Notes on Spanking the Younger Schoolboy
Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 25 Apr 2010
I originally envisaged this as a theoretical monograph: something that could be put on a page of foolscap and, perhaps, handed to a young man recently down from university and embarking on a career as a master in a preparatory school. But when I was about halfway through, I became aware there was an aridity about the document. Something was missing, and it was of course the central drama of the business: the personalities of the master (providing the spanking) and the boy (providing the bottom, albeit unwillingly); and the interaction of those personalities during the ritual of punishment.
This led to a change of tack. I tore up this first draft and decided to attempt a longer and more complex piece of work: to deliver certain key philosophical points about chastising boys' bottoms, but basing them on an actual incident. Whether this experiment (for I am aware of no precedent) works, I leave you, the reader, to judge.
Almost as a preamble to the preamble, I have to warn you that I am generally judged to be a rather pedantic man. I have a slight obsession with accuracy and detail, as befits one who is in his 36th year of teaching Mathematics and Latin. And already I am troubled by something I have said: providing the bottom, albeit unwillingly. There is unquestionably a broad truth here, but in my long career I have come across a handful of young boys who seemed to derive some considerable enjoyment from having their backsides moderately spanked. The most extreme example was a child whom I will simply refer to as Philip – his is now an up-and-coming QC, and I have no wish to incur his litigious wrath by revealing his full name.
Now I am being led into a digression, even at this early stage. I fear I will have to detail the matter in a separate paper entitled The Case of Philip, which I will present to you in due course. Furthermore I must insist on the right in future to make broad generalisations without noting every counter-example, or this present work will never be done.
I am already regretting committing myself to writing a second paper, when I have so many other more pressing tasks to hand.
Let us return to the main matter. I must first clarify what I mean by 'the younger schoolboy.' As you will be aware preparatory schools typically cater for boys between 8 and 13 years. There are exceptions: occasionally a boy may turn his 14th birthday – but, Good Lord, do you see how I'm again breaking my regula aurea and getting involved in irrelevant minor cases that do nothing to advance the main thrust of the argument? Being a pedant unquestionably carries some heavy penalties; not least, that other people tend to find one rather tiresome.
I can feel a new much more purposeful approach coming to the fore. The average of 8 and 13 is 10.5, but to give myself a little leeway I will round up 11. Had it been 10.49 I would of course have been obliged by the conventions of mathematics to round down to 10, but fortunately that was not the case. So we have narrowed the field down to young fellows of 8 to 11 summers.
Now a point comes into play that is specific to my particular prep-school and not to prep-schools in general. The 8-year-old infants here lead a rather separate school life from the older boys. They live in a separate boarding-house and I don't even teach them, for example. On the odd occasion that I do run across one, it appears to belong to homo sapiens and speak English, but beyond that I understand nothing of it. It may be cut from the equation.
With this new approach I have quite swiftly established that I am referring to boys of 9 –
11 years of age. And our putative recent graduate might do well to initiate himself with a boy
of this size: it would be the height of folly, and even arrogance, to attempt his first thrashing
on a wily brute of 13, with a full four years of evading and mitigating punishment under his
A Specific Incident
It is quite extraordinary how before moving forward one seems to have deal with a host of other matters, but it must be done. I will say here that about 20 years ago (and quite probably for the only time in my life) I did something that endeared me to everybody around me, from the Headmaster down: I volunteered to be master-on-duty every Saturday of the school year. In return I extracted some concessions for myself, most notably that of not having to take games.
(My failings as a games-master were not in the technical mastery of the rules – I had no trouble on that score. My difficulties related to the instant decisions required in the context of a fast-moving ball-game. All too quickly I would be surrounded by 11 small boys demanding a penalty be awarded, and 11 other equally determined small boys threatening to walk off the field if a penalty were awarded. You see my dilemma? Like Buridan's ass I would look from one pile to the other...)
In retrospect I realise I could have opened this section by just stating baldly: 'Saturday was my duty day.' But having started on the more expansive approach, I'm reluctant to leave loose threads hanging, so I'll briefly clear up the obvious question of Why was it so well-received to volunteer to do Saturday duty?
The answer divides into two parts. First, Saturday was deemed by the masters a messy day to be on duty: boys had more free-time, there were visiting sports teams, bed-times were slightly later, and so on. Second, masters in charge of school teams had to arrange duty-swaps if they were on duty on Saturday and taking a team away to a match at a neighbouring school – a tedious business, at best.
