The following Newsweek article by Katie Roiphe posted in the Daily Beast proposes that with the recent success of Fifty Shades, spanking has indeed gone mainstream. And they say the reason is because Christian Grey, "who is extremely solicitous and apologetic for a sadist (always asking Anastasia Steele about every minute gradation of her feelings, and bringing her all kinds of creams and lotions to soothe her after spanking her) is, in other words, the easiest difficult man of all time."
Interesting thought. The article goes on to ask, "Why have masses of women brought the book to the top of the bestseller list before it even hit the stores? Most likely it’s the happy convergence of the superficial transgression with comfortable archetypes, the blushing virgin and the whips. To a certain, I guess, rather large, population, it has a semipornographic glamour, a dangerous frisson of boundary crossing, but at the same time is delivering reassuringly safe, old-fashioned romantic roles. Reading is no more risqué or rebellious or disturbing than, say, shopping for a pair of black boots or an arty asymmetrical dress at Barneys." Hmm.
Let's see. Because the book offers a tantalizing glimpse into sadomasochism using safe, old-fashioned romantic roles, the women of the world are eating it up in the millions. I hadn't thought of it quite that way, but it is possible. I guess it's the same reason why people like me enjoy riding roller coasters. You get the rush that comes with an element of danger in a totally controlled and safe environment. You get off the coaster feeling braver for the experience. You flirted with death and survived. But did you? Did you really flirt with death? No. Not anymore than reading Fifty Shades gives you true insight into the world of BDSM. It doesn't. I knew that, but I still enjoyed the story, despite the book's many faults.
So, what about spanking? Since Christian Grey is so solicitous of Ana after he's spanked her, which isn't an entirely bad thing in my opinion even if it is unrealistic, does that mean it's okay for women to purchase gray silk ties for their husbands and ask for a little domestic discipline in the bedroom? An over the knee, bare butt spanking, just like Ana received from Christian? Sure. Why not? But don't be surprised, ladies, if he just rolls over and falls asleep afterwards. Even E.L. James's husband would remark, "Oh, it's going to be one of those nights again," whenever she asked him to help her with a bit of home research. So, reality and fantasy don't often play well together. Not even in the romance-publishing world.
For many years now, NY publishers did not want heroes spanking heroines for fun or punishment in the novels they published. When Judith McNaught's "Whitney My Love" was republished, the original spanking scene in the book was "tamed down" considerably. But even in the original version, the scene was pure punishment with no sexual undertones. The hero did hold Whitney afterwards, and comfort her. He may have even kissed her, but I don't think he did since he was so angry, and he was not a man who got over his anger easily. She was fully dressed and the instrument he used was the same riding crop she'd hit his horse with. No sex resulted from the punishment though there was a deeper understanding between the two characters afterwards.
As it is, I don't think a bare butt OTK spanking was permitted in mass paperback novels back then (1985). And even now, you'll only find those scenes in books that cater specifically to readers who enjoy spankings given for punishment and/or sexual enjoyment. The question is, with the success of Fifty Shades of Grey will that change? I certainly hope so, since each of my heroes tends to take the love of his life over his knee now and then. Not because he enjoys hurting and/or humiliating her, but because he feels spankings are more productive and better for the relationship than arguments. After a spanking, which his lady must always consent to first for it not to be abuse, there is only love, forgiveness and lots of kisses and reassurance. No hard feelings, no resentment remains. There is sunshine after the rain, and sometimes there's even passionate lovemaking afterwards.
So keep your eye on the bookshelves of your favorite internet or brick and mortar book store, spanking romance lovers, to see what comes down the publishing pike next. There may be a new era dawning, and we'll have E.L. James to thank.
The following links provide more information on the topic.