Spanky

Of all the words beginning with the letters s, p, a, n and k, in that order, surely the least interesting must be Spanky. It was the nickname of a 1930s child actor who later returned to prominence as an unlikely pop star of the 1960s. It’s a name often given to pets of various different species and degrees of cuteness. Most recently, it’s a derisive epithet bestowed on the one American politician who should always be named in French, M. le Président Trompe.

Happily, it’s also the title of a smooth little 2013 swing number by the South African singing duo Pique-aboo, who at the time were Talya Davidoff and Helena Grier Rautenbach. Helena’s the drummer, while Talya sings:

She later left to concentrate on another interest, diving:

Ahead of the song’s official release, an accompanying video was shot in November 2012, featuring not only Talya and Helena, but also the burlesque performers Lady Magnolia…

and Golden Delishas:

To tie in with the song title, the video incorporates material from their burlesque routine ‘Delishas Punishment’, which shows what happens to a maid who does an inept job brushing her mistress’ hair.

As you can see, it’s in the Bettie Page genre of spanking imagery, which tends to yield implausible situations and can be hit-and-miss when it comes to OTK positioning. On the whole, they scored a hit with this one, not least because of the animated way Delishas reacts to being spanked:

Judge for yourself. Here’s the video:

And if you’re ever in Cape Town, make sure you seek out Pique-aboo, live onstage!

Greek Tragedy

Of all dramatic genres, ancient Greek tragedy seems one of the least likely to feature our subject. Its stories are drawn from classical legends that were ancient even in the fifth century BC when the plays were written, and its characters seem rooted in the age of heroes, beings from a world of such grandeur that it could never accommodate anything so banal and commonplace as a spanking.

Some modern adaptations and retellings, however, start from the premise that these seemingly distant, larger-than-life characters once lived actual lives that were just as real and everyday as our own. That’s partly how, in 1944, the French playwright Jean Anouilh (1910-87) was able to give Sophocles’ Antigone, a parable about resistance to tyranny, a direct contemporary resonance at a time when France was under the Nazi jackboot.

If you don’t know the story, Antigone is piously determined to bury her dead brother even though King Creon, her uncle and prospective father-in-law, has made this a capital offense; she refuses to cooperate with his efforts at a coverup, and so the law has to take its course. Anouilh kept the period setting, making the story remote enough to satisfy the Nazi censors, but added recognizable human and contemporary touches around the edges, so giving it a more direct application to modern times. And two of those touches raise an intriguing possibility…

As the play begins, Antigone’s nurse catches her returning from a nocturnal excursion, and expresses an opinion about what to do with her. Different English translations render this in various ways. In the 2000 version by Ted Freeman, the line is: ‘I ought to give you a good spanking, like when you were a little girl.’ On the other hand, the first British production in 1949, with Vivien Leigh as Antigone, used a translation by Lewis Galantière in which the Nurse says:

‘Do you know what I ought to do to you? Take you over my knee the way I used to do when you were little.’

In any event, the play establishes early on a world in which Antigone, who has been out illicitly burying her brother, might be spanked for doing so. And this resonated with some audiences: ‘Antigone casts an image of a stubborn, petulant girl much in need of a spanking,’ wrote a Pittsburgh theater critic about a 1965 production starring Barbara Caruso.

The possibility is floated a second time in her long confrontation with Creon that is the center of the play, though here we are much more at the mercy of the translators. The Galantière version completely cuts out the line in question, and in the Freeman translation Creon proposes ‘bread and water and a box on the ears’. But Anouilh’s line is better rendered by Zander Teller in 1987, in which Antigone is told:

‘You’re twenty years old and not so long ago all this would’ve been settled with a good spanking and sending you to bed without supper.’

Since the story is actually about how Antigone gets executed for her principles, this is unlikely ever to be more, in any version, than an interesting counterfactual. But we’re on slightly more promising ground if we turn to Electra, the titular heroine of tragedies by both Sophocles and Euripides. She’s the daughter of a murdered king whose mother then marries the murderer, Aegisthus, thereby giving him the throne, and the burden of the story concerns how she facilitates the revenge taken by her brother Orestes. But the interesting part from our point of view is the period before Orestes returns, when she’s living in Aegisthus’ household as his teenage stepdaughter. So it might seem counterintuitive that our first illustration comes from Mark Frank’s retelling in Iphigenia Rising (2009).

