Spanking may be regarded as the most fundamental form of corporal punishment-indeed, the most fundamental form of punishment altogether. For most of us the first experience of punishment will have been over the knee of mother or nurse an experience which carries with it a sensation of warmth and security as well as of strictness, and it is a double security: the security at once of being loved and looked after and of living in a world with definite bounds and limits which may not be transgressed. Both are vital to the healthy psychological development of a growing child.
Spanking is an excellent discipline for maidservants, especially ladies’ maids and maids in the single-servant household which is becoming so much more common in suburban areas. Such maids often have a close and intimate relationship with the mistress, who is, in some respects, much like a mother. One should not be afraid to cane the maid when it seems necessary, but a good spanking will suffice for most disciplinary purposes and is entirely appropriate to the warmth of the mistress-servant relationship which is so much a part of the kinder, more human outlook of the New Sensibility as opposed to the older cold-cash relationship. Especially in these days when girls who are not of an academic bent may leave school at the age of fourteen to go into service, just as boys may go into apprenticeships, spanking is an ideal discipline for a young maidservant, which, while keeping her strictly up to the mark would also help her to feel cared for and at home. A maid who stays with the family may possibly go on being spanked well into adult life. Sensitivity is required here.
For some girls it would not be appropriate, but for many it is an integral part of the warmth and security of a life in service; a blessing-one might al- most say a “human right”-which was denied to all by the chiefly commercial – political “personal independence” of earlier generations, but which is coming to be recognised as indispensable to the psychic health of many people.
Despite its popularity in the home, spanking is not much practised in schools and public institutions other than those dealing with very young children. There are exceptions. Sonic girls’ schools include spanking as a formal punishment, especially for dormitory as opposed to classroom offenses a special slipper is sometimes kept for the purpose; while in many schools senior girls carry out unofficial spankings with hand, slipper or hairbrush, upon the hinder parts of their erring juniors.
We declare ourselves in favour of spanking in schools. It should not, of course, replace the more serious sanctions such as the cane; but it has many virtues. It is a warm, homely punishment which makes a girl feel looked after, yet at the same time it can be a very effective form of discipline. For certain girls at certain times it can be of incalculable benefit to employ a spanking rather than (or sometimes as well as) some other form of discipline. The girl who is new to the school and does not seem to settle as other girls do may become fractious and need a lot of discipline-yet the coldness and formality of detentions and strap- pings punctuated by the stark rigour of the cane, may simply compound all her hostile feelings about school, making her more intractable than ever. Of course, on the one hand, one cannot simply be lenient with her for that reason in a soft, 2oth-century manner, and on the other hand one should not lose sight of the fact that some girls – a small minority – are genuinely unsuited to school life (to boarding school life, at any rate), and we are firmly of the opinion that such girls, after a good trial period of a full term, should be put under a governess or sent to a day-school. However, such girls are a small minority, and in most cases, with sensitive and firm handling, the “misfit’ will begin to settle in.
Here, in our view, is a classic case for spanking. If the girl’s house-mistress is not of the sympathetic, motherly type, then one should find a mistress who is to take charge of her more serious discipline-one that is, who while being sympathetic is by no means “soft”. Needless to say the course she pursues will be a delicate and individual one, and we are by no means putting forward spanking as a panacea, but the use of spanking as a discipline during this period may wen be less alienating than more formal methods, although we do not suggest that the girl should be immune from other punishment.
This is an extreme case where spanking may be called for, but there are others. Some girls who are by no means normally unsettled may respond to it well under certain circumstances. School matrons sometimes use it and some mistresses and housemothers consider spanking to suit their maternal “style”.
Again, for the tense and highly-strung girl, perhaps given to boisterous excesses which are alien to the gentleness of her inner nature, punishment is sometimes considered a good in itself, helping her to relax, to feel gentle, sweet and subdued. Such girls are frequently extremely sensitive to punishment, although it is very necessary for them. Spanking is often exactly the right medicine; sometimes very gentle spanking which helps to calm her and win her confidence, in many cases mounting in severity as the punishment proceeds and as she becomes ready for each successive stage of pain (in a close rapport she may even ask for it). Such punishment may build up her nervous tolerance to punishment, allowing her, as time goes on, to take increasingly severe whippings.
