Tuesday, April 5, 2016

From the Top Shelf - A Dissertation on the Cane

Today's excerpt is not fiction but fact, taken from a book entitled A Guide to the Correction of Young Gentlemen published by AKS books. It was written in the 1980's by Jacqueline Ophir who has written some excellent works on corporal punishment. Although the treatise refers to 'young gentlemen' there is no reason why the same principles should not hold true for 'young ladies'...or older ones for that matter!

The cane is one of the most important—and most intrinsically severe—of all instruments of punishment, and although it is most commonly found in the schoolroom, there is no reason why it should not be employed, where necessary, for domestic punishments as well. Second only to the birch, the cane stands—in England at least—for the symbol of corporal punishment, in the same way the martinet represents France, the tawse Scotland and the tappette* in the Americas.

Canes are made from a variety of materials, with rattan being the most popular, due to its unique combination of light weight and extreme flexibility. They can also be made from malacca and bamboo - both unsuitable materials in my opinion, since malacca is too 'knobbly' and bamboo is liable to splinter. Canes can also be made from whalebone, a very severe form indeed of this instrument. And, of course, ad hoc ferrules can be shaped very easily from switches cut from any hedgerow: hazel, willow, and young ash plants all being suitable, although only the last named will survive one punishment.

The standard British school cane is universally manufactured from rattan, and is typically supplied with one end already curled into the traditional handle. Lengths vary from about two feet (these are intended to be used across the knee on smaller culprits but I do not think this form of the punishment is ever truly effective) up to about four feet. Canes longer than this will be difficult to control and aim properly and should be rejected (unless the caning is of the judicial type).

The weight of a cane is the important thing and here appearances may be deceptive. Rattan is a very light material and inexperienced governesses not appreciating this are liable to choose their canes on the slender side, reasoning that this will make the strokes more merciful. In fact the reverse is true; a slim, wand-like cane is crueller and liable to cut. Thicker canes better combine the qualities of penetration and "spread", and are less likely to break the skin. I speak here in the context of a caning administered to the bare bottom. If clothing is retained then you may use any cane you like.

It is, as I have said, a severe instrument, and although versatile—it can be used to punish the hands and both the clothed and unclothed bottom—the cane should be used with respect for its considerable powers of penetration. Wrongly used, it can be a vicious implement.

In fact, its widespread adoption within British schools during the last century is a result of mistaken kindness and a certain prudery, mixed well together. Until the middle of the 19th century, the birch reigned supreme, but the application of the birch inevitably means the baring of the bottom; it can be applied under no other conditions - and a certain shyness involved in stripping offenders meant that another instrument, capable of penetrating even the thick material of a boy's workday breeches, had to be employed. For this purpose there is no better implement than the cane—unless it is the riding crop, which is certainly not for use in schoolrooms—and so it became adopted, particularly in state or church schools.

The irony of this of course is that many pedagogues continue to punish the errant on their bare buttocks but using the cane in this way, they are actually punishing with greater severity, stroke for stroke, than with the birch! The result of the mid Victorian prudery is therefore that many naughty boys actually suffer more than once they did—so often the case with ill thought-out "reforms".

The cane, therefore, is one of the few implements that I occasionally administer across the clothed seat. Six or twelve strokes applied with vigour to a tightly-presented target will cause enough distress to expiate most offences.

If I desire to inject a greater degree of shame into a caning, particularly one administered in class, I insist on the removal of trousers, but not necessarily underwear. I retain this option in case the offender misbehaves during the punishment.

Nevertheless it frequently comes about that a culprit will commit offences of such gravity that it becomes necessary to administer the cane on the bare bottom, almost always in private. I usually limit canings of this sort to a maximum of twelve strokes, although I have gone to 24 on a few occasions where very serious offences took place...

Applying the cane across the bare bottom is one way of observing the progress and effect of the punishment, and of checking one's aim. Some culprits have tougher backsides than others, but even a light caning of a few strokes will leave, in addition to the usual blush across the nether regions, intermittent evidence of the rod in the form of visible weals. If the strokes are administered at a slow pace—say one every ten seconds—the caner has time to observe these marks begin to develop and, like a rifleman, can correct the aim accordingly. All strokes should be delivered into as narrow a band as possible, and that area should correspond with the plumpest and best padded part of the posterior.

Administering any sort of caning is a matter of some precision, the attainment of which is generally a matter of practice. In order to be effective at all, it must be administered with a minimum of real force.

I have spoken much already about this excellent implement so here I shall confine myself to observations concerning its use. The cane is a highly penetrating instrument of great potential severity, and care must be taken when administering it; so much is obvious. It is also lighter than it looks. But the important point is its extreme flexibility. During the quarter-second or so of flight the instrument achieves a near-semicircularity in shape. Although it may appear stiff and straight, in practice it is more whiplike. The arm and wrist motion is therefore a complex one. At the beginning of the stroke, the hand leads the tip of the cane; it continues to lead throughout the descent; only at the last moment, after the shortest of follow-throughs, does the wrist halt and reverse direction slightly so that the business end of the cane "catches up" at exactly the right angle to the posterior. The achievement of a good caning action is therefore a matter of some diligence and constant practice.

