Friday, 24 April 2009

Dietary Discipline, Harassment Therapy & Sexual Reorientation – A Reader’s Account Revisited (Part 3 – Walking Down the Aisle…Again & Again & Again

Again, coming under the general banner of 'Truth Stranger than Fiction' here is the third part - Walking Down the Aisle (can you see where this is going yet?) A n interview, of sorts conducted by yours truly by email. Click here to read part 2 - -Click here to read part 1 (if you haven’t already) Something to keep you going while I get on with my proof reading and amending of INSTITUTIONALISED volume 2 (I had to go back to research some stuff about fabrics today, but the result was some fascinating revisions made to a certain young lady's uniform that I'm afraid can only have made it more irksome for her - we try to be kind, but its all good discipline and it is for her own good after all).

Before we get started: I have just this minute added another Yahoo Group to the side bar Yahoo Group list: Eric Stanton Cartoons (the art of Stanton) (Click on group name – in blue – or see sidebar on right)

Also, while your still there: If you enjoy (as I do, quite unashamedly) reading accounts of strict discipline - hands on heads with legs spread - Spartan regimes, late teen girls put back into juvenile uniforms and privileged young ladies brought down to the level of servants and made to wait on table then I can’t recommend enough a story I have just come across on The Spanked Girls Weblog::::: Gymslips & Dormitories (click title to read story or site name to go there – although, as always, it has been added to the sidebar blog list). Also take a look at Spanking Bethie Blog (click) why don't you?...and the yahoo group - Bound Brides (brides in bondage - needless to say...its where I got the bride pic).

Dietary Discipline, Harassment Therapy & Sexual Reorientation – A Reader’s Account Revisited (Part 3 – Walking Down the Aisle…Again and Again and Again)
“Something else [I came across while researching the basis of my treatment] that I found very interesting was something called 'shame aversion therapy'. Apparently it is/was very closely related to chemical and electrical aversion therapy. I had always assumed that my aversion therapy only related to those physical aversives that took place in the treatment room where I was shown the slides, and that the constant ridicule, humiliation and harassment heaped upon me (and the others) while on the ward, was simple meanness and ignorance combined with a desire to control us and keep a 'tight ship'. But now I wonder if these techniques may have been used in concert with the physical therapies such as chemical and electrical. Certainly something for me to ponder and research further.