Of course such “leading in” is not usually appropriate when it is a question of severe discipline for some particularly bad offence (though there are those who favour a gentle “building up” even to this, holding that discipline, while it may be severe, should as far as possible retain the willing assent of the child); but it is increasingly recognised by child psychologists and others that, in the case of a certain minority of children, discipline is not merely a deterrent and corrective but serves a therapeutic purpose in itself. Obviously such “medicinal discipline” should only be given in cases where there is a close understanding between the child (or indeed the adult woman, for this is not necessarily restricted to children) and the disciplinarian, but to ignore its potentialities is to close the door to an important therapeutic technique and to condemn many nervous and wounded souls to needless mental suffering. The line between discipline and therapy in such cases is clearly a delicate one (many experts hold that it would lose its effectiveness if the disciplinary aspect was entirely absent), and spanking, with its highly intuitive and sympathetic nature, while it is by no means the only form of punishment which can be so used, is likely to form the basis of “therapeutic discipline” especially in its early stages.
At the opposite extreme from the delicate girl who requires spanking is the overly-independent young miss who takes lines, the strap and even the occasional caning very much in her stride in a rather boyish manner. For such a girl a really good spanking may be just the proper remedy: it will offend her pride and her sense of independence, and, if properly executed, will hurt her much more than she expects. If she can be brought to tears over a mistress’s knee or that of a senior girl (perhaps in public, or in private but with the threat of a public demonstration at a later date), a great deal of the air will be taken out of her, as her class-mates might put it.
Spanking, then, has many uses. It should not be neglected as an aid to school discipline, and even if it is used but rarely it should be kept in reserve as a possibility for some occasions. Schools which have taken it up as a regular discipline have often reported favourably upon its effectiveness.
Methods of Spanking
Many implements may be used for spanking, but in this country only three are common in formal use, viz. the hand, the slipper and the hairbrush. Purpose-made tapettes or spanking-paddles, usually made of wood or leather, can be purchased and some schools have them, but while they are common enough in Europe and in America, they have not yet become popular in this country. Perhaps if spanking continues to make headway as a formal school punishment they will become more widespread. Since this was written leather paddles in particular have become much more common, especially in the home.
In the home, wooden spoons, spatulas and other household implements have been pressed into service with great effect; how ever, while these are entirely appropriate for the use of servants they may he considered a little too homely for the mistress of the house. Senior girls in schools, either because they are not given the use of official implements, or impelled by the quest for novelty have been known to use a remarkable variety of implements from flat lengths of wood to fives bats and even Ping-Pong racquets. Canes and straps (except the tiny nursery cane) cannot and should not he used for spanking.
For formal use, though, as we have said, only three implements are at all widely used-the hand, the slipper and the hairbrush, although one can deliver an effective spanking with an eighteen-inch ruler. The hand can be used quite effectively, especially upon the unprotected flesh above the level of the stockings and below that of the knickers. Those who are really expert at this mode of punishment can make it sting more than one might expect, but despite its strongest advocates we are obliged to record that hand-spanking can only ever come into the category of mild to moderate punishment (the only possible exception being when it is employed after some other punishment on already-chastised parts).
This being said, we must also state that spanking with the other usual implements, the slipper and the hairbrush, need by no means be the rather gentle punishment it is usually considered by those who neither give nor receive it. A sound spanking, well administered, can be a very salutary punishment.
The slipper can take a number of forms. There are delicate bedroom slippers which are really too flimsy for the job. A good leather or rubber-soled slipper is required, though it need by no means be ungainly. A fine lady’s slipper with a hard leather sole can combine a dainty appearance with an unremitting sting.
The hairbrush will normally be wooden. Silver or other metals are impossible, though we have seen a faivorite hairbrush used to good effect. It should have a flat back and should not be too small. Those charming wooden clothes-brushes which look like large hairbrushes are splendid, and perhaps better than the hair brush itself. The heavier hardwoods, like ebony, can tend to bruise. We do not oppose their use on all occasions, but a light to medium-weight wood gives the stinging smack that is required.
The usual position for spanking is over the knee. With small children this is very simple. They fit neatly on the lap. With a larger girl one may sit on a chair and put her over in the conventional manner (she may well touch the floor with both feet and hands), one may choose a sofa, allowing her upper body to rest along its length, or one may use the position most favoured by senior girls in schools. One sits well back on a bed, in about the middle and the girl lies over one’s lap. Essentially she is lying face down on the bed with her scat raised by one’s knees.
