The Affectionate Punch was released on 1 August 1980. Michael Dempsey and John Murphy featured in promotional shots and the accompanying tour but did not perform on the record. Alan Rankine recalls that the whole album was recorded with only himself, Billy and a session drummer: "it was great fun. We just never stopped and the ideas just came and came and came."
"The Affectionate Punch" and "A" were released as singles to little commercial success.
The cover of the LP features Alan Rankine (in the starting position) and Billy Mackenzie (standing) on the running track of Wormwood Scrubs Prison.
Upon its release, The Affectionate Punch was declared “a kind of masterpiece" by Paul Morley of the NME, who described it as “a passionate cabaret soul music, a fulfillment of the European white dance music Bowie was flirting with back then.”
Contemporary reviews have also been favourable, with BBC Music reviewer Chris Jones writing, "Few bands today would dare to be so audacious".
The album was remixed and re-released in 1982 by order of The Associates' new record company Warner Bros. The remixed record retained all the old tracks but was given typical '80s production values such as new synthesizers as well as some re-recorded vocals by Billy Mackenzie. Both Mackenzie and Rankine expressed dissatisfaction with the results. For years this was the only version available on CD, as the master tapes for the original had been lost. However, a duplicate was later found and the album was reissued by Virgin in 2005.
The remixed version of "A Matter of Gender" was released as a single in 1982.