The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan

“And the games one can play! Really there is no sport to touch it: it is not just a nocturnal relaxation, it is a way of life.” (Kenneth Tynan writing about the spanking fetish in 1973)

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  • Kenneth Tynan (b.1927) was an influential and controversial British theatre critic and writer.
  • After divorcing his first wife, the author Elaine Dundy, he married American screenwriter Kathleen Halton in 1967.
  • Oh! Calcutta!, the erotic stage revue that he produced, debuted in 1969 and became one of the most successful theatre hits of all time.
  • In 1971, Tynan co-wrote with Roman Polanski the script of a screen adaptation of Macbeth. In that same year he returned to his childhood habit of keeping a journal.
  • As his second marriage began to fall apart, he became increasingly obsessed with spanking and caning the female bottom. He formed a sado-masochistic relationship with a woman known as Nicole whose fantasies matched his own. Their notorious spanking sessions are described in the diaries, which he always intended should be published.
  • He moved with his family to California in 1976, with hopes of easing his emphysema and to write a series of articles for the “The New Yorker”.
  • Tynan died in Santa Monica, California, aged 53.
  • “The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan” edited by John Lahr were published in 2001. I’ve extracted all the relevant parts from the book and added a few additional notes of my own in italics.


24 January

So we beat on, canes against buttocks, borne back ceaselessly into the past.*

A parody of the last lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”: “So we beat on. boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.”

16 February

Roman shoots the nude sleepwalking scene. Francesca (Annis) does it very sportingly and with no great fuss about her nudity. At lunch I opine that Francesca has fesses tristes. Roman agrees, adding that he much prefers bottoms to breasts. We discuss which stars have the sexiest bottoms. I say Natalie Wood; he says Jane Fonda. I reply that hers is boyish. ‘Why not?’ says Roman. ‘As a matter of fact I have the sexiest bottom in the film industry.’ (And he gets up to model it).


Sexiest Bottom?

I then put in a word for Marilyn Monroe. Roman says ‘Oh, if we’re going to talk about dead people, Sharon’s* bottom wasn’t bad.’ It does not seem to occur to him that his tribute could have been less callously phrased.

* Actress Sharon Tate (above) who had been murdered by the followers of Charles Manson two years earlier.

4 April

I’m writing a magazine piece on Roman Polanski – at best a morally neutral act. But the film Andy Braunsberg* wants me to direct has an erotic and anally sadistic theme. To do this work may well be a wicked act.

* Andy Braunsberg was a film producer whose credits include “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (in which Sharon Tate was spanked). Tynan and Bruansberg’s planned spanking film was never made. (see entry 1 October 1972)

12 April

The most unexpected thing I ever heard said: after a dinner party in the mid-fifties. The host desultorily asked the guests to name the three things they loved the most in the world. The answers ranged from the predictably serious (‘Schubert’s Quartets’) to the predictably skittish (‘onyx cufflinks’) until Kitty Freud* shook her dark hair and said with trembling candour:

‘Travel, good food, and being spanked on my bottom with a hairbrush.’

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* Kitty Freud was the wife of artist Lucien Freud, and she is a frequent subject in his paintings.

28 September

T. E. Lawrence’s RAF record, auctioned yesterday, has the following entry:

‘Identification marks: scars both buttocks.’ This confirms the story of one of Lawrence’s service friends that he regularly beat him. Odd how upper-class British life between the wars was full of stately, dapper men with blazing eyes who took tea in ducal conservatories and then retired to furnished rooms to take down their trousers and be whipped.

I met some of them in Oxford after the war, mostly minor gentry, many of them slightly sinister, planning to buy and operate private schools for boys (an easy thing to do then, because inspection of such schools was cursory and infrequent) of which the main function would be to act as laboratories for experiments with the cane.

12 December

A new magazine has appeared called Mentor*; entirely made up of letters from fetishistic readers, rather like the pre-war London Life. Mentor is a unique example of a democratically run magazine with full reader-power. It is controlled by its readers, most of whom are crying out to be oppressed (i.e. by fetter, gag, chain, corset or cane).

