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Holy Boycott Groupon, Touring the Armory: What's All the Fuss About?

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The boycott against Groupon has nothing to do with morality. It has to do with intolerance and sex-negativity. This blog is a direct response to "Groupon's Latest Deal? Torture Porn," by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of Porn Harm and Morality. Hawkins takes a hard strike at Groupon, kink.com and the porn industry in general. My first question to Hawkins is, "Have you ever taken a tour of the Armory?" For a place she claims to know so much about, I don't believe she ever mentions a visit to the home of kink.com. Since I have been to the Armory on many occasions, including taking said tour, I thought I would clarify any misconceptions.

Hawkins stated, "Pornography's purpose is primarily the sexual exploitation of women and children for pleasure of men." The purpose of pornography is not to exploit women and children for men. In the words of the great Nina Hartley:

The most important thing about pornography is that it hosts our sexual dreams. Those dreams tell a lot about who and what we are. How we feel about ourselves, how we interact with the world, and most importantly, how we create intimacy with ourselves and others. We get to be who and what we want in our dreams. Everything is perfect in our dreams. It's smooth and nice and runs along on greased rails. Porn as fantasy is really important, because that's where we imagine our sexual selves and bring those selves out to play.

Hawkins continually refers to the degradation and exploitation of adult performers, namely women. She even goes so far as to say women who make porn and find it acceptable are simply influenced by their male predecessors. I find it insulting that Hawkins is taking the position that women who do porn are doing so because of men and have no idea what, if anything, they are doing to themselves. That statement implies that women do not know how to think for themselves, which is an insulting and degrading statement.

Since I began writing about pornography, I have interviewed several adult female performers, and they are competent, intelligent adults who happen to enjoy making pornography. Has Hawkins ever talked to an adult performer? Has she ever watched porn, or ever watched anything to do with BDSM?

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Prop/Toy Room in Armory


But let's go back to the issue of the boycott against Groupon. The Armory is a historical building that people are fascinated with. Human beings are curious about all sorts of things they find odd or interesting. Tours are offered of Hearst Castle, Winchester Mystery House, and Alcatraz, and no one bats an eyelash. The Armory is a very old building with a rich history that people are fascinated with. Add to that, it was bought by kink.com, the home of BDSM porn, and of course people are going to want to take a tour.

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The Upper Floor

Groupon is doing the right thing by taking a stand not to take the offer down. They should not be punished by offering a service that so many people are dying to take advantage of. I have been on a tour of the Armory, and let me tell you, there is nothing all that shocking about it. It is a tour filled with information on the Armory, San Francisco and BDSM porn. BDSM porn is popular for a reason: A lot of people are into BDSM. In Hawkins' attack of kink.com, she is also attacking a form of sex and sexuality she does not agree with.

There are no children at the Armory. All the models are of age. In her article, Hawkings does not have an issue with the Armory; but the article implies there is an issue with a certain kind of sex. I have been to the filming of Public Disgrace, Ultimate Surrender and many Upper Floor parties. Models are not harmed. Kink has a long list of policies and procedures to ensure the safety of their models, such as: "Follow the model's limits. It is prohibited to try to convince the model to change these limits during a scene."

"If the scene is very intense, the model must be reminded that they can safe-word at any time. If the model safe-words, the scene must stop immediately. If the model is bound, ask if they need to be released. The scene may continue at a less intense pace only if the model explicitly agrees." You can read the rest of their policies and procedures here.

This seems like a fear campaign to me, plain and simple. Hawkins is using the power of the pen and could make a lot of people who don't know anything about porn afraid. Before I became a sex-positive writer, I had preconceived notions of what BDSM was. Kink.com would not be successful if people were not interested in this topic. This article could perpetuate fear and sexual shame, and is punishing two different business entities in the process. Good for Groupon for not folding to peer pressure.

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Photo By Michael Devin


I consider myself a feminist, and I write for a feminist magazine called Whore! I am sorry that she finds it hard to believe that people, not just men, but people like porn. Porn is a candle that burns brightly for the masses, and there is a reason for that. The Armory fills a need, and they house the fantasies of a large group of people. I think it is great that they offer tours to the public! They are not the big scary menacing castle on a hill. They are a business -- a unique one, but a business just the same. Why doesn't Hawkins make a trip to the Armory, take the tour, meet some models and perhaps try to expand her mind a bit? Not all of us are built the same, and sex is different for every person.

It is perfectly acceptable for Hawkins to not like kink.com, BDSM, or porn in general, but this is America, and we are a country built on free speech. Boycotting Groupon is only perpetuating more sexual shame and repression in this country. It is also terribly insulting for Hawkins to think that Groupon needs to be the morality compass for grown adults. I am sure Hawkins is not meaning to say that we need people like her to think for all of us.

I am not trying to change anyone's mind about sex or porn, but I am saying that it should be the choice of every individual to decide how they feel about porn. It should also be the right of every individual to decide if they want to take a tour of a place where they make porn. That is what makes this country great. I think Hawkins may have forgotten the fact that we can agree to disagree.

Vanessa L. Pinto (aka Fleur De Lis SF) is a sex positive writer in San Francisco. Her main goal is to educate people on what a sex-positive community is. See more on her blog.

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