|December 27th, 2005|
Canadian 'swingers' cheer ruling on sex clubs info
MONTREAL, Quebec (Reuters) -- On a recent night out on the town, Michel and Chantal Delbecchi left their suburban Montreal home and drove to the L'Orage Club in the city's east end, where they had sex with a couple they had never met before.
The Delbecchis, husband and wife since 1978, are "echangistes," French for "swingers," who for the past 21 years have been visiting clubs such as L'Orage (Thunderstorm) to have consensual sex in a group with one or more other people.
For future outings, they will no longer have to fear police will raid the club and arrest them for being in a "bawdy house," a place where prostitution or acts of public indecency take place.
In a landmark decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada lifted a ban on swingers' clubs, ruling that group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society.
The ruling sparked outrage, largely in English-speaking parts of Canada, where critics said it would erode limits on indecency or obscenity, encourage prostitution and even contribute to the corruption of minors.
In the mainly French-speaking and predominantly Catholic province of Quebec, however, the decision caused barely a ripple of adverse reaction. Newspaper editorialists fumed in Toronto but largely yawned in Montreal.
Swingers across Canada cheered the ruling, especially those in Quebec, where adherents go to clubs not only to meet others like them but also to have sex on the premises.
"It might make it easier for others interested in swinging to take the next step and visit a club," said Michel, 48, huddled next to Chantal, 43, on a sofa at the dimly lit L'Orage.
Michel, who works at an outlet of warehouse retailer Costco, and Chantal, on leave from her job at a school bus operator, said most swingers are not comfortable in the public spotlight.
"We have a few friends who were afraid to come out to a club because they were worried about how a raid might affect their work or family situation," said Chantal.
For L'Orage club owner Jean-Paul Labaye, the ruling is vindication after a seven-year court battle that began with a 1998 police raid in which he and 40 of his patrons were arrested for being in a bawdy house.
"Everyone was shocked that we would be treated like bandits," Labaye said. "I vowed to defend myself and their cause if that was their desire and that is what I did."
Labaye, a portly and jovial 46-year-old native of France, said swingers celebrated the Supreme Court victory with a late-night party at L'Orage.
In an interview the next day at the club, Labaye apologized for not being able to show a reporter and photographer the upstairs rooms where groups have sex because the housekeeping service had not yet cleaned them.
The club is housed in an elegant but aging two-story house on a busy street. The ground floor has mismatched sofas and chairs, scant lighting and framed photographs on the walls depicting scenes of mild sexual bondage.
The club has no license to sell alcoholic beverages but sports a small bar that offers coffee and caffeine-loaded soft drinks.
Labaye said he hopes a group of Florida investors will help him move into swankier digs, which in addition to the requisite private rooms will have something resembling a refined cigar lounge.
Club rules will be the same -- no illicit drugs or alcohol abuse, and when it comes to propositions for sex, a reply of no means no.
In the meantime, the swinger soirees will continue at L'Orage and at least two dozen similar clubs in Quebec, including one in Gatineau, just opposite the Ottawa River from the imposing stone hulk of the Supreme Court building.
Labaye and the Delbecchis, who have three adult sons, are preparing for important changes in their personal lives.
Labaye plans to marry his girlfriend in Paris in May.
As for Michel and Chantal, a 25-year-old woman has become their mutual lover, and all three plan to move in together early next year. Despite that new relationship, the Delbecchis expect to continue exchanging sex partners in Quebec clubs.
Said Michel: "At the club, we have sex with people. At home, we make love."