By Patrick Briody, April 2007

"I have a distinct distaste for the practice," says Dr David Benatar of the Philosophy Department, University of Cape Town, towards the end of an 8,000-word thesis defending what he has a distaste for, "and in the years that I taught school children I never resorted to corporal punishment."

This is an example of the way academics can get themselves into a real mess when their intellectual deliberations disengage from their moral sensibilities and float off into a separate universe. Things are not improved when he explains his position with an analogy: "For example, it is sometimes justified to take another person's life, as in the case of self-defense, yet even in these circumstances we would judge the killer to be morally defective if he enjoyed or even failed to detest his killing of the aggressor".

It's alarming when a trained philosopher cannot spot his own fallacious logic. Killing in self-defence is a necessary action, sanctioned by law, and the killer is absolved by everyone except pacifists. It would be another matter if alternative methods had been available to stop the aggressor. Half the countries of western Europe have done without corporal punishment in their schools for more than a hundred years, and their societies have not collapsed. That corporal punishment is unnecessary is not an opinion, but an established fact, and not even its most ardent supporters could claim the contrary. They do not support it because it's necessary, but because they think it's good, that it's beneficial, or because they like it, that's all. Dr Benatar's analogy is more than invalid, it's ludicrous. The transparent falsity of his intellectual position on this point should be noted now, because this same false logic is built into the thesis as a whole, as I will demonstrate.

If you have the stamina, you should read the whole essay. But if you haven't, you can read my summary of his arguments, which I'll give after making some preliminary observations.

In theory, Dr Benatar deals with corporal punishment both at home and at school, but the emphasis in the detail shows that corporal punishment in schools is mostly what is on his mind. In his discussion of alternative punishments he talks often of detention and written punishments, like "lines", and not at all about "grounding" or "stopping pocket money" or "taking away toys" or "the naughty step". Good, because school is what is on my mind too, and the reason is autobiographical.

I was already fifty years of age before my mother apparently learned that I had been beaten at school. I say "apparently" because my sister takes a different view. A memoir by a Zimbabwean that referred to frequent school beatings had recently been published, and both I and my sister were present when my mother expressed her horror. Since I had been at school there, she turned to me and asked, "They didn't do things like that to you, did they?" My mouth didn't fall open, or not much, but my sister's chin nearly landed on her chest. She reminded my mother of an incident dating from when I was about eight years old and already attending a boarding school. At that time my sister and I had to share a bedroom, and at the start of the school holidays she caught a glimpse of the marks left on my backside by a caning that I must have had near the end of term. She was upset enough to go straight to my mother. She doesn't remember what the response was exactly, except that it didn't seem to cause my mother any alarm. At any rate, she declined to come and look. I don't remember the incident at all, and was not present at the conversation anyway, but four decades later my mother denied it vehemently, and became quite indignant, avowing that if she known things like that had been done to me she'd have... well, she didn't say what she'd have done, but something.

But what? In those days there was no such thing as "parental consent" (or even these days, in Zimbabwe). The existence of corporal punishment was in the school prospectus, even if its extent was unexplored, and all that was required of you was to read it. Your silence was taken as consent. Parents' de facto support for corporal punishment was something schools depended on, the trump card they could brandish in any dispute. But the truth was that parents had no choice, because there were no boys' schools that didn't use the cane. Thus, they had you in an arm-lock. If a boy refused a caning, and was supported by his parents, he'd have been out of the school before sunset, no appeal.

But if the blackmailing of parents was one factor explaining the holes in my mother's memory, another was my own silence. Essentially, I was responsible for her ignorance by colluding in a game of let's-pretend. The truth is I didn't want my mother to know I was subject to such things, because the "distinct distaste" that Dr Benatar claims for himself is something I can claim from my earliest days. And my silence extended also to my father, even though he went to a boys' school himself, and I assumed he knew all about it. It was a subject I didn't want raised. And my parents' own silence during the ten years or so that I attended boarding schools might have stemmed from something similar in them. That is very likely, because while both my sister and I can remember occasional smacks as children, we agree that neither of our parents touched us after the age of seven or eight. So it makes sense that my mother didn't welcome my sister's disturbing report, and declined to come and look at the purple mess on my chastised bum. She didn't want to know.

After that revelation in middle age I began to cast my imaginative net wider, trying to estimate how many other boys back then also followed some agreed code of silence with one or both of their parents. For example, of the boys I knew at home, and whose parents I knew, how many had been physically punished by them after the age of eleven or twelve? Some, maybe, but I didn't know of any - and boys are not slow to convey such things to each other, even if they keep their emotional responses to themselves. But no gossip of that kind ever reached my ears during my adolescence, a time during which boys took school beatings for granted.

I don't want to make too much of this, because class comes into it. My schoolfellows came from white middle-class families, the administrators, minor officials and businessmen of the British colonial era. In working-class families it might have been different - was different, if the black-and-white films I saw about British working-class life were anything to go by. But for us, corporal punishment was not an expected part of life at home, whereas it was a cast-iron certainty at school. And apparently it had parents' approval. But had it? For one thing, what exactly did they know - that corporal punishment existed? Maybe it said so in the prospectus: "While for more serious offences corporal punishment is not ruled out, at St Mark's we try to....", and they would have had to make their own estimation of how many instances there would be in the course of a term. Would they have thought it possible that, say, 30-40 boys in a school of 400 could be beaten in a week, as was common at my school? Maybe the fathers knew, but it's impossible for me to imagine an average mother hearing that fact without her hand flying to her throat.

Colonial life in places like Zimbabwe was a privileged life, and those were privileged schools that were accorded a prestige beyond their due. People treated them with the kind of deference they granted doctors, experts who knew what was best and who didn't need to be questioned too closely. Those attitudes have survived the dissolution of empire, and are to be found today in that country, where the same schools still wield the same power. Parents are both dazzled and subdued, and maybe critical faculties are proportionately suppressed. Thinking about my mother's "ignorance", it dawned on me that I had been the gull of some very persuasive confidence-trick. The parents knew and didn't know, they approved and didn't approve, and it would all work fine as long as there was omerta, the code of silence instinctively respected by the victims.

At any rate, I am quite sure that school life accounted for 99% of the beatings among my contemporaries aged 12-17 in Zimbabwe, and I don't doubt this discrepancy between home and school is still found there. I would also speculate that the beatings that happen in the home are in some way encouraged by the beating culture in schools, because it is the faux-judicial nature of school corporal punishment that lends a specious legitimacy to the whole practice. So school life is what I'm thinking about, and I'm happy that Dr Benatar is tilted in the same direction.

In his essay, Dr Benatar uses a phrase, "mild and infrequent" to describe the kind of corporal punishment that he judges acceptable. What the "infrequent" part of it means is something I can only guess at, but I won't. He doesn't say. So you'll just have to make your own guess. But I'm not letting him get away with "mild", even though he does define it early on as "the infliction of pain without injury". Well, the guidelines by which abuse levels are judged by the authorities in the UK, where CP in the home is still legal, stipulate that no marks may be left on the flesh. What that means in practice is that the term "corporal punishment" no longer really applies, and should be replaced with something like "physical admonishment", implying the token force of a slap on the wrist. To qualify as corporal punishment at all, an action would have to produce sufficient pain to make pain the essential content, rather than, say, humiliation or shock. And it isn't possible to reach that level without leaving the kind of marks that the authorities would call "abusive". So, de facto if not de jure, "corporal punishment" is no longer legal in the home.

The truth is that corporal punishment is a very crude device - and I use the word in the sense of "unsophisticated" or "non-complex". It's the slimmed-down deterrent that has only one agency - physical pain - to produce one psychological consequence - fear. At least in terms of its intentions, if not necessarily its actual result, that's the only game. All the foggy and circular language that its advocates might use to describe its benefits can all be boiled off, and you end up with that distilled objective - fear through pain.

What is obvious, or should be, is that when you are dealing with adolescent boys, a portion of the human race that includes a lot of tough nuts, the quantity of pain must be considerable if that objective is to be gained. There is a minimum level of severity that corporal punishment cannot fall below without ceasing to qualify as corporal punishment. You can even deduce what is meant by "mild" from what Dr Benatar says about a scale of punishments: "In the context of a school, it fills an important position between punishments like detention on the one hand, and expulsion on the other." While he touches on the subject of the number of strokes given (and he is thinking, as I am, about the British cane, not the American paddle), he doesn't say what he thinks the maximum should be. But, at any rate, since the 1950s, six strokes has always been considered the top end of the severity scale, and that is probably what he thinks too. That takes, at most, ten seconds (or it would with "humane" beaters, rather than the "cruel" ones who like to string it out), but if we take an average caning of three strokes it would take five seconds. Yet if this average punishment is to have a severity-rating Dr Benatar suggests on his "scale of punishments" (which is where most schools place it in any case), there must be more suffering packed into that five seconds than into a whole hour of detention.

Of course, it's true that you can't make an arithmetical ratio of these durations (1:720) because, while the beating itself is of short duration, the pain lasts a lot longer. And, as every boy knows, it doesn't really begin until you've left the office, because the immediate effect of violent strokes of a cane is to numb the nerves. When it really hits, say, twenty seconds later, it's likely to leave you speechless for ten minutes. But still, you can see what must be done in five seconds to induce that much agony.

Dr Benatar's prescription, "pain without injury", does nothing useful except to exclude judicial canings like those of Singapore, which lead to permanent scarring. And we can take it that it would also exclude behaviour in parts of Africa where there is so little control that children are sometimes beaten about the head and neck with canes. So, if it means anything at all, "without injury" means "without permanent injury". It could not possibly mean adhering to those standards which even British authorities nowadays use to determine "abuse", because that would preclude even temporary injury.

