The Pig Pen: A sex playground in the heart of WeHo

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There’s a dirty little secret hidden behind the Circus of Books building right next to Vaseline Alley, one that harkens back to the seedy speakeasies, adult book stores and porn theaters that powered West Hollywood’s early economy and made the city a mecca for dreamers and deviants alike.

There’s no actual sign on the black metal entry gate, nor any indication that a full-blown sex dungeon lies inside.

But the Pig Pen’s dirty little secret is getting out.

The dungeon (officially an “adult play space and photo studio”) has only been open a couple of months, but it’s already booked through June, all because of word of mouth.

The space revolves around a reconfigurable play area that features a sex sling, paddle benches, spanking benches and a stockade, most of which were custom-built by owner JT Thomas. Then there’s the “VIP area,” a small room reached by stairs with a wide assortment of whips, restraints, masks, dildos and other toys. There’s also a kitchenette and a bathroom. 

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Thomas always knew the business he dreamed about creating belonged in WeHo, but its original home was in Boyle Heights. Thomas, a “Pro Domm,” opened the first Pig Pen at the outset of the pandemic as a place to take his escort clients and to store the abundance of BDSM toys, gear and furniture cluttering his bedroom.

“This place kind of came to fruition because when COVID hit, I thought to myself, ‘You know, I’m a 40-year-old hooker. I can only do this for so long, and eventually, I’m going to need to either figure out something else to do to make money or figure out a way to parlay those 20 years of being a hooker into something that’ll last me into my golden years,’’ Thomas said.

Thomas has always been into “interesting sex,” he says. 

He was raised in New York by his father and spent six years in the Air Force.

“Growing up in the leather community in a biker family, we always had leather around, and my dad was never very private about what he did. I have 18 half-brothers and four half-sisters. So it was just second nature for me.”

The Pig Pen serves a wide variety of clients with a wide variety of needs – couples looking to spice up their romance, friends hosting birthday parties, indie porn stars. One of his regulars, a man from Mexico who lives in a house with several generations of his family, visits the Pig Pen just to get some alone time. 

“Some people want to explore fantasy, some want to have a gang bang. Some people want a place to hook up or have a party, or shoot for their OnlyFans. Some people just don’t want to have to clean up at home,” Thomas said.

The West Hollywood Pig Pen literally rose from the ashes of the Boyle Heights location, which went up in flames this past Christmas. The fire left Thomas devastated, and not just because insurers refused to cover the losses, valued at about $50,000. Getting insured in the first place was challenging, Thomas said.

“It’s hard to get any sort of support, business loans, or anything. It’s hard to explain the nature of your business to anyone else in order to get any sort of help that other businesses would be entitled to.”

After three years of steady growth and constant re-investment, The Pig Pen was finally starting to turn a profit. But what Thomas lost was more than money.

“What hurt me the most about the fire is that when I had the business, people took me seriously as a business owner,” Thomas said. “They didn’t just see me as a hooker. That’s what I didn’t want to lose. That’s what I wanted to maintain most — the respect from the community, from people who really cared about what I did, doing something for other people and giving something to people that I thought was bigger than myself.” 

The thought of restarting the Pig Pen from scratch was daunting, and Thomas considered throwing in the towel.

“Then I got all these prior customers who chipped in thousands of dollars to rebuild it. I got $5,000 from a really generous investor, which helped me open (the WeHo location) at the last minute. I didn’t realize how important it was for people, like how much it really had an impact on the community.”

Unlike the adults-only establishments of WeHo’s past, Thomas doesn’t want the Pig Pen to linger in the shadows. As West Hollywood prepares to celebrate its third annual Pride, he hopes the business he is building is one the city will be proud of.

“I want to be part of the community, a business that gives back. I want to be part of the Chamber of Commerce and do things that show the city and people everywhere – not just my business, but escorts, people in the kink community, people who are sexually liberated – aren’t to be feared or seen as lesser parts of the community. Sex work, in any capacity, is respectable work and shouldn’t be stigmatized. And that’s why I think WeHo is a good community to start this because it’s already a community of people who, in many ways, are outsiders looking to be equalized in the greater public.”

