Corporal Punishment - Ritual and Punishment

Ritual and Punishment

Corporal punishment in official settings, such as schools and prisons, has typically been carried out as a formal ceremony, with a standard procedure, emphasising the solemnity of the occasion. It may even be staged in a ritual manner in front of other students/inmates, in order to act as a deterrent to others.

In the case of prison or judicial punishments, formal punishment might begin with the offender stripped of some or all of their clothing and secured to a piece of furniture, such as a trestle or frame, (X-cross), punishment horse or falaka. In some cases the nature of the offence is read out and the sentence (consisting of a predetermined number of strokes) is formally imposed. A variety of implements may be used to inflict blows on the offender. The terms used to describe these are not fixed, varying by country and by context. There are, however, a number of common types that are encountered when reading about corporal punishment. These include:

  • The rod. A thin, flexible rod is often called a switch.
  • The birch, a number of strong, flexible branches of birch or similar wood, bound together with twine into a single implement.
  • The rattan cane (not bamboo as it is often wrongly described). Much favoured in the British Commonwealth for both school and judicial use.
  • The paddle, a flat wooden board with a handle, with or without holes. Used in US schools.
  • The strap. A leather strap with a number of tails at one end, called a tawse, was used in schools in Scotland and some parts of northern England.
  • The whip, typically of leather. Varieties include the Russian knout and South African sjambok, in addition to the scourge and the French martinet.
  • The cat o' nine tails was used in British naval discipline and as a judicial and prison punishment.
  • The hairbrush and belt were traditionally used in the United States and Britain as an implement for domestic spanking.
  • The plimsoll or gym shoe, used in British and Commonwealth schools, as well as at home, often called "the slipper". See Slippering (punishment).
  • The ferula, in Jesuit schools, as vividly described in a scene in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

In some instances the offender is required to prepare the implement himself. For instance, sailors were employed in preparing the cat o' nine tails that would be used upon their own back, while school students were sometimes sent out to cut a switch or rod.

In contrast, informal punishments, particularly in domestic settings, tend to lack this ritual nature and are often administered with whatever object comes to hand. It is common, for instance, for belts, wooden spoons, slippers, hairbrushes or coathangers to be used in domestic punishment, while rulers and other classroom equipment have been used in schools.

In parts of England, boys were once beaten under the old tradition of "Beating the Bounds" whereby a boy was paraded around the edge of a city or parish and would be spanked with a switch or cane to mark the boundary. One famous "Beating the Bounds" took place around the boundary of St Giles and the area where Tottenham Court Road now stands in central London. The actual stone that separated the boundary is now underneath the Centre Point office tower.

Read more about this topic:  Corporal Punishment

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