The History of spanking in film
The History of spanking in film, this article, is a brief overview of spanking scenes as depicted in mainstream movies, with additional notes on television and underground film genres. A basic chronological list of films and TV shows is provided at the Spanking in mainstream films and Spanking on television pages. The history of Sexploitation films is on a separate page. Information on television ads can be found at Spanking and BDSM in TV commercials.
- 1 The early years
- 2 Chastised children
- 3 The Romance of discipline
- 4 Three exceptions
- 5 Underground films, Irving Klaw and Bettie Page
- 6 The 1960s: Foreign films and sexploitation
- 7 Literary influences
- 8 The 1970s and beyond
- 9 The 1980s: Disciplinarian as villain
- 10 Masochism: The last taboo
- 11 Secretary: A new direction
- 12 See also
The early years
From the first silent features until the violent exploitation films of the mid-Sixties, spanking scenes in films have fallen into two basic categories: the punishment of misbehaving children, and the humorous taming of troublesome women.
The victim was always fully clothed, the position nearly always over the knee (OTK), and the "implement" of choice was an open hand or hairbrush — sometimes a rolled-up newspaper —. The punishment scenes were typically brief, brisk, and lighthearted without any malice or cruelty. And although adult spanking scenes might carry a subtle, sexual undertone, the context was always comedic without a hint of eroticism.
In the case of children, punishments were almost always in comedies. Quite often this would be the punchline to an extended comedic set-up. Bratty boys and girls got "what was coming to them" in the Our Gang and Little Rascals comedies of the 1920s-1930s, and films such as She Married Her Boss (1935), The Captain's Kid (1936), God's Step Children (1938), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and Frontier Gal (1945) in which a six year old girl is spanked as well as her mother.
The Bad Seed (1956) is a dark, serious drama about an evil little girl. The closing credits includes a peculiar "curtain call" with the actors taking a final bow before the camera. At the end of this, as if to appease the audience, the girl is given a brisk but lighthearted over-the-knee spanking.
In the sentimental Australian film Smiley (1957), a young boy deliberately misbehaves so he is caned in order to win a bet. A sympathetic headmaster gives him just three strokes.
The lyrical fantasy film The Curse of the Cat People (1944) takes a different approach. Here, an adorable little girl falsely accused of lying is threatened and then punished off-camera. A curious scene that only serves to make the adults look like misguided and unsympathetic martinets.
Another one-of-a-kind British film is Lord of the Flies (1963), adapted from the famous novel. A group of schoolboys stranded on a deserted island gradually degenerate into tribal savages who turn on each other. In one scene a naked boy is severely switched while the others laugh, showing the cruelty of children without authority figures. This may be the earliest mainstream film to show corporal punishment as an act of pure sadistic abuse.
By the late 1960s, the once-common theme of children and teens being punished in domestic comedies faded away. A change in attitude can be seen in the 1969 western True Grit. Glen Campbell gives a bossy, headstrong 14-year-old girl (played by 21-year-old Kim Darby) a rapid-fire switching. The scene begins in traditional comedic fashion before an unsettling (and unprecedented) element of sadism creeps in. Campbell's character clearly enjoys beating the girl and is forced to stop, at gunpoint, by John Wayne. The ambiguity of the scene is also a bit disturbing. Are we supposed to gloat over the harsh punishment of a petulant girl or feel sympathy for her?
Another film from 1969, Midnight Cowboy, includes a flashback scene where Joe Buck (Jon Voight) recalls being spanked and given an enema by his cruel grandmother when he was around 8 years old. This may be the first film to depict spanking (and enemas) as a form of child abuse.
From this point on, child chastisement was no longer presented as being funny or deserved. And there are few examples of bad kids being disciplined by well-meaning parents. Since the Seventies, the handful of films showing juvenile punishments have mainly been in serious dramas or horror films where the children are innocent victims of overly strict or abusive authority figures.
The Romance of discipline
In the first six decades of cinema, sexuality was a taboo subject, particularly in films made in America and Britain. Even mildly suggestive content was censored before a film could be released. In romantic scenes, sexual foreplay was restricted to verbal banter peppered with racy double-entendres. Scenes of kissing and embracing were carefully monitored and held to a rigid set of standards. And yet, a male actor could playfully smack a woman's backside or force her over his knee for a brisk paddling so long as it was played for laughs in a romantic comedy or western.
By avoiding any hint of overt sexuality, mean-spirited sadism or (God forbid) masochism, the movie studios could have it both ways. They created a type of visual double-entendre. It is left to the audience to laugh or leer according to their interpretation of the scene (and its subtext).
Spanking in films became a substitute for the sexual passion that could not be shown. The explosive, almost orgasmic, paddlings that occured at the climax of so many films was an acceptable and tasteful way to show the release of sexual tension that had been building throughout the story.
The censors never bothered with the deeper implications of a grown woman being overpowered and publicly humiliated with a backside beating as if she were a naughty little girl. The obvious elements of age play eroticism and S&M domination went unnoticed.
Some of the most energetic and memorable cinema swats include North West Mounted Police (1940) with Paulette Goddard, Frontier Gal (1945) with Yvonne deCarlo, Clark Gable tanning the hide of an Indian maiden in Across the Wide Missouri (1951), and the famous climax of Kiss Me, Kate (1953).
These films generally involve a tempestuous, albeit chaste, romance between a difficult, demanding woman and a put-upon man who ultimately loses his temper and gives her a sound thrashing. The more noteworthy films ending with a vigorous smackdown are Blue Hawaii (1961) with Elvis Presley, and two rambunctious John Wayne comedies: Donovan's Reef and McLintock! (both from 1963). In McLintock!, Stefanie Powers gets a good licking with a fireplace shovel. In the finale, the firey Maureen O'Hara gets the same treatment over Wayne's lap.
