Life with Woman and How to Survive it, by Joseph H. Peck: a review

I got involved in a discussion on another site about whether there was ever a Golden Age of DD, when all women knew their place and wives were routinely spanked by their husbands. This period is generally thought to have come to an end in the sixties, with the advent of feminism. Seeking evidence of wife-spanking as an acceptable social practice, I found this little book by Dr. Peck, which contains several references to the subject.

In Chapter 8, Your Own Personal Gettysburg, he writes:

Remember, she may fight you like a tiger to impose her will upon you, but she hopes that you will slap her down either literally or figuratively and will be even more upset if you fail to do so. Don't apply brute force unless you are big enough to take her over your knee and spank her; a black eye may be used as evidence in court, but no woman will expose a reddened bottom to the jury.

However, Dr Peck goes on to insist that he has never found it necessary to adopted “such violent measures”. Later in the book he describes an incident where a woman patient is making a lot of fuss about being pregnant. He says to her husband(within the wife's hearing).

“She would recover quicker if you took her over your knee and lammed the daylights out of her.”
This brought a snort from above and she yelled “Him and who else? The two of you couldn't spank me.”
I threw down my hat and bag and started up the stairs two at a time. “Do you want to bet?” She retreated to her bedroom and locked the door, yelling through the crack “You're a damned old savage and I'll never speak to you again.”

Writing about women in their fifties and their tendency to create dramas about their health, he says of his wife:

She used to cuss and wish that she had never married a doctor because the other girls seemed to have so much fun having fits, and she was afraid to try it for fear of a spanking. That fear was enough, I was never driven to violent measures of any kind in our domestic relations, but I have seen plenty of other cases where they seemed justified.

I often think that spankings, either for the patient or her family, are the best possible prescription for many feminine ailments. I once lost the practice of a very good family because I would not tell a husband that it was necessary for his wife's health that she be sent to southern California for the winter. Her cousin had moved there from the East and was having such a good time that she wanted the lady to come down and enjoy it with her. She went, so I suppose some other doctor was more obliging than I was in that case, but she ought to have been spanked instead.

Dr Peck talks a lot about the benefits of spanking, and how he thinks this or that woman ought to be spanked, but he never actually does it himself, nor mentions any case he knows of where a woman actually was spanked, to her benfit or otherwise. Proof that talking about spanking women was more acceptable at this period, but neither Dr Peck nor apparently anyone he knew was actually doing it.

This book is an odd mixture of cynicism, sentimentality and sweeping generalisations. Dr peck believes firmly that a woman's place is in the home, he deplores careeer women and thinks that a woman who wants to do anything other than look after a husband and raise a family has something wrong with her. He believes that the home is the woman's domain and that a man who has anything to do with domestic tasks emasculates himself. This rigid seperation of men's and women's worlds is all quite a recent notion, in previous centuries home was as much the man's domain as the woman's, a man was expected to be involved in the running of the household, just as a woman was expected to be involved in her husband's business. What Dr Peck considers normal would not have been normal in the pre-industrial era.

Sometimes Dr Peck can be quite cynical, as when he says of women's mating instincts.

Monogamy is not a natural state with EITHER sex, but in the male its nonobservence is simply a form of indoor sport, while his partner looks beyond the moment of ecstacy and fixes her mind's eye upon the result of the union.

Dr. Peck deplores modern labour-saving devices, because he believes they leave women with too much time on their hands, and consequently they got bored and discontented with the proper lot in life , he says:

Woman has always required some activity for her hands. She cannot sit in the sun and read all the time"

(Dr Peck never met me, or he would have to revise this opinion).

Dr Peck's strong opinions were formed partly by his own observations and partly by the prejudices of his times. His book makes very strange reading nowadays, and parts of it are quite unpleasant (he can be quite savage towards any woman who doesn't fit his idea of how a real woman should behave). The book doesn't really provide evidence that domestic discipline was more widespread in the fifties, though it does show that talking about spanking a woman was at least more acceptable then than now. But a lot of the other things that Dr Peck says in his book would nowadays be considred quite outrageous, not just the spanking references, and a good thing too, in my opinion. this book is interesting in its way, but definitely a museum piece.

Louise C

Take the Taken In Hand tour


Dr Peck

Louise, thanks for that. A lot of people are malingerers at the doctor's even now. I certainly agree that the period when the home as female domain was a minor, in time terms, Victorian quirk historically. We found for our family when both my ex husband and I were plying our respective trades from the house at various times it was a lovely way to live adn I always said we were getting back to how things were, medieval England and most cultures where families are based on their land and children are near their parents.

I like a man in charge at home as much as out of it and always dislike those women who seem to delight in "proving" men can't cook (whereas anyone who can read can follow a recipe as we all know) because they have so little competence in any other areas of their lives they have to make some mystique up about "their kitchen" and woe betide any man who tries to "help". I hate all this denigration and lack of respect for men that we see so much of. I have got off the point a bit....

