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So what actually goes on in clubs like these? AS SOME couples cosy up in restaurants around Paris, others furtively slip through a purple tinted door for a night of sexual titillation at a libertine nightclub.
One by one accountants, engineers, businessmen and parents are buzzed into the discreet club on the banks of a Parisian canal, where gently flickering lights play across an interior decorated in warm, sensual reds and violets. Couples like Nathalie and Antonio and Maxime and Aurelia enter what appears to be a normal nightclub, with a large bar area where a sumptuous buffet is set up, and a mirrored dancefloor. But a closer look reveals that alongside buckets full of champagne and peanuts on the bar, are glass jars stuffed with condoms.
Welcome to Quai 17, one of nearly libertine, or swingers clubs, across France — a sexual lifestyle that has come under the spotlight because of the trial of former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Hundreds of years later it is all about the erotic, and it is at libertine establishments — ranging from seedy saunas to chic clubs with exorbitant entry fees — that people from all walks of life come to find sexual thrills. According to Crouzas, the typical crowd of older couples seeking to spice up a stale marriage have been joined by youngsters looking for excitement.
The evening starts off slowly, with couples sipping champagne as red and white heart-shaped balloons bob overhead, going back-and-forth to the buffet, their eyes stopping to linger from time to time on another guest. Some come dressed as if they are going to a formal dinner, others in revealing leather and lace with garters and towering heels. Nathalie feels their lifestyle is still taboo, and that there are a lot of misconceptions about it.