Paris in the 1930s was the place to obtain quality erotica, and many an English businessman visiting the city would pay a call to one of the small specialist bookshops offering such material. Top of the shopping list would be stories involving flagellation, ‘the English vice’, especially if they were illustrated. The offerings of Le collection des orties blanches (The White Nettle Collection) were perfect, with titles like Maisons de flagellation and Mrs Goodwhip – and Les geôles de dentelles (The Lacy Dungeons), written by Sophia Furrya (one of the many noms de plume of the prolific Liane Lauré) and illustrated by Luc Lafnet using his favourite pseudonym, Jim Black.
A novel in six chapters, narrated by an experienced dominatrix, it documents the many ways in which her clientele chooses to be humiliated. It was reissued in 1958 with the title Mémoires d’une dominatrice, and there was also an English translation, Memoirs of a Dominatrice. Lafnet’s illustrations are clever and witty, and the judicious use of red highlights add to their piquancy.
Liberal though Parisian publishing might have been, Les geôles de dentelles was banned by the Criminal Court of the Seine, and upheld by the French Court of Appeal, three times in the early 1950s. The reissue of 1958 was not challenged.