Jon Mooallem in the New York Times Magazine:
Peter Acworth is 36 and trim, with a pale, boyish face. He grew up in the English Midlands, the son of a sculptor and a former Jesuit priest, and came to the United States in 1996 to get a Ph.D. in finance at Columbia University. He had already worked for Baring Brothers in London and was on track to do analytical research on Wall Street. Then, after his first year, he read in a British tabloid about a fireman who sold pornographic pictures on the Internet. “He had made a quarter of a million pounds over a short period doing nothing very clever at all,” Acworth told me not long ago, pointing to the clipping framed in his office in downtown San Francisco. “So I basically just ripped off that idea.”
Acworth has since built what is arguably the country’s most successful fetish porn company, Kink.com — a fast-growing suite of 10 S-and-M and bondage-themed Web sites, each updated weekly with a new half-hour or hour video segment. Kink has 60,000 subscribers; access to each site costs about $30 a month. Acworth founded Kink’s first site, Hogtied, while still at Columbia. He purchased licensed digital photographs for content, many of which were simply old bondage-magazine spreads, torn out and scanned. Almost immediately, Hogtied made several hundred dollars a day — then, with a few ads in place, more than a thousand. In 1998, Acworth dropped out of grad school and moved to San Francisco, which he had always regarded as the world’s “fetish capital,” to run Hogtied full time. His mother worried that the lifestyle of a self-employed Web master might get lonely.