Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Plausibility in Spanking Fiction - And Some Exciting News! (I think)

Many apologies that you have not heard from me for a while again.  So, what have I been up to in the meantime?  Well, I’ve been hard at work... And on a plethora of exciting projects, an ever-lengthening list which is almost becoming too long to recount. 

I have two part-written books on the go, of which an extract of one of them I am presently grooming to present to the ‘Erotic Mind Control Story Archive’ (link listed under Useful Resources in the right-hand sidebar).  I am gradually building up and adding to the frames intended to go in the comic / graphic novel style publication I have been working on together with my artistic collaborator, Angela Fox.  I am doing a bit of proof reading for the aforementioned lady (link in the right-hand sidebar) who has a new book coming out soon (despite being dyslexic I am quite good at spotting other peoples mistakes and typos, even if I can’t always spot my own!).  I have been adding to and extending the ‘Beyond the Barred Window’ website, which now boasts many new pages and sections.  And I have even, more recently, been doing a little image manipulation work for Roger Benson, whose 1950’s influenced domestic and institutional discipline and spanking orientated artwork I have talked of enthusiastically before in these pages and some of which has influenced both my written stuff in the past and one or two of Angela Fox’s artistic output, notably Roger Benson’s ‘Reformatory’ series.  And in the background (should that be foreground?) I have been beavering away at a commissioned piece – I’m always open to accepting commissions by the way, especially if the subject matter is imaginative / ‘different’!

Talking of the ‘Beyond the Barred Window’ website and Roger Benson’s artwork:  One new and exciting development is the possibility of hosting a section on the site entirely devoted to Roger’s work including such features as occasional polls and perhaps one or two illustrated written pieces, above and beyond showcasing his imaginative artwork.  I’ll let you know more, as and when!

Now, in addition to uploading pictorial content from my extensive collection of eclectic stuff, I have finally started adding a bit of explanatory text and commentary to the site as well as one or two written articles – such as the commentary presented below, a piece I originally wrote for the ‘Well Red Weekly’ ezine some time back.  Other pieces I am also busily preparing will be specific to the website and at some later date I may well include snippets, fragments and odds and sods from various unfinished (and unlikely to be finished) stories etc which I will invite visitors to complete or add their ideas to.  Who knows?  One or two new collaborations may well be formed in the fullness of time – I certainly hope so; I need the inspiration to keep the writing fresh, and myself motivated! 

The website is presently receiving 800 plus unique hits per day, so if YOU have any suitable written work or artwork you would like to showcase, I can promise you a wide and varied audience.  Contributions always welcome!

Oh!  The classic American diner waitress?  Just a spurious image I plucked off a website somewhere: I've had a thing about girl's in those vintage style dresses and aprons ever since 'Twin Peaks' back in the 80's... Go figure!  But needless to say there will be an extensive collection hosted on the website in due course.  I you have any captured from the web or, better still, scaned from magazines, catalogues etc you may own, please contribute.  I can always be contacted on Facebook, Twitter or email (which I prefer - I'm old fashioned like that!).  Links (like so much) can be found in the right-hand sidbar.   

