Anarchists play rough: Kerfuffle over radical book fair in the porn palace

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The Armory Community Center: too sexy? Not sexy at all?

A la Lord of the Rings, San Francisco (Facebook, at least) has become an epic battleground, the clash of two radical cultures, a reinvigoration of an age-old rancor. The 18th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair is set to be held at the Kink.com Armory (a.k.a., the Armory Community Center) March 16-17. The questions being addressed: is BDSM porn radical? Is a corporate dungeon's event space the right place for the anarchists?

It would seem that some anarchists don't want to hawk their anti-capitalist zines and lovingly-silkscreened patches, or talk activist history in a place owned by a company who pays women to be submersed in water and gang-banged for the sexual pleasure of others. Feminist pioneer Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has canceled her scheduled anti-colonist talk, calling the choice of venue unecessarily controversial.

Poster design by Hugh D'Andrade

"I feel good about the venue,” said Book Fair planning committee member Jen Angel, who called me to explain how the decision to hold the Fair at the Armory was reached. To retain the previous venue at Golden Gate Park's Hall of Flowers, Angel told me that her group would have had to hire park rangers and pay a rental fee beyond its means. Venues the size and price of the Armory Community Center, she said, are rare in San Francisco.

She cited the Armory Community Center's affordability and accessibility (the venue is two blocks from the 16th Street BART station) in the committee's eventual decision to move, which was announced in a blog post on the Book Fair website in August of last year and included in all subsequent literature released by the Fair. 

The Book Fair would not be the first to utilize the massive "Drill Court" hanger -- last August SF Beautiful, hardly a radical organization, held its awards ceremony there and the space had been rented out once before, Kink.com staff told me, years ago. 

Dunbar-Ortiz – well-known for her organizing work beginning in the 1960s, when she split from groups like Weather Underground and Students for a Democratic Society to form separatist feminist group Cell 16, eventually going on to teach in the Cal Hayward Native Studies program, help found the school's Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies degrees, and become a Native activist – said she only became aware of the venue change last week, when she sent a public letter to the organizers explaining that she would no longer be appearing at the Fair.

"I would not in my wildest imagination have thought that anything remotely related to my political circles would take place in that corporate dungeon, just as I wouldn't imagine that it would take place, say at Bank of America headquarters at the right price," Dunbar-Ortiz wrote in her February 6 public letter, addressed to the Book Fair organizers [full text below].

She said her planned talk, which was to have commemorated the anniversary of Wounded Knee, was a particularly inappropriate choice for the venue. "I am equally embarrassed as a feminist at a time when violence against women and rape culture are epidemic," she continued, ending with a call to change the Book Fair venue.

Angel says when Dunbar-Ortiz pulled out, her letter was sent to every Fair vendor and speaker so that all were appraised of the situation. None of them have canceled their appearance, she says, though the Fair's event wall is marked with attendees who've announced they will not be entering the Armory to attend.

There is nothing overtly sexual about Kink's event space, which has a separate entrance from the porn company's front doors. Angel confirms that porn and erotica has been sold at previous Book Fairs, although the organization doesn't monitor what vendors have at their tables.

After Dunbar-Ortiz published her letter, the Book Fair's event page blew up with debate, both civilized and not. There was nearly 800 comments on it at the time this post was published. Angel said debate over the venue -- outside the bounds of Facebook -- has been minimal. 

For many in the San Francisco kink community, the anti-BDSM stance of Dunbar-Ortiz and other anarchists who've announced they won't be attending shows a lack of education about BDSM and sex work.

Others take issue with Kink.com as a company, but say the debate over "torture porn" on the page is missing the point.

"We've spent days arguing with each other about whether or not porn and prostitution should be decriminalized," wrote local alt-porn performer Kitty Stryker. "The heat has been effectively removed from Kink.com entirely. All too often that suits capitalism and the patriarchy just fine." Stryker has long been vocal against the company's hiring and other labor practices. (See local porn performer Maggie Mayhem's reflection on the company for a good first-person account of these failings.)

