Sexplicity Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne by Gloria Walker

“It was a kind of contained outrageousness.”

Following a police raid by the Vice Squad during her Christmas party in 1978, Cynthia Payne (Madam Cyn) was convicted of “running a disorderly house,” and exercising control over prostitutes for gain. After serving 6 months, she was released. She served additional prison time after she was charged and convicted again in 1980. She was already quite a bit of a celebrity in England by then, and a book called An English Madam by Paul Bailey detailed Cynthia’s brothel keeping career. It was ostensibly to celebrate the creation of the film Personal Services–based on Bailey’s book–that Cynthia threw her infamous raided party in May 1986.

Cynthia claimed she was retired from the “biz” when in May 1986, the party at her home in London was raided. The case of Regina vs Payne was brought to trial, and during a short period in 1987, England was titillated by the salacious details of Cynthia’s parties. Sexplicitly Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne is a detailed record of the court proceedings.

It seems that Cynthia’s attitude towards parties–was–as everything else in her life–a little ununsual, for Cynthia hosted sex parties. Men, Cynthia knew from her past, were invited to parties at her home, and there they were entertained by stripteases (amongst other things) and introduced to various swingers and young working ladies. The prosecution’s entire case rested on the issue of whether or not Cynthia controlled prostitutes and if she profited from these parties. (Was there or was there not an entrance fee? Did she receive a percentage of any money her female guests earned?)

The police conducted an undercover operation beginning in 1985–when PC (Police Constable) Stewart made contact with Cynthia. He was invited to attend her parties, and he subsequently attended a total of three. The last party he attended was the party raided in 1986. The prosecution’s police witnesses detail the partygoers’ various states of undress at the moment of the raid, the numerous compromising positions of guests, and the long queues of attendees waiting to utilize the bedroom facilities.

The defence, on the other hand, claimed that the only naughty partygoers were indeed the undercover policemen, and the court (and the reader) is regaled with stories of transvestite policemen, groping, and the naughtiness concerning the “French maid.” The defence maintained that if Cynthia’s home was subject to raid, then partygoers all over the country could be subject to the same treatment.

The trial is detailed in almost comical fashion by Gloria Walker and Lynn Daly–female reporters who found that covering the scandalous trial was “great fun.” They took notes as each of the prostitutes testified, and recorded not only the testimony, but also Cynthia’s charming responses (including her Luncheon Voucher Programme), and the public’s reaction as they heard the testimony. Witnesses included an 85-year-old party goer, a PC from the Obscene Publications Branch, a retired police superintendent (a great fan of Cynthia’s ), and former Monty Python member, Terry Jones. The book also includes some photographs of Cynthia and copies of cartoons which appeared in British newspapers during the trial. My only criticism of the book is that the reader needs to know a little bit about Cynthia’s background in order to get the most from the book. I can also highly recommend the films Personal Services and Wish You Were Here. Personal Services details Cynthia’s adult life and her bordello which catered to the kinky rich. Wish You Were Here is an excellent film based on Cynthia’s teenage years.

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