This summer, Maria Treme was drugged and sexually assaulted at the Country Club, a clothing-optional pool and bar in New Orleans’s Bywater neighborhood. On June 30 she spent several hours there, soaking up rays in the buff while sipping margaritas. Then, at some point, she blacked out. According to WWL TV, Treme didn’t remember paying her piddly $36 bar tab, or signing the credit card slip for another, more expensive, tab later. She remembers little besides waking up in her bed at home, bruised, beside a bottle of lube she did not recognize. Also, her car was gone.
When Treme returned to the Country Club to start piecing together the events with the venue’s concerned staff, she was shocked to watch a video of herself that she didn’t remember. After speaking to witnesses, she pieced together the horrifying fact that she had had sex in the pool with one man, sex in the sauna with another man, and then left the Country Club wrapped only in a towel with a third man.
This mysterious assault has made her life harder in all the expected ways—and then the city’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Board reacted to her allegations by dangling the Country Club’s alcohol permit over the club, threatening to take it away unless they made their clientele put their clothes back on. This misguided punishment led some in the community to harshly blame the already distraught Treme for ruining a New Orleans “tradition.”
Now the 31-year-old feels uncomfortable on the streets of the city where she was born and raised and suffers from panic attacks. Still, Treme refuses to remain quiet about what happened to her. Most rape victims’ names are concealed by the authorities, but Treme has spoken out and let her photo be published in order to empower other rape victims. “You’re always told you need to talk about your feelings,” Treme told me on the phone. “You’re told that talking is the only thing that will make you feel better—except in cases of sexual assault, then people shame you into silence.”
The beautiful Italianate raised center hall cottage that is now the Country Club was built in 1884. In 1977 it was officially but quietly established as a clothing-optional pool and bar unofficially but specifically for gay men. Attorney Jacqueline McPherson purchased the property in 1978 and expanded and added upon the pool area, which now has many private nooks and crannies. By the time McPherson sold the place in 2000, the Country Club had become ground zero for the gay-friendly Marigny neighborhood in the summers and for visitors during the Southern Decadence festival and other gay New Orleans holidays.
When I asked an older gay friend his thoughts on the Country Club for this article, he said only, “I went rarely; I’m just not that into public sex.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article at VICE…
Or check out the Country Club’s “drag brunch”: