Paris – not a place I’ve previously warmed to. I had a miserable trip there ten years ago with an ex who insisted on working for the whole trip, leaving me to walk around Paris alone. I paid for the trip and he shouted at me for not bringing jam home when I went out to get croissants.
But now, it’s been years since I’ve been there and I’m eager to see the place again, so I suggest it to Jared. And, being the maximalist that he is, he insists that it must be for Valentine’s Day.
Before I can remonstrate, he’s rented a charming apartment in the 11th arrondissement and bought the Thalys tickets.
It’s been a week or two since out last sex adventure, out of curiosity I google the sex clubs of Paris. Turns, out, true to stereotype, there are many. This is actually rather unexpected for me, I associate the sex club much more with the Netherlands and Germany. I am very curious to see what the French equivalent is like. Whether the buffets offer foie gras rather than bitterballen. There’s always a fucking buffet. Usually this kind of thing is not my scene, but out of a thirst for adventure I keep going back, hoping (usually in vain) for one of those magical times when it’s actually good, when you meet a person or two you actually fancy and who fancies you too.
Some of them look quite decent, bar the idiotic gender normative requirement for women to wear skirts or dresses… I send Jared a couple of possibilities, suggesting we should check one out while we’re there. His eyes light up at the thought. Always down for trouble, this one.
We arrive late on a Thursday night. The apartment is charmingly old-fashioned, worn wood floors, a battered brown sofa, a kitchen suite made of wood with glass-fronted cupboards, brass taps. The drapes at the tall windows are musty orange velvet, there is an old wood bed and a tiny bathroom. It feels extremely Paris. My imagination runs wild, I’m a writer in Paris in the 30s, perhaps I’m Jean Rhys, or ideally Anais Nin. We head out to a nearby bar, I’m keen to show him the kind of bar I spent time in as a teenager. It’s weird, but nice to speak French again, I so rarely get to practice it. The next day, I insist on a trip to the Centre Pompidou, which I remember as the highlight of my last trip there. I’ve been talking it up and I hope Jared likes it as much as I do. Turns out it’s still one of the more impressive art museums I’ve ever been to, and he’s duly impressed with it.
Later on, we decide to go to the Valentine’s Day special of the most upmarket-seeming club libertine. Its website is trying extremely hard to persuade visitors that the venue is the very height of class. It lists egregious prices and is decked out in lavender, with language as flowery as the design, all talk of seduction and temptation. The dress code irks me automatically, suits for men, heels and skirts for women. It even specifies that women in trousers or flats will not be admitted, likewise for men in jeans or trainers. Shows how far I’m willing to go for a genuinely good sex club, that I put up with this heteronormative bullshit, and very uncomfortable shoes, in the name of a potential good time.
We arrive at the unmarked door, it’s chichi enough that it has designated taxi parking. We ring the bell at the interior door. Wait a second with baited breath. The doorman is discreet, well-dressed. He speaks fluent English, so I don’t need to translate. “Have you been here before?” No drinks in the darkrooms, a few other ground rules. He gives us our card for drinks and waves us off down the red staircase into the caverns below.
The interior is incredible, lush padded velvet walls, scintillating low lights giving the impression of candles. You walk down a staircase to get to the labyrinth of bars and darkrooms. There is a table filled with lavish delicacies – towers of macarons, huge bowls of cherries, dainty chocolates on elaborate dishes. Beats a greasy sausage any day of the week. The red velvet padding covers every wall, it’s like being inside an orifice. No accident, I assume.
The bar/dancefloor area has the atmosphere of a wedding. Couples in fancy attire, women in dresses and heels, men in suits, music mid-calibre DJ at Burning Man circa three years ago (and later on, French pop hits that would be exactly the kind of thing played at this lot’s dull-ass weddings). The crowd is attractive enough, but in a rather conventional way. It’s a weird velvet wedding arsehole full of the kind of people who want to ‘spice up their sex life’.
It’s around midnight and people are still filtering in, though the place is fairly well-populated already. Couples sit at the tables arranged around the side of the room, scanning the scene, eyeing up the others there. It’s civilised, rather than sleazy. We take our card to the bar – no bags in here, you pay for your drinks when you leave. A gigantic bowl of fat black cherries sits on the bar. Jared does the honours, ordering prosecco. The bartender stops him. “Champagne”. Two glasses of champagne procured (because god forbid we drink prosecco in Paris!) and we’re off, touring the bar and dance floor area. Everything lit in shades of red and pink. We spot a reasonably attractive young couple, I hear her English accent from a mile away. He is French, clearly showing his English girlfriend the sights of Paris. She is tall, slightly awkward and somewhat bemused. We pass them several times. When I finally do say hello, asking (in what I think is a friendly tone) whether they’re having a good night, he reacts as though facing me down. Yes, very nice thanks. With a politely disdainful look, the conversation is closed and they move on with their night.