The French film Gervaise (1956), a period-piece drama based on a 19th-century novel, has an especially violent cat-fight-and-spanking scene between two women. They use large wooden laundry beaters to hit and paddle each other with great severity.
The western TV series Wagon Train delivered one of television's most explosive spankings in "The Maggie Hamilton Story" (1960). In typical fashion, a spoiled young woman (Susan Oliver) is transformed into a good girl after the man asserts his dominance by pulling up her skirt and giving her a well-deserved OTK whupping on her exposed bloomers.
Among the countless films with playful, single-swat scenes, the only one worth mentioning is Adam's Rib (1949) with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Tracy gives Hepburn a massage while they argue. He finishes with a strong backside smack. She is outraged and recites a detailed analysis of the psychology behind the hard slap. To this, a bemused Tracy quips: "What do you have back there, radar?"
Intentional or not, one of the kinkiest punishment scenes in a mainstream film appears in the romantic comedy Bachelor Flat (1962). Terry-Thomas dreams that Tuesday Weld is an inmate in a cruel prison. "They beat me here", she pleads. We see her shadow as she bends forward and gets six hard strokes with a leather strap. (This scene can be viewed on YouTube.)
Slaves in Bondage is an obscure, low-budget exploitation film about prostitution. This turgid expose has one astonishing and unique moment. As a brothel madam shows her "specialty" rooms to a new girl, we see two lingerie-clad hookers playfully wresting on a bed and taking turns spanking each other. This is the first (and only) known mainstream film of this era to show corporal punishment as a sexual turn on (in a brothel, no less). Plus, the implied lesbianism and hint of masochism in the scene enhances its forbidden allure. (The complete film can be watched at the Internet Archive.)
In The Roots of Heaven, a band of militant environmentalists in Africa raid an elegant soiree of smug, elephant-hunting aristocrats. They punish the matronly hostess by giving her "twelve of the best" — an embarrassing over-the knee bare-bottom spanking in front of her guests. The hostess' cries of pain, outrage and humiliation ("This is really awful!") are priceless. This is a unique example of CP used as a tool of social protest. A video clip of this scene is available at Metacafe.
The Misfits, directed by John Huston, presents a memorable non-punishment hand-smacking that combines eroticism with humiliation. Marilyn Monroe, in her final role, plays a troubled exotic dancer who longs for a new life and respectability. At a rowdy cowboy bar, she finds a child's paddle with a ball attached on a rubber string. Showing off her skills, she whacks the ball continuously while the excited crowd places bets on how long she can keep going. Her technique involves a sexy hip-shaking movement that over-stimulates one of the leering patrons. He reaches out and smacks her voluptuous behind about a dozen times before the scene ends in a scuffle. So much for respectability. (This scene can be watched at YouTube.)
Underground films, Irving Klaw and Bettie Page
The earliest known fetish films showing spanking, bondage, and whipping date back to the 1920s. These were created by the mostly anonymous makers of pornographic "stag films", primarily in France. A number of silent film-loops from the 1920s to the 1940s have been rediscovered and preserved, including a few by fetish photographer Jacques Biederer at his Ostra Studio in Paris. Nearly all of these films, with the exception of Biederer's, feature explicit sex scenes.
A silent featurette called The Casting Couch (c. 1924) is perhaps the earliest American stag film with a spanking scene. This has an unusual sequence of male bondage and F/M cropping. An excerpt can be seen in a YouTube documentary around the 9:20 mark.
From the late 1940s until 1957, New York shop-owner, photographer, and film director Irving Klaw added a catalog of groundbreaking erotica to his pin-up photo business. His clients requested a variety of fetishistic images, and Klaw was happy to oblige. Shortly after hiring model Bettie Page in 1952, Klaw started making short BDSM film-loops, perhaps the first of their kind. Page and other underwear-clad women in high heels performed in dozens of 16mm shorts featuring bondage, spanking, pony play, and slave training.
Unlike the hardcore stag films of that era, there is no nudity, sex scenes, or sadism in any of Klaw's films. The tone is generally lighthearted, almost playful at times. Even while portraying a stern dominatrix or bound submissive, Bettie Page often used campy mannerisms or winked at the camera to indicate that it was all a lark. Like the erotic French postcards of an earlier era, these are frolics of fantasy without any menace or realism. These specialized featurettes (and photos) were under-the-counter products sold discreetly at Klaw's store, Movie Star News, and by mail order.
When it comes to pure, non-pornographic fetish films, Klaw stands alone without any comparable contemporaries. Only a handful of 8mm loops from the '50s, by producers who may forever remain anonymous, have been rediscovered and preserved. Klaw was forced to quit making films in 1957 due to pressure from State authorities intent on putting him out of business.
By the mid-1960s, with the introduction of Super 8 film, underground bondage/spanking film-loops inspired by Klaw (now with nudity but no sex scenes or exposed genitalia) began to thrive. In the '70s, color films with harsher, more explicit content emerged. Some were multi-part stories comprising several 10-minute reels. These serialized stories anticipated the full-length videos to come. The production of short 8mm and 16mm loops continued until the home video market emerged in the 1980s. In fact, several well-known fetish film producers such as Nu-West/Leda Productions and House of Milan started out in the late '70s making silent film-loops.
Five volumes of vintage pornographic films showing erotic bondage, spanking and whipping from the 1920s to the 1960s have been released by Cult Epics, the same company that re-issued Irving Klaw's fetish films on DVD. The Bizarro Sex Loops series from Something Weird Video contains many volumes of bondage/spanking reels from the '50s to the '70s.
The 1960s: Foreign films and sexploitation
The four-decade run of Hollywood films with comedic corporal punishment scenes faded away soon after Donnovan's Reef and McLintock! (both from 1963). However, many U.S. television shows, particularly westerns (Bonanza, The Big Valley, Rawhide, et al.) and sitcoms such as Gidget, continued the tradition for a few more years.