And corporal punishment, even at the minimum level of severity, must cause temporary injury. A three-stroke caning at my school in the sixties was likely to break the skin in two or three places and cause minor bleeding, enough at any rate to make your underwear stick to your bum for the rest of the day where specks of blood had oozed and congealed. Sometimes a stroke could break the skin even if it landed on a virgin area, but the most common cause was one stroke landing on top of another. When you are hit with force by a cane the flesh swells immediately, springing up within a couple of seconds, so another stroke landing in the same area will hit flesh that is already swollen, and that invariably means the skin will burst.

The wounds it leaves are angry red welts, long channels whose edges might stand up from the surface of the flesh by half the width of a fingernail. And six strokes (the maximum) could leave a criss-cross pattern, like tracks left by bicycle tyres in the mud. Over the next few days they will turn from bright red to dark red, then purple, then black. The time they take to disappear altogether varies from boy to boy, but two weeks is probably the average.

As for the pain, that's hard to describe and even harder to quantify. In my nearly six decades I have experienced many different kinds of pain, and some of them could have been as intense as that from a school caning. And I'm ransacking my memory now, trying to think of one. A "peak" pulse from a shocking toothache, possibly. But it's hard to say, because different kinds of pain have different textures. Those who have experienced the cane know what it is; but those who haven't need some equivalence, and the nearest I can think of is the momentary agony when you accidentally touch a hot-plate on a stove. But extended, obviously - sustained for five, ten, fifteen minutes. It is, actually, as if a white-hot bar had been laid across your flesh and held there.

There might be other phenomena following on behind the pain, which would differ in different individuals. In me, at any rate, it was often accompanied by nausea. Whether that was a purely neurological reaction, or whether it had a psychological component is hard to say, but probably it was both. But the most disturbing phenomenon I remember was not one I experienced myself, but one I observed in someone else. Waiting my turn for a beating, I heard the ugly swiping sounds coming from behind the closed door of the office as the boy ahead of me got his dose, and a few seconds later he came came out with the pupils of his eyes shrunk to pinpoints. It was an image that haunted me for weeks afterwards.

The role of boys themselves in sustaining corporal punishment through the generations can't be suppressed, and I have to admit that even after all this time I feel a little uncomfortable dissecting the physical reality of it, and can't shake off a vague sense of having broken some rule or other. And I'm aware that it's the remnants of a psychological state that boys were supposed to cultivate, which is one where the experience had to be minimised. Whether in front of boys or in front of staff, you had to show a brave face. But that might be harder today than it was formerly, at least at one school. It seems out of place to talk about "decent standards" in relation to this subject, but one thing that did exist at my school was recovery time. Canings were carried out twice a day, with a queue of culprits being dealt with in one session, but these sessions were always held during class breaks, so you had a chance to find a corner somewhere and wait for the pain to subside. But today, at the school in Zim that I have the most information about (not mine), there is no such relief, at least not for classroom offences. At that school - let's call it "Tiger School" - boys are sent for punishment immediately by a teacher and must return immediately afterwards. That means they must sit there in considerable pain while taking care not to show it. Most important that you don't let the side down.

And when the one who has sent you is a woman, it's doubly important. In a country where such things are forbidden for girls, you belong to a sub-human species - "boys"- and you must never give a woman the satisfaction of seeing that you've been hurt. So, with or without recovery time, women are kept in ignorance. They didn't suffer it at their own schools, and at boys' schools (except, possibly, Tiger) they've neither seen it nor heard it, because it happens in conditions of enforced privacy. It's a mystery punishment. But so long as the physical reality is concealed from them, their consciences need not be troubled. And of course the stoicism of the victims provides yet another layer of concealment. It's another variant of the omerta that kept my mother ignorant. What would happen if that reality was revealed to the women who order it is something I'm not sure about at the moment, because what I meant by "except, possibly, Tiger" is something that you can read about in the Appendix to this article, where a recent revelation throws it all into question.

Pursuing that thought, one would like the kind of testimony about British-style school canings that one gets regularly these days with American paddle beatings, with medical reports and photographs. But that is a very modern phenomenon. In the old days, when caning was permitted in UK schools, physical consequences were never made public - except in one case, to my admittedly very patchy knowledge. This was a court case from 1976, where a 14-year-old girl had been given three strokes of the cane on her buttocks by the headmistress of a grammar school. Such things happened to boys every day, but a girl's bum-caning was bound to cause a storm of protest, and plenty of publicity. And so we actually have something that was as rare as rocking-horse manure - a medical report, even if not a very thorough one. Her own doctor informed the court that there were "three red weals across her buttocks, two of them stretching round the hip region 14 inches long".

To which a boy at any school in Zim would say, with a shrug: So what? And that's the point. What happened to her, in terms of current UK standards of "abuse", is off the scale, a clear case for prosecution, but in those countries where corporal punishment is permitted in schools it must be regarded as the lower end of the severity scale. That much damage would be the minimum any boy's bum could expect at a school like mine. And if the kind of caning that Dr Benatar approves of were to be at some lower standard of severity, it would cease to be corporal punishment at all, simply because that much would be the minimum needed to achieve the objective - that is, to inspire enough fear to succeed as a deterrent. Ipso facto, there is no such thing as "mild" corporal punishment. Canings are brutal, because they have to be.

I can't stop Dr Benatar using the word "mild" in his thesis, where it pops up repeatedly in a way that is tendentious, not to say prejudicial, but he can't stop me enlightening you about what "mild" really means. I don't know what he means by "infrequent", because frequency in caning can vary from nothing right up to several times a week. But severity is fixed within a very narrow band, and the lower end is well above "mild". So where he uses the term "mild and infrequent" to describe the kind of corporal punishment he approves of, I have replaced it in my summary of his thesis with "acceptable CP", on the understanding that "acceptable" is his judgement, not mine.

With one or two exceptions, all the objections to CP that Dr Benatar deals with are reasonable ones. One example of an unreasonable objection is the common one about the "wrong lesson", at least in the form it usually takes: "It's wrong because you're saying to the child 'I can hit you, but you can't hit me'..." The same can be said about all punishments. Once you accept the right to punish at all, you accept the right to impose on children what they can't impose on you. It's absurd to think of the child making this kind of intellectual inference. On the other hand, if you speak about emotional impact, that's a different matter. My own feelings fifteen minutes after a punishment, with pain still attacking in waves, were such that I would willingly have stuck a knife in the throat of the one who had imposed it (which was rarely the one who carried it out). There was no intellectual component, it was pure animal emotion. The proposition that such an intensity of response - blind rage - could not be induced by any other kind of punishment is more than reasonable. Thus the idea that CP leads to violent behaviour in children might be unproven, but it isn't ridiculous. And most objections to CP that Dr Benatar attempts to answer are reasonable enough that you can say there is a prima facie case at least. And in summarising his position I will be limiting myself to those.

It should also be said that at various points Dr Benatar seems to cover the territory by slipping soundlessly between two different and partly opposing theories of punishment. The first is the "consequentialist" theory that says a punishment is judged by its effects on the sufferer. If the effects are beneficial, it's a good punishment; if they aren't, it isn't. The other is the "retributivist" theory that says a punishment is right if it's deserved, and effects are irrelevant. Benatar feels entitled to call on both to support his arguments when the material looks threadbare. And that makes him a bit slippery to deal with, because at no point does he say which theory he believes in.

Benatar lists seven objections to cp, but some are obviously overlapping in their material. Three of his headings - "Corporal punishment is psychologically damaging", "Corporal punishment teaches the wrong lesson", and "Corporal punishment undermines pupil/teacher relations" - cover such effects as the fostering of violence, anger, timidity, apathy, hostility to authority, etc. All three can be conflated and presented under one heading, "Corporal punishment is psychologically and emotionally damaging", because all those objections are answered by him in roughly the same way. So we can compress his list to just five. His answers are reduced here to my summaries. I will call this section Arguments Against.

1. Corporal punishment leads to abuse (excesses)
- Studies are conflicting. Unproven.

2. Corporal punishment is degrading
- Benatar doesn't deny it, but thinks degradation is (possibly) a matter of degree. And if we accept degrading procedures like strip searches in prisons, we can't reject CP on those grounds.

3. Corporal punishment is psychologically and emotionally damaging
- Likely to be true where it's excessive in severity or frequency. With acceptable CP, evidence is either inconclusive or else insufficient to make a case.

4. Corporal punishment stems from and causes sexual deviance
- Evidence links acceptable CP only to mild masochistic practices in adulthood, which a tolerant society shouldn't condemn. Possible sexual motives in beaters not denied, but strict controls could contain the problem.

5. Corporal punishment doesn't deter
( See under Arguments For, as "Corporal punishment is a deterrent")

One more objection must be added to Benatar's list. It is remarkable that a thesis on this subject by a philosopher does not even consider the basic rightness or wrongness of certain actions in terms of their intrinisic moral content. The nearest he ever comes to an admission that corporal punishment is violence is where he says, "It is often said that punishing a wrongdoer by inflicting pain conveys the message that violence is an appropriate way to settle differences or to respond to problems". Otherwise, the fact is unmentioned. So it should be said outright: the act of inflicting physical pain, where pain is the purpose, qualifies as a violent act beyond any dispute. In a society where violence is condemned, there can still be exemptions from the general prohibition, but exemption has to be argued for; it is not automatic. And nowhere does Benatar claim that CP is necessary, which is the justification for the exemption we grant self-defence. CP would need a different justification. What could it be? He doesn't say. But there is no doubt that there has to be one, and therefore this question has a rightful place in Arguments Against.