It’s decidedly not my vibe, incredibly straight, all straight couples looking to swap. We’re the only people there with tattoos. That almost never happens to me these days. I fucking hate it, but it’s ludicrously expensive to get in, perhaps I just need more booze. I curse my ailing judgement for thinking this was a place I might ever want to set foot in. But I feel like now I have to try and make something of it, if only for Jared’s sake. At least these days I feel able to tell him this kind of thing, rather than soldiering on joylessly, attempting to have a good time. Amazing, the bullshit we put ourselves through in the name of a good time, the die-hard hedonists reading this will laugh in recognition of their own tendencies. So I tell him I hate it, hate its boring conventionalism. I feel dreadfully out of place, with my short hair and tattoos. There isn’t even another woman here with short hair, that’s how old-school it is.
Finishing our drinks, we decide to do a tour through the dark rooms. Perhaps they’ll feel more promising, or I’ll somehow feel less out of place.
We enter via a cavern, containing toilets and a shower, all dark-tiled, very beautifully done. This corridor is darker than the bar area, with greenish lighting. Seated couples line the wall, which has a velvet-upholstered bench along it.
Passing through velvet curtains, we enter a sex area, with a nook containing a pole and a cushioned seat off to the left, a larger room bordered by built-in sofas to the right, with various sex booths.
On this first tour, it’s not that busy. A pair of buttocks heaves in the corner, it’s too dark to see the recipient of their attentions, but whoever it is sounds like they’re enjoying themselves. Another few couples sprawl on a bed area, an open shirt, an exposed cock, writhing and breathing hard. In another corner, the butt, thong clad, of a woman riding an invisible penis, is visible, her dress hitched up so it’s on display. The thong is high-waisted, one of those 80s-style ones. In the black light, it appears to be a lemon green colour against her blue-tinged skin. We watch the butt for a minute, admiring its roundness as it bounces, its owner’s excellent choice of underwear.
There is another area in the other direction, another room with a couple of wide sex sofas, leading to a golden-lit room with red velvet banquettes and poles. This room is less dark than the last, it has an entrance through a small arch, where a few tentative people lurk, unsure of the protocol for entering. We pass them and saunter through the scene. At one end of the room, a woman is getting fucked, surrounded by men. Some of them are without trousers, cocks out and pointed in the direction of the woman. On the sofa across from this scene, a bacchanalian configuration of couples makes a contorted tableau of limbs and orifices attached to appendages. I think Jared would like to stay and watch, perhaps join in. Personally I always just feel rather awkward watching, and there’s no one I’m interested in getting genital with here.
We order another round, taking in the scenery again. The bartender is gorgeous, tall with close-cropped dark hair and high cheekbones, dark eyes that are wide and cat-like, arched brows and slim lips. I wonder if we can take him home. But it seems crass to proposition the staff. The things these guys (all men, all dressed in suit trousers and dress shirts) must have seen, I think to myself. He gives us a few free rounds of champagne, with a cheeky smile, hands pressed together as if in prayer. He’s young, can’t be older than 25. I wonder how one comes by a job here. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably his student job. What a hilarious student job, to watch the olds get drunk and go at it with each other’s wives, I think, the average age must be 30s. There are people from around 25 to around 50 here, I’d say, although I don’t think there’s a woman over 40 in the place.
The people watching is pretty good, it has to be said. Watching people outside their comfort zone is always interesting. And basically everyone here is a little uncomfortable, some more so than others. A hot couple around our age catch our eye. She is slim with long dark hair, he has a handsome face with a beard, wears a white shirt open a couple of buttons too low, with a gold necklace. They take one of the tables, we take one next to them, trying to catch their gaze. But they’re too wrapped up in each other to notice us, they start to kiss, he runs hands up her leg. We turn back towards each other as he starts to finger her, his large hand in her black mesh panties.
Somehow, I get it into my head that I should show off my underwear. I have a loose black shift over a mesh bodysuit, with a bejewelled ensemble over the top, a present from Jared. The jewels wind around my neck and breasts like a bra, they come with a matching suspender belt made of bejewelled chains. We decide to do the tour again. We’re slightly tipsy on champagne. The darkroom is fuller this time. Jared looks around hopefully. I kiss him, I know he’s keen to see some action, I hope he won’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
I sink to my knees, unzipping the fly of his oxblood suit.
I untuck the shirt with its fine blue print. Strange to see him dressed like this, he does sometimes dress up, but it’s not often I see him looking like this. It’s quite sexy, he has some air of traditional masculinity in his height and broad shoulders, his structured jaw, but to see him play it up like it’s the fifties is compelling.
Wrestling his cock from his underwear, I take it in my mouth, looking up. The shirt makes curtains either side of it, I push it up with one hand. He watches me, then surveys the scene surrounding us. Several couples fuck on the bench, a naked man’s back and buttocks visible, movements shrouded by the low light. His hand is on my head, a disembodied hand snakes its way to my crotch, starts to move between my legs, pushing aside the mesh. I never find out who this hand belongs to, but it continues its work diligently.
A woman has been sitting on the bench behind me, sucking her partner’s cock. We pull the cocks from our mouths at the same time as she reaches for Jared. Her plump…