Making the Rounds: Should Women Be Spanked?

There’s a newspaper clipping making the rounds today. It’s all over Facebook, and I’ve found it in a number of other webby places.

No, it’s not this one. It’s that other one — below.

I couldn’t find out anything specific about the clipping (I’m only assuming it’s authentic), but the New York Mirror newspaper was published between 1924 and 1963.

The two addresses, which use postal zones rather than ZIP codes, narrow it down a bit. Zones were initiated in 1943, ZIP codes came along in 1963 (initially voluntary, they became mandatory in 1967).

I’d guess this piece appeared in the 1950s.

You’ll notice none of the interviewed men said “No!” In that era, they probably didn’t dare. Who would go to a barber who let his wife dominate him?

The last respondent perfectly nails the paradigm of the day:

Yes. Most of them have it coming to them anyway. If they don’t, it will remind them how well off they are. I subscribe to the theory that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s the bit at the top that throws an interesting little quirk into the story, the part that says “Today’s question by Herman Martin, 125 Broad St., New York 4, N.Y.”

Guess who has that address today?

The New York Civil Liberties Union.


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  • Brett McCoy

    Reminds me of the mock magazine articles you used to see in MAD Magazine with this kind of topic.

  • Mina

    Wow, it says something about me that I saw the title of this and thought, “Sure, if that’s her kink.”

    • Kate from Iowa

      Lol! I thought exactly the same thing!

      • Former Senator Larry Craig

        Me three.

        • carlie


          • FredBloggs


          • Dalillama


          • lordshipmayhem


          • Rawnaeris


          • Mark

            9 and counting

    • subbie

      Of course, my thought was, “me first!”

    • bad Jim

      The top three paperback bestsellers are the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy. Nevertheless, “Kids, don’t try this at home” is an appropriate warning.

      • bsk

        “Don’t try this on your kids at home.”

      • Dalillama, Schmott Guy

        Holy shit, there’s three of them?!

  • db17

    Ah, come on, surely this is a parody. I know the world is dumb as all shit, but I still don’t think people would have actually said things like this – at least not in a public forum such as a newspaper.

    I thought we were sceptics around here?

    • left0ver1under

      Congratulations on growing up never hearing anyone say as a joke, “I’m going to go home and beat the wife.”

      I heard someone say it last year.

      That ad isn’t the only “joke” about wife beating that I’ve ever seen or heard. Violence against women was once common in popular songs and portrayed as humour (e.g. Spike Jones’s “Chloe”, “You Always Hurt the One You Love”, “My Old Flame”).

      It’s not humourous. If people hear it, some are going to think it’s acceptable and do it (vis-a-vis Jared Laughner doing what some republicans were inciting people to do). And of course, some religions encourage “domestic violence” (e.g. the promise keepers).

      To anyone who thinks this sort of “humour” is excusable, I have two questions:

      Would you find it funny if your boss put up jokes about beating employees who didn’t meet quotas?

      Would you laugh if your boss posted a picture of employees being whipped or spanked for making mistakes?

      How is “joking” about assaulting an employee more wrong than talking about assaulting one’s wife? Why does, or how could, being married excuse such talk?

      • F

        You mean, like, “I have to have something to do when I get home, I don’t have a dog or a wife to kick anymore”?

      • ah58

        All you need to do is watch some of the old “Honeymooners” episodes with Jackie Gleason. He’s always threatening to punch out his wife. “To the moon, Alice!!”

        This was acceptable humor at the time.

    • brianpansky

      That tends to me my reaction to seeing this stuff as well.

      However, I do have a brother who thinks that women should not be allowed to vote. We also talked about relationships and he thinks a strong “leader, follower” dynamic is most important (being a ‘real’ man is the only way a relationship will work etc). The topic of psychological abuse (in adult relationships) came up, and he was all excuses, like “they freely CHOSE to be with that person before the abuse started!” and “but if the victim leaves, the abuser will be HURT!”. (I never bothered to ask about physical abuse)

      I am not joking. He also justified a lot of things with the naturalistic fallacy (“it has worked for our species in the past”, “survival of the fittest, why bother helping poor countries when it’s their fault?”).

      Our cousin’s wife left the cousin, and my brother’s advice to the cousin was “do not accept her back unless she literally begs you”. I was in a car full of people when he recounted that conversation to me. I was the only one to speak up about how out of touch with reality his advice was.

    • Corvus illustris

      So I asked Mrs Corva about this (she being a native New Yorker, and I a mere rustic) and she found two anomalies: the newspaper was the Daily Mirror (not just the Mirror), and 125 Broad St., being close enough to Wall and Broad, didn’t sound like the address of an apartment. She feels fraud cannot be excluded. As to the sentiment expressed–you don’t want to hear.