Plausibility in Spanking Fiction
It has been said that the skill of the successful fiction writer lies in enabling the reader to suspend his or her disbelief.  This is rarely more self-evidently true than in the genre of spanking fiction.  After all, in contemporary culture (in The West at least) corporal punishment under just about any circumstance one may care to cite would constitute common assault at the very least and be condemned as both mental and physical abuse.  And right from the outset - since we are all agreed we are dealing with FICTION here - 'abuse' is a term I feel should never be visited (despite its justifiably outraged utterance, when confronted by some 'real world' case presented in the press). 
For some reason a term such as 'exploitation' or similar seems ok - as in ' the exploitation of vulnerable and perhaps naive young women' (a phrase used more than once, in one form or another, in the 'Reader's Letter's' pages of Janus Magazine in the past) – but never, ever 'abuse'.  In that way, when it comes to spanking and corporal punishment-based literature the author is often asking his or her readership not just to suspend disbelief but also to temporarily suspend ethical and moral judgement, not to mention their sense of 'fair play'.  But then, for many it is that upturning of what constitutes 'fair play' and the countering of any moral justification behind the punishment metered out to the hapless heroine (or hero, if one is that way inclined) that is at the root of much of the excitement; hence the undeniable frisson when some blameless young thing is bent over to receive the rod across her tender behind purely for the delight of her guardian or perhaps to extract a signature from her on an open cheque or documentation selling off her inheritance from under her. 
And the more credible a tale becomes, the more one has to be careful – speaking as an author - to leave clear some sort of self-justifiable (perhaps some would say, self-deluding) leeway for the reader to be able to put aside for the moment any notion of real-world moralistic judgement; or at least temper that judgement with the knowledge that in fiction it is ok to be horrified just for the thrill of it.  And make no mistake, even in the absence of gratuitously vivid descriptions of heartlessly vicious and sadistic beatings (and this author for one cannot abide such things – even in the cause of realism!)  there is often an aspect of the horror novel present in well-written corporal punishment-orientated literature, albeit even if only present as a sort of psychological undercurrent of dread.  Perhaps this feeling or sense of dread may be of the form; 'what if it were me?' or it might manifest as 'what must it be like for her? or even 'how terrible the long-term consequences'; but I would argue it is present in one form or another nonetheless. 
I would also argue that many - if not all - the above considerations are present (as an unacknowledged, unpleasant and hurriedly circumnavigated or bridged-over shadowy undertow) even in a consensual spanking context or relationship.  After all, ask yourself this question: what is that lurks behind the chosen roles of the protagonists?  The debatable purely physiological stimulating effect of a light spanking on the area surrounding the genitalia aside, what is it that provides the driving force?  In one way or another, isn't the answer to that question simply this; control?  What is going through the mind of the erstwhile 'school master', what is it that is being acted out in private fantasy?  Something well-removed from the stage setting of the loving, caring relationship it purports to be being acted out upon, one might conjecture.  Externally, in the 'real world'  the act might well be consensual – but internally, in that all-important 'mind-space', it is easily to envisage the exact opposite being true, at least insofar as the case of the 'disciplinarian.