European directors of horror and crime films inspired by film noire classics, created mostly serious scenes of adult CP in features such as Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966), Heat of Midnight (1966, video clip at Seveload), the Polanski horror-comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers with Sharon Tate (1967), as well as If.... and The Libertine (both 1968).
Scenes of erotic flagellation added for the purpose of titillation also began to appear in a number of British and French horror movies, especially in the Vampire films of Jean Rollin.
The Round-Up (1965), from Hungary, depicts an astonishing and explicit military punishment known as running the gauntlet. This is a grim drama about insurrectionists held in a prison camp in 1868. A beautiful naked girl has to run between two long rows of soldiers. Each man holds a long switch and whips her severely as she runs back and forth. This is filmed in a nonexploitive, matter-of-fact manner, but packs an erotic charge nonetheless. (This scene can be viewed at the Internet Archive.)
The ground-breaking Japanese film Gate of Flesh (1964) is a gritty yet stylish tale of prostitutes struggling for survival in the ruins of post-war Tokyo. One prostitute gets severely thrashed by two others for breaking the rules. Naked, she is hung by her wrists and savagely beaten with a bamboo pole then whipped. This is the first mainstream Japanese film to show nudity. It also marks the start of a new wave of independent sex-and-violence "pink films" similar to the sexploitation trend emerging at the same time in New York.
The year 1964 brought about massive changes in popular culture, particularly in music. It also marked a major shift in underground films. Independent producers in New York suddenly emerged with a new genre of "roughie" sexploitation films that dared to show all types of psycho-sexual violence and perversions.
These films, inspired by gritty, film-noir crime dramas, were a direct response to the light-hearted "nudie-cutie" sex films which had become passe. For the first time, grindhouse theaters offered films loaded with misogynistic fantasies including bondage, rough sex (non-explicit), and the fetishistic spanking, whipping, and torture of victimized women.
The notorious "Olga" series about captive women brutalized and forced into prostitution set the tone. White Slaves of Chinatown and Olga's Girls (both from 1964), were centered around scenes of bondage, diabolical torture, whipping, and degradation. The third film Olga's House of Shame (also 1964) included nipple torture, breast whipping, pony training, and a harsh paddling with a board that has a nail in it (the victim was bound to a sawhorse). This appears to be cinema's first sadistic spanking scene. And probably the first time an improvised ball gag (a perforated ball used as a "drool-gag"), was seen in a full-length feature. (A video clip is available at the Internet Archive.)
The series, written and directed by Joseph P. Mawra and produced by George Weiss, was influenced by the films and photos of Irving Klaw. Weiss also produced Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda (1953) and added bizarre scenes of bondage and whipping to the film's climactic dream sequence. (Wood's 1965 nudie-horror film Orgy of the Dead also has two whipping segments.)
Another noteworthy film from 1966 is Love is a Four Letter Word (aka The Love Girls) from director Lee Frost and writer/producer Bob Creese. This features the first fetishistic sorority paddling scene. A video clip of this scene is at the Internet Archive.
Frost and Creese went on to make many roughie films with corporal punishment segments. There's spanking and whipping in the fake documentary It’s a Sick, Sick, Sick World! (1966), quickly followed by two more with whipping and S&M scenes: Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo (both 1966). Love Camp 7 (1968), stands out for being the first Nazi exploitation film and for its intense belt-spanking of a nude prisoner forced into prostitution. In The Pick-Up (1968), sadistic gangsters torture two girls to find the location of hidden money. Hot Spur (1968), a violent sex-western, features a harsh derriere lashing. And Slaves in Cages (1971) is loaded with sex and flogging scenes.
David F. Friedman was another well-known producer of exploitation and erotic sexploitation films. He sometimes worked with Lee Frost, as in The Defilers (1965). Spanking scenes are featured in The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood and Thar She Blows (both from 1969). Others with sadistic whippings are The Lustful Turk, Brand of Shame, and The Head Mistress (all from 1968). The nudie-western The Ramrodder (1969) is notorious for its long, severe ass-whipping scene of an Indian girl (Kathy Williams from Love Camp 7).
The theme of abducted women who are abused and forced into prostitution occurs time and again, following the successful "Olga" formula. Tortured Females (1965) has naked whippings and humiliating striptease segments that closely resemble Irving Klaw's film loops. RENT-A-GIRL (1965) features a modelling agency with submissive girls loaned out to perverted and sadistic clients. This has paddling and whipping scenes. (A video clip can be seen at the Internet Archive.) Cargo of Love and Invitation to Ruin (both 1968) are also about white slavery rings where belt-spanking, whipping and torture are commonplace.
Mondo Keyhole (1966), offers a rare inside look at the '60s fetish film industry, including the filming of a BDSM stag film. More film-within-a-film scenes are present in Starlet! (1968), Over 18...and Ready (1969), and Superchick (1973).
In Hot Blood (1968), a crudely made sexploiter about decadent New York models, is another unique film. A nude photoshoot declines into an orgy of simulated sex, drugs, body painting, some caning, and full-body lashing with a loop of electric cord. Near the end, two nude girls give each other about 40 slaps with a belt. This may be the first example of consensual masochistic spanking since Slaves in Bondage thirty years earlier.
The "anything goes" climate of the grindhouse cinema stands in sharp contrast to their mainstream contemporaries. For example, Firecreek (1968), a standard Hollywood western, has a lovely half-naked girl who talks her way out of a belt-thrashing. A scene bristling with erotic tension clearly added for titillation. At the same time, independent roughie-westerns showed women enduring bare-breast whipping in Brand of Shame and brutal ass lashings in Hot Spur (both 1968) and The Ramrodder (1969). Urban, film noir-inspired crime dramas also continued until the end of the decade. One of last of these, A Taste of Hot Lead (1969), features a great deal of sex, violence, and a masochistic whipping scene.
