It is probably futile to attempt to trace the history of birthday spanking, the annual ritual in which the birthday girl gets one smack for each year of her age, plus ‘one to grow on’. We can begin to track it back through the decades with selected examples….
… until eventually our material dries up. But what we’re approaching is the beginning not of the tradition but of the technology that transmits it down the generations to us. It’s pertinent that our 1940s exemplar is a birthday card rather than a candid photograph. Fewer people had cameras in the first half of the last century and every individual photograph was not only costlier but took more effort to set up and snap. And though candid photography certainly existed, it’s much less common to find examples with enough of a context to allow us to say that they show specifically a birthday spanking rather than a piece of general horseplay on some other occasion.
But birthday girls were certainly getting spanked decades before that. I’ve come across references to the custom from the 1920s,
and just because I haven’t found any from earlier still doesn’t mean the custom didn’t exist: commonplace things are often not documented simply because they are unremarkable, not because they didn’t happen. Likewise, the huge amount of birthday spanking pictures from recent times doesn’t mean there is more of it going on now than before, just that it has become easier to keep a visual record of ordinary events and everyday life, and to publish it for all to see.
Exceptions to this rule sometimes arise when the birthday has some claim on public attention, such as an association with the movies or other media. A noteworthy example took place on May 25, 1956, during production of the film The Search for Bridey Murphy. This dramatized a celebrated, or notorious, amateur hypnotism case of 1952 in which the subject was supposedly regressed back into a former life as the 19th-century Irishwoman Bridey Murphy.
Playing teenage Bridey in the film was Eilene Janssen, who started work as, legally, a child actress, but outgrew the requirement for a chaperone when she turned 18 on May 25. This created a photo opportunity for the publicity department and some extra work for the catering and wardrobe departments. The story fed to the press was Eilene’s birthday spanking, administered by the film’s leading actor, Louis Hayward, who played the hypnotist. Catering supplied a ‘Bridey Turns 18’ birthday cake decorated with an icing model showing one of the hypnosis sessions. Wardrobe’s job was to supply an additional garment that was not required for the film itself, because Eilene was spanked with her skirt up, on a fetching pair of Victorian bloomers:
(This was not strictly period-accurate: Bridey herself would have turned 18 in 1816, but pantalettes were rarely worn before 1830, and bloomers in that style were later still. Never mind, it’s a great image!)
Other movie actresses who got birthday spankings for the press included Ann Sheridan, Lucille Ball and (probably) Martha O’Driscoll.
A few fell foul of an inventive kind of publicity stunt. In 1941, the long-running country music show National Barn Dance had an anniversary, but, as the press release pointed out, ‘You can’t spank a radio program on its birthday.’ But a star of the show could be asked to stand in… Step forward, singer Jane Kaye.
And to do the honors, step forward atd sit down, fellow Barn Dance star Pat Buttram, well before his post-War stint as Gene Autry’s sidekick in Western movies.
The show had been running in Chicago since 1924, but luckily for Jane, they decided to count only from when it went national in 1933.
Not so lucky in 1982 was 17-year-old Lori Loughlin,
who was chosen to get a birthday spanking from fellow actor Joel Crothers for the anniversary of the soap opera The Edge of Night, which first aired in 1956…
The full 26 smacks were administered – so this time there may possibly have been no sitting for the stand-in for a little while to come!
And this sort of press story continues into the present century. Meet Miss Czech Republic 2004, Jana Dolezelova, who was also a semi-finalist in the Miss World competition.
Now see what happened to her on her 25th birthday in 2006:
As the Czechs say, petadvacet (25), though fortunately for her, it wasn’t na holou!
The question of coverage, or rather uncoverage, leads us towards an important subject that’s also raised in this 1958 installment of Cal Alley’s family humor strip, The Ryatts.
Kit ought to be trying to avoid her birthday spanking, it is implied, yet she seems strangely compliant:
So that’s it: built-in protection! Omit it at your peril, as demonstrated here by the near-mainstream cartoonist Wolfie:
But even if a birthday girl has been prudent, we all know she can’t rely on a skirt.
The risks are obvious,
and the consequences range from serious
though arguably these birthday cheerleaders really have nothing to complain about…
The consequences of having your birthday party on the beach ought to be foreseeable…
Perhaps it’s no wonder some girls opt for shorts on their birthday,
Don’t get too confident…
And it could be worse…
Though of course some girls are game for something close to the very worst, like this one who got several birthday spankings for charity, and dressed for the occasion:
There are two contradictory things I’m trying to get at here, the first of which is the issue of whether a birthday spanking should hurt.
Some evidently do, even without any clothing adjustment!
On this vintage birthday card, the birthday girl seems to have been taken to the woodshed:
And in a video from 2020, a guy from South Carolina tried to give his girlfriend a 23rd birthday spanking, a magnificent spectacle while it lasted, except that he had to give up after four when she couldn’t take it:
The rest of the video has the balance delivered intermittently in passing smacks, as you can see here.
And the end result, even without any uncovering, can be a very warm bottom!
Some take steps to ensure this, by using something a bit harder than the flat of the hand:
That brings us neatly to Poland, where (as we have seen before) birthday spankings are associated specifically with the girl turning 18, and where it is traditional (albeit not obligatory) to use a belt.
That often means mixed feelings for a Polish birthday girl: it’s a time-honored, feelgood custom among friends,
and it’s also a real pain in the ass…
Some Poles rationalize it as a settling of accounts, rather like the traditional Christmas spanking: it deals with any undetected childhood misdemeanors and so launches a girl into adulthood with a clean slate. And that means it really should hurt:
Whether in Poland or elsewhere, the realization that a birthday spanking might actually involve some pain can create a practical complication. The movies often make it look easy, but in real life, spanking a girl who doesn’t want to be spanked, even on her birthday, may call for a bit of wrangling.
But with determination she can be maneuvered into the correct position…
But why accentuate the negative? Who knows, there might be certain benefits in a birthday spanking!
Well, that’s just a joke, of course – so far as I’m aware, there’s no accredited medical research into the impact of spanking on posterior attractiveness! Nor is there anything in the superstitious notion that the pain inflicted chases away evil spirits and confers good luck in the coming year. But the spanking does mark, and honor, the attainment of a certain age by counting it out in a distinctive way. That’s why it’s often done by a peer-group as a communal ritual,
why it’s frequently enacted in public, and even onstage,
and why it’s sometimes done with tacit institutional sanction, such as at school.
Or used to be. School birthday spankings have been in decline of late, in part because, with the recent upsurge of irrational spankophobic prejudice, there has developed a general feeling that there needs to be a firmer, more rigorously policed boundary between social and sexual behavior, to the sad detriment of all forms of innocent flirtatiousness. So nowadays a girl’s more likely to get her birthday spanking in a nightclub than from her teacher or classmates.
One notable burlesque troupe that routinely spanks its birthday girls are the Parisian Filles de Joie,
while others performing all over the world may bring members of the audience up onstage for the same purpose,
sometimes rather raunchily!
And at long last that brings us to my second major point about the tradition: even if it does hurt a little sometimes, it’s fundamentally a piece of sexy fun, especially when there’s a bit of uncovering involved.
Fun for whom?
Well, obviously fun for the spanker:
But, really, fun for everyone!
Let’s finish with some video links. First, a handful of American birthday spankings may be seen here, here, here and here.
Now for another small collection of videos from Poland:
2022, 2022, 2022, 2022, 2022
2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023, 2023
Many happy returns to the lot of them!