Spanker At


Definitely a spanker-at

Whilst doing a quick review for the coming year, a glaring omission from cod-history of spanking strand became conspicuous by its absence. There has never been a post about the spanker-at craze of the 1930s and into the 1940s.

A brief google reveals that no one has ever, it seems, written about this.

Prepare to be enlightened.

Originally a spanker-at was a term applied to a prostitute who would offer to take a spanking as one of her services. But in the hedonistic 1920s of the jazz age the term took on a wider meaning and by 1929 a spanker-at was a woman who would either take a spanking for fun or in modern parlance was spankable.

As the Depression hit it was even immortalised in song.

“No more money in the bank,
no more pretty babies to spank.”

It might help to put some of the movies of that era in context to know that ordinary girl-next-door types sometimes imagined themselves a real femme fatal, if they flirted with a spanking.

There were even clubs in New York and later London, called spanker-at clubs which lasted into the 1940s and were probably only closed as people got more serious in war time.

Notably some of these clubs would only sell milk or soda-pop to their female customers and the young women who used to frequent them would wear juvenile attire such as pig-tails and sailor suits. That way a women asking for a real drink became a euphemism for courting a spanking.

There was one story, probably apocryphal, about two chorus girls on a break from a New York theatre visiting a spanker-at bar while dressed as schoolgirls. They got more than they bargained for when requesting a bourbon.

If anyone knows any more about this craze please share. That can’t be all there is?

9 Responses to “Spanker At”

  1. I was just thinking about if Humphrey Bogart was a spanker and seeing as he was a young man around time during this period I bet he went to that kind of a bar.
    I have to say this (what you wrote, I am leaving Bogart aside for a moment) fascinates me.
    I want to know more about the clubs. So does that mean girls that drank the milk or soda were not spanked and only the drinkers were?

    • 2 DJ

      Hi Poppy,

      I don’t know much more than that really. I expected to find out more, but there really was nothing. Not using the term ‘spanker-at’ or variations. I can’t remember where I came across it even if not online.

      But I imagine girls who didn’t drink just wanted to take things more slowly or were turned on more by the idea rather than the fact. Taken with many movies of the time I think our grandparents were a lot less innocent than they pretended to be.


  2. Wow! This is all complete news to me, DJ, both the idea that spanking was so much more mainstream than I imagined at that time, and the very specific if somewhat strange term they had for it.

    Well, I guess it wasn’t all that mainstream if so few wrote about it, that we can find at this point anyhow. But I like Poppy’s idea of Bogie hanging out at those places.

    Thanks for bringing this up, DJ. Nicely researched.

    • 4 DJ

      I am sorry I don’t know more or how much I have misremembered as I can’t find anything to check my facts.

      For instance the song is one I came across when I was studying the depression and its influence on popular culture at school. It was in a school text book no less and I always thought it was from Buddy can you spare a dime. But on investigating the song last year for another post I could find no reference to it either.

      Although Buddy Can you spare a Dime has lots of different versions I believe. There was a reference recently to a spanker at at in passing in a 1940s films. Maybe it will come around again on TCM.


  3. I sort of think that maybe girls that were very, very affected by it would have drunk the milk/soda. I think maybe they wanted to be spanked most of all. I hope they found what they were looking for.
    You have given me such food (and wine and milk!) for thought.
    Thank you.

  4. 6 Nikolai

    This certainly explains one of my favorite scenes in old movies. The opening scenes in The Mad Miss Manton (1938). Barbara Stanwyck loses her cloak while running out to call the police after finding the body. She’s wearing a little girl’s party dress. She explains later that she was at a costume party earlier. Then, the police back her into the chair, list a lot of her and her socialite friends’ mischief, then the Lieutenant threatens to spank her (playfully).

    It might explain why I’ve always liked movies and music from the ’20s and 30s.

  5. 7 DJ

    It may well explain it – thanks for that.

    I read that Hollywood was fond of including sexual in-jokes in this period. They had to go over the heads of both the audience and the censors.

    You can certainly see evidence of it in films such as Mr Blandishes Dream House, where Andy Devine makes a laboured joke about ‘folks coming’ while dancing and Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant discovered in a woman’s night gown announces he just gone gay all of a sudden.


  6. 8 Taylor

    I have heard something about this, but I do believe that it might have been known as a ‘slapper at’ – but who knows I may be wrong.

    Otherwise this post largely fits with what little I remember.

    I have done a lot research on the 1930 Hays Commission and believe me there were a lot of work arounds for sex and fetish stuff thinly disguised as something else. The gay community had a whole industry.

    Thanks for the post – now you have my brain creaking into life and I will do some digging.


  1. 1 Another reason to love him | Poppy's Submissions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: