Kink tour
August 1, 2012 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Laughing Squid takes a tour of the San Francisco Armory, headquarters of

Don't miss the bulk lube, or the pandas.
posted by latkes (22 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

Bulk lube

posted by Artw at 11:24 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

That's a lot of lube!

I lived about half a block from the armory just before bought it. I always thought it had some greater purpose after being abandoned for so long (besides the skateboarders on its steps and the occasional rock climber scaling its walls). So much underused real estate in San Francisco needed a greater mission. I had no idea of the extent of their sites and infrastructure, but had heard great things about their open houses and tours. I'd love to check one out at some point.

Maybe we can ask for a special MeFi tour? Meetup? Anyone?
posted by bendy at 11:52 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why does an internet pron site need an historic 200,000 square foot reproduction of a Moorish castle?

And how can they afford such a ting>

But mostly, why?

Actual replica dungeon aside.
posted by Mezentian at 12:08 AM on August 2, 2012

Better bought the armoury than someone like zynga…
posted by schwa at 12:20 AM on August 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Having googled "Ultimate Surrender" (and, gosh, is it ever NSFW if you do), I wonder if they sell tickets for it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:43 AM on August 2, 2012

The story here is that the beautiful old Armory in the Mission sat empty from 1978 to 2007, almost thirty years, while neighborhood activists blocked every proposed use for the building. Developers wanted to buy it for housing, for restaurants, hotels, mixed use commercial, etc but it was impossible to get any consensus in San Francisco's unique mix of massive bureaucracy and social activism.

Then slid in with a quick purchase for $14.5M. They figured out they didn't really need any city approval to film porn there. No big building permits, no change of zoning, nothing anyone could do to stop them. And well meaning leftists are confused; it's porn, and S&M porn at that, but then it's gay friendly and SF is sex positive and OMG should I be outraged or pleased? Here's an NYTimes story about the purchase, and the SFChron. apparently does frequent tours. Would be a great SF meetup.
posted by Nelson at 5:44 AM on August 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

I've come across many videos by, er, accident on the web. I assumed that the castle thing in the intro was just a stock footage shot for mood. I was flabbergasted to find out it was actually their private location.

The videos are very, very good. Obviously YMMV, based on your particular tastes, but the production levels are very high. They also regularly sit down for a casual interview with the participants after the scene, and it's very clear that everyone involved is honestly enjoying themselves.
posted by CaseyB at 5:55 AM on August 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seeing this behind-the-scenes stuff really takes the magic out of it.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:12 AM on August 2, 2012

no change of zoning

Actually it was George Lucas who got the Armory zoned as a film studio so he could film some of the FX shots for Star Wars there.

They also regularly sit down for a casual interview with the participants after the scene

There is a reason for that. The US government got Insex to shut down by hounding their bankers with the PATRIOT act claiming that porn was funding terrorism. The core of Kink's business model is that they negotiated terms with their credit card processors under which those banks would take their business. The exit interviews, showing that the actors were not actually harmed, are part of that agreement.

This is also why Kink seems to be one of only a few players in the online S&M porn market lately, as opposed to the situation ca. 2000 where there seemed to be hundreds of small outfits. Smaller outfits don't have the clout to engage in such negotiations, so a lot of them have either joined Kink or gone on to other things.
posted by localroger at 6:16 AM on August 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I live in S.F., am involved in the local BDSM scene, and I've done the Armory tour before, as I was hosting a friend who was visiting town for Folsom Street Fair weekend, and they wanted to see the place. All I can say is that it's a live tour of a large, active porn production facility. And yes, they do use a surprising amount of the vast space available to them. They also have a huge area that they are renovating, and making available to local nonprofits. They've been great neighbors to the community, from what I hear.

All I can say is that these pictures don't really do the experience justice. It was pretty stunning/lustworthy to see their prop rooms for BDSM equipment. Apparently, Steve Jobs felt the same way when he visited...

There are events that you can attend there, if you're in the know. You can be part of the audience for their wrestling events geared towards both women-on-women and men-on-men, for example. (And no, I don't believe that they sell tickets for Ultimate Surrender. Rather, I believe they are free, if you request them. If you attend the tour, chances are you will hear about how to be a member of a live audience.

If you're fairly attractive and public play is your thing, you might also be invited to The Upper Floor, which is hosted by Stefanos, who emcees events at The Citadel and Bondage-a-Go-Go.

I know a lot of people in the local BDSM scene, as my partner and I go to events and volunteer at The Citadel every few weeks, which is the major dungeon in S.F. As such, I've met about a dozen people within the public scene who webcam for and their various sites, or take part in The Upper Floor regularly. It's actually a bit... amusing? titilating?!... to notice that someone else you know IRL is involved in the sex industry, especially when you see their work. At the same time, though, it does lead to better, higher quality porn, because the locals that hire *do* enjoy what they do most of the time.

Really though? I am a trained dungeon monitor at The Citadel, so I've seen plenty of naked / semi-naked bodies. It kind of doesn't phase me, really, as there's oftentimes more interesting, more real, more intimate things going on in the local dungeon.

My partner and I aren't exactly vanilla, nor do we spend the large sums of $$ many others do on BDSM, but being around the local BDSM scene tends to make one feel vanilla in comparison to everything else that's going on out there. It's their kink, and that's okay... just as long as they're playing safe on my watch.

