KinkBNB.com connects sex dungeons with those who need them. (Susan Cohen/KQED)
When you sign up for an account at KinkBNB.com, you’re given a list of password security questions. Some are recognizable from other websites: Where was your mother born? What is your third-grade teacher’s last name?
Others, however, are much less conventional, but more fitting of KinkBNB’s clientele. Top or bottom? What is your safe word? Sadist or masochist?
Like many other sites capitalizing on the sharing economy, KinkBNB hopes to fill a void. The San Francisco-based startup operates much like its namesake, Airbnb, but provides more erotic accommodations. Hosts can rent out their bedrooms, sex dungeons and porn production studios. In exchange, guests gain access to an intimate getaway.
Darren McKeeman was inspired to launch the site when a friend of his, local sex educator Eve Minax, made a complaint about Airbnb on Facebook earlier this year. Her listing on the home-sharing site, which advertised access to her personal dungeon as an additional amenity, had unexpectedly vanished. The post included potentially graphic photos of the room, which Minax says were taken by an Airbnb photographer.
(According to Airbnb's terms of service, the company prohibits users from being able to "post, upload, publish, submit or transmit any Content that ... is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, vulgar or offensive." A spokesman from the company adds: "Removing an individual from Airbnb is rare and done only after serious consideration and a review of a variety of factors.")
McKeeman, who has had a long career in tech and IT, saw Minax's Facebook post and immediately bought the KinkBNB url. It cost him $12. Ryan Galiotto, co-owner of SoMa's Wicked Grounds Kink Cafe & Boutique, and Matias Drago soon rounded out the team. The site now has listings in more than 60 cities and 20 countries.
On KinkBNB, hosts can list the various amenities of their rentals, from free Wi-Fi and washer/dryer access to whether or not the space is orgy-friendly. In the Bay Area, posts range from a modern apartment in Nob Hill to a pagan church in Emeryville. But McKeeman's favorite listing is a prison cell in Germany.
"You get no amenities," he said. "You get nothing. No heat, no air-conditioning, no fancy dungeon. It's just a prison cell."
Building a dungeon or playroom can be expensive, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment and square footage. KinkBNB can help hosts subsidize their spaces, while providing guests an outlet if they can't afford their own. The founders hope to appeal to a variety of tourists, from the couple taking a sexy staycation away from the kids to the newlyweds on a honeymoon who want a raunchy alternative to their hotel for the night.
"It's virtually impossible to travel if this is something that you do and it's part of your lifestyle," Drago said. "You go across the country to your cousin's wedding and you don't know anyone else there who would understand. When you stay with one of our hosts, they're very likely to know the community and connect you to people that would be on the same wavelength."
KinkBNB's listings are currently available at overnight rates, but the men hope to launch an hourly payment option as well, so that guests don't have to make a full night's commitment if they need only a few hours of playtime. The company has also developed relationships with organizations like New York's Red Umbrella Project, an advocacy group for sex workers, and they believe that their hourly rates could appeal to those in the industry across the world. But, Drago adds, "We're also going to pretty much say, 'Look, stay within the law and do what's legal, and that's different in every state and every country.' "
Since KinkBNB's focus is solely on the sex-positive community, the site's founders don't see themselves as a direct competitor to Airbnb. Still, they feel fortunate to be a part of the same Bay Area tech scene.
“There are sex-positive communities throughout the world, but [San Francisco] has the greatest mix of tech and awareness," Galiotto said, and the city provides its share of unique networking opportunities. The company recently hosted an open house at one of its local listings, and it had a booth at the last Folsom Street Fair.
As a host, Eve Minax thinks there are a lot of advantages to using the site to advertise her Potrero Hill playroom, for both herself and for her guests.
"In my house, the residence is clean, there's not as much traffic as there would be at a hotel, and I'm going to treat you as a house guest," she said. "It's like what you would want a B&B to be like, only for people who are able to be themselves, maybe even in ways they can't be at home."