Do You Want a Spanking, Young Lady?

Let’s travel back to the spring of 1953, to the early weeks of Stan Drake’s long-running romantic newspaper strip, The Heart of Juliet Jones (1953-2000). At the center of the story is a tension between Juliet and her spoiled, irresponsible younger sister Evie over Gig Holley, or Holly, who has an inconsistently spelt surname and a distinct relationship with each young woman: he is Evie’s math teacher, and Juliet’s fiancé. Evie takes advantage of this to behave like less than a model student:

1953 Heart of Juliet Jones 0

But if she can flout the ordinary conventions of the teacher-pupil relationship, he can push the boundaries a little too:

1953 Heart of Juliet Jones 1

As the story develops, Evie has to pass a math exam in order to graduate and Juliet tells her she must study instead of going out to a dance. Gig offers to tutor her, so she takes advantage again by turning up for her lesson dressed for the dance she’d rather be at, and then tries it on.

1953 Heart of Juliet Jones 21953 Heart of Juliet Jones 3

What’s a guy to do with a forward flirt like this? Gig has an idea, but doesn’t follow through with it:

1953 Heart of Juliet Jones 4

And Evie continues to throw herself at him even during the examination itself. Afterwards, he tells her to stay behind…

1953 Heart of Juliet Jones 5

There is a well known later illustration of the kind of thing that might be about to happen:

National Lampoon

But, even allowing for what you might see in a mid-Seventies humor magazine and not in a mid-Fifties family newspaper, let alone a school, that’s not what happens here: Evie has indeed flunked the test and put her entire future at risk, but what she gets is a scolding and an offer of practical help, not the sound spanking that has been signposted for weeks.

For the time being let’s put on hold the question of why that outcome doesn’t happen, so that we can think about what may be the most surprising aspect of Evie’s behavior: she wants to be spanked by Gig. And she wasn’t alone in harboring such wishes. Take this exchange between the characters played by Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1939 blockbuster, Union Pacific:

MOLLIE MONAHAN: Did you never know that flirting gets into a woman’s blood like fighting gets into a man’s? Now, a girl begins coquetting to discover if she has the power. Then she goes looking, like a fighter after a bully, for the hardest man to conquer. But ’tis never the man she wants, ’tis the pleasure of bringing him to her feet.

JEFF BUTLER: Till the right man comes along and gives her the spanking she deserves.

MOLLIE MONAHAN: Ah, that’s the man she dreams of.

Or take these ladies, both from newspaper strips of 1949:

Or this moment from 1978 between Milton Caniff’s airman hero Steve Canyon and Poteet, his infatuated cousin and ward:

1978 Steve Canyon 11978 Steve Canyon 2

Poteet comes closer than Evie Jones to getting her wish there, though a strict regard for overall series consistency would add that she had already been spanked by Steve, off panel, in 1958:

1958 Steve Canyon

And the implied inconvenience of her being unable to sit down afterwards brings us to the issue of whether an actual spanking is all that these young women expect or hope it will be.

A smack on the bottom was a recognized token of affection, which may be illustrated by the example, randomly chosen from many, of this moment in the British crime picture The Last Chance (1937) between author Michael Worrall (Billy Milton) and his pert, shapely typist Betty (Jenny Laird):

1937 The Last Chance

And it can be quite innocent, as we see in a scene from the romantic wartime series We’ll Meet Again (1982), when Letty Mundy (Natalie Ogle) is moping after her American boyfriend has been killed. Her Uncle Sid (Stuart Wilson), a London spiv, is trying to cheer her up and gets her to agree to go out for a walk.

When she succumbs to his charming invitation, he gives her a smack on the bottom and she goes upstairs to get ready. ‘Now you be ready in two minutes,’ he tells her, ‘or else I’ll come upstairs and spank you.’ And once she’s gone, her mother thanks him for being so nice to her.

But how nice would it be for him to actually give her that more sustained experience, a proper spanking? Romance comics have something to tell us about that:

The man who does it is a beast, a brute, a monster.

1951 Young Romance

It means the end of the relationship.

It may mean retaliation, either by direct action,

or police action.

1952 Popular Teenagers

But somehow, they will get their own back, no matter how long it takes…

1948 sweethearts 2

That may seem pretty definitive, but don’t forget these are romance stories, so all these unhappy spanked girls still have something to learn as they howl and kick face down on their beds.

1950 Cowgirl Romances

Here’s the same lesson for the British heroine Jane in 1940:

Jane

Spanking is a complex thing, evoking different and contradictory emotions, as we can see in this discussion in the 1948 teen strip Candy:

1948 Candy

The spanker is both an appalling bully and wonderful. And that isn’t necessarily only a third-party reaction. Take ‘Sunday Morning Breakfast’, Roe Fulkerson’s 1920s syndicated newspaper column about family breakfast-table conversations that were punctuated by intermittent spanking threats from Father to his flapper daughter Lucy, to which she sometimes retorts, ‘I’m too big and too wiggly to spank.’ (Wiggly there obviously means curvy.) In a 1928 installment, she does finally get soundly and loudly spanked, but by her boyfriend rather than her father:

‘I told him to chase himself. I did not want him pulling that high and mighty stuff in front of people. He reached into the car, picked me up and strode off with me, like I was a Sabine woman or something. I bit his ear, and kicked him, and screamed, but he wouldn’t set me down. When he tried to put me in his car I kicked his shins. He sat on the running board, got me between his knees, spanked me till I stopped screaming so he would quit.’

