The investigation of erotic chastisement literature


The aim of this site is to delve into the history and bibliography of that branch of erotic literature devoted to chastisement and flagellation. This particular genre has always been a strong thread in pornographic literature since the eighteenth century, particularly in English, French and German erotica. The concentration here will be on works in English.

For much of the last three hundred years the writing and publication of these works has been a clandestine activity conducted under the threat of prosecution, with the potential penalties of loss of money, liberty and, sometimes, life itself. The trade therefore has been conducted in secrecy. Authors named are always pseudonyms, or just anonymous, places of publication often misleading and publication dates often false. The investigation of these mysteries is a principal purpose of this blog.

There have been significant milestonesin the history of pornography which have influenced the scale and nature of the trade. From the early eighteenth century onwards erotica has been of two sorts. The most notable has been limited printing of works for the well-heeled client, nearly always male. These editions were often illustrated with wood or steel engravings and priced well beyond the means of the common people. It is these works which have been explored in detail in many modern bibliographies. The second sort was the crudely printed ephemera which abounded on the streets of the 18th and 19th centuries, mostly in the large cities. and included, apart from erotica,political harangues, criminal news, gossip, serialised fiction and advertising. Almost none of this has survived.

In the 20th century the cost of printing was much reduced by the rise of the paperback, but obscenity laws still kept the trade in check. In the middle of the 1960’s there were a number of landmark court cases which resulted in the removal of much of the censorship of erotica. From about 1967 onwards there was an explosion of openly published pornography which has continued to the present day.

The transition to semi-legality did little to break the old habits of subterfuge and deceit in regard to the authors of erotica,Copyright continued to be ignored as identical works were published under different imprints and titles and with varying pseudonyms.

The Golden Age of erotic flagellation

The essence of erotic flagellation is the physical chastisement of a person for the pleasure of the observer or the inflictor, Classic flagellation is usually non-consensual and it is certainly this variety that we are concerned with here. The sufferer may be male or female, but the latter sex predominates. Sometimes works in the genre have both sexes dominant and submissive but this is not usual. The expression of, mostly male, fantasies involve the domination of, or submission to women for sexual gratification. The reason why these themes are so popular in erotica is surely that putting one’s secret desires into practice is nearly always impossible. Yes, people can be paid to beat you, or to be beaten by you, but the commercial transaction always diminishes the fantasy. So erotic chastisement is not playful or consensual spanking, however pleasurable that may be the its devotees. Nor is it the earnest desire for deserved punishment by loving parent, teacher or spouse that occupies much modern erotica.

The flourishing of the genre began in the 1890’s with a great increase in the number of published works on flagellation themes in both England and France. Up until the First World War the trade flourished and much inventive output resulted.  The interwar years were leaner as postage controls were tightened and law enforcement toughened until the liberation of the sixties. By the late nineties the rise of the internet and the universal access to the word processor gave the opportunity to every fantasist to be their own pornographer.

The authors and their work from the era of the hard labour of writing or typing is the focus. Who they were, what they wrote and why it was interesting in the century from 1890 forwards is our topic.

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