The tawse is an excellent implement of punishment with a long and distinguished history, which comes in many forms and is made of several materials, though leather is traditional.
Like the tapette, the slipper, and the palm of the hand, the taws or punishment strap is a “smacking” instrument with a flat punishing surface, though some are quite narrow—no more than two inches broad in some cases–and of course they vary in length.
Very short ones indeed may be used for inflicting spankings, or at least whippings administered in a “spanking” posture, but to get the best out of the longer straps it is best to position the recipient as if for a caning.
Some sources regard the taws or strap as a “girl’s” punishment; and the cane as a “boy’s”; I see no justification for this distinction.
Many people select or adapt some old item of saddlery – or even a gentleman’s cut-down razor-strop and call this a “taws”. As a Scot, I can attest that the true Scottish Taws is a purpose-made instrument, distinguished by being split into two (2), or possibly three, rails at the “business” end; this enables the piled-up air, which normally retards flat implements to a marked degree and reduces severity to escape more easily during the downwards swish and so increases the speed of descent and the power of the stroke. Long tails have a “wrapping” or lashing effect and care should be taken when aiming at the flank. The ideal proportion between tailed and untailed proportions is about one to two. A taws may also be fitted with a wooden handle for improvement of control. Lengths vary between twelve inches (in which case tails are superfluous) and about three feet—a very severe kind of weapon indeed. The most favoured material is leather, but in the schools of some Canadian provinces the officially-issued instrument of classroom correction is a rubber strap of approved pattern. I do not myself possess one of these, but understand that they are highly effective, unlikely though that might seem.
ON THE HANDS
Proceed as for Hand Punishment. Up to six strokes per palm may safely be given, even with a tailed taws of medium weight.
FULLY CLOTHED CULPRITS
Unless the taws is very short and you propose to administer a spanking with it which may not be thought appropriate for classroom use, where formality should reign—the culprit must assume one of the conventional postures (see below) and submit to the taws, as he would for the cane.
A difficulty arises if you wish to administer this (or any “clothed”) punishment and the culprit, for one reason or the other, is dressed in female fashion. If equity be observed, the “girl” should likewise he punished across “her” clothing—the difficulty being that girl’s clothing is not only much more many-layered and therefore protective, it does not tighten when the culprit stoops. There art: only two ways around this: either forego “fully clothed” punishment entirely when the culprit has been feminised or petticoated; or—and this only works if the frock or skirt is of slim cut—tie a cord or leather belt tightly around the culprit’s knees before telling “her” to bend over. This has the effect of tightening the clothing across the posterior.
In the normal case of events, a typical series of commands might be:-
[Christian name], come to the front.
You lecture him on the offence. Then:-
I shall now punish you to male sure you remember what I have just said. Bend over and touch your toes [or whatever position you nominate]. Keep your legs perfectly straight and your legs together. Remain in that position until I tell you may rise.
Fetch the taws. (If you have several, take your time choosing the appropriate one—it will add to his apprehension,) Ensure he is well bent over, and that the seat of his trousers is perfectly tight. If necessary adjust this garment until the necessary drum-taut condition applies. If he is wearing a long jacket, fold back the skirt.
Some Mistresses increase the ceremonial aspect by drawing out the tail of the shirt From the trousers and folding this back also, but although it must in theory diminish the protection offered by the clothing (to a tiny degree), I do not think it is worth it. If you wish to attenuate the ceremony, take the blackboard duster and plant a broad area of chalk across your precise target area; then announce that you are going to apply the taws until it has all been beaten out.
Pronounce sentence, and then inflict it. The taws should be applied at a fairly measured rate—about ten strokes to the minute—and, under these fully protected conditions, with a fair degree of muscle power. Tawses being flexible instruments, it is difficult to align them for aiming purposes; but as closely as you can, aim for the nearer buttock. The extra “stretch” in your forearm as you whip the end through will provide the other two or three inches and the “business end” will therefore arrive perfectly aligned across the full width of the seat. At this moment of impact your forearm and the taws, at full “fling”, should form together a perfectly straight line–if anything, your wrist and arm should “lead” the taws slightly. Do not be intimidated by the sharp crack this instrument makes (3), or by any shouts from the culprit. It is true that the pain, at the instant of impact, is intense; but it fades rapidly and within a minute is little more than a warm glow.
