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Eat Pray Spank: The Hot, Wild World of BDSM Vacations

Looking for a lovely, outdoor getaway where no one can hear you scream?

Steven Blum

Steven Blum

Illustration by Cathryn Virginia

The men are on all fours with their bare butts in the wind. A woman sits on two of them, holding a whip while staring off at nothing in particular. She looks lackadaisical, like you might after a particularly good bong hit. In fact, the sun-dappled scene seems as relaxing as an afternoon tea.

The figures are in the backyard of a baroque "bed and bondage" near Albany, New York, the oldest in the world. Called "La Domaine Esemar," it's the kind of place where, after eating an organic stack of pancakes and eggs from local farms, you might try locking yourself up in a medieval knight's helmet while getting spanked with a vintage fraternity paddle.

Read more: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You Feel High

Here, the valet are trained slaves. "They carry [our visitors'] bags, bring them beverages, and they can be hired for sessions, massages, and pampering," says Mistress Couple, the head dominatrix at the chateau. "But we ask guests not to touch them without gaining consent first."

A mere $350 a night gets you bed, breakfast, and access to the sprawling, 12,500 square foot dungeon at this adult hideaway. Nestled in the bucolic foothills of the Berkshires, the manor only has one guest room, but more than a hundred and fifty travelers pass through in an average month. During party weekends, Mistress Couple says, "People tend to camp out in the backyard and the submissives all sleep in the dungeon." The neighbors, she says, don't seem to mind.

Taking their cue from hotels like Esemar, the wider travel world is beginning to wake up to the desires of kinky travelers. Last month's Tourism Management journal included a piece on how BDSM travel was on the cusp of becoming a mainstream trend. Tourism officials should seek to "understand deviants," the paper says, as BDSM becomes a "new trend for tourist consumption."

"There's been a resurgence of bed and dungeons in recent years," Mistress Couple confirms. "Ours was once the last in existence in the United States but now people are creating them all over the country."

According to one directory, there are only four bed and dungeons in the US, located in California, New York, Oregon, and Georgia, but many more exist in Canada, England, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, and Australia.

In the heart of London, the Hoxton Dungeon Suite promises discreet and soundproof rooms, as well as a whipping bench, a vac bed, a full-length cage, and a St. Andrews Cross. Madame Caramel, the suite's owner, promises a sanitary stay; in an email from Dubai, she detailed all of the viruses she knows how to kill on whips and dildos. "I worked in the hotel industry prior to domination," she writes. "I'm an ACE at cleaning."

Read more: Exploring Black Women's Sexuality and BDSM in NYC's Oldest Dungeon

Another site listed, called the Casa Carisma, is located in an old farm house on the Italian Riviera. The website reads like the kind of breathless sales pitch you might receive for a timeshare. "Holidays are always fine, of course, but the usual hotel accommodation often remains unsatisfactory for SM fans: uncomfortable rooms, thin walls, curious personal[sic]…" the site reads. "It doesn't have to be this way!" While cautioning guests not to expect luxury, the Casa nevertheless offers a full-size outdoor cage.

While the range of full-time hotels is limited, the website KinkBnB has spearheaded the trend of shareable dungeons that can be booked online. Through the service, anyone can reserve a loft in San Francisco with suspension rigs; a prison cell near Leipzig Germany; or a "classic dungeon near Hollywood" with exposed beams and "easy access to Los Angeles' major freeways." Over 300 bookable rooms are available in over 40 countries, according to CEO Darren Mckeeman.

McKeeman says KinkBnB is also trying to gamify their interface, thus becoming a kind of Foursquare for dungeons. "We're making a reputation network based on the paradigm of a 'kinky passport,' he says. "The more you rent, the more likely hosts are to trust you, and you'll be more likely to get approved if you've got multiple stamps from popular and famous dungeons," he says.

"Typically they're locked in a cage and woken up by the dominatrix for various treatments."

While the rise of bed and dungeons is a somewhat recent phenomenon, Anne O. Nomis (an alias), author of "the History of the Dominatrix," says that dominatrixes have long run boarding schools of sorts, some of them "very grand establishments, in multi-roomed large houses." She cites a number of chateaus in early 1800s England where dommes in training could stay overnight.

Today, she says, slaves often stay overnight in dungeons when they're training with new dommes. "Typically they're locked in a cage and woken up by the dominatrix for various treatments," she says.

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A better rest can be had at places like Esemar, which tries its best to pamper guests between sessions. Its privacy and idyllic atmosphere is also key to its appeal. Surrounded by woods, the chateau offers a "completely private outdoor play space," says Mistress Couple. "You can really do anything you want — nobody can hear you scream."