I'd be lying to say that I don't find it occasionally interesting / entertaining though, because I do. Sometimes it's a bit whack-a-mole, but usually it's unboring. It beats staying home on weekend nights. watching Adult Swim...
posted by markkraft at 6:16 AM on August 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

(Actually, after reading that article, I suspect that Steve Jobs didn't actually visit... or at least didn't actually do anything like an interview there... but that's what the prop rooms for the toys look like. There are several, really, for all kinds of different props... but yeah, the toys are lustworthy.)
posted by markkraft at 6:21 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Markkraft, look at the date on that article.
posted by pharm at 6:28 AM on August 2, 2012

$14.5 million purchase of the SF Armory Building

Tangible evidence that the conservative anti-porn lobby lost the battle on reducing and/or eliminating porn in the U.S.
posted by incandissonance at 6:30 AM on August 2, 2012

$14.5 million for a 200,000 square foot bulding works out to $72 per square foot, not counting the considerable value of the real estate it's sitting on. You cannot get an ordinary bungalow built on your own land for $72 per square foot, much less a massively constructed fantasy castle.
posted by localroger at 8:08 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I want to know is how much they spent on all their props. I mean, I'm sure they get the best deals that there are plus tons of promos and gifts and such, but seriously quality BDSM gear is expensive and they have just a seemingly inexhaustible supply of elaborate, Grade-A custom equipment just coming out of their ears. I would be in no way surprised to hear that the investment they've made in gear (to say nothing of consumables like the abovementioned barrels o' lube) comes to more than the $14.5 million they spent on the location. is pretty amazing. They have an incredible location, some really excellent doms on staff, and probably the finest working collection of paraphernalia in the world. And of course the productions they put out are very high quality, often very intense, and are made according to scrupulously-maintained standards of ethical practice. It's really an impressive operation and I'm honestly kind of jealous.
posted by Scientist at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2012

The subterranean floor of the Armory is one of the few places where one can see Mission Creek.
posted by obloquy at 8:46 AM on August 2, 2012

Bulk lube


Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed...
posted by homunculus at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2012

The total pornification of everything continues apace...
posted by colie at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

And now home to the Anarchist Book Fair, too.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:32 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love how much it looks like the b-picture lot of an old Hollywood studio---neatly organized assortments of props destined for re-use in many similar scenarios.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scientist: "What I want to know is how much they spent on all their props."

I was under the impression that most of them were built/made in-house, anyone know if this is correct? In the past I've had clients give me pictures from sites as guides for commission work. If I'm ever in the area I'd love to take the tour.
posted by the_artificer at 3:54 AM on August 3, 2012

the_artificer: I was under the impression that most of them were built/made in-house, anyone know if this is correct?

Yes. (I know someone who has worked for them for over a decade.) was originally b/c the owner was particularly interested in rope bondage. Their earliest sites were - let me think back, I know FuckingMachines was one and also WiredPussy - and so that stuff was a lot of custom, in-house equipment because the (paying audience) draw was that there was nothing else like it.

Back then (see, that's only ten years ago, think how much the intarweb & the porn industry has evolved) it was explained to me that with Bush just in as president there was concern there would be pornography crackdowns; BDSM porn was already an easy target since the fetish stuff was considered so deviant/"likely abusive", and then pay-porn websites were this new frontier that had been operating openly though relatively cautiously (with a lot of cheap "gonzo" content) and fairly under-the-radar on the whole in the Clinton years because the web wasn't really a mainstream "thing" yet that society in general paid attention to. So at first the company flat-out avoided combining PIV with BDSM depictions (no sex with people who were tied up particularly, no male doms having sex with female subs, these were things that had gotten other companies in trouble). But in order to get people to pay for their porn - since it didn't depict PIV - they had to show stuff people couldn't get elsewhere: the elaborate bondage, the "fucking machines" (showing penetration from a machine was okay), the "wired" stuff, so that was all custom-built in-house because again it had to be something new and exciting, something inventive. The gay/lesbian niche as well - they did lesbian stuff because then you don't have the PIV issue; they mostly had female doms (with both male and female subs) because female pros don't have sex with male subs, and that societal consideration of BDSM depictions as "likely abusive" back then weren't triggered nearly so much with female doms (and male subs). Hogtied itself had did have male doms and that was IIRC about tying up women and making them orgasm (the high focus on the female sub b/c again less likely to be considered "abusive") so there would be various stimulation pain/pleasurewise (flogging, nipple stimulation, vibes, and I think oral) but there was no vaginal/anal penetration except by implement.

So those were the boundaries of the site expansions when it started out - new themes trying to be "hardcore" enough without showing PIV, so trying to hit niches that were underserved with a higher quality of product & the elaborate sets and props and tools you didn't see on other sites were a big part of that. They were also really big on covering their asses w/r/t consent issues and such so they did a lot of documentation to stay on the up-and-up (b/c as BDSM porn purveyors they were a more likely target to get shut down): so their actors were mostly people in the scene and openly living the lifestyle - they had a bunch of long-term hires and they were transparent about their hiring process and their benefits, their pay scale, the actors chose what they were willing to do and then the company would build a scene around the actor's boundaries; they did the video interviews to show everyone was happy and consenting; that sort of thing. It's only been fairly recently (in the past six years?) that they (initially cautiously) moved to what they offer now - and that reflects a societal change in the general perception of porn/BDSM/the web/etc., I'm sure.
posted by flex at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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