The Mark of a Gentleman

14Apr12

waiting gin dreadThe Victorians, it seems were very concerned about bruises on women. Welts and redness were to be expected in certain situations, but black, blue or purple marks were seen as a mark of brutality.

One eminent physician even went as far as to advocate the use of the slipper over almost any other implement when spanking wives, “as soft leather is apt not to leave unsightly bruises.”

However if one was determined to employ the cane, he explained, then he advocated using a ginger fig inserted in the anus to “discourage clenching.” Clenching was much more likely to result in bruises.

There was all kinds of advice on punitive enemas and figging as a prelude to spanking and more especially caning; much of it in quite respectable publications and medical journals.

During the second half of the 19th century it was made illegal to beat your wife in England, although this prohibition did not extend to servants and dependent women. So advice on the correct procedure for the chastisement of women was given in another guise.

A manual for governesses advocated caning and spanking “by way of a battledore” only for young women over 16. It suggests that “young women must be discouraged from clenching, as this tends towards bruising.” It too advocates ginger figging as a salutary method of prevention, adding “indeed this method can be used on any lady in need of correction.”

Of course the most common and acceptable method of chastisement was the birch. This tends to graze and not bruise and therefore an “acceptable alternative for use by a gentleman” on women in his charge.

However, as widely discussed in Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, the birch was often described as being to brutal for most young women, especially those between 16-19, so where the slipper was considered “too benign” “a light cane might be employed.”

Again the merits of figging were discussed, but strangely there is very little mention of the added punitive effects of such a punishment.

In short, if you were a gentleman then you did not bruise your women and any method employed to avoid this fate for them was just their bad luck.

Just to finish, it is worth noting that it was not just men who were concerned with bruising. Lady Morton wrote to her young friend suggesting that she should accept “any reasonable chastisement” from her husband “so long as he does not bruise you.”

A certain Mrs Compton-Reeves wrote in her diary that she had implored her husband to either take up the birch or to fig her as her governess had done “lest he leave unsightly bruises” on her fair skin.

There will be more on this subject on A Voice presently, so watch this space.



10 Responses to “The Mark of a Gentleman”

  1. a interesting glimpse in to another time

  2. 2 paul1510

    Damian,
    an interesting post, I look forward to further research.
    Paul.

  3. Excellent, very informative. Thankyou. Why was bruising such a no-no? Was it out of some desire not to do damage, or was it more about a gentleman’s wish to view his wife’s bottom in a flawless state?

  4. Did the gentleman of the house add ginger to the cook’s shopping list? Did he instruct the butler to bring it to him from the pantry? One wonders…

  5. 5 Ayla

    Ginger figging has interested me and I have read about it several places recently, including what you’ve written. The bruising connection is new information. But honestly, I don’t think I can understand how to do this at home without a detailed internal/external diagram, which I have never seen. Does your talent extend to drawing, DJ?

  6. 7 DJ

    I think bruises were seen as vulgar. Vulgarity was the ultimate sin for the Victorians.

    I am sure if there was a butler then it would have been his job to pare the ginger and bring it on a silver tray along with the cane. 😉

    I cannot draw and although I have experimented with figging I am no expert and would not want to advise anyone.

    For more info try here: http://www.figging.com/ or here http://www.seekers.org.uk/Figging.htm

    thanks for the feedback

    • 8 Tally Jo

      Please, sir, more about figging and caning together? I know it’s not for everyone, but certainly for naughty girls such as myself?

      Thank you for the delicious site. I adore your writing and your style.

      • 9 DJ

        Well thank you kindly Miss.

        I have yet to explore this theme in fiction to such an extent – but who knows. 😉

  7. 10 Ana

    Ouch ouch ouch…but very interesting, I must admit! 🙂


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