The Value and Risks of Wearing a ‘Practical’ Skirt

Let’s begin with the 1959 Austrian comedy Immer die Mädchen (Girls Forever).


In the movie, investigative journalist Peter Klausen (Hans-Joachim Kulenkampff) goes undercover at a girls’ finishing school to research an article on its educational methods. What he uncovers is a scandal: the school is effectively ruled by one of the pupils, the rich, spoiled Lu van Dooren, played by Renate Ewert.


Lu dominates the teachers and her fellow pupils, and sets out to keep Klausen in his place by a mixture of blackmail and peer-group mockery: since he first arrived at school wearing a cowboy hat, they persistently sing ‘Tom Dooley’ whenever they see him. You can probably guess what happens: Klausen is eventually goaded into giving Lu a well-deserved public spanking, whereupon she complains to her tycoon father – who thoroughly approves of Klausen’s action!

The scene happens when Klausen returns to the school immediately after Lu and her henchgirls have been giving a dance recital. And they are still in costume:


On seeing Klausen, the girls file up the stairs singing the usual provocative song. Lu pauses to ask him how he likes her dress.


‘Very nice,’ he replies. ‘And so practical.’ And what it’s practical for is…


What he meant was that Lu’s outfit makes her self-prepared for what she was about to receive…


… which reinforces the idea that spanking a naughty girl on the seat of her panties is a completely normal procedure – so a costume where there’s no need to turn up the skirt first is practical indeed!

We’ve previously seen that panty-spanking has a basis in mainstream spanking, not just erotica, and we have observed in passing, rather often, that it is something more likely to be encountered in Continental Europe than in North America and Britain. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, just a tendency, but it’s one that we can demonstrate extensively with examples, starting with the German-speaking countries at the very center of Europe.

Take the 1953 comedy, Der Keusche Josef (Chaste Josef), about a crusty provincial accountant, Josef Haselhuhn, who is sent to Berlin to investigate a case of suspected fraud. He’s played by Ludwig Schmitz, and his daughter Marlise is Elena Luber:


Here they are in the film, Marlise in the patterned skirt on the right:


There’s only one available photograph of what happened later in that scene, and it has been adapted by a humor magazine:


The speech bubble says ‘Naturally I believe in equal rights – it’s your turn!’ But what obviously hasn’t been adapted is the way Marlise is being spanked on her white panties, with her skirt and petticoat lifted out of the way!

Both our examples so far come from the middle of the last century, at a kind of cultural tipping point when spanking scenes were still reasonably frequent, but when attitudes to propriety had relaxed enough that filmmakers could show skirt-lifting in a mainstream context. Coming forward from there, we have fewer spankings and more semi-nudity, and the opposite when we go backwards. But in both directions, we can still find examples of underwear exposure for purposes of spanking.

Forward first, into the present century. The superlative white-panty spanking of Julischka Eichel in the 2009 Berlin production of The Merchant of Venice has been discussed before, but here’s a pleasant reminder:


Sticking with theater for the time being, Franz Wittenbrink’s musical comedy Forever Young is about some old men who start to act young again when they spend some time in a café. It premiered in Vienna in January 2013, with Eva Mayer in the role of Franzi, the café waiter’s granddaughter:


The poster shoot featured a very pleasant image of lead actor Otto Schenk rediscovering his lost youth, with the perhaps not entirely willing assistance of Eva:


And here’s the finished poster, which caused some controversy for predictable reasons not entirely unconnected with spanking, pink panties and the illiberal wing of feminism:


This is apparently a publicity metaphor rather than the literal enactment of a scene from the play: there’s no script available to make completely sure, but what we can say for certain is that the actors are wearing their own clothes, not their costumes for the play. Yes, including the pink panties…

The panties won’t be so pretty when we go backwards in time, but they’ll still be on show, some of the time. We have a brief stopover in 1939 to take in a Bavarian Western of the Hitler era, Wasser für Canitoga, about an engineer’s efforts to establish a water supply in 1905 Canada. It includes an entirely incidental sequence featuring a pair of dancers performing in a bar, whose routine includes a moment when the man bends the girl over and smacks her bottom. But he takes care to lift her skirt first:


And farther back still – as far as we’re able to go in the present state of knowledge – takes us to 1922, when the legendary Max Reinhardt’s production of The Taming of the Shrew opened in Berlin on October 2. The cast included the young Marlene Dietrich in her first professional acting role, but Kate was played by the 25-year-old rising star of the German theater, Elisabeth Bergner.


I’ve no photograph of the spanking scene to show you, but there is an intriguing contemporary description in an English-language review:

‘Several times during the evening, he picks up the obstinate lady, lays her across his knee and trounces her soundly, after the fashion still recommended by old-fashioned educationalists as best after all when obedience is required from naughty children. Under her farthingale Katherine wears the outfit of a modern sportswoman. It is perhaps this contrast that sends the audience into such uncontrolled shrieks of merriment.’

And the big mystery there is exactly what it was that Elisabeth Bergner was wearing under her farthingale! It’s doubtful whether it was actually the intention for her undies to be anachronistic: after all, this wasn’t Kiss Me Kate and the first acknowledged modern-dress production of Shakespeare didn’t happen until the following year (at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in England). But at least there’s no doubt as to how audiences interpreted what they saw, and that gives us a clue. The quintessential ‘modern sportswoman’ in 1922 was surely tennis star Suzanne Lenglen, who had recently won her fourth Wimbledon, and revolutionized sporting wear with her pleated and (for the time) rather short skirts.


So in all likelihood, when the 1922 Petruchio turned up his Kate’s period dress to spank her, what was revealed was a short ‘modesty petticoat’ that saved Elisabeth Bergner from the humiliation of a direct-to-bloomers spanking. But let’s not forget the two key points: not only did The Taming of the Shrew feature more than one OTK spanking scene as early as 1922, they were raised-skirt spanking scenes too!

So that’s a solid core established: in Germany and Austria, skirt-lifting has been a recurring feature of spanking imagery from the cultural mainstream for roughly the past hundred years. In the second part of this article, we shall cast a wider net to show the same phenomenon occurring across the whole continent of Europe.

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