As I lay in the darkness of the blindfold, arms overhead worrying that my shoulder might pop out of its socket, I felt the cheap whip moving slowly along my stomach. That’s when it hit me: what was I so nervous about?
I’d found myself at a Brazilian love motel with my girlfriend of five months towering over me, a whip in her hand. Back where we’re from in Canada, there are hotels, motels, B&B’s and the odd hostel. Brazil has all those things, but with one addition: love motels.
I first heard about love motels—sometimes referred to as simply “motels”—when I was backpacking in Brazil five years ago, but they also exist in several countries around the world including Japan, Colombia, and Argentina. Love motels are a great place to hookup, I was told, especially if you want more privacy than a towel hanging over your hostel dorm bed can offer. For locals, they’re a way to escape having sex in your parents’ house—24.5 percent of Brazilians aged 25-34 live with their parents compared to 21 percent of Canadians. As an added bonus, love motels come with sweet add-ons including sex toys like swings and dildos or ceiling mirrors so you can watch yourselves in all your sweaty glamour. But I never went to one.
To me, these motels sounded pretty sketchy and, likely, nasty. No, I don’t want to bang in a room so covered in cum it’d bust a black light, thank you very much. The dorm bed will do for that and it’s cheaper.
Five years later, this time traveling Brazil with my Canadian girlfriend, Steph, I half-jokingly suggested we give a love motel a try. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but she jumped at the idea. I didn’t want to seem unconfident to my relatively new girlfriend, so I went with it.
We started to peruse motels online and as it turns out, my ex-hostel mates were correct about the sex toys and pay-per-hour rates—but there is so, much, more.
Lush, a love motel in São Paulo, offers helicopter and Ferrari rides. Another, Harmony Motel, has a water slide that leads into a heated pool. In Salvador, where we were staying at the time, there’s Kama Sutra, which features a BDSM room, equipped with whips and chains, sex toys and sushi.
When it was time to go, my veil of confidence withered and my stomach was in some kind of knot. I was feeling anything but sexy, but Steph urged me to get into the Uber.
Twenty minutes across Salvador and I was looking out the window to see the neon-lit sign: Kama Sutra, incidentally incorporating the Portuguese word for bed, cama, and the Indian sex bible you once saw on your parents’ bookcase. The driver rolled down the window and I quickly adjusted my eyes to the menu. Different names and prices were listed—some basic with a single bed, others more pricey with different themes. I picked Suite Mistério, the BDSM room we’d seen online. I paid $106 Brazilian reals for four hours ($40 CDN) and a hand passed me key 118.
Privacy is taken very seriously at all love motels, something I recalled hearing about as our Uber driver took us past a row of black garages, each leading to a private room. We could have been there alone, or it could have been completely full with politicians cheating on their wives with sex workers (prostitution is legal in Brazil)—we had no way of knowing.
As the Uber pulled away, the red lights blurring in the dark night, I took a big gulp and shimmied open the door inside the garage. I began to walk up the stairs––Steph stopped me: “Aren’t you going to lock it? That’s how we get murdered." The Canadian in me who hates locking doors reluctantly agreed and we headed up to our residence for the next four hours.
Up the stairs, there were two doors, one on the left and one on the other side of a short hall. The door on the left was locked and had no keyhole, so I tried the other door. I opened it and found myself staring at the metal bars of a cage. To the right of the cage door was a short podium with a consent contract on top. I told Steph how great it is that they’re being forward-thinking about consent, but she suggested it’s more likely a callback to Fifty Shades of Grey. To the right of the contract was a simple bathroom, equipped with a shower, towels in plastic-wrap, soap and a toilet with a bum gun (to keep things squeaky clean). The room definitely wasn’t as scummy as I’d feared, it actually looked quite clean.
The doorbell rang so I jogged over to the other door by the stairs. A man smiled at me from a long white hall which felt a lot like a hospital ward. This was super weird because love motels are supposed to be private. I had to dig in the back of my brain to remember we’re actually in a love motel. The man presented a credit card machine and said I needed to leave a deposit because otherwise, someone could just come in, fuck, and leave without their credit card clearing. Made sense to me, so Steph and I shook hands with the man, Francisco, before shutting the door.
