Cavemen, Hollywood and the Psychology of Spanking


Treat em rough otk spankingpsychology of spankingrough enlargementThe top clip and the inserted text enlargement from it were taken from Richard Windsor’s blog. The second cutting above is an excerpt from another source, which I have managed to lose and is probably another article from the same period.

They have both hit upon early 20th century screen legend John Barrymore as the archetypal spanker and although careful to point out that he is only acting in this picture, they do imply that the multi-married Barrymore may not have been adverse to spanking his wives in private and quote him as saying treat ‘em rough – a euphemism for domestic spanking in this case.

The article in the second cutting appears to be a more serious piece on spanking and conflict within love and relationships and the image of the strong man in the media. This is unusual for a time when spanking and domestic violence was either treated as a joke or a social scandal (usually the former as with the caveman quip in the first cutting.)

I have cropped both cuttings so as to leave them legible so that you can make up your own mind, but I thought it was an interesting glimpse back to the past.

22 Responses to “Cavemen, Hollywood and the Psychology of Spanking”

  1. 1 Retired Professor

    It is important to remember that there was a surge in women’s rights after both 20th century World Wars. In fact, women served in American military units during both wars! During the Great War, the Navy used “yeomanettes” to free sailors from clerical duties. The Second World War resulted in women doing just about everything a man could do except joining a combat unit.

    After World War I, women were rewarded with voting rights. The Roaring Twenties also saw women behaving much like men. They began smoking cigarettes, driving cars, and drinking hootch right along side men. Discovery of the clitoris and the availability of birth control also freed women from Victorian sexual constraints. The post-World War II era resulted in a push for expanded equal rights. Both of these social upheavals sent shock waves through what was once a male-dominated society.

    Spanking became a way of reasserting male authority. Both symbolically and practically, it was the one thing that men really could do better than woman. In fact, spanking became controversial in the late 20th century because the practice posed a significant threat to the concept of gender equality! After all, as previous generations of parents knew quite well, spanking remained effective on daughters well into their teens and 20s. It was likewise an open secret that haughty brides and pernicious mothers weren’t immune from its effectiveness.

    Although men spanking women had been a fact of life for centuries, the practice came out of the closet during the early 20th century. Technological advances in mass media assisted in spotlighting spanking. Depictions were no longer confined to a few passages in a text, fuzzy images, or tediously rendered drawings. Even real life scenes could be projected onto the big screen or printed by the thousands in magazines and newspapers.

  2. Gosh, the clitoris wasn’t discovered until the Twenties? As the owner of one of these mysterious contraptions I am unconvinced that people had not noticed it until so very recently.

    As for spanking being a threat to the concept of sexual equality, I am unconvinced of that also. I hope to remain unconvinced of it as I like spanking and I also like being treated as an equal member of society.I should hate to have to give up one of them.

    I liked the article, DJ. (I just discovered this blog and decided to delurk – so hello.)

    • 3 Retired Professor

      “[T]he clitoris wasn’t discovered until the Twenties?”

      Yes and no. Late nineteenth century physicians were most certainly aware of the clitoris. Most probably so were some of the the upscale patients the doctors treated for “hysteria” with the newly invented electric vibrator. Although vibrators became available to the general public by the early 20th century, both Victorian era morality and the Comstock Act’s prohibitions still held sway over much of America until after ratification of the 19th Amendment.

      The link between anti0spanking and feminism is more easily understood for those coming of age before the mid-1960s.

      • Might one then say that in the twenties the clitoris became an area that physicians became curious about? I think men have made an unfortunate habit of being curious about women’s sexuality and drawing erroneous conclusions about it for many years (a process that continues to this very day.)

        But their brief and misplaced medical interest does not mean that they “discovered” the clitoris, merely that they started to make it an area that men felt they had the right to make pronouncements about, regardless of a woman’s feelings on the matter.

        As for vibrators, dildos have been in use throughout history, they cannot be considered a twentieth century invention.

        The link between spanking and feminism is well understood by many modern women born after the 1960s. We resent men telling us what our sexuality is just as much as our fore mothers did in the 1920s.

      • Such an interesting conversation! I believe this is a new road for the blog, DJ.

        Regarding who knew what and when they knew it: women may not have known what word was anatomically correct for that part of their body, and they may never have known what it looked like (mirrors being in short supply at times in distant history and genital curiosity not encouraged), but I would venture to suggest that many women (most?) knew more about their clitoris than they let on.

        I believe most girls find theirs long before they know there is a name for it. Whatever era they’re from. They just didn’t discuss it in the drawing room. For that matter, neither do I.

        • 6 Retired Professor

          Knowing that there knowing that there are insies and outsies, or even how they fit together, is a far cry from understanding their link to the endocrine at a time when basic birth control information was synonymous with pornography!

      • 7 Retired Professor

        Physicians were quite aware of clitoris before the 20th century. It was the general public that was woefully ignorant.

        Since women were generally bared from medical school, late 19th century male physicians probably knew more about female anatomical functions than did most women at a time when it was widely believed that masturbation led to mental illness.

        While dildos had been around for centuries, electric vibrators were introduced in the late Victorian era. The two – dildos and vibrators – only became synonymous when the two products were merged in the late 20th century.

  3. 8 DJ

    Wow what a big and detailed comment – thanks Prof.

    Hi Abby – welcome and many thanks for entering the debate.

  4. Throw a grapefruit at me at the breakfast table and I’m yours. Where are all these old fashioned grapefruiters when you need them?

