A Taste of the Lash

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"Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash."

Flagellation (more commonly called "flogging") is a method of punishment in which a person is beaten or whipped with a rod, a switch, or (most especially) a whip or a cat-o-nine-tails. Flogging was commonly used in various navies around the world during the time of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, especially as the sailors of the time were known to have a disregard for pain. A knotted piece of rope (called a "starter") was used to give "encouragement" to a lazy sailor, while the cat-o-nine-tails was used for harsher, more formal punishments. It was also commonly used by slave owners as a method of disciplining their slaves. Typically during a flogging, the prisoner is stripped naked (or at least stripped to the waist) and then hung upright or chained upright to a pillar or a post (or a pair of posts) in order to stretch them out.

In addition to its use as a punishment, flogging (especially self-flagellation) has been used by religious fanatics as a means of "mortification of the flesh". The person would basically torture themselves in order to feel what Christ felt, and to suffer an immediate and rather determined form of self-sacrifice. This is based in the belief that by enduring the pain felt by Jesus during his persecution by the Romans, they become closer to the Son of God.

Lastly, some people use flogging as a means of sexual gratification. Naturally, in such uses, the flogging never approaches the violence levels reached during a punitive whipping. Such activity commonly causes bruising, but almost never breaks the skin or cuts the recipient, who is after all trying to enjoy himself or herself.

Flogging is still a legal punishment used in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe to this day.

Note that people can and have been flogged to death. A hundred lashes can easily kill, especially with a knot. Even if you don't die in the process, a good traditional flogging will often result in you dying from your wounds and/or infection shortly after. This is the sort of flogging that was a popular form of punishment in Imperial Russia, in particular, where they used particularly coarse leather for these purposes. Due to this it was also traditional to pay the executioner to go easy on someone, which still hurt like hell but generally wasn't fatal. It should also be noted that even if a victim survived a severe flogging, they could end up crippled for life, and in an era of single-income-earner families and little in the way of accessible charity on a large scale, this could leave the victim's family destitute.

...I'll take the rum and sodomy.

Compare Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off. Contrast with Whip It Good. A form of Corporal Punishment.

Examples of A Taste of the Lash include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]


Film[edit | hide]

  • Glory: One of the soldiers (played by Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for the role) is whipped for going AWOL. When they strip his back to administer the punishment, it is clear that he's quite familiar with being whipped.
  • Bootstrap Bill Turner is forced to flog his son Will in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. He mentions that if he hadn't done it, the Bosun would have, and he takes pride in "cleaving flesh from bone" with each strike.
  • In Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, a sailor is flogged for disrespecting an unlucky officer who is being scapegoated as a Jonah. Captain Jack Aubrey goes through with the flogging despite not wanting to (he likes the sailor in question, and more than that is one of the people who thinks the scapegoated officer actually is a Jonah) because discipline must be maintained.

Capt. Jack Aubrey: "I am not a flogging captain!"