Angel says that the Book Fair – which has responded to concerns about the venue in a statement on its website – will be sponsoring a discussion on March 16 (the Saturday night of the weekend the fair is held) at an as-yet undetermined location, not at the Armory. For those interested in learning more about sex-related activism, there will be a panel on the history of sex worker organizing, and workshops on preventing assault within the anarchist community and on queering the anarchist model, all at the Book Fair itself.

We here at the Guardian are fans – legitimate and significant critiques of the company's practices notwithstanding – of the work Kink has done to bring alternative sexuality into the spotlight.

More importantly, we've heard the "BDSM creates violence" arguments and we're just not buying it. Consensually, safely, sexily-created BDSM subverts societally-accepted power differentials. And we're stoked that a porn company has a community space, that's the kind of thing we like.

So we're bummed to see this business – yes, it's a for-profit business, at odds with some aspects of anarchist thought. But as some have pointed out, do you know the shady dealings our public institutions are getting into these days, should the Book Fair be moved to a university? – pilloried by activists in what may be their first introduction to BDSM, and the role that Kink.com plays in the SF sex-positive community.

If anything, the mess-of-an-Internet has highlighted the need for more education surrounding BDSM feminism. Surely there are some rad dominatrixes, slaves, daddies, ponies, sluts, pervs who'd be happy to provide just that -- in fact, Kink representatives told us they are in talks with the anarchists to provide seminars on power dynamics. Bookfair organizers could have anticipated this necessity.

This could have been a big, sexy learning opportunity. It still can be.

Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair

March 16-17, 10am-6pm, free

Armory Community Center

1800 Mission, SF

bayareaanarchistbookfair.wordpress.com


The text of Dunbar-Ortiz's letter follows: 

UPDATE: The original letter, a reader has informed us, contained a link to this article by Gail Dines in Counterpunch calling out James Franco's "feel-good torture porn." What follows is the version that Dunbar sent us yesterday at our request.

Dear sister and fellow workers, 

I received a message this morning informing me that the 2013 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair will be held at the Armory, corporate headquarters of Kink.com. 

I did not know about the arrangement between the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair and Kink.com until now. I'm sure that is my fault as I see it is posted on the Book Fair website as well as the Facebook page, now that I look there to find it. However, I would not in my wildest imagination have thought that anything remotely related to my political circles would take place in that corporate dungeon, just as I wouldn't imagine that it would take place, say at Bank of America headquarters at the right price.

Clearly, Kink.com had a problem from the beginning with its "image" in the family friendly San Francisco Mission District neighborhood and has been working hard during the six years since it paid $14.5 million to buy the Armory, without success--it is shunned like the plague. But what a boon to get the stamp of approval from the anarchist community, in the wake of their courageous  leadership role in the Occupy movement!  What a dishonor to our Wobbly ancestors (in my case my own grandfather).

The sleazy owner of Kink.com must be exposed for trying to pretend to be a respectable public venue while continuing promoting torture. 

I am particularly embarrassed and ashamed to have the 40th anniversary of Wounded Knee and Leonard Peltier--the subject matter of my talk--to be associated with Kink.com. I often consider my actions by thinking of what Leonard Peltier would do, and in this case I have no choice. I have apologies to make to people to whom I am responsible for this error on my part in not having been aware of the venue. 

I am equally embarrassed as a feminist at a time when violence against women and rape culture are epidemic. 

Please immediately remove my name and the topic from the program and the website. If my name or the topic is already printed on posters they must be destroyed. I urge other speakers, panelists, vendors, and anarchists in general to object to the Book Fair being held at the Armory and consider not walking in the door, ever, while Kink.com owns it.

I call on the organizers of the event who are responsible for contracting with the pornographic industrial complex to take responsibility for this horrific choice, making very clear, with apologies, on the website and the Facebook page and to every vendor and speaker what they are getting in to, as well as to the public you are expecting to attend.  

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz

Comments

He has worked and may still be working to close the next door neighbor's, Arriba Juntos', weekly food pantry. And when the owner of a bar he liked to frequent, the Ace Cafe, refused to sell it to him, he bought the entire building and forced the bar to close, replacing it with his own.