Films in Japan were also experiencing revolutionary changes during this period. Following in the wake of the groundbreaking Gate of Flesh (a surprise box-office hit), independent low-budget "pink films" (pinku eiga) flourished in the Sixties and Seventies. Many were softcore pornographic "roughies" with brutal punishments, mostly whippings, far more severe and graphic than films from America and Europe.
By the Seventies, pink films became ever more daring and S&M oriented. They also contributed to the Women in Prison and Nunsploitation subgenres. The writing, production quality, and use of color was also far superior to the slap-dash black-and-white films made on the cheap in New York.
In the Sixites and Seventies (and later), literature from past centuries as well as contemporary potboilers provided inspiration for many films that indulged in decadent scenes of cruel or erotic corporal punishment.
Shakespeare has had a surprising influence on spanking scenes through his play The Taming of the Shrew. This energetic comedy about a rambunctious, out-of-control woman who is eventually dominated and brought to heel has inspired many films and television shows. The popular films Kiss Me, Kate and McLintock! are the most celebrated examples. The Wagon Train episode "The Maggie Hamilton Story" (1960) and "Woman of Fire" (1965) from Bonanza show a similar influence. The most direct remake of Shrew is the 1968 Star Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius." Here, an exasperated Captain Kirk threatens to teach a petulant alien princess an old "Earth custom" known as a spanking if she doesn't behave. (This scene can be watched at Sevenload.)
- The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet (1969) is a soft-core sex comedy from notable exploitation producer Harry Novak. Here, a nude prisoner chained up in a dungeon is lashed across her back and ass. (Video clip at PornHub.)
- Venus in Furs (1967), a low-budget exploitation film directed by Joe Marzano, is the first film adaptation of the classic 1870 novel about F/M masochism. It contains a very brief F/F spanking using the soles of high-heel shoes. The novel has been made into several bad films in the '60s and '70s that mostly ignore the source material. The arty 1994 Dutch film is the most faithful to the novel.
- The Head Mistress (1968), a nudie cutie set in 17th century Italy, is basen on two stories from Boccaccio's The Decameron and includes an erotic whipping scene.
- Spirits of the Dead (1968), a trio of tales based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. A sadist gives a humiliated Brigitte Bardot a harsh whipping. Video clip on YouTube.
- De Sade (1969), an artistic and critical flop loosely based on the life of the Marquis de Sade, has an appropriately sadistic CP scene. The Marquis (played by Keir Dullea) vigorously spanks a wench with the flat side of his sabre until it draws blood.
- Eugenie de Sade (1970) by Jess Franco and Justine De Sade (1972) by Claude Pierson stand out in terms of corporal punishment scenes among the many disappointing films based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade.
- Beyond Love and Evil, original title La philosophie dans le boudoir (1971), a French film loosely adapted from de Sade's play "Philosophy in the Bedroom". A cult of depraved hedonists cavort at a remote, elegant mansion. There are several floggings of men and women, a riding crop beating, and branding.
- The Nightcomers (1971), a prequel to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, has a S&M relationship between a repressed governess (Stephanie Beacham) and a misogynistic gardener (Marlon Brando). They have rough sex where she is hogtied, humiliated, and smacked with a rope (see photo gallery).
- Hollywood Babylon (1972), based on Kenneth Anger's cynical book, is a pseudo-documentary of Tinseltown tragedies and ugly sex scandals. The segment on director Erich von Stroheim recreates his supposed hiring of a prostitute who is bound to a table and given a fierce back and ass flogging.
- Poor Cecily (1973), loosely based on de Sade's Justine was controversial for its graphic depiction of suspected witches being tortured in a dungeon. Directed by Lee Frost using an alias, it boasts an extended (often edited) scene of brutal full-body floggings, branding, and sexual assaults.
- In 1975 two classic novels of female submission were adapted to film, Story of O and The Punishment of Anne (aka The Image). Both are loaded with scenes of domination, sex, and flogging.
- The Secrets of Love: Three Ribald Tales (1986) was adapted from a trio of erotic short stories from classic writers Marguerite de Navarre, Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, and Guy de Maupassant. The first story, The Spanking by Marguerite de Navarre, opens with a girl getting a severe and erotic caning supervised by her cousin. Later she gets revenge and her cousin gets an equally harsh caning.
- Moll Flanders (1996) is the third film adapted from the 18th century English novel. Robin Wright, as Moll, suffers a brief, non-explicit thrashing from a very large birch. A caning with the same head-on point of view occurs in the Elizabethan historical drama Lady Jane (1985).
The Victorian era and Edwardian era saw the publication of hundreds of popular erotic flagellation/spanking novels. And yet only a few have been properly brought to film. Lady Libertine, aka "Frank" and I (1983) is based on the 1902 English novel "Frank" and I by an unknown author. This has notable caning and ass-whipping scenes that are faithful to the novel. In 1975 two films were adapted from The Way of a Man with a Maid. These were the Swedish sex comedy A Man with a Maid aka The Groove Room, and an elegant adult film, The Naughty Victorians: An Erotic Tale of a Maiden's Revenge.
The Lustful Turk, or Lascivious Scenes from a Harum (published in 1828 but not widely known until its 1893 edition), is an erotic novel of sex, sadism, and flagellation. Producer David L. Friedman retained the S&M elements in his film adaptation, The Lustful Turk (1968). His other literary sexploitation film with erotic whipping is The Head Mistress (1968) basen on Boccaccio's The Decameron.
Trashy pulp fiction has also been turned into equally trashy films. In Mandingo (1975) a slave master's idea of sexual foreplay is belt-whipping a pretty African girl. The imitative Italian film Mandinga (1976) boasts two eroticized whipping scenes. In 1994, Anne Rice's Exit to Eden Femdom novel was turned into a comedy film that flopped at the box office and was panned by most critics and the fetish community in general.
