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Flogging & whipping  

"The master-at-arms assisted the prisoner off with his shirt, leaving him naked to the waist, but throwing the garment loosely over his shoulders.  Removing the port gangway ladder, his wrists were made fast, with a lashing, to the brass man-rope eyebolts, and his ankles to a small grating laid on the deck.  Thus standing straight up, his arms were stretched considerably above his head. The assistant surgeon then stepped up close on one side of the man to see that the punishment was not excessive.  The boatswain had, in the mean time,'Flogging" from "Thirty Years at Sea; the Story of a Sailor's Life" 1879 produced a green baize bag, which contained the 'cats.'  These consisted of a wooden handle, about fifteen inches long, covered with cloth, with nine tails of white line about as thick as thick pack-cord, twenty inches long, and the ends 'whipped,' not knotted.  One of these cats was handed to the chief boatswain's mate, who was mildly cautioned by the captain to 'do his duty, and not favour the man, or he would be triced up himself.' ...At this the master-at-arms removed the blue shirt, and [the] boatswain's mate swung round and brought the 'cats' down across the man's shoulders, the master-at-arms called out, aloud, 'One - two,' and so on, until 'twelve,' when the captain said, 'Stop. Take him down.'"  Quotation and illustration from Edward Shippen, Thirty Years at Sea; the Story of a Sailor's Life, 1879.

A real life account, from a victim of the SACHSENHAUSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP (recorded in the Polish Documentary Institute) HERE

    Flogging or flagellation has been an integral part of our history in one form or another as long as there seems to have been history. It has been used for sexual practices, spiritual practices, religious, judicial and even medical practices. Syrian priest, like countless other religious leaders, believed that the gods could be appeased by the use of scourges and would spend hours whipping themselves profusely with an instrument made of twisted woolen cords armed with small bones. Even today, Shiite Muslims indulge in the practice of public self-flagellation.

It had become the custom to regard the recital of thirty psalms while taking the discipline (i.e. about three thousand strokes) as equivalent to one year's canonical penance. So that to scourge oneself while reciting the whole Psalter was to execute five years of penance. St. Dominic Loricatus is related to have accomplished in this manner one hundred years of penance (i.e. twenty Psalters), spreading the penance over one week. And during one or two Lents he is said to have fulfilled in this way one thousand years of penance, scourging himself night and day for forty days while he recited no less than two hundred Psalters. (From the Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 5, transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas)

   By the eleventh century the Franciscans were extolling self-flagellation as a penance. And the Italian Benedictine St. Pietro Damian organized group flagellation for laymen. Two hundred years later a procession of fanatical flagellants - closely linked to the Flagellant sect - set out under the auspices of St. Anthony of Padua. This austere saint, theologian and preacher-keen to combat manifest sexuality - was in fact adding to the sexual ferment. In 1260 unofficial processions of voluntary scourgers, each member heartily whipping the man in front of him, started streaming through Italy and out into northern and central Europe. The participants, all male, carried banners and candles, and they sang as they marched. (From The Illustrated Book of Sexual Records.
1974, 1982, 1997-2001 G. L. Simons)

    I might mention, there are a great number of tales of confessors making use of their powers of absolution to force their parishioners to beat them. In ancient Rome, judges would decorate the walls of their courtrooms with various types of scourges in order to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, many of whom would be ordered to endure whippings of such severity that more than just a few of them died from the wounds inflicted upon them; Austrian soldiers who misbehaved were made to run the terrible gauntlet.

    Flogging has also been reputed to have a good amount of medicinal value as well. At various times throughout history, it has been promoted as a way of 'stirring up the body's stagnating juices, dissolving the precipitating salts, purifying the coagulating humours of the body, clearing the brain, purging the belly, circulating the blood and bracing the nerves.' It has been used as a treatment for insanity, laziness, depression, obstruction of the bowels and even for lockjaw and choking. ("A History of the Rod
Flagellation and the Flagellants in all Countries, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time" by William H. Cooper B.A. 1865)

    Lesbian Flagellation in Merry Old EnglandThe first overtly pornographic work on the subject of flagellation was published in the year 1718, and was entitled 'A Treatise on the Use of Flogging'. With the appearance of this book, flagellation became a passion throughout Europe, so much so that the French soon dubbed it 'le vice anglais,' the English vice, a nickname which would stick for centuries and can apply to either  flagellation or corporal punishment.