I'm sure finding a suitable venue for the Book Fair is difficult. How about a SFUSD site, like Mission High, or Horace Mann Middle School, home of 1989's epic anarchist conference, "Without Borders"?

http://radicalarchives.org/2010/01/20/without-borders/

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:07 am

In the letter the organizers stated that they contacted pretty much every place including schools. My guess would be those spots are too small.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Rob's a good guy and had all his years of effort in building a bussiness ripped-off.

While in any debate about porn I'm definitely going to be migrating away from the side Anita Bryant is standing on, I think the main problem with woman being paid to make it is that other economic opportunities are so limited and below par.

If our economic system was more fairly evened-out, it would pay extra dividends in increased justice.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:39 am

On this I agree with you.

Not only is he an ass for his schemes, but he douchified the bar up.

Ace was no great shakes, but look at it now, what a douchy operation. Spend a bucket of cash making a bar suck on ice? Whatever interior design deep thinker came up with that neo-asshole look deserves an award.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

Funny that matlock has such a skewed reality.

Did Eddie say the new bar was going to close? No.

ESP fail. Again.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 1:24 am
Posted by matlock on Feb. 16, 2013 @ 9:05 am

Good thing we opposed converting the Armory to housing some years back.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:24 am

ha ha

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

I need a new Che Guevara T-shirt. My old one became too faded from my near-constant tears of injustice. I'll steal it of course. Fight the power.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:46 am

Thank you for writing this, there is one point I think you missed maybe on purpose due to it being sort of besides the main point.

A vast majority of the people who are extremely vocal in their outrage are NOT anarchists. And what I mean by that is they identify as some other crappy left wing ideology or at the very least at times, opposed to anarchists. As anarchism has become much more widespread it is in the interest of many to attack it. Albeit in this case, very poorly.

This creates a bad situation for the anarchists who have legit concerns, which I think is highlighted in the article "missing the point."

The fact that the actual issue could make this bookfair interesting, exciting and a learning experience for a ton of people will hopefully not be overshadowed by those attacking it.

Feel free to surf over to the Facebook page and take a look at the garbage being posted, you have one person calling everyone racist and sexist. Dunbar-Ortiz thread was deleted by herself due to that horrendous article she linked to. These people are not anarchists, and a ton of the feminist and privilege critique that is coming from us lately has been directly counter to many of these folks points. The person calling everyone racist and sexist stated they were not an anarchist but "had defended the black bloc before," which is a fairly silly excuse.

Just some FYI's.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:59 am

is more like it, Betty.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Betty? Is that who you think I am? I am a man, who does not go by "Betty" and I do not live in California. FYI.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:29 am

refused to sell me a t-shirt off the wall when they were out of stock.

I've never had another store refuse to sell me a displayed item because it would simply be "too much bother" to pin a replacement up when (and if) they are restocked -- and I don't expect I ever will.

Anarchist bookstore people, listen: I would have already worn-out that shirt and bought two more in the meantime except I'm just not going to make a special trip there after that experience.

And already got a decent Chomsky collection out of that place.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:33 am

Enough with your commodity fetishism already!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

very good.

The RCP cries.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

"Enough with your commodity fetishism already!"

So you're giving up your precious SF condo, Marcos?

Or is that not commodity fetishism?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

Clearly you went to school in the 1990s long after Prop 13 began to annually decimate California's once vaunted educational system.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 8:13 am

once again provided a opening for an attack on himself by the right.

Notice a pattern, marcos?

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 8:51 am

Neither left nor right but forward.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:06 am

..or backward.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:26 am

More typically bent over, or on his knees - in my experience

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 10:45 am

So Hightower's been out of office for two decades now and Marxism is in a stinky pool in the corner. How's that leftism working out for you?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:48 am

Really, First quoting Jim Goad -- a fellow who's made an effort trying to show that homosexuality is indeed a lifestyle choice -- and now lampooning Jim Hightower. Jim Hightower!

