The guy on the left looks unsure of what he should do next. But as he’s in a Chicago vaudeville show, ancestor of modern burlesque, he really ought to know!
I’ve never been very convinced by claims that burlesque shows were covert political statements, or any kind of statement for that matter. But I’ve also never been convinced by the view that burlesque is the lowest kind of theater, effectively just a form of striptease. These are sexy shows, to be sure, and they don’t function like plays or operas or ballets, telling a human story through the performance; but the acts are often witty and inventive, not to mention very diverse.
Here’s Trixie Little from New York, sitting atop some hatboxes – or is it three tiers of cake? – and spanking Booboo Darlin:
Here she is sitting equally pretty atop Trixie Malicious, with a similar end in view:
You guessed it: burlesque shows feature lots of spankings!
Some acts take their imagery from other performance genres,
while others draw on the erotica of the last century, sometimes overtly, as in this splendid Bettie Page tribute from Florida:
(You can read more about them here.)
Some acts tell the old story of the bad girl in black who wreaks terrible havoc against a good girl in white panties. From North Carolina, here’s April LeQueen, with Eva Dasein across her knee:
And again from Florida, give a big hand to Betty Pickle while she gives her own version of a big hand to Miss Vivian Margiotta:
Sometimes a burlesque show gives itself a different spin by incorporating another kind of activity. Over by the other ocean, in California, Audrey Deluxe hosts Burlesque Bingo, which combines, what a surprise, burlesque with bingo. And in which Audrey sometimes gets spanked:
And still in California, Zip Burlesque’s 2017 show introduced an element of audience participation, along with a different type of random chance in the form of a wheel of fortune: the wheel span, and where it came to rest determined what the audience member got to do with performer Kitty La Petite Mort. Our photo shows a performance when it evidently wasn’t Kitty’s night:
Kitty, along with several others we’ve met so far, illustrates one frequent feature of burlesque: improbable stage names, sometimes French or German to offer homage to burlesque’s other roots in 1930s European cabaret, and to enable more suggestiveness than they might get away with in English. (Kitty would sound like a performer in an entirely different and far less creative genre if she had called herself Kitty Orgasm.) But English-language stage names are also used. Time to meet the Denver performer Fannie Spankings, and for her to meet her colleague, whose stage name is Midnite Martini but is dressed on this occasion as a schoolgirl:
Looks like naughty Midnite’s reading a slightly risqué publication – which means Miss Spankings has something for her.
That wasn’t part of a stage act, but a studio shot for a 2014 poster:
(It also gives you, at lower left, a further selection of unlikely burlesque stage names.)
Publicity material often features spanking imagery. Here’s another example, also from 2014, by the Toronto troupe Love Letters Cabaret:
And Dirty Little Secrets of Los Angeles publicized their 2011 Christmas show by putting one of their number, Bunny Jones, across Santa’s knee:
(You can see more from this shoot here.)
Bunny’s predicament illustrates one of the downsides (and, for us, upsides) of getting a burlesque spanking. The performers tend to wear less than they might in the street, which means there’s a very good chance that they might get spanked on their panties. On the other hand, stage panties are sometimes more elaborate, and protective, than whatever they might wear under what they wear in the street, as we can see in this performance by the Lollie Bombs of Texas:
But not always. Here’s Saturday Addams at Green Mountain Cabaret, Vermont, being smacked on a charmingly everyday pair of black lace panties:
And there is always the menace of the thong, seen in this performance in Missouri:
I bet she’s regretting her choice of underwear now!
Burlesque spankings aren’t generally presented as a mutual bedroom activity which the audience happen to be looking in on as if they were voyeurs. On the contrary, most burlesque draws on the older tradition of spanking as a spectacular punishment in which one participant has all the power and the other doesn’t enjoy what is being done to her, but can’t do a thing about it. And many of the spanked performers do an outstanding job of showing that, as in this example from a 2018 performance at Boom Boom Burlesque in Lafayette:
Video shows this even more effectively than stills photography. Over to New York to see Lydia Lael administer a spanking on St Patrick’s Day 2012, and to see just how vigorously Tara Tied responds:
But there are exceptions. Here are the San Diego troupe Vaudeville Vixens rehearsing a routine entitled ‘Fee Fi Fo Bum’:
And here they are performing it:
In other words, a completely mutual bout of onstage bottom-smacking!
Obviously that isn’t how it works in a spanking, narrowly defined, where one person is seated and the other upended, but it does illustrate the truth that any performance, including of a spanking, is a collaboration between the participants, and that contradicts the apparently obvious inference that spanker and spanked are in a power relationship, with the spanker in control.
