Attention Unwanted (and Otherwise)

Introducing Sofia Vergara.

She’s one of the stars of the long-running sitcom Modern Family (2009-20), playing Gloria Pritchett, the Latina wife of the much older paterfamilias Jay (Ed O’Neill). In the episode entitled ‘Spanks for the Memories’ (shown on April 6, 2018), she is the recipient of what can only be described as an erotic failure.

No, not quite like that…

She and Jay are having what he calls ‘a romantic dry spell’. At the start of the episode, he overhears her on the telephone with her friend Rebecca: ‘It’s a disaster in the bedroom. I don’t know what to do. It’s like he can’t remember where things go. Eventually I get so frustrated that I take care of it myself.’ Pause for the other side of the conversation, then: ‘Spanking? Yeah, I guess we could try that. Actually, now that you mention it, Javier and I tried it a long time ago. It was a game-changer.’ Javier, incidentally, is her first husband.

In bed later, she and Jay have a conversation about Rebecca:

GLORIA: Her husband never really gave her what she needed.
JAY: Did she tell him?
GLORIA: No, but sometimes it’s more exciting to be with someone that already knows what you want without you telling them.

And so saying, she turns to put out the light, raising her round rear end high in the air.

‘Got it,’ says Jay, and lands three rapid smacks on the upturned bottom.

It turns out that this isn’t at all what she wants: the bedroom she was talking about was their young son’s, the disaster was his untidiness, and spanking… well, let’s not bother to go there.

An overheard conversation also leads to a spanking mishap in ‘Buried Pleasures’, an episode of the office relationships series Ally McBeal (1997-2002); but though the misunderstanding is far less fundamental, the consequences are rather more serious, not least because the central characters are lawyers who are currently thinking a lot about workplace sexual harassment. So maybe it isn’t an entirely good idea for John Cage (Peter MacNichol), one of the senior partners, to be in bed with Nelle Porter (Portia de Rossi) in the first place.

The episode was shown on November 1, 1999, and billed as the most erotic Ally so far, which won it an extra-large first-transmission audience in the US and later got it banned in Singapore (though that was possibly more to do with a lesbian kissing sequence than the spanking).

The cross-purpose gets started in a women’s discussion about sex, when Ling (Lucy Liu) asks Nelle what her ‘dirtiest little secret’ is. ‘Sometimes I fantasize about getting spanked,’ replies Nelle. Key information that follows is: ‘I would never do it, and trust me, I have no desire to be either victimized or dominated by men.’ She was simply titillated by reading a book entitled Spank the Maid. But: ‘I can’t deny it: it’s a fantasy, to have a man spank me, thwap, thwap, thwap, right on my white little bottom until it turns pink.’

John hears just the tail end of this: the bit about Nelle’s pinkened tail end. It doesn’t drive him wild with misplaced spanko enthusiasm; on the contrary, he is a sexually unadventurous man who is disturbed by the idea that Nelle might derive pleasure from pain. But when he talks it over with his fellow senior partner Richard Fish (Greg Germann), he is advised to be assertive:

‘I think you need to sit down with Nelle and, you know, spank her. Just take her right over your knee.’

A bit of research (if surfing spanking sites on the web can be called research) provides them with the familiar 30% statistic: the number of adult women who enjoy fantasizing about being spanked. And Fish has another nugget of useful online information:

‘Many women brush their hair in bed, leave the brush on the nightstand in the secret hope their partner will take it to them. The surprise factor adds to the pleasure.’

And John knows for a fact that Nelle does indeed brush her hair in bed. She’s doing it the very next time he’s there with her.

So he seizes his chance to give her what he thinks she wants, in a rather pusillanimous way. First he inveigles her into lying across his lap on the pretext of examining a gift he has for her, he says, on his side of the bed.

Once she’s in position, he picks up the brush, lifts the tail of her pajama jacket and spanks her.

Cue horrified screams from her and cartoonish sounds of stultified surprise from him. She threatens to call the police, tells him to get out and rubs her bottom, all her angry contempt going into the words, ‘You sicko!’