What is at issue here is not so much the events leading up to the subject receiving a spanking or other form of corporal punishment - in terms of what the subject has done to deserve (or indeed, not deserve) the correction metered out - as under what set of circumstances would a régime based around corporal punishment be likely to be encountered in the real world.  In answering the latter part of that conundrum we must first decide whether we are considering a consensual or non-consensual context for our tale (we have already determined that we are talking about a fictional situation in either case). 
If the former – corporal punishment given and received between mutually agreeable consenting adults – the problem of plausibility largely evaporates, other than as pertains to excessive severity or perhaps blatant public exposure and humiliation.   But even then, in the real world the authorities might have something to say; witness the so-called ‘Spanner Case’ in which the trial judge ruled that consent was not a valid defence to actual bodily harm (Regina v. Brown et al. 1993 Appeal Judgement).  On the other hand if we are considering the non-consensual context, in which corporal punishment is applied as a genuine form of behavioural correction, then the legitimate settings available for story development within the present timeframe with its judgmental atmosphere of supervisory oversight, scrutiny – both public and otherwise – and judicial control, become vanishingly sparse.
Within the above arguments we also have to consider whether the imposition of corporal punishment really is a genuine means to an end – some form of behavioural modification targeted at reinforcing a regime of strict discipline – or an end in itself.  After all, there are other far subtler methods of bringing about behavioural change, which may in itself include the eventual acceptance of corporal punishment.  We also have to decide whether the setting would best fit the domestic or institutional environment.  From everything said above alluding to accountability and public and government-appointed-body scrutiny, the latter would seem even more barren in terms of nurturing a tale of reddened late-teen bottoms if set in modern times.  But as we shall see later, if we are prepared to stretch our timeframe a little the institutional setting can actually provide some of the most plausibly fertile ground within which to nurture a climate of strict discipline and petty rules, all backed up by good, solid over-the-knee spanking and ankle-gripping caning.     
Now speaking personally, and with my reader’s hat on, I prefer not to have to suspend my disbelief too far – my gullibility is not a never-ending unbreakable strand of elastic.  I know it is just fantasy – and we should never lose sight of that fact, nor fail to reiterate it often enough – but I for one would like to think that the situation I am reading about really could come about.    With my writer’s headgear well and truly wedged in place, I am not at all sure I could persuade my readership to accept a modern girl or young woman in her teens or early twenties in the hands of some harsh cane-wielding step-parent not rushing for the door and running to the relevant authorities.  Yes I know the wicked stepmother is about as tired  an old cliché or stereotype as it is possible to evoke, but - with my reader’s cap back on again – it is just that little bit more believable than if a blood relative were to be involved (and far less ‘uncomfortable’ in my view).  If we were to delve back far enough in to the past then the above step-parent (or read ‘legal guardian’ into that if too uncomfortable with it) scenario – especially where some sort of inheritance is at stake – becomes far more plausible.  Less plausible, I think – whatever the timeframe – are situations in which the party under the rod begins to enjoy it in some manner or ‘the tables are turned’. 
To make such a scenario plausible in the contemporary setting requires, in the first instance (assuming we decide to ignore the illegality aspect) that the disciplinarian is able to exert some form of pressure or has a hold over our subject that is sufficient to coerce her to accept corporal punishment while simultaneously either rendering her unable to go to the authorities or likely to be disbelieved – or even made to suffer further in some manner – if she does.  The pressure or ‘hold’ the authoritarian figure might exert in such a scenario I would envisage as psychological as much – or more so – than physical.  There is no need for handcuffs nor bars on the windows in such a scenario; and such accoutrements might even undermine the believability of the tale.  Rather the authority figure relies on the power of his or her personality and sheer charisma to overpower the other’s will, subtly wearing down and undermining her self-confidence to the point at which she becomes increasing psychologically dependent on her guardian or whoever. 
Little requests couched in language suggesting an order gradually make way for actual orders that become more and more authoritative tone: “I really much prefer you in that skirt you had on the other day rather than jeans, Andrea – so much more attractive!”  gradually becomes “please put on your grey skirt today, Andrea” then “I want you in that new dress I bought you yesterday” to “I only want you in that gingham school dress I bought you from now on” and “I don’t want you wandering around the grounds without either myself or the housekeeper to accompany you – you know how you can get if you have one of your panic attacks outdoors” and finally “You know you’re not allowed out of your room unsupervised – get over my knee at once, girl!”.
In the above you can see the little seeds of doubt being planted “those panic attacks you keep having” or “you know how jittery you can get outdoors on your own”.  You see the bars are there, but they are psychological bars and chains, not physical.  And these fetters extend far outside the home.  Imagine if you will, the collusion of a psychologist, a diagnosis written to order and the patient manipulated to fit the mould:  “…And just who is going to take any notice of anything you say?  Why, I’ve a good mind to take you to the authorities myself; you know of course they’d have you committed virtually immediately, no questions asked?  And you know what goes on in those places! …What’s that you say?  You’re normal?  Well, that’s debatable”  She laughs “I know you’re normal, you know you’re normal – but that’s not what it says on your doctor’s report…  Yes, who do you think they’re going to believe?... That’s better!  Now, pass me the cane, knickers down, skirt up – grasp your ankles like a good girl!”         .      .
In the past I’ve included all kinds of elements in stories in order to come up with a scenario of that type, which while perhaps not that much realistic than some others at least seems possible, although not without raising certain ethical and moral issues that I know may bother some readers.  For example one of my latest revolving around the domestic arena involves the exploitation of the heroine’s benzodiazepine dependence (a prescription tranquilizer) – engineered by a tame psychiatrist – in order to impose a regime of strict discipline backed up by spanking and the cane.
And if you think the collusion of a health professional, psychiatrist, psychologist or nurse is far fetched…  Well, that brings me to the wonderful world of institutional discipline and spanking.  You’ll notice I don’t mention the term, ‘scholastic’, in the same breath as the word ‘institutional’ at any point – and there is good reason, I believe, for this.  As was mentioned earlier, in any contemporary scholastic setting one might envisage existing in the western world any form of corporal punishment will have been outlawed by legislation, and all parties concerned will know this. 