  • This happens to Danielle in Ever After after she attacks her stepsister.
  • Flogging occurs in all three versions of Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • Quasimodo is flogged in both the silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney, and the 1939 sound version with Charles Laughton.
    • In the Disney version, Judge Frollo is seen supervising a flogging off screen. He tells the flogger to wait between lashes, "otherwise, the old sting will dull him to the new."
  • Elvis is "flogged" in Jailhouse Rock, though its not done seriously.
  • Charles Bronson is stripped to the waist and hung by his wrists to be whipped in Chino.
  • Happens to Cary Grant in Gunga Din.
  • In Taras Bulba, Tony Curtis runs a gauntlet of whips.
  • Graphically presented in The Passion of the Christ, when the Romans flog the ever-living-shit out of Jesus. A bit of accidental Enforced Method Acting is involved—in one take, the whip actually hit the actor, instead of the board they'd placed on him to protect his back.
  • Set to music in Jesus Christ Superstar. (The lyrics are Pontius Pilate counting off lashes.)
  • In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence is flogged by the Turkish officer when captured.
  • Little Bill kills Ned this way in Unforgiven, setting the stage for the protagonist's final vengeance.
  • The Proposition features a realistically stomach-churning sequence where a prisoner is sentenced to a hundred lashes.
  • One of the first scenes in Against All Flags is British naval officer Errol Flynn being flogged so he can pose as a common seaman who's deserted and infiltrate a Pirate stronghold. When he's examined by some pirate leaders (supposedly) a few weeks later, one says he recognizes the style of the sadistic bosun who did the flogging—he likes to "sign his name" on the victim's back with the last several strokes.
  • Anthony Hope from the film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street gets this courtesy of the Beadle on orders from Judge Turpin for "gandering" at his ward.
  • In the 2002 film version of The Count of Monte Cristo, the inmates of Château d'If were given a lashing on the anniversaries of their arrivals, with one lash per year. Done just to remind them how long they had been there.
  • In Starship Troopers, Rico is forced to be lashed after a live ammo accident leads to one of the trainees to get his head ventilated.
  • Happens to Ballu in Khalnayak at the hand of his former childhood friend, Ram. Unfortunately for Ram, Ballu is Too Kinky to Torture.
  • In Underworld Rise of the Lycans, Lucian is subjected to this at the hands of Viktor, who sentences him to thirty lashes for betraying his trust, and even one lash is brutal enough to Lucian. Viktor makes it quite clear that he wants Lucian to suffer, even after the first twenty-one lashes, and even forbids Sonja, his own daughter who is in a star-crossed relationship with Lucian, from intervening on pain of severe punishment.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Roots (as in real history) the slaves are whipped for just about any reason.
    • Chappelle's Show does a sketch poking fun at the actors of Roots during a whipping scene.
    • You would think some masters would prefer to limit this though, as it reduces a slave's ability to work.
    • In Real Life, that was usually the case for that exact reason.
  • In Babylon 5, Cartagia orders G'Kar to be whipped until he dies or screams, whichever comes first. For no reason beyond the fact that he wants to hear the Narn scream.
  • In one episode of Allo Allo, after the wacky scheme du jour fails Edith decides to indulge in some flagellation as penance. Played for Laughs as all she can think to use is wet spaghetti.
  • The Collector's protagonist was a flagellant monk.
  • Alluded to in Merlin by King Uther. "If this were a time of war, I would have you flogged".
  • Not an official punishment, but it was used by Lady Heather in the CSI episode "Pirates of the Third Reich" on the guy who killed her daughter. Grissom catches up to her in the desert to find her flogging the guy, who's tied to the hood of her car.


Gamebooks[edit | hide]


