The 1950s and times past, sublimated, resurfacing as fantasy

1950s-spanking One of the sites I’ve learnt a bit from in the past few weeks is Fetlife, which is something of a Facebook for the kinky community. The total list of kinks one can subscribe to (fess up to?) is amazing. Stuff I’d never thought of. I’m such a classic spanker that 98% of the list just passes me by. (There is much to say about bondage and spanking, and spanking vs bdsm from the spanker point of view, but I’ll leave that for future posts.)

But one of the things that struck me in the kink list – and to which I subscribed – is “1950s lifestyle.” Got to love this well-known coffee ad alongside…

But what is “1950s lifestyle” as a “kink” saying? It’s saying, what was normal in the 1950s is a bona-fide sexual kink now. How can that be? Yes, we know from psychology that “normal” is a social construct that moves around. But I think there is even more to it.

I think nothing fundamental (“archetypal” if you like) in the human psyche can be buried. Sometimes social norms allow a behaviour to be given fuller expression; sometimes they contrict it. When constricted, the practice goes behind closed doors, or behind closed fantasy eyelids. But it doesn’t go away.

In this case, the unburiable archetype is the Head of Household (HoH), as protector, mentor, and final authority – and the safety and structure in this. Yes, the world has moved on, and women’s empowerment and fuller lives and careers as real earners and decision-makers is an excellent thing.

But this is a new turn in a long, long human history. It presses on the archetype that presses back, that must surface somewhere. When we spank or are being spanked, we are letting out, playing out, and reaffirming this very core element of the human psyche. It is so fundamental and presumably (I’m no anthropologist) was functional in creating surviving human groups that, like much of our physical and social response structure inherited from ages past, is deeply written into our psychic makeup.

10 Responses to The 1950s and times past, sublimated, resurfacing as fantasy

  1. frogly-girl says:

    I like the way you write, thoughtful and with insight. Looking forward to more posts!

  2. suzeemoon says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind words.
    Nice to be able to return the compliment. I love the elegance and intelligence of your blog.

    This is an intriguing post.Despite being someone who uses the coffee ad image and adores the fantasy, I would be concerned about seeing HoH as a norm as it is so disempowering in everyday life.
    I am sure the recent history of such a norm formed the erotic imagination of myself and others, but it is not the only power exchange fantasy. The sub/Domme is also a powerful one. So the fact that female sub/male Dom fits in with an unequal power structure that has prevailed is only part of the bigger picture. I don’t think my kink as a female spankee reaffirms a core element of the human psyche mor than that played out by a Domme and male sub or spankee. It is simply how I happened to have turned out.

  3. livingdd says:

    I really enjoy your blog, thanks for sharing it with us. I really look forward to reading more.

    I find it absolutely amazing that in the 50’s spanking a woman was considered normal, expected even. It’s too bad that a few bad men, abusers, ruined it for the rest of us. I love the ads they had in the magazines, like this coffee ad. One of my favorite spanking scenes is in “Blue Hawaii” when Elvis spanks the spoiled little rich girl.

    (~N) the other half of Living Domestic Discipline

  4. Adam says:

    Fetlife is a great site (I’m on as AdamKadmon). I discovered that if you search for a fetish/kink which is not listed you are invited to add it yourself. Therefore, if others search for it they’ll find not only that fetish/kink in the list but also others that have listed it.

    Personally, I adore much of the female fashion of the time.

  5. Z says:

    I’m with suzeemoon on this–sounds like faux / pop science. I think the idea of a HoH type person as an “unburiable archetype” is one of those faux scientific fantasies (like the ideas in _Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus_, if you remember that craze). This post also seems (to me) like an attempt at justification (“it’s in our basic nature!”). Those kinds of claims about human nature tend to be hard to substantiate scientifically and maybe you don’t need to justify. I think kink(s) can be explained pretty well, but I don’t know that justification is possible, on the one hand, or necessary, on the other.

  6. Z says:

    Postscript on that.

    Pre-note: I don’t know if anyone else reads here but here seems to be where I speak, l suppose because it seems less sadistic than some sites and less outright weird than those where women say things like “my husband spanked me for driving with a worn windshield wiper, it was dangerous and I could have hurt myself more than he hurt me, woe is me I am so incompetent.” (Mon Dieu, comme c’est ridicule…)

    Anyway, my thought is that d/s and s/m really ARE “sick” if you will, the result of some kind of trauma. I can totally explain how I got to be as I am, without any need to take recourse in imagined anthropologies, ideas of what ur-humanity was like, or anything like that. At the same time, I don’t know that even the best psychoanalyst could iron it out of me, as it’s far too deep. Easier is just to say yeah, I’m kinky to degree [whatever], and go with it.

