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English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in…
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English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After

by Ian Gibson

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This book is truly a monument to the predominantly British practice, fast disappearing, of using corporal punishment for scholastic, penal, domestic and erotic purposes. Gibson has been meticulous in his investigating of original scholarly and official sources and his presentation of this information in an objective way. It is necessary reading for those concerned with punishment, particularly of the young and very young, and also a fascinating sourcebook for those whose fantasies involve issues of dominance and submission. It is undoubtedly dated, the past thirty years and more having seen major changes in Britain in the way punishment as a whole is approached. I use the word ‘Britain’ deliberately here, even though the book concentrates on England and its use of birch and cane, because the principles are unaffected by transformation to heavy leather straps in Scotland, even if there are subtle legal variations there. The book understandably concentrates on the ‘passive’ recipient rather than the ‘active’ inflictor, and while this allows a reasonably thorough examination of lasting psychological effects on the victim, Gibson neglects, perhaps even avoids, deep consideration of those whose fantasies or proclivities involve the physically dominant role. In 1978 this was arguably a taboo area; it may still be taboo. Criticism may be levelled at Gibson’s understanding of the relevant psychological theories and concepts; but then, some of those sometimes appear to lack plausibility, and the book does provide a valuable introduction. However, it also dispels a host of myths and half-truths, and is therefore essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in the subject. ( )
  CliffordDorset | Mar 14, 2010 |
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