THE PIG PEN
8248 Santa Monica Blvd, Unit B 
(415) 448-6481
pigpenla.com

 

Q: Is the Pig Pen just for gay men?

A: Even though we market to the gay community, we certainly don’t discriminate. We welcome everybody. The current clients right now are a straight couple, husband and wife. We get a lot of women here with their female dominatrixes and their male clients, or in lesbian couples renting the place. We welcome everyone.

 

Q: What’s in the lost-and-found box?

A: I’ll tell you one thing, when I clean up after things, the most common thing I find left behind is lube. People usually take everything else with them, but the thing they leave behind is lube, which I think is the funniest thing because it’s usually the thing that you always run out of during a sex party. 

 

Q: What’s prohibited?

A: When people rent the space, they rent the space, and what they do is on them. I ask people, like, no water sports. Don’t damage the property. If you’re going to do water, put down a wee pad or something like that. Leave it better than you found it. That’s a good way of thinking. You learn that from Boy Scouts. But yeah, just don’t destroy things. I haven’t really banned anything, but I think it’s safe to say no weapons play, blood sports, things that are dangerous to your health. I think people would have an objection to those.

 

Q: How do you handle your clients’ privacy concerns?

A: When they come in here, immediately when they sign the waiver, their first concern is how private their information is, where it’s going, and who is keeping this information. I point out to them that I’m not taking their ID. 

All I’m doing is asking for their email address, name, and taking a photograph of them just to prove that they were the one signing this, attesting that they’re 18 years old, and taking responsibility for themselves. They’re a big boy, and if they hurt themselves, that’s on them. All I’m doing is providing a space, and how they use it is completely up to them. The privacy concern they have is where that information is going. 

I point out to them that the little bit of information they give me—their email address, name—is only going to see the light of day if it ever has to go to court, if this ever becomes a legal issue for whatever reason. Even after that, it’s only kept on file for five years and then immediately destroyed. 

People are not on the street. People come in the dark and don’t have to be seen by a lot of people. We’ve got locks on the doors. People come in and be whoever they want. They don’t have to even give their real name, as long as they’re honest and have a mature way of conducting themselves.

 

Q: Is the sex industry as a whole becoming more palatable to mainstream audiences?

A: Oh, absolutely. When I was young, I remember trying to watch porn on scrambled television, or trying to buy a porno magazine at the liquor store down the corner, and not seeing anything remotely sexual on camera until high school on a videotape I would sneak in to watch when my parents were gone. 

Nowadays, kids can find anything on the internet immediately as soon as they get their first phone. Everything is available to them, and nothing scares them. The younger clients that I have sometimes scare me or teach me things because nothing is new or exciting to them. 

On some level, I think it’s kind of sad for them because later in life, they’ll just have an okay sex life because nothing will be new, exciting, or forbidden. Everything is available on the internet these days.

 

Q: What is it like working with City Hall? 

A: They’ve been really friendly. I got a business license, I pay my taxes, and that’s pretty much all they really worry about. With Vaseline Alley, they already kind of know what goes on down here anyway. It couldn’t be in a more perfect spot for it, and right next to it, there are several porn shops just a few feet away. If a place like mine had to exist, they would put it here. If it were up to them, this would be exactly where they would put it.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about Vaseline Alley.

A: Vaseline Alley became popular when the corner here had Circus of Books, owned by the family of my landlord in the other building. 

For years, it’s been a straight family—him, his wife, his daughter, and son—owning this gay bookstore. The alley behind the bookstore for years became a place where men would go and hook up after going to the bookstore. That was there before Pleasure Chest and anything else. It was just them and the Studs Theatre. That building, in fact, was built back when there was only one paved road in all of L.A. The Studs Theatre was in the same building as Circus of Books.

