All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

{NSFW} 21. A revelatory reading experience

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This is the twenty-first day of the 30 Days of Kink Challenge, as such it contains adult (and spankolicious) content.

~ Favourite BDSM related book (fiction or non-fiction) ~

Because it is taking me so long to complete this challenge (it began in November 2012!) and I’ve vowed to finish it before the end of 2013, I’ve decided to freewrite the remainder of the prompts. As such, please excuse any spelling and/or grammatical mistakes that may occur for they are all part and parcel of this form of writing.

thyrodandstaff

Quotation MarkNonetheless this is a book about flagellation; and in one way at least I believe it to be unlike most of its predecessors. For although over the last two centuries the subject has been regularly discussed and dissertated upon, the consensual conclusions of these works are unambiguously negative. The subject has remorselessly acquired a worse and worse ambiance. Today, it is closely associated in the public mind with such unpleasant social entities as cruelty, fascism (or at least near-fascist authoritarianism), male chauvinism, brutality, child abuse – and, of course, sexual perversion. Its ancient and even proper purposes – mystical, initiatory, medical and, yes, penitential – have been either almost completely forgotten or calumnified beyond recognition. As a result it is more taboo than at any time in its long history.

This book is a heresy: its purpose is to offer another, rather more benign, certainly broader, view of flagellation, an impulse which is very ancient and takes many forms, with many layers of complexity barely illuminated by those who have had the telling of the story so far.

I was but eighteen years old when I first stumbled upon the book that would become the bible for my spanking desires. There I was, meandering around London’s backstreets, happily enjoying another day in the finest city on earth, when I entered a branch of Waterstones not far from Oxford Street.

Normally when I enter random bookshops my main point of interest is perusing the vast assortment of fiction and literary novels on offer, but on this occasion my focus was on something else entirely. As I was house sitting for my relatives at the time, I had a myriad of “alone time” to fill, and thus desired a book that was a little more ‘mature’ in nature.

The selection of adult literature on display wasn’t great, but sandwiched between the various erotic novels and sex manuals was an intriguing purple-spined paperback. The moment I read the title – Thy Rod and Staff  – my heart fluttered at the prospect. Such a title would surely mean the book was about spanking, wouldn’t it? Low and behold, upon sliding the book from the shelf, the front image confirmed my delight: a detail of a classical illustration depicting the spanking of Cupid.

“Flagellation, corporal punishment, sadomasochism, spanking…whichever term you use, if you use it in company people are likely to look at you askance and begin to shuffle away surreptitiously.” As I continued to read the blurb I knew that, no matter what, I would need to purchase this book. “In Thy Rod and Staff, Edward Anthony offers a uniquely fascinating defense of the flagellatory impulse.”

The paperback copy cost me £8.99, which for the joys and solace this book brought me, has always seemed an absolute bargain. I read the entire book that evening, engrossed not only because of my interest in the subject matter, but because the writing was never salacious, erotic or cheap. This was a popular-academic study into something that had intrigued me since I was six years old.

It covered the history, and death, of corporal punishment, what it means to be deviant, flagellation and its impact on society, a glance through spanking in various forms of popular literature and a detailed look at the stages and themes of the flagellant experience.

For someone who had been – at the time – ruled only by fantasy (I had yet to embrace the internet at this point in my life) reading a book that not only explained, but defended, the confusing fantasies that played in my mind was a revelatory experience.

Over the years that followed I would re-read the book almost religiously, at least once a year, always finding something I’d missed, always discovering new interpretations of the information presented.

When my first girlfriend, Louise, desired a better understanding of my spanking impulses it was this book I suggested she read. Ditto for my second girlfriend, Kathy, although unlike Louise she chose not to delve between the covers of a book she described as “disgusting”.

Like many of my possessions that copy of the book was sold to a local bookstore following my breakdown in early 2007. But although it no longer remained in my possession, I never forgot the happiness it had brought me or the lessons it taught me in the ten years since it had entered my life.

Throughout those long and bleak years living on the streets I vowed to myself that, should I ever find a home, I would make it my personal mission to obtain a copy of Thy Rod and Staff again. It was a promise that I kept when, in late 2012, I procured a hardback copy of the book from an online retailer.

A hardback copy that, given the memorial and sentimental attachment this book holds, takes pride of place on the bookshelf next to my bed; always waiting for the next time I snuggle up and lose myself in its provocative (and soothing) words.

Quotation MarkWhat flagellants actually do is easily enough stated: they smack each other’s bottoms. They do this in hundreds of different ways, but the important act – that which makes it flagellation and not some other activity – is the smacking of bottoms. From this simplest of transactions all else flows.

In order to make the bottom-smacking as ‘real’ as can be flagellants plunge themselves into a world gone by, perhaps one which never existed, in which all that is for them both sweet and sour about dominance, submission, childhood, discipline and sensuality is blended together into a pageant whose luxuriance or otherwise may depend on many circumstances, not least the partiality of the participants. At its best it is unquestionably an act of love: and even the act of love itself cannot claim more.

Finally, it is an intensely structured theatrical production where little is what it seems and appearances may stand on their heads. The old grow young again; male becomes female; consent masquerades as non-consent; duress is actually the sweetest of communions; pain is wholly transmogrified into pleasure, and cruel punishment into the delightful caresses of a lover.

Might not the supposed depravity of the practice therefore also turn out to be the exact opposite?

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