The Sunday breakfast conversation that is the substance of the column deals with the aftermath: father and brother plan to take reprisals against the young man, but the flapper seems rather pleased about what has happened to her.

‘Last night was the first time I ever got acquainted with Jerry. What it takes to handle a woman, that boy’s got. I always thought he was one of the door-mat kind that you could wipe your feet on and then some.

‘Spanked me! Think of that, will you! First time I have been spanked since I was five years old! No love taps, mind you! I was talking to Peggy over the telephone this morning, she heard it sitting in a car fifty feet away. She was thrilled to death. No man ever cared enough about her to hit her!

‘He promised Mother he would have me home at one o’clock, didn’t he? I’ll tell the world I was here; sore but satisfied! What you got to kick about? Gee, but that boy is strong! And grim! His jaw was set like a steel trap. My, how I did want to kiss him before I got out of the car! But there was nothing doing on kissing. Last night was his night to spank! Gee, but I did want to call him up this morning, but I would not give him the satisfaction. But watch when the telephone rings and see me jump!’

Likewise, in Rose Franken’s play Soldier’s Wife (1945), the title character reminisces nostalgically: ‘He turned me right over his knee and let me have it – hard. It was one of our nicest times.’ And from the following year, 1946, here’s a real-life letter from a British girl named Katie to her boyfriend in the services:

1946 letter

Darling one, it’s just as well you aren’t here as you would probably have to spank me hard – but what a heavenly spanking!

What are we to make of this? We can turn for assistance to a Fleet Street journalist, Sally Moore, later best known for her work on the Lord Lucan murder case.

In 1966, she wrote The Hunt (or How to be a Big Dame Hunter), a light-hearted advice manual which describes itself as ‘a bed-lam safari for the male sex and a guide to the female sex on how to enjoy being hunted’.

One section deals with types of refusal, including: ‘I’m not that sort of girl’. Quite properly, the first thing Sally does is to address the possibility that she may really not be that sort of girl, and how the man should deal with it gracefully.

But often the sort of girl who makes this remark is the tease who has been giving you the big come-on all evening. Then, when it comes to the point, she protests innocence. She deserves a spanking. Give her one – not too hard – over your knee.

Say to her: ‘This is for leading me up the garden path all night. You’re lucky I’m a decent sort of chap. Lots of men would take advantage of you. You can get into real trouble playing with fire.’

First, if she’s at all intelligent, she’ll realise you’re teaching her a lesson and therefore she should be grateful and might even respond.

Second, slight spankings have been known to have aphrodisiac effects….

And that, of course, is why some young women go to some lengths to get themselves spanked, like the title character in this 1975 strip from Bill Asprey’s long-running series Oh, Aphrodite!

Oh Aphrodite March 1975

It’s also the basis of the common feminine desire to be spanked by alpha male characters that we have observed in relation to 1970s television heroes, but which is a phenomenon of much longer standing. A syndicated press article of 1943 remarked on what it described as a recent tendency among lady cinemagoers:

In the yesteryear, striking a woman was considered a very despicable act. When the villain in the melodrama struck a woman and the hero knocked him cold, the applause was invariably terrific. However, in a number of films of the past ten years the hero has socked the heroine on the jaw or given her a vigorous spanking and his actions have been audibly approved by most of the feminine patrons.

But even then it wasn’t as recent as all that. Here’s a poem written in 1922 by ‘Florrie’, a reader of the New York Evening World:

I want a fellow, a veritable Sheik
Who will beat me up about once a week.
I want to be spanked whenever I’m naughty,
Put across his knee if I’m too haughty.
Will it be too hard to find such a boy?
I hope not, for he’ll be my pride and joy.

She’s obviously thinking of Rudolph Valentino’s romantic title character in The Sheik (1921), who abducts and tames the modern, independent-minded heroine (Agnes Ayres).

1921 The Sheik

He doesn’t actually spank her in the film, nor do any of his studio pictures include a spanking scene. (He did, however, spank his girlfriend, Pola Negri, in a private home movie skit which was lost at his death in 1926, rediscovered in 1934 and seems now to be lost again.) But it seems he did administer more than a few spankings in the imaginations of some female cinemagoers.

So when forward, unprincipled teens like Evie Jones or Poteet Canyon do their level best to get themselves put across their heartthrob’s knee, it’s obvious why the outcome won’t be a spanking: because that would be exactly the romantic gesture they crave and don’t deserve.

But there is a further layer of complication to be taken into account. Most of these sustained examples of feminine sexual psychology come from works of fiction. We can’t even verify that ‘Florrie’, the amateur New York poetess who wanted to be spanked by the Sheik, was real and not an invention of the newspaper’s editor. Could these all be projections of a male fantasy rather than evidence of a female one? It’s a difficult and delicate topic that we shall pick up next time.

4 thoughts on “Do You Want a Spanking, Young Lady?

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