Spanking Alphas in Older Romances

Why is spanking prevalent in older romances? I kid you not the hero gets upset then he takes heroine and bends her over his knee to end an argument. Is it supposed to be sexy? It just comes across as daddy issues gone wrong.


My recent read had such a scene and it was very jarring with the rest of the story. My take on spanking is that with the exception of erotica stories, the usual reaction from a woman should be “WTF is wrong with you? You’re not my father. Stay away!” as she runs from the guy.

I believe it was a tactic by the author to stop a seemingly childish argument from lasting longer. The point isn’t whether or not the argument was childish it is the reaction that of the hero that concerns me. Spanking comes across very controlling; it is after all a form of behavioral punishment.

Disciplinary spanking is often reserved for parent/child relationships. Sometimes it appears for non-sexual purposes in husband/wife relationships as a “part of their [couple’s] overall belief system in how a husband and wife should interrelate.” Even then it’s still between two consenting adults.

In the case of an older romance novel it appears to come about at the frustration of the hero. He simply snaps and surprises the heroine with this form of punishment. The scene is not consenting at all. The heroine usually struggles for release.

Was spanking a way to show off how alpha the hero was? Is this just another in a long line of heroes showing off their manliness in the wrong way? Should this type of hero be labeled spanking-alpha hero to go alongside his cousin rapist-alpha hero and his twin wife-rapist-alpha hero?

As far as I can tell it’s not limited to just romance novels – take the picture shown above. Ricky Ricardio is spanking Lucy. Non-erotica romances today aren’t filled with spanking heroes, so was this simply a sign of the times?

What are your thoughts?

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  1. Probably a sign of the times, but it wasn’t part of my life, which is a darned good thing, LOL.

    I never liked them either. ITA with this post.

  2. Cybercliper

    I lump the spanking stuff in with the “forced seduction(rape)” stuff – either a sign of the times or what the author thought women wanted or a way to speed up the plot while reducing pages and word counts – it’s a business after all. The spanking thing always reeked too much of ownership – I own you thereby I can discipline you as I would my dog. I always get more pissed at the heroine than the hero because she seems to let it happen without retaliation. Trust me, the first thing I’d do after getting released it lay him out with a #10 cast iron skillet – forced seduction? you might be able to reproduce once the swelling subsides. Future relationship? – none – you aren’t even a footnote.

  3. I hate to see spanking in “romances” (unless it’s consensual sexual play). It’s not romantic at all. It’s controlling and domineering. It smacks of the whole “women are like children” concept. A guy like this is an abuser, pure and simple. Is there really a difference between slapping someone on the butt and slapping them in the face? I don’t think so — both are forms of physical violence and aggression — and any sane woman should be running in the opposite direction.

  4. Let’s just say I have a huge problem with this type of behavior from people that think they’re men. If they feel the need to show their strength then fight other man.

  5. We’re watching what’s left of Smokey and the Bandit. Seeing Jackie Gleason reminds me of his: Pow! right in the kisser.

    But his line in this was: There is no way you could come from my loins. When I get home, I’m going to [bust your mother in her mouth] (something like that.)

    It’s only funny with the right timing and when you didn’t feel he’d do it. Anyone who ever experienced it would not think it was funny or sex play when it wasn’t in the bed or etc.

  6. I don’t even believe in disciplinary spanking for parent/child, I think talking can go a long way. They’ll also respect you more. In literature or out, a man spanking a woman is not something I’d find romantic. I can understand though–if it was in erotica & characters are role playing and mutually consent to the spanking.

  7. Maybe it’s a BDSM thing–like the author knew she couldn’t go to whips and chains because then her novel wouldn’t be published, so she settled for spanking as a “code” for BDSM.

    The thought of which makes that pic of Ricki and Lucy hurt my eyes. 😮

  8. When you’re talking historicals, it is entirely in context. Men did spank wives; Yes even in America up until about the 1970’s. To have spanking in a contemporary, without it being consensual foreplay, would be wrong. But you’re applying a today’s cultural morality on a past behavior.

  9. New Flash: Novels are stories. They are not real life. Romance novels, in particular, reflect fantasies. Fantasy lovers, fantasy lives. Spanking in a romance novel can also be fantasy based. Just as the sex in a romance novel is.

    I would never think of spanking a woman who was not passionately interested in being spanked. That’s reality. But in a story it may be erotic if the spanking is non-consensual (the woman’s bottom is forcibly bared and she is spanked without her consent). This can be hot in fantasy, but it would be horrible in real life. With the current popularity of vampires and other mythic elements it is hard to miss the fact that romance novels are about fantasy, not reality. There is, however, no such thing as through crime.

  10. Not having read the story you refer to, I’ll just make a short comment that I have been surprised at the high percentage of women in my life who’ve asked for this experience as part of consensual sex.

    Was the author male or female?

    If male, then maye he’s trying to tap into what he thinks many women fantasize about?

    If female, maybe she’s living out her own fantasy?

    Or maybe it’s simply a marketing tool to get readers talking about the book like we are now?

  11. I honestly think it wasn’t meant to be seen as erotic in this particular instance so it would be hard for me to into a secret fantasy box. It certainly didn’t come off across BDSM.

