Rather like the lesser punishment called the stocks, the pillory consisted of hinged wooden boards that formed holes through which the head and/or the hands were inserted; then the boards were locked together to secure the captive. The most often seen version had one hole for the neck and two smaller ones for the wrists, to the left and right of the neck opening.
Pillories were set up in marketplaces and crossroads to hold petty criminals. Often a placard detailing the crime was placed nearby; these punishments generally lasted only a few hours. Time in the pillory was more dangerous than time in the stocks, as the pillory forced the delinquent to remain standing and exposed.
A criminal in the stocks would expect to be abused, but his life was not targeted. A prisoner in the pillory would be presumed to have committed a more serious crime and accordingly get a more angry crowd reaction. With hands trapped, he could not protect himself from anything thrown at him, either harmless items like rotten food or injurious ones, even heavy stones: blinding and permanent maiming could result. The criminal could also be sentenced to further punishments while in the pillory: humiliation by shaving of some or all of the hair, or regular corporal punishment, notably whipping (the pillory serving as a whipping post), birching, caning or even permanent mutilation such as branding, or having an ear cut off.
A pillory at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany)
Illustration by Léon Roze (1907).
Whipping in the Rococo era (1730s-1770s) by Helga Bode.
Pillories in BDSM
In special purpose BDSM dungeons, a pillory is sometimes provided as a special form of bondage. A person in a pillory is completely unable to defend themselves, and everything beneath the neck is vulnerable. Some people find the pillory ideal for tickling, as the stomach, ribs, thighs, crotch and armpits of the subject are all very exposed.
- Pillory page on Spankoz Australia
- Drawing by an unknown artist (M/F)
- Young woman spanked in pillory, artwork (/F)
- scene from horror film Black Ribbon (2007)
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