HISTORY OF SEXUAL PUNISHMENT IN PICTURES
Karl Sturer Collection
(Goliath hardcover £24.99/€24.99/$34.99)
Reviewed by Tony Mitchell
In earlier times, when publishers packaged ‘pornographic’ imagery with faux-academic texts in the hope of evading the long arm of the law, books like Goliath’s History of Sexual Punishment in Pictures were relatively commonplace.
Erotica publishers would first acquire collections of pictures that they desired to publish for their titillatory value.
Then they would engage a writer who either had, or could fake, a reasonable knowledge of the relevant subject matter, to knock out a few thousand words to accompany the pictorial content.
This text had to look authoritative enough to pass (publishers hoped) as serious academic/ sociological/anthropological comment.
But that objective was sometimes undermined by the use of very obviously fictitious author pseudonyms.
Book publishers (in the West, at least) don’t need to do that any more.
But, save for the absence of a fictitious author (no writer is credited for this book’s texts), Goliath seems to have purposely chosen to mimic this earlier presentational style for History of Sexual Punishment in Pictures.
Presumably this was intended to evoke a vintage experience while browsing its 270 pages with their 240 monochrome images.
And since the main focus of the book’s imagery is what the porn business used to call fladge (flagellation), that seems an entirely appropriate decision.
Fladge — erotically-motivated beating with whips, floggers, riding crops and canes, as well as spanking with hands, hairbrushes, slippers and paddles — has been enthusiastically depicted by artists for centuries.
The book’s earliest example of this specifically erotic activity was originated in Greece around 450BC. Some of its most recent images are sourced from Bondage Café supremo Jim Weathers’ 2013 photo book Kinky Bondage Obsession (also by Goliath).
Imagery produced between these two dates is represented by a wide selection 17th, 18th and 19th century engravings and more recent graphic work. Its photography ranges from early Victorian Daguerreotypes to film and digital images.
The pictures have been sorted into approximately 30 chapters. About half the chapters cover general topics with titles such as Corporal punishment and religion, The buttocks and their sexual significance, Girl spanks girl – male fantasies, and Gay role-play.
The remaining chapters cover types of instrument, with titles such as The paddle, The martinet, and Wooden spoons and other household goods; and devices such as The Spanish Donkey and The St Andrews Cross.
Most of the texts (in German and English) are less than one page in length, functioning merely as brief introductions to the pictures which are, of course, the real meat of this addition to Goliath’s Digest series.
Despite its chosen subject area, the visuals in this book are, when judged by modern standards, generally not at the wilder extremes of porn. In fact, the vintage character of much of the content imparts a certain quaintness and even charm.
But if fladge is your kink and you’re not particularly aware of the range of imagery it inspired in earlier times, History of Sexual Punishment in Pictures is an effective way to fill some of your knowledge gaps.
And if the worst comes to the worst, you can also stick it down the back of your pants to take the edge off the thrashing that, presumably, you so richly deserve.
Published May 23, 2019