* “Mentor” was the forerunner of the famous spanking magazine “Janus”.


1 October

I see Andy Braunsberg and because of the gossip that will surround my proposed film, give him two phony reasons for postponing it indefinitely – (a) that the publishers are insisting that I fulfill a long-overdue contract for a book by next spring or repay £5,000 and (b) that the new British film censor rigourously cuts all spanking scenes.


20 February

Since last November I have been seeing (and spanking) a fellow spanking addict, a girl called Nicole. Her fantasy – dormant until I met her – is precisely to be bent over with knickers taken down to be spanked, caned or otherwise punished, preferably with the buttocks parted to disclose the anus. She also enjoys exposing and spanking me. Meeting only for intensive and exhausting sexual purposes, we have delighted each other for months.

Our fantasies exactly match: whereas I am conscious that Kathleen has had to will herself to fit into my fantasy.

Recent experiences prove once again that physical pain is not a source of pleasure even to the masochist. The apprehension, the preparation, the threat, the exposure, the humiliation – these are thrilling, and so is the warmth afterwards, and the sight of the marks; but the impact of cane on bottom is no fun at all. The pain is no part of the pleasure of masochism: it is the unpleasant price that must be paid for the pleasure that precedes and follows it.

Writing about ‘the subject’ makes me reflect again how infinitely more varied in its excitements is Sado-mas than straight sex.

The sado-mas couple have all the pleasures of straight fucking plus the myriad variations that sado-masochism brings with it – the marks that stay for days on the bottom, giving one a reminiscent thrill with each twinge; the anticipation of punishment, which can go on for a week or more and provoke masturbation a dozen times before the whipping actually happens; the multitudinous roles one can play – priest and novice, teacher and prefect, maid and master, doctor and patient (enema department) etc. etc. – each enabling one to savour different nuances of domination and submission.

One fact worth investigation: no sadist that I know is interested in breasts. Bottoms replace them completely as sexual fetishes.

And the games one can play! Really there is no sport to touch it: it is not just a nocturnal relaxation, it is a way of life.

10 April

Another Larry (Laurence Olivier) reminiscence; of the weekend Elaine and I spent with him and Vivien (Vivien Leigh) at Notley Abbey in c. 1955.

Larry returned during dinner: the other guests were Vivien’s mother and father, a petty bourgeois former colonial administrator, I believe. After dinner V.’s mother knits, father pulls on his pipe and reads The Times, V. is drinking hard. ‘Come with me,’ she says to me, and to my consternation starts to lead me upstairs.

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Tynan with Vivien Leigh

‘What for?’ I say. ‘I’m going to put on Sybil’s chain-mail from St Joan and you’re going to help me,’ she says.

Vivien now strips down to her petticoat, bra and knickers and I lower the heavy costume over her head. Thus encased, we return to the living-room, where V. proceeds to render some of the longer speeches from St Joan.

On an impulse she then sheds the chain-mail. Mum is appalled: ‘Now, miss,’ she says, addressing the forty-eight-year-old like an errant schoolgirl. ‘That’s quite enough of that. You mind your manners!’ ‘What are you going to do, Mummy?’ says V. provocatively. ‘Spank me with a hairbrush?’ Mum seems on the point of doing just that.

What a scene that would have been!

30 May

Dee Wells and Freddie Ayer’s party at Hampstead Town Hall. I sit while others dance and find myself the surprised repository of information about unsatisfactory sex lives….Peter Quennell’s wife*, slightly drunk, tells me that Peter has gone home in a rage and that she will be whipped when she joins him; she is therefore determined to enjoy herself thoroughly before being punished.

* Peter Quennel was a writer who had four wives.

5 June

Desired things

Class A:

  • The sun
  • The company of people by whom I am loved
  • The company of people I love.
  • Good food and wine
  • The propinquity of a female bottom I can quite freely whip.

20 June

Nicole is really a tremendous reaction to twenty-five years of feeling ashamed of my sexual preferences – being taunted and threatened and blackmailed with them by Elaine, who (except in moments of drunken reconciliation) spent fifteen years intimidating me by promising to tell friends and employer all about my filthy desires unless I clove to her, and who actually did tell my daughter, then aged four, about them, in the small hours of one phantasmagoric night. It is appalling that K. should be suffering for Elaine’s crime.