For submissive women Dr Peck's advice for women who are malingering for no good reason is probably wise. For women who aren't that way inclined I'm sure it wouldn't have worked then and wouldn't work now. I'm reading the Little House on the Prairie book series to some of the children at the moment (USA 1880) and the wife is very submissive to her husband as was how things were in 1880 but it's a very nice loving D/S relationship, very Taken In Hand. It's probably more than I could tolerate because she's not involved in decisions—he'll come home and say they're moving without discussion but the way they don't row because he decides things and she gracefully complies, her femininity, acceptance, respect and compliance and how she follows his lead and supports his decisions is good to see for those of us this way inclined.

I liked Dr Peck's "No woman will show a reddened bottom to a jury". Laughing as I write...

... I suppose if I were being more serious about this I'd get into the DD v D/S debate on this. I think DD without consent and when imposed because of cultural norms such as in many middle Eastern countries and societies where wife beating is excepted and common and lawful and in my view appalling, is just plain wrong. For me it is always at least in part an erotic thing and I don't for that reason really go in for being physically properly punished, although it can be there as a threat if someone really needs to have it. So I don't like to confuse the two—punishment for fun and real physical punishment. By all means let him spank me because it arouses him but not because he thinks it's the word of God or whatever.

The man's domain

Your comment is very interesting. I absolutely agree with you about working at home having been the norm in the pre-industrial era,and men were certainly expected to be in charge of the home as well as of their business, whatever it might be, as John R. Gillis says in 'A World of Their Own Making: A History of Myth and Ritual in Family Life':"Marriage was a working partnership until the middle of the nineteenth century.....Males felt no need for a special place of retreat because domesticity posed no threat to their masculinity. They were as comfortable in the kitchen as women, for they had responsibility for provisioning and managing the house."

I found reading Gillis's book validated my own marriage from the 'traditional' point of view, because the fact that my husband does most of his work at home and is constantly involved in what is going on in the house is actually more 'traditional' than i had previously thought, and Dr. Peck's idea of 'traditional' meaning a rigid seperation of male and female roles is actually a much more recent tradition.

I liked the 'Little House' books very much as a child, I don't think I thought very much in those days about Ma being submissive to Pa, though it was certainly very different from my parents' marriage (but then my parents didn't resemble any of the other parents I knew anyway). I always liked Laura and loathed Mary, though she became a much nicer person in the later books. I admired Laura's independence and strength, and the fact that she stayed the same when she grew up and didn't have her tomboy nature subdued.

I read a lovely book recently called 'The Child that Books Built' by Francis Spufford, in which he writes about the importance of books in his childhood. Unusually for a boy, he loved the 'Little House' books, and he wrote about visiting the Ingalls house which is now a museum. The ladies in charge told him that the visitors were mainly women but "There were two men here last week looking round without any women making them". They also told him that they could always tell the people who were fans of the TV series from the people who were fans of the books, because the TV fans are invariably dismayed to see the photographs of Pa, a bearded pop-eyed Victorian gentleman, not at all like Michael Landon!

Dre Peck talks a lot about spanking in his book, but as far as I can make out it is just talk, and neither he nor any other man actually spanks a woman at any time, despite all the talk about it. I think it's a common fantasy that a woman's disposition could be improved by a good spanking, but I doubt it could work unless the woman herself really craves such a thing. If you do crave it then it does help. There is some confusion in my own relationship between 'fun and 'punishment', I do find that in a curious way it can be both, but it seems to work for us all right like that. I certainly would hate it if I thought he felt he had a God-given right to do it whether I liked it or not though.

Dr Peck

Dr Peck was probably writing to arouse himself... or so it felt reading what he wrote... laughing again as I write... I am sure in his day it was easier to be a dominant man for lots of reasons. Off the point, but I've enjoyed reading stories again I read as a child since I've had my own children over the last 21 years (we got the DVD boxed set of Little house on the Prairie in the post today) —you get so different things from books when you re-read them at different stages of your life. There are beautifully drawn series about Orlando the Marmalade cat presumably from the 1930s which again I have been reading aloud to the smallest children, and in one of those books is the family, father in charge, everyone defers to him and when I read it again it comforts me that my own preferred dynamic is not so aberrant after all and just one of a number of norms which can all work if both parties choose it.

I think I'm always very clear about spanking being erotic fun or play punishment rather than real punishment, because the dominant men I've been out with via BDSM web sites otherwise can get the wrong end of the ...literally... stick and I am very very cautious of my personal safety. If you start off with—I want to please; if I don't we've both fouled up in some way and we'll talk about it— that's a better start than—impose any silly unworkable rules you like so that if I get one wrong you can use that as a pretext to beat the hell out of me because you're a natural born sadist. When I settle down with someone we can work on this to be however he wants it to work.