Two weeks or so ago, a very dear and long-time friend sent me a link to an article in the Guardian: . Knowing that I had attended Winchester College in England and being a Brit herself, she inquired if I had come across the subject of the article during my school days. To dispel any anxieties that I might have been a victim of this man’s cruel and in my view totally unacceptable methods of “education”, I was glad to reply that I had graduated before this individual arrived in Winchester. Nevertheless, the article did arouse troubling memories of those school days when corporal punishment was quite the accepted means of instilling virtue into boys and building character. Character to own up to the misdeed, character to accept the prescribed punishment, character not to moan or cry out as the welt-raising lashing was administered and character to thank the master for the punishment received. Let me also add that I managed keep out of trouble enough to have never received a caning. In the manner I acquired from being brought up in Britain, I thanked my friend for sending me the link and reminding me of practices that were current while I was studying of Win Coll. I commented that the article raised many painful memories of a system of education that is now, thankfully, largely discredited in the United States where a beating of the sort described in the article would be classified as child abuse. I then expected the topic and related memories to fade once more into irrelevance. This, however, did not materialize and I found myself often wondering about the underpinnings of a system that would tolerate, not to say promote such practices, particularly for what was then considered a most grievous sin: solitary masturbation. How could suppressing urges to masturbate by inflicting serious bodily harm be seen as building moral character? And what about self-inflicted corporal punishments as a form of penance? Did the identity of the subject and the object of the action create a categorical difference? Well, at least in this case of self-administered punishment, there would be a high likelihood that the subject regretted and was penitent about the actions he had committed. That was often not the case with punishments meted out to us school boys. The beating was simply the price to be paid for being caught in the act. I did come across a report of an even stranger case. Another friend had a sister who had married into a very strict, ultra-conservative Christian family. This sister habitually used a ruler to discipline her children. Her telling me of this part of the story had reminded me of many a school teacher walking through the arrays of wooden desks with their ink wells, smacking with a ruler those unlucky students who had allowed a drop of ink to splatter the desk or some piece of paper or book, or some smudge to be placed on the work being crafted. But what happened next before the Thanksgiving dinner came as a total surprise. At one point the five year old child approached her mother ruler in hand and said: “Mom, please hit me with the ruler, I want to do something naughty for which I will need to be punished”. The Mom then went on to hit her child with the ruler, and the child went on to do the forbidden act she wanted to commit, something that was considered so normal in this family that my friend felt unable to utter a word of reproach despite the raging feelings engendered by this series of events. My friend’s outrage was still palpable as she told me the story as was mine upon hearing it. Yet there was little recourse open to us as the beating had not been severe so as to cause welts to be raised and/or bruise marks to develop. What had gone wrong, where had a five year old learned to request a pre-emptive punishment as a permission to transgress? By this point, feel it safe to assume that you are picking up on the theme of sadomasochism that is embodied in our efforts, within our cultural paradigms, to raise and sculpt the behaviors of our children, youth and fellow citizens. When is it permissible to chastise another human being or oneself in the pursuit of an ideal? And while we are clearly averse in most circumstances to receiving punishment, particularly punishment of a corporal kind, are we not also often seeking punishment without which transgression becomes less sweet, less desirable? By accepting to be physically punished are we asserting our preference for being in any sort of an interpersonal relationship over the loneliness of being oneself? This would be an issue of our masochism. By accepting that others have recourse to corporal punishment, are we acknowledging the primacy of destructiveness over creativity? This case raises the issue of our latent sadism. Finally, where within this spectrum does our experience of pleasure come into the picture? Are we always only reacting to our latest experiences of hope, fear, pleasure and pain. This will be a theme explored in future posts on KandEdots.com.