You may recall a couple weeks back there was some hubbub on the gay webs over a prison-themed circuit party for gay men that's happening on the Saturday of Pride weekend at the Kink.com Armory. It's the first time the Armory has hosted a gay event of this scale, and it's still happening, despite these small protests over the inappropriateness of the theme (for reasons of LGBT incarceration rates, and humorlessness).
Tickets are now $75 for Prison of Love, and this is a circuit party, and that's the going rate for these sorts of things, attended by gay tourists from all over who have lots of disposable income and a never-ending will to remove their shirts and dance to house music.
One of the party's organizers, Entertainment Commission member Audrey Joseph, already dismissed the protest by saying, "I guess no one has ever been to Folsom, Black Party, or Southern Decadence [because they were] too busy being politically correct... I regret that you do not see the value in being a prisoner of love."
This week we get the official reaction, via open letter, from Kink.com CEO Peter Acworth, who is also participating in throwing the event.
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 proud to have a diverse staff and to support the LGBTQ community... 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. ...
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.
Score one for the language police.