What Is Flogging? Ancient Punishment VS Modern Kink

If one were actually to plug in the words “What is flogging”  into Google, you would find trail-mix of different results – ranging from an Irish folk-punk band to a plethora of dictionary definitions:

  • To sell or offer for sale
  • To make one’s way with strenuous effort
  • To beat with a whip or stick as a punishment

It isn’t until you get to videos that you find the BDSM version that is closer to #3 on the definition list. Also, we would have to add “for a reward” if we wanted to nudge things a little further into the realm of kink.

We will get to the juicy bits soon.

But first, a dash of history…

FLOGGING IN HISTORY The dark and dangerous side of leather and whips


Old illustration of two men self-flogging

Beating the crap out of someone with long, firm rod probably dates back to when humans could master their fingers and opposable thumbs around whatever stick they could grab.

However, it took a little more ingenuity to affix long straps of animal hide to a handle, and then beat the crap out of someone.

Since then, humans have gone bat-shit crazy over incorporating this into the already extensive menu of corporal punishments, acts of testosterone, or religious zealotry.

FOR EXAMPLE:

ROMANS – Flogged people before their crucifixion, but they occasionally added pieces of metal or bone to the tips which would cause some serious trauma to the body.

ENGLAND – Thieves were flogged near the place they committed the crime.

AMERICA – Flogging of slaves.

EUROPEAN ARMIES – Punishments for breaking military codes during the 18th and 19th centuries.

NAPOLEONIC WARS– British soldiers sometimes had to endure 1000+ lashings.

Illustration of a hand holding a knotted flogger, mid swing

ROMAN CATHOLOCISM – There was the odd monk here and there that practiced self-flagellation.

THE BLACK PLAGUE – The church permitted flagellation to “purge oneself of sin” and avoid getting sick.

Flogging was not exclusively for torture…

  • Ancient Greeks were whipped before participating in the Olympics.
  • Around Sparta, priestesses would whip men to make them more masculine.
  • The Greeks and Romans associated whipping of the buttocks with nettles to fertility.

MODERN CORPORAL PUNISHMENT


Yes, this shit still happens.

Although most countries have outlawed such extremes, Iran still uses lashings as punishment for an array of “criminal codes”, including theft, homosexual acts, drinking alcohol, blasphemy, and … kissing in public – yes, a PDA could land you 100 lashings and a trip to the hospital.

Also, one branch of Islam (Shia) still marches down the street once a year, hitting themselves with chains and cutting themselves with razor blades.

This extreme form of flagellation is outlawed in most places, but there are instances that pop up here and there, even in America and Australia.

FLOGGING AND BDSM


Backside of a woman in lace panties, holding a leather flogger with two hands

If someone were to announce, “I like being flogged”, 99% of the time the reactions would be varying degrees of an uncomfortable “Oh” to bugged-out eyes and silent wonderings if you have a mental disorder.

That other 1% of the time, people are either intrigued.

The 99% also wonder, “Why the hell would you like that?”

To do the topic and practice any justice, the answer is never short, because the long answer involves understanding how the body and brain deal with pain as well as the psychological aspects of submission and dominance etc.

“One of the key players is dopamine, which is present in the body during pain AND pleasure. Many agree this might be one of the reasons we can combine pain and pleasure in a single situation.”

Some other chemicals that the body releases are: endorphin, serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

All these things help re-balance our bodies when we feel physical or emotional stress. Think of it like exercise – we run and work our muscles to the point it can hurt but the body rewards us with that post-lifting “high”.

But, that isn’t enough; otherwise, there would be BDSM bars next to most fitness centers.

FLOGGING, SAFETY, AND CONSENT


There is the freedom of release that comes with submission or the power that comes with dominance. Role-playing your fantasies (which is common in many bedrooms in various degrees of kink) can be a total turn on.

However, the biggest difference between flogging as corporal punishment vs. BDSM is the power/intent dynamic.

The Roman’s didn’t give a shit about the people they were inflicting pain on. Strikes were meant to bring about agony, not sub-space euphoria.

Movie scene from Ben Hur - soldier asking slave if he wants aloe and a hug

There were no contracts (verbal or otherwise), no pre-play communication, no safe words, no discussions on health concerns, no practice and research from the guard/soldier on how to strike properly, no careful observation during the actual flogging, no aftercare, and no respect.

One of my favorite BDSM quotes is… 

“In BDSM, one word will stop the pain. In abuse, a million words won’t stop it.”

There is also the misconception that all flogging is hard as hell and makes the receiver cry.

Granted, some people love it hard, but others like more of a feather-light sensation, and other people might like anything in between.

It’s all good and all acceptable. YOU decide what you want and what makes you happy, and if not doing it at all makes you happy, then all the more power to you.

BDSM PUNISHMENT FLOGGING


Red and black suede flogger

Do some BDSM relationships use flogging as a punishment?

Yes, but anyone delivering the strikes should be using control, care, and concern to correct behavior (rather than acting in anger to make someone terrified).

Would I personally want this kind of punishment in my play session? No. It’s not my thing. But couples should AGREE on it beforehand. And, as long as it adheres to the “Safe, sane, consensual, and sober” guidelines, it’s their business.

All of this isn’t even touching on the topic of the floggers themselves – things like material, tassel length etc. … which is an entirely different topic we will leave for another day.

NOTE: If flogging isn’t your thing, or you want something a bit more beginner-friendly, you can try some simple spanking…

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Do you know any other interesting facts about flogging (BDSM or otherwise)? Share in the comments!