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People Are Obsessed with Talking About Sex on TripAdvisor

‘Good and cheap to get your kink on with your lover. Get the back view so you can enjoy the Mountain View in stand up dog position’

The aspiration of hotel sex is to try new and exciting things, like anal in the shower or a pegging session with your Shape of Water dildo.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go so smoothly. Sometimes you check yourself into a fluorescent hell that looks nothing like the relaxing spa you inferred from photos; other times you discover a bed bug mid-thrust. What’s funniest — in a tragic sort of way — is how sexpectation and reality collide in hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.

I first came across the topic of sex on TripAdvisor while perusing reviews for Circus Circus, a hotel on the derelict end of Vegas that aggressively courts children and cheapos (rooms start at $40 a night). Back when Vegas was trying to market itself as a family-friendly destination, Circus Circus was the place to be. When I was eight, I remember running down its popcorn-scented halls and riding my first upside-down roller coaster at the hotel’s adjoining theme park. The innocence I associate with the place makes the following review all the more jarring:

“Glad I picked circus circus it was cheap and save [sic] lot of money to spend on other things. The hotel is old but kept up. Lots of kids due to park but nothing bad…Good and cheap to get your kink on with your lover. Get the back view so you can enjoy the Mountain View in stand up dog position lol it was great!! Always wanted to do it like in the movies.”

You’ve got to respect the chops of this bonafide Samantha: He hits all the standard notes — “hotel is old but kept up” and “lots of kids due to park” — before pulling the rug at the last moment. But why is someone bragging about their sex life on a hotel review site in the first place?

As it turns out, tons of people talk about sex on TripAdvisor. In reviews, users complain that their hotels are too obviously trying to encourage sex among guests; that other occupants are having loud and/or public sex; or that some truly inappropriate shit has gone down.

In a review of a Berlin-based gay hotel called Axel, a reviewer laments the sorry state of the hotel’s hot tub, which seems perpetually filled with semen. “The occasion me and my partner’s friends wanted to use the jacuzzi, there were two guys having anal sex in front of everybody,” reads the review. “Normally, this would not be a problem, but maybe they should have taken their activity to a private area?”

Unfortunately, when the reviewer returns the next day, he finds yet another couple engaged in “vigorous” sexual congress. “The attraction to immerse oneself into the water where highly charged sexual activity had taken place is not at all appealing,” the reviewer continues.

In response, a hotel representative issued a lengthy reply, first thanking the reviewer (perhaps passive-aggressively) for the “long and explicit explanation,” before vociferously defending the integrity of the hot tub’s filtration system which, the hotel notes, is “totally new” and checked twice daily. “In terms of hygiene conditions, I assure you that all protocols are made in accordance with current regulations.” Still, the hotel admits, “it is true that some clients exceed use of the facilities, it is something that we consider and [it] is difficult to control [as] it is a matter of civility.”

Pool sex is among the most controversial topics on TripAdvisor. “People was having sex in the pool,” one review screams. “Sex happens in the hot tub, but the water needs to be changed,” complains another. “One evening it had an odour similar to a toilet bowl.”

Other times, the hotel itself complains about its guests’ sex lives. At the Penthouse hotel in Thailand, the hotel had this to say about one reviewer’s complaints: “It is indeed a truism that one cannot please all the folks, all the time…but unfortunately some requests just cannot be entertained, even here in ‘The Land of Smiles.’ We realize that our large Jacuzzi-Party-Suite on the fifth floor was unworthy of the fifty or so dollars that this gentleman invested in his one-night-stand and we do (almost) certainly agree that the lowly one star rating that was kindly awarded was very fitting. Come back (or not) soon.”

Most hotels aren’t so judgmental about the sexual proclivities of their guests. Such is the case with the Flamingo Hotel, also in Las Vegas. Going by the reviews (more than 40 mention sex), there’s never not someone hooking up in the pool and the walls are so thin that you can hear the sounds of lovemaking all night long. “The couple next door was having super loud sex for an hour at 3AM — I’m talking porn, fetish sex!” reads one review. “I saw three couples having sex by the waterfall,” reads another complaint. “No one from the resort did anything to stop them.”

The unanalyzed assumption underlying these reviews is that hotel sex should be discreet; that you cannot, in fact, be “as loud as the hell you want” when you’re making love in a shared building. While I sympathize with this point-of-view from a sleep perspective, it also seems a bit naive: Hotels were designed for fucking. They’re where we go to meet up with sex workers; to experience sex in a new locale; or to have an illicit affair. It’s unrealistic to expect your bed to be the only one squeaking.

The reviewers I sympathize with are the ones who’ve had frightening experiences with horny patrons. Last year, TripAdvisor made the controversial decision to post badges alongside certain hotel listings indicating that a sexual assault had taken place on the premises. Detailed reviews involving sexual assaults don’t appear out of liability concerns, but I nevertheless found stories that were scary, like the woman who came back to her hotel room only to find people from a pool party had broken into her room and were having sex on her bed.

Then there was the reviewer who didn’t understand that he’d checked himself into a brothel. The Trades, an all-male hotel in which many patrons leave their doors open to welcome visitors during the night, is apparently the hotel in Britain for getting laid by strangers. “What’s going on!” reads one review. “I am an elderly man who wanted a weekend away [and] what a weekend! People walked into my room in the middle of night no locks on the door! Couldn’t understand what was going on. In the morning I slipped on a used Durex outside my door and noticed they were littered all over…the whole experience was sordid and confusing [and] I shan’t be returning.”

To be fair, that’s on the extreme end. Most people leave reviews on TripAdvisor out of boredom, commiseration, narcissism or a desire to enact revenge on the front desk. But what I found most striking was the sadness of the reviewer who isn’t getting laid but can hear the sex happening all around them. The sex is loud and kinky, but worst of all, it’s happening to someone else.

If hell is other people, the lowest rung is other people having sex — especially if you can’t change rooms.