IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Neighbor's Loud BDSM Parties Forced Me to Move

It was hard to explain to visitors, especially if your visitors were your elderly parents, why someone was screaming, “On your knees, bitch!”
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Christine Schoenwald
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It was hard to explain to visitors, especially if your visitors were your elderly parents, why someone was screaming, “On your knees, bitch!”

Sometimes you’re lucky and have the type of neighbor who will sign for your packages and deliver them to you the moment you get home. Other times, you might not be as fortunate in the neighbor lottery and end up living next door to your neighborhood’s version of Walter White and his meth superlab.

I have found that it’s the completely unexpected things that often cause the most tension between neighbors.

I was recovering from a nasty case of the flu, when I got a note in my mailbox from my upstairs neighbors saying, “We’re sorry you’re sick. Please close your windows.” I was too embarrassed to tell them that my windows had been closed the entire time, but I learned that sound travels, especially when the walls are paper-thin.

My neighbors unintentionally got their revenge against me when their garbage started to come up through the pipes in my bathroom. I almost got sick all over again when I found a mixture of cigarette butts, hair, and corn in my shower. When my landlord’s only solution was to pour bleach down the drains, I moved to another building a few blocks away.

My second apartment was in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles and had its own unique set of challenges. For the first year that I lived in that apartment, there was a mugging, a drive-by shooting, and almost constant auto theft.

Once, when I was walking home late at night, I saw a man crouched at the side of an old Corolla, jimmying the lock. I diverted my eyes, so the thief wouldn’t know I had seen him. I forced myself to continue walking at a normal pace, but when I got to the steps of my building, I rushed inside, and dialed 911. The police never came that night, nor did they come when my own car was stolen two times in a row.

Since parking was at a premium in my neighborhood, I would often not leave my apartment if I had snagged a good parking space. I decided that my home would be a place that I could chill and relax, but instead of my own personal sanctuary, I got the opposite: a clear view of my neighbor’s BDSM instructional parties.

I first became aware of these lessons when the sound of leather slapping upon flesh caught my attention. It wasn’t a sound I was used to hearing in my neighborhood. Fighting, swearing, and altercations over the very limited parking, sure, but this was new and unfamiliar.

I could tell the sound wasn’t coming from inside my apartment or building, so I went out to my balcony and looked down to see if there had been a car accident. There was nothing on the sidewalk or street that looked like it could have produced that unnerving noise.

The slapping sound increased in its loudness and consistency, and that’s when the screaming started.

“No! Not like that, idiot!”

I looked out across the street into a recently rented apartment and saw that there were at least six men and women naked, tied up and being struck with canes, whips, and paddles. All my neighbor’s windows were wide open, and their living room was well lit with candles. When I put the visuals with the sounds, I knew that what I was witnessing was a class in beatings and humiliation.

You didn’t need to be a voyeur to audit this BDSM class.

You didn’t need to be a voyeur to audit this BDSM class.

“You have to alternate your spanking between each cheek. Don’t favor one side over the other — that’s not what we taught you.”

I found it difficult to look away, and this continued to be true even when it turned out these BDSM training sessions were held weekly. I wasn’t into what they were teaching, but I couldn’t look away. The worst thing was that no matter how much I tried to block out the sounds by closing all my windows and shutting my apartment up tightly, I could always hear the whipping and crying sounds. It was relentless.

Whenever they had one of these classes, it felt as if the whole neighborhood had been invited. No need to grab any binoculars — just settle down on your couch, and enjoy the show.

“Did you hear them last night?”

“Yeah, that was intense.” My neighbors and I would discuss the previous night’s class as if it were an episode of How to Get Away with Murder.

No one called the police either. It was understood that if the cops hadn’t responded to a call about a stolen car, why would they come to file a report about classes in bondage, domination, submission, and masochism? Besides, no one was getting hurt who didn’t want to be hurt, and every session ended promptly at 11 p.m.

There’s a reason why most dominatrixes work out of a dungeon or why Christian Grey had his red room; a client or a session participant should be able to privately explore all their desires without an audience. I had to wonder if working out of their highly visible living room was a part of the humiliation process or just good advertising for future students.

BDSM should also be a choice, not something that is thrust upon you whether you like it or not. My neighbor’s classes felt like something we were subjected to, not something that we participated in by choice. Witnessing these classes had started out as a little titillating, but was fast becoming tedious.

Normally my cats were very good about using their litter boxes, but on sex-class nights, my cats would get nervous, jumpy, and would pee on a rolled up futon or a butterfly chair.

It also was hard to explain to visitors, especially if your visitors were your elderly parents, why someone was screaming “On your knees, bitch!” I’d lie and say that they were actors rehearsing a scene. I live in Los Angeles where every other person is filming their own web series; it wasn’t unheard of for someone to use their own apartment as a location.

I hoped that one of the sections in the BDSM class would be on domination/submission etiquette, but if had been part of the curriculum, I never witnessed it. In the end, they were bad neighbors who never seemed to give any thought to discretion or if they were disturbing anyone.

Eventually the neighborhood crime and weekly screaming, pleading, kicking, punching, and slapping sounds got to me and I moved again. I can only hope that my neighbors finally got enough money together to soundproof their office into a home dungeon — for the neighborhood’s sake.