I’d like to share my recollections of corporal punishment some years ago at an English boys day school. It’s not that long ago that corporal punishment was considered quite normal and most boys expected to receive it at some time during secondary school, maybe several times each term, and even though we were generally punished less as we got older, we could still receive corporal punishment up to and including the sixth form, as I did.
In our school, corporal punishment meant the slipper or the cane. All teachers, including the female members of staff, regularly used the slipper. The cane could be used by any teacher, but they would have to request it from one of the senior teachers who were issued with the cane and more commonly administered the canings.
Most of my punishments in the six years I spent at the school came from male teachers but these recollections are of some of the whackings I received from two of the female teachers – Miss Simpson, the music teacher, and Miss Brown, who taught physics.
Perhaps I should start by describing the implements used at our school and the rules. The slipper was a regulation punishment implement and all teaching staff were issued with a good-sized Dunlop gym shoe, with a canvas top and a solid rubber sole. The cane was of the curved handle variety and quite whippy.
There were rules for administering the punishment. All parents had agreed to the schools rules, discipline policy and punishment code and any boy could be punished by any teacher, trainee teacher or certain members of the support staff (e.g. laboratory assistants, some domestic assistants) but only teachers and more senior staff were permitted to use the cane.
Punishments were always on the buttocks, bent over a chair, desk, table, etc., either over trousers or over pants with trousers down, but never on the bare buttocks. A reason had to be given for the punishment (which the boy needed to acknowledge) and for the type and severity of punishment used.
There were three kinds of corporal punishment. First, on the spot – usually four with the slipper and mostly unrecorded. Second, recorded punishments – which were noted on a boy’s ‘house record card’, a small card carried at all times to record a boy’s conduct (good or bad). These recorded punishments could be up to six with the slipper or cane. Thirdly, referrals to the house master or headmaster for more serious offences, which nearly always resulted in a caning of six or sometimes up to eight strokes.
There were three essential rules for receiving corporal punishment. One, always comply with the instructions. Two, do not object or complain once interrogations and explanations were completed. Three, while being punished, keep in position and as quiet as possible, preferably silent. Infringement of these points could lead to further action.
There were, of course, other punishments available, including lines, detentions and punishment runs, all of which were also regularly used. When a boy’s ‘house record’ showed poor conduct in a monthly check, he could be liable for further punishment. Also, each term’s report detailed all recorded punishments, so it was pointless to avoid telling your parents, as they would find out anyway.
The first situation I would like to describe was in the music room not long after I joined the school. While it was not my first experience of corporal punishment, it was my first from a female teacher.
Miss Simpson was about 30, slim, with dark hair and about 5ft 7in tall. We had been set an exercise to compose a short melody, and during this we were passing round a piece of paper on which we were writing rude words. I was the one caught with the paper, which I had to bring to the front of the class. I was then asked to give an explanation of what was going on and name the others involved.
I only expected lines but because I declined to name the others, I was told that I would be slippered. Miss Simpson asked for my house record for marking up and then instructed me to fetch the slipper from the back of the room.
I complied and I then had to bend over a chair in front of my class while Miss Simpson gave me six stinging slaps with the slipper, which hurt for some time after. Being punished by a female teacher in front of my class was humiliating but at the same time it also was exhilarating and I found all my other punishments from female teachers evoked similar experiences which were absent when being punished by a male teacher.
The second situation was some months later with Miss Brown in the physics laboratory. We were larking about with some of the equipment when she unexpectedly came into the room.
Miss Brown believed in character-building and her favourite punishment was to make boys report for an early morning three-mile punishment run, which was what we expected and had to do the following morning.
However, some equipment was damaged and she concluded that I and another boy were responsible and that we would receive additional punishment, which would be administered after school when she had considered the matter further.
When we reported at 4.15, she was waiting with track suit and running shoes on and the slipper in her hand. Miss Brown was in her mid-30s, a county champion runner, very fit and noted for her reputation with the slipper and the cane.
Her technique was very different from Miss Simpson and she applied much more ritual to the process of punishment. Miss Simpson normally stood on the spot, having decided the best position with a couple of practice movements, lifted the slipper high in the air and brought it down firmly and accurately on the boy’s bottom.