    • Nathair

      Sure, it’s possible that anything you see on the web is a fake, but I don’t see anything about or in this image which would lead me to jump straight to that conclusion. The attitudes don’t seem particularly outrageous for 1950 (witness the 1952 coffee advertisement.) More importantly the comments just aren’t funny. Not even the barber/hairbrush riff is remotely witty. Parody is supposed to be humorous. This isn’t, not on any level.

    • Amanda Marcotte

      Considering that 50s era sitcoms routinely showed men threatening to or actually hitting women, I suspect that this isn’t a hoax. Ricky often took Lucy over his knee:

      It was just normal then. A lot of coffee ads from the era invoked fear of being spanked or hit by your husband to convince women to buy a certain brand of coffee!

      Being skeptical is about looking at the evidence, not just rejecting something out of hand because it’s unpleasant to contemplate.

  • Michael Fisher

    Hi Hank

    The 16-storey Daily Mirror Building still exists at 235 East 45th Street:

    However the NYCLU website you’ve linked to gives its main physical address as 125 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004 [see bottom of page]

    • Hank Fox

      Michael: The 125 Broad St. address referenced is not that of the Daily Mirror, but the guy who sent in the question. As shown on Google Maps, it’s a fairly new building. Assuming any of this is true, the older address may have been an individual house, a block of apartments, or even the questioner’s office address.

  • Hank Fox

    Guys, I don’t think there’s anything joking about this.

    Spanking was all over TV and movies of the era. Lucille Ball was spanked by her husband Desi Arnaz on “I Love Lucy” in three separate episodes. Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant all spanked women on-screen, as did Elvis Presley. John Wayne did it more than once. In the movie McClintock, both John Wayne and Patrick Wayne take a turn at spanking willful female co-stars.

    These weren’t horror scenes, either. They were cheer scenes, laugh scenes. The idea was “in the air” enough that seeing them was not the least bit shocking. I actually remember a number of such scenes.

    It’s no reach at all to imagine the spanking meme would make it into print, and even into advertising. The results of a short search seems to show the Chase & Sanborn coffee ad ran in one or two issues of Life Magazine, full-page ads in August of 1952.

    As to the newspaper clipping being a hoax, I’m of two minds about it.

    First, on the web today, I would be unsurprised to find out ANYTHING is a hoax.

    But then again, this purported newspaper clipping doesn’t really make any point. Seems to me someone would have had to go to a lot of trouble for no good reason. The language and fonts are spot-on with what I remember. Doesn’t mean someone couldn’t have tinkered this up as a joke; does mean it seems less likely.

    Also, in my earliest social milieu, the 1950s, the idea of spanking your wife was chump change. These were people who would nod with approval at the story of a neighbor shooting and killing a black man crossing their property. Trust me, there were women, probably even the mothers of newlyweds, who thought spanking was sometimes justifiable.

    And it was LEGAL. Where and when I grew up, women were not allowed to take the stand in court to testify against their husbands. A man would have to beat his wife half to death before official notice was taken. (But then again, this was a time when a couple of good ol’ boys might stop by to “have a talk” with a man beating a beloved little sister, after which said man might end up in the hospital.)

    There is an undercurrent of humor in the responses in the clipping, but I have no problem imagining 1) some or all of these men actually believed what they were saying, and 2) there were younger men who took it seriously enough to try it after reading this.

    All of this arrows down to the point in the final three lines of this post: Progress has been made.

    There’s still spousal abuse out there. The difference is, it’s no longer funny, no longer acceptable, no longer blithely tossed into the scripts of prime-time sitcoms and G-rated movies.

    • had3

      I just saw the I Love Lucy where she intentionally sunburns herself believing that Ricky won’t beat her because of it (correctly). Ethel agrees with the tactic. My wife and I were flabbergasted.

    • left0ver1under

      Remember James Cagney smashing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face during the film, “The Public Enemy”? Would a scene like that be considered “acceptable” in movies nowadays?

      Actually, it probably would, or some would like it to be.

    • Corvus illustris

      But the “humor” of the Chase & Sanborn ad (or the purported clipping) and of Lucy still has a “back in the day …” tone about it. Rosie had riveted from 1942-1945 (cousins my parents’ age worked in defense plants downstate, and had the attitude to prove it) and might well have directed the rivet gun at hubby if he’d tried that stuff. IIRC the male Kinsey report came out in 1948 and the female by 1952. It must have seemed clear that times had changed, and what might have seemed ordinary had become humorous. “Public enemy”?? Already in the early 1950s I couldn’t believe people had ever talked, let alone acted, the way they did in those “old” movies.