The nurses would belittle us and tell the other members of the ward how perverted we were and that God hates us and that we would be going to hell. They would make us stand on a table and recite nursery rhymes. Or makes us recite a prayer aloud for hours on end - often all day, without any break for lunch. Other times we would have to make public confessions about why we were there - our lesbianism and what that meant - and that our parents had disowned us. I had to make stuff up and it was still horrible humiliating - even though it was mostly lies. These 'confessions' usually had to be made at Sister's weekly 'gatherings' where she held up the undergarments of any girls who had failed to meet the required standards of hygiene - and it was on those occasions when even the drooling girls would receive their shares of strokes if they were deemed slovenly - or otherwise failed to meet the standards expected of them.
The nurses encouraged the other patients to harass us - and there was nothing we could do, restrained as we were. If we did try to retaliate, like try to head-butt somebody, it never worked out well for us. Between the nurses and the other patients we were constantly being teased - or being sabotaged in petty ways - like having our pinafores and tabards dirtied.
Shame Clothing
And there were times that we were dressed up in some costume designed to humiliate us. Not that it was always the costume that was inherently humiliating - it was the circumstances. Had it been a dress-up party, or even a regular party, it might have been ok - but being dressed up unwillingly for the sole purpose of humiliating us and amusing the nurses and other patients made me want to crawl away and die. Often it was just a party dress - albeit one better suited to a seven-year old - but I remember that one time I was dressed as a bride - not in some quick dress-up kind of way - but in a properly fitted wedding dress and veil. I was made to do circuits around the dayroom all day as the nurses told everybody who would listen that this was as close as I would come to being a bride.
On two sides of the dayroom there were areas considered no-man's-land. That was where the windows and climbing bars were situated. No-man's-land was marked with a white line and none of the patients was allowed to cross it - making the windows and climbing bars, and some of the doors off-limits. Indeed we soon learned to give no-man's-land a wide a birth, for even approaching the line would generate unwanted attention from the nurses. But within patient area there was line running around close to the perimeter - and it was this line that we had to follow when we were doing 'circuits'. If I remember correctly I had to do about 200 circuits on the days when I was wearing the wedding dress. It wasn't nearly as many as I might have been made to perform on another day, but I remember having to proceed as if I was proceeding up the aisle. One foot forward - bring up the other foot level with it. Pause. Repeat. So my progress was slow and infinitely humiliating. Our progress, when performing circuits, was recorded by one of the drooling girls who was surprisingly efficient - she had paper with a kind of grid on and she would colour in one of the squares whenever we passed. However there were times when she would become distracted and I'm quite sure there were many times when she would fail to record a circuit.
Besides those times when we had to parade around the dayroom in our 'costumes' we were assigned circuits for - well, I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe to keep us fit? Maybe as a result of some minor infraction. Maybe to keep us occupied if it looked like we might be heading for trouble. Whatever the reason we each had our own chart recording our progress in performing circuits. Generally the rule was that we had to perform five more circuits than our previous best - so if you were assigned circuits frequently it soon became quite laborious - especially if you weren't smart enough to start out slowly and make sure that you never completed more than the five extra circuits. If you lost count and did extra circuits 'just to be safe' that became your new 'best'. And there were consequences for failing to beat your best by those five circuits. You were not allowed to run, and if the nurses thought that you were walking too fast for 'safety' then you could find yourself hobbled.
Looking back, I can't help but wonder whether the same concept might have been applied to our aversive treatments. Is it possible that the shocks were increased each time, and so long as we didn't pass out then the new high voltage or duration became our 'best' and had to be surpassed in our next session? It certainly felt like it. I wonder if we could become 'accustomed' to the shocks, so that if we passed out five times in a row from a particular level of shock, whether by the sixth we would be able to endure it without passing out? In the same way as our fitness might increase as we performed circuits in the dayroom.
I also need to research something called harassment therapy. I remember coming across an article about a girl being kept in sheets and forced to scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. The objective was to make her 'crack' - or something, but I've never understood what this was meant to achieve. But now I think about it, it sounds awfully similar to a lot of my experiences. I
Oddly, some years later I saw The Clockwork Orange and didn't associate the aversion therapy with my own. Talk about repressing unpleasant memories. But now it occurs to me that in The Clockwork Orange they took care to make sure that Alex could not avert his gaze from the images on the screen - they used those funny little gadgets to hold his eyes open. Although they took care to make sure that my head was locked into position consistent with looking at the slideshow they didn't use any similar devices to keep my eyes open or make sure I wasn't averting my gaze. Of course I probably wasn't particularly resistant to looking at the slideshow - it's not as if I was trying to protect my supposed deviancy. I do remember being told to 'look at the screen' from time to time - and not looking may have been part of my therapist's complaint that I was uncooperative, but I don't really know.”
“As regards being 'encouraged' to eat the disliked foods; you mention the use of 'aversives'. What did they consist of , how were they applied and how did they operate - what was the effect each time they were applied?”
The treatment to 'encourage' better eating habits used the same aversives that were later used to treat my supposed lesbianism: electric shocks, injection of drugs to induce nausea etc. This could continue for hours at a time - and believe me, after just one such session I was more than willing to eat anything they put in front of me. But they continued such treatment long after I thought I must be eating to their satisfaction - perhaps to ensure that I would not 'backslide'.
Although they initially used the same aversives that would later be used in my therapy for lesbianism, they did not bother using any kind of imagery or measurement - so to that extent it was entirely different. They would just tell me that they would continue the sessions until I could 'eat like a normal person'. In that respect it was entirely punitive and did not incorporate any of the 'scientific' ideas used in aversion therapy - which I assume was meant to be based on the same idea as Pavlov's dogs.”
“Incidentally, was any form of corporal punishment used to maintain order and enforce compliance?”
“Yes, but this was no surprise to me. After all we were caned at school - both on our rears and on our hands. You have to remember that this was in the early sixties and I was at a private school. However, I must admit that the corporal punishment in hospital was both more severe and was applied for less serious offenses. All the nurses had the authority to punish us, but the most serious punishments were usually administered by the ward sister, or at least under her watchful eye. Something else that effected my punishments was that I often had a bad nappy rash and my punishment would often be terminated part way through (often one stroke short of completion) to avoid injury, only to have the punishment re-started from the beginning on another part of my anatomy more able to withstand the strokes.”
Inmate Uniforms?
“From what you say about the place and the canvas smocks worn for meals etc I doubt it was permitted to retain own clothes - or were night-dresses taken from home allowed, for instance? If not, what sort of thing was issued by the hospital and was any attempt made to enforce a uniform appearance? I'm just wondering whether nightdresses were worn at all times, for example, or whether other clothing was available for other times of the day, in which case (and assuming all hospital issue) was there a disciplinary aspect to it - for example was it necessary to look a certain way, to appear smart, perhaps, even though the circumstances seem to make such concerns obsolete? (After all it's a nice way of asserting control).”

“Nobody wore any clothes from home. The hospital seemed o have a plentiful supply of clothing that was made on the premises and they strove for a certain degree of uniformity - but you have to bear in mind that for most of the time we 'sexual deviants' were part of a larger teenage ward that had all types of patients - whether mentally retarded, catatonic, psychotic etc. and it would have been difficult to have us all look uniform.

