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Memoir
Recalling a Petticoated Catholic Boyhood
by Christopher R.

When I was about eight years old, and for the rest of my life, things changed to a degree that I still cannot believe.

Being from parents who had very strong moral beliefs in what was right and wrong, with a strict Catholic faith all around me, the threat of disappointing one’s parents was sufficient not to require any other forms of punishment for most of the time. There were, of course, extenuating circumstances where on a number of occasions a good hiding was required, deserved and swiftly dealt out always by Mum.

I disliked children then because I was one and wanted to be an adult, so that I was very misunderstood by children of my age, and as such was quite lonely most of the time. I never enjoyed playing with, and spending time with, the majority of kids that I knew, only with the rarest of exceptions.

Being of the faith that we were, Mum obviously conversed with other Catholic parents and I guess swapped notes as it were. One such family lived quite close to us, and it is with that family that my story begins.

* * * * *
During one particular holiday Mum, my brother and I spent some time at their house playing, as we so often did on a number of occasions. The events that happened one summer changed things forever.

Their mother Barbara was obviously quite firm rather than strict until such time as rules were really broken in which case a good hiding awaited the culprit. This was not an everyday occurrence, but would happen when deemed to be required.

One day when I had been allowed to cycle there on my own whilst my brother was off with other friends took a different turn. J, the eldest boy, was in trouble for some infringement or other and was not allowed out to play in the garden. When I arrived a scene developed between him and his mother that would lead to further trouble.

They always had a dressing-up box, a collection of old clothes which the kids were allowed to, and indeed encouraged, to play with. In this box were a number of skirts, dresses and tunics that had belonged to Barbara. When this scene developed he was dragged upstairs where you could hear him getting a rather good smacking across his mother’s knee on his bare legs and bottom. This was how she always dealt with the situation.

The rest of us kids made ourselves scarce whilst this was going on, only to discover some minutes later that after she had finished smacking him, she had made him wear a skirt and a pair of old tights from the dressing-up box. He was, for obvious reasons, not prepared to come down in front of the rest of us, which made his mother even angrier. She said that, as he wanted to play outside so much he was going to do it dressed in girls’ clothes. He still refused to come down, and we were told under no circumstances were we to go up to his bedroom.

The next thing we knew Barbara had flown back up stairs and another argument could quite clearly be heard, and, waiting for the sound of another smacking as we were, it was deemed safest to go back outside.
This we did only to be called back inside under the threat of a hiding for ourselves (consent had  been given by Mum if it was ever deemed necessary to administer such a punishment to me, whereupon I would get it again when I got home). Once we were back inside, a sheepish and embarrassed lad was marched into the kitchen in front of his mother. 

We were all lectured on how we would do as we were told, or face the consequences. Although J was dressed in this manner he did not look as stupid as one might think, and none of us dared to laugh at him. He was then bent over the table by his mum, had the skirt lifted and tights and panties pulled down, and was given six smacks on his bare legs and buttocks. I think that it was more to cause him embarrassment, because she did not put that much effort into hitting him.

After that we was sent to bed in a long nightdress, and I decided the best thing to was to get out of there, I was told that I was very welcome to go back the day after, but that J would be dressed in girls’ clothes until the weekend.

The day after having retold my tale when I got home, Mum, my brother, and I went back. J was dressed in more girls’ clothes this time but on this occasion had not taken any further punishments. His mother had warned him and all of them that the strap was going to be used regularly from then on, as she did not know why she should hurt her hand smacking them, and that serious punishments would involve being dressed in girls’ clothes.

We were all sent out to play whilst Mum and Barbara talked, and this gave us all chance to talk to J who for obvious reasons was not prepared to play on the front garden where he may be seen. I congratulated him on his bravery, and asked about how painful it had been. Barbara, it turned out, had made him wear a panty girdle over his tights and frilly pants to stop him showing us his marks. Even he admitted though that there was nothing to see. However one thing that he did admit to me was how embarrassing it was to be dressed that way.