When the family decided to close the business for whatever reason, it was saved by Chi Chi LaRue, who then remodeled it, gave it a fresh look, and now it is what it is today. 

But Vaseline Alley still exists. It’s still a place where gay men can cruise other guys, meet other guys, and maybe get their jollies off in each other’s cars. You might meet someone, maybe not Mr. Right, but definitely Mr. Right Now. The city tried to put up barriers to keep cars from driving in, but they couldn’t fight the popularity of it being a cruising spot. 

Now they just allow it; they know what goes on there and don’t try to police it too much. AHF has their needle exchange out there every Sunday or Saturday, and at any hour of the day, there’s always going to be someone out there looking to get off. 

 

Q: What is your outlook on sex?

A: Sex is a sport. There are a million strategies to score; it just really depends on your “opponent.” What is fun with one person may not be fun with someone else. I don’t turn my nose up to anything. I’ll try everything once. Let your freak flag fly.

 

Q: What’s the most fulfilling part about your work?

A: I’ve had clients who’ve said to me in very tender moments, “Thank you for coming over. Not just because I wanted to have sex with you, but because I haven’t had somebody touch me in months.” It’s not that they’re unattractive; they’re powerful people in their daily lives, heads of companies, or introverts who spend a lot of time programming. They just haven’t had any physical touch with anybody else. To have somebody touch them, give a hug, means the world. It’s a very humane thing to do. There are some very powerful people out there who just don’t have the time to date or meet people. They know exactly what they want and need to get off like any other human being. They know what turns them on.

 

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: I just want to show people a good time. I want people who don’t have a place to go—everyone’s had that trick they like but can’t host. I want to be affordable enough for those people to consider this place as an option. It’s not Flex; it’s not Slammer. It’s not a drop-in place where everyone will be. It’s a smaller, intimate event space. If you want to have a group of friends together, $10 a person for 10 friends, it pays for itself. With 15 friends, it’ll pay for itself. It’s got all the atmosphere you need to have a good, fun time.

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The Pig Pen LA
25 days ago

I think it’s also important to mention I always practice safe and consentual intimate play and encourage all my clientel to do the same. I even provide condoms and information on where to get free STI testing here in LA.

The Pig Pen LA
25 days ago

Wow…. Thank you for that very nice review but let’s try and keep the commentary respectable and tasteful please. This is still a public forum and not everyone needs or wants the vivid and descriptive play by play. What happens at the pen stays on the pen please.

PigPenLA
27 days ago

My name is JT and this article was about my business. I knew it would be met with some of criticism and derision from some people and that’s ok. To those who don’t approve or have more conservative expectations from the businesses in our community; I want you to know I respect your point of view and hope that one day my little niche photo studio can earn your respect in the business community when you realize we are not deviants, criminals, or monsters. My clientele are the same people that patronize your businesses everyday. I am also quite humbled… Read more »

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
27 days ago

I remember a story about this, and it doesn’t end well for the residents of the city therein.

Katy Voss
Katy Voss
27 days ago

You do? Then please by all means do a little more remembering and regail us all of how a city met its doom by way of a kinky photo studio.

RJH
RJH
28 days ago

I think this is a great story. I guess it is a “private sex club” rented out by individuals to bring in anyone that he or she wants. Different than back in the day with places like The Zone where anyone from the public could go at any late hour and meet others for sex fun. I hope they bring some of those establishments back. WEHO needs to keep its’ edge and support these kind of businesses. Everything old is new again!

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
28 days ago

“Sex is a sport”? One of the most stupid statements I’ve heard in my life. This place looks depressing.

L.Bass
L.Bass
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Since your taking the time to identify stupid statements, tell us who your negative narrow minded opinion matters to exactly?

If you don’t have anything nice to say keep your sad commentary to yourself.