In an interview in Independent Magazine (29 October 1994) Elaine Dundy said:

‘No need to mince words: it is necessary to correct the false impression which Ken spread that his sexual sadism only involved playful spankings, for a while they could serve as an aperitif, to arouse him, the headmaster’s cane was his instrument of choice.

To cane a woman on her bare buttocks was what gave him his greatest satisfaction…Although I deeply hated it in theory and practice, I submitted to his flagello-mania on five different occasions, one lasting a week, and broke four canes. Each time I did it, it was for the craven reason to keep him for myself.’

17 July

Trevor Griffiths asks me what I mean by a humanist. I say: A humanist is someone who remembers the faces of the people he spanks.

21 July

Preview of Equus. It works better than I had ever thought: and to my surprise I find it deeply moving. The truth is that I identify with the hippophile boy whose strange ‘perverted’ desires Peter Schaffer is at such pains to extol and preserve. In all the people who are shocked by his peculiar ways I see those who have despised my love of spanking.


12 January

Elaine’s new novel, The Injured Party, contains a vicious and vengeful portrait of me as a sadist whose ‘vile appetites’ (her phrase) compel him to cover his wife with weals, ‘some bleeding’. (the last two words are wonderfully horrid: I have never drawn anyone’s blood and would hate to do so, as she well knows.)

17 June

Mike told me a story of Roman Polanski’s first visit to New York, at a time when his command of English was flimsy. He sat in moody silence at a party chez the Bernsteins where everyone was playing complicated word games.

Suddenly he said: ‘There’s a great Polish game you ought to play.’ ‘What is it, Roman?’ ‘Do tell, Roman!’ ‘Listen everyone, we’re going to play Roman’s game,’ said Felicia. ‘What do we have to do?’ ‘Well,’ Roman said, ‘it’s very simple. One person stands in the middle of the room and closes his eyes and bends over. Then somebody else hits him on the ass. Then he has to guess who hit him.’ A moment of aghast silence: but by now they were committed.

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Leonard and Felicia Bernstein

There followed a tableau I would have given much to see: New York’s Upper Bohemia, in its Italian silk dinner jackets and Balenciaga dresses, taking turns to have its ass slugged, led by Felicia, exquisite in her Givenchy, daintily proffering her bottom in what must have been a quite unforgettable frenzy of embarrassment. The story is told against Roman, but as I retell it, I can’t help feeling that he won. To impose yourself like that.


29 January

Last night to Greenwich for John Osborne’s* new play, The End of Me Old Cigar, all about a wealthy whorehouse madam plotting to destroy male supremacy by releasing to the world her collection of films and tapes of prominent male citizens in bed.

Main interest consists in lengthy first-act attack on me, described as lilac-trousered Oxford trendy with a passion for inflicting ‘dangerously painful spankings’.

Sickening to find J.O. resorting to the old puritan trick of knocking people because of their sexual habits; quite like old Queensberry vilifying Wilde. And why ‘dangerously’ painful spankings? He must know this is a lie. If not, he should ask his wife*, whom I spanked to our great mutual delight nearly twenty years ago.

Jill Bennett

*Osborne had five wives. Actress Jill Bennet was the one that Tynan spanked.

22 March

Can it be true – as I sometimes suspect – that only unhealthy people are sexual deviants? (Physically unhealthy I mean.) Am I wrong in assuming that all athletes are straight? Is it just indoctrination that makes it impossible to imagine George Best wielding the birch or Ken Rosewall downing the knickers?

15 June

Realisation of a fantasy that has nagged me all my life. A few months ago I answered an ad in Time Out that said: ‘Pliant girl seeks order in her life.’ Scenting a submissive, I wrote back telling her to reply to my letter immediately and at length, or she would be spanked.

Three months later: ‘At length!’ about twenty words. I did it on purpose. Send for me.’ I did; we met in Sloane Square and had a drink. My first question to her was:

‘What do you deserve when you are disobedient?’