The 1970s and beyond
Porn and Horror films: In the early Seventies hardcore pornography quickly evolved from 8mm loops sold via girlie magazines and adult bookshops to a huge mainstream business with feature-length productions. Here, filmmakers took the "nudie-cutie" concept to the next level, churning out scores of comedies and genre parodies with the added allure of softcore or hardcore sex scenes. Many of these also included lighthearted spanking scenes in films such as Office Girls, Sassy Sue, Hot Connections (all 1972), The All-American Girl (1973), and Debbie Does Dallas (1978).
There were also dark, gritty films with sadistic sexual violence that borrowed heavily from the roughie and occult horror genres. Some grindhouse movies were simply re-edited or remade as pornographic features. Invitation to Ruin (1968), a roughie with scenes of whipping and torture, was re-edited with added sex scenes and released in 1973 as Invitation. The 1970 roughie The Bang Bang Gang (featuring a violent belt spanking scene) received a similar makeover. A number of sex scenes were added (the original footage was presented as flashback scenes) and the new X-rated version was released in 1976 as The Velvet Edge.
One of the earliest roughie-porn films is The Party at Kitty and Studs (aka The Italian Stallion) from 1970 featuring a young, unknown Sylvester Stallone. In one scene Stallone gives a girl a long and furious belt-spanking.
The Big Snatch (1971) best represents the transition from '60s roughie sexploitation to softcore porn. Director (and star of The Defilers) Byron Mabe tells the story about a group of young girls who are abducted by a crazed misogynist and held as sex slaves at a remote desert ranch house. The man beats one of the girls with a crop-like stick and forces them to punish each other. In the end, they overpower him and he receives the same corporal punishment. It is essentially a remake of The Defilers filmed in color with more explicit sex and violence.
Slaves in Cages (1971), from sexploitation directer by R. Lee Frost, is another title that marks the end of the roughie era. Here, abducted women are caged like animals, frequently whipped, and forced to put on decadent sex shows in a private theater. This has more erotic flagellation scenes than any film in this genre. The amount of nudity and simulated sex gave it quasi-porn status so that it played in adults-only venues. In addition, the sparse dialog was over-dubbed to make it look like a foreign film; the movie was marketed as an exotic "banned" import from Denmark (a ploy used by filmmakers at the time to attract a larger audience).
The Gore Gore Girls (1972) is perhaps the first slasher-horror film to include spanking — and the only one to show such a scene in connection to a grisly murder. A serial killer spanks a female victim to a bloody pulp with a wooden meat tenderizer. The entire film is available on YouTube, the scene in question occurs around the 40 minute mark. The Sinister Dwarf (1973) aka Abducted Bride is another controversial, and frequently banned, Danish horror film loaded with sex and nudity. Abducted women are stripped, drugged, chained up in an attic, and used as sex slaves for paying clients. Near-pornographic rough sex and naked ass-whipping show the double influence of earlier sexploitation films and the emerging softcore porn industry.
Defiance of Good (1974) is a sex-horror hybrid packed with hardcore S&M elements including a long ass-whipping segment filmed in slow-motion. The Devil Inside Her (1975) is a notoriously perverse blend of porn and occult horror with a strangely reserved switching scene.
French director Jean Rollin combined sex and sadism in a number of X-rated horror films. The Seduction of Amy (1975), involves a de Sade-like fiend who abducts and torments women in his dungeon. This includes spanking and harsh belt-whipping.
Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) is a daring, fetishistic horror movie laced with pitch-black humor. Bristling with mysoginistic imagery, this could only have been made in the politically incorrect '70s. The film is packed with scenes of torture, whipping, and grisly murder. Nude slave girls are used as human furniture, even a dart board. One girl is bound to a guillotine and ruthlessly caned while in her teeth is the rope that holds the decapitating blade suspended above her head. The caning scene is easily the strongest and most explicit of the decade.
Nazi Porn: X-rated adult films also adopted the then-popular "Nazisploitation" subgenre. Cruel, sexually perverted Nazis indulged in rough sex and fetishistic spanking, cropping, and whipping in Hot Nazis, Prisoners of Paradise (aka Nazi Love Island) with John Holmes and Seka, and Hitler's Harlot (1973) among others. The cycle ended with Stalag 69 (1983), which was essentially a remake of Love Camp 7 and contained some intense cropping and belt-whipping scenes.
Women in prison
Women in Prison films (WiP) also flourished in the '70s and '80s. The inclusion of brutal back floggings of topless or nude female prisoners became a standard ingredient for selling theater tickets. And yet, only a few films showed below-the-waist corporal punishments.
Nightmare in Badham County (1976) takes place in a corrupt Southern work-farm prison where inmates are forced into prostitution. This lurid TV movie was released to theaters (as Nightmare) with gratuitous nude scenes tacked on. A brief bare-ass beating with a wide leather strap appears in the theater and video release.
She Wolf of Spilberg (1979) is a knockoff of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS with a nude prisoner getting a 21-stroke ass-whipping.
Autumn Born (1979) is an especially cheesy, low-budget Canadian film starring the late Dorothy Stratten. The former Playboy Playmate is held prisoner at a sinister school for delinquent girls. The underwear-clad beauty is handcuffed to a bed and caned; the soles of her feet are beaten as well (a rare example of bastinado punishment). Later she suffers a quick caning across her back. Finally, a nude caning (wearing a punishment corset) that does not show the impact of the strokes. Another student caught stealing is bent over the desk of the headmistress and gets 9 cane strokes.
The semi-pornographic Bare Behind Bars has a brief caning bit, and Island Women aka Rat Island (both Italian films from 1980) has two brief but harsh caning scenes of nude prisoners.
The futuristic, kink-oriented Caged Heat 3000 (1995) includes a masochistic guard who has an inmate beat his ass severely with a riding crop to increase his sexual arousal.