When she got the script and read the scene for the first time, Portia de Rossi was taken aback. But she seems to have come round to it, no doubt in part because it was always the intention for her bare bottom to be out of frame. When it came to rehearsals, the problems were, on the contrary, with Peter MacNichol: like many another gentlemanly actor back in the golden age of spanking scenes, he was reluctant to spank her too hard for fear of hurting her. And indeed, it must be said that Miss de Rossi is not over-endowed with natural padding in the lower dorsal regions:

But she protested the lack of vigor in his performance: ‘I can’t feel anything, I can’t react to it.’

It was agreed that he would have to be seen to spank her a lot harder, but that she would still have to simulate Nelle’s reactions, because they chose to armor-plate her with a prosthetic bottom that would fit over her own – providing another good reason to keep the target area below ‘see level’ in the finished program.

Emboldened by the knowledge that nothing he did could possibly hurt her, MacNichol spanked away with a will through several takes, until finally, with an almighty whack, the prosthetic split in two and flew across the studio. ‘He broke my bottom,’ said Portia afterwards.

Ally McBeal was a series noted for its especial appeal to women viewers; but early in 2000, a journalist tried to argue that, on the contrary, it was aimed at men and designed to cater primarily to their tastes and interests. Part of the basis for that counterintuitive view were the articles of faith that no women ever fantasize about being spanked and all women, without exception, absolutely detest and despise spanking scenes; therefore what else could Ally McBeal be but a male fantasy?

As an antidote to that kind of stupidity, let’s take a series created by, written by and starring a woman, Julia Davis: Nighty Night (2004-5), a black comedy halfway between sitcom and sketch show, about the manipulative sociopath Jill Tyrell. She pursues the rich but utterly dorkish Glenn Bulb (a broad and unsubtle performance from Mark Gatiss), and in the episode first shown on 20 September, 2005, she tries to get him into sexual roleplay, making the promising choice of ‘strict teacher and naughty schoolgirl’.

Cut to detention… Jill is now dressed as a schoolgirl, and getting Glenn into his untrendy ‘geography teacher’ outfit. She hands him the cane and tells him, ‘You’re a teacher, you’ve got to be strict.’ He promptly tries to give her… a geography lesson. ‘I’m in detention because I’ve been really naughty,’ she prompts him; but the lesson continues, so she tries again. ‘I’ve been really naughty and I need to be punished.’ And to emphasize the point, she turns her back on him and bends over.

When he still doesn’t get it, she bashes him, explaining that that kind of violence is routine in schools nowadays. Provoked, he gives her a whack across the bottom as she runs away,

and in response she knocks him cold.

Despite obvious differences, these are all basically variants on the same scenario: comic situations arising from a misunderstanding over what it is the women want, with the men presented as more or less well-intentioned and willing to please, but inept and clueless as to exactly what it is that will please.

There’s a slightly more complex take on it, with a broader mismatch between what each participant understands and expects, in a 2005 episode of the sitcom Joey, a Friends spin-off about Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), an aspiring actor in Los Angeles. In ‘Joey and the Valentine’s Date’ (shown on February 10), he’s interviewed by columnist Judy Wilson (Dina Waters),

who has a squeaky voice and acts ditzy, but is said to be smarter than she seems. His publicist has told him to charm her in the hope of getting a good write-up, so he asks her out to dinner tomorrow evening, completely forgetting that today is February 13. She duly gets the wrong idea, and he spends the rest of the episode trying hopelessly to escape from a situation accelerating inexorably towards a serious relationship involving rings. And to make matters worse, he has to keep it up for two days, until the magazine goes to press.

Back home the day after the date, he tries sitting as far as he can away from her, but ‘Kitty needs some attention’. He drops into the conversation a question about how the article is going, only to be told that she hasn’t finished it. ‘I’ve been a bad little kitty,’ she says, and moves into a certain position.

The offer couldn’t be more blatant,

and he seriously considers the possibility:

But of course he can’t, because he’d be spanking her on false pretenses, so instead he presses his question about the article. The answer is not what he wants to hear: what she thinks of as their developing relationship means she hasn’t had time to work on it, so she has been granted a month’s extension. But at least she gets up, disentangling him from the compromising position, presumably having realized that there isn’t going to be any sexy ‘spank the kitty’ roleplay.

(And, for those who are interested, he extricates himself after discovering that her family are strict Lutherans, by pretending to be an equally committed adherent of the Jewish faith.)

