Should we be lending Kate's pal £170,000 to expand her sex empire?
It's infamous for its upmarket orgies. But as Killing Kittens is given a government loan: Should we be lending Kate Middleton's pal £170,000 to expand her posh sex empire?Emma Sayle, 40, is the founde
It's infamous for its upmarket orgies. But as Killing Kittens is given a government loan: Should we be lending Kate Middleton's pal £170,000 to expand her posh sex empire?
- Emma Sayle, 40, is the founder of the London-based sex club Killing Kittens
- Company is set to receive a £170,000 loan from the Government's ‘Future Fund’
- Friend of the Duchess of Cambridge, said funds won't be used to for sex parties
- Killing Kittens is valued at around £11.5 million, with 120,000 members globally
Friday night, and a host of excitable partygoers are gathered on laptops for a digital get together on the video conferencing platform Zoom.
It’s been a familiar scene for many in recent months. This party, however, is rather more intimate than most: early on, many of the attendees are already stripped down to lingerie or stark naked, and as the night gets underway there is decidedly X-rated activity unfolding onscreen.
Of course, this is exactly what the hundred or so attendees signed up for when they joined a ‘Zoom orgy’ — or ‘Zorgy’ as they have dubbed it.
It’s the brainchild of 40-year-old Emma Sayle, a school friend of the Duchess of Cambridge and founder of the exclusive, London-based sex club Killing Kittens — tagline ‘the network for the sexual elite’ — a business that like many has had to adapt in the wake of recent global events.
Emma Sayle, 40, who is a school friend of the Duchess of Cambridge, revealed the plans for her London-based sex club Killing Kittens. Pictured: Kate and Emma in 2007
It’s a particular challenge for a company whose very essence is, quite literally, pressing the flesh. And so out go the masked, candlelit gatherings and sexual free-for-alls in penthouse apartments and stately homes, and in come online sex parties and workshops on everything from the art of striptease to an introduction to ‘kink’.
What’s more, it seems to be paying dividends: membership of the ‘Killing Kittens’ online forum — think Facebook, with fewer clothes — has gone up 300 per cent since the pandemic started.
Hats off for innovation, certainly. But what might shock you, even more than the lewd behaviour the company encourages, is that the Government apparently endorses its rather seedy digital transformation.
This month, it revealed that Sayle’s company would receive a £170,000 loan from its ‘Future Fund’ to transition into a ‘global sex technology’ company; funding development of a new chat and dating app and adult social network.
The ‘growth’ loan — matched by fundraising from Sayle — is due to be repaid within three years, but if not, it gets converted into equity, leading to the rather mind-boggling prospect of the Government having an active stake in a sex business. Sayle is certainly happy to play shamelessly on that notion, quipping that she ‘never envisaged Boris as a sleeping partner’.
Elsewhere, unsurprisingly, a number of eyebrows have been raised — among them those of Sarah Champion MP, former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, who has asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to stop the payments being made.
Emma spoke exclusively to the Mail from her holiday in Mallorca, revealing the Government loan will put Killing Kittens in the same league as Match.com
The short answer is ‘no’ — and nor should he, insists Sayle, who is married to former international hockey player-turned City worker James Tindall, and with whom she has three children, Raffy, six, Lily, three, and Maly Jean, one.
Speaking exclusively to the Mail from her holiday in Mallorca, she says: ‘Everyone focuses on the sex parties, but they were only ever the tip of the iceberg and a business is a business whatever the headlines.
‘The money isn’t going to be financing sex parties, it’s an ongoing pivot into digital sex tech which hopefully will put Killing Kittens in the same league as massive online dating businesses like Match.com.’
As for her detractors, who question whether ‘sex tech’ is quite what the British Government should put its money into as we plunge into recession, she puts them down breezily as prudes.
‘A lot of this boils down to British queasiness about sex. Our sexuality drives us all far more than religion and politics, but thanks to the way the world has been run for years it’s been squashed and put in the seedy, dirty camp that you can’t talk about, particularly when it comes to women’s sexuality.’
