Open Letter in response to Pride Party

Dear Readers,

I am responding to the open letter posted recently in which objections are raised about the theme of the upcoming Pride party at the historic Armory. I write to you as the owner of the Armory, Kink.com, and as a one third partner in the event itself.

Firstly, let me say that I feel empathy for those who are offended. I have enormous respect for the battles that are being fought against incarceration and the statistics raised in your letter appaul me, as they should any reasonable person. I am someone who has long-since been deeply troubled by the minimum sentencing rules and the war on drugs that were started under the Reagan Administration.

I am proud to have a diverse staff and to support the LGBTQ community. If you were to visit The Armory and mingle with kink’s employee base, you would find that the LGBTQ communities are strongly represented and cherished at the core of our organization. The first thing I did when I purchased the Armory was fly the Pride Flag. We celebrate the LGBTQ community by flying their flags throughout the year.

I am at the same time, however, someone who believes in freedom of expression. I believe that my kink should be OK. I believe that if a group wants to organize a particular kind of party, they should be free to do so without shame. The purpose of this event is a celebration. It was certainly never intended to ‘trivialize incarceration’ nor ‘normalize oppression’, and I do not believe that a fantasy party could ever trivialize or normalize events in the larger world. I ask you to also consider the fact that sexual fantasy and BDSM have long been a tool used by those who have experienced real life trauma and oppression – including many members of the LGBTQ community – to reclaim the imagery and language of their experiences and alter the actual meanings of those words and images. Sexual fantasies may be catalyzed by real life events, but in no way do those fantasies represent or contain the same meaning as non-consensual, non-sexual real life power dynamics. In BDSM play, though players negotiate and consent to roles such as top and bottom, dominant and submissive – though they may request to be spanked, flogged, or shackled – this should in no way be interpreted as an actual loss of power on the part of the submissive or a gaining of power on the part of the dominant. Though players may wear a uniform or use language that is traditionally representative of cultural authority, they do so with the understanding that this play queers that representation and alters its meaning. The wearing of uniforms and the use of the tools of authority as sexual props has long been a means through which some members of the queer community have protested and reclaimed the symbols of oppression. I ask you to consider the idea that the use of the prison industrial complex as a party theme does not trivialize the experiences of the oppressed, but trivializes the assumed authority of the oppressor.

Having said that, the extent to which some groups find this theme offensive because the party is happening during the San Francisco Pride weekend has given me cause to reflect. I realize that Pride is both a celebration of LGBTQ identities and historically a time when serious issues that affect queer communities are highlighted. Had I thought that a prison fantasy party would detract from the very serious issue of the prison industrial complex in this country, I would have insisted on another theme. With the party just over two weeks away, it is not possible for us to change the theme, as we are contractually bound to WE, whose show we purchased and cannot change. Quite literally, the costumes, decor, backdrops etc, are already allocated and en route to The Armory.

We can, however, revamp the website and marketing materials to minimize the emphasis on prison language, to highlight the camp and fantasy aspects of this event and to raise awareness of the real life incarceration issues that we all find so troubling. As a 33% owner in the event, I am able to sway the course of the event to an extent, and I promise to do all I can so that Pride participants can both celebrate their sexual identities and make strides toward fighting the real life issues faced by LGBTQ people worldwide.

Yours truly,

Peter Acworth

Update 12th June. The person able to change the website is in Tel-Aviv hosting another WE party. The prideatthearmory.com assets are at his home in NYC. He will update with new copy as soon as he returns to NYC this coming Tuesday.

5 thoughts on “Open Letter in response to Pride Party

  1. Brian

    Oh, shut up, Peter. As a gay man, I find you and your porn company offensive. Women performing lesbian acts for the benefit of straight men – yeah, how pro-GLBT is that? Take your demeaning trade out of California. It’s my view that this type of porn makes a mockery of the GLBT rights struggle. Take your disgusting lesbians with you.

    Reply
  2. Hasan-Can Arat

    Dear Mr. Acworth,
    As someone who was disturbed and offended by the party and its flyer, thank you for this respectful response. On the one hand, I appreciate you taking the high road by appealing to our higher sensibilities, as opposed to taking the low road of villainizing people fighting for a cause which you seem to agree is worthy. I recognize that, and thank you for that.
    However, I don’t feel that your response has addressed the crux of the issue. The open letter quite clearly stated: “We are not interested in yucking anyone’s yum or shaming anyone who has fantasies or fetishes about ideas of this real-life violence…We are interested in public space and party themes that get us closer to liberation from systemic and administrative violence and do not recreate a culture that normalizes or continues our oppression.” Thus, I don’t think that an explaination of the value of kink and fantasy is appropriate here. In addition, I think you might be overestimating the healing or revolutionary potential of this particular celebration of fantasy. The wording of the flyer certainly did not communicate that potential or even address that potential in the slightest.
    While your apology seems sincere, and I, personally, honor and appreciate it, I fail to see how cancelling the party would present anything more than a minor inconvenience given the size and scope of your company. Parties get cancelled all the time, and I have seen events get cancelled for reasons ranging from bereavement to inclement weather. People grumble, but they move on…there is no shortage of parties this weekend. If this party goes on as planned, it will be a permanent stain on the reputation of the Armory and Kink.com which few San Franciscans will forget. If you cancel it, however, it will send a powerful message to other people with your level of influence, and have a profound impact on SF’s Queer community, which will also not be forgotten.
    I am confident that people’s disappointment over a cancellation will pale in comparison to the injury this event will cause to the community if it takes place tonight.
    Respectfully,
    Hasan-Can Arat

    Reply
    1. Peter Acworth Post author

      Thanks for the respectful note, Arat.

      We will be releasing a video shortly that gives a fuller response to the various news items and this may help.

      However, I do want to quickly say that cancelling a party of this magnitude would have been an enormous ordeal. Aside from the fact that there were/are three distinct owners who would have had to agree on such a cancellation, let’s not forget that the event itself was well attended and the reports are that patrons felt it was the best pride party they’d been to in years. It would have been an enormous shame to deny these patrons the chance to celebrate their Pride at this party by pulling it at the last minute.

      I do also want to point out that the ‘love’ aspect of this party has been overlooked. Had you come inside, that is all you would have felt.

      Thanks again
      Peter

      Reply
  3. C. TQD

    If you really care about these issues – donate the profits or a large chunk of them made from the event to organizations focused on helping queer, transgender, and people of color incarcerated by the inhumane prison system. Words are meaningless without action – especially when used to attempt to justify something unfair.

    Reply
  4. Burt Lancaster

    Moving to Vegas, now that is more like it Pete! Your chicken shit crowing about rubbers in Cali was pointless.

    Pete now = a business man

    I hope Lake Mead does not dry after you move all your shit to that desert hellhole.

    Reply

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