The play was first produced at Coffeyville Community College, Kansas, with this pretty student actress in the role of Electra:

The action takes place in the aftermath of the whole story as Electra, Orestes and their sister Iphigenia fall into mutual recrimination over the deaths of their parents, so the essence of the play is largely retrospective, with the characters picking over the past. There’s one thing that Electra remembers with especial resentment about her life with Aegisthus:

‘I didn’t appreciate him spanking me bare bottom in front of his subjects.’

So Electra is one Greek tragic heroine who has been spanked, and in an exceptionally public and humiliating way, too. But not onstage. For that, we have to head for New York in 1983, where the St Mark’s Poetry Project, the long-time East Village home of innovative literary experiment, staged a more radically modern retelling entitled Electra Gumbo.

In this version, Electra (Suzan Cooper) is the daughter of Queenie, who has taken up with a man Electra knows as ‘Uncle King’. It is a predictably tense ménage, and among the humiliations inflicted on Electra are her mother’s forcible cutting of her long hair, a key event leading up to Euripides’ treatment of the story. But before that, Electra is also soundly spanked by ‘Uncle King’, onstage, as her mother watches.

There’s no known photograph of the scene, but seven years later it featured in a series of drawings done by Suzan Cooper to document the production, in a distinctive and very modern style.

It’s not a very literal representation, but it rewards a close look. The long-haired Electra is across his knee, and his right hand has just landed on her bottom with what looks like an extremely explosive impact. Ouch!

Photographer of the Week: Kirt Pettey

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Kirt Pettey is both a photographer and a digital artist. His firm, Painted Pinups of Orange, California, specializes in turning glamorous pinup photographs…

into fun, inventive digital paintings showing the usual sexy poses,

and the usual mishaps that seem to be a pinup girl’s perennial lot in life:

But the addition of the digital dimension means sometimes the poses, and the mishaps, can have more exotic settings than often appear in the usual run of the genre:

Kirt’s also inspired by comics and sci-fi:

And he doesn’t shy away from a bit of soft fetish imagery:

How is it done? Well, the initial photography sometimes requires a helping hand,

and the helping hand, or other equipment, then gets digitally erased and replaced with something more imaginative:

Other things can also digitally disappear to create an authentic-seeming moment of cute bare bottom embarrassment. On the left, a thong; on the right, no thong!

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And, of course, that’s not the only adorably embarrassing thing that can happen to a model’s bottom. In the pinup genre, you can be sure someone’s going to get hers smacked sooner or later.

If needs be, by Kirt himself!

But when part of the work is being done inside a computer, there’s no actual need for the model to be smacked… unless she wants to be, of course.

Whereas in the simpler world of pinup, good always triumphs… and bad girls always get what they deserve:

If you are interested in Kirt Pettey’s work, please visit his online portfolio.

Do We Know What We Like?

Some people know exactly what they like in a work of art: verisimilitude. They want pictures that resemble what they represent, so closely that you feel you could almost reach out and touch it.

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That’s why ‘modern art’ has so many critics and arouses such hostility: because it often requires us to see things in a way we’re not used to. The quintessential example is Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), best known for his Cubist work whose subjects seem almost to have been taken apart and reassembled in the wrong order. But even he started out using a fairly realistic style: here’s a self-portrait from around 1903 in which he caresses a reclining nude:

And then he started to see things differently. This later sketch shows another nude having her bottom smacked:

It’s as if Picasso is squeezing the whole kinetic, three-dimensional event into the limited confines of an oblong piece of paper, in defiance of the usual restrictions of jointed human anatomy – bend them, shape them, any way you want them.

The contrast between those two Picasso styles usefully defines something of the range and the challenges of contemporary art. Let’s begin at one end of the spectrum with the work of Walter Minus (born 1958), an Italian illustrator who trained in Paris, and whose work shows the strong influence of comics and twentieth-century pop art.

It’s a distinctive style that sits somewhere between Andy Warhol, Dan DeCarlo and Archie. Here’s his take on our favorite subject:

This is the most accessible of the pieces we’re going to look at today, but that’s because of the familiarity of the style, not its verisimilitude: we are so used to line drawing as a medium that we don’t notice the ways in which the figures don’t look like human beings, only the ways in which they do.

There is familiarity too in the more caricatured line drawing of the American illustrator Danny Hellman (born 1964), which is also influenced by the various dimensions of pop culture.