      I do have the feeling that Hank and I come from different parts of the country.

  • had3

    Actually, “beatings will continue until moral improves” is a fairly common office joke/poster. The problem arises if people don’t understand the difference and erring on the side of caution may be the best tactic.

  • Tom

    And don’t forget, one justification was/is that, “spanking” is not “violence”, it is corrective discipline that is, in the end, good for the subject of the lesson. Its not like these guys really “hurt” their wives, they would probably be horrified by men who get drunk and come home and beat-up their wives; they would claim there was no equivalence in the acts.

  • Midnight Rambler

    Given the location of 125 Broad St., right at the tip of Manhattan, I doubt it was a residential area even in the 1950′s, which makes it more suspect. And while there wasn’t anybody named Herman Martin living on Manhattan in 1940, it’s interesting that there was a barber named Frank Desiderio living in Brooklyn in 1940 (nothing on the other guys either; too many “William Davis”es to check).

    • F

      There’s no reason some jackass couldn’t send in a letter from the office. Shit, people seem to do seventy percent of their personal business at work anyway.

      I can’t find an appropriate digitized criss-cross / city/ address directory, but the LoC has them on microfilm. Nor can I find a map that shows businesses and such from 1930-1965 yet (my arbitrary range for seeing what may have occupied real estate at 125 broad, an address that could conceivably move a bit or disappear at different times).

    • RW Ahrens

      Check the US Census records, that’ll tell you if there were any residences there at the time. Isn’t the 1930 census public now?

  • earwig

    These attitudes wouldn’t have been out of place in the UK at the time. Somewhat later than this, my aunt was often heard to opine that my father would have had much less backchat from my mother if only he’d put her over his knee (ie, spanked her) the first time she stepped out of line. He never did and never would, and was appalled at his sister’s attitude, which had been shaped by her service in the police. That was in the days when police didn’t deal with wife-battering unless it was life-threatening: such cases were dismissed as “only a domestic”. Even these days there are people out there who regard hitting women as an acceptable way of settling martial differences.

    • Suido

      I think you meant marital, but martial works too.

      Cue million dollar baby reference.

    • Corvus illustris

      Well, trunch, trunch, truncheon did the trick for the police at the time (portable electrocution devices having not yet become popular). Your aunt sounds formidable.

  • joel

    You want to see people do mental gymnastics, ask them to justify spanking children. Or do it yourself and watch yourself twist into spaghetti.

    We are a long way from eradicating abuse of children, physically and psychologically. Add to that the fact that many believers are still terrorizing their kid with tales of hell fire.

    Hopefully the not too distant future will find spanking children as unthinkable as spanking women is now.

    • Jafafa Hots

      A man my mom was married to when I was 21 (I will NOT call him a “step-father”) was arguing that kids NEED to be spanked.

      I said “that’s just sick.”

      He turned beet red, raised a fist and barely holding himself back from punching me in the face screamed “don’t you EVER call me sick!”

      For whatever reason this did not persuade me to switch to his position on the issue.

    • interrobang

      Okay, I’ll bite — how do you communicate to the non-verbal ones not to do something without using a non-verbal method? I’m talking about your basic “swat on the diaper” instant deterrence here, and if that has suddenly become “child abuse,” stop the world, I want to get off.

      I’m not a parent and don’t intend to be one, and I just don’t get how you’d handle young toddlers otherwise, because you can’t reason with ‘em, you can’t effectively yell at ‘em, and there are some situations where just pulling the kid away isn’t going to reinforce the lesson. On the other hand, you also can’t smack around their idiot parents who bring them on long trips on public transit, either, and that vexes me, too.

      • earwig

        I’m sorry? You don’t need to know this unless and until you are a parent. It is a dark art. If some small person is troubling you with their noise or disruption and the parent appears to be unaware of the problem, all you need to do is sniff loudly with disapproval and ask the parent to keep it under control.* Make sure you have a clear line to the exit first, though. And never ever attempt the “swat on the diaper” yourself.

        Meanwhile, we are talking about “spanking” women. You know, adult human beings, in full possession of reason, being hit for disobedience or other perceived failing. It’s called “spanking” to make it sound OK in a way that “hitting” sounds less so. This diversion into the chastisement of children runs the risk of giving the appearance that you think there is some similarity between the two.

        *evil cackle*

      • speedwell

        Since the mere notion of considering hitting children to be child abuse makes you want to stop the world and get off, I have only one thing to say: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, chum.