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Brave New World: how John the Savage punishes himself.
  • Happens to Little Bee, a maid in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series
  • As a commander, Horatio Hornblower hated to administer floggings, because he believed that it broke the spirit of good men, and made bad men worse. He's squeamish about them, as well.
    • The first novel in the series, Beat to Quarters, features a flogging in the very first chapter.
    • Hornblower himself was flogged in Mister Midshipman Hornblower.
    • In the film Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN, he orders a crewman flogged specifically because one of his lieutenants threatened the man publically with it, and Hornblower feels his duty to support his officers is more important than his dislike of the lash. But he lectures the lieutenant about it afterward.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, Captain Jack Aubrey is considered a stern but fair commander, and one of the reasons for this is that he dislikes imposing more than a dozen lashes, and only imposes even that punishment when its absolutely required to maintain discipline on his ship. He much prefers to dock troublemakers' grog rations, especially if whatever they did was done drunk.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers has Johnny Rico get flogged for acting recklessly during a Mobile Infantry training exercise. It is also mentioned that in his society that being "flogged in the public square" is considered a valid punishment for minor crimes. (Major ones are punished by death). It should be noted that punitive floggings in this novel are closely monitored by a doctor to ensure that no permanent damage is done, and the punishment is followed immediately by treatment. It does not even leave scars.
  • In the Sharpe series, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill had Sharpe flogged while the latter was still a private in India. This was only one of the reasons that Sharpe hated Hakeswill and considered the man his Arch Nemesis.
  • This happens three times to Jamie in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. The scars from the whipping are meant to mark a person as a criminal.
  • Temeraire, being a Wooden Ships and Iron Men series WITH DRAGONS!, has this show up out of necessity a few times.
    • In Black Powder War, Laurence has to order his own aviators flogged a couple times. Both times he hates to do it but is forced to; once because his man hits a superior naval officer and needs to be appropriately punished to keep the sailors from turning against the aviators, and again when two of his men break a pretty important law while in Istanbul and this is the alternative to letting them be executed. Both times he is hugely uncomfortable with the proceedings. In the second incident he insists on keeping the count himself silently, so he can stop it early and pretend that they recieved more lashes than they actually did.
    • In Empire of Ivory Laurence himself is flogged while being held prisoner. We don't know how severe it is since it's from his perspective and he loses count at around ten, but he does end up being delirious for a week.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns of Tanith, Lijah "That Fething Bastard" Cuu gets flogged for looting. This ends...badly.
  • Moby Dick: One is included in "The Town-Ho's Story".
  • In the Knight And Rogue series by Hilari Bell, after the title characters get press-ganged onto a ship the threat of horrible floggings is always at hand. Michael, the knight, is eventually seriously flogged. The flogging scars, combined with his Mark of Shame, cause most people to assume he's a hardened criminal.
  • Janny Wurts' novel To Ride Hell's Chasm does a fantastic job of showing the class prejudices of a medieval type society, the hero is whipped for not showing proper respect to "his betters".
  • In The Scar by China Meiville, Bellis and Tanner are both flogged for treason after they unwittingly call New Crobuzon's ships down on Armada.
  • In the novel Night, by Elie Wiesel, which is the autobiographical story of the author's time in a concentration camp when he was young, he is whipped for inadvertently seeing one of the officers raping a young woman.
  • In The Da Vinci Code, Silas the Albino flogged himself to a bloody pulp out of a sense of religious fanaticism.
  • Cluny the Scourge, the villainous rat of the Talking Animal book Redwall, whips his subordinates with his own tail. Since presumably he couldn't hit someone hard enough to kill them without breaking his tail, if he wants to actually kill them he attaches a poisoned metal barb to it. Another Big Bad, the Lawful Evil Vilu Daskar, uses a particularly nasty variation on this as a punishment for theft aboard his ship; the perpetrators are strung upside-down from the mast, given twenty lashes, have their wounds washed with seawater, and cut down after several hours.
  • Not quite flogging, but a Discworld novel cites an incident where a witch caught a traveling peddlar beating his exhausted, overloaded donkey. She grabbed the riding crop out of his hands and used it to strike him in the face twice, saying: "Hurts, doesn't it?"
    • A little old lady that William de Worde hires at the end of The Truth had previously submitted a letter to the editor, in which she recommended that anyone under the age of 18 should be flogged daily to stop them from being so noisy. "That'll teach them to go around being young."
  • In Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games book, Gale recieves a flogging after being caught poaching.
  • A few months before the start of the story in The Curse of Chalion, Lupe dy Cazaril (then a galley slave) antagonized the slavemaster in order to protect another slave; it was mostly luck that he survived the resulting flogging. Since lifting the titular curse requires that someone lay down their life three times for the house of Chalion, the fact that a flogging stands a decent chance of killing you and Cazaril provoked one anyway is actually a very important plot point.
  • An important part of Kvothe's legend building in The Name of the Wind is when he is flogged - he takes a drug beforehand to dull the pain, which has the side effect of constricting the blood vessels and causing him not to bleed - earning him the nickname "Bloodless"
  • Barahkukor in Mary Gentle's Grunts! finds some of his female orcs flogging a female elf (a reporter for Warrior of Fortune magazine). At first he's pleased to see them keeping up with tradition, but then the elf turns her head and complains, "You stopped." One of the other orcs present complains "She's had ages, Sarge! It's my turn next!" And then they hand the elf the whip to flog an orc; that really outrages Barahkukor. "You're supposed to torture the prisoners, not let them torture you!"
  • In Patrica Briggs' Dragon Bones Oreg has a flashback to being whipped after laying a curse on one of his old masters. His powerful magic makes the damage real, at least until he can get enough of a grip to heal himself again.
  • In order to encourage Skeeter in his training for Gladiator Games in Wagers of Sin, he's given a taste of the lash.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan story, "The Black Stranger," has a harrowing scene in which Valenso, a vicious pirate, has his niece Belesa's protegee, a young girl by the name of Tina, subjected to this because he thinks she was lying about the coming of the title Black Man.
  • Similarly to Hornblower and Aubrey above, Alexander Kent's captain Richard Bolitho hated flogging and usually got good results without it.
  • In Jules Verne's Michael Strogoff, the title character's mother refused to point him out to the Tatars, so traitor Ivan Ogareff called for her to be lashed to death with the knout (see Real Life below). The danger to his mother made Michael blow his cover ... and hit Ivan across the face with that very knout, which the watching British and French Intrepid Reporters agreed was well done.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • In a scene that is not often included in shows of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Judge Turpin, who is developing a serious lust for Johanna, his teenaged ward, takes the whip to himself during the course of the song "Johanna (Mea Culpa)" in an effort to drive off the "devil." The whipping instead drives him to climax, and he decides he's going to marry her, much to Johanna's horror.
  • In Billy Budd, a flogging scene happens offstage. Then the victim is brought onstage. And sings a duet with his friend.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Ace Attorney, Franziska has a habit of whipping Gumshoe to punish him for his (frequent) incompetence.
    • Of course, she also has a habit of whipping foolish fools for spouting foolishly foolish nonsense - meaning, of course, everyone in this game. She whips Phoenix into unconsciousness when she loses her first trial.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Uruk: "There now!" he laughed, flicking at their legs.
"Where there's a whip, there's a will, my slugs... You'll get as much lash as your skins can carry when you come in late to your camp. Don't you know we're at war?"


