One of Europe’s most famous nudist colonies has become the subject of an unusual investigation by French detectives after the destruction of three nightclubs in fires blamed on naturist "hardliners."

The normally peaceful Cap d’Agde, a magnet for nudists in the south of France, has been plunged into anxiety as investigators suspect "fundamentalist" nudists of harboring a grudge against the échangistes, or swingers, who are drawn to the town by the promise of sex.

A so-called boîte échangiste — or wife-swapping club — called Glamour, where couples engage in group sex, was the first to be destroyed in April. The next day, the Palme Ré, another orgy venue, also went up in flames. In September, the Tantra club and Zen, its neighboring bar, were leveled in blazes.

No one was hurt but the fires have shocked a community whose crime rate has been dominated until now by cases of exhibitionism.

Tensions have risen between the naturists, who believe that nudity is a healthy choice of lifestyle and nothing to do with sex, and the échangistes, who are attracted to nudist camps by the prospect of multiple partners.

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