There’s a moment in the 1941 Italian fairy tale Cenerentola e il Signor Bonaventura (Cinderella and Mr Goodluck), also known as Princess Cinderella, when Cinderella’s two stepsisters (Tina Mannozzi and Teresa Palazzi) are bent over in front of the King (Guglielmo Barnabo) to have their bottoms whacked:
What makes the moment a little less than commonplace is what they’re being whacked with. Because it’s an artificial hand, it looks, especially if you haven’t watched the rest of the movie, as if it has been designed to replace the human spanking hand with something essentially the same but more durable. But it’s actually the royal sceptre, the symbol of authority being used ad hoc to impose that authority in a physical way.
That contrast between the impression and the actuality helps to define a major distinction between types of spanking implement. As we have already seen at length, many are repurposed from their original function, but there are also some, not yet discussed in this series, for which corporal punishment is the original function. Artifacts like the paddle…
and its medieval ancestor the birch rod…
not to mention the French martinet…
and the riding crop.
Just running through the arsenal like this immediately brings up a number of pertinent points. I’ve said these are all purpose-built artifacts, but some of them are still the product of some repurposing, at least in their recent history. A riding crop was always designed for striking blows, but the originally intended target was a horse’s crupper, not…
And the familiar example of Charlie Chaplin shows that canes were originally an aid to walking; but as the twentieth century went on, the walking stick and the bendy cane parted company, and the latter became primarily known for a different function.
So it’s not just that spanking implements are improvised out of other tools which also retain their original primary purpose; some such tools are improvised into spanking implements, and that then becomes their primary purpose.
This can then result in another round of improvisation. For instance, you might want to spank someone with a whip,
But if you don’t have a whip, you might use a rope in the same way:
(It’s a procedure that has been known since at least the time of Shakespeare: in The Comedy of Errors, Antipholus sends his servant to procure a rope’s end with which to spank his wife.)
Likewise, what this naughty medieval lady doesn’t realise is that the product of her mischief…
is also the instrument of her punishment:
This helps account for a curious phenomenon we recently observed in the use of the pingpong bat: its tendency to appear in all sorts of places where pingpong is not ordinarily played. Turn your attention for a moment to the spanking paddle, of all implements the one with the greatest variation in design and appearance. They are often broadly rectangular, with a short handle and a ‘contact area’ of varying sizes.
Larger editions will sometimes be drilled with holes to assist with the velocity of the whack by cutting down ‘wind resistance’.
Other paddles are longer and thinner, more like an oar or cricket bat.
And some are round – like a pingpong bat.
So if you’re looking to acquire a spanking paddle, you don’t necessarily have to go to a specialist dealer. Or at least, not one that specializes in spanking paddles!
This also raises the matter of how the dynamic of the imagery changes with a custom-designed implement. If spanking is usually a last resort when all else fails, it’s something that you hope never to have to do; so a cane or paddle (or pingpong substitute) will be a probably pointless purchase, and you’re better off with a more ad hoc implement like a hairbrush or slipper which is also worth having for its other uses. In other words, when there is a custom-designed spanking implement in play, it carries with it the implied assumption that someone was always going to get spanked.
That’s why these artifacts are more often associated with institutions than the family home, places that deal with larger numbers of individuals and therefore face a greater statistical likelihood that some of them will merit corporal punishment. To put it in a nutshell, a naughty girl may well be spanked at home, but she is more likely to be caned at school:
Many schools use the paddle instead, though on occasion role-reversal days will land the teacher on the wrong end:
School corporal punishment was progressively abolished from the 1970s onwards, but in 1979 an attempt to reinstate it in California led to a curious incident involving Bobbi Fielder, a 42-year-old Los Angeles school board member who later became a Republican congresswoman in the Reagan era.
