Flagellant

From Spanking Art
"A Flagellant", artwork by Jan van Grevenbroeck.
Flagellants, from a 15th century woodcut.
Note: This article is about the term flagellant. For other meanings, see flagellant (webmaster).


A flagellant (from Latin flagellum = whip) is a person who whips himself, or willingly subjects himself to be whipped. This phenomenon and practice is also called flagellantism.

The term flagellant is used in the following main meanings:

  • to refer to a member of the Flagellants, a 13th and 14th century radical Christian movement
  • to refer to a BDSM practitioner whose main interest is in receiving floggings
  • to refer to a person who has a desire in, and/or takes pleasure from, being flogged or flogging themselves, not necessarily in a religious but not necessarily in a BDSM sense either

Religious flagellantism[edit]

Flagellants with their various instruments for self-punishment.

At first, flagellation became a form of penance in the Christian church, especially in ascetic monastic orders. See also mortification of the flesh. For example, the 11th century zealot Dominicus Loricatus once repeated the entire Psalter twenty times in one week, accompanying each psalm with a hundred lash-strokes to his back. The distinction of the Flagellants was to take this self-mortification into the cities and other public spaces as a demonstration of piety. As well as flagellation, the rituals were built around processions, hymns, distinct gestures, uniforms, and discipline.

The movement did not have a central doctrine or overall leaders, but a popular passion for the movement occurred all over Europe in separate outbreaks. The first recorded incident was in Perugia in 1259, the year after severe crop damage and famine throughout Europe. It spread from there across Northern Italy and thence into Austria. Other incidents are recorded in 1296, 1333-34 (the Doves), notably at the time of the Black Death (1349), and 1399.

Flagellants, spankophiles, and the BDSM community[edit]

Floggers are popular implements in modern flagellantism.

Some people understand the term flagellation to refer to harsh, severe whippings, like those used in the religious Flagellant movement or in the judicial corporal punishment of adults. Such chastisement is often, or typically, given on the person's back, and the derived term flagellant carries these connotations. The term spanking, on the other hand, is mostly used to refer to comparatively milder forms of corporal punishment, like those traditionally used to discipline children, and refers practically always to the chastisement of the buttocks only. People who call themselves flagellants and not spankers/spankees/spankophiles, or the other way round, may have this or a similar distinction in mind. It is not unusual for a flagellant (in the above sense of the word) to have a large area of their body whipped, or mainly their upper back area, whereas such practice is not appealing to most spankos.

This distinction of flagellation vs. spanking is not general however. There are also many people who consider spanking a subset of flagellation and consequently use the term flagellation to mean both. The authors of the books below are examples of this.

Not all contemporary flagellants see themselves as members of the BDSM community, and some draw a line of distinction on the argument that flagellantism as such is not sexually oriented, whereas flagellation as a form of play in BDSM is a sexual activity. An example of a community holding this view is the German club Forum 88 e.V..

Within the BDSM community, the term flagellation is used nearly synonymous to the term flogging: it is defined as a form of impact play, typically using some kind of whip. The whipping needs not be harsh to be called flagellation: in fact, mild toys such as many-stranded soft leather floggers are very popular. When soft blows are repeated a great many times, the skin will eventually become very sensitive and then the softest impact can feel very intense. At the same time, the play is very safe because the chance of breaking the skin is minimized with such a soft whip.

See also[edit]


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