The strange sexual allure of the hotel room

Hotels can be sexy places but this is ridiculous. In a stunning abdication of personal responsibility, last year a German woman tried to sue a hotel in Halle in Eastern Germany for failure to disclose the identity of a man she slept with in 2010.

The liaison resulted in a child, so the aggrieved mother tried to track down the father to claim child support. Slightly complicating things was the fact she only knew his first name, "Michael". As the hotel's policy was not to release the personal data of guests, she filed a case in court to extract the information.

How did it go? Well, whatever you think of the decision, the court ruled that the man's right to protect his family took precedence over the woman's right to child support. Besides, it was noted, the man's name might not have been Michael after all.

Perhaps we should not be too judgmental about a woman meeting a stranger in a hotel, in the bar or lobby perhaps, and having what we assume was a wild (unprotected) fling with him, and being so sexually intoxicated she didn't get his phone number (or his full name). According to scientific studies, just the act of checking into a hotel room may increase dopamine, the powerful neurotransmitter that controls our sense of pleasure and excitement.

"The novelty of the hotel room is going to stimulate dopamine transmission in the brain, which pays a big role in arousal and sexual excitement," Professor Ian Kerner, psychotherapist, sex councillor and founder of GoodInBed.com (who knew?) told the Huffington Post.

So, before you've even slipped between the 600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, you're basically a goner. The sense of excitement that is generated by merely entering a hotel can be an aphrodisiac in itself.

We are not necessarily talking about a pay-by-the-hour establishment, a Japanese "love hotel" or a voluptuous little four-star like Chantal Thomass' Hotel Amour in Paris. According to the specialists, even a middle-of-the-road business hotel can be very sexy. Whatever the decor or room rate, guests senses are heightened and expectations piqued as soon as the key card opens the lock.

The sexiest thing about hotels, for many, is that they are not home. (Frequent business travellers tired of being constantly on the road may disagree.) Everyday domestic problems and other kinds of emotional baggage can be left behind. The hotel room is a blank slate with fresh, clean sheets and towels, spotless bathrooms, floral displays and a few things we may not have at home, such as monogrammed slippers, towel art and oversized bathrobes.

No wonder a hotel room can feel like a performance space. There's the front desk receptionist acting like an emcee, ushering us through, and the housekeeper, often never seen, as an invisible stage manager to set the scene, turning down the bed in an enticing way.

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It's a stage that can be the springboard for many kinds of fantasies, not all of them sexual. A person may simply get a thrill out of playing master to the room service waiters, especially if being waited-on is a novelty. Others might enjoy the anonymity and mystery of being solitary in a strange place. Hotel rooms are places where you sleep but the dream can feel as if it is continuing when you wake up. This can be disconcerting or exciting, depending on your state of mind.

A good sleep-in, breakfast in bed, and a wallow in sheets someone else is going to clean, is pretty sexy by most yardsticks, even if you are alone (sometimes, especially if you are alone.).

That dopamine surge also can create a sense of wellbeing that may make you less cautious than you might normally be outside the room's four walls (hence unsafe sex with a stranger called Michael.) Many guests happily reset their personas and shed inhibitions without too much thought of consequences. It doesn't matter whether the hotel room is an opulent palace or a tawdry motel, if it happens in a hotel room, it stays in the hotel room. Well, that's the thinking.

Fantasy is the business hotels are in, so management encourages erotic shenanigans by providing juicy extras with the mini bar, such as handcuffs and edible underwear. (The block of Toblerone is passe.)

"Do you check into a hotel or does the hotel condition check into you?" the author Wayne Koestenbaum asks in his book Hotel Theory. I suspect it may be the latter. So beware.

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