  7. arbuthnot says:

    Very glad to have found this perceptive and well-written blog.

    I agree with Suzeemoon and Z that the notion of the HoH as an “unburiable archetype” is both disempowering and dysfunctional. It seems to be more prevalent in the USA than is the case here, where other styles of d/s are more common. The advantage of the various Master / slave narratives compared with HoH / submissive wife is that they are more easily adopted for an evening, weekend or whatever, then put aside until the next time. The HoH scenario does get a bit tangled up with the worn windscreen wiper Z mentions and other routines and banalities of real life.

    Far from being “the way things are” (a culturally determined construct, similar to “normal”), it may be seen as a result of male insecurity and the need to assert a new role and position in society. By “new” I mean only a mere 7-10,000 years old in most parts of the world, stemming from our shift from nomadism to settlement, the beginnings of agriculture, the replacement of female gods with male ones and -especially- the institution of inheritance in the male, instead of the female, line. We are still groping around in this new world we sort of fell into because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and have yet to come to terms with either the economic or social consequences of these huge upheavals. Meantime, some of us do enjoy, and are strangely aroused by, playing with some of the failed attempts to do so.

    I grew up in the 1950s. Well, I fancied myself a very sophisticated and mature young man by the time 1960 dawned, anyway. I was only 14, but looked older, and got away with hanging out with lads of 17 and 18. I was well aware of my predilection for spanking girl’s bottoms by then, and guiltily ashamed of even thinking about it, never mind doing it (which I hadn’t, of course). I was, of course, strapped and caned at school in Scotland and England, as was the norm then, and much more severely thrashed at home than most children were.

    Notwithstanding all that, I somehow had the impression I was living in enlightened and progressive times and corporal punishment had been much more frequent and severe when my parents were children. That’s what they told me anyway. Is it possible that fetishising the 1950s is just a matter of fetishising a largely imaginary world of 50 or 60 years ago -just over most people’s personal horizons? The Victorian period also continues to provide a basis for much fantasy based on authority, discipline and corporal punishment.

    Alternatively, the 1950s may be picked on because of the very strong trend of official and commercial culture to induce or drive women “back to the kitchen”, complete with all the blandishments of newly-available “labour saving” domestic hardware. The war had forced women into many traditionally male roles and many women had taken on new responsibilities, and seen much more of the world, than would have been the case without that Herr Hitler. Now, there was a great crunch as all that was slammed into reverse. For women, it was out of the factories, the crane and train cabs and the fields and back to the kitchen -and the bedroom of course. The boys were coming home and needed their jobs back. Your job now is cooking, breeding and looking decorative, and don’t you forget it.

    This theory may rather fall down due to slightly different influences being at work in the USA at the time.

  8. Z says:

    My parents were married in 1948 and from listening to them talk, it appears that the trauma of their young adult life was the expectation to fall into these 50s style roles which were very much enforced after the war. The older generation expected responsibility and all, but not the kind of retro, actually infantilized “responsibility” which seems to have come into fashion at that point.

    It appears to have been confusing to them precisely because all of this was presented as more modern than what *their* parents had grown up with, e.g. Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities, although their parents in *actuality* were suffragettes and so on (i.e. they were true moderns).

    Falling into agricultural society, it’s possible although I’m reticent to engage as a lay person in pop sociobiology or pop anthropological explanations of things. This is in part because faux scholarship drives me up a wall because of my academic formation. It is also because I’ve heard that kind of press quoted for self serving reasons enough times already to last me to the end of my days.


    People *do* fetishize the 50s, it’s funny to me. I’m from the 60s but that’s close enough to know that the fetishized version of that era – as of other eras – is *very* stylized. It’s fine for a fantasy, I suppose, I am just amazed that people now pay good money for vintage chrome dinettes, or who actually want to elect candidates who will “take us back to the [nice] 50s” — (segregation? lynchings? canned Spam? please!).


