The flogger has an interesting history. Throughout the centuries, our ancestors have used it not only for sexual reasons, but have also incorporated it into their judidical, medical and religious practices.
For example, in pagan Sparta, during an annual festival called ‘Day of Flagellations’, young men were brought before an alter dedicated to the goddess Diana where they were whipped from dusk to dawn. People from all over the countryside would turn up to cheer on the whippings and encourage the men to ‘bear the pain with fortitude’. Priests would watch the ceremony and at the end of the day, would examine the wounds on the men and predict their futures according to the shapes and size of the wound.
Flagellation for punishment’s sake has been practiced throughout the world. From ancient Rome, where judges would decorate the walls of their courtrooms with various types of whips in order to strike fear into criminals; to English school teachers using the rod upon the backs, hands and legs of their students at a very early period in history.
Flogging has also been thought to have a good amount of medicinal value as well. Throughout history it has been promoted as a way of ‘stirring up the body’s stagnating juices, dissolving the precipitating sales, purifying the coagulating humours of the body, clearing the brain, purging the belly, circulating the blood and bracing the nerves.' Whipping has been used to treat insanity, laziness, depression, obstruction of the bowel, and even lockjaw and choking. During the years 1348-1349, when the Black Death was sweeping through Western Europe, it was promoted as both a preventative and cure for the plague.
The first known written account of flagellation used for sexual sado-masochism was in the fifteenth century by a man called Pico della Mirandola who wrote that a man could only enjoy sex if he had first been beaten to the point of bleeding with a whip which had been first soaked in vinegar.
The first flagellation-themed pornography was published in 1718 and was entitled ‘A Treatise on the Use of Flogging.’ Following the release of the book, whipping became a passion throughout Europe, so much so that the French dubbed it ‘le vice anglais’, meaning ‘the English vice’, a nickname that stuck for centuries.
To this day, flogging and corporal punishment by whipping still survives in some countries. Alongside the gradually declining punishments, it’s used as a BDSM practice, with practitioners using floggers and whips as a tool of sensuality to toe the line between pleasure and pain.
The photographs in this article come from a newly released book called History of Sexual Punishment – a photographic documentation consisting of over 300 representations of flogging, a large proportion of which are erotic illustrations and depictions from antiquity to today. The images come from a variety of collections and sources, ranging from academic to porn, representing one of the most thorough collections on the subject of flogging. You can purchase the book here.