My Girlfriend and I Went to an Hourly Sex Hotel
There's nothing sexy about a sex hotel.
In fact, the Liberty Inn is one of the least-sexy places on Earth. It's a smoky dungeon in a part of New York City that I've dubbed "Central Prostate West" because it's such a pain in the ass to get to. However, my girlfriend and I braved the train ride and subsequent 20-minute walk to pay the $80 fee to rent a room for two hours to have sex in. Why? That's the question everyone asked when I told them my plan -- I live with my girlfriend -- we could have sex in every room of our (admittedly very tiny) apartment with the curtains open if we wanted to. OK, fine; we don't own curtains.
The truth is, I was curious. You can't walk anywhere in New York without seeing a dingy little hotel packed away off a side street. They stare at me out of their dirty glass eyes and invite me in with the promise of an interesting story and the potential to finally experience bed bugs.
We didn't get bed bugs, but the plethora of stories that came about from spending just a few hours in this little hotel off the Hudson... well, we'll never forget it. Still, my burning curiosity was extinguished, and that was totally worth it -- even though my girlfriend won't let me make any major decisions anymore when it comes to planning outings.
The bed did not rotate
The biggest question I had to answer was "why?" After explaining that we probably wouldn't contract bed bugs, the only answer I could give was to satisfy the burning globe of curiosity orbiting my brain. I don't think I put it that eloquently, but the gist of it was "because I have to!"
She, knowing my curiosity would never end until I found out firsthand (or just forgot), gave into my request and said we could visit under the caveat that she would never forgive me if we contracted a disease. After sweetening the deal with the promise of a romantic -- post-hotel -- dinner, we headed to the train and left the safety of Bushwick for the bastard purgatory on the Hudson where the Liberty Inn sits.
I didn't know what to expect -- would it be like that painful scene from Blue Valentine where Michelle Williams actually tells Ryan Gosling to stop going down on her in the shower? Or would it more closely resemble Austin Powers' private jet with the revolving bed? Turns out the Liberty Inn resembled neither of the two scenarios. The bed, sadly, did not rotate.
"We'll take our usual room"
Finding a sex hotel in New York City is about as easy as typing "sex hotel NYC" into Google. After hitting "return," you’re met with myriad choices ranging from places where you’ll most certainly get bed bugs to high-end, bougie-as-hell suites where the bed bugs have to enter through the side door in an alley.
The Liberty Inn -- the Meatpacking District's self-proclaimed "rendezvous for romance" -- sits somewhere in the middle. It's simultaneously obvious and inconspicuous all at once, jutting out from a side street like an erect penis you didn't have time to cover up with your backpack.
We were surprised to find a crowd in the main lobby -- lobby, by the way, being a generous way to describe the narrow hallway near the entrance. The cashier's booth, protected by bulletproof glass, had signs stating no one under the age of 18 could enter.
"We'll take our usual room," said the guy in front of us, clutching a black bag in the shape of a wine bottle while his dolled-up girlfriend looked with a bored expression through what appeared to be a burner phone.
The guy's black suit and purple tie conjured up images of the middle-school dances I had been too shy to participate in. His date, clad in the bastard step-daughter of velvet and polyester, reminded me of the same.
Vending machines full of condoms
At the other end of the lobby was a vending machine stocked with the essentials: chips, candy bars, mints, lube, and condoms. Yes, really.
After withdrawing $80 in cash from the adjacent ATM, I happened upon a bearded young man heading into a "romantic interlude" room in the back with a young blonde woman who I'm guessing was more than just a friend.
"Best vending machine this side of the Mississippi!" he exclaimed, as his... uh... date stared off into space, her eyes glazed over. I laughed and wrote down what he'd said in my little red notebook, which prompted him to lean over and whisper in my ear.
"Hey, uh... don’t exploit these guys too much," he said. I laughed. He didn't. They went into their room.
Smoking or non-smoking?
The cashier looked like an avid member of New York City's nighttime working class and could have easily been confused with a 7-Eleven clerk or the kind of taxi driver who doesn't respond to run-of-the-mill questions like, "Hey, where are we?"