Having added one to his list, I'll now take one away. The deterrence argument doesn't belong in Arguments Against, since it is the prize argument used by CP-advocates. In its positive form - "it does deter" - its rightful place is top of the list in Arguments For. Which brings total in that list to five.

1. Corporal punishment is a deterrent
- "However, there is already some evidence of the deterrent effect of corporal punishment, at least with very young children." (I've quoted Benatar at full length, since that's all he has to say in support of the contention.)

2. Corporal punishment punishes only the guilty
- whereas detention sometimes "punishes" parents, it's claimed. Benatar rejects the word, and thinks the involvement of parents in school life is an important principle, but agrees the argument is partly valid.

3. Corporal punishment has a place in the scale of punishments
- It is advantageous in a school to have a scale of punishments of increasing severity, and CP could have a place somewhere between detention and expulsion. A rising scale of punishment types can convey varying degrees of condemnation more explicitly.

4. Corporal punishment is a "non-useful" punishment
- Many believe punishments should not include useful tasks, since the child might come to dislike them for being associated with punishment.

5 Parents' liberty interests
- Prohibiting the practice of CP would be a serious interference in the liberties of parents who believe it to be beneficial.

I'll deal with the last first, where Benatar has introduced the concept of parental rights. It's a consideration that slipped his mind in Arguments Against, which means the task of bringing it to your attention falls on me.

In schools the principle of "parental consent" means an unknown number of parents with "a distinct distaste for the practice" must give written permission for complete strangers to do things to their children that they wouldn't do themselves. Where that has been refused the child must be given an alternative punishment. If more than one culprit is involved, it might mean giving different punishments for the same offence.

While it's true that this principle does not exist in Zimbabwe, as discussed earlier, Dr Benatar holds more advanced views and would not deny to parents the right to "opt out", as he confirmed in an emailed response to a question from me: "All things considered, I think that corporal punishment probably should not be inflicted in schools without parental permission." In which case, as has been well demonstrated by history, it's an Argument Against, if only because of its potential as a cause of trouble and strife. It was, in fact, the predominant reason why CP disappeared from British state schools in 1987. Parental consent as a legal necessity was forced on them by the European Court of Human Rights, and quickly proved itself to be corporal punishment's nemesis. It turned out that more parents were opposed to it than anyone had previously suspected. The de facto approval that I spoke of earlier in relation to my own schooldays turned into disapproval as soon as real choice existed.

If Dr B wants to introduce the idea of rights and liberties, then my "parental consent" clause is a much bigger bomb than his. It blew up school CP in the UK, whereas his "parents' liberty interests" idea hasn't even the force of a pea-shooter in schools, since the right to beat your own children cannot be extended to a right to have others beat them.

However, it ought to be obvious that what counts as a legitimate "liberty interest" is something that cannot be decided until basic moral questions are settled. A philosopher should know that morals determine rights, not the other way about, especially when other people are affected. If you want either to defend or to attack corporal punishment you must do it in terms of its rightness or wrongness, not in terms of what laws or liberties already exist.

So I was only kidding back there. I'm disqualifying both his "parents' liberty interests" in the home and my "parental consent" in schools as having any bearing. Neither counts as a moral argument, either for or against. Consider them banished.

Now, for the rest of the Arguments For:

If you've read the full essay, you might wonder about my claim to have quoted Dr Benatar at full-length on the question of deterrence. It's a single sentence that is so short I feel like quoting it again: "However, there is already some evidence of the deterrent effect of corporal punishment, at least with very young children." It isn't much to draw from a section consisting of three paragraphs totalling more than 400 words. But the truth is that Benatar has talked around the subject for 400 words, and that sentence is his only attempt to refute the assertion expressed in his own heading, "Corporal punishment doesn't deter". The only other place a deterrent effect is even alluded to in the essay is in a sentence urging gender equality, which "may even increase the deterrent effect of the punishment because boys would feel less need to prove themselves by inviting it". But if he's talking about school at this point, it doesn't apply, because those aren't "very young children". So one has to ask: What deterrent effect?

With that in mind, we can be forgiven for regarding his odd decision to place deterrence in Arguments Against as a sleight-of-hand. It's a manoeuvre that effectively pushes the burden of non-existent proof onto his opponents.

Hold that thought while I remind you of the need for philosophical rigour, as Dr Benatar does in a little subsection titled "Do the arguments gain strength in numbers?" Talking about the objections to CP, he cautions us against falling into the layman's trap of combining unproven arguments. These arguments, he warns, "cannot be strengthened by association with others. They fail whether they stand alone or in company." And he has used his "insufficient evidence" stamp with depressing regularity when dealing with the objections to CP. But the latter end of his commonwealth forgets the former. The stamp is never used when dealing with the benefits. So it looks like another task that falls to me.

Earlier I used the term "reasonable objection" about abolitionists' arguments that are not obviously frivolous, even if they're unproven. I will do the same with the benefits. Whatever other abolitionists think, I will call the deterrent argument a "reasonable assertion". However, all Benatar can produce in support is the one sentence I quoted. Unless he would like to restrict his thesis to beating "very young children", I have to bring down the "insufficient evidence" stamp.

The second - "Corporal punishment punishes only the guilty" - is fair enough, but as he himself points out, the problems detentions cause parents when they have to make extra trips to the school are part of the cut and thrust of parenthood, and to call it "punishing" parents is to misuse the word. So, not a strong argument. More importantly, there is no exclusive claim for CP in that regard. Other punishments can punish only the guilty. There are written punishments that can be done any time without inconveniencing parents, as can manual labour done during break-times at school. So, a different stamp this time - "Reasonable, but no exclusive claim".

"Corporal punishment has a place in the scale of punishments" might be based on a good idea - I mean, you can't call it a bad idea to have a scale of punishment types of increasing severity. However, while the idea is aesthetically pleasing for adults, no evidence was produced that this rising scale is of any benefit to a child. So - "insufficient evidence" is the right stamp. And I have to bring down the "no exclusive claim" stamp on top of it, because other punishments - such as manual labour - can play the same role as a punishment type that is a step above detention.

With the fourth, "Corporal punishment is a 'non-useful' punishment" (he expresses it as "not a good in itself") the same thing applies. First, there is no evidence that the theory of non-useful punishments is sound. Second, even if it is, anyone can think up non-useful punishments that are also non-violent. So, another double stamp - thump! - "unproven theory" - thump! - "no exclusive claim".

And the fifth - his "parents' liberty interests" idea - has been rightly disqualified. So, now we can do a profit-loss account.

Arguments Against (including my addition, 5)

1. CP leads to abuse - Reasonable objection, unproven
2. CP is degrading - Reasonable objection, not denied, question of degree
3. CP is psychologically and emotionally damaging - Reasonable objection, unproven
4. CP stems from and causes sexual deviance - Reasonable objection, partly accepted
5. CP is violence in itself - Uncontestable

Arguments For

1. CP is a deterrent - Reasonable, but unproven
2. CP punishes only the guilty - Reasonable, but no exclusive claim
3. CP has a place in the scale of punishments - Reasonable, no exclusive claim
4. CP is a non-useful punishment - Unproven theory, & no exclusive claim

Evidently, then, Dr Benatar's warning about not combining unproven arguments is a double-edged sword. If we knock out all the unproven ones, or ones where there is no exclusive claim, Arguments Against wins by one uncontestable to nil. So he might agree with me that we should put that aside and allow all these shaky arguments to limp into battle against each other as two opposing armies.

Or maybe he wouldn't, because you can't help noticing that Arguments Against have a lot more weight. They're arguments with magnitude. Only one of the Arguments For is a "big" argument, in the sense of producing a big result if it was upheld. And that is the first, the deterrent argument. That would be a big result, all right. Whether you think it's a good result depends on what you think of deterrence. In my case, not much, but you couldn't deny it's big.

But arguments 2, 3, and 4 honestly cannot be called anything better than decoration. "Punishing only the guilty" is weak by Benatar's own admission, and the "having a place in the scale of punishments" benefit is worth no more than a lick of paint. The same applies to the "non-useful" argument. When you consider the judgements I've appended to them - and what other judgements are there? - can you even say that they win in combination against the one uncontestable Argument Against, namely, "Corporal punishment is violence in itself"?

Or, let's go further - how strong is the case against no opposition? I mean, if all those Arguments Against vanished overnight, or all were proved to be absolutely untenable, how urgent would it be to include CP in the list of desirable punishments? For three of those four unproven benefits - why would you bother? Only the first, its potential as a deterrent, is worth anything.

But - is it worth anything as a moral argument? Because, bringing the opposition back in, essentially deterrence has to fight the case all by itself against five Arguments Against, all of which are moral arguments. And all of them are big.

Well, ever the sportsman (that's Zim for you), I'll risk a face-off between what I judge to be the two most powerful contending arguments. Let "Corporal punishment is a deterrent" fight it out with "Corporal Punishment stems from and causes sexual deviance". The latter is the nuclear weapon of the abolitionists, and it remained pretty well unused until the 1980s, when people could at last be heard using words like "perversion" in connection with the practice. Before then, some misguided fastidiousness in the Anglo-Saxon mind prevented even the abolitionists from raising questions about the sexual aspect. But we'll have none of that here. Everything must be known.

At this point, I'll introduce two commentators, both European women who are opposed to CP, and who have their own comments to make. One of them is Sabine from Austria, who taught in a boys' school in Zim for two terms in the mid-1990s: "In Austria those old ways of discipline were ended in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and to go against it would be a betrayal for me. So I couldn't think of that."