All of these comedies are firmly rooted in the ‘new normal‘: they start from the primary modern understanding of spanking as a form of ‘parasexual’ activity, rather than of punishment. So long as the representation of actual intercourse remains taboo, spanking (and other kinds of kink and foreplay) can serve as a handy substitute in scenarios dealing with the characters’ sex lives. As such, these are not just ‘stupid men stories’ about how the women don’t get what they want, or get what they don’t want. More fundamentally, the humor arises from the fact that the characters are not in accord, and so touches on one of the most central, and most serious, issues that complicates spanking in our contemporary times: today you mustn’t spank a girl without her consent. But we’ll see how different it once was in the next installment of this series.

Kiss Me Kate: 1980

We begin with the annual spring musical at St Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, staged April 10 through 13, which were four nights of discomfort for Mimi Chouteau, thanks to David Resnick:

And later in the month, April 24 through 26, to be precise, David Talanian spanked Alyson Augustin at Belmont Hill High School, Massachusetts:

A week later, May 2 saw the production open at Soquel High School, California, with Greg Stone and Liz Hodgin. It ran until May 10, but probably didn’t feature outfits like these:

20 KMK 1980 Soquel High School

May 16-18 were the dates of a production at the Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut. John Clark spanked Laura Smith and, though we don’t have a photo of the scene, here’s a sign of how central it was deemed to be:

Back to Iowa now, where the musical was produced at Edgewood High School, with predictable consequences for Lee Klaus, courtesy of Mike Forkenbrock:

Next stop, Annapolis, for a long run at the Summer Garden Theatre, May 23 through July 6, with Jeffrey Miller and Constance Dameron, who played Lilli as a spoiled brat. No surprise then that once again the spanking scene was the central defining image of the show:

The summer musical at Topeka Civic Theatre, Kansas, starred Dennis Snyder and Kathy Moser, and it was said to be an exhausting but fun job for all concerned:

Oklahoma City Lyric Theatre presented the musical July 22 through August 2, with Alfred Toigo and Vicky Leloie Kelly:

August 7-16 sees our attention turn to Southern Illinois University, and the spanking of Kari Ely by Todd Scanlon:

At Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, from September 5 through 14, here’s Thomas Glauner spanking Tamberlyn Gearring:

And from October 7 through 18, at the University of Northern Iowa, Kraig Kerger hands it out to Susan Connor:

That’s it for 1980 – 1981, here we come!

Liebe Mich, Versohle Dich

Say hello to Henry Henze and friends. He’s a guitarist with the German hard rock band Herren, founded in 2013. Except for occasionally in December, when he has been known to be someone else:

But on the occasion we’re looking at today, it’s the girls who are dressing up for that purpose. Let’s meet them properly.

On the left is Kim Voigt; on the right, Edda Flex. It’s March 2015, and they’re in costume for the first day’s shooting on Carsten Stolze’s music video for ‘Liebe Mich’ (Love Me), a song from the band’s debut album Lust. Edda in particular is worth a closer look:

I don’t say that meaning to be ungallant about Kim. It’s just that Kim basically has to sit around looking pretty. Whereas Edda…

Here’s the video:

If you are interested in Herren’s music, please visit their website.

The Pleasure in Punishment

Let’s start with an incident in Jim Balent’s erotic indie comic book Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, about the adventures of a frequently naked warrior witch.

The model for Tarot is Balent’s wife, Holly Golightly, who is also the colorist for the series (and who, incidentally, can be seen here getting a spanking).

The series often features spanking (in broad terms), especially in Tarot’s annual battles with the Krampus, though there’s usually a little too much gynecology for some tastes, including mine. Fortunately that’s not an issue with the 2007 story ‘Hex in the City’, in which Tarot has a vision of the destruction of New York. She and her lover, Skeleton Man, go to the city to find the bomb, and track it down to ‘Kitty City’, the HQ of the villainous ‘Three Kittens’, but arrive to find the Kittens fighting over it with another group of villains, the Satanic School Girls of Doom. It turns out that they have jointly foiled a bomb plot yet another supervillain by the rather obvious name of Al Kayduh, but cannot agree who should have the honor of handing over the big banger to the authorities. The upshot is that it gets activated in the course of the fight, but the day is saved in a conclusion that will make every reader swell with (according to taste) either patriotic pride or nausea: the ghosts of some firefighters killed in the 9/11 attack turn up, still defending the city even after death, and deal with the device.

The story’s moment of interest comes when Skeleton Man intervenes, only to get a Naughty Schoolgirl’s trainer in the back of his neck.

