A brief history of spanking

20Nov09

Recently there was an entry on a web forum from someone who suggested that general interest in spanking and any form of BDSM or SBF only emerged, maybe in the 1950s, but probably did not get going until the permissive society in the 1960s.

Now it is certainly probable that until the 20th century it was not considered a valid form sexuality, but sexual interest in flagellation, as it was known, has a long history.

Although in times past it may well have been disguised and dressed up as something considered more wholesome for its age.

In ancient Egypt, for instance it was forbidden to whip your wife on her breasts unless she deserved it. Whipping her on the buttocks was your sacred duty and her lot in life, naturally.

The Egyptians even had a cult for it, Isis. This was a cult where the gods where honoured by whipping girls in temples. Wives, daughters and slave girls could also be expected to whipped by their husbands, mothers and masters in honour of the gods. Indeed it may have been considered a dishonour if they were not.

The cult of Isis was later transposed to ancient Rome, where senator’s wives indulged in ‘religious parties’ where they were whipped, all to honour the gods of course.

The Romans themselves had their own religious flagellation practices. Women were flogged during the Lupercalia, an ancient Roman pastoral festival, held in February to drive out evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.

The fertility aspect was the most important as the Romans believed that thrashing women on the bare bottom made them fertile. Young women were often taken to a temple by their sponsors and spanked over the lap in public to make them fertile. In the days of the Old Republic it was routinely done by the bride’s mother before her marriage.

The bride to be would be escorted by her mother to the appropriate temple and after an offering to the gods and the blessing of the priestess she would put across her mother’s knee and either spanked with the flat of the hand or more likely quite vigorously thrashed with a martinet.

So deeply held was the belief that spanking women’s bottoms made them fertile that one Roman general cautioned his colleagues not spare the rod on their daughters “for you cannot whip them too harshly, even if it not be justly done, then at least they will be better in the begetting of grandchildren.”

Tiberius himself used this as a justification when summoning the wives and daughters of his senators to his orgies. It would be naive to think that he had anything but a sexual motive.

William the Bastard, renamed the Conqueror by the Victorians, is said to have had a healthy spanking relationship with his wife Matlida. She is said to have refused to marry him, despite a promise by her father that she would, after saying very publicly that she was too good to marry an illegitimate man. William felt slighted by this, not withstanding it was true, and is said to have ridden to her house and spanked her in front of his men and her neighbours.

Afterwards when he agreed to set aside the betrothal vow. But she took back her objection saying, “She would do well in marrying such a strong man.”

Legend has it that he took her to task when ever she needed it and that she did not “greatly object.”

Catherine de Medici, the Queen and Regent of France between 1533 and 1589, is said to have spanked her maids. It is said that she summoned them and stripped them naked to be beaten for her amusement.

According to one story, she spanked a lady-in-waiting, herself a noblewoman, over her knee before the whole court for the crime of criticising her for her cruelty.

Another story about her is that she once flogged all her ladies-in-waiting on the bare bottom before her entire court because she was “displeased with them.”

Meanwhile in England the teenage Princess Mary, the future Mary I was spanked on the orders of her step mother Anne Boleyn. It is thought that she was so resented by Anne, that her servants birched her for the least offence. There is even one story that Anne herself once held Mary down and applied a slipper to her bottom.

A few years later another future queen of England, Lady Jane Grey, was also birched by her mother and her governess on the orders of her father. This was well illustrated in the movie with Helena Bonham-Carter, although in fact Jane was flogged in this manner over several months.

There was nothing unusual about Lady Jane’s treatment. At the time, women of good birth were often birched. The flogging of Tudor gentlewomen was usually carried out in the long gallery, as the name suggests, a long room that was hung with family portraits of long dead ancestors who would look down on the miscreant in disapproval.

However, the real champions of domestic discipline were the Russians.

Even in the court of the progressive Tsar, Peter the Great 1672–1725, women’s bottoms were not safe. Peter often “used the methods of a despotic landlord, the whip and arbitrary rule.” He is rumoured to have beaten his beloved wife Catherine. Her views on this are not known but this would have been considered quite normal in Russia at the time and for centuries after.

It was the usual custom that teenage girls were married to someone of their father’s choice, and after the usual formalities, the father would bring the girl to stand before him to be introduced to her husband-to-be. The father would administer a light, and sometimes not so light, whipping and then hand the whip to the future husband.

The Russian Orthodox Church sanctioned and encouraged the husband to discipline his wife by beating her. A wife would expect to be whipped and think her husband weak if he did not.

In 1556 a marital manual called the Household Management Code, written by a monk named Sylvester, ordered that a disobedient wife should be whipped.

It laid down strict rules about the submission of women to their husbands, stipulating obedience and loyalty.

If this sounds harsh, under Russian law a disloyal wife could be buried up to her neck and left to die.

During 18th century the future tsarina, Catherine the Great, was caned by her husband as apart of her ‘military discipline’ when they played his favourite game of drilling toy soldiers.

Perhaps she acquired a taste for it as years later when her lover, Mamonov eloped and married a 16-year-old, Catherine was furious. She is said to have sent her secret police, disguised as women of all things, to pursue the couple and when caught, Catherine had the girl whipped.