  5. Hey guys and gal,

    I love the articles and pictures. Thanks Damian.

    I have to say that the comments were awesome too. I loved what RP said about males asserting themselves with spanking a naughty girl, young woman, haughty bride, and mom. Mainly because I am or have been at one time or a other each of the spankable females described.

    I also like going to work in a job where I’m respected and then coming home where I am spanked. I want to keep doing both, hopefully, for a very long time.
    Nice to meet you Abby Sage. Seems we are spanked sisters!

    Thanks RP for making me feel ‘at home’ with your words. Man was born to spank and women were born to be spanked. That’s my philosophy. Easy, right? Oh what a nice world that would be… *giggle*


    • 12 Retired Professor

      ” Man was born to spank and women were born to be spanked.’

      Thanks to eons of male and female interaction passed on to succeeding generations, that seems to be the way things turned out from an evolutionary perspective. However because study of the human genome is so new, proving it at this time is another matter.

      • 13 DJ

        It is may be a sentiment that I share although when it comes to the facts – it might be the scientific equivalent of ‘printing the legend.’ rather than the truth.

        As for the discovery of the clitoris – well I rather suspect that the female of our species has had a hint or two about its existence for a few millennia now. 😉

        Maybe all those Victorian scientists without girl friends only discovered it in the 19th century – but the Chinese and books such as the Karma Sutra mentioned it long before that.

        I think your point says more about western science and more to the point western scientists than it does about human sexuality.

        But it is an interesting debate. 🙂


  6. 14 Retired Professor

    Not only am I writing from a Western perspective, I am focused on the United States. Although I’ve lived abroad, it’s the country I know best. Moreover, posting a comprehensive treatise on any issue would be a waste of time and space. After all, it is unlikely that anyone would read it!

    The history of humankind suggests that knowledge is neither universal nor is it progressive. There is a reason why the post-Roman period in Europe is listed among mankind’s Dark Ages.

    The Karma Sutra is part of the Hindu tradition. It was not translated into English until the mid-19th century. Even now, it is not widely read by the general population.

  7. I gathered that you were writing from a United States perspective.
    I maintain my original points – some Western doctors from a couple of countries suddenly writing about and developing theories on the clitoris is in no indicative of them ‘discovering’ the clitoris. Women and their lovers have known about it and had ways of exploring sexuality and desire for thousands of years.

    The Karma Sutra is just one example, there are Japanese Pillow Books, and countless others, even Chaucer refers to women’s sexual desire. There have been so many different ways of exploring women’s sexuality that are widely read by the population of earth. (And a few million Indians and a few other million citizens of the word may dispute your view of the Karma Sutra not being widely read.)

    Women are not so simplistic or passive to have their sexual desire kick started by a few quacks in one part of the world and one part of time.

    I stand by my comments about dildos, adding the moving parts (ie creating vibrators) was not the key invention.

    Women do not like to be rewritten or revised when a few men get a silly idea in their heads.

    • spanking because they were frustrated now we have vibes so no more spanking?

    • 17 Retired Professor

      There is a difference between being able to name every tree and not being able to see the forest. Even today, the Karma Sutra, the Pillow Books, and Chaucer’s numerous works are not widely read. As with most works of their time, these treatises were written for the upper social classes. It was only recently, in an era of cheap printing, translation, and mass literacy, that they became available. In time, they may even fade back into obscurity as alternative information technology displaces hardcopy texts.

  8. 18 DJ

    My everyone is so intellectual on this blog. 🙂

    Thanks Abby and RP for such a stimulating debate – I think AS by a nose. 😉

    As for Kimberly Ann – only wish I knew what you said – but hello and welcome. 😉

    • 19 Retired Professor

      If I were in this to win, I would have picked a less pedestrian subject matter. I seek to convert no one. My purpose was merely to inform.

      • 20 DJ

        Some valid points – no winners or losers here – no offence intended.

        the world will be conquered one spanking at a time. 😉

  9. The most important thing to remember about psychological stereotyping is that everybody is a unique individual with their own unique DNA codes, personal history of reinforcement, and individual space-time locus so no two individuals have ever been or could possibly be equal in all things to anyone else. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses.

    I will never beat Mike Tyson in boxing match but I have 20 years of US Army marksmanship training he doesn’t so I don’t worry about it. Statistically the average man can put the average woman over his knee and spank her so yes most men have an unfair advantage in that area over most women. However since an astronomically larger number of men are locked up in prison than women it’s obviously not that important an advantage.

    Laws being a product of military superiority naturally the rights of women have increased in very direct proportion to the technology of firearms devaluing physical strength from it’s military significance back in the cavemen days. Spanking is a way of preventing serious physical injury in hand to hand combat between men and women where the bigger and stronger side doesn’t want to cause serious physical injuries, That’s very different from violence where you’re actually trying to kill or cripple somebody.

    Women have been beaten into submission since cavemen days often by other women as well as men. Spanking sublimated it into a non-lethal ritual. Hostility to it comes from the rich Marxists who prefer prisons and fines their wealth gives them more immunity from and whose talents as con artists make it less useful and tendencies toward verbal abuse make them more likely targets for it.

    In WW2 the rich Marxists of course needed spankos like Audie Murphy to go fight Nazis for them which is why it was more popular then than after the Nazis were beaten and they no longer had use for us.

    • 22 DJ


      can’t Tyson buy a gun too or is that not possible in Texas?

      … no I got this – women get spanked less because now they have guns… or eh… no its gone again!

      wow you know a lot about genetics 😉

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