‘You’re lucky I don’t hit girls,’ he tells her – but when she attacks him some more, he decides that he may not hit girls, but he does spank them.

‘Time to teach you a lesson,’ he says; and while she is at first dismayed, she is soon demanding, ‘Teach me some more!’ Evidently the spanking has had a somewhat different effect than intended. And even as she is evacuated out of the story, she’s trying to set up a second date (or lesson).

There’s a comparable case ten years earlier in a 1997 edition of Florence Magnin’s French comic book Mary la Noire (Black Mary), about the 18th-century adventures of a ghostly pirate ship, the Styx. The key incident happens after sailor Leister finds his fiancée Leonora in the arms of another man, which leads to a decking and a death threat for him and a ‘wait till I get you home’ moment for her.

And when he does get her home, a spanking:

In the right-hand panel, two of the ship’s spectres infer that she is being beaten, and resolve to investigate. Since they are ghosts, walls are no barrier to them,

which means there’s no privacy for a ‘delicious, dirty brute’ who has excited his lady with his strength and virility:

‘He’s not beating her,’ says one ghost to the other; ‘What have you been telling me?’ And they withdraw so that Leister and Leonora can enjoy their ‘take me, take me’ moment together.

These are stories that could have been told, with a somewhat different emphasis, in the days when spanking was still treated first and foremost as a punishment. The point can be illustrated exactly with the spanking scene in The Big Bang Theory, a Friends-like apartment-sharing sitcom in which the central characters are geeks. The episode ‘The Fish Guts Displacement’ (shown on December 6, 2012) dealt with the developing relationship between the repressed scientist Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and his girlfriend Amy, played by Mayim Bialik.

She is unwell at the start of the episode, and so enjoys being looked after by Sheldon that she pretends to be still sick after she has gotten better. Eventually he finds out, decides she must be punished and opts for something that is, in his own words, ‘a tad old school’:

The basic situation here is uncannily similar to an episode of the 1980s Mexican sitcom Cosas de Casados (Domestic Matters), about a married couple played by Miguel Palmer and Leticia Perdigón.

The series is a sort of latter-day I Love Lucy, often dealing with the wife Leticia’s crazy antics, which sometimes result in her ending the show like this:

In the episode in question, from 1985, she feigns illness, and just like Amy in The Big Bang Theory three decades later, we see her dancing around to music when alone, only to rush back to her sick-bed when Miguel arrives.

But just like Sheldon, Miguel is wise to the deception, and Leticia suffers the usual fate:

Two things are different in 2012. Understandably in view of changed norms, there’s a lot of pussy-footing preliminary discussion about what form Amy’s punishment should take, whereas in 1985 there’s no real question about what’s going to happen to Leticia: she’s turned straight over her husband’s knee for her just retribution. And in 2012, there’s a very different handling of how Amy feels about it:

‘Excuse me’ says Sheldon, ‘you’re not supposed to be enjoying this.’ Amy retorts, ‘Then maybe you should spank me harder.’ And clearly that means she enjoys it a whole lot more.

Naughty girls are indeed not supposed to enjoy being spanked, but even in ‘old school’ days they sometimes did, thanks to the latently sexual dimension of the act. That’s ultimately why it moved romantic relationships onwards in the mid-20th century, and still does with Sheldon and Amy in 2012 (even though, sadly but predictably, some closed-minded reviewers decided it was unacceptably ‘creepy’). But what has changed since the 1940s is that the sexual side of it has become a lot more overt, so that when someone sets out to punish by spanking, he may find that he has unwittingly given pleasure instead.

In more satirical kinds of fiction, he may never catch on. An early case in point is Megaton Man, created in 1984 by cartoonist Don Simpson as a parody of the superhero genre and endowed with brawn in inverse proportion to his brains.

In 1988, he created a smarter female counterpart, Ms Megaton Man,

and offered her in (or rather, partly in) her bikini for the swimsuit edition of Amazing Heroes:

In 1990, they were teamed up and assigned a secret underground headquarters, the Dork Cave. But it turns out that Megaton Man isn’t eager to have a teen sidekick foisted on him.

No, not because he’s preoccupied with crime-fighting. By his own admission, he’s a sexist and a racist. But it seems Ms Megaton Man has blinkers of her own: she can’t believe he doesn’t want her around, because she’s his greatest fan, and very keen to take their relationship further.