I asked the man how much it cost to rent a room for an hour.
"Same price as two hours or 30 minutes, however long you want." I slipped the $80 through the slit in the window and asked for a receipt.
"You guys been here long?" I asked.
"Long time," he said. "Long-ass time. Smoking or non-smoking?"
"Smoking," I said.
Walking up the narrow flight of stairs to room 303, my girlfriend asked why I had chosen a smoking room, given I had just given up smoking.
"Babe, imagine how much more fun a smoking room at a sex hotel is going to be!" It turns out my eyes are bigger than my stomach, because the only difference between a smoking room and non-smoking room in a sex hotel is the stale smell of smoke and dried lube. Oh, there was a glass ashtray. But I digress.
Skin on skin or it doesn't go in
There are tons of hotels in New York City, and I'm sure there are plenty of hourly hotels. BUT hourly sex hotels separate themselves from the brood with their explicit intentions.
The Liberty Inn is a hotel for fucking. This was abundantly clear as my girlfriend and I sat on the bed and listened to the chorus of groaning, pumping, and skin-slapping in the rooms around us. It was a cacophony of guttural pleasure that permeated the air and seeped into our skin in a very uncool way.
All we could do was sit and listen to the sounds of friends, lovers, and perfect strangers plugging each other silly in the rooms next to us.
American Psycho style
I had read online that the Liberty Inn has six channels of free pornography on the massive room TV in front of the bed... and boy, do I love being right all the time. We sat on the bed and watched some comically low-budget XXX -- well, I sat on the bed, my girlfriend stood near the windowsill and made comments.
It was bad porn... the kind of startlingly low-budget '90s porn that makes you appreciate the notion of HD erotic. You know the stuff: rail-thin, coked-up blonde girl with comically fake breasts and an obligatory guy with a penis.
"Oh my God, look at her vagina!" my girlfriend cried.
"She's not even wet. He's sucking on it like it's an oyster." I laughed and looked up at my own reflection -- I think it's a common courtesy for love hotels to feature an enormous mirror on the ceiling... you know, for those American Psycho moments when you want to watch yourself having sex and flex your muscles in the mirror.
Man, I wish I had muscles.
The Liberty Inn > Pyongyang
The room itself couldn’t have been more than 50sqft, including the bathroom. In one corner was an "exercise" pad with a laminated set of instructions explaining how the maids will clean it with antibacterial cleaner.
While my darling dearest refused to have sex with me due to her fear of cross-contamination from bed bugs, dried lube, crusted semen, or some kind of horrific amalgamation of the three, I couldn't have asked for better company. We swept the room for details like the crack squad of amateur reporters the hotel turned us into.
We were the Hardy Boys, but way cooler. Shelby Woo, but not Asian. Sherlock Holmes and Watson, except I was deeply attracted to Watson and wished she'd let me at least get to third base. We were just two people in love at a sex hotel. As we peered out the window across the Hudson, our view of Jersey gave us some semblance of normalcy that we deeply desired in such a strange place.
Comparatively speaking, a night at the Liberty Inn kicked ass compared to a night in Pyongyang or 1950s East Berlin. It wasn't until afterward, silently munching on a couple of burgers down the block, that we could finally reflect on the two hours we had just had in a hotel designed for sex.
"I'm going to take a shower when I get home," she said.
"I'll probably just wait until tomorrow..."
I ended up (begrudgingly) showering that night, still unwilling to let go of the Austin Powers/Blue Valentine fantasy that I was hoping to walk into. I have to admit that I was disappointed, which usually happens when I try to bring any semblance of cinema into my real life. I knew it wasn't going to be romantic, but I wish there had been more than that coffin-sized room with blurry porn.
I guess, what I really wanted, was a love-makin' hotel rather than a room for fucking. However, if you have to go the extra mile to hide your lascivious behavior at the Liberty Inn, you're not in the position to choose your surroundings.
Oh, by the way: that ATM in the hotel's lobby? Using it caused my bank to cancel my debit card. Suspicious activity, you know? That's the UTI of finance.
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Jeremy Glass is a writer for Thrillist and is writing this from the shower.