« Although not everyone’s idea of a good time is whips and sensory deprivation, there may be a little more kink in all of us than we’re willing to admit.»

Bondage and spanking don’t often ink the pages of newsprint, unless you’re reading Lustlab, the personal ads section of The Stranger, Seattle’s alt-weekly. There you’ll find stories of exhibitionists using garden gnomes for self-pleasure and foot fetishes that stretch well beyond foot massages.

These ads are the fodder behind cartoonist Ellen Forney’s weekly illustrations that appear in The Stranger as well as her recent book Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads From Seattle’s The Stranger, a collection of her best adaptations along with interviews with a few Lustlab advertisers.


“A lot of my work is sexually orientated and playful,” she says on why she was drawn to The Stranger’s request to do these illustrations. “The challenge of taking this material that could be considered hardcore … and to make it playful and positive and welcoming and fun was just a perfect puzzle for me.”

One of Forney’s favourite ads, mainly for its ability to creatively play with text, reads “Bondage Hippie. Bisexual woman with a passion for whips, Birkenstocks, and sensory deprivation seeks imaginative play partner.” She adapted the text in a 70’s psychedelic style that wraps around to shape a mummy’s head.

“Using styles that I haven’t used before keeps it really fresh. It keeps the puzzle changing,” says Forney, who is also the creative mind behind I Love Led Zeppelin.

Although not everyone’s idea of a good time is whips and sensory deprivation, there may be a little more kink in all of us than we’re willing to admit. That’s Forney’s rational behind dedicating Lust to “perverts everywhere – including all you voyeurs.” In all of us there lies a desire or at least curiosity to delve further into our own sexual exploration. Some are simply just willing to lay it out there in a personal ad.

Forney adds that the Internet, and online dating in particular, has changed the way many people view personal ads. “I think it is becoming more accepted as a place to meet,” she says. And she’s not just referring to people who want to explore their kinky side.

After more than three years of examining personal ads, Forney believes the best ones are those that are more specific. “Rather than saying I like movies, say ‘I like Casablanca and film noir.’ It’s more descriptive.”

Same thing goes for the kinky realm.

“People who say ‘I’m ready to explore my kinky side’ — that doesn’t say anything. Do you want to tie someone up? Do you want someone to call you names?”

Description gets results … and, if you’re in Seattle, perhaps a spot in Forney’s weekly illustrations.


Kasia Iglinski is a journalist who enjoys her work and her dating life. Armed with a notepad and a curious mind, she’s always on the prowl for a good story and a good date.

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