Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Emails, Latex, Starched Collars, Restriction and Enforced Tattooing

My apologies to all those who have emailed me over the last week or so and have yet to receive a reply. I have been out of action for one reason or another and on and off for quite a while now and in the meantime the incoming e-mail tends to build up. The new arrivals eventually push earlier messages further and further down the pile until they disappear off the bottom of the page and go out of focus - then they are all too easily overlooked. I am now working my way through my outstanding email stack and in so doing I thought I might use one or two to illustrate points regarding the INSTITUTIONALISED story arc and the influences that have impacted upon it thus far. As always I'll keep everything anonymous unless the writer concerned requests acknowledgement.
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Here is one that unfortunately it has taken me seven days to reply to - seven days languishing in my mailbox is unforgivable, sorry old chap - and my reply. The pictures are from a set that somebody recently sent me anonymously, for which my heart-felt thanks, and which deliciously illustrate - in an in-between-the-lines sort of way - the spirit of part of the upcoming new volume. There is piquant ambiguity there; of which, for our purposes, one might wish to choose the darker interpretation - is the girl truly as content as she seems... or has she just come to think of herself as content?..or been expertly led into a mindset of dominated acceptance? hmmm! I know not the origin of these pics so I can only hope I am not treading on any one's toes, copyright speaking, here - if so I will of course remove them at once.

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“I am really enjoying the descriptions of the uniforms, especially Lady Madison’s “maid” and the girl in the wheelchair, 24C, I’m not that keen on latex but the idea of all white, including the Nurses’ uniforms is great, adding the Nun style wimple adds to the effect. The idea of tattooing the individual “patients” number on their buttocks is inspirational, just a couple of questions though, why get the girls to write their names when consenting, wouldn’t it have been better to have them sign in a previous chapter that they would in the future as eg 23C and then any consent form would only use their number, or was the intention to introduce a little confusion when they used their previous name. Also what would happen if the patient changes from the school to the cells, eg 30S / 30C and then back again, would she have been tattooed?”

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I have to say that latex is only on the peripheral my interests, my interests really lie more with the use of corporal punishment and imposition of strict discipline and school uniforms and the like on young ladies in their late teens or early twenties. As I have said before; my formative reading matter tended to be the likes of Richard Manton and Victor Bruno, and if you know the works of these authors you'll get a feeling for where I'm coming from. As I read around more over the years and discovered other people's interests, the discomfiture inherent in the idea of the heroine having to contend with snug-fitting school knickers, say, fitted with a latex lining seemed to lend itself to developing that all-important sense of restriction. I saw the use of latex under such circumstances much in the same vein as crisply starched school blouses having high, tight starched collars, a girl's hair being tightly plaited and pinned coiled to either side of her head or cut to a short boyish, collar length, style, restrictive corsetry incorporating a stiffened backboard so as to ensure good deportment at the school desk, heavy gabardine rain-capes worn on the warmest of days or toe-crushing shoes cunningly designed to hobble the wearer and so ensure a suitably submissive dainty, girlish gait. You have to realise that when I set out to write these books I also set out to incorporate as many disparate fetishes that seemed to fit with the storyline - not necessarily my own interests in all cases.

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The level of discipline and restriction that many letter writer's seemed to advocate in the correspondence pages of Janus, Blushes, Whispers and some other magazines published in the 1980s, the period when I was mostly reading them and tend to hark back to, never really rung true with me in the context within which the correspondents would develop their ideas - such regimes as were often advocated seemed unlikely, if not downright distasteful to the point of being a turnoff, in the context of the parental home or in any sort of conventional and publicly scrutinised school system. Where on occasion some sort of promise of plausibility did seem to arise it was to be found more often than not broached in connection with the subject of ' admission procedures’ wherein the existence of various small, secure and privately funded institutions were sometimes posited - apparently run as much for the amusement of the rich patrons that fund it as to benefit the reformation or education of the inmates.