‘A good spanking’


‘On my bare bottom.’

Her name is Sally; she’s pretty and dark-haired, in her early thirties, with a husband and two children. She had nearly 500 replies to her ad; out of the handful she answered, she has entered into serious spanking relationships with four men. (She only discovered that her greatest happiness was to be enter discipline when she read L’Histoire D’O two years ago. It doesn’t enter into her relationship with her husband.)

I asked her how she would like to be disciplined by a man and a woman simultaneously. She said that would be ideal. So last night, on the dot of 8 p.m. she rang the doorbell of 14 Pindock Mews, where Nicole and I were waiting for her. I told her she could ask us any questions she liked. It was soon obvious that we were all on exactly the same sexual wavelength. I produced a bottle of champagne and we drank a solemn toast: ‘To spanking.’ The atmosphere of happy anticipation was intoxicating.

Then Nicole and I played the roles of a count and countess whipping a new housemaid for theft and drunkenness. Sally wore Victorian knickers with a slit at the back. Nicole a pair with a rear-buttoned flap. After lecturing sally (or Sophie, as we named her), I put her over my knee, opened the slit of her knicks and gave her chubby bum twenty-five smacks. Nicole sat two yards way, staring at the reddening globes. She then replaced me and gave Sophie twelve stingers with the hairbrush, making her count each stroke. Sophie opened her bum well as Nicole instructed, and we noted an exquisite, hairless little pink anus.

Now came the reversal of fortunes: I revealed that the Countess, too, was to be chastised, for having spent £500 on a new dress without permission. So it was Nicole’s turn to bend over my lap. I unbuttoned the flap and Sophie got her first glimpse of my darling’s bare bottom. I gave her twelve hard strokes with the brush. Sophie watched, riveted, (Both girls afterwards said that they found this episode the most exciting of all; Sophie humbly said that one day she hoped to granted the privilege of spanking Nicole)

Then both girls were sent to the bedroom to prepare to be whipped. When I joined them, Nicole was already in the whipping position, her bum well spread; and Sophie demurely sat at the foot of the bed, her eyes fixed on Nicole’s anus. I gave her six stripes, very hard, with he white whip. Sophie then took her place: Nicole and I both noticed that she spread her globes much wider apart than we do, so that the flesh around the anus was pulled as taut as a drum. she go six, too, after which I left the whip testing between her outstretched cheeks.

After a few minutes, standing in the corner for their red bums to be on penitential display, the girls joined me on the bed to have their weals inspected. I made both of them kiss each other’s whipped globes. They held my prick, I gently squeezed their corrugated bums, we quietly and passionately reminisced about every detail of an experience that had already eaten its way into the deepest recesses of our minds.

‘Did you like Nicole’s bottom?’ – ‘What does she think of mine?’ – ‘We both adore your anus.’ – ‘Did the hairbrush hurt more than the whip?’ – etc. etc. On this occasion we didn’t fuck in Sally’s presence (she had to get home to North London): but next time Nicole will surely end up on top of me, being whipped by Sally while I fuck her and at the same time stroke Sally’s already glowing bottom. A milestone? If it were now to die.

8 August

I had arranged a spanking trio with Sally for Sunday evening and was annoyed when she wrote to say that one of her professional clients had summoned her to a ‘contract’ that same night, and that of course, business came before pleasure. I phone to remonstrate with her, but without success. ‘If Nicole had to act on Sunday night,’ she said ‘wouldn’t that take precedence?’ She’s right, of course…yet I am annoyed and do feel cheated. I suppose it’s injured ego; that she should prefer anyone to me as a reddener of her bottom!

20 September

Another death: Pamela Brown, at fifty-eight. I had worshipped this pop-eyed, tawny-haired, ferally attractive actress since my teens: indeed when I was twenty I burst into her dressing-room after a performance of The Giaconda Smile and fell on my knees before her. She was witty, kind and waspish; and although she was a semi-cripple, with one leg partially withered and visibly thinner than the other, she had great sensuality and could look at you with a wonderfully predatory gleam in her eye.

