The Red Room is just one of four available rooms for rent at Chicago Dungeon Rentals, the Midwest’s very own BDSM bed-and-breakfast. Photo courtesy of Chicago Dungeon Rentals.

The Red Room is just one of four available rooms for rent at Chicago Dungeon Rentals, the Midwest’s very own BDSM bed-and-breakfast. Photo courtesy of Chicago Dungeon Rentals.

Chicago is home to a new kind of boutique hotel—-and it’s not your mother’s B&B

Words by Lauren Reno

The click of a hotel room key usually opens a door to a haven of fluffy white towels, monogrammed slippers and pristine duvets. At a Bondage, Domination, Submission and Masochism hotel, those amenities are replaced with handcuffs, chains and floggers.

People have become more aware of BDSM in the last decade, particularly since the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey. The book has attracted criticism for the accuracy of its portrayal of the practice. But as a kink, BDSM has been around for a while.

And accommodations for those interested are growing. Chicago Dungeon Rentals is one of very few BDSM play spaces that can be rented by couples who are not BDSM professionals, and it’s the only one of its kind in the Midwest. CDR is owned by Sophia Chase, a professional sex educator, who felt that the Midwest needed an after-hours option that was a little kinkier than your average bed-and-breakfast.

“People dabble in it for fun because it spices up their vanilla sex life, but for some folks, this is really important and part of who they are,” Chase said.

Chase likens the need for a space like hers to the need for a space that is friendly to the queer community. Her clients need a place where they can feel accepted. And CDR provides a sense of comfort that allows guests to truly feel safe.

People dabble in it for fun because it spices up their vanilla sex life, but for some folks, this is really important and part of who they are”

-Sophia Chase

Kathryn Klement, a PhD in social psychology, is a doctoral candidate at Northern Illinois University who specializes in BDSM studies. Klement notes that it can be very dangerous for those who practice BDSM if word gets out.

“It is really unfortunate what can happen if the wrong person hears that you practice BDSM,” Klement said.  Some people have a very skewed understanding of what BDSM really is, and may think that those who partake in it are abusive.

A 2008 survey indicated that 37.5 percent of 3,000 respondents had experienced some type of discrimination for openly practicing BDSM.“This is why spaces like CDR are so important to those who use them,” Klement said.

In addition to running the B&B, Chase is also a professional dominatrix, meaning she is paid for her services.  As a pro-dom, she has used many different rental spaces—known as dungeons—during her seven-year career and is familiar with how they function.

“I’ve noticed that none of them are available to people who are not professionals in the industry,” Chase said. “So I wanted to figure out a way to open it up so that couples can use a space like this.”

The CDR space is an apartment with one bedroom and two separate playrooms. “It’s very warm and inviting here,” Chase said. “One of our rooms is a bit more plush and opulent, the other one is a little bit darker and intense. It really depends on the vibe that people are going for.”

Depending on the needs of the renter, the playrooms can be booked independently, or the entire space can be rented out for just a few hours or overnight. The space contains gear—don’t worry, it’s sterilized between uses—and large furniture items that most BDSM newbies probably wouldn’t have in their homes.

While some guests may be well-versed, not everyone who steps foot into CDR is already experienced in bondage and domination play. BDSM can be unsafe if not practiced correctly, so Chase offers instruction consultations for her visitors. One of the most important lessons Chase imparts during their consultations is the importance of safety.

“Renters can pick from a variety of topics, so I can then show them safe and fun ways to do whatever activities they’re most interested in, whether it’s spanking or bondage, what have you,” she said.

But Chase also wants her guests to know that BDSM doesn’t have to involve pain. “It’s just one of the flavors out there,” she said. “No two people are ever the same, and I never go in assuming anything about a couple.”

Klement hopes that discrete spaces like CDR become more available for the psychological well-being of the BDSM community. “There’s never going to be a sign that says, ‘Kinky people right here,’” she said. “This is a very private hidden space that people can feel comfortable going to to explore that side of themselves. I think that’s very important.”