The Halfway House (2004), a spoof of prison films and schlocky horror flicks, features a perverted priest who keeps spanking magazines in his office along with a large wood paddle with "Jesus" spelled in rhinestones. He uses it on two girls in a brief bare-ass paddling scene. A third off-camera paddling is also alluded to.
Diary of Forbidden Dreams aka What? (1973) is a surreal, erotic comedy by Roman Polanski. Marcello Mastroianni plays an eccentric who gives Sydne Rome a severe beating with a switch rod.
The French film Every Man for Himself (1980) by Jean-Luc Godard is partly a dark meditation on sexual roles and domination. Here, a pimp gives a prostitute a humiliating hand spanking in his car for being disobedient. However, the aloof camera angle shows only the girls legs from a distance.
A few European films take a more lighthearted approach. 1001 Danish Delights is a 1972 sex-comedy from Denmark with an outdoor OTK (clothed) spanking scene.
Perhaps the most satisfying of them all is La Fessée (1976), a French porno-comedy about a man who hand-spanks the daylights out of his many girlfriends. Most of the women are forced at first but soon show masochistic tendencies and arousal while over his knee. A landmark adult film and the only one to contain an erotic spanking before nearly every sex scene.
Intimate Moments (1981) is a stylish French exploiter about a jet-set escort service. A high-class prostitute submits to an especially hard, and erotic, 13-stroke crop-beating from a sadist client.
The 1997 Russian movie Of Freaks and Men is a period piece about pornography in the 1900s. Filmed in sepia tone, it depicts fetishistic scenes of women being birched.
The 1980s: Disciplinarian as villain
With a few exceptions, the portrayal of misguided or evil parents and step-parents who punish children was mainly an Eighties phenomenon. This occurs most often in serious dramas, a world away from the comedies of more innocent times.
- The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) is a cheesy micro-budget horror film. After a nubile teenager is threatened with OTK discipline, she realizes her many spankings in the past were because her father is a pervert.
- Summer of My German Soldier is a 1978 teleflim based on a novel. A teenage Kristy McNichol is briskly hand-spanked by an unsympathetic parent for getting into trouble.
- The Flame Trees of Thika (1981) is a British television mini-series. A girl is spanked with a hairbrush by an overly stern father.
- Little Ida (1981) is a Norwegian film that shows a little girl spanked for no good reason by her mother.
- Fanny and Alexander (1982). Ingmar Bergman's autobiographical film depicts a young boy unjustly thrashed with a rugbeater by his cold, austere stepfather.
- Mérette (1982), a 12-year-old girl suffers some nasty canings from her strict guardians in this French telefilm.
- Careful, He Might Hear You (1983) Australian movie with cruel schoolgirls who force a younger boy (who is about 7 or 8) to take an "initiation" caning for their secret club.
- Un bon petit diable (1983), French film about a 10-year-old orphan boy who suffers many spankings and whippings while living with a tyrannical widow.
- Mafia Princess (1986) is a telefilm about the daughter of mobster Sam Giancana. He is seen losing his temper and spanking her for breaking a porcelain figurine.
- Foxfire (1987) is a telefilm based on a play. Cranky, inflexible Hume Cronyn orders his son to cut a switch-rod as thick as his thumb. The switching occurs off camera.
- The Happy Valley (1987) is a British telefilm with remarkably severe (and suspiciously fetishistic) caning and whipping scenes of a teenage girl. Her father is a sadistic martinet.
- Pelle the Conqueror (1987) has several boy-spanking scenes.
- Celia (1988), an Australian drama/horror film with a little girl punished by her father and two boys chastised off-camera by a policeman.
- Brides of Christ (1991), Australian television miniseries about life in a convent school in the '60s. Two girls get ruler-smackings from a nun.
- Natural Enemy (1997). A deranged psycho-killer has flashbacks of his childhood belt-whipping (and cigarette burning) by his father during rough sex with his girlfriend, whom he also paddles and burns.
Masochism: The last taboo
Masochism, like BDSM in general, has always been a delicate and misunderstood subject. Most films resort to the same stereotypes. In comedies, the masochist is a kink-obsessed freak played for laughs (as in Eating Raoul, The Little Shop of Horrors and Crazy Streets).
In serious dramas and exploitation films the masochist is either an abused, self-hating, wretch or a pathological killer. The dark side of masochism is the central theme in films such as The Night Porter, Gestapo's Last Orgy, Videodrome, Blue Velvet, Mercy, and The Piano Teacher.
Sympathetic portrayals are few and far between. The 1994 Dutch rendering of the oft-filmed Venus in Furs is one such exception. Another example is the British TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl from 2007. One episode presents two male masochists in a mostly nonjudgmental manner with just a tinge of humor. A similar approach is seen in the British mystery series Midsomer Murders ("Dead Letters" episode, 2006) with a consensual M/F switching.
Comedic male masochists appear in High Anxiety (Harvey Korman spanked by domme Cloris Leachman), Christopher Lloyd's eccentric pervert in Track 29, Ron Sullivan's reluctant submissive in Body Shots, Preaching to the Perverted (1997), Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2001), Life Without Dick (2002), plus the aforementioned Exit to Eden. The medical TV series ER showed a dominatrix with broken fingers and her pathetic male slave, who was injured during a suspension bondage session.
The British comedy Personal Services (1987), based on a true story, is one of the better examples. It is set in a brothel that caters to submissive middle-aged men who crave roleplay humiliation, including cross-dressing. (YouTube clip)
Male sadomasochists: Grindhouse films Fly Now Pay Later (1967), Come Play with Me (1968), The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful (1970), Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), The women in prison film Caged Heat 3000, and several Nazi Exploitation films show male sadomasochists who, when not abusing others, enjoy being whipped and beaten to increase their sexual arousal.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003), the Rob Zombie horror film, shows a ghoulish serial killer museum. A display with an animated mannequin demonstrates how one perverted killer liked to be spanked with a board studded with nails.
