Walking down the streets of Paris, you would never think that you are in a country renowned for its sexual freedom. Denim on denim, oversize coats, Stan Smiths– androgyny, if anything, is the national uniform, and any parlay into stilettos or mini skirts is generally regarded as vulgaire. And yet, the French culture is swarming with historical and cinematographic references that convey an exceptionally liberal sexual identity, from Marquis de Sade (from whose name is derived the term “sadism”), to cult classic films like Les Amants (The Lovers), to notorious politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn (“DSK”), now internationally infamous for his sexual exploits. But it’s not that Paris hides its relationship to experimental sexuality: It’s less “seedy underbelly,” more “open secret.” This is a world open to anybody who is willing to give it a try, starting with the various libertine clubs scattered all over the city, the most famous one being Les Chandelles, a Parisian institution known as the regular haunt of numerous celebrities, writers, and politicians. It’s a mysterious and compelling subculture, complete with its own behavioral and sartorial codes, and I’ll admit it: I’m curious.
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