He had a little burst of spanking in 1997, starting in September with this one showing Hillary Clinton being spanked on air by Howard Stern; unfortunately there’s no way of knowing whether her face is on the cover of the rolled-up magazine.

It was followed seven weeks later by this altogether stranger piece:

It’s a picture that fascinates because of the way it defies all our canons of realism. The spanker’s distorted head is a good place to start: mouth open in the middle of a soundless, meaningless lecture (‘blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah’, you can almost hear it go), a tear dropping from his eye as if to say it hurts him more than it hurts the elf-girl over his knee. Seemingly in retort, two tears drop from her eye: it hurts her twice as much as it is hurting him! Or does it? What gives the first impression of a handprint across her bottom is surely only a shadow – unless he’s spanked her with his whole forearm, not just his palm. But conversely, the image is set in a border of flames, which certainly can’t be taken literally, because he’s sitting on a pile of logs that are conspicuously not burning: the only bottom likely to be on fire, metaphorically, is the upturned, bare one!

Let’s turn, by way of contrast, to a starkly realist spanking scene painted in 2009 by the Chinese artist Luo Qing (born 1970).

This is a much less comfortable picture than the others we’ve seen so far, in part because it makes little attempt to invite our empathy with the participants based on a shared humanity: the girl being spanked is reduced to oversized buttocks and muscular legs, while the face of her spanker is downturned, intent on her task and oblivious to the world beyond. It is as if they are isolated together in a shared moment, and we are both excluded from it yet able nonetheless to recognize its mundane, unglamorous reality, as evident in details like the girl’s torn stocking. It’s a provocative and expertly executed piece, but it’s not beautiful.

So maybe verisimilitude in art isn’t quite so straightforwardly what we like after all. A factor we haven’t yet properly considered is what the artists themselves bring to the pictures, the elements of creativity and imagination that make their work something more than mere channeled reality.

The Greek artist Theodore Psychoyos (born 1968) is a good example. He draws in a simple, sometimes even naive style, but includes imagery that is overtly adult and sometimes fetishistic.

The outcome is often a sense of innocence and experience combined in a single composition. His spanking illustration was drawn in 2016 for an exhibition, in collaboration with his partner, Diane Alexandre, entitled Mythoerotics, which portrayed themes of mythology and eroticism as a way of understanding human relationships:

This is spanking in the context of a love relationship, overtly indicated by the heart she’s contemplating, but symbolized most powerfully in the fact that she is being spanked with a rose. The flower is disintegrating with every impact on her bottom: the petals are flying everywhere. Will that leave her in danger of thorns, like an affair gone sour? Maybe not, because she has a second rose, as if in readiness for when the first one wears out.

Another artist given to imaginative symbolism is Frenchman Patrick Jannin (born 1971), who uses the camera as well as pen and ink to create his work. It projects a world of weird, grotesque and sometimes disturbing fantasy – a kind of cross between Hieronymus Bosch, Edward Lear and Terry Gilliam.

A recurring image in his work is that of a naked woman, head down in submission, being spanked across the knees of an animal-headed figure. It appears, with a progressive accumulation of baffling symbolic detail, in a drawing of 2009,

a more overtly fantastical one of 2010, which Jannin entitled ‘La sagesse des anciens’ (the wisdom of the ancients),

and a photograph of 2013:

So the power of art partly lies in the things the artist might add to reality, whether they are suggestive, provocative or just plain bizarre, like the giant bottom poking through the window in Jannin’s 2010 picture. But art also depends on leaving things out, reducing the multilayered complexity of life in order to achieve a clearer focus on whatever it is the artist has chosen to represent. That’s the basis of this 2017 sketch by Antonio Nuvoli:

A cynical eye may see only the resemblance to a child’s drawing, but Nuvoli’s objective is to reduce the image to its core essence: for all its crude simplicity, it’s still recognizably a woman being spanked by a bearded man, and it still conveys a certain power, precisely because it declines to elaborate.

Other artists, in contrast, first strip down and then elaborate in a very distinctive way. Take this illustration by Holly Turner,

There’s nothing verisimilar about it, so its impact should come as much from the style as the subject; but even without faces, the participants convey more quirky personality than the figures trapped in the introverted realist world of Luo Qing.

Or take this 2017 work by the self-taught French painter Alain Day (born 1948), whose style is reminiscent of Modigliani’s.