Emma (pictured) explained her inspiration for Killing Kittens came from helping to organise a sex party while she worked in PR
It’s typical defiance from Sayle, a well spoken, ballsy blonde who was a contemporary of Kate Middleton at Berkshire’s Downe House School. The two remained friends, and in 2007 were both members of a dragon boat rowing team called The Sisterhood. It led to uncomfortable headlines for the Duchess, as by then Sayle had already launched her Killing Kittens sex parties.
Without an iota of embarrassment, Sayle recalls her light bulb moment: ‘I’d spent a few years working in PR and helped a guy organise a sex party on his estate,’ she says. ‘I’d seen how nervous a lot of the female guests were and wanted to create something where girls would have the power.
‘At the time there were loads of platforms for men when it came to sex, but when we started there was nowhere women could feel in control and explore their sexuality in a safe environment.’
So her sex parties came with ground rules: a vetted guest list, no single men — only single women or couples — and a ban on men approaching women they don’t know (women do the propositioning, instead). ‘The rooms are candlelit, we play the right kind of music, and it’s black tie, so people are dressed up. There’s often a champagne and oyster reception, too,’ she says.
She was certainly onto something: today the company is valued at around £11.5 million, with 120,000 members globally and events as far afield as Australia.
The Killing Kittens social network which Emma describes as a mixture of Facebook and a dating app has 180,000 members
‘What fewer people know is there was always an online side, with social networks, dating sites and workshops,’ she says. ‘Then four years ago I realised 50 per cent of the business was coming from the digital side — and it was growing at pace.’ Sayle appointed a new CEO and raised £1 million to help fund a new digital platform and apps with a rather different spin; one, called SafeDate, aims to give women a degree of protection on dates with strangers by contacting nominated ‘safe people’ if users don’t check in to the app to say they’re ok after a date.
She also launched the Killing Kittens platform, a social network she dubs a mixture of Facebook and a dating app which has 180,000 members. ‘It’s really exciting,’ she enthuses. ‘It has so much going on — we have online courses in things like sensual massage and members can earn badges which are the equivalent of Brownie badges.’
But the average Brownie leader would be horrified by the adverts that accompany this social network. One way the site earns money is by running ads from companies that have trouble advertising on more traditional sites. ‘When you are in the sex business a lot of doors are closed in your face,’ Sayle says.
Certainly, this new digital arm proved lucrative, and Sayle was unsurprisingly keen to expand it. Then lockdown struck. ‘We were aiming to have 80 per cent of our revenue come from the digital side by the end of the year — instead it became 100 per cent within a month,’ she says.
Emma (pictured) revealed Killing Kittens's Zoom parties which started in March have sold out every week
‘When we hosted a Killing Kittens event in Venice in February, we could see what was coming with Covid-19 — so we worked all hours to get the digital side launched.’
Which brings us to those Zoom gatherings: 100-person affairs featuring burlesque, fire and cage performers and a lot of naked bodies. As with the in-the-flesh parties, those attending are vetted: to apply you have to join the ‘Kittens Association’ from where, if approved, you can buy a single or couple’s ticket.
‘Obviously, there’s not an actual orgy,’ says Sayle. ‘There’s no touch involved — apart from between couples living with each other — but people can challenge each other to do certain things. But the same rules about respecting boundaries and women approaching first still apply.’
There has certainly been no shortage of demand. ‘We did our first Zoom party on the first Friday of lockdown in March and we capped it at 50 screens,’ she reveals. ‘Since then we have done one or two every Friday and sold out every week.’
She reveals the format has even drawn in new customers bored with their curtailed social lives.
‘Over 50 per cent of the people taking part are new. People are stuck in lockdown, they’re bored, and I think a lot of couples are communicating for the first time about their sexual feelings. So they think “shall we give this a go?” because they can do it from the comfort of their sofa.’
Whether online or in person, Killing Kitten’s unusual brand of entertainment is here to stay.