England has long been represented as the natural home of flagellation I am pleased to say. Thus, "Perhaps it was the cold climate which originally aroused in Englishmen a desire for whipping." "Nowhere in the world do we find such a deep affection for the rod." ("The Golden Age of Erotica" by B. J. Hurwood ) And again - "Flagellation-mania (the desire to beat and flog) and preference for the use of the rod may be described as a specifically English abuse; it was so widespread among all ranks and ages that it formed one of the most interesting features of their sexual life." ("Sexual Life in England" by I. Bloch)

There were many high-class brothels in the nineteenth century. One of the most famous of these was run by a Mrs. Theresa Berkley (or Berkeley) of 28 Charlotte Street. She was a "governess", i.e. she specialized in chastisement, whipping, flagellation, and the like. She was even credited with the invention of the Berkley horse, an ingenious flogging machine that earned her a fortune. (From The Illustrated Book of Sexual Records.
1974, 1982, 1997-2001 G. L. Simons)

    Today, may people still find pleasure at the business end of the scourge. It is regarded as a tool of sensuality, an instrument of passion and affection. This is where we begin our journey into Flogging. While many outside of BD/SM would be unable to understand flogging in any way other than as a punishment, inside the lifestyle, it is widely regarded as the most prolific of all play styles. A skilled person can give any variation of sensations over any part of the body, using an instrument made up of a handle and tails called the flogger.  

    The handle of a flogger is generally made of wood and may be leather wrapped and weighted. I  own a pair with weighted steel handles to balance the extra long, heavy tails. The tails can be made of any material, leather being the most popular, but with fur, rope and cordage also being used. They can vary from simple home made items to purchased ones like the one (pictured above). Comes with one set of soft suede as shown and one set of flat rubber. The suede can sting or stroke;  providing the mildest sensation of any of these whips. The flat rubber, on the other hand, is possibly the most severe sensation available with these whips, being very stingy and a bit thuddy. The rubber can also be put in the freezer for a little while, to give a whole new dimension to sensation play. Neither material is very likely to leave lasting marks, so this flogger makes an excellent choice for a first mulit-tail.  http://www.tops-and-bottoms.co.uk/floggers.htm or the Braided Cat-O-Nine Tails - VT03 from FP costing a massive 300  -Wildcat by Vic Cella of snakewhip.com http://www.fetteredpleasures.com/whipsfloggers.htm 

Contrary to what some might think, it's not simply a case of having a whip in your hand  and going hell for leather for the sake of it, there are lots of things to consider. Your average sports whip cracker, if they fancied having a go, would probably do an awful lot of damage - that is not the name of the game! In fact, it doesn't need to hurt at all.

The first thing anyone's going to ask about using a whip on a human target is, 'why'?

People enjoy using whips in an SM context for many different reasons.

Whips as part of the D/s Dynamic

A couple in a long term Dominant/submissive relationship may include the use of whips as part of a scene as a demonstration of the consensual power exchange that exists between them. This does not mean that the submissive is necessarily a masochist. In a lot of cases subs don't particularly enjoy pain, but get an emotional high from knowing that they are pleasing their partner - making the experience worth while to them.

This may sound bizarre to someone who isn't involved in a D/s relationship, but in actual fact it is an extremely powerful interaction, bringing two people together in complete trust.

Pain and injury are two different things, and the key to enjoyable use of whips in SM is two fold. On the one hand, it requires endurance of pain (or exposure to the possibility of pain) whilst trusting that injury won't occur. On the other, it requires extreme concentration and skill to create just the right amount of pain/ sense of danger / excitement, without betraying the other person's trust in your skill. 

When everything comes together, it can be a very powerful experience for both people involved. 

Pure SM? On the other hand, whip play might take place between two people who have no interest in consensual domination and submission.

The 'Top' (whip master/mistress) may - or may not - gain pleasure from giving pain, or watching the reaction of their play partner to pain. They may get an adrenalin high from the situation, and the care they need to exercise in order to avoid harming the other person.  They probably enjoy the physical effort involved, and almost certainly gain pleasure from seeing the mark of their handiwork appear on the other person's skin. They probably also enjoy the  attention their play will inevitably attract - there is more than a hint of theatre to using a bullwhip in a dungeon setting!

One thing that seems to be agreed though, is that a whip master or mistress in a (D/s or SM role, or somewhere in between) gains no sexual pleasure from using the whip. Indeed, sexual pleasure would reduce their control and make the whole thing unsafe.

The 'Bottom' (on the receiving end). May gain sexual pleasure - or may not. Some people just like the sensation of the whip on their skin, or the excitement of the situation. For some, there is a sense of relaxation and stress release.  Interestingly, there is some (scientific) evidence that flogging and whipping helps to stimulate the immune system. 

Taking a Whipping

So far this whole section has focused mainly on the People who wield whips. But, of course, if we had no one to whip the whole thing would be pointless.


The following is for the benefit of anyone who might be curious about the feel of a single tail against skin, and as a step over to the 'other side' for the people who wield them :o)

As briefly touched upon in the Whips in SM Intro, enjoyment is derived from the effects of a whip for many reasons. The main reason being a love of pain (masochism), another, as an act of submission, but more often as a combination of both.

More often than not, there is an adrenaline boost  going on when you find yourself standing in front of a whip - not just  the first time either. This in itself can heighten the experience, making it quite enjoyable.

