Kink in the clink: British bondage king faces cocaine charge in San Francisco

 

He has made a fortune from indulging people’s most extreme sexual fantasies, but now Peter Acworth, the British chief executive of the San Francisco-based bondage porn website Kink.com, has been brought low by a disappointingly workaday vice.

The 42-year-old, whose BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) empire is the subject of a new documentary produced by the actor James Franco, was arrested earlier this month by San Francisco police, taken to jail and charged with cocaine possession. The circumstances of his arrest, however, were somewhat more bizarre than the crime itself.

On 1 February, police were called to Kink’s headquarters after a member of the public reported having seen a video online of men firing guns in the fetish firm’s film studio. Acworth purchased the 200,000sq-ft former State Armoury and Arsenal, in the Mission District of San Francisco, in 2006; he has since converted it into a $14.5m (£9.2m) office and porn production house. San Francisco Police Department spokesman Albie Esperaza told Gawker that officers responding to the call “located an indoor shooting range” in the building. They found no evidence to charge Mr Acworth with any firearms-related crimes, but arrested him for allegedly possessing $60 worth of a controlled substance for personal use. Another man was also charged with delaying arrest.

In a statement, Acworth said: “I am proud of what we do at Kink.com.... While this current attention is regrettable, we will continue our endeavours to be positive contributors to the neighbourhood and city of San Francisco.” Writing in the Huffington Post last month, Acworth said: “For me, porn has never been just a business – it’s about providing access for hundreds of thousands of people like me whose fantasies live outside the bounds of conventional sexuality.”

The son of a sculptor and a former Jesuit priest, the Kink chief executive grew up in Derbyshire, he says, with “an intense desire to be tied up... as a young child I remember getting turned on by cowboy and Indian movies where someone was being restrained”.

In 1997, while studying for a PhD in Finance at Columbia University in New York, he started his first porn company in his dorm room. He moved to San Francisco a year later. Kink now employs 130 people, and claims to be the world’s largest producer of BDSM pornography. A glance at its online front page reveals the names for some of the fetish categories to which it caters: Hogtied; Everything Butt; Men in Pain; 3D Kink; and so on. Despite its brutal content, the site is fastidious about safety and operates under a strict condom-only policy for its performers.

San Francisco enjoys a reputation for tolerance, but the news that the armoury would be occupied by a fetish porn producer did not go down well with all of its neighbours. Acworth, though, prides himself on his company’s openness, offering public tours of its headquarters and sexual-education workshops. In September 2012 he opened a cocktail lounge, the armoury Club, across the road from the studio.

Franco’s documentary, Kink, is a behind-the-scenes look at the website’s operations. Directed by Christina Voros, it had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Acworth’s lawyer, Michael Stepanian, said: “This is a business that Peter has run for over 15 years without incident. There were no gun charges at all. This charge amounts to $60 worth. It will be handled as quickly and expeditiously as possible.”

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