The other is Natasha, a Ukrainian, who taught at Tiger for several years. Initially, she didn't question the customs, and occasionally sent boys for punishment, but turned against it after she discovered a movement called Living Values in Education, whose principles are incompatible with the practice: "I became more patient and tolerant with my students... I can solve all the problems peacefully with my boys".

To be assisted by two anti-CP commentators might seem to you like ganging up. However, I did make an effort to solicit comments from the opposing side in Zim, inviting them to come to Dr Benatar's defence, but I didn't have much luck. Getting pro-CP people to talk - or even to reply to a request - is more difficult than you might think. The result is a lop-sided contest. Sorry about that, but with all his troops staying in the trenches, Dr B will have to carry the battle all by himself.


Corporal Punishment is a Deterrent

Does CP deter? If the answer we get from research is "possibly", my own answer would be "probably". Because the question is simply, Can people be intimidated by violent threats? Of course they can. Stalin's Great Terror of 1937 certainly had an effect. Nobody would criticise, nobody would hang the leader's portrait at a funny angle, nobody would praise Trotsky. Yes, it's been historically established that you can terrorize people. Stupid question, really. A much better question about CP would be, Who does it deter? And on that question, personal observation is more trustworthy than any amount of research.

Earlier this year I had an email from a school contemporary, where he talks of meeting up recently with another of our contemporaries who used to take part in competitions to see who could get the most "cuts" (strokes of the cane) in one term. Such competitions are, of course, legendary. One favourite was to see who could be the first to 20 - that is, exactly 20, which in the final stages meant very careful judgement in a school where the number of cuts for an offence - up to six - was often a whimsical choice of the teacher who decided the punishment, and who specified it in a written order to the one who carried it out. It was like the last throw at darts. With your total at 17, you needed an order for 3, not 2 or 4, or else you were sunk. This is what Benatar refers to as the machismo of caning. He says that punishing girls and boys equally "may even increase the deterrent effect of the punishment because boys would feel less need to prove themselves by inviting it". Not difficult to spot the flaw in that. For boys who are "inviting" it, the deterrent effect is less than nil, it's negative. So, at least in their case, nil is the best you can hope for when the machismo is removed.

Still, Dr Benatar has given my case a valuable endorsement. He knows very well that there are boys who are not deterred. He also knows (I hope) that they are the school's true habitual offenders, even aside from the extra work they have to do in that area to win "cuts" competitions. You can hurt them, but you can't frighten them. They are the worst behaved boys, and they keep coming back for more. In other words, where caning works as a deterrent, it works only on those least likely to commit the offence in the first place.

He also knows (again, I hope) that boys who are not deterred are badly needed in a school that expects to hold its place amongst its rivals:

It was a school started in the colonial days, very posh and old fashioned, with English traditions of cricket and rugby where the whole school is expected to attend and to cheer as if it is the Olympic Games.
Says Sabine. And sport is one of the things about posh Zimbabwean schools that can dazzle the observer, because there is no equivalent anywhere in Europe. People think nothing of travelling fifty miles to watch the maroon-and-green of the Tigers (they're called that) scrum down against the red-and-white of the Dragons (they should be called that). I'm with the Dragons, but it doesn't matter. Just soak up the atmosphere. The spectators from opposing schools are banked up on either side of the field, dinning the air with practised war-cries, and cars parked on the grass only a few yards beyond the dead-ball line sound their horns when a drop-kick from thirty yards out goes spinning between the uprights. It's intoxicating. But in a sport like rugby, where hardly a season passes without at least one boy being carried off with concussion, it all depends on those undeterred boys being willing to fling themselves into a tackle at the risk of a boot in the face. And those are exactly the kind who will take part in a "First to 20" competition.

So what kind of boy do you want? You can't have it both ways. Is obedience-through-fear a virtue? If so, maybe there is some value in deterrence, even though only the most timid boys can be expected to be virtuous. To say that the school authorities do not know this would be false. They know it very well, and that is why what I called "the foggy and circular language" is such an essential part of the practice. The machismo that Dr Benatar refers to is only partly the invention of boys themselves. Mostly, it is an ideology imposed on them from above.

In his Introduction, Dr Benatar says:

The popular as well as the educational and psychological debates about corporal punishment are characterized largely by polarization. Those who are opposed want to rule it out entirely. Those who are in favor tend to have a cavalier defense of the practice that is insensitive to many reasonable concerns about the dangers and abuses of this form of punishment.
I myself have never heard - in public - a "cavalier" defence of the practice. In all cases, what I have heard from CP-advocates is couched in the same language as Dr Benatar's defence, with the same concerns about "abuse", "excesses", "controls", "guidelines", "safeguards", the whole bag of tricks. One reason why, supporting Benatar, I am scornful of the popular "beating indicates a teaching failure" claim is that I remember the same claim being made by the headmaster of a prestigious English boarding-school on a TV discussion programme back in the 1960s. "When I have to beat a boy, I feel I've failed him," he confessed, and looked as if he was just about to burst into tears. Later it transpired (I think it was in Private Eye) that the failure rate of this reluctant disciplinarian put his school somewhere near the top of the beating league. The carpet outside his office was worn bare by the footseps of his failures.

No, they're all sad and disappointed supporters of caning as "the last resort", so long as there is a microphone or a reporter anywhere nearby. But those are the ones who ensure that the cult of machismo is passed on to a new generation. The idea that a caning is "manly" is an idea they are careful to disseminate. It was "manly" men like him who would call an errant boy to the front of the class and offer him the choice between detention and a caning. He'd look round the room with a knowing smile, as if to say "We'll find out something about this boy". The boy, naturally, would choose the caning, and would bask in the master's warm opinion, because at his age he wouldn't dare to give the right answer, even if the right answer occurred to him: "Choosing punishments is not my place, sir. You choose, and then we'll find out something about you." (I wish.)

So that's the truth. In schools like that caning is not used because it's a deterrent - even though Arguments For shows deterrence to be its only sizeable virtue, or at least the only one that can be publicly acknowledged. They cling to it because it's a cult, because it was done to them, and for other reasons that they would never admit, even to themselves. If it was a successful deterrent with the boys most in need of correction, it would be a very different kind of school, one that would be swept off the field on a Saturday afternoon. As a deterrent it works only on the boys who would never be found on the field in the first place. That is not to say that it has no other effects on the boys who are resistant to it as a deterrent, or that deterrence is the only effect it has on those who are deterred. The other, unproven, effects are piled up in Arguments Against - which I've agreed to put aside, all except one. But in terms of its benefits, even Dr Benatar has been unable to point to anything of any real use except the only objective that can be openly admitted - namely, to compel obedience through fear. So whether you think corporal punishment has any benefits depends entirely on your opinion of deterrence.

You might ask, Are not other punishments also deterrents? And I must agree that they are. They wouldn't qualify as punishments unless they were unwelcome and burdensome to the culprit, and therefore some deterrent effect must be present. However the difference is that they are quite likely to contain other things as well, so even if they fail as a deterrent, they might succeed in some other way.

A good example, though admittedly an extreme one, is a punishment I myself was given once, aged about twelve, at the first of my two boarding-schools, when I'd (semi-accidentally) defaced a radiogram that sat in the Junior Common-Room. A radiogram wasn't a message transmitted by the BBC, but a piece of furniture, a radio/record-player built into a wooden cabinet about the size of a small refrigerator. Fr Noonan, the priest who was responsible for general maintenance of school property, could have had me beaten for that. He trained the school's boxing team, and was no pacifist. But he chose another way. He had it carried into a vacant room and made me go in there in my free time and re-varnish the whole thing. Initially I didn't have the skills to do it, because I was the kind of boy who was addicted to sport, not hobbies. During school holidays, running hurdles from dawn to sunset was my idea of a good time, not building model Spitfires out of balsa wood. But he showed me step by step how to strip down the wood and smooth it with different grades of sandpaper, how to wash and prepare it, and to put on several layers of varnish, with a full day's drying between each layer.

It took about two weeks in all, so it was a serious punishment (some might even call it "excessive"), but as a deterrent it failed entirely. The purpose of a deterrent is to compel good behaviour through fear of further punishment, but after my experience a task like that was something I would have welcomed, because I was proud of the skills I had learned, and would willingly have used them again. I still have them today, and I wish I could say that I practise them often, but the truth is I'm not a DIY fanatic, and have only done such things sparingly. But I haven't forgotten them, and I haven't forgotten the lesson learned. The reason I respected material objects from that time on was that I recognized the work that had gone into them, and defacing someone else's work would have been like defacing my own. My change of attitude was radical, but it had nothing to do with fear of punishment.

But it's also true that the behaviour of the punisher counts for something too. From the moment Fr Noonan ordered me to follow him to my "work-room", he never used the word "punishment". In fact, he never even mentioned my offence again. He would look in every day to see how it was going, and give me all kinds of advice about matters of detail, but never said a word about the reason I was there. Somehow a "punishment" had been turned into a "project", which I was in charge of. Even when the job was done and the now-gleaming radiogram was carried back into the Common-Room, he didn't say "You won't do this again, will you?" He had the wisdom to keep his mouth shut and just let the task do its own psychological work. It's not often you come across someone with that much insight, especially someone who was educated at Irish schools where physical pain was inflicted at every turn. He was wise beyond his teachers' deserts.