      • anat

        What kind of lesson does a toddler need to learn that is communicated by hitting? I suppose if you want them to learn ‘Mommy/Daddy hurt me’. And ‘when you love someone you hurt them’. Will get them very far in civilized society.

        If a toddler is doing something unsafe you remove them from the situation, hold them while telling them in a word or short phrase what the danger was (eg ‘hot!’ ‘ouch’).

        If a toddler is having a tantrum you make sure they are in a safe place where they are not bothering anyone else and either wait it out or hold them or talk to them calmly while facing them at eye level. You give them words for what they might be feeling. And you try to figure out what the underlying reason for the tantrum was so you can take care of it once they are calm, and make sure to be more aware of similar situations in the future.

      • anne

        In case my sarcasm didn’t come across – anyone suggesting hitting a child would likely get a serious tongue-lashing from a parent. Non-parents are more inclined to be in favour of corporal chastisement for some reason I suspect is to do with an inability to recognise the small child as a person. (Some people seem to have this problem with women too.)

        Some fundamentalist religions are in favour of hitting children but it’s been outlawed in much of northern Europe. I hope the rest of the world catches up soon.

        As I said, make sure you have a clear line to the exit, before speedwell’s advice kicks in.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        “how do you communicate to the non-verbal ones not to do something without using a non-verbal method” – You make the classic error of thinking that just because a child can’t speak it doesn’t understand what you’re saying. A child that’s old enough to crawl around is old enough to understand that saying “no!” in a threatening manner means “stop with what you’re doing right now”. Just removing them from the scene also helps to lessen their interest. I’m all for house-proving your child instead of child-proving your house, but there’s absolutely no need for slapping as a deterent.

  • Aliasalpha

    Hmm, if it was a contemporary parody, I’d have expected references to religion but if it was legit, I’d not expect the last guy to look like he’s in a Mafia movie

  • James Sweet

    I am thinking it was semi-serious… like, nobody questioned that some women occasionally had it coming, but the enthusiasm shown by the respondents was supposed to invoke a har-dee-har-har (dudes who don’t just “like” spousal abuse, but are really into it? HI-larious!) What tips me off is the barber’s hairbrush-centric response.

  • ttch

    Jay Leno did wife-hitting jokes (as least as happening among Hispanics) well into his tenure on the Tonight Show.

    He still does prison rape jokes. Always gets a laugh.

    • earwig

      Prison rape jokes are disgusting. Any sort of rape joke is. Why are they still tolerated?

      • Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

        The Just World Fallacy, imo.

  • Jeff

    My vote is for legit. This sort of nonsense was all over the place during the time the article was supposedly written, even on TV and in movies as the others have pointed out. If it’s fake, I’d put it closer to “hoax” than “parody,” the difference being that one is a fake that’s intended to be seen as real, while the other is a fake that’s intended to be seen as fake.

    What strikes me most (har har har) about this article is the phrasing of the question. “If a woman needs it, should she be spanked?” The implication right from the outset is that spanking *is* appropriate at some times, and indeed, some women “need” to be spanked (for reasons not addressed in any capacity; presumably because we all know who those women are and what they did). Also: not sure how many responses the paper got, but of the four responses printed, 100% were from men and 100% were in favor of spanking. The first two at least made sure to mention that the spanking needs some sort of superficial justification, but the last two sound more like they just want to bully women.

  • berior

    Yes, they should be, but only if they enjoy it as part of a sexual fetish play.

  • Stella

    Pretty much anything can be faked, but if it’s a fake it looks like a pretty good one that someone’s taken a lot of effort over, from what I can see. The fonts, image quality, and layout look extremely realistic – notice particularly that the discolouration of the paper also affects the text (though I must admit my area of experience is more physical props than digital image manipulation). As much as I’d like to be able to call Photoshop, I suspect it’s genuine. This sort of attitude was pretty common in the ‘50s, and why would you go to all that effort to make a fake clipping when you could find real clippings from the period that get the same point across? There’s just no reason to make this as a hoax.

  • Ray Moscow

    I agree that this could easily be faked, but it’s also typical of the 1950′s/early 1960′s USA. Hell, it’s typical in some cultures today.

  • jonnyscaramanga

    My Dad once thought he had the right to spank my Mum if she was out of line.

    Even being the good fundamentalist that my mum was, she wouldn’t stand for that shit. But this was 1980s Britain, influenced by American fundamentalist theology. I bet you could find some people in the US today who still believe this.

  • Adrian

    Theodore Gallei, born 1899, lived in Brooklyn, was real enough.

    Mores have changed so quickly, it’s not surprising that some young people are blithely unaware – and shocked to discover – that these were normal attitudes until quite recently.

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