We swung open the metal bars and entered the cage. Steph frantically ripped open a bag on the minibar which contained a toy whip, furry handcuffs and a blindfold, then she tackled a bag of Justice League-themed potato chips. I fumbled with the remote on the bedpost to figure out how to connect my iPhone for tunes.
“How the hell does this work?” I wondered aloud. “Maybe we call them.”
I picked up the phone and someone answered immediately.
“They must be watching us,” Steph concluded.
“Will you stop it with that creepy shit?” I said.
Francisco came back and unlocked the other door. He made a look and a shrug that said ‘are you fully clothed?’
“ Sim, sim,” I said, waving my hand to let him in. We’re on the clock.
Francisco had no clue how to work the music. He does, however, know how to flick through the porn on the TV.
“OK, OK, we got it,” I pled with him, after he flicked through news, hardcore penetration, football, an orgy, and then some guy-on-guy. “ Obrigado.”
Now would be a good time to admit I’m pretty vanilla. I mean, I’m down to try stuff, but I’ve never tried any sex toys and definitely never tied anyone up. In other words, I had no fucking idea where to start.
I shut off the TV and started to explore the room. A circular bed encased in wooden pillars stood as the focal point. On one side, a wall mirror stretching the length of the cage. On the other, a red leather wall with several sets of restraints for your wrists and ankles. In the corner farthest from the door, whatever the proper term for a spanking station is—that was it. Below the TV was a minibar with all kinds of stuff wrapped in plastic; lube, condoms, toothpaste, and the scattered contents of the kit Steph ripped open. The mini-fridge below was equipped with beer, miniature wine bottles, chilled glasses and both a Snickers and the Brazilian imitation, Charge (pronounced Charge-ey). I opened a book on the minibar to reveal an à la carte menu that had everything from sushi to scotch to butt plugs and anal beads.
I turned around and saw what I can only imagine to be the high-school version of Steph, giggling and silly. She said she wanted to swing like monkey bars on the bed. I remember thinking that this doesn’t seem normal—could she be nervous, too? But I didn’t ask. I put on my best porn impression and told her to dance for me, err, if she wanted to of course.
After I fumbled through some type of dominant bit, she took control, stripped me and tied me to the bedpost with the furry handcuffs. I wouldn’t say I was turned on at this point, definitely still nervous. I’d never done this kind of thing and I wanted to make sure I was doing love motels right. Should I be ordering some type of butt plug off the menu? Should I be drunk? Should I try the sushi?
Now blindfolded and with Steph swooshing the toy whip on my stomach, all of a sudden I felt my nervousness unravel. Clearly, we both were nervous (I could tell by the weak whip strokes), but the point of this place isn’t to feel sketchy or awkward. No, it’s an adult theme park with all the toys and treats you could ever fantasize about—even if you don’t know what your fantasies are exactly. I probably wouldn’t bring whips and chains into our new relationship, but here, at Kama Sutra, experimentation is the name of the game.
Steph removed the cuffs and I bounced up off the bed, finally feeling energized and confident. We got familiar with the room, making sure to test all the features that appealed to us before cranking up the A/C.
Relieved and exhausted, Steph took some photos I don’t plan on sharing, we ate a Snickers bar, and fucked once more, passionately—no blindfolds, whips or spank booths necessary.
We hauled together our things, picked up the phone and reported to Francisco what we used. He charged us, we go out our personal garage and hopped in an Uber, showing our paid receipt on the way out.
As I sat in the back seat of the Uber, the driver, an older guy probably my dad’s age, asked me where I’m from.
“Canada,” I said, before revealing it was our first time at a love motel.
Without the faintest bit of hesitation, he shot into a passionate pitch about another—better—love motel at the other side of town.
Follow Joel Balsam on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on VICE CA.