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Pamela Brown

In the late fifties she came to New York, where I was unhappily married; and I remember a memorable day we spent together in her hotel suite. I confessed all my (then horribly secret) sexual desires, and she happily indulged them; yes, I spanked the lovely cripple; and we fucked and tenderly talked and giggled and knew we were friends for life, even if we never met again.

10 October

Finished C. Sykes’ biography of Evelyn Waugh. Full of odd, unnoticed facts – E.W., who abhorred theatre, saw Kiss Me Kate ten times (was he a spanker?) apropos of the Profumo scandal, he said that ‘a pound a swish’ was a highly inflated price.


13 September

Rehearsals of Carte Blanche* have moved into the Phoenix and have reached the critical phase. Everyone wants my ‘Triangle’ out but cannot insist, since I have taken care to write it into the contract that the number cannot be excluded. The strain is great… but the truth will be that spanking and all that it implies are still unpresentable topics on the English stage. ‘It will drive people out of the theatre,’ says Richard Pilbrow in an honest and unguarded moment.

* “Carte Blanche” was another erotic review – the sequel to O Calcutta! Tynan’s contribution was to be a spanking play called “Triangle”, but it was cut from the show.

25 November

sm 01Thanksgiving dinner chez Billy and Audrey Wilder, guests include Sue Mengers*. Sue is sourpussed again for unexplained reasons; just as inexplicably, I start to grope her during diner. Sliding my hand down the back of her backless dress to squeeze her enormous bum. Have no ides why I did this; she responds with happy moans and intimate work with her knees. Her daunting size would of course be a deterrent if it came to the crunch; but on the other hand there would be a lot of sheer buttock to whip.

* Sue Mengers was the talent agent to many of the most important members of the New Hollywood generation of film makers and actors in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

28 December

Went to an ‘enema clinic’ advertising spankable girls. The sweetheart assigned to me turned out to be a huge black girl built like a Watsui warrior with an Afro hairdo like a geodesic dome. She was under the impression that I wanted to wrestle with her, and opened the conversation by menacingly informing me that she cycled twenty miles to work every day and twenty miles back home.

I swallowed hard and went through the motion of putting her over my knee, but it was about as enticing as spanking King Kong. (Her buttocks were like black marble.) Apart from anything else, I have never derived any pleasure from spanking black girls; it conflicts with my belief in civil liberties.


9 May

It was during that trip (to Spain) that Elaine confessed she had had an affair with Kingsley Amis: I caned her, one stroke for each letter of his name, and made her confess to the Joneses that she had been whipped. (They were intrigued but unshocked.)

7 June

Rita Moreno* on the Merv Griffith show – bristling with energy at forty-five – my mind and prick go back to 1964, when she was the last woman to make me cry. (Much as we adored each other, there was too much spanking for her to take, and too many career chances in America.) Rita, whose anus I licked in Bristol, London, and Newcastle (where we flew to see Larry’s pre-London tour of Othello); whose firm tawny bottom I joyfully smacked; who sucked me off by daylight in a train as it passed through Royal Oak station, a minute away from arrival at Paddington. Has she gained energy since then? Or is it merely that I have lost it? She says on the show that constant fucking has kept her young. I believe it.

* In addition to the spankings she received from Tynan, Rita Moreno was also spanked on screen in “The Vagabond King” (1956)

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1 August

Today Kathleen being away in London for a fortnight, I called a girl who had advertised her availability for spanking purposes in the L.A. Times and made a date to see her at 2.30p.m. at an apartment house in the tacky part of North Hollywood. Blinds drawn, rock music blaring, other girls flitting in and out of other rooms.

I give her $60 and it’s immediately clear that she is high on cocaine and is utterly uninterested in the the spanking scene. However I put her across my knee, where she lies wriggling in time to the music, and am about to experiment with light tattoo on the her rump when another girl dashes into the room and tells her to come at once.

I wait in my underwear for two minutes: then girl one (we’ll call her Mandy) dashes back, her face white, and says: ‘The cops are at the door. Get your clothes on and hide in the closet. ‘I do this at record speed and huddle in a clothes closet where I shake so much that the clothes hangers rattle.