In fact, we can take that point a little further if we consider the case of a Canadian burlesque artist who gets spanked a lot, Coco Framboise. She has occasionally doled out punishment, as in this glamor shot by photographer Andrea Hausmann, in which Mina LaFleur is being smacked:
But more often, far more often, she’s the one on the receiving end.
Here she is in 2013, over the lap of her fellow performer Obskyura.
And Suki Tsunami did the honors when Coco performed the same act at the 2015 Toronto Burlesque Festival.
There are two points here. The first is that it’s Coco’s act; the spankers are guests. And the other is that Coco is one of the organizers of the Toronto Burlesque Festival where the 2015 performance took place – so in many senses, Suki Tsunami was spanking the boss!
We’ll press the point with another example, involving Darrce Grace of California, seen first dealing with Desi the Unicorn:
And now, evidently on the same occasion, she metes out sterner treatment to former ballerina Lola Demure while Desi watches.
And the reason this is significant is that Lola runs a burlesque show in San Diego, at which Darrce sometimes performs: Desi got away with keeping her skirt down, but the red panty spanking goes to the woman who does the hiring!
We shouldn’t find this particularly surprising: it’s one of the basic principles of stage violence – of which spanking scenes are a minor example – that the performer in charge is the one who’s taking the blows, never the one who’s giving them. But in the end, they are working together to create the scene, however much their characters may be at loggerheads (or whatever the spanking equivalent may be).
You may have noticed that, except for Santa, all of my examples so far feature exclusively female performers giving and receiving the spankings: burlesque is a predominantly F/F genre. Indeed, many performers and glamor models say they especially enjoy spanking scenes, even if they are the one being spanked, so long as the other performer is also a woman. I guess it takes a complication out of the equation, but let’s not simplify matters too much. To reintroduce a measure of complication, here’s Nikki Trash, spanking Poppy Pie at Two Lips Burlesk in Oklahoma:
And not all male burlesque performers drag up…
… though Jet Noir, who performs at Manarchy Male Burlesque in San Francisco, has been known to ‘Santa up’ for his act:
And just as there are occasional burlesque acts with male spankers, so there are more than occasional burlesque acts with no spankers at all. We’ll stay in San Francisco and take this Can Can dance performed by Red Velvet and friends:
No, it’s not the sort of Can Can that features bottom-smacking as part of the act. Afterwards, however…
That’s Red smacking Amelia Zahra while Bella Sims waits her turn, if you want to know. Spanking, it seems, is such a strong feature of burlesque culture that it even happens backstage. Take Lulu Mon Dieu, a member of the Bootleg Bombshells in Los Angeles. Well, actually, Lili von Schtupp did take Lulu – right across her knee!
Then there’s this pair of naughty nurses backstage in Los Angeles:
Likewise, here’s the late Portland performer Burk Biggler, faced with a choice of bottoms: on the left, Kristen Barrett, and on the right, Krystal Blystone:
Krystal was the unlucky one, which on balance I think was the right choice:
So naturally whenever there’s an occasion that would call for a celebratory spanking, you can be sure burlesque artists will seize the opportunity. In 2016, for instance, Vancouver performer Harlettes Chow got married, and her colleagues duly played spank the bride!
Then there was the time Kitty McMuffin of San Francisco had a birthday:
The same thing happened to Juliette Dragon, the lead singer of Rikkha, only with enthusiastic group participation from her fellow artistes.
We’ll start to establish another significant point if we observe that, strictly speaking, what Juliette got was not a birthday spanking but une fessée d’anniversaire.
For she got it in Paris, where she performs with the Filles de Joie troupe.
So far I may have given the impression that modern burlesque spanking is exclusively a North American phenomenon, and indeed that is the continent where the genre most flourishes. But it can also be seen in many European countries such as Britain…
and Denmark, where they seem to have a thing about carpet beaters:
There’s also a burlesque scene in Australia, where the performers include Lyra LaBelle, seen here spanking Miss May on a visit to San Francisco:
Italy hosts a ‘funny burlesque contest’, though it looks as if Michelle Blum is sorry she entered:
Anyone who knows the city’s history won’t be surprised to know there’s burlesque in Berlin:
The Rocka Burlesque group travels all over France, bringing joie et fessée wherever it goes:
And let’s face it, the French bring a real sense of style to these things:
So what better way to sign off than with Vive la Burlesque!