Thursday, December 23, 2010

Military Flogging—Humiliation?

In our modern world, we have the luxury of seeking the painful test of endurance that is a flogging (and the pleasure of watching another man endure his own test).  Most of us probably started out by taking a belt or jump rope or something like it to our own backs out of curiosity and then sought a partner to inflict floggings in a manner befitting our curiosity and desires.  It is easy for us to engage in the sport of endurance flogging—and seek ever harder tests—when we know that no damage or permanent scars will result. 

In times past, though, flogging was a true punishment: bloody, permanently scarring, and humiliating.  Something to, in fact, be avoided. I am thinking specifically of military summary judgments which allowed commanding officers to inflict savage floggings upon their personal order—for any offence, actual of perceived—with soldiers having no right to appeal and no choice but strip off their shirts and accept it or face harsher punishment.  Don’t get me wrong here, I am not trying to discuss past injustices, I am trying to understand how soldiers subjected to this kind of discipline viewed it.

Soldiers undoubtedly feared their officers because the officers controlled the whip, and that fear became the basis of military discipline.  That discipline taught soldiers their military being and bearing—how to respect and obey officers, behave in garrison and in the field, how to march sharply on parade, and how to face enemy cannons.  It created (at least the appearance of) courage in the face of the enemy because soldiers feared the certain threat of the lash more than the uncertain threat of battle.

While it is easy to understand why soldiers would resent having skin flogged off their backs, how did they individually react to it when it was they who were seized up?  Officers wanted/needed to make an example of each offender, so the pain of a military flogging probably overwhelmed many young men and broke them into screaming and begging for mercy (we don’t see that in the movies for the most part, but we read about it in historical accounts (mostly from people opposed to flogging as a form of punishment)).  How does a genuinely brave man face his peers when they have watched an officer’s lash break him?  This is where the humiliation aspect of the punishment comes into the picture.

But what about the long term?  Did the humiliation break a man’s spirit and last the rest of his lifetime, or did it wear off as the wounds healed (and other men were put under the lash)?  Did soldiers hide their scars because of their past humiliation, never removing their shirts when doing soldiers’ work outdoors?  Or did they expose their backs at every opportunity to display their experience, prove their personal bravery, and demonstrate their manly disregard for pain?

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone.  I hope Santa leaves a lot of leather under your tree!


  1. Sir, having spent time in the service and also experienced severe lashings across my back with quirts, military cat, and singletail I think I am qualified to comment.
    First, nothing tops your tank's testosterone levels than a good whipping. It's a challenge and a matter of pride to sack up and take the pain. I would recommend it to guys as a character builder and esp Marines who want to show how much pain they can take.
    That said, would I restore the lash in today's services? No way. We have better ways of making men and instilling the pride and honor of wearing the uniform and doing one's job and mos duties to the utmost. The one exception might be in the brig where a good cell flogging could be a suitable and manly method of correction. 40 lashes well laid on.
    Also in my experience, I have never seen or had a permanent scar from a whipping even with a knotted cat laid on hard. But I have read that men would take off their shirts to show whip scars. And the men would talk about floggings they had received for bragging rights. But you don't ruin a good man with 800 lashes, that's idiotic so we've come a good way since then. But reasonable judicial flogging is a good idea and you know as well or better than any that we are built to take it.

  2. I think the offender was in too much pain to be humiliated, and most people would have enough charity not to comment on something that could just as easily befall them.

    Also, into the 20th century, flogging fairly common. It was last used in the U.S. state of Delaware in 1952.

    I remember, in 9th grade physical education class, in 1971, a student removed his shirt as he was getting dressed out for class, and we noticed some angry red marks on his back. Someone asked him what happened. He matter-of-factly said his father had given him a whipping, but it was okay, because he did good things for him too.

    Can you imagine what would happen today? Child protective services would have landed on that case like a duck on a june bug!

  3. I would agree that most soldiers were probably afraid of the lash and crying out or screaming would be humiliating however savage the punishment. Only a few men could take that kind of punishment without crying out but it is historical record that such men existed and took pride in how hard they were - and were respected for it, even to the point of one 'flogging regiment' where this was expected.

    I agree with Mike about flogging in the brig but also in basic training where if you fuck up it is dealt with hard and then you move on. And for a fit soldier I mean a real severe punishment, say 100-200 lashes with a military cat. But then as a fighter I pride myself on my physical toughness and reckon I would have been one of the few that could take it. And yeah I do have some idea just how much pain a really brutal army flogging would inflict and that the reality is a hell of a lot tougher than the fantasy. So a similar attitude to Mike - it is all about being hard, being tougher than the rest.

    Of course if I was wrong then it would be humiliating or downright embarrassing but that is the same risk you take every time you get in a ring.

    Sorry not got a log on yet, just refer to me as that nutty hard case!

  4. Is mike still into taking floggings?? whipaddict @

  5. C'mon, 100 or 200 lashes, the dude would probably pass out five or six times, have to be revived, or maybe not make it period I don't care how fit the guy is. What's the freakin point?

    If the guy laying on the whip doesn't have the dude hanging by his wrists after 50, then he deserves to suffer the same consequence.

    I'm wondering if any soldier knew that one of the punishments for disobeying orders, fighting, or whatever was a whipping. Was there some kind of hand book detailing punishment? Who decided how many lashes were to be inflicted, and what kind of whip was to be used.
    39 lashes seems to be common place not only in the military but in Colonial times, and on the wagon trains westward.

    And I'd bet the farm that any soldier who took a whipping probably plotted some kind of retaliation on the guy who whipped him.

    I've never had a permanent scar from any whipping, but I have had welts removed, rather burned off my back because they began to bother me. It was like someone was sticking a fricken needle in them.

  6. Richie, back when the cat was used in the british army and penal colonies then sentences of 100-200 lashes were common place - often more. Theres a load of historical stuff on the web and in books. And no they didnt usually pass out and yes a very few could endure the entire punishment without crying out.

  7. For me the "not crying out" bit is the most important thing. Silent, stoic & as emotionless as possible is the real goal for me. So far managed 25 hard lashes with thick leather belt - but with long gaps between strokes. Aiming to get up to 50 if pos.

  8. Richie, I have given and received really brute whippings with a cat and none of us was hanging limp by our wrists after. A bullwhip would be different, too much of a sentence for that whip, but not a military cat or even a signal whip.

  9. Yo he dado y recibido azotes, hasta 100 llego perfectamente. Con gato de varias colas, me gustarĂ­a si probar con un latigo

  10. I have received a whipping of 200 lashes with cats and a signsl whip and another of 370 lashes with 2 differerent Texas bullwhips (which I suspect were signal whips). Granted i had some grog in me but I also have tough Mediterranean skin and I was having a "good" day. For me it was a test of manhood and endurance plus a character building experience. Well... I also wanted to be able to brag...

  11. Hey man....I have read of soldiers, sailors and prisoners in Australia who proudly shoewd their LASHED bodies off to other men...especially younger men to teach them about endurance and pride under the WHIP.....when I first came to the leather community in NYC, many men would engage in WHIP competitions (and other TORTURES!) to demonstrate their strength, bravery, and committment...and would do it at private clubs to provide "entertainment" for those dedicated to man-rituals and the LASH! Would like to meet other men to share.....

    1. Yes, I read the same thing and it must have been commonplace and understandable for men, freshly lashed, to let their mates see, touch and tend to their well-cut stripes and for those not yet having felt the hissing tails o' the cats to be envious and feeling the need for stripes to be real men.