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
27 days ago
Reply to  L.Bass

Narrow minded? I can’t think of anything more narrow minded, or outdated, than a sex dungeon with whips and chains. Open your own mind, nowadays, gays don’t have to be hair dressers, florists or wear leather harnesses to express themselves. Move past the stereotypes!

L.Bass
L.Bass
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Who said anything about “gays have to be hair dressers, florists or wear leather harnesses to express themselves”? The article clearly say they are open to everyone regardless of gender or sexual preference. And if you think sex dungeons, whips and chains are outdated, try telling that to the 10k people and countless business sponsors who attend LA Leather Pride festival anually! If anyone is sterotyping here ITS YOU. So, in a way your right they DONT have to be from any one walk of life, everyone is welcome to patronize this establishment! Sorry to pop the fragile bubble you… Read more »

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
27 days ago
Reply to  L.Bass

It’s sad that you get so emotional over sex dungeons and leather. Maybe you’ll get to discover a world that doesn’t involve this silliness someday. I’m also chuckling about the “countless business sponsors”.

L. Bass
L. Bass
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

No,I get emotional when people with an over inflated sense of importance think thier bias negativity is noteworthy enough to share with others. But thankfully I live in a world where people that call themselves WEHO MARY think thier snotty and entitled opinion is worth reading instead of the verbal diarrhea that it is…. because THAT makes everyone chuckle:)

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
26 days ago
Reply to  L. Bass

Don’t you mean “negative bias”? You made a similar mistake in your other comment, by the way. Have fun dressing up in Halloween costumes and playing with your whips!

L.Bass
L.Bass
26 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Now your resorting to correcting my spelling? You really must be bored and lonely. I’ll have fun with my whips while you have fun trolling the internet looking for people to bully and offer my NEGATIVE BIAS when no one asked for it to begin with!

L.Bass
L.Bass
26 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Now you have resorted to correcting my Grammer. You REALLY must be bored and lonely! I’ll have fun with my whip while you have fun trolling the internet looking for people to bully with your NEGATIVE BIAS!

what?!?
what?!?
25 days ago
Reply to  L.Bass

dito l.bass

L.Bass
L.Bass
24 days ago
Reply to  what?!?

What does “dito” mean? If you mean DITTO? I didn’t say anything to you so DITTO TO WHAT what?!?

LOL

JF1
JF1
28 days ago

Well…..at least it’s not another empty storefront. But it does seem like a race to the bottom.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
27 days ago
Reply to  JF1

Plenty of bottoms racing there, and tops as well. Anyway I’ll be investing in bleach companies because they’ll need a shitload of it, and maybe on the streets and “Vaseline Alley” what in the hell is that? You know what, don’t explain that.

Jeff
Jeff
28 days ago

I remember about 10 years ago there was a “massage parlor” near Lexington and La Brea (I think it may have been just over the border in LA). Flyers went up on poles in the area, we may have also gotten a postcard about how it was a sex parlor and soon it went away. I don’t really care about what people do sexually , but I also don’t really understand how a business like Pig Pen is allowed to exist in a public manner.

Brett Hollenbeck
Brett Hollenbeck
27 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Well a business like this may not appeal to everyone and that’s OK. Frankly, I appreciate the transparency of the article. It will keep it from becoming a place shrouded in rumors and speculation. If you think this is the first business like this to exist, think again! There are playspaces and dungeons sprinkled all over LA… this is just the first one brave enough to speak up and make themselves known to the general public. These places have thrived in the shadows for a long time…. it’s risky sticking your neck out like this but I for one commend… Read more »

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
27 days ago

“Shame is bad, stop shaming. Shame on you for shaming.”

Brett Hollenbeck
Brett Hollenbeck
27 days ago

Umm…. huh?