    Society where I live is very authoritarian and patriarchal, and peoples’ lives are quite messy because nobody has any boundaries — huge families growing and dysfunctioning together like beds of oysters and Corexit. Playing overtly and consciously with d/s in a relationship is a way of parodying this, I find, taking power over it, externalizing it, fetishizing it, cordoning it off, so as not to be engulfed by it as many people evidently are. I am convinced this is very neurotic but I find it preferable, at least, to simply replicating the prevailing structure in an uncritical way.

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  10. Paige Bryant says:

    When trying to figure out why a cultural mindset was considered normal at the time of the 1950s, but would be considered only ‘kink’ today (and very taboo at that), we should remember that EVERY aspect of life was different. I think sometimes I am one of the few women who honestly looks around today, and sees what little we have gained, under “equality” and “enlightenment”. I am speaking only from an American perspective, but we all sort of know, deep down, that today we have families where both heads of household (both Mom and Dad) go to work and jointly bring home LESS pay; inflation taken into consideration, than what one head of household, back in the 1950s (Dad) would bring home. We can afford less fun “labor saving” gadgets as a result, and we all lose what little we take home by paying some daycare worker to raise our kids for us, if we still opt to have them (many young couples don’t anymore). So in reality, we all have LESS freedom than the 1950s had, but we are consoled by the powers that be, usually the corporate heads whose salaries have exploded since the 1950s, telling us that we have MORE freedom, because we have “women’s liberation”.
    The Greatest Generation experienced quite a radical change in economic prosperity in their lifetimes, which I’m sure explains their playful attitudes, in their adulthood, towards spanking of wives by husbands, and casual attitudes towards spanking of children by both parents. 1950s TV portrays spanking as, not just a necessary evil, but usually something for the audience to laugh about, and cheer on the spanker for doing what has to be done to instill order in his/her home.This greatest generation had a horrible childhood, by comparison. They grew up during the Great Depression; school education was a luxury for relatively few to enjoy, some were stuck working in factories and beaten mercilessly, sometimes even to death, just for falling asleep on a non-stop job; building up the industrial revolution. Many children had to hop the trains at age 14 and start looking for jobs outside the home; kicked out by families that could not feed them. With the war effort (WW2) Americans were suddenly employed again, and really welcoming the change, to get paid real money to help with that. Then after that war, (the 1950s) we enjoyed a period of great economic prosperity. As arbuthnot observed very accurately: women were enticed back into the kitchen with “labor saving gadgets” as men were coming back from the war. Women became the domestic workers of the home-front then, with their husbands as their self-appointed “bosses” so to speak. And they had so many children (not called the Baby Boom for nothing) that those kids were practically underfoot all the time. The Greatest generation was outnumbered by their own kids, and so spanking became adopted as the quickest, easiest way to keep those kids in line, and it was agreed upon in neighborhoods and communities that restoring order amongst chaos was more important than psycho-analyzing negative long-term affects of smacking children for disobedience. I was reading experiences of both men and women from this era; one guy described it as: “It was like my butt was public property.” This was because; his schoolteachers could spank him, his baby-sitters could spank him, extended family members spanked him, his neighbors would spank him. Any adult who wished to correct him at any time could, and would, do so by yanking him over their knee without a moment’s hesitation. Because adults were in general agreement that spanking the mobs of youth around them was an immediate restore to order, they had to explain why to the kids: Why is it that adults can spank kids, but kids can’t spank or hit adults? Or each-other? Well, the answer was usually “because the adults love you”, and I certainly remember this line of reasoning coming from my parents in my own youth. Mom and Dad spank the kids because they love the kids. To further back this explanation, some movies adopted the same notion between the husband and wife as well. Adults spank kids to correct them, but only out of love, so it would make sense that a wife, esp. in annoying full tantrum mode (which she was usually portrayed as being) would be brought back under control by a loving husband, with a spanking. This is spelled out in the spanking scene in Frontier Gal: “Daddy, you spanked Mama. That must mean you love her.”
    It would not have crossed their minds that this was at all oppressive. This is the generation of the Great Depression; they knew oppression, and to them: it wasn’t spanking. As far as they were concerned, their kids had it great because they got to be kids and go to school. Their women had it nice because she didn’t have to toil in hot factories or under harsh conditions anymore just for food. Her expectation was to keep a nice house and bring up her children; both of great benefit to her. They considered themselves “free”… and considering what they endured before that time, it really does make sense.

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