The most exclusive brothel in Paris at its golden age of bordellos has been Le Chabanais, founded in 1878. Other prestigious houses of the time were the One-Two-Two (122, rue de Provence), le Sphinx (31 boulevard Edgar Quintet), and La Fleur blanche (6 rue des Moulins), most specializing in their choice of erotic play.
(Gay visitors could also reach a wide array of services at the marble-laden bathhouses around le jardin du Luxembourg. The most exclusive lesbian club was called Les Rieuses – the Merry Women.)
In a very short time, a matter of years and merely decades, the French capital became the center of flourishing tourism; men and women from Europe came in waves to take a breath of all the sexual freedom. As a result of this increase in demand, the bordellos grew in number, quality and originality. But in such a hustle, how could you find the brothel you were looking for?
Well, the answer was relatively simple.
Meet Guide Rose (“the Pink Guide”), the illicit and famous yellow book of lust published every year, including addresses of all brothels, their specialities and the prices. Pocket sized pleasure.
But you could also find your way by the colourful and sometimes easily identifiable, oversized street numbers of buildings, like this:
Actually, let’s have a look at some these important and prominent brothels you, as a newcomer in the belle époque Paris, have tried so hard to find.
Le Chabanais is the most elaborate and luxurious of the brothels of Paris, and actually the origin of the quintessential cliché of the Parisian bordello. Including 30 courtesans in residence, with a cost of about 1.7 million francs invested (approximately $12.5 million US now), Le Chabanais was the most profitable bordello of the whole European continent.
Internationally known for its sophisticated settings, extreme luxury and theatrical atmosphere at an incredible level of art, Le Chabanais stayed at the top for a very long time. Taking the “serving to all preferences” motto to heart, this brothel made having thematic background for sexual activities mainstream.
Edward the VII, future king of England, had room booked throughout the year in the brothel. He had sex furniture installed, including his sphinx copper bathtub made specifically for him to have champagne skinny dips in it, and his somewhat confusing sex chair, built for threesomes.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec donated 16 erotic paintings of his to the brothel as he stayed as a fancier of prostitutes (he actually installed his atelier in the 6 rue des Moulins, at La Fleur Blanche where he was renamed “the Coffee Pot” by the women, due to his small size and unexpectedly high sexual vigor.)
Opened post WWI, the One-Two-Two opened in 1924 and became the main rival of Le Chabanais in no time. It was named after its address, 122 Rue de Provence, translated into English so that tourists would be able to find the brothel. All its 22 rooms, just like Le Chabanais, had themes, including these:
- Pirate Room: included a four-poster bed that mechanically swung like a boat and jets of water (hidden in the wall) would drench the courtesan and her client.
- Orient Express: an exact replica of a cabin from the famous locomotive. The bed included the shaking/bouncing effects of the train and had railway soundtrack. As an option, you could choose beforehand if you’d like to have an intrusive conductor to interrupt your pleasure and to join you afterwards.
- Egyptian Hall: “The Cleopatra in this room did not roll out of a carpet but surely would love to make you feel like an emperor!”
In addition to these high-quality copies of conditions from different times and places from history, the brothel also included a barn full of straw (for when wool just wasn’t itchy enough), an Inuit igloo, a Native American tipi, a Provencal cottage, and more.
The One-Two-Two also collaborated with a restaurant called Le Boeuf à la Ficelle, who had servers allowed to wear only aprons and high heels.
When WWII ended, the women of One-Two-Two were punished by the French, who shaved their heads. The building now is an usual office.
Miss Betty’s S&M Maison Close
Let’s start with a church.
This is Church of Saint-Sulpice of Paris. If you face the church and wander down the street, Rue Saint-Sulpice, at number 15 you can catch a glimpse of the belle époque.
At first look, the building is plain, Parisian, and nowhere out of ordinary.
But when you take a step and look at the inside, you will see that the mosaic floor of the entrance carries the name of the former Madame of the brothel!
Apparently, there was a well known S&M maison close at the second floor of the building. Due to the very short distance between the brothel and the church, it’s not really difficult to guess where the majority of the clients came from.
Should be noted that this brothel specified in dominatrices, erotic asphyxia and pincers; the most favoured themed rooms were the Crucifixion Parlor and Satan’s Hell Torture Room.
Aux Belles Poules
At No. 32 on the infamous Rue Blondel, there once was a luxurious house of sex.
Aux Belles Poules (“the Cute Chicks”) was known for its tableaux viviants (“living paintings”). They provided scenarios like “the crazed nun” or “the wife wakes up” for the wealthy tourists interested.
This blog is named after and dedicated to the wife that wakes up, because that’s how feminism started. 🙂