Obviously, that's an exceptional case, and it isn't practical to expect that all punishments could have effects as beneficial as those. If there is a spectrum of punishments, with "Medieval" at one extreme and "Enlightened" at the other, then Fr Noonan's punishment was right up at the "Enlightened" end. Most punishments fall somewhere between those extremes, being partly deterrents and partly something else. Manual labour, for example, is a burdensome and unattractive prospect, and is certainly a deterrent, but even picking up litter around the school grounds could make you more aware of litter as a problem, and make you less likely to drop any yourself. If you look closely enough, you can always find some way in which non-violent punishments that involve a task of some sort can teach something.

Sabine again:

There were different kinds of punishment already provided, but I would always try to 'make the punishment fit the crime' as they say. So for example if a boy was too often talking in class I would demand from him an essay where he must tell what was the subject of his discussions (I got some fine answers which may not be shown here!). I was strict to have the punishments done, but I could treat them also with humour. It's possible, you know!
Who can say what the fruits of that could be? It might do nothing at all to cure a boy's misbehaviour, and be no kind of deterrent, but he might discover a talent for "fine answers" that might one day turn him into a writer. You just never know. But that's the potential of intelligent and inventive punishments.

On a slightly lower level of ingenuity, Natasha had to take drastic action once when her sore throat caused an outbreak of hoarse Russian accents amongst her pupils, which went on right through that lesson and then started up again during the next. Her solution was to stop the stories and discussions that she usually entertained them with, and replace them with something less attractive:

...just written work, work and work which had to be handed in immediately at the beginning of each lesson and increased each time. Time out for me! The deputy head, who overheard the story, told me not to bother because I am the one who is 'punishing' myself with a lot of marking, but to send the whole class for caning.
But it's Natasha's duty to "bother". That's what the parents would say, anyway. So she didn't follow the deputy's advice. After two days the boys had had enough, and begged for a return to the old regime. So the lesson was: Natasha is more fun when you're nice to her. No, as a solution it isn't on a level with Fr Noonan's punishment, or even the inventive impositions of Sabine, but it's still up at the Enlightened end of the spectrum. It's a lesson that didn't humiliate anyone or frighten anyone, and she could look the boys in the eye afterwards, which is more than you could say about someone who sent the whole class for caning. (Does that still happen? Apparently it does. Even I was shocked.)

The caning solution is hard over on the "Medieval" end of the spectrum. If it fails as a deterrent, it fails altogether, because a deterrent is all it is, and all it could ever be. And, as I made clear before, that is why corporal punishment cannot fall below a certain minimum level of severity. To succeed as a deterrent it must generate fear, it must make a boy too afraid to commit the offence next time. And the only way to do that is to serve up a large dose of pain.

I've called CP a crude punishment, meaning "non-complex", because its deterrent intent is primitive, and because it can vary only within very narrow limits, between the minimum level needed to instil fear and a level which even Dr Benatar would call "abusive". Other kinds of punishment are much more flexible in their ability to match punishment to offence over a wide range. In theory punishments like detention are also open to abuse, but in fact if you sentenced a culprit to an hour's detention every day for a week, or even longer, while you could call that "excessive", you couldn't call it "abusive". But you cannot do that with CP, or not any more. It was not unknown half a century ago for there to be repeat beatings for one offence, especially in boarding schools where parental presence wasn't an inhibiting factor. But that was before my time, and was unheard of during my schooldays in the 1960s. So you certainly couldn't do it now, and I'm sure Dr Benatar wouldn't advocate it. But non-violent punishments can be spread over a period of time, and have in theory no upper limit. They can vary within a wide band of severity without crossing any "abuse" line.

But, returning to that notional spectrum between the poles of "medieval" and "enlightened", there is also a ghost spectrum which overlays it, and seems to fit very well, one with the two extremes of "active" and "passive". An "active" punishment is something done by you - a task. The "passive" is something done to you - an infliction. What makes the passive kind medieval is that it robs the sufferer of human status. Dr Benatar does not reject the idea that corporal punishment is degrading, and passivity is one characteristic that makes it degrading. It is, as Voltaire observed, "a punishment for slaves", and in saying it he was echoing the Roman writer, Quintilian, who calls such punishments "an insult" - because it requires nothing from the victim except cloddish sufferance. There is surely no status lower than that of being the passive object of another's violent act. It's the status of a punch-bag. But a task is different, especially when it involves something more demanding than mechanical repetition, like "lines". The more the culprit's human capacities for intelligent judgement are harnessed, the bigger the difference becomes. The punishment imposed on me by Fr Noonan is admittedly impractical as a regular thing, but it is, I believe, the ideal: the transformation from a "punishment" to a "project". It is the condition which could yield the biggest returns.

I held my peace while Dr Benatar talked about the theory of "useless" punishments, those that are "not good in themselves and are unpleasant". I limited my remarks to calling it an "unproven theory", but actually that theory is to me a red rag to a bull. It's a loathsome theory. As a practical fact, most punishments are probably useless - it's unrealistic to expect otherwise. But to hold uselessness up as a virtue is quite disgraceful, because it is, in effect, praising degradation. If Fr Noonan, half a century ago, was able to achieve the desired objective while granting the culprit full human status, I do not see why such guile should be beyond 21st-century minds that are supposed have more sensitivity to things like degradation than could reasonably have been expected of him.

But, while I reject the theory of useless punishments, you might accept it, if it's fashionable in educational circles. Even if you are opposed to corporal punishment, you might. But if you do, you should be aware of the close proximity of such punishments to the condition of corporal punishment, and aware also that many of the objections to that form of punishment apply to them too, albeit in a milder way. The more unproductive the task, the more it tends towards the condition of passivity, a mere infliction, robbing the sufferer of those things that make him most human. And to my mind that is one definition of a bad punishment.

In brief: I have included deterrence in Arguments For, because CP-advocates like Dr Benatar think it's a desirable result. But my belief is that it belongs in Arguments Against, not as "it doesn't deter", but as "it does deter" - because I cannot regard any deterrent capability of corporal punishment as a virtue. If hitting a boy with a cane deters him, the same can be said for punching him in the face or kicking him in the stomach. Those are deterrents too. It isn't any kind of moral argument. Still less is it an educational argument, when the development of moral character is supposed to be the objective. To teach fear cannot be a contribution to that.


Corporal Punishment as a Disseminator of Sexual Deviation

Of all the things that can be said about corporal punishment, the most important are the most obvious things. What makes it necessary to draw attention to them is the strange fact that obvious things are sometimes the most difficult to see, like the spectacles that you can't find because you're wearing them.

The first obvious thing is that it is the only punishment in a school that happens behind closed doors, and if there are any witnesses, they need special reasons to be there. Sabine tells of the lunchtime canings at the Headmaster's office: "As you can imagine, during this time the teachers were not permitted to go into that area. They didn't even want us to hear it!" Odd, when you think about it. She can walk into a room where detention is taking place, or look out of the window and see boys sentenced to manual labour raking leaves, or she can look over the shoulder of a boy writing "lines". But she isn't even allowed in the vicinity when canings are taking place. Why not?

A fool's question, you might say, since the exclusion of casual observers is the common and expected condition. But it's one more contribution to the long list of conditions that makes corporal punishment stand out from the crowd. Dr Benatar's reassuringly discursive tone might persuade us that it's just another punishment, one among many, even though he knows that no other punishment-type would need the kind of multi-directional defence he has had to make, where so many reasonable objections have to be stamped "insufficient evidence". But in dealing with these objections he succeeds only in drawing attention to them, and drawing attention to their multiplicity. A section called "Requirements for the Just Infliction of Corporal Punishment" is a blizzard of prescriptions and precautions: "... the site on the body... the implement used... the number and intensity of the blows... difficulties of measuring force... err on the side of caution... appropriate legislation to provide guidelines... restrictions... monitored... approved by the principal... be present during punishment... parents be notified.... school psychologists... a sensitization of those who... doctors... teachers... children themselves... well placed to detect abusive punishment... " You're aware of being in an emergency-zone, with the flashing lights and mile-long tailbacks of a traffic accident. He can't help broadcasting the truth, that this is not just another punishment. It's out there by itself, festooned with warning flags. And now here is another flag, courtesy of Sabine, pinned to a Requirement he failed to mention. I mean, the enforced seclusion, a condition unique to corporal punishment.

I wonder how much reading Dr Benatar did before he began work. Did he acquaint himself with the history of his subject? One hopes so. But there are no signs of it in his text. But even the layman is likely to know about corporal punishment's historical retreat - and I don't mean, or don't only mean, its gradual disappearance from Europe over the last two centuries. I mean its retreat from the public gaze. As recently as Jacobean times, there were public whippings for both men and women. Culprits could be tied by their wrists to the back of a horse-drawn cart and whipped around the town to the delight of jeering crowds. A century later they were whipping people in prison courtyards, but now the crowds were kept away. And a century after that they stopped whipping women altogether. In the twentieth century, by which time it was English-speaking countries that constituted the western world's remaining flagellation centre, there were still public or semi-public canings in schools - but becoming rarer by the decade. In my own time, the 1960s, it was whispered about, but only by those given to spreading fright-stories. It might have happened in junior schools, though not at any I attended. And I certainly never heard of it at any senior school.

So, by the closing of doors, literal as well as metaphorical, the historical process itself was making it clear that corporal punishment was an indecent act, unfit not only for the public gaze, but for anybody's gaze - theatrically clear, because it was acting out in mime its own eventual doom, withdrawing further and further from the light, like a sick man taking to his bed. It's a long way from Shakespeare's "Let them be whipp'd through every market-town" to Sabine's "They didn't even want us to hear it!". But that's the irony. Its practitioners can't stop lying about it, but the practice itself can't stop telling the truth.

