Yesterday at The Rumpus, Stephen Elliott gave us a rundown of the ongoing battle between SF Weekly's Matt Smith and, a San Francisco fetish company which received a very modest amount of money for job training. Smith's article resulted in being kicked out of the state program, and the San Francisco BDSM community felt his lead article for the Weekly was little more than a gloating anti-porn screed.

Because they felt this way, they did what most marginalized communities do in such a situation--they struck back with public action. They asked for a public apology, for the term "torture porn" not to be used in reference to their community, for the story to be removed and called for a boycott of SF Weekly's advertising until this happens, and the Weekly depends heavily on adult entertainment ads for income. What does Smith call this?


SF Weekly's current lead news column has apparently incited a mass protest movement among pornographers opposed to freedom of the press. Ironically, in light of recent national headlines, this anti-free-speech sensibility seems to coincide with a taste for depictions of CIA-style sexualized torture.
Let me explain something to you, Matt, since it seems you didn't get it in day one of Journalism School--freedom of the press is a term that only references government interference in the ability of the press to report. Prior restraint, that sort of thing. Having pissed-off members of a community boycott your paper because they feel you misrepresented them does not constitute an opposition to freedom of the press, and I suspect that if Thomas Jefferson heard your argument, he would mourn the educational system that produced such a profound misunderstanding of his notions of a free press.

Furthermore, your comparison of consensual acts in the BDSM community to "CIA-style sexualized torture" is incredibly offensive, and I'm not even a member of the scene. You're having the same problem that the defenders of the CIA torture program--people like Dick and Liz Cheney, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, as well as other former members of the Bush administration--are having in this debate, which is you're conflating the torture of captives who have absolutely no control over their situations with the willing acts of consenting adults. It's not quite as stupid a comparison as RedState blogger Lords86's comparison of being on the high school swim team to being waterboarded every day for three years, but it's getting there. The people who work for Kink are not being coerced, economically or otherwise, but when you call what they do "CIA-style sexualized torture," you remove their autonomy.

I don't blame the BDSM-community for getting in your grill for this article, but your response has been incredibly unprofessional. Instead of addressing their concerns, you decided to spout off in an antagonistic way, and instead of allowing the community to defend itself against these charges, you have acted dismissively. That's not responsible journalism.

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