A brief history of spanking
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.
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Tags: birching, history of punishment, spanking