Chloe Ross
28 days ago

It sounds sticky and a little bit icky, but I live in WeHo because it ‘s a small city that embraces diversity. As do I. And this is a serious embrace. My only question is this..if the Pig Pen is a legal entity, why do folks bad mouth brothels.? Is it simply that money changes hands? Surely brothels could change their policies to make them a fun place to go for consenting adults as well. Somehow it seems biased that one is okay and the other nasty. And I am well over the age of consent and not suggesting selling… Read more »

Katy Voss
Katy Voss
27 days ago
Reply to  Chloe Ross

Well by definition a Brothel is a place that employs prostitutes. This place doesn’t sound like they employ anyone and the owner rents out the space only. If a customer brings a prostitute with him then that’s on the customer not the business owner. People take prostitutes to hotels all the time…. no one considers a hotel a Brothel tho. It seems some people might be misunderstanding the fundamental nature of this business. It’s just a rentable photo studio with alot of kinky furniture to play on….THATS ALL. It’s basicly like a fancy hotel room with a kinky decor. People… Read more »

BloodshotEyedGuy
BloodshotEyedGuy
28 days ago

Live and let live for sure, but I’ll pass. Just because it’s WeHo doesn’t mean kink is as accepted and normal as grabbing a Frappuccino. Plus, I’m not sure I’d even want to tickle my pickle with anyone who’d go to a place like this. I’m of the generation from when even mainstream gay bars had those “backrooms,” and even then, some used them, and a whole other segment of gays never even knew what was behind those curtains. Never had any regrets about bypassing that whole scene.

Last edited 28 days ago by BloodshotEyedGuy
greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
28 days ago

No one cares.

Last edited 28 days ago by greeneyedguy
WehoRoyalty
WehoRoyalty
28 days ago

Why can’t it be as Normal as grabbing a Frappuccino? In fact there is a coffee shop in San Francisco that markets DIRECTLY to the kink community called Wicked Grounds – Coffee and Tea. Are you saying that West Hollywood is not as open minded and inclusive as San Francisco? Is something wrong with a person who visits “a place like this”? No one is forcing it on you to try but as you said “Live and let live” …. and if you try how the other half lives you might be surprised to discover something you never knew you… Read more »

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
28 days ago
Reply to  WehoRoyalty

Or…Maybe they’ll go there and discover an STI that they didn’t know existed. The possibilities are endless!

WeHoRoyalty
WeHoRoyalty
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

LOL….you can potentially get an STI with anyone you have sex with…. no matter where you are when your doing it. Not to mention places like this usually can only operate by promoting safe sex. Seriously, what an ignorant comment.

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHoRoyalty

Oh sure, just like everyone on PrEP is using condoms to prevent STIs. I can guarantee that 99% of folx that go here have bareback sex and insist on it with their partners.

WeHoRoyalty
WeHoRoyalty
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Oh well then I stand corrected. Why should anyone listen to real scientific facts or experts with first hand knowledge when we have the guarantee of the wise almighty WEHO MARY and her google searches. The world can breath a collective sigh of relief…..LOL!

It’d funny you accuse me of stereotyping when your last comment is a textbook definition of stereotyping an entire group of people based on your bias opinion.

Seriously, if your gonna be divisive at least think before you speak.

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
26 days ago
Reply to  WeHoRoyalty

I think you’re either in extreme denial, or are very new to the community. Good luck finding your bearings, the sooner you do, the happier you’ll be. xoxo Mary

WeHoRoyalty
WeHoRoyalty
26 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

DITTO

XOXO WEHO ROYALTY

Olen
Olen
28 days ago

Finally. We need more of these spaces out in the open in our society.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
27 days ago
Reply to  Olen

Holy shit you’re just…begging for horrific situations. Imagine being so nihilistic and ill-willed.

L.Bass
L.Bass
4 days ago

LOL… Ironiclly, Your statement is the very definition of being “nihilistic and ill-willed”. What an embarrassing and “horrific situation” to have put yourself in. 🙂

WehoRoyalty
WehoRoyalty
29 days ago

Sounds fun and a refreshing addition to WeHo. I admit, now I’m curious and want to check it out. I love little adventures like this that force me out of my comfort zone.

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