So she manipulates the situation to get what she thinks of as some sexual attention and he will think of as her just deserts:

One broken microscope? One sound spanking coming up!

And, as is obvious to everyone in the world except Megaton Man, that’s exactly what she wanted in the first place. (The upshot, however, is that, for all his apparent virility, Megaton Man turns out to be useless in bed.)

The dimmest spanker of them all has to be Stan Smith, the prudish title character of the long-running and ongoing animated comedy American Dad, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who is married to the somewhat less repressed Francine, voiced by Wendy Schaal:

In the 2013 episode ‘Missing Kink’ (shown on April 14), Francine tells him she’s bored with conventional sex, but he won’t consider anything other than the divinely ordained missionary position. Fortunately for her, he has equally conservative views on family discipline, and when she demurs, gives her a demonstration of the harmlessness and efficacy of spanking.

Turned on, Francine wants to be spanked some more, but can only get him to do it by indirect means: she takes responsibility for their son’s misbehavior (‘because his mistakes are a reflection on my parenting’), and volunteers to be spanked for them.

This results in numerous manufactured misdeeds when the boy isn’t bad enough for her appetite:

Eventually he cottons on after catching her in the act, and reacts as expected: ‘This deviant behavior has no place in our bedroom.’ The rest of the episode chronicles a disastrous attempt to make Stan more sexually adventurous, after which the couple revert to their dull former sex life, and Francine gets her kicks from joining a sporting team, which customarily shows its solidarity like this:

Because it’s a kink of such long standing, spanking has always contained the potential for ambiguity: it can be either sexual or non-sexual, or even experienced one way even though intended the other. What gives the cross-purposes in these stories their distinctively modern spin is a change of emphasis: there is more attention, and often more agency, given to the spanked woman and how she actually feels, rather than how the spanker supposes she ought to feel. But sometimes this kind of mismatch between the participants’ expectations and objectives generates a more comically awkward kind of situation, to which we shall turn next time.

Fish Tank

Fish Tank is a compelling realist film from 2009, written and directed by Andrea Arnold, about the graceless, foul-mouthed, violent teenager Mia Williams. The character is not so much expertly played as perfectly inhabited by Katie Jarvis, who had no formal acting training and was cast after Andrea Arnold saw her having a row with her boyfriend.

Mia lives with her trampy mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and her younger sister in a dismal Essex tower block and dreams of freedom. But what freedom can there ever be for a girl like her? The only taste of it she can get involves breaking into an empty flat to dance and get drunk on cheap cider, though the domestic arrangements in her own flat are also a little, let us say, unstructured: it’s all girls together, and Joanne thinks nothing of Mia walking round the place in her panties,

in part because it’s a case of, like mother, like daughter.

And that also proves to be true in other ways when Joanne gets herself a new, good-looking Irish boyfriend, Conor (Michael Fassbender).

From the first, there’s an element of sexual tension between Mia and Conor: she checks him out as he walks up the stairs, and pretends to fall asleep inconveniently on her mother’s bed just as he and Joanne are preparing for a night of passion, so that Conor has to carry her back to her own room and put her to bed, which includes taking off her jeans.

Mia runs off after overhearing a social worker telling her mother that she is to be sent to an institution for delinquents. Seeing an advert in a cafe, she decides to apply for a job as a dancer, another escape route that ultimately doesn’t work out. Conor lends her a camera to film an audition tape – and when she’s ungrateful about it, he spanks her.

‘You, young lady, are overdue a good hiding,’ he says, and puts her across his knee.

It’s a relatively brief spanking consisting of just three smacks, respectively ‘for being cheeky’, ‘for sneaking up on me’ and ‘for running away on the social worker’. It’s mainly shot to favor Mia’s reaction, which perhaps counteracts any impression of perfunctoriness:

But afterwards he tells her, ‘You got off lightly this time,’ implying the possibility of more and worse to come.

Reviewers variously described it as ‘joking’, ‘playful’, ‘flirtatious, inappropriately sexual’, a ‘mock-spanking’; it is an ‘alarming’ moment that is full of ‘sexual tension’, but he is also treating her ‘like a little girl again’. One writer remarked, with pointed frankness,

‘I wanted Michael Fassbender to put me over his knee and spank me.’