(Stop press: for an intriguing tale from Zim, hinted at earlier, about a school that seems to have gone in the opposite direction, see Appendix)

The second obvious thing about corporal punishment is that it's the only punishment found in schools that is also found in brothels, where grown men pay prostitutes to do things to them that once they had done to them free and didn't even want. Whether there are any connections, especially "consequentialist" ones, between these two phases of their lives is obviously something that needs investigating. Another warning flag, I think - and it's a thought made more urgent by my wondering by how many removes we can connect it with the self-revealing seclusion of CP in schools, and say that it isn't a coincidence. We might say it does right to hide itself away.

Third, there is something a bit funny about corporal punishment when you look at the practice in places like Zimbabwe where British norms once held sway. Well, one funny thing at least is that they still do hold sway, even though the British are long gone. But another funny thing is gender discrimination. Dr Benatar might say that this has no place in the argument, since it's his thesis that I'm supposed to be looking at, and he himself condemns gender discrimination in corporal punishment. Good. Well done, professor, but that will not stop me looking into the question, because corporal punishment is in the dock at the moment, and a defendant's past record must be taken into account, especially if it reveals things that might otherwise be hidden.

In all other areas of life, countries like Zimbabwe enforce modern ideas of equality. On Tiger School's website one quarter of the women staff refer to themselves as "Ms". That's how strongly they believe in it. They wear their equality like a badge. But when it comes to punishments they hold fast to Victorian norms, where women are delicate creatures who love flowers and puppies. In boys' schools there are beatings for quite trivial offences, but in girls' schools they don't touch them. Yes, I know this is a world-wide debate, and British peculiarities are just one corner of it. I know it's all different in the hickory-dickory down-home gone-fishin' states of America, like Alabama and Texas, where shirt sizes are all "XL" and you feel slightly homosexual ordering only one jumbo steak for lunch instead of three. In those parts rugged republican principles demand that they beat both sexes black and blue, and those parts are probably what most people reading this have their eye on. But, with your permission, let's stick with the Brits, and the Zims who learned at their feet, because this is a bit of cultural history that needs to be freeze-framed.

(But during the time it takes to do that, I'll serve up a moral conundrum. I'm ready to be corrected, but I believe the good ole boy states are the only remaining part of what's nowadays called "the first world" where CP is still permitted in schools. That makes Zimbabwe and Alabama bedfellows, a fact that might make both uncomfortable. But is Zimbabwe more advanced because at least they don't beat girls? Or is Alabama more advanced because they practise gender equality? Which of them is more ashamed to be found in the other's company? Tricky.)

The laws of Zimbabwe, as I found out when I wrote to the Head of my old school in that country, has declared it illegal for schools to beat boys on the hand. They must be beaten on the buttocks. But girls may not be beaten at all. However, a Ministry of Education directive says that boys must be beaten on the buttocks, and girls on the hand. The only way of sorting out the confusion is to assume that Ministry directives are partly overridden by state law, and that the directive indicates the regulations that would be in force if the law allowed girls to be beaten in the first place. In other words, the way things would be is that a method of punishment that is compulsory for boys is forbidden for girls, and vice versa.

Odd, isn't it? There might be good medical reasons why no one of either sex should be beaten on the hand (there have been injuries to bones, even broken fingers), but the Ministry directive about girls shows that the reason for the law about boys couldn't be medical. It must be some other reason. But what? We might have to travel back in time and space to the mother country for a better answer. Corporal punishment was finally abolished in state schools in the UK in 1987, but in the days when it was a part of daily life, this odd divergence of punishment methods was so common as to be almost universal. And it wasn't a government directive that was responsible either, but individual policies of local education authorities, or else the policies of schools themselves - thousands of them. So it can't be put down to a moment of absent-mindedness on the part of one official drafting a document, or a careless typist. This anecdote from a former schoolgirl, taken from the Friends Reunited website, shows how things were:-

Mrs Siadek came into the room with her cane and put two boys (I dont know who they were) over the desks and caned them on the bum. I was horrified But more horrified to learn I was next in her office. The art of being caned was to drop your hand when the cane hit. Mrs Siadek had different ideas and held your hand underneath. Oh how I wished I had had the courage to whip my hand away. I can still feel it now.
(This took place around 1960. It goes without saying that none of it could have happened anywhere in continental Europe. CP was completely forbidden throughout the Communist bloc, and half the countries of western Europe had abolished it in the nineteenth century. The remainder got rid of it in the succeeding decades, and even those still doing it after WWII - e.g. parts of Germany - were fairly apologetic about it, and it existed more as a threat than an actuality. Britain and Ireland were the CP black-spots of Europe in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But it must also be said that that incident would have been impossible in any school I ever heard of in Zim, where formalities were enforced with an almost military rigour. It could only have happened in English state schools in those years when corporal punishment was not far short of a riotous frenzy. It might help explain why the most feared army in continental Europe after WWII was the army of visiting English football fans.)

There is a significant difference here from what we find in Zimbabwean laws, because, although it was frequently stipulated by the local education authority that girls must be caned on the hand, it was never to my knowledge stipulated that boys must be caned on the buttocks. Hand canings for both would have broken no regulations. From the practical point of view it makes no sense to have two different methods of punishment in the same school, yet it was the norm. I never heard of anyone giving a satisfactory explanation, and it would be almost impossible to give one without using forbidden words like "shame" and "humiliation". But I believe it's understood instinctively by everyone that to be beaten on the buttocks is more humiliating (yes?). Understood, but never spoken aloud. But the truth about the lowly status of boys in those days is revealed by that anecdote, in a little detail that you might miss the first time through. The boys were caned on the bum publicly, in front of the girls, but the girls were taken away to be caned on the hand privately, in Mrs Siadek's office.

Thus it was understood, but never spoken aloud, that it's okay and even desirable to humiliate and degrade boys - but not girls, because then even the parents would drop their customary blinkers. On the rare occasions that a girl was caned on the buttocks, there would be indignation from the parents and a fuss in the tabloids. Suddenly all the forbidden words would come pouring out in the correspondence columns - "dirty", "perverted", "disgusting", "brutal", "bestial", etc, all those words that were unmentioned when the victim was a boy.

So you can see that even apparently ignorant people were not as ignorant as all that, and the collective behaviour of the times pointed to an intuitive knowledge. To cane on the hand is abuse, but it isn't sexual abuse. To cane on the buttocks is abuse of both kinds. To know that, you don't have to delve into psychology texts, like this one:-

Ever since Jean-Jaques Rousseau's Confessions, it has been well known to all educationalists that the painful stimulation of the skin of the buttocks is one of the erotic roots of the passive instrument of cruelty (masochism).
Sigmund Freud- Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
Rousseau's Confessions dates from 1783, and the Freud essay is from 1905, so it's old, old stuff. The UK was the last European country to abolish CP, and during the hundred years or so that it took them to catch up with their near-neighbours, like France and Italy, the practice was considered by many continental Europeans as a form of paedophilia, with consequences similar to those expected from paedophilia of the more conventional kind - the shame of the victims, the victims defending the perpetrators ("it never did me any harm"), the cycle of abuse, the abused becoming the abusers, etc, etc. And note the phrase "well known to all educationalists" in Freud's text. The English, I'm afraid, cannot plead ignorance. It would have been perfectly practical to cane both sexes on the hand, but they didn't want to. Because caning boys' bottoms is just so enjoyable. Consider the implications of this letter read out on BBC Radio 4’s “Any Answers?” in 1984:-

My partner is a retired headmaster of a prep school where he had the power to beat any small boy. He now spends a great deal of time and energy in contacting young men and women who are willing to be beaten, as this is the only way he can get sexually aroused.
I think you have to call that an exceptional revelation, even for as late as 1984. Someone who was prepared to spill the sado-masochistic beans about her partner in public, albeit without names, must have been pretty rare. Even twenty years before, had someone written a letter like that, the BBC would not have broadcast it, and I think it would be safe to say that the untold stories of those times must have outnumbered the told ones many thousandfold. How many headmasters were there like him? Make your own guess.

Or extrapolate, if you like, from the well known "gym" phenomenon. It was the prerogative of headmasters in those years to summon boys to their office at any time during the day, from any class, to answer for some offence that might have been committed as much as a week before. But the number of times that boys were summoned from a gym class seemed to be far greater than statistical probability would predict. It's one of the most common memories of British school life during those years - Heads who waited until a boy was in his gym kit before calling him for punishment. Why? Because they liked caning boys with their bottoms bulging through tight white shorts. Let's not be naive. It was headmasters like that woman's partner who decreed that the same school should have two different methods of punishment, because what he wanted to do was something he only dared to do to boys, whose human dignity could be violated with impunity.

So, now it's time to look at the consequences, because everything has consequences. Here is Dr Benatar in full flood:

Those who advance the objection that corporal punishment fosters masochism are rarely clear about the nature of the masochistic inclinations that they say are produced. Yet, it is crucial to be clear about this. Studies show that most people have been sexually aroused, either in fantasy or in practice, by at least some mild masochistic activity, such as restraint or play fights. Thus, some masochistic tendencies seem to be statistically normal. That does not preclude their being undesirable, but it is hard to see how, in an era of increased tolerance of diversity in sexual orientation and practice, we can consistently label mild masochism as perverse. If such inclinations increase opportunities for sexual pleasure without concomitant harms, then there is at least a prima facie case for the view that such inclinations are not to be regretted. And if one objects to those masochistic inclinations that seek gratification in more serious pain, injury, and bondage, there is no evidence of which I am aware that mild and infrequent corporal punishment fosters such inclinations. The available evidence linking corporal punishment and masochism makes the connection only with milder forms of masochistic fantasy and practice.
The second sentence is one statement that I have to agree with - yes, we should know the nature of these inclinations, because "it is crucial to be clear about this". So I hope you didn't miss the extended conjuring trick that follows, which blows a dense fog all over it. Starting with the last sentence, where CP is apparently linked to "milder forms of masochistic fantasy and practice", backtrack through the paragraph and notice where the phrase comes from - which is from nowhere except the "mild masochistic activity" mentioned in the third sentence, which is a characteristic of "most people" and is "statistically normal". It's hard to see, isn't it, how "the available evidence" could have made a connection between CP and something that is statistically normal? That doesn't make sense.