Truth In Television[edit | hide]

  • The ancient Spartans would flog young men as a test of their masculinity.
  • The ancient Romans used a variant known as "scourging", using a whip that had bits of metal or bone at the tips. This punishment was reserved for non-citizens.
    • Both normal flogging and scourging were used in the martyrdom of Christians. In example, after Saint Sebastian was badass enough to survive being turned into a Human Pincushion, some versions of his myth say that he was flogged to death (others said he was beheaded); Saint Philomena's myths say that the first torture she was subjected to was scourging, and then angels healed her.
  • British law actually held a distinction between whipping (to be beaten with a whip) and flogging (to be beaten with a cat-o-nine-tails). Both were abolished in Britain in 1948.
  • Ancient Hebrew law limited flogging to forty strokes. It became common practice to only ever administer thirty-nine, so as to avoid any possibility of breaking this law due to a miscount.
    • Even the Romans would limit lashings to 39, as 40 was known to kill some men.
    • This law was copied in New England as well. During the Seven Years' War colonial troops were shocked that the British went beyond this limit. This caused a Culture Clash.
      • Though in the Navy with which this trope is usually identified such punishments were considered a sign of a bad commander. Even the harshest of captains would usually limit the punishment by having the ship's doctor step in as early as possible. Ludicrously harsh floggings were almost always carried out by the criminal justice system or the Army.
      • In the famous Spithead Mutiny the Royal Navy sailors did not put abolition of flogging in their demands. Part of the reason seems to be that they wanted to get good press by going light on negotiations; part was that their main desire was better food and pay, fewer corrupt officers, and predictable punishment, however severe. And part perhaps was that while the amount of criminals in the British service was less then legend paints, there were enough, and honest sailors feared getting bullied more then getting flogged.
  • Religious self-flagellation is not just a Christian custom.
    • Shi'a Muslims whip themselves as part of the annual period of mourning for the first ten days of the Muslim year, commemorating the martyrdom of their Third Imam, Husayn ibn Ali, at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq (marked by the "festival" of Ashura). A few men, not believing that self-flagellation is Badass enough to commemorate Husayn, cut their foreheads with swords.
    • Flogging also remains a viable legal punishment in several Muslim countries.
    • Recently, a 14 year old Bangladeshi girl was lashed to death when a Sharia court sentenced her to 100 lashings for being raped by a married cousin, because it was considered an affair. The cousin in question was convicted of rape and also sentenced to 100 lashes.
  • In 1994, an American tourist named Michael Fay was arrested for theft and vandalism in Singapore, and wound up getting publicly caned.
  • One intellectual visiting an eighteenth century army camp saw an elderly soldier beaten half to death for being careless in the presence of a teenage officer. His host told him, "I assure you sir, that it is necessary." Whereupon the guest said, "I cannot swear to that. But I do know that it is not necessary that I should watch it."
  • Imperial Russia had the knout. Technically this is just "whip" in Russian, but the brutality of serf flogging with this whip lends the term infamy. Particularly notable was the "great knout," which was an especially large, heavy, hard whip designed to inflict maximum damage. Where most floggings had to get into triple-digit strokes to threaten the victim's life, the great knout was known to kill with as few as twenty strokes - allegedly by breaking the spine.
  • Alice Orlowski, an SS official known for lashing female inmates across their eyes, personally.
  • The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 BCE, mandates flogging for some crimes.
  • In The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends, and Lore by David Dary, it is recorded that it was Cherokee law that each creditor was allowed one whack with a strip of hide at a defaulter. One caravaner the author cites tells how he stopped to trade with the local Cherokee. Only to find that they "remembered" one of his drivers.
  1. or whips, in the OVA