Spankings (that is beatings with slipper, hairbrush, paddle &c. which have the essential quality of spankings) can also be given with the girl over a desk or lying on a bed with oneself sitting or standing beside her. The essential quality of spankings will be described fully in the last section of this chapter, but we should say that an over-the-desk spanking, as opposed to a more formal punishment, is one in which the number of strokes is not declared in advance, are not necessarily all of equal force and there is a greater degree of intimacy. The mistress or senior may well hold the girl down by placing her free hand on her back and pressing her to the desk, a pressure at once restrictive and comforting. One may punish over the skirt (in which case the girl must be well bent and a reasonably heavy implement must be used), over the petticoat or on the seat of the knickers and the unprotected thighs.
If you have the girl over your knee in any of the positions indicated, you cannot use the same force as if you were standing up. Remember this and put real vitality into your strokes. Let the implement strike home with a loud, satisfying slap and feel its force vibrate through the girl’s body to your own. A spanking can be a somewhat underrated punishment, so let her know from the beginning that you mean business.
Types of Spanking
Spanking is a highly sensitive and variable punishment. It stands virtually at the antipodes from caning, in which a set and limited number of strokes are administered, each one to be of maximum value. A spanking is very rarely limited as to the number of strokes. It is a long punishment, the longest of corporal punishments, and each stroke may be shaped by the instinct of the moment. There are brisk, hard spankings with a stinging leather sole; slow, heavy spankings with a large hairbrush: there are long, mild spankings and short ferocious ones and interminable, severe ones which pass from tears to silent suffering to tears again.
The “average” or “normal” spanking stroke is a hard, resounding one which causes a considerable sting. In itself it is rather more bearable than a stroke of the strap, but the punishment lies in the accumulation. A spanking may go on and on and on. There may be periods during a long spanking when the strokes are relatively mild; merely maintaining the rhythm and the soreness while the child recovers herself a little. There may be gentle strokes that are hardly strokes at all, and then there may be Victorian strokes-great, full-blooded slaps that make one tingle with pain. Many mistresses like to give a dozen or more of these to round off any spanking.
A spanking is, in many ways, something like a conversation, or even a song. A long, wordless but intense and passionate communication takes place.
Sometimes, for a long and complex spanking, more than one implement is used, the mistress changing from the strong, penetrating strokes of the heavy hairbrush to the sharp sting of the light leather slipper and back again, perhaps interspersing a dose of the ruler for variety. This may seem whimsical, but a mistress finely attuned to her protégée will know the exact moment to change implements, the different “voices” of the punishment (represented both by different implements and by different sorts and rhythms of stroke from the same one) weaving in and out like the parts of a string quartet.
Other spankings are simply severe: more like canings in tenor, and yet, of course very different. There are the feared mistresses who give only Victorian strokes-a dozen, two dozen, perhaps fifty or even a hundred. They may state the number in advance, as with more formal punishments, or they may decide it in their heads without telling. Every stroke is a shock, however many there may be. Let the girls who say spanking is a “dolly punishment” try one of these.
Again there are those who mix Victorian strokes with ordinary hard ones. A short spanking is not so terrible, but what if it is a long one? In some ways even the cane might be preferable to a long spanking from Miss. At least a caning is limited. One cannot tell when this spanking will end – sometimes one fears it never will.
Then again there are the mild spankings that have one so fearful and then consist only of warming, middling-hard slaps, or which begin with ten good strokes which make one wonder how one is to endure the whole punishment and then melts gently into a light “friendly-spanking”. All these whims and varieties are possible with spanking. The cane can never be so dallied with. A caning is a caning. Even the strap cannot be used lightly (in either sense of the word), but spanking is a different sort of punishment, a feminine punishment of infinite variety.
Dignity & Discipline
It is evident that no physical punishment can be a wholly dignified proceeding for the recipient, and there are times when it is entirely desirable to make her feel the humiliation of her position. However, the punishment as a whole: the occasion, the ritual, must have dignity, especially when inflicted by an adult. This means, of necessity, that a modicum of dignity must be allowed to the recipient. She may be shamed and subjugated; her skirts may be lifted; she may be made to feel like a very small child. All these things are acceptable and often salutary. The culprit must however be allowed to retain the dignity of a fundamentally noble, though temporarily erring, creature taking part in a venerable rite.
The aim of all discipline is to build character and to refine sensibility, not to undermine the one and abrade the other to bluntness. Punishment may sometimes humiliate but it should never degrade. If one were seeking to create a degraded child, lacking in self-respect and scarcely raising her sensibilities above the animal state, then modem discipline need play no part in one’s regime. One would merely send her to a “Coca-Cola” school of thirty years ago where civilized standards were unknown, discipline lax and corporal punishment utterly forbidden. There are still such schools in the Republic of California, and any one who wishes to contemplate the true meaning of degradation should study a typical product of one or another of these institutions.