By putting yourself at the mercy of a skilled whip master/mistress you are also taking on a degree of responsibility. They may have your welfare in their hands during the scene, but you have a duty to them by being honest at the outset.

You should tell them if:

  •  You are ill (this includes minor conditions) 

  • You are on any medication which may affect your balance or your ability to cope with the whip

  •  You have a partner outside of the scene who knows nothing about your interest 

  • You are pregnant

  • You are a complete pain slut

  • You don't like pain

The list goes on but I'm sure you get the picture. 

Some practical tips for safe play

  • It's always a good idea to check out the person you're going to  be playing with. Just because someone says they can use a whip safely,  doesn't always mean they can. Ask around, or ask them to tell you who they have whipped before. If in doubt, don't play!

  • Try not to move too much during the whipping. It can be off-putting to the person whipping you, but more importantly it could cause injury if you shift position as the whip makes contact. If you feel uncomfortable during a scene, let the person you are playing with know and they will stop.

  • Don't turn around or move your head to try and get a better look. You could lose an eye!

  • Try to relax through the scene. If you tense up, it may cause discomfort.

  • Tell your Top if you feel unwell during a whipping. 

  • Arrange a safe word or safe sign to end a whipping scene in a hurry. If you are prone to 'spacing out', having someone with you who knows you well enough to call a halt if necessary would be of benefit

  • Don't try and 'annoy' your top into giving you more punishment. Nine times out of ten this doesn't work and the only punishment you'll get is a premature end to your whipping.


Whips don't have to hurt but It's very, very nice when they do;-)

Whether or not it does,  really is in the hands of the person using it, hence the importance of playing with someone you trust. Also, make sure they are aware of your general tolerance and reaction to pain.

A very good article about pain in an SM contact can be found here: http://public.diversity.org.uk/deviant/sspain.htm and is well worth a read regardless of your orientation.

Tops on the bottom

I would recommend that anyone who is thinking of using a single tail on someone,  takes at least one lash them self. Most of the whip folk I know, have done this and would agree it was a worthwhile experience. (even if they hated it)

From personal experience, it helped me to get a better perspective of what my play partners experience each time they stand before me. Also, being in a full time D/s relationship, I now appreciate the extent of David's submission (he doesn't like pain) far more than I would have, if I had never tried it :o)

Choosing a Suitable Whip for SM

As previously discussed, there is a fair amount of difference in the way whips are used in SM and sport cracking, so you're going to need a whip that is right for the job!

Regardless of what sort of whip you fancy, there are certain generally desirable characteristics. These are:

Predictability: When you have mastered a throw, every time you use that throw, the whip should to respond in the same way. If the same technique only produces the same result nine times out of ten, the whip's no good for SM. Some whips are very predictable when used in a certain way, but not when thrown differently. As long as you have worked out what it's limits are, that's fine.

Usability: The whip needs to be suitable for how and where you intend to use it. Mastering an 8 foot bullwhip for use in SM is a great achievement. No good buying one, though, if you've got nowhere to practice with it; or your local club hasn't got the space to throw it.

Short whips (e.g. 4 foot signals, 3 or 4 foot snakes) are more usable in clubs; and are faster to master, but are limited in what you can do with them. Short snake whips win over signal whips for playing with lots of partners in one night, because you can change the cracker. But signal whips are wonderfully elegant little whips, and keeping one as 'our special toy' can really add something to proceedings when you play with a loved one.

The Right Weight: Regardless of quality, if you find a whip tiring to use, you will struggle to be safely accurate with it throughout a scene. 

Moreover, as most SM whip cracking happens in spaces that limit how you use your whip, you're going to be using the same technique over and over again - making muscle fatigue more of a issue than it is for sport whip crackers.

So unless you're willing to develop the necessary strength and fitness, don't buy a whip that you're not comfortable throwing.

Snake and signal whips can be heavily loaded with lead to  make cracking easier. This usually creates a slower action, which is fine as long as that's the rhythm you're after. At the other extreme, if they are too light, they may require a lot effort to get a crack. The risk there, is loss of accuracy or over-reaching if you 'muscle' the whip to get a noise.


What About  a Whip's Accuracy?

If you have the skill, as long as the whip is predictable, and you don't struggle to throw it,  you can probably make it safely accurate. If it throws off to one side, you'll be able to compensate. If you have to throw it hard to make it crack loudly, you can throw it with less energy when whipping someone. So, to a large extent, accuracy is more about how you use the whip than it is about the whip itself. Restraints can help keep your target still which helps accuracy. Many subs also find they enhance the experience by letting them have something to fight against.

That said, there are a few things to think about:

  • Whilst learning, most people find it easier to become accurate with short whips than they do with long ones.

  • Most people find whips with handles to be more accurate than the same length whips without.

  • It is fairly easy to get accurate with a whip if you practice with it. The real key to safe SM whip use is in being able to finely judge distances.

If you feel we've missed anything, please let me know via theinstitute@blueyonder.co.uk 

Good luck, and enjoy!