Up until the 19th century in the British Isles it was legal to beat your wife with a stick as long as it was no thicker than your thumb. That is well known, but fewer know that this law was only abolished in Sark during the 21st century.

Not all of the above was fun for the participants, but in four thousand years or more some one must have enjoyed it at least once.



14 Responses to “A brief history of spanking”

  1. 1 Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Nice history, as far as it goes, but what about the Sumerians? Was there no corporal punishment or spanking back in ancient Sumer?

    • 2 DJ

      Of course there was.

      The ancient Sumarians invented the botwop for that very purpose.

      But seriously there are other obvious omissions such as the Greeks and Etruscans. A Spartan wife could be divorced if she cried during a whipping.

      Also I did not include anything about Native Americans, the Etruscans, who both had some interesting practices, or supposed to have had.

      Cheers ;)

  2. http://www.concierge.com/travelguide/dominicanrepublic/seeanddo/30598

    “If you’re in the Dominican Republic during Carnival (every weekend in February and on the 27th, a national holiday, whenever that may fall) the only way to avoid it is to stay cloistered in an all-inclusive resort. Just about every decent-sized city on the island has some sort of celebration, though schedules may vary. The most famous by far is in La Vega, near Santiago and within day-trip distance of the north coast and the capital. Weekend nights are spent partying in the streets, at both official Carnival events with over-the-top sound systems and big time Dominican artists, and unofficial parties at rough-around-the-edges spots like outdoor bars or—believe it or not—gas stations. Teams spend months preparing elaborate costumes called “diablos cojuelos,” devils with artfully grotesque masks. But the real danger is in the famous “vejigas”—dried cow bladders or their synthetic likenesses—that the devils carry as whips as they roam the streets every Sunday. Anyone can be a victim, so follow the key rule, implemented only in saner, more recent years: no whipping anyone who’s on the sidewalk. (Corollary: no mercy for anyone who’s in the street.) “Vejigazos,” as the blows are known in Spanish, are generally applied to the buttocks and sting badly, but rarely cause anything but bruises; a few days later, all that’s really left is a great story.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter#Central_Europe

    “In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia and Slovakia, throw cold water on them. The pomlázka/korbáč consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four withies (willow rods), is usually from half a meter to two meters long and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking normally is not painful or intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women should be spanked in order to keep their health and beauty during whole next year.[57]

    An additional purpose can be for men to exhibit their attraction to women; unvisited women can even feel offended. Traditionally, the spanked woman gives a coloured egg and sometimes a small amount of money to the man as a sign of her thanks. In some regions the women can get revenge in the afternoon or the following day when they can pour a bucket of cold water on any man. The habit slightly varies across Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A similar tradition existed in Poland (where it is called Dyngus Day), but it is now little more than an all-day water fight.”

  3. 4 Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Great info, lurvspanking. The Dominican Republic customs are something I’d never heard of. Have you been there and done that?

  4. I love your essay on the history of spanking. Yes the history of corporal punishment has been aroung for ages. And still to this day, men have loved to discipline their naughty wives, bare bottoms, with their hand, paddle, hairbrush, birchrod, cane, and whip.

  5. Were these spankings in the ancient world, actually spanking that concentrated on the buttocks or floggings/whippings which cover the upper back? I’ve looked at a few of thsoe frescos that are suppose to be spankings. They look more at upper body whipping. Not till the western Middle Ages have I seen depictions of otk spankings on the buttocks.

    • 7 DJ

      The Roman’s were very much into OTK – the ritual is described in discilpline and fertility rights.

      Also the Vestals used whips on the bared bottom.

      The Estuscan murals include bottom-centric chastisement.

      The Egyptians had formular of when to use back bottom and breasts.

      Generally back for men – bottom for women – breasts could only be whipped if she really deserved it – implying that the bottom was more routinely chastised.

  6. 9 LR

    During 18th century the future tsarina, Catherine the Great, was caned by her husband as apart of her ‘military discipline’ when they played his favourite game of drilling toy soldiers.

    She was a maneater, or man’s lady, who took like 30 lovers or so while married to her husband, had her manstresses’ (male mistress) children, and this is what she got for her obnoxious behavior. And even if a woman is a deadbeat mother and wife, she deserves this too. It happens across all cultures. Any obnoxious wife who behaves badly deserves to be whipped. Sad but true.

    • 10 DJ

      The maneater stage as you put it, came later after he had lost interest in her. At the start of the marriage she was just a new toy for him to play with.

  7. 13 Torrie deAdam

    Absolutely fascinating. As an aside (and as evidence – if any was needed – to support DJB’s assertions about the Romans), if you ever happen to be near the British Museum on one of the rare occasions they open up their huge store of ancient Roman and Greek erotica, look out for the common motif of men with hard cocks taking people of all genders over their knee for a spanking at feasts. It’s a common image on drinking cups, plates and friezes. Sadly this collection would offend the sensibilities of many people (and the obvious Safeguarding issues) so cannot be displayed publically, but occasionally sees daylight.

  8. For an interesting bit of trivia, see [http://www.crackedhistory.com/the-saint-who-liked-to-spank/ about Saint Theodora, wife of Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great, who allegedly once spanked a man while empress.


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