The phrase that best hits the nail on the head is ‘suddenly strange and jarring’. Modern viewers no longer know quite how to take this sort of thing, because it has more than one connotation: it is something that might be done by a father, but also a lover. And that’s very much to the point.

Immediately after the spanking, Joanne walks in, and Conor’s behavior is just a little furtive: if there were an innocent construction to put on the incident, you might expect him to say something to the effect that he has done what Mia has long needed a father to do to her, but instead he just remarks that he has been looking out his camera to lend her. The spanking is something that needs to be concealed, yet there is also the opportunity to repeat the exercise under Joanne’s very nose: when
she cynically says that Mia will only break the loaned camera, he replies, ‘she’ll get a good hiding if she does’, with a significant look at the prospective recipient.

This sets up any future spanking to mean unambiguously one thing to the mother and unambiguously the other to the daughter. To make it absolutely clear on the latter score, there’s a subsequent exchange, apropos of something else, in which she tells him, ‘I’m not a bloody kid, you know.’ ‘I know that,’ he replies. And that perhaps accounts for why there isn’t a second spanking: the relationship escalates rapidly to sex on the sofa after Joanne has drunkenly passed out, then degenerates once Mia discovers that he’s married with a kid of his own. But at least she does finally escape from the estate – even if it’s only to South Wales.

Rendezvous at Area 51

If you’re in Nevada, then it’s probably prudent to stay away from Area 51. But if you’re across the state line in Utah, head for Club Area 51 in Salt Lake City, the legendary nightclub with its three busy dance floors and its themed fetish ball on the last Saturday of each month (virus permitting).

Like many a nightclub, it’s a hangout for pretty girls in outlandish clothes,

especially when the evening’s theme is ‘lingerie’.

Also like many a nightclub, there are opportunities aplenty to pose for the photographer,

and for gentlemen patrons to display their masculinity, one way…

or another:

The latter is sometimes also abetted by the choice of theme. When it’s ‘Retro Pin-Up’, there’s often a chance that something like this will happen:

And of course, if you come at the end of the summer, it’ll be…

That can only mean one thing: pretty girls in school uniform!

And sometimes they will be naughty girls.

And we all know that when a schoolgirl is naughty, she will have to be punished.

Well, maybe, but I bet that’s not what you had in mind…

She’s getting warmer. And others will get warmer another way…

Is it worth trying bribery?

Alas, it doesn’t appear to be all that effective!

Remember that violations of the school’s uniform code will be dealt with severely.

But you might want to bear in mind that there are also certain disadvantages to wearing the correct school uniform.

Feeling a little exposed?

Well, don’t be too naughty, or you may find yourself even more exposed!

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

But whatever may become of you, don’t forget to have fun at 51!

Making Erotica in the Modern Mainstream

The Story So Far: Having fallen out of favor in the 1960s, spanking scenes gradually slipped back into the mainstream as the last century came to an end, but in a very different form: what was once a spectacular form of punishment was now primarily a sexual game. That’s a much narrower context than the subject had occupied in its 20th-century heyday, and what’s more, there can be something rather awkward about watching a spanking when it’s essentially a form of sexual activity: if it is to go beyond mere porn, it needs to have the authenticity that comes from having a point to it, rather than being something that is indulged in for its own sake.

So it’s ironic that one of the ways in which spanking features in the modern mainstream is as porn.

In a 2005 episode of The Simpsons, ‘Home Away from Homer’, Bart and Milhouse discover a porn website created by two local students seeking to supplement their income. The item we actually get to see is this:

There is one obvious difference from actual porn, necessary in order for the episode to be broadcastable, and later remedied (if that’s the right word) in two different versions by a Chilean fan artist:

But the dialog nicely captures and exaggerates the bizarre nicheness of porn, its lack of connection to anything else in the world, when Katja, the girl in the red dress, says that utterly daft line: ‘Spank me again with little boy’s picture.’

So the authenticity of the spanking as represented erotica lies in its very lack of authenticity: the sense that it exists solely to cater to a specific taste that is no doubt meaningful to the person who has it, but defies outside understanding. (I’m talking about a picture of a little boy being used to spank a full-size girl, but the spanking fetish itself meets with comparable mystification among some of those who don’t share it.) There is no need of a fuller context, because in the genre being depicted, the only context is the sexual tastes of the reader, or viewer, for whom the material has been created.

