Séverine Serizy is a young, beautiful housewife who has masochistic fantasies about elaborate floggings and bondage. She is married to a doctor and loves him, but cannot share physical intimacy with him. A male friend, Monsieur Husson, mentions a high-class brothel to Séverine, also confessing his desire for her. Unsatisfied with her sex life at home, Séverine secretly works at the brothel during the afternoon using the pseudonym Belle de jour. The brothel is run by Madame Anaïs. Séverine works from two to five o'clock each day, returning to her blissfully unaware husband in the evening, but she attends only intermittently.

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