What exactly *is* your disagreement with Jim? Is he too mainstream for you?

http://www.jimhightower.com/jim

You act the clown whenever you seek to establish your "centrist" creds marc.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 10:52 am

What binary bird brain of yours could you assume that neither left nor right would mean center?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 4:50 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

The left is all but reduced to attacking the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair for not moving the PC left agenda, instead of moving its own left agenda.

Fucking reptilian heat thieves.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:50 am

but I didn't attack the anarchists for renting from the pornographers. I "attacked" *you* for parroting right wing nonsense about Andrea Dworkin.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 10:24 am

The radical, often sectarian, left cannot generate its own political energy anymore. For the past 25 years it has relied upon entrism into the political energies raised by other, independent radicals, mostly anarchists. That inability to raise your own energy and the hijacking of energies raised by others is the game plan of the reptile, stealing heat to stay in the game because they cannot generate their own heat.

And their dogma is growing scaly, tail been pulled off and the new one that is growing back is just not right.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 10:46 am

Since when were you a Kadima supporter, marcos?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

Since Sharon blew the hemorrhagic stroke.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

But you really shouldn't get so hung up on gender. This is the SFBG after all.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:39 am

The Ace Cafe was in a space that had lain fallow for 15 years. In the mid 2000s, it was opened as a hipster biker bar. A few years ago, Acworth purchased the building and redid it for a kink bar.

The Ace Cafe was hardly an established working class Mission institution that got swept up by the brooms of gentrification.

As for the Armory, it is a good North Mission neighbor because kink has invested significant sums of money to spruce up the exteriors including lighting for the sidewalks and the hub of activity there provides safety through 'eyes on the street.'

There is no torture going on at the Armory. The people in front of the camera are actors who are acting to make porn viewers think that what the viewers want to see is going on is actually going on.

We will continue to see BD/SM so long as there is difficult toilet training.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 11:39 am

firefox dropped my name again.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

unneccessarily critical of something posted by your putative allies on this forum?

I don't think Eddie was claiming that the Ace had any special status as a "workingman's" bar -- which I'd suppose would make it not the sort of place you'd frequent, by-the-way -- but rather he simply pointed out that the Kink owner used his economic might to crush a local small-time operator.

The Ace closed early last year or maybe just a bit before the end of 2011 according to my memory. *Lot's* of effort was put into fixing up and decorating the Ace and it didn't need the Kink guy's attention.

Keep up with your intelligent, informative, and honest comments marcos. :0)

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

Big capitalist fish eat little capitalist fish, waa waa.

Kink.com is a net gain for the neighborhood.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

"English" "whats his name" was a putz. He used to hang out at the old Shotwell in the mid 90's, then at 24th and Treat. If he was making a go of his bar, more power to him. Why does Kink need to fuck with his situation?

I interviewed at Kink twice, they are a porn company, I don't know of the employees noticed, they asked me all the comical "what is your biggest weakness" HR idiot questions. I was astounded. Mildly cult like sex positive people asking questions designed by HR managers and pop psychologists is bizarre. I suppose I am lucky to have not been hired, working with people dumb enough to ask these shit headed questions is likely for the best.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

what the fuck ever. burn your books and burn your porn, spread virii digitally and physically no one's losing sleep. you are all sheep consuming each other.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

true anarchists would have just occupied Civic Center Plaza or Justin Herrmann/Bradley Manning Plaza or a local park without a permit or a fee. if they pay to have the event in this venue, the they are enriching a capitalist pig who profits from pain, literally. the whole think stinks like santorum.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

true anarchists would have just occupied Civic Center Plaza or Justin Herrmann/Bradley Manning Plaza or a local park without a permit or a fee. if they pay to have the event in this venue, the they are enriching a capitalist pig who profits from pain, literally. the whole think stinks like santorum.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

NEWSFLASH: March is rainy season in San Francisco.

You can't hold this event outdoors.

The anti-porn crowd disrespects the work of the volunteer organizing committee, many women, working under difficult circumstances to find space in the most second most expensive City.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

As much as I don't care about KInk.com...