Nor does it make sense to talk about masochistic activity that might be linked to childhood beatings without asking reasonable questions about what kind of masochistic activity it could be. "Restraint" and "play fights" are not varieties of masochistic activity that spring to mind instantly, I must confess. Neither does playing "Doctors and Nurses". But "Teachers and Pupils" rings a bell, or is that too obvious? Growing bolder, would we regard it as suspicious if "caning" came into it anywhere? Suppose we came across a post like this on a chat forum:-

I have always masturbated to thoughts of corporal punishment, from a very young age. I'm now lucky enough to have a partner who is enthusiastic about the scene, and gives a good caning when I need it. I go away quite a lot on business, and she always makes sure that I have a well-striped bottom to feel and look at while I masturbate in my hotel room.

I also like to masturbate while wearing silky nylon sports shorts and PE vest, which takes me back to punishments received during "gym" at school.

I have a large collection of school uniforms, and love to spend an afternoon masturbating over the various skirts, ties, socks, blazer badges etc. whilst imagining the wearer being caned.

The second paragraph is a little ambiguous. He might mean punishments received on the spot from the gym master, with a tennis-shoe. But he's equally likely to be referring to the aforementioned "gym phenomenon", where against all statistical likelihood he was called from that class again and again, and never from English or Geography.

I suggest we can safely put aside "restraint" and "play fights" when looking for links between adult behaviour and childhood CP. When we read a post like that, let us do the obvious (and we are dealing with the obvious, in case you've forgotten). If it looks like a dog, and barks like a dog, etc... In other words, let us focus on those areas where there is some resemblance between the activity and the alleged cause.

It is a fact that masochistic activity of some kind is statistically normal, and in some it may even be genetic. How would we know the difference between the genetic S&M practitioners and the conditioned ones? Well, we could at least narrow things down by eliminating those areas where there is no resemblance between what consenting adults do and what their teachers might have done. We can dispense with the Gothic stuff - bondage, dungeons, nipple-clamps, golden showers and asphyxiation. That never happened at my school. But if straps and canes come into it, and school uniforms, and a fascination with bottoms, let's assume we're on the right track. It's a track that might lead to BritishSpanking.com, for instance (where that post comes from), which I believe is the world's busiest "spanking" site. It has more than 20,000 members.

Britain is good country to look at for evidence, because it is one country where CP in schools suffered something like a sudden death. By contrast, in France it was under attack from the early years of the nineteenth century, and by the time Matthew Arnold was writing in mid-century it was all but gone: "... one may say the modern spirit has irrevocably condemned [it]... The feeling on the continent is very strong on this point". In Britain it did not do a slow fade. It was going full blast in the 1970s, but by 1987 it was outlawed in all state schools. So there is a very sharp historical divide, before and after. And now is about the right time to look at the consequences of abolition. I would like to say I'd done a thorough job on this, but I did at least spend a whole evening on it. I went through the members' Profiles on BritishSpanking.com, starting with "N", and compiled a list of the first 150 people I came across who had given their date of birth (about half do), which I thought was a large enough number to be called a "sample". The breakdown was as follows:-

Males under 40 - 49
Females under 40 - 9
Males over 40 - 85
Females over 40 - 7

Note immediately - females are much fewer than males, but they fall in nearly equal numbers across the age divide. With the men, the needle swings wildly. Males over forty outnumber those under forty, 85 to 49. In fact that group constitutes well over half the membership of the forum. It's a remarkable statistic, which I doubt you could find on any other chat forum on the internet, where youth normally prevails, and visitors are more evenly divided between the sexes. Why is this one haunted by so many middle-aged and elderly men?

It may just be a matter of arithmetic. To have been a victim of school CP, you have to be aged at least 35 to 40. And since the victims of those times were mostly boys (girls much less, and nearly all caned on the hand), any lasting sexual damage would be most visible today in males of middle-age or older. The statistical spread we find on this chat forum is not proof, of course, but it strongly suggests that a large number of spankophiles are conditioned, and were not born that way. It tells me that men who had their sexuality warped by school punishments are much more common than was previously thought.

Though it isn't always easy to distinguish the conditioned "spankos" from the genetic ones, all too often the obsession with school gives it away. And the 47-year-old poster I quoted from, fixated by school uniforms and school life generally, is one case. And his second paragraph tells you straight - he was a victim of school CP, and he likes to relive the trauma using the stage-props that evoke those memories.

The question is, given the fogginess of Dr Benatar's language, and his careful avoidance of words like "beating", or "caning", is this the kind of thing that he means by "mild masochistic activity"? Hard to say, but I don't think even he would claim that our example poster is doing something "statistically normal". So, it looks to me as though he is excluding this (famous) area of activity from consideration altogether - which is just as well, since his judgement is that "it is hard to see how, in an era of increased tolerance of diversity in sexual orientation and practice, we can consistently label mild masochism as perverse". Perhaps that comment counts these days as "non-judgemental", which I understand to be an American term meaning "morally flatlining".

But, to be judgemental for a moment, when Dr Benatar goes on to say, "If such inclinations increase opportunities for sexual pleasure without concomitant harms, then there is at least a prima facie case for the view that such inclinations are not to be regretted", I have to wonder how many supporters of corporal punishment read that and recoiled. At any rate we should not let it float by without at least observing that it bears an uncanny resemblance to the self-justifications of paedophiles. Warping the sexuality of minors might be acceptable to Dr Benatar, but it wouldn't have been acceptable to the judgemental mother of any boy at my school, if she was informed of it as a possible side-effect in the school prospectus.

At this point I find myself quite worried about the kind of philosophy they teach at Cape Town University, and about the dislocation of academic thought from the commonly-held standards of ordinary people. I am asking myself: Is he serious?

Apparently he is, and there is no discernible change of tone when he looks at the other end of the cane, so to speak.

It is, of course, a concern that some parents or teachers might derive sexual gratification from beating children, but is it a reason to eliminate or ban the practice? Someone might suggest that it is, if the anticipated sexual pleasure led to beatings that were inappropriate -- either because children were beaten when they should not have been, or if the punishment were administered in an improper manner. However...
Never mind the "however" - I suppose the kind of man he might be talking about is our "retired headmaster" - the kind who waited until a boy was in his gym-kit before calling him for punishment. And when you look at what Benatar thinks the response could be to a man like that, the gap between academics and ordinary people becomes a yawning chasm. Take my notional boy's mother, for example - or, better still, the mother of a boy who went to that retired headmaster's prep school. Is her response really to worry that children were beaten who shouldn't have been? Or that "guidelines" might have been violated? Put such comforts aside. Her response is to remember the day her son skipped school and asked her for a sick-note, warning her that he'd be beaten otherwise, and she replied, "Well, you deserve it". Can you imagine her feelings now, can you sense her creeping horror as the realization dawns that this vile man had once got his hands on her son - with her blessing? If Dr Benatar does not know that her response is the same as mine - revulsion! - then he lives on a different planet from the rest of us.



Recall what Dr Benatar said about unproven arguments, which "cannot be strengthened by association with others. They fail whether they stand alone or in company." In the preceding section of my piece dealing with a murky subject, I have provided a series of such arguments, if you want to call them that, though it might be better to call them an "accumulation of insinuations". I will now gather them together and tell you that he is wrong. Each is strengthened by association with others.

In my opening remarks I referred to Dr Benatar's false logic in drawing an analogy between corporal punishment and killing in self-defence, and warned that a similar false logic could be found bending his arguments throughout. So, now is the time to clarify that.

It should be plain to anyone that Dr Benatar's liberal use of the "insufficient evidence" stamp while dealing with Arguments Against, and his conspicuous failure to do the same with Arguments For, is part of an overall strategy. The crafty dodge of inverting the deterrence argument and presenting it as an objection is a manoeuvre that does in miniature what the whole thesis is doing on a larger scale - shifting the burden of proof.

Evidently, Dr Benatar is trying to grant the same status to corporal punishment as is granted to defendants in English law - innocent until proven guilty. A court is not told that a defendant in a child abuse case has been questioned several times by police over other cases, and then released without charge, or that previous charges against him have been dismissed for lack of evidence. The jury is not supposed to consider those things in their deliberations. But the strictures of English law do not apply to an employer who has to decide whether it is safe to hire this man as an assistant at a child-care centre. And that, precisely, is the position of educationalists considering the case for corporal punishment. When the safety of children is at stake, an accumulation of insinuations means a lot.