What I find striking is the way Day plays with human proportion to suggest something of the emotional nature of the event. The biggest part of the girl being spanked is her bare bottom, which should be self-explanatory. But the spanker is shown with a huge lap and left arm, while the spanking right arm is tiny: it’s as if the business of restraining the girl requires much more might and force than the spanking for which she is being restrained, which means there’s also something paradoxically gentle about the scene.

You may see other things in it, but what’s undeniable is that the picture’s appeal and impact don’t lie only in the fact that it represents a spanking, but that it makes us look at the spanking, and the world, in a new way.

And with that in mind, we turn to the most challenging of our contemporary spanking artworks, by the emergent Danish painter Thomas Plauborg.

This is another spanking image that has been reduced to its essential formal structure and then built back up, this time in a semi-abstract mode that almost defies description. I tried to think of it in terms of the formal iconoclasm of Picasso, or of human figures done in the swirling, dynamic style of a Turner sky, the tortured expressionism of Munch or the coruscating impressionism of Van Gogh. None of them offers an adequate analogy for what Plauborg is doing here. It’s a spanking scene taken almost to the very edge of existence.

And yet, if you can, imagine a world where nobody had ever seen or done a line drawing, a world where there was no such thing as a cartoon. Wouldn’t the work of Walter Minus look every bit as outlandish as Plauborg’s?

Repeat Prescription

Moliere’s Le Médecin Malgré Lui remains a reliable source of onstage spankings, and here’s a fresh crop of recent productions from a variety of countries, starting with Ecuador:

Next up is Spain in 2016:

Still in 2016, over to Tuscany:

Off we go to Moscow, with an extraordinarily extended handling of the spanking:

I count 55 slaps! A record? Well, let’s not be hasty, because there’s also this one, again in Russia, again in 2016, again with a remarkably extensive spanking – and OTK too!

I make it 58 while she’s over his knee, plus another four once she’s up. The winner! And Martine very clearly enjoys it, even though afterwards it is equally clear that she is very, very sore in the seat.

Now to Brazil, where we have two different videos of the same production:

Latin America, Spain, Italy, Russia… But let’s bring the show home to France. Here we are in Aubagne in late 2017:

A 2018 production in Paris with Antoine Erol and Marie Vacher:

Finally, at Saint Maximin, also in 2018:

And no doubt there’ll be more to come!

Photographer of the Week: Charles Witherspoon

‘The world is not static,’ says photographer Charles Witherspoon, who’s based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and to prove it, a lot of his work records and celebrates engagements and weddings: happy people having special moments. Take this couple, for instance. He’s Tate, she’s Zinke.

They love one another, and have just got engaged.

For Zinke, that means… a romantic spanking!

Now meet the lovely Katy.

She’s also half of a couple, but we’ll meet Michael later. For now, let’s get a little better acquainted with Katy.

Here she is in a dress that’s relevant to her shoot on September 11, 2010.

Here she is in a pair of polka-dot panties that are also relevant to that same shoot.

Time for Michael to join her. The title of the photograph is ‘Burnt Roast’ – though it’s not clear whether that refers to what Katy did on September 11, or what happened to her!

If you are interested in Charles Witherspoon’s work, please visit his online portfolio.

Spank the Bride

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Just married?

There are many hazards for a bride to negotiate en route to and from the altar on her big day. Well in advance, she must attend fittings for the dress, occasions when she runs the risk of seeming overdressed compared with everyone else.

On the eve of the wedding, there’s the hen party.

Even a bride-to-be who’s never been spanked in her life before, like Chelsea here, can’t expect be spared:

Occasionally the bride gets to whack the bridesmaid:

But the bridesmaid may get her own back on the day itself:

The best man may also want to have a go:

But since a wedding traditionally marks a transfer of responsibility, there are two men with particular spanking claims on the bridal bottom. First, the father of the bride:

And then the groom:

No spanking at the ceremony, of course, but the photos outside afterwards provide a great opportunity.

Next there’s the wedding breakfast.

We’ve seen elsewhere that wedding cakes are sometimes decorated with figurines making a useful suggestion:

Cake was the cause of the next bride’s downfall, too: the naughty girl rubbed it in her new husband’s face!

A well-behaved bride, on the other hand, may be allowed to help spank the matron of honor:

And off they go on honeymoon:

We hope they’ll be very happy together – even if sometimes she may have a little difficulty sitting down!