Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Monday, June 18, 2012

Is Porn Darling Kink.com Ripping Off Its Webcam Girls?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Maxine Holloway (holding the camera)
  • Maxine Holloway (holding the camera)
For connoisseurs of BDSM porn, San Francisco's Kink.com has built up a reputation that makes them the sadomasochistic equivalent of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Fans of the company's sites look to them not only for high-quality porn that caters to a wide variety of fetishes, but for an explicit ethical code. As cultural messages directly equating "sex work" with "trafficking" become stronger, Kink.com has established itself as the Good Guy of porn, where the models are there because they want to be and are able to stay safely within their personal limits.

These are not vague promises on Kink.com's part: On its website, there's a nine-point list of model's rights that includes the right to safewords, sanitized toys, condoms, and STD tests. An even more detailed list of rules for shooting includes strict guidelines that prohibit directors from pressuring performers to go beyond their stated limits and outlines safety measures for specific kinds of scenes. Thanks to policies like this, many in the local BDSM and fetish communities regard Kink.com as one of their own, a remarkable achievement in a town as anti-corporate as San Francisco.

But now, as a labor dispute heats up at the company's cam site, KinkLive, some people are taking a second look at that reputation. Maxine Holloway, a local artist, activist, and adult performer, is alleging that she was fired from KinkLive last month when she tried to organize her fellow performers in opposition to changes in the payment policy that would eliminate minimum payments for each shift in favor of a commission-only plan. The new plan, according to Holloway and her supporters, would amount to a drastic reduction in wages for most of KinkLive's performers.

According to Holloway, she was fired from Kink.com immediately after she started trying to get KinkLive models to sign a letter protesting the new system of payment. Peter Acworth, CEO of Kink.com, denies that she was fired at all, instead saying that she was asked to take a temporary leave. "It was only a temporary thing," Acworth says. "We asked her to take a break because her shows had turned nonprofitable. If she's no longer on the site for a while, then she comes back, maybe it'll be a different story." According to Acworth, Holloway has already been invited to perform on KinkLive at the end of June. She acknowledges the invitation, but says she received it only last week, after the situation had gone public.

"I really enjoyed my job working there," she says. "But I've seen things and heard a lot of things that make me really uncomfortable. And then, having this whole payment policy thing go down and then being let go ... illustrates the fact that they consider us to be disposable. I think it is unfortunate that they are going to publicly say that they don't treat their models that way at Kink.com, but in actuality, they do."

If Kink.com was, in fact, trying to shut Holloway up by giving her the boot, they failed miserably. The letter was ultimately delivered via the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) without individual names. It was then posted and re-posted online via Twitter, Tumblr, and sex blogs. For a few days, the headline "New Kink.com Policy Disrespects Models" seemed to have become a mantra of every pervy Twitter feed in the country. The news of Holloway's firing just gave the letter an extra signal boost.

click to enlarge Maxine Holloway
  • Maxine Holloway
Maxine Holloway

What's happening at KinkLive allegedly goes much deeper than whether Holloway was or wasn't fired, or whether or not it was done for legitimate business reasons. Holloway and three other cam models -- Coral Aorta, Wendy Fairfax, and Siren Wolf -- plan to file a class-action lawsuit representing the models against Kink.com, alleging that the new payment policy violates labor law. While reluctant to discuss the specifics of the case, the models' personal concerns range from being able to make a living wage to being able to enforce their boundaries without pressure. 

 Already, Fairfax says, policies allowing models to set and maintain personal limits are largely theoretical. "I know that when I started there, there was no discussion of boundaries. It was like, 'You have boundaries, I'm sure, and you will follow them,' and that was it. There were no examples of how to deal with pushy customers or anything like that."

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Chris Hall

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"