May 8, 2005 Feature Hanky Spanky Women should be struck regularly, like gongs,” suggested Noël Coward, not the straightest arrow that ever flew. Le vice anglais is not the sexiest phrase, conjuring as it does images of doughy, middle-aged MPs being spanked by unconvincing latex-clad girls from Essex. Much more adorable is the idea of a rosy-bottomed harlot squealing in gleeful discomfort over a gentleman's lap, her legs kicking and her whole demeanor fairly saying: “Stop this at once. But not just yet.” We've had postfeminism, do-me-feminism and now, my personal favorite, spank-me feminism. I once knew an American woman who liked to be taken to the woods, fastened just so to a tree, then spanked rather fiercely with a riding crop before being ravished. I asked where the notion to be treated thus came from, imagining all forms of gruesome coming-of-age tales, and she mentioned the salient image of Catherine Deneuve in Buñuel’s Belle de jour. She looked so beautiful, my friend said, and I wanted to feel that beautiful. As I recall, she did. In 1979, Sweden instituted the first ban on spanking its children, which, looking at Sweden, explains quite a lot. As if children were not annoying enough, Britain is now joining this coalition for the preservation of consequence-free childhood's, which means that for every spanking that should have occurred, the relevant child, when adult, will plaintively turn to their other half and say, just like all 25-year-old Swedes: “Spank me.” There is a general belief that those who were spanked properly as children grow up with an acquired taste for spanking. This tends not to be the case in practice. I grew up in England in the 1970s, where a day of education was not complete without some impressive form of violence. Whatever romantic notions may exist are quickly excised when your eight-year-old bottom is spanked soundly with a slipper or hairbrush. At 12, I made a deeply unfortunate move to suburban America, where the same behavior that would be cause for a spanking here sent me to a psychiatrist's office. America is an oddly flabby country, where all sports that involve interaction come equipped with helmets and pads, and childish infractions are seen as “issues” that require “help.” This “help” invariably comes in the form of friends for pay, otherwise known as psychiatry; and, sadly, psychiatry has not yet evolved to incorporate corporal punishment of any kind much less a good old fashion, bare bottom spanking. The immediate result was that my bad behavior only increased, while the long-term effects of American psychiatry were far more damaging than the momentary pain of what is, after all, a normal punishment. So, the bottoms of Americas adult population tend to be more used to a psychiatrists couch than the sting of a brush or hand. One only has to visit the local mall to see great numbers of bratty teenagers just begging for a long overdue trip over the nearest parental knee. I feel that children's behavior is directly related to the number of flat backed wooden hairbrush sold in the previous year. And, as these young women and men grow up, they realize that they missed something rather crucial: the virtue, not vice, known as discipline. There is a fine line between abuse and sexy play. And, of course, it stings to be spanked. Yet nothing is more ladylike than submitting properly to the gentleman you have chosen to be with. The man who spanks his lady lovingly is unlikely ever to abuse her in an unwelcome or illegal way. And, technically, it doesn't hurt if you're spanked properly; rather, the rush of blood to those vital areas creates a sensation that is something very different from stubbing your toe or banging your elbow. There are other matters at hand. Women have become obsessed with their bottoms, finding ever more inventive ways to show them off. There are only a couple of things a man can reasonably be expected to do to a bottom. Four, to be precise. Of which spanking is the most sanitary, aesthetically pleasing and generally sensible. The best spankees I've found are American women, who tend to be relatively prim and proper. Show me a woman clanging with body piercing and wearing a schoolgirl outfit, and I’ll show you a home-counties mum treading water until she snares someone equally dreary. One who can be presented in society tends to be that much more interesting. Or, as a good friend of mine mentioned to me recently, all nice girls like spanking, no matter their behavior or age. So, as men get older and have less patience for more elaborate coquettishness, the most efficient way to determine a young woman's suitability for marriage, children and companionship is to put her over your knee at the slightest suggestion of difficulty, pull up the dramatic Alexander McQueen you have just bought her (her willingness to wear a McQueen creation is itself a dead giveaway), pull down the Coco de Mer knickers and have at it. If she kicks her heels and squeals delightedly, she's a keeper. If she objects and cites feminist theory, you've just saved yourself years of misery. Perverts are forever going on about how their particular interest is really the most freeing, marvelous thing, and how, if everyone wore rubber and attached clothes pins to their delicate bits, the world would be a happier place. But a spanked bottom isn’t elaborate or a perversion, or even out of the ordinary. It's one of the most natural things to do in the world (especially when a woman is being annoying). The perverse is not spanking the needy. And so, this nation, and America too, can now look forward to a whole generation growing up with issues that can only be solved over a knee. Spare the rod and spoil the country. On the upside, there wont be a girl in the UK an English speaking county that is not begging for it with voice or behavior.