In a Flap


flappers shockflappers shock flappers shockWhat follows is reminiscent of the sort of stuff the late Alex Birch used to publish on his blog, A Taste of Birch. In it is not certain it didn’t come from there.  If anyone knows the source just sound off.

Firstly though let’s quote Al Capone, an impeccable source for the maintenance of order, when speaking in the same era he said, “What the young need to day is a good sound strapping on their bare bottoms; especially the girls. The youth of today are quite shocking.”

Much has been written about the spanking of flappers in the 1920s here before, it seems to be a period rich in source material. No doubt the culture clash between ‘moderns’ and an earlier generation who grew-up in an Edwardian or even Victorian era had much to do with it.

Mrs JP Kelly wrote a women’s magazine about her young cousin.

“She is such a trial and our family’s reputation is in ruins. I know for a fact that she not only smokes, but steps out with boys. Even though she had now left home her parents are in despair. Only last week we were called to bail her out of jail after a raid on a speakeasy of all places. My husband was so incensed that he took her out back and spanked her hard on the bare bottom. She was quiet enough after this, but I know it has not cured her. Only last week she was seen out with the most awful boys and I know that she still smokes in public. What are we to do?”

What answer she got is uncertain but other magazines of the time extolled the virtue of “taking a belt to where it would do the most good.”

One contributor had his younger sister moved to the country where he told readers, “There they know how to handle her wilful ways. On the farm even grown-up girls get to feel the switch on their behinds.”

One wonders if they were not overreacting but then there must at least be some sympathy for the father who overheard his daughter express admiration for Bonnie Parker and “spanked her bare bottom until it smoked.”

Then there were the girls who flirted with such things for their own gratification. After all it was at this time that the term spanker-at or slapper-at entered the American language and quickly moved to London.

15 Responses to “In a Flap”

  1. 1 Retired Professor

    Having talked to women coming of age during this era, there was a belief that the fairer sex had arrived. According to the feeling of the time, women were the equal of men. After all, shortly after the Great War, women over the age of 21 in the United States could vote. American woman had also served in the military, doing clerical work, during World War I. Also, by this time, motor vehicles had become reasonably affordable and sufficiently reliable for women to drive. Although the moralist Comstock Act would remain on the books for another half century, its enforcement was crumbling on a practical. Birth control information was available. The combination tended to promote promiscuity. As one wag put it, the American automobile modified sexual positions! In addition, Prohibition in the United States indirectly caused women to began drinking with men. Also, although cigarettes had been around since the mid-19th century, their availability and size began to attract females as customers. In sum, many young women were beginning to behave like men.

    Amid all of the above changes, came an inevitable backlash from those, especially the older generation steeped in the Victorian morality. (Because of its brevity, the Edwardian era had relatively little influence in the United States.) That a switch would be taken to an almost grown woman’s bottom in the post-Victorian era is no surprise. In fact, my understanding is that both the buttocks and the back of the feminine thighs were considered to be fair game in disciplining the fairer sex of that era. Switching of the thighs was considered to guarantee that there was no sexual gratification associated with the disciplining in a post-pubescent daughter.

    While I am not sure when young women began getting the strap, I do know that some older daughters in my family growing up in the early 20th century were spanked with a belt by their mother. It may also be worth pointing out that, perhaps as a result of this form of disciplining, it was still rare for young women of that generation to wind up being arrested. In the United States, that all changedl after the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.

    • 2 DJ

      Thanks RP – as inciteful as ever.

      As for differences between Victorian and Edwardian Britain – some would say it was a moot point anyway.

      Others that rumblings of universal suffrage, the motor car, telephone and the fall of the House of Lords and the rise of political liberalism marked the beginning of the rise of the middle classes.

      All distinction was swept away by the Great War anyway on both sides of the Atlantic.

  2. Delightfully delicious! Thanks DJ.

    Ok girls,

    Be honest, how many of you thought (like I did) ‘oh my, a spanking from Al Capone? With a strap, on my bare bottom? Dang it, I was definitely a young adult in the wrong era!’ Or was that just me? *blush*


    • 4 DJ

      I understand the fantasy – but the reality of encountering a disease-ridden psychopath may not be to everyone’s taste. 😉

      • 5 Retired Professor

        Al Capone most certainly died “a disease-ridden psychopath”. In life, he was also a consummate purveyor to purulent tastes.

      • Cerebral boys,

        I was thinking more along the lines of the American-romanticized version of a gangster. Pin striped suits and fedoras. Thanks though for ruining that little fantasy for me. I’m sure I will never look at Hollywood gangster movies in the same light ever again…

        Keri =)

        • 7 Retired Professor

          Today’s cerebrality prevents tomorrow’s sterility.

          (Sorry; I just couldn’t resist the play on words given that neurosyphilis adversely affected Capone’s later quality of life.)

  3. 8 paul

    young people in this era could do with the dose of the switch as well as the 1920s

    • 9 DJ

      a little bit of politics… 🙂

    • 10 Retired Professor

      Societies, and thus history, is inclined to run in cycles. As American wit Mark Twain famously pointed out: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

      As I write, Western civilization is coming off one of its periodic binges. Among the notable causalities of the era was spanking. In time, the society will rethink its position on the matter and make appropriate adjustment.

  4. I’ve always considered the ‘flapper’ craze an American thing, but it was England that was coming out of the restrictive Victorian era. England produced such artists as Noel Coward and Irelands James Joyce.
    What were the differences and similarities of the 1920’s between GB and U.S.A?

    • 12 DJ

      I think Victorian moralism infected most of the English speaking world and the UK was no more buttoned than anywhere else.

      As for Flappers there is British film called The Irresistible Flapper made in 1919.

      The power of the movies meant that the social revolution spread fast.

    • 13 Retired Professor

      There are at least two parallel threads involved the the making of what, in the United States, became the Lost Generation.

      Even before the Great War, proto-feminists on both sides of the Atlantic were agitating for suffrage. Their wish would be granted in the wake of the war. This would usher in a quest to make the genders more equal.

      At the same time, the generation of men born just before the Edwardian period was the most likely to have experienced the Great War firsthand. Upon their return, these hardened combat veterans were thoroughly disinclined to bow and scrape before the pretentious toffee-nosed class of the previous generation.

      Having won the war, but having lost control of the previously subservient class, the power held by the Gilded Age elites in the United States and the Edwardian aristocrats in Britain began to wane. Technical innovations and the opportunity to accumulate wealth through cognizance rather than title also contributed to disintegration of the status quo.

      • 14 DJ

        Whilst you are entirely right – the fall of the aristocracy (politically following the triumph of the Liberals and collusion with them by George V) and higher land tax also fed to this decline in the UK.

        • 15 Retired Professor

          Because Britain had a history of income taxation before George V, I cannot ascertain how much 20th century taxation affected wealth accumulation on that side of the Atlantic. On the other hand, the 16th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States, which taxed incomes for the first time, sent shock waves through the upper crust of American society that still reverberates to this day.

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