They didn't trust the sexual deviants - they expected us to molest anybody we could get out hands on - whether it was each other, the 'normal' patients, or even ourselves. So we weren't allowed to socialize in the dayroom or move about without some form of restraint - usually what they called jackets, but weren't much like some of straitjackets I have seen elsewhere. There were a lot of variations because they were made for each person in the hospital's brace shop and the nurses could ask for whatever design variations they thought would be helpful. But mostly the arms were laced to our sides unlike the Houdini style jackets that have the arms in front. Many of the other patients were allowed to move about and use their arms so long as they didn't cause any problems. So you would have a number of patients with full use of their arms and then others, apparently armless, moving around the dayroom, looking quite un-uniform. But they did make some attempt to have us properly and modestly attired - perhaps with an added emphasis on modesty given the presence of potential molesters in their midst. Those unrestrained generally wore a mid-calf mid-grey cotton dress, belted at the waist and with slightly puffed sleeves at the shoulder, a white detachable peter-pan collar, white detachable cuffs, and a plain white pinafore. It was neat enough, being tailored to fit each patient, but looked a little incongruous on some of the obviously retarded patients. I take that back - it looked a little incongruous on everybody - but like anything else you get used to it and before long it begins to look normal.

Those of us who were wearing jackets wore 'slips' over them - sleeveless tubes made from the same mid-grey cotton as the dresses. They had the same peter-pan collars and the pinafores were replaced with tabards. There were no belts since we essentially had no waists to speak of.
And then there were a lot of variations. For instance I saw some girls wearing the 'arms crossed in front' style of jacket who were wearing their normal dresses over them - the jacket arms inside the arms of the dress. The jackets were a lot tighter than I have seen elsewhere - presumably because they were custom fitted in the brace shop - either from scratch or modified from an old, often greasy, one. This tightness, especially in the sleeves when they were the 'arms-in-front' kind allowed them to be worn under our dresses instead of over them. So, as you can see, uniformity, if it was a goal, was only partially achieved.

I think I mentioned that I managed to bite one of the nurses when I was being admitted and that turned out to be a big mistake, because throughout my stay the nurse continued to make sure that I 'paid-for-it'. And I 'paid-for-it' in any number of ways. One of them was having to wear a hessian slip under all my clothes and restraints. It was as itchy as any hairshirt must have been and they were always looking for. proof that I must be finding ways to masturbate - and that was in spite of the considerable measures that they always took to ensure that we didn't masturbate. That meant a trip to the brace shop for a very elaborate (and uncomfortable) orthopaedic brace to better ensure my future good behaviour.

I could never really understand why we wore pinafores and tabards. I suppose it was a hold-over from a prior era when such things were more fashionable - maybe when the building first opened - but by the early sixties they were something of an anachronism for anybody but a little girl - an age we teenagers were trying to dissociate ourselves from. They must have been a nightmare for the laundry and we were always getting in trouble for smudging them. But they also served the purpose of identifying us. Every girl on the ward had her number printed in large numerals on both the front and the rear of her pinafore or tabard and the deviants also had 'DEVIANT' printed in large capital letters beneath the numbers, letting everybody know to give them a wide berth - just in case they missed our stubbly heads.”

"As regards their imposition of the punishment diet; you mention a period of three months or more: this is particularly interesting as it implies a long period of residence, if a punishment should go on for three months. How long was the average stay? Was it ordained at the outset how long it should be or could it be extended at the whim of the therapists (or even for punishment purposes)?”

“I'm not sure how long the average stay might have been. I was there for three years - when the program was phased out - and I don't think that I was unusual. I was lucky to be released rather than remaining a patient in one form or another. The problem was that the results of the program and my own treatment were considered inconclusive and the hospital was reluctant to discharge me, still a possible danger to society, only a teenager and with nowhere particular to go.

Dietary Control and Enforced Weight Gain?

“Still on the subject of diets: was there any attempt to weight control? Perhaps weight loss or even enforced weight gain (something that occurs in volume 2 of my book)?”

“I should apologize for not having read your book yet and for not having read very much of your blog. It is very high on my list of things I must do, but things have been very hectic ever since I found your blog - and writing this letter hasn't helped! As for weight control, I'm not quite sure. I do remember overhearing a conversation between two nurses that were discussing what to do about a particular patient. She was extraordinarily beautiful and I think she had been admitted because it was feared she would become promiscuous because she had a number of older boys pestering her. Anyway, the nurses were talking about what might be done and the question of fattening her up or making her too skinny to still be attractive was discussed - but I'm not quite sure what the outcome was. Somehow I think she may have been moved off our ward.

“I'm not sure if this counts, but I do remember that we were often made to wear the braces, and other devices that were made for us in the brace shop, long after they were comfortable. At our age many of us periodically grew quite rapidly. I don't think it was a cost saving measure because most of the people that worked in the brace shop, and certainly almost everybody who worked in attached sewing shop, were patients, and I assume they had to work for nothing. Besides, they showed absolutely no reluctance to take us down anytime they wanted to get us a more 'difficult' brace or jacket or make a modification to our existing brace. So I'm inclined to think that our wearing of braces that we had outgrown was just one more little way in which they needled us. Incidentally I was the recipient of an elaborate brace within a few days of admittance - ostensibly to cure my stooping. Nobody had mentioned it before and I suspect that the nurse I bit was behind it. Of course after a week or so it didn't seem so bad - but it made moving and bending much more difficult - and in that respect I was always conscious of it.” be continued...

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