My reason for mentioning Saturday at all is that the specific incident I wish to use to draw out general principles occurred on a Saturday – though obviously it wouldn't affect the argument a jot had it occurred on a Tuesday.
I sometimes think of myself, with a self-indulgent chuckle, as the Samuel Pepys of the prep school world. I have kept detailed diaries for more than 30 years now, though never having poisoned myself with alcohol or tobacco my memory is razor-sharp and the written words almost redundant. Nevertheless when searching for a specific incident I resorted to plucking a volume of diary at random from the shelf. It was from more than 10 years ago and after thumbing a few pages I came upon a simple entry entirely suitable for my purposes.
Sat 7 Oct 1967
... 8p.m. Caught Elliott (3a) throwing a Latin Primer across the dormitory. Resolved to beat him before breakfast on Sunday.
No great Shakespearian drama here, I think you will concur. Yet from this small incident,
supplemented by memory, I propose to extract a concise theory of spanking the younger schoolboy!
Perhaps only a reader who has done a little schoolmastering himself will discern a cardinal lesson implicitly contained in the brief diary entry above. Never be in a hurry to beat a boy. (I shall adopt a convention of underlining my guiding principles.)
It would have been so easy to roar at the boy, pull him over the end of his bed and hit his bottom with his own slipper on the spot. The other boys in the dorm would have been suitably entertained, though given that whole school was shown a film on Saturday evenings – 'Flipper' on that particular day if my memory serves me right – one might reasonably ask whether any further entertainment was due to them.
No, the experienced schoolmaster delays punishment to impose a little extra torment. The boy had been told to report to my room at 8.30am (on a Sunday most boys still woke at 7.30, but breakfast was not till 9.) One imagines the unfortunate child looking repeatedly at the clock:
In 40 minutes Porky's going to whack me...
In 15 minutes Porky's going to whack me...
In 3 minutes Porky's going to whack me...
(My surname is Hogg, something of a cross to bear for a master in prep-school.)
At last there is a knock on the door. I have already placed a straight-backed dining chair in the centre of my room. Careful preparation always results in a more satisfactory beating.
“Come in. Ah, it's you Elliott. Take off your pyjama trousers and put them on the back of the chair.”
If you will allow a little alliteration (my joke!): Bottoms are best beaten bare.
I am sitting in my armchair, appearing quite uninterested and supping my morning cup of Lapsang Souchong. (I am fortunate in that there is an excellent tea-merchant in Cirencester.)
“Hands on your head.”
Let me fill in a little detail. Elliott is a fairly typical example of the 10-year-old schoolboy: his only unusual characteristics are jet black hair and rather penetrating eyes. He has left his slippers outside the door – I will not have boys soiling my carpet with their footwear. At the moment he is standing six feet away from me clad only in his green and white striped pyjama jacket. Below, his 'unwilling bottom' peeps out like a rounded W.
I am in no hurry. Delay, delay and delay again. I finish my tea at leisure then stand up. The child looks round anxiously. 'Oh no, he's going to do it now.' As indeed I am.
Human ingenuity has come up a vast repertoire of implements for punishing recalcitrant boys: cane, slipper, whip, paddle, tawse, martinet, birch, strap... Instead I offer you this: The adult hand is perfectly adapted to spanking the younger schoolboy.
Let me nail an objection before it even surfaces. This last-mentioned principle only works in conjunction with an earlier one: bottoms are best beaten bare. In the classroom faced with a pellet-flicker, for example, one may wish to issue summary justice without the time consuming business of lowering shorts and underpants. For such occasions I keep an old gym-shoe locked in my desk. Equally, a menacing request to “report to my room after lunch” could be made, though slippering the boy publicly probably has a more effective deterrent effect on the rest of the class.
I sit on the chair and take the boy by the elbow to bring him into position by my side, ready to be popped over my knee in due course. He eyes me reproachfully, as if to say: 'Why does Sir, who as Sirs go is not one of the worst Sirs in the school, want to hurt me?' Do not allow misplaced compassion to mitigate deserved punishment.
“Pull your jacket right up.” I give his warm little bottom a couple of light
slaps as he does so. It is now time for us to have a chat. (Delay, delay and delay again!)
