When Peter Acworth watched as prison reform activists protested outside the Armory during its 2014 “Prisoner of Love” party, he was surprised. As the CEO of Kink.com, one of the world’s largest purveyors of BDSM porn, Acworth hadn’t previously thought that there was anything that shocking or problematic about a prison-themed dance party.
Also, he agreed with almost everything these activists appeared to be saying. (Though, these shared values didn’t prevent a heated confrontation that resulted in the arrest of three protesters and accusation of unnecessary force.)
“To me it was a celebration of the fantasy of a prison of love, the fantasy of BDSM, restraint, and role play,” said Acworth talking to Mission Local this week. “My company does a lot of that type of stuff, maybe I’ve been doing it a little too long and maybe a little desensitized. Let me assure you, we won’t be calling a party of ours Prisoner of Love again!”
Having been arrested for cocaine possession in 2013, Acworth knows firsthand that there is nothing glamorous or sexy about America’s criminal justice system. In his mind, it’s a grossly unfair and unequal system. Over the last two years, Acworth has become staunch advocate for prison reform.
Friday night at the Armory, home to a variety of things kinky, will host a benefit for Three Strike’s Justice Center, an organization that works with eligible non-violent offenders to decrease their time behind bars. So during Cinco de Kinko, which includes DJ sets, an open bar, live bondage demos in the Armory’s Victorian-themed parlor the Upper Floor, all ticket proceeds go to the legal organization aimed at freeing people from actual bondage.
Acworth is frank about why he supports the organization. He has written openly about the privileges he enjoyed during his drug arrest—privileges unavailable to the vast majority of other offenders he came in contact with during his legal process.
“I paid 17 and half grand to get a great lawyer, going to court five times and getting the whole thing dismissed,” said Acworth. “The room was full of people who were not as lucky… The whole system is in favor of the rich and very unfair to everyone else.”
Since 2012, when Californians passed Proposition 36 reforming the so-called “Three Strikes Act,” which had previously imposed a life-sentence on repeat offenders of even non-violent crimes, thousands of inmates became eligible for release. However, without adequate legal support or information, many stay behind bars.
The Three Strikes Justice Center works with inmates to provide affordable legal representation to inmates who may qualify for release under Prop 36. A video created by Kink.com shows one inmate named Charles Lucas had left a life-sentence, his legal aid paid in large part for by contributions from Kink-hosted fundraisers.
“When you put someone away for non violent possession, that person is not necessarily a threat to society, they were put away and they could be support to their family. What you’re often doing is perpetuating the cycle of violence, it’s not for anybody good,” said Acworth.
This is the third and largest event Kink has hosted for the Three Strikes Justice Center. Acworth hopes to do more in the future, even though the Armory as we know it today, a large event space and production studio for BDSM pornography, may be a slightly different place in the coming months. Kink has filed permits to rezone much of the building for office use.
Kink has been lobbying against various work place safety regulations that, if passed, Acworth says the company will have to move its production facilities out of California.
“If we have to move, we’ll maintain ownership of building,” said Acworth. “But the best use of the tower would be to rent out offices. That income would let me upkeep building, and events space.”
Acworth says that if the porn production studios do move, the building’s large event space will remain. For now, and specifically this weekend, Kink will party for a cause.
Tickets for Cinco de Kinko are $40. Things get going at 8pm at the Armory. More tickets and details here.
Kink’s video of Charles Lucas, an inmate released with the assistance of the Three Strikes Justice Center: