Thursday, August 29, 2013

The "Art" of Victorian Domestic Discipline

The Victorians are often credited for beginning if not perfecting the "art" of Domestic Discipline, although the use of spanking pre-dates this period by centuries.  Spanking goes back to the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Romans.  In those times it was often referred to as flagellation. 

My new release Surrender Your Grace is my first Victorian historical romance.  I really enjoyed the research and thought I would share with you some of the other interesting tidbits I found, but was not able include in my first book.  To start, here is a snippet from Surrender....

Set in the mid-1860's, a cruel twist of fate brings this unlikely pair together in an impromptu marriage. Andrew is a dominant young Lord who has very strong ideas on how his wife should behave. Cici is an innocent young Lady: sheltered, well-educated and well-bred. Will she learn to be the submissive wife he demands? And can Andrew exert his dominance without breaking her spirit?

She heard a splash and then a whippy noise through the air.  Confounded by the sounds she still kept her position, reluctant to add to her upcoming punishment.  Heavy footsteps sounded and momentarily, he was standing beside her. 

“Look at me, Cecilia.”
She instantly turned her head in compliance then gasped in alarm when she saw the tied bundle of sticks he held in his hand. 
“Do you know what this is?”
She shook her head negatively, but as she stared at the ominous looking punishment tool a feeling of dread crept over her. 
“This is a birching rod, something that I’m afraid you will become overly familiar with until you curb that tongue of yours." 

“Oh Andrew, please.  I am sorry for my behavior.”

Putting a large hand between her shoulder blades, he gently guided her back over the bench.  “Remain in position or I will bind you.  You are going to have to trust me, wife.  I am your husband and have no intention of harming you.  Understand that when I give correction it is to provide guidance for your well-being and the good of our marriage.   The birch will raise a good bit of fire on your skin, but I will be careful not to cut you and the way I employ it very rarely leaves bruises.”

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 Miss Taylor's History Class
Lesson 1:  The Birch Rod

There may be a quiz at the end, so pay attention!

During the 64 year reign of Queen Victoria, there were very strict societal rules for the deportment of men and women.  For women, the emphasis was on purity, refinement and domesticity.  Truly considered the weaker sex, their place was in the home in a domestic, subservient role with the man as the head of the household.  As such, it was lawful and often considered dutiful for the man to correct his women, including his wife, daughters and female servants.  In fact, the "rule of thumb" comes from actual laws on the books where it was acceptable to beat one's wife as long as the stick was no wider than the width of the man's thumb.

While these practices were outlawed by the end of the 19th century both here and in the U.K., the practice continues in many third world countries today.  In Western cultures, it is less common and is often in the context of consensual agreements such as Christian Domestic Discipline and Taken In Hand relationships or as sexual role play and foreplay.  And of course, if the practice between consenting adults is safe, sane, and consensual... Who are we as spankophiles to argue?

Some of the infamous tools of the Victorian disciplinarian included the cane, the birch rod and ginger root, aka figging.  Today, I am going to discuss my fascination with the birch rod.  (If you like, leave a comment and I will return on future posts to discuss the others.)

As you can see, the birch rod is not actually a rod, but a bundle of twigs.  

Birch rods were typically used in the home for domestic discipline.  The larger, heavier rods reserved for strapping young lads and the lighter, whippier rods for the women of the household.  But don't think the ladies got off easy, because the lighter the rod, the faster it could be wielded and thereby increasing the sting.

The rods were ideal when cut fresh.  They were known to dry out quickly, becoming stiff and brittle.  It was often inconvenient to make a fresh birch each day, unless you had one of the servants do it for you, so it was discovered that if the rod was soaked in a brine bath of salt, it would keep the twigs supple and provide an antiseptic benefit.  Thus, when the master of the house decided it was time to administer some much needed discipline to a naughty bottom, it was ready and available.

How does this rather rustic implement feel on the skin you ask?  It depends on the skill of the Master.  It can range from a mild, even pleasurable wispy sensation, or create a fiery sting, as is its reputation.  If punishment is the goal, added strokes and effort can make this tool quite effective when applied to a recalcitrant subordinate.

Be warned - like a freshly cut switch, if employed with a heavy hand, reddened welts and crisscrossing lines that break the skin can result, so take care.  Remember; safe, sane, and consensual - as always -  is the goal.

Today, birch rods, aka brooms are available for purchase and have advanced a bit.  Made of bamboo and polyurethane rods, as above, I'm sure these wicked little implements produce a sting equal to, if not more so, than their predecessors.  Yeow!

Here is an interesting blog with a brief spanking history if you'd like to read more:  Brief Spanking History

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