I’ve never practised any of the many activities that come under the banner of BDSM, such as bondage, humiliation or spanking, but I’ve read a few novels and seen a few films which deal with the subject.
As far as I can see they come in two categories. That kind of fiction which portrays BDSM as a kind of fun activity for consenting adults and that which shows it as being brutal and entirely non-consensual. In the former camp we have the fiction of E. L. James and the illustrations by Julie Delcourt. In the latter we have the fiction of the likes of the Marquis de Sade and, of course, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Inevitably I’m more inspired by fiction which deals with the non-consensual world of such behaviour: partly because the only fascination I have with the consensual kind is that it is a kind of behaviour which is interesting but virtually impossible to understand and partly because I think there is a lot more non-consensual violence in this world and that is something to be very concerned about.
And so I’m announcing a new short story that I’ve submitted in all the usual places: School Discipline. It deals with a familiar area of BDSM: namely corporal punishment at school which is something that some people still think is a good thing. Needless to say I no more think licensed brutality in the classroom is a good idea than state-sponsored homicide, capital punishment or any resort to violence by institutions to keep order. This short story is as far as it’s possible to be from being a fantasy to satisfy those who think a good spanking is salutary and that it never did them any harm. Personally, I think it probably did do them a huge amount of harm and the fact that they still come out with such nonsense is all the proof of that you need.
Even some of the entertainment that is meant for those who enjoy watching boys and girls being beaten (by the likes of Czech film company Lupus Pictures) is actually quite open about all that is wrong about corporal punishment as a form of discipline as opposed to a consensual activity between partners who like restraint and pain. My guess is that amongst those who get a kick from it, the real pleasure comes as much from the anticipation and the ceremony as much as from the actual administration.
So, like all my stories, there’s a strong satirical element to School Discipline where those who already suffer from a surfeit of punishment will continue to suffer from it, whilst those who escape from it are those who are already quite well-off. It becomes, in other words, yet another means for those who are privileged to arbitrarily punish those who are not.
And my belief is that the real reason for the continued attraction of corporal punishment to a section of society that watches Fox News and reads the Daily Mail (and probably have no idea what ‘satire’ means) is precisely that. Only those who envisage themselves delivering the punishment are especially likely to think it’s a good idea that it should continue to be delivered.