A Short but Necessary Digression
A thought has just struck me with force of muddy football on a wet Wednesday afternoon. (Though it is 20 years since I experienced this, the sensation is still fresh in my mind. I remain to be convinced that many of these occasions were not contrived by malicious boys.)
The thought is this: by using the phrase 'the spanking of younger schoolboys' is the author implying that older schoolboys do not require spanking? The inference is quite without foundation: it amounts to 'If X possesses property Y, then not-X does not possess property Y.' This is laughably illogical, but unfortunately experience tells me that many human beings are just that.
I'll state here: older schoolboys do require spanking, and they require spanking more often and with more painful implements than their younger brethren, but that is not the remit of this monograph.
Now I hear an ill-natured little whisper behind my back. (Oh yes, I've come across a very great deal of that sort of behaviour in my 36 years at Beechwood!) 'Did you notice he hasn't committed himself on the question of spanking the 8-year-olds?' I'll put this to rest then perhaps we can continue and even try to make up some lost time?
I have already stated I know almost nothing about the species. On theoretical grounds I assume
they need smacking from time to time – not too severely for they appear to cry rather
easily. But I prefer to follow Wittgenstein's dictum: Wovon mann nicht sprechen kann, darüber
muss man schweigen.
General Principles (ctd)
I believe that I am generally considered by my colleagues to be concise and to the point. But when it comes to pre-spanking chats I have an ability to ramble around the matter in hand and dash off at tangents that might quite surprise you. I can, when the situation demands it, 'woffle,' as the boys would say!
“Whatever possessed you to throw a book across the dormitory, Elliot?”
“Hamilton was annoying me, Sir.”
“I fear your reaction was quite unacceptable.” A light pinch of his nearer buttock emphasises my point. “And that it was a Latin primer merely compounds the offence.”
“Sorry, Sir.” Standing there holding his pyjama jacket round his chest, his perfectly-formed torso bare to the elements, the boy is no doubt feeling vulnerable and impatient for his ordeal to be over.
I, however will carry on for two or three more minutes (reminding him of past indiscretions, exhorting him to future virtue...) before issuing the magisterial summons: “Over my knee!” The younger schoolboy fits more comfortably over one leg than two.
Do not now rush in to punish! The boy must be nicely positioned so that the blows fall
fair and square across his errant bottom.
A Technical Note, Which Can Be Ignored By The Non-Mathematician
By 'nicely positioned' I mean no more and no less than the following: imagine a point at
the centre of the buttock; construct a tangent plane to the curve of the buttock at that point;
then the natural trajectory of your falling hand should be perpendicular to that tangent plane.
General Principles (ctd)
A few moments can well be spent positioning the bottom. A helpful push from the master; an exhortation to “Wriggle forward!” – that is the sort of thing to use.
Events are moving swiftly to a conclusion, yet I insist on one more delay. With a proprietorial hand on the fated bottom – perhaps even a light smack or a gentle rub – I issue a simple summary: “You have behaved impulsively and foolishly, and that is why you are being punished. You will get it four strokes.” It is chivalrous, though not absolutely required, to tell a boy what he must endure.
(Interjection: when I embarked on this piece of work I resolved to make it entirely accessible to the layman, but now I remember I have quoted Wittgenstein in the original German. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent. A careful check has turned up a further example, though this is one I hope even the non-Classicist could make an intelligent stab at: regula aurea = golden rule.)
A strange paradox: the administering of the blows comes almost as an anti-climax! I offer a few counsels: (i) Smack each buttock separately. A smack across both buttocks is technically feasible but results in a less satisfactory blow. (ii) Allow at least five seconds between smacks. (iii) Insists the victim stays down until given permission to rise.
This a personal preference so I will not underline it: at the end of a spanking I will normally say: “You may rub your bottom.” It pleases me to see small hands fly round to soothe smacked bottom. Only then: “Get up!”
At this point a crueller Sir than I might make the boy stand by the chair for five minutes
before reuniting him with his pyjama trousers and sending him on his way. I tend to mercy: young
Elliott is racing back to his dorm to regale them with tales of Porky's whacking.
My task is finished. I remain curiously dissatisfied with the monograph: at the back of my mind is the nagging suspicion that a ruthless editor could have trimmed away 10% of the text without detracting from the fundamental meaning. Nevertheless I present it to you, and hope it may instil a little theoretical understanding of an important but rather neglected educational topic.