A dozen should be the absolute minimum number of strokes with a taws administered across a protected target. I have administered three dozen as a maximum under these conditions—it was tiring work and on another occasion I chink I should rather lower the trousers and apply a lesser number of strokes.
This generally being one of the milder punishments, once it is over, a culprit should he directed back to his desk and told to get on with his work.
Phrase your commands in the following sequence (the lecture on bad behaviour has concluded):
Go and stand facing the desk.
And when he has done so:
Unbutton and take drown your trousers.
And when he has done so:-
Bend over the desk. Keep your legs straight etc., etc.
Proceed as in the earlier example, but remember you have just removed a layer of protection and your strokes will be the sharper without any extra effort from you. Ensure the knickers are tight—or as eight as this garment ever is before scarring work. Afterwards:
Stop that noise — you deserved it. Pull up your trousers. Tidy yourself.
And when he has done so:
Go back to your desk, sit down, and behave properly. You haven’t yet come to the end of my reserves, young man, as you will discover if I have any more trouble from you this lesson.
TAWSING A BARE BOTTOM
If a culprit qualifies for this severest form of tawsing, it is assumed that he has either accumulated a string of offences within the schoolroom, or has committed a single domestic or moral offence of considerable gravity.
A good strapping on the bare bottom cannot be considered anything other than a sharp punishment, though less so than a caning under the same conditions. My rule of thumb is that two strokes of the taws is about equivalent (I do not say equal because their effects differ greatly in detail) to half that number with a swishy cane, itself the severest instrument (qua ferulam) in regular use within my establishment.
On the whole a strap may also be considered a milder instrument because its effects do not last as long, though the pain at the time is about the same. A well tawsed bottom looks spectacular for an hour or two, but a day later the reddening will almost entirely have died away and the only marks remaining will be small blue weals where edges or tails have lashed into flanks.
Corporal punishment in this particular fashion is highly favoured within corrective institutions for girls (which may explain the origin of the “girl’s-instrument” prejudice referred to above). In these establishments, delinquent females are not expected to cooperate, but are usually held across trestles or tables while the matron applies the taws. As usual, it is otherwise with boys, and even to this sharp correction, administered in privacy, a young gentleman of spirit should bravely submit himself.
The choice of basic postures is more or less the same, except that the furniture will now be different, and the ottoman and the pouffe have replaced the stool and the desk. The slight increase in the culprit’s comfort will be more than offset by the severity of the chastisement.
This being a formal punishment, the culprit is expected to prepare himself fully before bending over and assuming the presentation. There are two further options : you may remove every impeding garment yourself, or you may command the culprit to begin the process, which you then conclude at your leisure. This last is the method I invariably favour, since it extracts more shame from the situation if the culprit is helped, to any degree, to undress. When he has taken down his trousers and adopted the posture I have decreed, I advance and continue the preparation, tucking up the shirt and pulling down the knickers. I then fetch the taws from my closet and return. I pause for a moment, then administer a lecture on his faults, always ending with a further series of commands on how to comport himself under punishment.
I am going to administer twelve strokes. It will hurt.
If I think you are taking your punishment bravely and humbly I may remit one or two strokes. Conversely, if you have made more fuss than I consider necessary, I may odd some.
In any case you will not address me personally during the punishment, and any requests for remission will achieve the opposite.
You will remain still at all times and not attempt to get up.
If you disobey me me in any of these ways, I may start again from the beginning.
As I mentioned earlier, bare bottoms rapidly betray evidence of the application of the taws; an overall reddening and occasional bruising. The vividness of these marks can intimidate some novices but do not be put off! The flush will fade within a very few hours; and a day later you will wonder what all the fuss was about.
AFTER THE TAWS
A boy who has been chastised on the bare bottom with the taws will probably be in some distress (if he is not your punishment has been too mild), and if you are now satisfied that he has received the full measure of apportioned correction you may forgive him-in the usual fashion, with a kiss-and send him to his room (or to bed) for a few hours.
(1) Tradition attaches the invention of the true taws to the Scottish town of Linlithgow, where the bootmakers’ wives notoriously became expert at inflicting it across their apprentices’ bottoms
(2) Hence the expression “a pair of taws”
(3) Oddly enough, the sound of the impact across a tightened trouser seat is much greater than in any other mode.