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One writer talked about an establishment wherein a young lady might be confined and where she might be visited from time to time by the man or woman responsible for her incarceration. Some spoke of reformatory schools and short-sharp-shock regimes, lasting two to three months perhaps. Others, excitingly in my opinion, spoke of minimum periods above a year while still others used that wonderful term 'indefinite'. Then one would sometimes come across the idea of a young lady cloistered behind the high walls of her ancestral home, kept from her inheritance by a cruel guardian or stepparent and under a regime of some sort of scholastic discipline whether mediated by a stern governess, dour children's nanny or strict nursery nurse. Influenced by all of the above and having read about the church run, so-called, Madeleine laundries and the ease with which a young woman could find herself committed to such a place - or indeed, in the Victorian period, to the local mental asylum - merely for having refused the advances of the local squire, as well as the unethical psychological experiments carried out in the 1930s through to the 1960s, I chose to invoke a combination of these ideas, centring around a privately funded research unit embedded within a secure psychiatric hospital. As you know it is basically the story of a girl who, having been manipulated into becoming a voluntary research subject for a short period, finds herself increasingly less able to extract herself from the situation to find herself in.

The idea of having the girls sign an earlier legal document stating that from that point forth, while within the institution, their assigned patient number would stand for their given name in all further waivers is a nice one. The reason I opted to have the girls sign the documentation, giving the hospital the right to tattoo them, using their full names, was to impress upon them the legality of their situation and to further impress upon them the futility of attempting to stand against the reform--school / boarding-school regime they are being kept under. It is for similar reasons that the documentation itself is dictated to the girls and has to be rendered in their own handwriting while sitting at their school desks. Obviously, pre-printed sheaves of papers, merely requiring the subject place her signature at the relevant points, could have been handed out, but that would have been missing out on a wonderful opportunity to further apply psychological pressure on them - remember that during the dictation process, any one girl making a mistake or failing to achieve sufficient copperplate-neatness caused the group as a whole to have to start again from scratch. Recall also that the documentation was worded so as to be not so much a permission given to the hospital as it was a request from the girl concerned that the hospital authorities should permanently tattooed each with her assigned patient number. You have hit the nail on the head when you posit the intention of introducing a little confusion when the girls are forced to use their previous names - a girl finding herself automatically going to use her patient number despite herself, perhaps finding her given name appearing almost strange to her, will surely be mindful of the effect that her time in the unit as already had upon her.

As to what would happen as regards the tattoo if the patient was to be changed from the 'schoolroom' regime to the ' prison' or ' workhouse' regimes - there is a good reason why this would not be of too much concern but to elucidate further would be to give too much away.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Central to the idea of tattooing is the concept of permanence. Even if the young woman was admitted to the institution “accidentally” or as part of an investigation she might find it very difficult to interact in the outside world once the words “DELINQUENT” or “INSANE”, followed by her prisoner number, was tattooed on her hand. A shopkeeper’s call the constable might land her back in the institution, where she would be held until the busy Magistrate had time to conduct his bi-annual review of such cases.

In the antebellum South, fair skinned octoroons might have the word SLAVE tattooed on them, to prevent them from passing for white. Of course this practice might put even the fairest of purebred Southern women at risk, for once such a brand was applied the young woman could be seized by any local constable as “unclaimed” and, after three days, be placed on the auction block to pay for her jail fees.

In a harem the tattoo might be applied in a more intimate place, such as above the owner’s sex, or between the cheeks of her bottom. Although the mark would not always be visible, the psychological effect of having a young woman’s privates “registered” in such a humiliating way would be no less devastating, and would clearly establish that her “valuables” were now the property of her master.

A registration number inside the upper lip of the young lady’s mouth, if applied by a veterinarian, might be particularly effective if the young lady was to undergo dog or pony girl training.

Fiction and fantasies, of course, but fun to imagine.

A few posts down I posted some links to some stories. Also, Orage noted that AFFINITY was rather long and the image dark; if you go quickly to the clips site of the women in prison film section, you will see 40 seconds of “intake” scenes from the movie, under the video section.

http://www.premiumwanadoo.com/wipfilms/

There are also some additional story links buried under the JANUS READERS LETTERS post below.

orage said...

Garth,
I've finished reading "Institutionalised part 2" and words fail me to express admiration! The book is absolutely riveting. Your minute description of the girl's garments when she's in the car was enough to make me sweaty all over.
You're so knowledgeable you could write an outstanding study for a university doctorate.
But God forbid! Much better to leave us on tenterhooks waiting for part 3.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous
I mistakenly wrote a comment under "Another Janus Reader's letters scan" (28 november)
Orage

Madmonkey said...

Where are the pictures in this post taken from? Is it a magazine or a website?