The Whip and the Body (1963) from Italian director Mario Bava, is one of the most daring films of the '60s. This atmospheric ghost story centers around a woman who is sexually aroused by a series of severe, erotically-charged whippings. (A montage of the whipping scenes can be viewed at xHamster.) Another Bava horror film, Kill, Baby, Kill, (1966) includes a fetishistic thorn whipping scene of a young girl as part of a magical ritual.
In the Italian historical comedy L'armata Brancaleone (1966), Barbara Steele has a sadomasochistic relationship with a man. They chase and whip each other with large floggers, and it's obvious she is aroused by being vigorously lashed. (The film is on YouTube, the scene is at 1:24.)
Two '60s sexploitation films, One Shocking Moment (1965) and The Abnormal Female (1969) feature dominatrices who enjoy flogging submissive men. (Video clip at the Internet Archive.)
The Lusting Hours (1967) is a pseudo-documentary exploitation film about forbidden sexuality directed by Michael Findlay. One segment shows a male slave submitting to a domineering drag queen. He is whipped and stepped on with high heel shoes. This is most likely the earliest film showing this type of domination between two men. (A video clip from this film is available at the Internet Archive.)
Belle de Jour (1967) begins with a surreal dream sequence with Catherine Deneuve being bound and severely whipped (see YouTube clip). She takes a day job as a prostitute in a classy brothel where she meets a male masochist who likes to be degraded and whipped.
Blind Beast (1969), directed by Yasuzô Masumura, is one of countless Japanese sexploitation (pinku-eiga) films about abducted women subjected to bondage, humiliation, and sexual assault. This is perhaps the first to show a whipped and tormented victim who eventually becomes a masochist (complete film available on YouTube).
The critically-panned Bluebeard (1972) with Richard Burton shows a haughty pre-feminist turned submissive masochist after being slapped around. She begs for, and receives, a harsh back whipping.
The Ramrodder (1969), a roughie Western, concludes with the long, erotic whipping sequence of an Indian girl who later confesses that she became aroused during her punishment.
The Japanese classic School of the Holy Beast (1974) and Convent of Sinners (1986) from Italy are just two of the many Nunsploitation films to offer the bizarre spectacle of topless nuns (who just happen to be young and extremely attractive) engaged in ritual self-flagellation as an act of penance known as mortification of the flesh.
Story of O (1975) adapted from the famous 1954 novel by Pauline Reage was a surprise international hit. The film's success resulted in the imitative The Punishment of Anne (aka The Image) also released in 1975. Both films feature a masochistic female character who willingly endures a series of humiliations and punishments.
Mandinga (1976), a sleazy Italian knockoff of Mandingo (1975), offers a Southern belle who bares her breasts for a vigorous frontal flogging that drives her into a sexual frenzy. A similar sequence appears in the Italian Nazi exploitation film Achtung! The Desert Tigers (1977). A lesbian "Ilsa"-type commandant disrobes and begs a nurse to flog her. She swoons as the whip cracks across her breasts and shoulders.
Private House of the SS, aka Casa privata per le SS, Private House of the SS Girls, SS Girls (Italy, 1977), a nazisploitation film with a variety of erotic brothel whipping scenes including a masochistic German officer lashed by a prostitute. (See the entire film at YouTube.)
Too Hot To Handle (1977); dressed as a dominatrix, assassin Cheri Caffaro visits the S&M dungeon of a kinky submissive gangster and playfully whips him before killing him. (See the entire film on YouTube.)
Dark Secrets (1998) shows an intense, erotic F/F whip and hot wax session at a private BDSM club.
Women who enjoy being spanked are mostly in comedic or lighthearted scenes such as Slaves in Bondage (1937) and the porn-comedy La Fessée (1976). Female submissive fantasies are enacted in Paris, France (1993), and Live Nude Girls (1995). A creative and playful scene occurs in Antonia & Jane (1991). Saskia Reeves and her boyfriend take turns being tied to a bed where they must answer literary trivia questions. Lashes with a belt are given out for wrong answers.
- The Defilers (1965); a sadist roughs up his girlfriend and gives her a hard hand spanking. She resists at first but eventually begs him to keep going.
- The Dirty Girls (1965), a prostitute beats a male client (who is role playing in a military uniform) with a riding crop.
- In Hot Blood (1968); sexploitation film portrays decadent nude models (men and women) who enjoy whipping, spanking, and caning each other.
- The Tale of the Dean's Wife (1970); sex comedy in which the titular dean's wife is aroused by a severe belt spanking delivered by a college professor researching a "pleasure through pain" theory.
- Trader Hornee (1970); silly jungle adventure sexploitation film with a brief scene of a woman being smacked with a riding crop by her lover and begging him to hit her harder. The entire film is available on YouTube, the spanking scene occurs around the 13 minute mark.
- L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise aka The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (1973); Brigitte Bardot laughs during a brief hand spanking in this French period-piece comedy.
- Slumber Party '57 (1976) has an especially coy and subtle rendering. A nubile teenage girl is caught having sex by her father. He gives the naked girl a hard OTK hand spanking. The camera slowly pans down to the girl's face, revealing that she secretly enjoys it.
- Train spécial pour SS aka Helltrain, Love Train for the SS, Hitler's Last Train (1977) shows, in the uncut European version, a German officer thrashing a masochistic prostitute with his riding crop as a form of sexual foreplay. (See video clips.)
- The Beasts' Carnival aka The Human Beasts, (1980); an insolent African maid is belt-spanked while on all fours on her master's bed. Becoming aroused, she repeatedly begs him to hit harder. The entire film at Veehd (scene begins at 35:00.).