Another precaution is to take one's stance slightly to the left of the target, perhaps as much as a half pace. This ensures that the tip of the cane, which travels faster than the rest of the instrument during the latter part of the flight, strikes the far buttock at precisely the same instant, and with the same force, as the rest of the cane makes with the near buttock. The result should be a perfect stripe across the broadest part of the bottom. This mark will immediately appear in white as you finish the stroke, then it will fade, to reappear (if it has been a severe stroke) within less than a minute as a thin welt.

I have spoken earlier about limits on the use of the cane. Feeble strokes merely tap the skin. Savage blows can cut it. Both are to be deplored. The result of a sound caning should be a welted bottom, certainly—if the behind is not vividly marked then the punishment has been too mild and will be too rapidly forgotten—but not a scarified one. That is simple brutality.

The cane should hum or whistle in the stroke and fall across the target with a sharp snap, like a toy pistol. There should be a pause between strokes, say a minimum of ten seconds.

Beware of canes that are too long. While a long cane whips-in satisfactorily, it is harder to control, and the stray six inches at the end may cause the further buttock to be punished more severely than its twin. Standing well to the left of the target is one cure, but on the whole it is best to use a slightly shorter weapon, and to strike slightly harder.

When a culprit is bending over in the conventional position, do not make the mistake of shaping your stroke with too great a downward component. The chances are that you may hit the base of the spine, or the cane will fall at an awkward, grazing angle, or you may punish the upper half of the buttocks and leave the lower, more sensitive, portion, unscathed. Take a horizontal or even slightly upwards aim, draw the cane back slowly within the same arc, then whip the forearm and wrist smartly through from one side to the other, keeping your eyes on the exact spot you are aiming for. Do not look up from this spot until you have completed the stroke. If the bottom has been bared beforehand, observe the mark and compare it to your point of aim, then adjust the next stroke accordingly.

A traditional way of limiting the amount of force that may be applied is to tuck a large book—say, the Bible—under your punishing arm and retain it there throughout the caning. A little experimentation will show that it is impossible to use the shoulder and upper arm muscles without letting the book fall. You are constrained to wrist and forearm, which is exactly as it should be. An even greater error is to be over harsh. The difference between the lightest cut that may be given, and the severest, is not large; and if greater severity is required it is safer to increase the number of strokes, or to apply some additional measure, such as baring the bottom, or administering the punishment in public, or all three.

Canings are well nigh impossible to administer in most of the spanking postures (over the knee etc) due to the length of the weapon. They must be inflicted with the culprit bent over (or if necessary held) for example touching toes, across a chair, a desk, the end of the bed. I do not favour any of the kneeling positions since this makes the angle of the body too acute for such a penetrating instrument as the cane; a culprit bending over and clasping shins, with knees straight and feet together is presented at precisely the right angle.

There being a natural formality about a caning, this tone should be maintained both before and after the punishment proper, wherever it is inflicted and under whatever conditions of dress. At the every least I make a caned offender write an imposition. On occasion, when trousers or pants have been taken down for example, I send the culprit shuffling to the corner to further shame and isolation, garments strewn around the ankles and hands on head.

A culprit may either be caned on the spot, as soon as possible following the commission of the offence or be sent to another room to await the punisher's arrival. The culprit may be ordered to fetch the cane from a closet - obliging a choice to be made from a considerable and varied collection.

Alternatively, of course, while the culprit, already positioned and appropriately stripped, waits in suspense and fear, you may coolly take your pick, assessing each cane at leisure until certain you have chosen the correct instrument for the task in hand. There is no hurry after all, and the unexpected waiting time adds to the fear and suspense of the overall punishment.

* I have never heard of a tappette or tapette. The various translations I found for this French word  are mousetrap, homosexual (slang), carpet beater and fly swatter, so take your pick.
From Hermione's Heart


Roz said...

Very interesting Hermoine and love how this is written. Thank you for sharing :)


ronnie said...

Interesting. She certainly knows about the cane. I enjoyed how it was written. Thanks Hermione.


Ella said...

Goodness, Hermione, this is practically a treatise on the subject. I would imagine she would not need to punish wrong-doer more than once.

Hugs From Ella

Hermione said...

Roz - Everything you always wanted to know - and more!

Ronnie - She is obviously very experienced.

Ella - Probably not!


Rollin said...

A tapette is a thin narrow paddle, sometimes with a flared wider "business end". I describe a punishment with a tapette in the novel, "The Mills Governess."

This description on the use of the cane is great material for any author who needs to describe a caning accurately. Thanks for posting it.

Cat said...

Wow Hermione...this article sure gives a lot of information regarding caning. Makes me even more certain I don't want a cane and my tush to meet! ;) Thanks for sharing.

Hugs and blessings...Cat

Katie said...

Hi Hermione! :) Well... I think you just talked me out of being brave enough to bring a cane home to Rob. My curiosity level just went to zero! LOL! SO glad I wasn't at one of those schools back in the day! Good grief!!! And they even had a "how to" manual...! Whoa! Thanks for sharing this. Many hugs,

<3 Katie

Hermione said...

Rollin - Thanks for the explanation. But I don't think a tapette is common enough to be considered the implement of choice in "the Americas" - Canada, USA, MExico, Central America and all the South American countries.

Cat - I quite agree with you. No thanks!

Katie - I wouldn't have minded going to one of those schools, since I was always very good. I would have enjoyed watching.