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 offences-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.
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 civilised 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.