Even if one were to delve into the fairly recent past – at a point when spanking and the cane were still accepted forms of correction – it is difficult to see past such done-to-death stereotypical scenarios as the spanking dealt out for smoking behind the bike shed or the caning earned for 'playing truant' and so on.  Besides, it seems to me that for any spanking-related tale to be imaginative, suitably punitive and yet plausible (in that the disciplinarian should remain vouchsafed from busybody officialdom and do-gooder interference) some form of institutional residency becomes an essential part of the equation.  But even the strictest residential educational institution one might realistically envisage would have woven into its routine various breaks and vacation periods – time and opportunity aplenty for any untoward or over-zealous disciplinary procedures to become public knowledge. 
Even if a writer should invoke some other form of institution in which various disciplinary measures might be expected to be in place to maintain order, whether judicial, such as a reformatory or prison, or even a psychiatric hospital or care home, the contemporary setting is difficult to work with – so many safeguards and guidelines in place you see; or so perhaps one might thin.  And yet of the above examples it is in the world of psychiatric institutions and of ecclesiastical charitable care homes that we find the most fertile ground for plausible and believable tales of strict discipline, petty rules and restrictions, over-the-knee spankings a liberal doses of the cane.  After all: what could be more plausible than that which has actually taken place?  For what has occurred in the past, history tells us, can happen again – and so often has!
Right up into the 1970s we have had the so-called ‘Magdalene laundries’ – surely fertile ground in which to plant a tale of unrelenting exploitation, spanking and caning (as has indeed been done – for example, the film: The Magdalene Sisters, 2002 directed by Peter Mullan - but not yet to the point that the seam has become mined-out).  We are a long removed from the days of the poor law system, when a particularly fractious and refractory girl might be committed to the loving arms of the nuns of The Sisters of Mercy with the stated aim of making her 'more amenable to religious discipline' simply for having been seen flirting with one too many of the village lads - or perhaps having ill-advisedly refused the advances of some local dignitary.  Nevertheless who is to say – assuming the reported longevity of the Magdalene laundries is not in question – what remnant of that system might still survive to this day behind high inscrutable stone walls somewhere?
Then we have the world of the semi-legitimised experimental psychology investigation – witness the so-called 'Stanford Experiment' in which an approximation of a prison establishment was set up in a basement area of the prestigious Stanford University in the USA.  The latter involved an all male protocol and was shut down after a few days having very quickly run out of control, those selected as prison guards exhibiting ever greater tendency towards sadistic behaviour and the 'prisoners' becoming ever more resigned, even submissive.  But what if it had not been shut down so promptly?  What if the 'prisoners' were female (because I prefer that)?  What if instead of student volunteers, members of less traceable sectors of society were to be recruited, the runaways, the type that those church-run 'laundries' and 'industrial schools' would once have branded as 'incorrigibles, at moral risk'? 
The 1930s right through to the 1970s (with the 50s seemingly the heyday) seems the most fertile period for invoking the spectre of unethical psychology experiments – including, but not limited to, deliberately inducing stuttering in test subjects.  But who is to say what is going on behind closed doors to this day – such scandals seem to have the knack of remaining buried until decades after the event.  There is tremendous scope here: for example, take the above mentioned stuttering experiment; the protocol was based on utilizing psychological pressure to induce a verbal stumble or other speech defect and then capitalizing on it to create further pressure by drawing the subject's attention to the supposed speech defect.  Would it be so difficult to imagine a residential cohort recruited from among late-teen runaways during perhaps the coldest winter in decades and legal waivers duly signed and dated.  And what better way to apply psychological pressure than a wickedly pliant length of rattan hovering over an outstretched palm – and the warning given not to 'stammer over the reading of the passage this time through, girl'? 
Then we come to certain more contentious forms of  'treatment' reportedly prevalent in the contemporary world of psychiatric care.  I am talking here of so-called 'harassment therapy'.  Although it is true I have yet to come across a reliable, explicit report of corporal punishment being in use, the utilization of various forms of physical enforcement has been implied within contemporary accounts of young women being forced to clean out shower cubicles - and even toilets - on their hands and knees with toothbrushes and so on.  Given such a regime, is it so far fetched to imagine a pretty inmate draped over a nurse's knee for a hand or hairbrush spanking, her hospital examination gown peeled back either side of a delectable pair of bare drum-tight buttocks?  Remember too, the ease with which it was once possible for a young wife to find herself committed on little more than the say-so of her spouse and a few pieces of silver having changed hands, perhaps to make way for an even younger, even more delectable morsel, perhaps to grant her spouse greater control over her estate...  Oh the possibilities inherent in the granting of an enduring power of attorney!
And then we come to the possibilities opening up through today’s obsession with television ‘reality’ shows, many of which seem increasingly to be evolving towards the sadistic end of the spectrum in the trials and tribulations they put their contestants through.  But then again, perhaps we shouldn’t overlook reality itself, not when taking in to consideration the ever-worsening economic situation in the west, the increasing gap between rich and poor and the dearth of employment opportunities.  In such an economic climate with an excess workforce chasing fewer and fewer unskilled positions - coupled with a growing housing crisis - might we not be facing a situation wherein once again the price of labour becomes cheap enough for live-in domestic service to become a more common form of employment for a young school-leaver to find herself in.  With the very roof over her head directly tied to her continued employment, wages amounting to little more than ‘room and board’ (the minimum legal wage is easily dealt with by offsetting against room rental coupled with inventively-levied financial penalties for poor performance) and no hope of further employment without glowing references, it would not be that difficult to imagine a few strokes of the cane or a few minutes spent over the lap of the mistress of the house being preferable to severance.
Having dealt with the setting and the impetus for the imposition of a regime incorporating corporal punishment, we come to the ending of the tale.  I do sometimes feel I should apologise for not providing ay form of ‘happy ending’.  But happy endings are hard to come by in story telling where the action by definition would lead to the prosecution of the protagonists should the story leak out.  That in itself, for some, would constitute a happy ending – the victim set free, her tormentors left behind bars.  But is that what non-consensual story telling is all about?  Given the high stakes, surely the perpetrators would go to great lengths to cover their tracks and ensure the secret of their actions remains safe.  But for all time?  How?  I for one would not like to go down the fatal route taken by certain other writers of the genre.  And for sake of plausibility, given a contemporary or near-contemporary Western world setting, the ‘she was sold into slavery to an oil-rich sheikh and was never seen or heard from again’ is out of the question. 