- All of Me (1984) contains one of the funniest punishment segments. The spirit of a woman takes over the body of a man (Steve Martin). He/she is outraged by trampy Victoria Tennant and spanks her in anger. Tennant, thinking this is a role playing sex game, enjoys and encourages the "dirty talk" insults and hand-smacking.
- Chained Heat 2 (1993) has Brigitte Nielsen as a prison warden who likes being dominated and beaten by her lesbian lover. She gets a hard hand spank, crawls on the floor, and is shackled for a caning that is not shown — her cries are heard off-camera.
- Live Nude Girls (1995), the Dana Delany character shares her masochistic M/F fantasy with a group of friends. A video clip is available at Dailymotion.
- Natural Enemy (1997) portrays the slutty, unsympathetic female masochist. Bound and hand-spanked, she asks for harder smacks. Later, handcuffed to a dresser, she has rough doggie-style sex with her psycho boyfriend and begs for more whacks from his leather paddle as she climaxes.
- Tracey Takes On..., a cable TV series, has Tracey Ullman as a closet masochist in "Secrets" (season 2, episode 5, 1997). In a scene played for laughs, she gets a brisk OTK hairbrush paddling.
- Federal Protection (2002); Dina Meyer is a would-be masochist who likes getting hand spankings from her boyfriend, but later finds a riding crop too painful during a costumed role playing session.
- Scrubs (NBC TV series) season 2, episode 7: "My First Step," (2002) - Guest star Heather Locklear tries to seduce Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) by telling him: "We both know you'd love nothing more than to smack this fine ass". She then gives herself five hard smacks while groaning and adds: "Don't stop, Perry. Harder!" as she walks away. Later in a restuarant she repeats this performance in front of Dr. Cox. A rare example of self-spanking on television. In another episode ("My Interpretation"), a dream sequence shows Elliot (Sarah Chalke) getting a hand spanking and demanding that it be harder.
- Skin Crawl (2007) features a willing submissive roleplaying as a naughty schoolgirl.
- My Name Is Earl (NBC TV series) season 4, episode 6: "Little Bad Voodoo Brother" (2008). In this offbeat comedy we see Earl's neighbor, Nick, a masochist with a tennis fetish. He's wrapped in a tennis net with his wrists bound and a tennis ball in his mouth. A man and a woman dressed in conservative tennis whites take turns whacking him with their racquets.
- Two and a Half Men ("Ixnay on the Oggie Day", 7:18, 2010); CBS sitcom with Francis Fisher as a masochist who begs to be spanked and is heard making orgasmic cries.
- The Killer Inside Me (2010); this dark, neo-noir film shows a pair of twisted relationships about a man who regularly hand-spanks and belt-whips two willing girlfriends. It also shows, in flashbacks, how he got that way. His mother was a masochist who liked being beaten by his father.
- A Dangerous Method (2011); drama set in 1914 based on the relationships between psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled woman who comes between them. Sabina (Keira Knightley) reveals she was sexually aroused by the thrashings she received from her father. The titillating aspect of her sexual masochism is used to promote the film in the theater trailer. (Trailer on YouTube.)
- The Brass Teapot (2012); a couple belt-spanks each other (M/F, F/M) after they learn a supernatural teapot they have rewards them according to how much pain they endure.
Out of all the movies that depict fetishes or S&M relationships, Secretary (2002) stands alone. For the first time, the negative stereotypes are absent. Neither dark nor mocking in tone, this landmark film opens up a new chapter in film.
Secretary: A new direction
Secretary brought the "attitude adjustment" to films that audiences had been waiting to see for decades. This well-crafted, low-budget independent film (no major studio would touch this topic) was quietly released in 2002 without any fanfare. Hailed by critics, audiences, and the fetish community, it dared to present a fable-like romance between two people who find happiness in an offbeat, alternative relationship. A quirky lawyer and his timid secretary — both troubled and sexually repressed — find love and fulfillment by acting out their sexual fantasies. This is a charming, consensual relationship centered around dominant-submissive roleplaying (with spanking and light bondage). There is nothing sinister, sadistic, or freakish about the characters or their actions. These two people are happy and quite "normal" in the context of the life they've created for themselves.
Secretary helped pave the way for The Notorious Bettie Page (2006), another well-received independent film. This biopic of the legendary '50s pinup model Bettie Page adopts her neutral, nonjudgmental attitude toward the fetish industry. This includes recreations of her bondage/spanking photoshoots and 8mm film shorts. Page's endearing personality and matter-of-fact acceptance of her work goes a long way in changing the negative portrayals and perceptions seen in past films.
Other independent features like the teen drama Normal Adolescent Behavior: Havoc 2 (2007), which depicts experimental spanking masochism, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), and The Killer Inside Me (2010) are part of a new wave of films that depict various aspects of BDSM culture in a more varied, realistic, and accessible manner.
Adrift in Manhattan (2007) is a unique example of this trend. It is perhaps the only film to explore guilt in the context of erotic corporal punishment. A troubled woman, consumed by guilt over the death of her son, seduces a young man. During sex, she begs him to spank her hard while telling her she's a bad mother. Mainstream films have yet to attempt anything this daring.
Cable television networks also share some of this independent spirt. Cable shows, films, and miniseries are introducing increasingly edgy material. The Showtime series Weeds has had two episodes with provocative, erotically-charged spanking scenes. Californication (also from Showtime), did an homage to Secretary with masochistic spanking. Two FX series, Rescue Me (2009), The Americans (2013), and HBO's Bored to Death (2010) all depicted kinky roleplaying spanking scenes. Even lavishly-produced historical dramas such as Boardwalk Empire (2010-11), Game of Thrones (2012), and Outlander (2015) have shown risque scenes of corporal punishment. The combined effect of these events are indicative of an increasingly permissive attitude that is gradually spreading to a wider range of mainstream films and television programs.