The English love a story of posh people behaving badly, especially one that involves sex, drugs or drink — preferably all three at once — in some stately home or Mayfair pad. In 1963, following the Profumo scandal (yes, the one involving Christine Keeler) the nation was gripped by tales of sex parties involving prostitutes, pimps, peers and cabinet ministers. And then there was the infamous photograph of the Duchess of Argyll with something in her mouth that definitely wasn’t a silver spoon. The Denning Report — Lord Denning’s 1963 inquiry into what he referred to as ‘perverted sex parties’ — was a smash hit, selling more than 4,000 copies in the first hour of its publication.
‘VIP sex parties’ have been back in the news more recently, following the murder of Tudor Simionov. He was a bouncer who was stabbed to death by gatecrashers outside one such party on New Year’s Eve. No one is sure if the Park Lane party really was awash with posh people getting up to no good, but the event was linked to ‘Lord’ Edward Davenport. Davenport has denied the claim, but as soon as his name popped up, the story of the dead 33-year-old Simionov, who had come to this country from Romania with his fiancée in order to make a better life, was pushed aside for that old favourite: posh decadence behind closed doors.
Davenport is the man responsible for creating and successfully marketing the concept of the posh sex party that is also open to the public — at least the wealthier end of it. Till Davenport appeared, sex parties were seen as suburban affairs for young middle-class swingers, bonk-mad baby boomers and druggy pop stars in cool pads in Sussex Gardens. Davenport made the sex party upmarket by giving it a veneer of class: thanks to Eddie, one could poke with the posh.
Poshness is central to the Davenport brand. With his velvet smoking jacket, top hat and silver cane — plus a title he purchased — Davenport portrays himself as ‘a true English gentleman from an established British family’. At least that’s what it says on his website.
His marketing of class and sex started aged 20 in 1986 when, along with his business partner Jeremy Taylor, he kicked off the Gatecrasher Balls. These were a series of ‘wild’ parties held in grand estates like Longleat and Weston Park for teenagers who went to expensive public schools. Press reports — and especially the accompanying photos of ‘black tie toffs’ snogging pissed Sloanes — fitted perfectly with the stereotype of upper-class privilege and decadence. ‘Orgies at wild child ball!’ was one tabloid headline. But according to the journalist Kate Spicer, who was a teenager at the time: ‘All we did was smoke Marlboros and drink quarter bottles of vodka while dancing on tables, before getting under them to snog and grope.’ In other words, it was just the typical teenage antics that you could find at the weekend on any council estate.
But the myth of posh decadence was too attractive — and lucrative — to let go. (It was said that Davenport’s balls had made him a millionaire while he was still in his early twenties.) By 2005, he was hosting sex parties at his five-storey 24-room mansion in Portland Place, which he bought from the Sierra Leone government for £50,000. As with the Gatecrasher Balls, the reality didn’t match the sales pitch. A female friend remembers attending one such event which was, she tells me, ‘more grotty than glamorous. The place was dark and dingy and the toilets were disgusting. Most of the other girls were just prostitutes. My friends and I left early.’
Following Davenport’s success, poshness became a key selling point of a new wave of sex party clubs like Killing Kittens (whose founder went to school with Kate Middleton), Heaven Circle and Pure Pleasure. At these parties, you could supposedly rub shoulders with the posh — and presumably other bits of them as well — for a price. Tickets are said to have ranged from £900 to £2,000. These events attracted young professionals and rich older couples. In 2015, the Daily Mail declared that ‘Posh orgies are the hottest new trend.’
So what is the appeal of the posh sex party? They are more about snobbery and social climbing than sex. It’s the association with aristocratic luxury and good taste — along with a dash of decadence — that makes participants feel they’re engaged in something more classy than the common orgy or wife-swapping parties of suburbia.
But the posh sex party has always been a phoney concept. Like Lord Davenport’s title — which came with a property he purchased in Shropshire — the parties are as dodgy as the man himself. (In 2011 he was convicted of fraud and given an eight-year jail sentence.) What his customers fail to understand is that the truly posh would never pay to go to a sex party or any kind of party unless it was for charity. No doubt if you were to organise a sex-orgy ball for Cancer Research or a coke-sniffing marathon for the care of ex-servicemen, you’d have the entire British aristocracy chipping in.
The truth is that truly posh people don’t do sex parties. The reason being that you have to undergo a selection process for admittance, which is an affront to their sense of social superiority. Such parties are also always governed by strict rules and regulations. For example, Killing Kittens parties demand that men can’t touch or talk to women without permission and that participants wear a mask at all times. But you can’t stop posh men from breaking wind or scratching their balls at weddings or funerals, so how are you ever going to get them to obey social etiquette at what is really a middle--class orgy?
I asked one very posh, louche friend of mine with his own country estate if he’d ever gone to one of Eddie Davenport’s sex parties. He looked at me as if I were insane. ‘Why,’ he asked, ‘would I want to go out and pay for a orgy when I can stay home and have one with friends for free?’