An unproven objection cannot be strengthened by association with others, says Benatar. But I say, yes it can. Whatever rigorous philosophical debate demands, in real life positive proof is hard to come by, and we accept reasonable inferences. "In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the data and afterwards rendered general by induction," wrote Newton, explaining how he arrived at his Law of Gravity. And inferential methods have an honoured place in science. We identify an invisible black hole in space by the otherwise inexplicable activity in the vicinity. We can see asteroids swerving in their course, measure the distortion of elliptical paths, and infer the reason. We can draw lines across space, and see where they intersect, extrapolating from the visible to the invisible. The danger-flags that I've pinned to corporal punishment are legitimately there - the punishment that has progressively retreated from the light of day, the punishment that finds its reflection in the pantomime canings of prostitutes, the punishment that betrays itself with its gender discrimination, the punishment that holds its former victims in thrall - and together they point to a malignant centre.

Thus, with perfect judgement, the British Psychological Society warned in 1980: "Advocates of corporal punishment in schools should examine very carefully the weight of evidence now available and, particularly in light of the pornographic component, consider whether they can justify the continuation of a system with such a capacity for exciting unhealthy interest."

And they did not say: let's wait for proof.


I'm sorry this piece has been so long, but when a distinguished academic mounts a defence of corporal punishment, it's bound to be taken seriously by many people, and it can't be demolished in a couple of pages. It's an unfortunate fact that academics have a default credibility when they take to the keyboard that ordinary people lack. Anyone who can use a word like "normative" without having to look it up is someone we're inclined to think must know what he's talking about, and the effect might be to blunt our critical edge. It certainly blunted mine the first time through. Bogged down in the detail, I couldn't see how threadbare Dr Benatar's case really was until I'd done the necessary thing and compressed it down to a précis. Then I saw the light.

Out of curiosity I copy-pasted the whole of his Arguments Against section, called "Responding to Arguments against Corporal Punishment", into an editor and got a word-count of 4868, and then did the same with Arguments For - "Considering the Case for Corporal Punishment" - which clocked up just 876 words. He spent more than five times as long undermining those who say that CP is a bad thing as he spent telling us why it's a good thing.

One obvious contribution to that is his burden-of-proof trick where deterrence is dealt with as an objection instead of a benefit. And the word count of Arguments Against is swollen still further by his habit of swerving off the road to warn us that the negative effects he's talking about at the moment might be over-ridden by the positive effects he'll tell us about later on. His continually alluding to benefits which might or might not exist, and which haven't even been named yet, is one tiresome tic that is responsible for inflating the text in that section. And the disappearance of that tic when he finally gets round to listing the positives, where he doesn't give us the converse caution about remembering the negatives, is a corresponding reason why that section is more concise.

But the main reason for the skeletal nature of Arguments For is simply that there is nothing in the bank. Corporal punishment is a non-useful punishment, he offers hopefully - damn me, you could knock that one over with your hat! In quoting him on the link between CP and sexual deviancy, I referred to his obscuring tactics as a conjuring-trick. Well, the truth is that the whole essay is a conjuring trick, but it's one of a very perverse kind, because, actually, he has nothing up his sleeve.

I will not finish with a conclusion, but with a question, probably a very unexpected one. A long way back, I wrote: "The parents knew and didn't know, they approved and didn't approve, and it would all work fine as long as there was omerta, the code of silence instinctively respected by the victims." But one thing that props up the omerta is the machismo. The beating tradition of schools like mine relies heavily on boys playing their allotted role. So - what happens when the machismo breaks down, and they don't? Dr Benatar should have included in Requirements for the Just Infliction of Corporal Punishment a section called Troubleshooting, which tells us how to proceed when things go wrong.

But now I'll take my leave, and hand over to Sabine to finish things off. Thank you for your patience in reading this long piece, and good wishes for the future. In the meantime, Troubleshoot this:-

Most of my art classes were for boys of only 12-13, and one of them was a quiet boy who was a boarder at the school, very polite but quite shy, and always by himself. One day he remained after the class as I gathered up my materials to ask me questions about the schoolwork. I answered him as I could, but I felt he wanted to speak about different things, or maybe he just wanted my company. The next day also the same thing -- again more questions! For two days he was close to me like a baby deer that has lost its mother! And even once I came out of the staff room to find him waiting nearby, but he turned to look away, and I thought maybe he wanted to ask something but changed his mind. So I didn't worry too much about it. But that night he went secretly from his dormitory and was not found until the middle of the next day. He had not left the school, but was hiding in some woods. They were quite spacious grounds, and the prefects had gone out to search for him. He was kept in the sick-bay after that where no one could see him, and later his parents arrived. Within one hour he was gone.

Soon I was to discover the reason for his actions. I don't know what such a harmless little boy could have done that he must be beaten, but one of the teachers had sent him for it. But he failed to keep his appointment to receive his punishment, which she could find out from the punishment book. She challenged him about it, and he made some excuse. So she gave him another day to do it. But he failed again, and could not explain, so she promised to see the Head, and maybe he would get worse for that. That must have been the day when I saw him outside the staff room. I realized then what was on his mind during two days. He was afraid to go for his punishment and wanted me to protect him, because he thought no one else would care. But he was afraid even of me, and couldn't find the courage to tell me his troubles. I cried that night in my bed to think that I could have stopped to speak to him, but only walked past.

In a few days I gave my resignation and left at the end of term. But every day until then I had to see his empty desk. I did not teach again until we returned to Austria where one must treat children in human ways according to the law, so I could never find myself in such a position again. The school in Zimbabwe had a chapel and everywhere they had pictures of Jesus. That's a comfortable thought for Christians, isn't it?

Contact the author at btketman@btopenworld.com


There is a glitch in every graph, and the "increasing seclusion" graph is no exception. In March this year a young woman on a UK chat forum claimed to have started teaching at Tiger in 1998, when she was eighteen and newly-arrived from England - an unqualified guest teacher. She claims not only to have had the power to send boys for corporal punishment, but also to have witnessed these punishments herself. They took place in the Deputy Headmaster's office, which opened onto a larger office where she would sit during free periods with her friend, a secretary, listening to the sounds of the beatings through the open door, and watching the boys going in and out.

You will obviously want to know why she didn't get up and walk away, and grant those boys what little dignity there was for them in that situation - and so do I. Her stated reason for being there - "I liked to have a cup of coffee with my friend" - leaves us to choose between callousness and stupidity as the actual reason. Nine years later she still doesn't think she did anything wrong. But it's surely more disturbing that her behaviour was permitted by the senior authorities. It was the Deputy who left his door open, after all.

To begin with I suspected exaggeration, if not outright invention. But Natasha put me right, telling how "we all (staff) could hear it (the lashing) from the staffroom at teatime!" The staffroom, it turns out, was "a few metres" away, and the door of that room was left open too. Boys who had just been punished would have to carry their pain past the interested gaze of tea-drinking guest teachers, gap year students, sabbatical leave teachers, secretaries - anybody and his wife. It looks like the punishment area was some kind of Piccadilly Circus with traffic flowing in every direction. Two girls sitting at a desk a few feet away from the deputy's open door was just the first stage in an obstacle course of spectators.

This was so at odds with my own schooldays that I contacted the heads of five other schools in Zim, and ran immediately into the problem I mentioned in the main text of getting CP-supporters to speak at all. The most comprehensive reply came from the head of my own school, where the frequency of CP has diminished to within spitting distance of abolition. But in the rare instances where it happens he is willing to breach regulations in pursuit of privacy: "You are right to recall that the privacy of administration was uppermost, as it still is. Formal Government regulations do specify the requirement of a witness. This I have ignored for reasons of pride/humiliation." Three of the other four replied, but only one of them was willing to comment on conditions at Tiger: "Such incidences are indeed offensive". Dr Benatar himself, in an email to me, said: "I agree entirely that casual witnesses can heighten the degradation accompanying physical punishment and thus, if it is to be inflicted, it should be done in privacy." So I would venture that this is one point at least on which the pro-cp and anti-cp camps can find common ground. I will make an educated guess that Tiger is out there on its own in terms of that kind of degradation. Certainly it would have been impossible at my school in the 1960s, where Sabine's "they didn't even want us to hear it" applied not only to staff, but also to boys, who were forbidden to loiter in the area when punishments were taking place. As the head's remarks imply, it was tacitly accepted that being beaten was humiliation enough, and there was no need to add to it by allowing casual observers, especially female ones, to witness any part of the process. And when such an observer is an unqualified teenage girl barely out of school clothes herself, that would have been considered a gratuitous source of shame beyond anything boys could be expected to endure. If a senior member of staff had not told her to vanish, a boy might have done it for him.

(In this article I have been fairly uncompromising in my attack on corporal punishment, and maybe here and there I have ridden roughshod over things about which I should have expressed more doubt. But there was one glaring omission, which never occurred to me until I came to write this Appendix (a late addition). I forgot to praise my own school and my own time. The practice of beating boys was the one moral blind-spot of my teachers. In every other way the values they taught were the highest, and if I had to go back and choose my school again, it would be the same one - with or without that blind-spot.)

I believe (I hope, I trust) that Tiger in the late 90s is the exception, and that enforced privacy was and is the norm in the better class of Zim school. And of course, it would be easy to develop a conspiracy theory about that. In a country where corporal punishment is forbidden for girls, the total ignorance of women is something that the men might have been keen to preserve. My own belief was always that if the average woman teacher had to witness one of those punishments, she would never be able to order it again. Of course that doesn't preclude exceptions like our teenager from the UK (where CP has been forbidden since before she started school) who apparently can accustom herself to anything. But I do think it is true of the majority of women. And it would be tempting to say that that's the reason great care is taken to keep them in ignorance. But I do not believe that. The motives behind the privacy are exactly what the head of my school says they are - which is to keep the humiliation component at a minimum. However, even those decent motives cannot help revealing the truth, namely, that humiliation is inherent in corporal punishment.



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