As a social experiment, I occasionally share a scene in Mon fils a moi on my Facebook wall. A controlling mother enters the bathroom when her twelve-year old son stands naked. When he covers himself up with his hands, she asks him to take his hands off. She strikes his legs with a towel, and when he tries to pick up his underwear, she snatches it and gives it to him. When he wears it staring at her face, trembling, she shakes her head smiling. She then leaves the room after stroking his hair.
Everyone ignores this when I share it on my wall, even though it is a visual. Ordinary people love visuals more than text. Yet, they ignore it, because they are not doing so because they are indifferent to it. A lady once told me that they ignore it because it is something to be enjoyed, but not to be talked about.
For people to ignore something that bothers them, it has to be something that really bothers them, something that bothers them to the point that they are compelled to ignore it. This is an important concept that has much wider implications.
It is a common pattern, of course. In an office rant of mine, I had not named a colleague I had a relationship with, Miss Michelle, and a colleague who had stalked me, Mr. Noob. Everyone asked me who Mr. Noob was, but none of my ex-colleagues wanted to know who Miss Michelle was. Even the people who had left the Magazine long before I joined did not want to know who she was. It was not news to them because she was a married woman. When I once wrote about an employer who had sent me to his middle-aged wife in the night, many people told me that they read the post. But, they did not mention the incident itself. I know these bastards.
This is again, very central to our culture.When corporal punishment is debated in the mainstream media, a strong possibility often goes unstated: It is “possible” that corporal punishment is motivated by sexual intent. I find this obviously true. I will not doubt the validity of this claim for a single second. I suspect that this is not discussed because most people are weak-hearts, and fear that they will found out. It is hard to know how common this fantasy is, but one way to find out is to see how common it is in literature.
I will quote from some popular works. Read this passage from Jeffrey Archer’s “The Prodigal Daughter”:
“At the end of the fall term, Florentyna got her first spanking. In later life she always associated this with snow. Florentyna was taken to her father’s study and given a long lecture on the irresponsibility of taking things that did not belong to her. Abel bent her over his knee and gave her three hard slaps with a hairbrush. That Saturday night was one she would never forget.”
Observe the romanticization. The snow. The long, calm lecture before the punishment. This is a common pattern. A similar passage from Sarah Jones’ “Call Me Evil, Let Me Go”:
“I called Paul. ‘Will you come into Mummy and Daddy’s bedroom, please,’ I said, trying not to let my anxiety show in my voice. ‘I want to speak to you.’ I didn’t want to punish him in front of his siblings. I listened carefully to his explanation and told him he had been naughty. I then pulled down his trousers and underpants and gave him two quick smacks with my hand on his bare bottom. After that I cuddled him tightly, pleased that he didn’t cry.”
The pattern is familiar. She listens carefully, and tells him that he had been naughty (Yes, naughty). If you read this sentence carefully, the redundancy and the vivid nature of the description becomes more evident: “I then pulled down his trousers and underpants and gave him two quick smacks with my hand on his bare bottom.” If she pulled down his trousers and underpants, why does she have to say that she smacked him on his bare bottom? Quite unnecessary, isn’t it? Now, this is a work on a mother’s struggle in bringing up her kids in a religious cult that “compelled” her to smack her children. She was compelled, of course.
See this whipping scene in Paulo Coehlo’s “Eleven Minutes”
‘You’re going to get a good beating. Until you learn to behave yourself.’ He slapped her bottom with the flat of his hand. Maria cried out; this time it had hurt. ‘Oh, so you’re complaining, are you? Well, I haven’t even started yet.’ Another slap on her buttocks.
It is said that Ayn Rand’s “We The Living” had a similar whipping scene in which Leo was whipping Kira. But, she removed it from the later editions perhaps because she feared that it is a reflection of bad philosophical premises. I did not know that she was turned on by lashes, but, her novels and short stories have vivid descriptions of domination and submission.
It is not just popular literature. Read this passage in Rousseau’s “Confessions”:
“As Miss Lambercier felt a mother’s affection, she sometimes exerted a mother’s authority, even to inflicting on us when we deserved it, the punishment of infants. She had often threatened it, and this threat of a treatment entirely new, appeared to me extremely dreadful; but I found the reality much less terrible than the idea, and what is still more unaccountable, this punishment increased my affection for the person who had inflicted it. All this affection, aided by my natural mildness, was scarcely sufficient to prevent my seeking, by fresh offenses, a return of the same chastisement; for a degree of sensuality had mingled with the smart and shame, which left more desire than fear of a repetition. Who would believe this childish discipline, received at eight years old, from the hands of a woman of thirty, should influence my propensities, my desires, my passions, for the rest of my life, and that in quite a contrary sense from what might naturally have been expected?”
You can see the same concept expressed in a letter John Money received from some dude in Calcutta:
“During my school hood in a Christian missionary Anglo-Indian Institute in Calcutta we were (all boys) often caned on our upturned, upraised buttocks by the headmaster (with his attractive wife sometimes looking on and passing humiliating, sarcastic comments). Needless to say, this brutalized our love-maps.”
This must have been Common in Calcutta in those days. Sasthi Brata’s “My God Died Young”, perhaps the only well-written autobiography written by a very young Indian I have read, has a similar passage on the head-master’s wife:
“She also displayed a fascinating knack of spotting the caning sessions and would repeatedly pad up and down the wooden stairs next to the dormitory where each such session took place. Sometimes she would recommend possible candidates on grounds of such grave misdemeanors as ‘bumping against her on the stairs’ ‘looking at her with an en-nakedizing gaze (If it had not been explained to us in detail I doubt if we would have understood the meaning of the phrase.), failing to say, ‘Please Excuse me Miss’ while passing her down the corridor or so.”
The sexual intent is often not explicitly mentioned. But, the motive is explicitly mentioned in Manu Joseph’s The Illicit Happiness of Other People”:
“Everybody knows that Rufus Sir enjoys beating up boys when they are dressed as girls. So Thoma does not let his mind wander, he does not want to give him any excuse.”
The motive is even more obvious in Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads:
“I wanted to pick up the brush and beat Amber senselessly with it. Not because I hated her. Not because she deserved it. Not because I wanted to make her fear me. Simply because it would feel good. The difference between Dad and me was that he always went ahead and hit one of us; and he was a much happier person. I knew it never occurred to Amber that I might hurt her. She believed violence was an act of strength, and she thought I was weak.”
These are not isolated bits. I find this very common in literature in general. There is a sadomasochistic streak in almost every writer. What should be the inference? Should I think that this fantasy is very common among writers, or that it is very common among people in general?