"This is Not an Orgy": No, it's more like swinging lite, an increasingly popular pastime in New York.Photo: Brian Finke.

It was only 12 degrees, but inside the Lower East Side bar Idlewild, guys had their polo shirts hanging open, and women had nothing on top except for the itsy-bitsy flowers painted on their nipples by a man in a white feathered hat. With one hand, he applied sparkly aquamarine to the areola of a blonde in a striped skirt. The other he put up her skirt.

“This is not an orgy,” explained the party’s promoter, Palagia, a 32-year-old Greek-American with Maria Callas looks. “It is a sexy soirée promoting sensual liberation.” A better term might be swinging lite, a trend that’s been growing in the city with the popularity of bars like Remote Lounge and the female-empowerment “Cake” parties. In fact, Palagia herself is no stranger to orgies—she throws what she calls “eat-in parties” once a month at rented lofts for about 40 couples. But tonight is a “takeout party,” where couples remain semi-clothed, taking home their newfound lust.

“After the last party, we were panting all weekend,” said an assistant D.A., an arm around her financier boyfriend. “She looks so beautiful,” said a screenwriter in chunky black glasses, watching his girlfriend kiss a stranger. “I write movie musicals about military conflicts,” he added.

It’s a crowd of mostly uptown professionals, with enough hipsters and fetish types to leaven the mix; by Palagia’s estimate, only about 15 percent are into the swinging scene. She sells tickets on her Website, onelegupnyc.com; couples are $50, single women $15, and single men out of luck, though there do seem to be a few—one is crying, “Give me your panties!”

By 2 A.M., the bar was empty—even the screenwriter and his girl were gone, with an extra man in tow. “Takeout parties always end early,” said Palagia. “Everyone gets too horny.”