This comes out clearly in a noticeably early example of this approach, in a 1988 edition of the indie comic book Southern Knights, about the adventures of a small legion of superheroes, three male and two female.

In the story ‘Conned’, the Knights are attending a science fiction convention, encountering geeky fans and and considering proposals to run their adventures in a comic book – which enables the writer, Henry Vogel, to satirize a lot of contemporary trends in comics. Pitches from Marble Comics and BC Comics are not quite what the Knights had in mind, and there’s also a striking treatment in graphic novel style, but what we’re waiting for is the submission from AM Comics (spoofing AC Comics, the publisher of Femforce).

Southern Knights 1

This is a ‘Good Girl Art’ version of the Knights, featuring exclusively Kristin and Connie, the two female members of the team, with particular attention to their physical attributes and those of their adversaries (also female, of course).

In the ensuing battle, Connie’s magic sword causes her opponent’s clothes to fall off,

and blonde Kristin is on the receiving end of a pre-fight vaunt about what dreadful fate is in store for her when she has been defeated:

Needless to say, AM Comics do not get the gig…

The point is that, even in a story designed and executed as a piece of fanservice, the spanking is crowbarred in apropos of nothing – which, in this meta context, is a wry and well taken observation. And because in this genre spanking doesn’t have to justify its existence (it’s there because the producer wants to sell to a consumer who wants it to be there), the imagery itself is often of a poor standard compared with mainstream material. That is expertly caught in the 2009 film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, based on Rebecca Miller’s novel of the previous year.

The story concerns a desperate middle-aged woman, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright), who wants to do more than live vicariously through her husband and children, and whose extended autobiographical reminiscences illustrate the more interesting but less comfortable life she once had. Leaving home in her late teens to escape her speed-addicted mother, the younger Pippa (Blake Lively) moves in with her aunt, whose lesbian lover Kat (Julianne Moore) recruits her to participate in a series of erotic photoshoots. These continue for a few weeks before her aunt comes home unexpectedly, discovers what has been going on behind her back and puts a stop to it.

Kat’s objective is purportedly to illustrate a lesbian novel, though the strong impression is conveyed that these pictures are going to end up in something with far fewer pretensions to art. One sequence shows Pippa as a maid who is caught in a misdemeanor when her wealthy employer, played by Christin Sawyer Davis, comes home unexpectedly, though the parallel with what’s going to happen with Aunt Trish doesn’t extend as far as…

Blake Lively later told a reporter her thoughts while making the scene:

‘I finally have the most respectable job of my life, and I’m getting spanked.’

Exactly: this respectable acting job involves accurately portraying sleaze, complete with the hopeless ‘kneeling on the floor’ approach to OTK, the spanking implement not ordinarily found in the home (of non-kinksters, anyway), the oversized vintage underwear straight out of a post-War Klaw or Harrison shoot,

not to mention specialized fetish details like the top hat, just as obscurely inscrutable as the ‘little boy’s picture’ in The Simpsons. It is not, in itself, a piece of sleaze; but because it’s such a well observed simulation, it is also not particularly satisfying as a piece of spanking imagery. For that, we have to look at the lighter end of the spectrum, in all senses.

The House Bunny (2008) is a moderately amusing comedy in which a good-hearted former Playboy bunny girl (Anna Faris) gets a job as the house mother of a failing sorority, and turns it around by transforming the girls from social misfits to guy magnets – a scenario subsequently analysed to death (and beyond) by reviewers uncomfortable with the idea that some women might sometimes enjoy their own femininity, and with the possibility that feminine allure could ever, in any circumstances, be a source of female power. One of the transformees is the nerdy, inhibited sorority president Natalie (Emma Stone),

and one of the methods of metamorphosis is a calendar shoot, in which Natalie ends up as Miss December.

But in part of the sequence that didn’t make it into the final cut, the question of whether Natalie was Naughty or Nice may have implied a different answer:

Hmmm… Maybe, by modern lights, just a little too naughty for a movie that’s not aiming to be anything more than a piece of harmless sexy froth?

But the fact remains that erotica, in all its forms from girlie calendars to full-blown porn, is one arena where spanking remains a part of real life (albeit in a genre that does not itself depict real life or anything like it) – so ‘making erotica’ is one scenario in which the subject can still have a place in the broad-minded modern mainstream. But not the only one, as we shall start to see next time.