Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Spare the rod?

I've come across a couple of interesting discussions this week on the theme of corporal punishment. It's now virtually illegal in the UK apart from a concept termed "reasonable chastisement", introduced in response to public demand, allowing parents to adminster it to their offspring to a mild degree. I certainly got my fair share as a boy in the form of smacks and spankings, not to mention a damn good hiding or two, and including at least one occasion when I was spanked with a gym plimsoll at primary school. While I was still in short trousers, my mother had a nice line in yanking up my trouser leg and giving me a couple of hard whacks across the back of my bare thigh in public if I misbehaved while we were out anywhere. By and large I didn't think anything much of it: it was just a normal part of growing up, and it certainly never did me any harm. It was simple, but effective. I knew where I stood. I knew what I was and wasn't allowed to do, what I could or couldn't get away with, and what the consequences were if I did something I'd been told not to. There was no "discussion" about it, and I was well into my teens, I think, before I successfully challenged the basic rules.

I didn't ever get strapped or caned, although both were still very much in vogue as punishments during my schooldays. I did get a couple of detentions at secondary school. They weren't much more than a waste of time: they had precious little deterrent value apart from spurring me on to take slightly more care in future to avoid being caught. My main concern in fact was preventing my parents from finding out in case I then got punished for getting into trouble at school! Certainly none of us ever dared show the level of open defiance (and the lack of any real fear of consequences) that I found exhibited by pupils at a large comprehensive school when I was on a six-month job secondment there in the late 1990s.

But then I didn't as a boy want to get strapped or caned, either. If I had been, I imagine I'd have accepted it with my customary timidity rather than rebelling angrily against it. But quite apart from anything else, having a reputation for being exceptionally well-behaved meant - a) that I was never suspected of anything, so I could (and occasionally did) get away with all manner of assorted misdeeds, - and b) that I got all sorts of extra privileges and rewards because I supposedly could be trusted. The carrot vs stick psychology certainly worked better than anything else for me.

In the light of all this, I must admit I've become rather fascinated by some of the psychology behind consensual cp. A decreasing number of adults are going to have had any first-hand experience of the real thing as kids, but despite that, the time-honoured "six of the best" is an enduring British tradition which still seems to live on in guys' minds, and apparently in quite a number of cases on their backsides as well! The purely masochistic element I can relate to easily as I have a very submissive side to my nature. The whole "one sir, two sir, three bags full sir" role-play scene on the other hand does very little for me at all. Like most things, it's all a matter of taste and whichever way you slice it, submitting voluntarily to a painful beating has got to be something of an acquired taste. I do think my life would be very bland and dull, however, if I didn't sample the occasional new taste every now and again!

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