And yet many of those that disappeared into the depths of the Church-run ‘industrial school’ system were never seen or heard from again, outside of the convent walls – and one does not have to go too far back in history to invoke the existence of such an institution.  Some say the last didn’t perish until the early 1970s!  Who’s to say what might still survive of that system in some remote location.  Then there are the welcoming arms of the mental health system – it was easier to be embraced within their tenacious protection in the 1960s (and easier still to arrange in even earlier times).
Personally, I’d rather come across the hanging, open ending – a glimmer of hope for our hapless, browbeaten and put-upon heroine hanging somewhere out in the distance, but for now, the prospect of perhaps being placed into service under the stiletto heel of her domineering guardian, or cane-wielding, gold-digging young step mother, made a servant in her own home.  Or if ensconced in some institution, perhaps she is about to face some sort of review panel, visiting board of governors or government authority inspector with the prospect of putting her case and turning the tables, of bringing the full might of the law into her corner – but all the time, behind the scenes… Well, you get the idea!


Anonymous said...

Hi Garth, bit of a non-sequitur but I was wondering if you were familiar with the story "Keilani's Long Vacation", by an author named ToddCheese? I just ran across it a few days ago, and if you haven't read it yet, I think it contains a lot of themes you're interested in. Only the first 7 out of 8 chapters are done and the author seems to take a long time with them, but even where it currently ends, I think you'll appreciate the twist implication.


Anonymous said...

Hi Garth,
Glad to see you are still active. Regarding the suspension of belief one just has to watch the global news to find examples that surpass reality. The seemingly infinite number of girls/women kept in captivity by relatives and strangers alike (USA, Austria, Belgium). Cannot it be plausible that a girl finds herself in the clutches of relatives without much recourse for help following the death of her parents? An aunt who would be above reproach, already well off (therefore no inheritance plot), maybe has already a couple of servants (a mother and daughter) and finds herself with the opportunity to have one more soul to subjugate. Having read your stories I somewhat find them wanting in term of conclusion. I would love to see the culmination of the subjugation of these "heroins". In my mind comes many forms such as ultimate sexual act "against nature" between siblings or mother/daughter, nothing graphic necessarily. Or acts of submission/devotion like cleaning the dirty boots/panties.


Sarah said...

Hi there

Very Interesting reading ... I was brought up very strictly and not so long ago was still under my mother and stepfather's discipline. I was often the shamefaced recipient of bare bottom spankings and other punishment through my late teen years and into my twenties.

It happens less often then it did in the past I'm sure. In my own case it's what worked for my parents and myself. It may have been very embaressing at times to still be punished in such a childish way at an advanced age but I think in hindsight it did me a lot of good and made me into the nice person I am today.

I'm still trying to work out my feelings concerning my strict upbringing... It's a complicated subject for me but I don't have any regrets about the way I was raised.

It's a big world out there and life can be stranger then fiction sometimes ... really enjoying reading your blog by the way

Best wishes from Sarah x

virginia said...

I can imagine the conversation ... " you're how old and spanked by who?" Talk about plausibility ...