This article originally appeared on VICE en Español.
The day before the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, Mr MCuckold and his wife Miau Miau – their aliases in the swinging scene – asked for their regular room at Motel V in Mexico City, ready for a night of debauchery.
COVID-19 had completely changed the pair’s habits, with their favourite swingers club, Coliseum, having to temporarily shut its doors.
“At first, we did nothing – we stayed at home,” says Mr MCuckold. But after a few months, the two found a solution. They now meet up in love hotels throughout the city with “three trusted friends”, the only people they currently have sex with, to fulfil their fantasies as safely as possible.
According to Antonio*, a manager at a love hotel chain called Picasso Motel, “love hotels emerged [in Mexico] ten years ago”, coinciding with the boom in “boutique hotels servicing the tourism sector”. Before then, the city did have meeting spots for canoodling couples, but they were more in line with the tawdry types of establishments we tend to associate with love hotels.
Today, “whoever wants to own a love hotel must invest in the architecture and decor of the building”, says Aidee Iribe, founder of the erotic platform Let's Kinky. As she explained, love hotels in their modern form originated in Osaka, Japan in the 1960s. They became so popular that even the then-president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, opened one.
However, Iribe claims Japanese love hotels “can’t hold a candle to Mexico’s”, as they are generally tiny, and “don’t have swimming pools or the same level of glamour”.
“Mexico City has the highest number of love hotels in the world,” says Iribe – although admittedly says this statement is based on “her own research”. It’s also hard to draw a line between a normal hotel and a love hotel, given that the latter is an ill-defined category.
Besides managing her online platform, Iribe also put together Hoteles Kinky (Kinky Hotels), a guide listing 100 establishments it has designated as “safe places to fuck”. That means it doesn’t include “motels where you don't know if you’re going to make it out alive, or where they might drug you and steal your kidney or film you and sell it as homemade porn”, Iribe helpfully clarifies.
The aim of the guide is to help people choose their room according to their budget and preferences – BDSM, swingers, LGBTQ+ friendly and more. The most expensive suites, coming in at around €290 (£249) a night, are as large as 200 square metres, have private pools, jacuzzis, saunas and “erotic furniture” like tantra chairs, swings and vibrating beds.
Although there’s a popular belief that these sorts of establishments are typically dirty, the general consensus among clients is that they’re actually pretty clean due to their high turnover.
“As soon as a couple leaves the room, an army of maids goes in and divides up the tasks,” says Elisa*, a young Mexico City native who, for a time, worked as a digital marketing manager for one of Picasso Motels’ venues. “In 30 minutes, they have the room ready for a new couple.”
But not all love hotel clients are interested in sex. As luxurious as they may be, love hotel rooms are usually cheaper than regular tourist hotels – sometimes by up to 70 percent, says Iribe.
“Although we can’t know what goes on inside the rooms, we have been seeing more and more groups renting the rooms with pools to have a good time, cool off and drink with their friends,” says Antonio from the Picasso Motel chain. Besides having a private swimming pool and a jacuzzi, their most expensive suite includes a bar, a pool table, a DJ area and a lounge, and can host up to 20 people.
“Recently, an acquaintance who has just become a mother told me that seven days after giving birth, she left her baby with her in-laws and went to a love hotel with her husband,” says Iribe. "There, she did what she hadn’t done in days – sleep for six hours straight!"
Even though Mexico City is a love hotel hotspot, the industry is still largely stigmatised in the eyes of the general public. “The sector has been historically marginalised,” says Iribe. “People think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to a place where people made love.’ As if the people who stay in regular hotels don’t have sex there.”
Scroll down to see more pictures from the Kinky Hotels guide:
*Surnames omitted for privacy reasons as requested by the interviewees.