Miss Brown, on the other hand, stepped back 6 to 8ft, lifted the slipper high and ran forward, bringing it down fast, hard and very precisely onto the boy’s buttocks after she had completed a couple of sprint paces.
Miss Brown did not use corporal punishment very often but she told us before punishing us that when she did, she believed it had to be firm, and hurt – but never excessive. Six of the best was not considered excessive then. Her view was that the memory of a ‘good’, well-administered slippering or caning would certainly act as a deterrent.
I was told that I was to be slippered second and that I had to wait with my hands on my head and watch the first slippering. Miss Brown then put the slipper on her desk, moved a small table into position at the front of the room and told the other boy to bend over with his trousers down, while she picked up the slipper and positioned herself ready to begin.
I felt butterflies in my stomach as I saw Miss Brown step back and run up six times, giving my class mate one of the most thorough six of the bests with the slipper I have ever witnessed – knowing, of course, that I was to be next.
On completion of his punishment and at her instruction, the other boy got up, pulled up his trousers and stood to the side with his hands on his head. I was told to assume the same position, which I promptly did. I heard her step back and the punishment started.
It was certainly the best six with the slipper I ever received and which I still remember vividly to this day. A characteristic of Miss Brown’s slipperings was that they always left a mark for a few days, even through pants.
I was slippered on other occasions by Miss Simpson but never caned by her. I was also slippered again by Miss Brown and caned by her on one occasion. This was for fighting outside school, two terms after the slippering I described above.
I had been seen by Miss Brown as she drove home while I was involved in a boys’ brawl and I was duly summoned the next day to report to her after school. She was dressed in her track suit and running shoes as before, but this time she was sat at her desk. All I had to do was to confirm that it was me she had seen and acknowledge the shame I had brought on myself, my house and the school.
She then told me that I was going to be caned by her – six strokes – and that for the next three Wednesdays I would have to do a morning punishment run. I was then sent to my housemaster’s room to fetch the cane. Although I had fetched a cane before I still remember the humiliation of having to ask the housemaster, Mr Jordan, for the cane for Miss Brown to do me. He was expecting me, got the cane from his cupboard and gave it to me, telling me that he was very disappointed that Miss Brown had found it necessary to take this course of action.
Because Miss Brown imposed a time limit of 10 minutes for my return, I almost had to run from Mr Jordan’s room, which was situated in another of the school buildings.
When I returned I knocked on the door and on the command ‘come in’ I saw Miss Brown had rearranged the furniture for her usual punishment technique.
I was terrified but in a way also very excited about what was to come. I closed the door and walked over to her desk. She stood up, took the cane from me and then confirmed that I had understood my punishment. She told me to take down my trousers and bend over the table – I was to be caned across only my pants.
I bent over and waited while she stepped back to her starting position. Then I heard her start forward and the swish of the cane as it moved through the air. I remember the blow, followed by the incredible sting, as she managed to wrap the cane right across both buttocks.
She moved back and started again, to bring down the second stroke. Although I had experienced six with the cane before, this really was the most expertly-administered punishment I ever received and it was delivered with the true passion and belief that Miss Brown had in its effectiveness.
After four strokes my bottom was completely on fire and I don’t know how I stayed silent through the fifth and sixth strokes. On completion I stood up when told, and following another short lecture about letting everyone down, I was allowed to go.
It really was a punishment where it hurt to sit down afterwards. Although it had been delivered with incredible effect and had left some weals, Miss Brown’s expertise and sensitivity showed in how quickly the visible signs of the caning disappeared.
If ever corporal punishment is mentioned, it is always this episode which comes first into my mind and is relived second by second.
Needless to say, I now have a keen interest in corporal punishment and I believe it was the punishments I received from Miss Simpson and Miss Brown, and watching the punishments the female staff administered to other boys, that created the desire I now feel to still experience CP administered by a female teacher or other female authority figure.
I have always kept the reports with my punishment record details – and school photographs, which show Miss Simpson and Miss Brown.