    The story itself is an oldie but was written in a modern to contemporary setting. The setting was certainly before 1990 — if I recall correctly it was written in 1970 something.

    The way it played out in the novel was more like a man disciplining a child for being too quarrelsome.

    I really have no problem with spanking in stories provided it’s done in the right context and clearly part of a fantasy.

    I chalk it up to the fact that it is a reflection of what was going on then and it explains to me at least why alpha heroes would do that and think it’s okay.

  12. Hermione

    I LOVED those old romance novels, and could tell you the names of every author who routinely included spankings in her stories. I would look for stories by those authors, because before the days of the internet, that was the only place I could read about my favorite fantasy. Spanking is one of those things you can’t explain to someone who doesn’t find it erotic. But if you do……it’s delicious.

    So, yes, to we spankos, those spanking scenes in the old romance novels are VERY sexy.

  13. Lived Through It

    I’m old enough to remember when women really got spanked. (Yes, Dear Hearts, it really did happen!) Before the mid-60s, couple married. Sometimes at a young age. These marriages were expected to last. At the time, spanking was not controversial. Most people agreed there were certain behaviors for which a woman could expect to be spanked by her husband. Usually it was done quite privately and with little fanfare. Although sometimes embellished, the literature did little more than open the bedroom door in much the same way that modern writing gives readers a peek between the sheets.

    Except in extreme circumstances, in a age when manual labor and prior military service were common among men, most husbands used their hand. It was usually understood that, despite Hollywood depictions, women got it on the bare. So, these things really hurt! Most wives tried to take it like a woman so the neighbors wouldn’t know. While spanking was acceptable, real wife beating was socially and, in many places, legally frowned up.

  14. IMHO, most women love to see it, IF it makes sense to the story and is in-character. And most men have done it–at least a one-swatter, whether to make a point, or simply in good fun. Men love women’s bottoms, and the bottom is a major erogenous zone. The psychological aspects of spanking can be debated til the cows come home, but as one said above, what we’re talking about here is fiction. It’s fantasy…to most. I don’t see the big deal, really.

  15. Those spankings never seemed to slow Lucy down!

  16. Julia

    Spanking outside of consensual play? Yikes. Very much so.

    I remember seeing a similar image, from an old black&white movie too: Could have been Father of the Bride, where a man spanks a woman. It could even have been her father (could have been Spencer Tracy?), with the woman looking shocked and surprised, but the whole mood of it was, I guess, supposed to be funny on the surface and possibly sexy below. To both a world of EWWWWWWWWWWW.

    Even spanking a child feels wrong to me, more like parents loosing control of themselves than anything that could count as allowable means of punishment today. But in scenes like the one above it shows the man as the strong adult and reduces the female to the status of a little child.

    As for treating that as separate from “real” wife beating because it’s only (!!!) humiliating and painful but doesn’t leave bruises where they’re visible… thanks very much, that idea really turns my stomach.

    Okay, values change, the good (hah) old times and so on.

    In reality I find it plain sickening, in a romance novel it would only make sense as something that (1.) shows that the hero has serious problems and (2) he is only forgiven for after sincerely apologizing, crawling over broken glass and maybe receiving a kick from the woman he tried to do this to.

  17. withheld

    Having grown up when an occasional spanking on both the big and small screen was acceptable, it is interesting to see how later generations try to explain what was going on back the day. While the 1970s may seem like ancient history to may of today young adults, it was simply a time of transition as society tried to absorb the reverberating shocks of the previous decade. Meanwhile, the 1960s was little more than a reaction to the stifling 1950s. Yet, the story does not even begin there.

    One place to start is with World War II. That global conflict sent shock waves through American family life. It was an age in which women came of age. Women learned to do a man’s work and get along without men. After the war, society exerted a great deal of effort trying to stuff the women’s liberation genie back into the family bottle during the 1950s. It worked for awhile before it fell apart.

    At the same time, the field of entertainment was inextricably shifting from the big screen to the small screen. What appeared on television was less important than that, whatever it was, sold televisions and products advertised on television. That was the bottom line. Content was irrelevant. That is why once Newton Minow was sworn in as head of the Federal Communications Commission, he famously called television a “vast wasteland”. The small screen had simply become a vehicle for the commercialization of America.

    A third element in the story comes in the form of the Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters, Modeled after the Motion Picture Production Code, the television code defined broadcast content from 1952 through 1983. Meanwhile, the Motion Picture code only survived until 1968. The time frame of these two codes are important because the defined the era, from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, when disciplinary spanking in mainstream entertainment was acceptable. After their respective passings, sex replaced spanking.

    Thus, just as today’s advertisers know that sex sells, pitchmen of yesteryear knew that spanking sold. In fact, there was an entire genre of magazine images devoted to a wife winding up over her husband’s knee for one reason or the other.

    Television producers and advertisers were far more interested in attracting an audience and selling products than they were in creating an instruction manual for posterity. After all, most people watching television in those days knew much more about spanking than those born after the mid-1960s.

    Hyper analysis of the characters and their respective roles in during the popularization of television as an entertainment medium probably says more about the cataloger than it does about the cataloged. Reading too much into these things ranks right along side reading tealeaves.

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