She felt she couldn’t make an informed decision on the matter: ‘I have no idea what it feels like to be spanked with a paddle,’ she told reporters. So she made it her business to acquire some empirical evidence, with the press in attendance:
Some of the resultant coverage of the demonstration (or publicity stunt) took care to specify the exact nature of her coverage (woollen skirt, pantyhose and panties), and she gave a suitable quote: ‘It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. There’s a distinct sting to it. It stung for a couple of hours. The intent is to make an impression, and it definitely made an impression.’ And the experience made her a more committed advocate of school paddling – and therefore, like conservatives everywhere, on the wrong side of history.
But the paddle still survives even in enlightened and sometimes progressive institutions, albeit often in the semi-consensual circumstances of the sorority initiation.
These are private ceremonies, but are enthusiastically imagined in the sleazier end of cinema, in trashy exploitation horror films like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988),
or Vampires of Sorority Row (1999),
and its sequel, Vampires of Sorority Row, Part II (2000),
or Kottentail (2007), with Kristin Abbott in orange undies:
Less gratuitously, there’s this scene in the wholly non-trashy 2017 biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, with Bella Heathcote and Allie Gallerani,
which depicts some of the complex kink that went into the creation of Wonder Woman.
And we mustn’t forget the Heart Attack Grill, an unhealthy eating establishment in Las Vegas where diners who don’t clear their plates get paddled:
There’s one other institutional context that’s worth introducing, even though it’s mainly relevant as a source of metaphor rather than a literal context for spanking. It’s a place where you might expect to find a whip in regular use,
but mainly as part of the animal acts rather than for female disciplinary purposes.
Let’s face it, whips have a fairly limited application to our topic, because they’re not really a precision instrument:
an especially skilled handler might succeed in hitting the girl’s bottom, but most people would end up landing blows all over, which might please a general sadist but can’t be properly classified as spanking in even the loosest sense of the term.
But it will already be apparent that many of these purpose-built implements are ill-suited for spanking in the strictest sense. Here’s a pleasing exception:
Now compare that with these ‘Bettie Page’ genre photos of country singer Erica Case and a friend (in black and white panties respectively):
To reinforce the point, here’s another OTK riding crop spanking from yesteryear:
And some OTK canings from then…
The awkwardness of the poses here arises from an incompatibility between position and implement. The cane and crop (and others) serve to extend the reach of the human arm, whereas the act of putting a naughty girl across your knee brings her bottom within convenient reach. It’s a problem that can be solved by a competent artist, like the Russian retro specialist Sveta Shubina:
But real bodies don’t have the same elasticity as toon bodies, so OTK spankers equipped with crop or cane have to contort themselves to bring implement and bottom into effective contact.
In other words, the longer or bigger the implement, the less conducive it is to OTK spanking. Let’s take an example from the 1966 German comedy Das Sündige Dorf (The Sinful Village), one of many screen versions of a popular play by Max Neal (1865-1941). It’s a curiosity over and above the point at issue, because the characters are Afra (Hannelore Auer), who has been jilted by her fiancé, and Korbinian (Gunther Philipp), whose daughter has replaced her in the young man’s affections. Not having seen this particular version, I just can’t imagine how that situation produces this outcome:
Luckily, the main point I need to make is the simple one that, with that big a birch, he has to put her over the gate rather than over his knee.
Once again, let’s reinforce the point with additional evidence:
It’s also true of the bigger kind of paddle:
And while none of those examples comes from an institution, they are consistent with general school practice. Although there is quite a smattering of documented cases of mid-century high school teachers who put their naughty teenage students across their knees, sometimes in front of the entire class, most schools required an offender to bend over instead. The only question that remains, an unanswerable one of the chicken-and-egg variety, is whether this dictated, or was caused by, the use of implements such as canes or large paddles: was the objective to avoid the intimacy of OTK and practice physical punishment without physical contact, or was it simply a case of human behavior being modified by the limitations of the available tools?
But there is also a quite different context for the use of purpose-built spanking implements where human behavior is certainly paramount. We’ve already glimpsed an example of it earlier, in the sports shop, and it is where our attention will turn next.