Why do so called anarchists worry about what other people are doing? If anarchism is about the freedom to live your own life, why do so-called anarchists worry so much about what other people are doing?

Posted by matlock on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

Complaints come from anti-porn radical feminists of the Andrea Dworkin school as well as remnant sectarian communists ISO, SWP who hate non-leftist radicalism. There are perhaps a few anti-porn feminist anarchists.

http://www.jimgoad.net/pdf/parfrey.pdf

Posted by marcos on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

Andrea Dworkin did not say "all sex is rape."

Although you blew it off with a bit of insouciance, I've given you ample citations to establish that fact:

http://www.sfbg.com/sexsf/2013/01/24/sandra-flukes-town-are-pro-life-cra...

You can't reasonably continue to lament the ever more rightward trend in politics *and* at the same time flip out with some reactionary memes because it maybe tickles some deep misogynist impulse within you.

Please consider your words more carefully. Helping reactionary forces sow division among the left is not useful.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 8:03 am

Here's how it goes, lilli. Radical feminism is predicated upon leftism, Marxism to be correct. If you don't buy into the class struggle, then radical feminism pretty much falls apart.

Since Marxism was infected with the CJD prion in the 1980s, it has turned all mushy headed inside. Thus, radical feminism is rooted in a philosophical tradition that cannot support itself much less anything above it.

These ideas have had 30-40 years to percolate and have yet to gain traction. They are marginal within the radical fringe, and outside of that fringe have no currency with anyone. It is time to move on.

Count me in with the het women that enjoy intercourse, I am a collaborator, according to Dworkin's logic, practically a national socialist.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 8:10 am

deprecating "class warfare"; do you see a distinction? Do you think that Repugs are correct when they claim that "the left instigates class warfare"?

As for your connection of class struggle (class warfare) with feminism, I'm not sure how you can do that except inasmuch as they both represent outside-the-box thinking and a counter to entrenched power.

One more time: Dworkin did not say "all sex is rape" -- nor did she say that women should not have or enjoy sex.

It seems as though you either didn't understand or didn't read what I posted in that earlier thread.

Dworkin's point was that the topological nature of intercourse, when analalyzed in the context of commonly held meme's with regard to privacy and status, provides validation of deeply misogynistic anti-social attitudes. By falling in with the Christian "women are property" reactionarism, you do a disservice to the values for which you elsewhere express support.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 8:44 am

No matter how many times the Marxist tries in vain to invoke "the class struggle," it becomes clearer and clearer over time that the world refuses to fit into that framework.

Andrea Dworkin likened women who enjoy penile/vaginal sex as collaborators with 'national socialism.'

If you combine threadbare Marxism with the assertion that the kind of sex most people have and enjoy is tantamount to a concentration camp, you're going to see a couple of marginalized philosophical wallflowers loitering alone, uncomfortably in the corners at the radical theory dance party.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:05 am

I don't know exactly *what* your trip is, but the vile article you posted a link for above is more of the exact same sort of reactionary crap I debunked in the earlier thread. To wit: excerpts of Dworkin are taken out of context to "prove" she said something she never said.

http://www.sfbg.com/sexsf/2013/01/24/sandra-flukes-town-are-pro-life-cra...

(Posting under my regular and consistent identifier so I'm not giving in to my impulse to elaborate pithily.)

: O |

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:26 am

Dworkinites swarmed on the book fair, opposing siting at the porn palace because they claimed that porn was prostitution and prostitution was rape, the generic Dworkin line of penis + vagina = kaboom.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

that the critics of the anarchist book faire site are saying.

Whether you actually believe it or not is immaterial.

To add verisimilitude to your claim, you call them "Dworkinites"; a meaningless term because it is based on the false claim Andrea Dworking said sex was rape.

Dworkin didn't say sex was rape. She didn't say the penis was evil. That is right wing bullshit that you parrot.

The great marcos parrots right wing shit, and references gay-hating redneck propaganda to support his position apparently because his ego is too fucking big to admit being wrong, but I'm willing to entertain other theories. Just a dick?

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

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