Eve Minax used to have a listing on AirBNB for her adults-only space, The Lair, in San Francisco, but she said when the company spotted a sex toy in the background she was shut down and blacklisted from the site. She mentioned her troubles in passing to her friends Darren McKeeman and Ryan Galiotto. Shortly thereafter, the two men created the homesharing site KinkBNB.
The site is modeled after the AirBNB interface, but it has a more specialized goal, which is to connect travelers with sex positive spaces. Currently about 30 listings are available, ranging from simple apartments to full-on sex dungeons.
“Right now, people who are sex positive have to put on a veneer when they travel, because it’s not something that’s socially acceptable,” Galiotto said. “It’s kind of like when you go on vacation, you have to leave part of yourself behind. We are connecting people with others who are sex positive so you don’t have to hide. You can travel with your full self.”
Many of the hosts on the site, including January Seraph, who lists a BDSM studio in San Francisco called the Dommecile, came to KinkBNB because of what they consider to be discriminatory practices from other homesharing sites. Seraph said the guidelines are all just too vague. She doesn’t want to have to worry if her space will be removed from a home sharing service because there happens to be a bondage table in a picture.
Ultimately, the hosts want to see the kink world become more accepted and mainstream, and they are using KinkBNB in an effort to make that change possible.
“I can’t use Google AdWords because they think I’m a prostitute,” said Justine Cross, an LA dominatrix and owner of Dungeon West who also was booted from AirBNB. “The more ways we have to legitimatize ourselves, it’ll start to be perceived as normal and reach more people.”
Adds Minax, “We’re here, we’re kinky, get used to it. We’re not going anywhere.”
AirBNB did not respond to our inquiries. Cross worries the site names are too similar. She doesn’t want KinkBNB shut down. But McKeeman and Galiotto don’t think that will happen.
“There’s actually a gay-oriented site called misterbnb and a pot-oriented site called Bud+Breakfast, and they haven’t gone after them yet,” McKeeman said. “I have friends that work at AirBNB and the scuttlebutt is that they absolutely love the idea. At AirBNB, they’re not really worried about it because they’re spending all of their lawyer money fighting the problems that they’re already having.”
According to Galiotto, another part of AirBNB’s problem is hosts coming home to find a guest has totally trashed their place, but he said that won’t happen with KinkBNB because no one is trying to get away with anything. Everyone already knows exactly what they can do and how far they can go.
KinkBNB launched May 1 and is continuing to add properties around the world. McKeeman and Galiotto encourage users to interact with the brand and offer suggestions about how to tweak the site. Already, the site is evolving into a comprehensive, privacy-protected lodging resource. The newest release introduces guest and host reputation ratings, foreign language and international currency support as well as the ability to port over an AirBNB profile with just one click.
Users are not required to use their real names until actually sending payment, and all site information is stored on internal servers so the risk of cloud-hackers stealing data is minimized.
At its core, KinkBNB considers itself a privately owned tool for everyone to come and enjoy whichever aspect of BDSM they like without fear of judgment or repercussion. It’s also a channel for adding new faces to the world’s intimate kink network.
“This is going to make the kink community larger and more interconnected,” Galiotto said. “I’m not going to sit here and pass judgment on what attractions you have. We’re just trying to set up a community that’s open, safe and friendly.”
McKeeman agreed and plans to make sure the site stays away from big business sponsors so no one has to worry about a listing’s removal, which has happened to KinkBNB hosts on AirBNB.
“AirBNB is linked to venture capitalists, and venture capitalists don’t want to see, oh there were a bunch of orgies in AirBNB listings,” McKeeman said. “They freak out at that sort of thing. We welcome that sort of thing.”
Video by Yoonj Kim