Suddenly I remember that my handbag, containing credit cards, chequebook, and driver’s licence, is on my bed. I am wondering whether to hurtle out and grab it when Mandy flies back and whispers: ‘They’re coming in to search the place. You’ll have to jump off the balcony.’ I seize the handbag. ‘Hurry, for Christ’s sake,’ she hisses. dragging me through the window on to the balcony. I look over: it’s a 12-15-foot drop into the alley, with garbage cans directly beneath.

‘I can’t make it,’ I mutter. ‘It’s that or jail,’ she says. (In LA, both the prostitute and her clients can be charged.) So I scramble over and drop. No injury; not even a tear.

My first reaction is that the whole thing has been a put up job to get my $60 and that there were no cops. Later in the day, however, I call Mandy’s number and another girl replies: she says Mandy and three other girls and four or five men are down at the court house, and: ‘Who the hell are you anyway? Are you a cop?’ So I hang up. Some kind of thanksgiving is in order. It would not have helped my relationship with K. or The New Yorker to have been picked up in a vice raid. I must have escaped literally by seconds.

18 November

See three more films by Carlos Saura and my admiration grows; his latest Elisa Vida Mia strikes me as his best.

I tell Carlos: “You’ve admitted that your films are semi-autobiographical. But the mystery is that you seem to be telling my autobiography.’ (There’s a scene in his La Madriguera* when Geraldine dresses as a schoolgirl and begs her husband – an older man – to punish her, which he does with a ruler on the seat of her knickers.)

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Geraldine Chapman in La Madriguera (1969). She also received a spanking in Stress-es tres-tres (1968), another Carlos Saura film .

22 September

Merlin by Robert Nye, who wrote the masterpiece Falstaff, reveals even more clearly its author’s obsession with the world of spanking, eg:

Camelot the golden/ Built upon a secret cesspool/ A very perfect gentle knight/ Who likes to whip girls’ bottoms/

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12 thoughts on “The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan”

  1. Wow! I don’t really know anything about Tynan but this is fantasticly thrilling writing. I can’t help feeling sorry for his wife, and the bit where he canes her for having an affair was simultaneously squicky – how hypocritically UNFAIR of him – and deliciously shivery. I may have to steal the format for a spanking clip sometime. A stroke for every letter of his name! Genius.

    Thankyou for this excellent post 🙂

  2. Some work on the Lawrence section of the Tynan rings a bell with me, only I can`t find the book any more. The remarks of the scars on Lawrence`s buttocks, reminded me of a passage when he was guiding some Arab irregulars,in his Army role, and in a quiet spell, he indulged in a homosexual act with one of the younger native youths under his command. Despite his position, he was tied to a bench, and flogged severely, on the orders of one of the tribal chiefs- the act being against their religion. In the film, I seem to recall a Turkish slant to the same story, but have no confirmation of the latter part.
    I have a copy of the film with Geraldine Chaplin, too,` La Madriguera` which is interesting, working out the story, with only the clip has foxed me for ages!
    It`s a great piece of research and writing overall, fascinating, especially looking back on the times.well done,

  3. Pandora:
    A stroke for every letter of his name? It’s just as well she bedded Kingsley Amis and not Engelbert Humperdinck! I hope you use an even longer name than that for your clip! An East European one perhaps? (at the risk of being the first caning ever to need a spell-checker!)

    Have to agree about Tynan’s writing – what a fantastic blogger he would have made. There’s one other K.T. story I just have to tell you about Pandora:

    In the 1960s he was the first person to say the f word on British TV. There was widespread public outrage orchestrated by the press and Mary Whitehouse wrote a letter to the Queen demanding that he “should have his bottom spanked”! She was of course completely unaware of any irony.

  4. This is the first time I have read these extract of Tynan’s diary. It all makes me very sad to think how interesting his life was and how dull mine is by comparison.

  5. Most interesting. I’d always known about Tynan’s spanking proclivity, but never read any actual accounts. The diary looks like a must read!

  6. Is this the same Peter Quenell of the Amanda Knox case? Briefly read and didn’t even take time to check out dates, just wondering though. thanks

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