08 October, 2007

The Allure of the Whip

The long and curious history of arousal.
In 1700, the abbé Jacques Boileau published a book called Historia flagellantium that would forever change its subject. He argued that whipping as a form of penance had no biblical authority, that it was of pagan origin, and that, at best, it belonged to an earlier, more spiritually heroic age. That had all been said before. What got him on the Catholic Church's Index of Prohibited Books by 1703 was a story about Father Cornelius Adriaensen, a 16th-century priest who, after striking his young female acolytes with knotted cords, went on to tenderly touch their naked buttocks and thighs with his rods of willow and birch. More shockingly, Boileau claimed that Adriaenson's evident pleasure was not an exception but the rule—that flagellation was, by its nature, erotically ambivalent and deliberately so. His book signals the great divide: From 1700 forward, the whip would be identified less with piety or penance than with sexual arousal. Read more >>

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