“I put out my hands, which she fastened together with a cord by the wrists. Then making me lie down across the foot of the bed, face downwards, she very quietly and deliberately, putting her left hand around my waist, gave me a shower of smart slaps with her open right hand…Raising the birch, I could hear it whiz in the air, and oh, how terrible it felt as it came down, and as its repeated strokes came swish, swish, swish on me!”- from Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, 1870
During the 19th century, women’s periodicals were filled with personal accounts such as the above. Correspondents detailed use of ropes, handcuffs, which pieces of furniture they tied the girls to, and even the number of strokes they unleashed. They elaborated on whether they chose to flagellate their daughters while in their drawers or bare-bottomed. One lady, who signed off as, “A Happy Mother” detailed how she first slathered her children in cream before whipping them.
A debate started in 1868 regarding whether mothers should use corporal punishment on daughters past puberty. The magazines were flooded by letters to the editors. Some complained that parents should not take pride in humiliating their children in such a manner. Others complained that the accounts were much too titilating for modest publications.
Indeed, as flagellation was a very popular subject in Victorian erotica, many of the letters first published in the domestic magazines concerning corporal punishment were later copied verbatum in the adult magazines . While evidence supports the fact that more men purchased the latter, there are also various accounts of everyday middle-class women not only frequenting the infamous Holywell Street where such stores displayed erotica in their windows, but also wrote and published erotic works of their own.
However, for most women, such naughtiness could be more safely enjoyed within the pages of the leading domestic magazines. For, if anyone entered the room while they were reading of servants ordered to pull down a daughter’s underclothes, they could quickly flip the page to an article on fashion, the economy, politics, or the latest developments in the suffrage movement.
*source: Between Women by Sharon Marcus