a whip, any whip.
Pick a whip, any whip.

That part, the maturity part, was difficult for one gentleman in our group. Unfortunately, he misunderstood the notion that we were all on this tour of a pornography studio together, and that he wasn't actually alone to ask all of his inappropriate questions.

When the guide encouraged us to inquire about anything we saw in the rooms that we didn't understand or for clarification on the daily operations of the business, this older creeper decided that meant "ask the sex educator how my favorite Kink.com actors prepared for fisting scenes."

My brother and sister and I, as well as the twenty or so other people in the group, stared at the floor, all of us trying to avoid eye contact as he went into unbecoming detail about what kind of porn he liked to watch. He asked about the toys used in his favorite scenes and, at one point, how he could be an extra in a public-humiliation video. It felt like a verbal, unsolicited back rub from a gross stranger; we were all in his fucked-up fantasy together, whether we liked it or not.

Luckily, our guide was good at deflecting his socially inept questioning and showed us the basement of the facility, where Mission Creek still runs through the building. She also took us to the drill court, a 40,000-square-foot facility that Kink.com has rechristened the Armory Community Center: a place for farmers' markets, theater productions, concerts and more.

The tour proved to be much more about the behind-the-scenes production of a film company and the history of one of the most beautiful buildings in the Mission than actual pornography. But as our tour guide said at the beginning of the hour-long walk, when Acworth bought the Armory, he knew that San Francisco was the perfect place for Kink.com, because it's a city full of perverts. Sometimes, they just happen to come in the form of tourists who don't know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate conduct.



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