                  * * * * *             

The day after, when Mum and I were alone, she announced that she thought that a similar deterrent would work for me. I expressed my repulsion at this stupid idea, whereupon I was immediately warned that it could be started at any time. It was deemed that my brother was too young, but that I was just the right age. Mum also went on about how she thought that a strap was better than her hand, and would have lasting impression on me even without the girls’ clothing. I then found out that she had suffered similar punishments at my age, and of course it had not done her any harm at all!

Then in a moment of weakness I foolishly announced that we had never had a dressing-up box, and that the only girls’ clothes in the house were hers. Suddenly she took on a different personality, what had her and Barbara being talking about yesterday? I was told in no un-certain terms that I was still a child, to big for my boots who needed to be brought down a peg or two. Mum further went on to explain that she had old skirts and things in the loft that she was sure would fit, and that she still had a belt that was there to be used on her as a child at my age. She further went on to explain that at one of the P/T/A meetings that she had attended the Head of the school had offered to supply Canes to parents of children who needed them for the correct fee. She finished off by announcing that she had hoped that I was going to be a girl, and that if I did not behave I would be treated as one all of the time. This was all news to me as she had always said in the past that she was happy with two boys, even though we were chalk and cheese.

Naturally I was outraged by this change in Mum’s approach and started to back-pedal a bit. She said that this was long overdue and that I could expect some changes from here on. Then to my horror she announced that she would ask Dad to get the old clothing out of the loft along with the belt under the guise that it could all go to a ‘Bring and Buy’ sale at the Church Hall.

Of course the strap was not going anywhere, and if there were no suitable punishment clothes in the bags, then second hand ones would be purchased from the same ‘Bring and Buy.’ This was really scary, as it as due to be held that coming weekend.

Nothing else was said that day, until the following night when Dad went up into the loft to retrieve the bags of clothing. Dad said nothing about our little chat, and so I guessed he and Mum had not discussed it. I was not sure how he would have taken Mum’s new regime.

Next day everything appeared to be as normal until after lunch, when my brother was collected by his friends’ parents and taken for tea. I was messing about in the garage with an old lawn mower when Mum called me inside the house. Once inside I was told to wash, and as a trial for future punishments to try on the skirts Mum had put out on the bed. I refused, and the reason she needed to make me do it was handed to her on a plate.

I had not been smacked for a while and was threatened not to make an issue out of this, otherwise I would find myself in J’s position the other day. As I entered my bedroom there on the bed were three full, pleated skirts. Mum went into her bedroom and shortly after followed me into my bedroom holding some dark blue tights in one hand, and her strap in the other. She stood and glared at me, wrestling with the tights, before she showed me how to put them on without damaging them, and then watched me try on each of her garments, all of which she said would be staying for further usage.

I was embarrassed and upset and felt really vulnerable, and it was then that it was suggested that I should have a taste of the strap so that I knew what was coming the next time I warranted smacking. Just then the door went and my brother had been returned home early, because his mother had sent his friend to bed early. That was fine, and I really appreciated the interruption, but he was coming up stairs and I was dressed in a skirt and tights. Mum intercepted him, and sent him downstairs where upon I was allowed to remove the skirt, but had to keep the tights on as a reminder of what would happen if I misbehaved. I felt an adrenalin rush of excitement, and almost bravery. The skirts were hung in my wardrobe, along with the strap, and a pair of tights appeared in my underpants drawer the next day.

                        * * * * *

Being a member of the Catholic faith, along with many other special aspects of life, comes confession. That was for all parents and kids alike. Things had not really altered in the few days since Mum and I had our little chat. The things were still in my room as a reminder, but that was all. I had done various little jobs for the church and priest for a long time, and he obviously recognised who was in the confessional when like a fool I revealed all: not that I am totally certain that Mum had not told him as well.

The Church believes that any punishment is good for the soul and that one should willingly suffer for God, as Christ did for us to save the world. To that end any punishments were welcomed and corporal punishment encouraged at every opportunity. I had heard that nuns teaching at primary school level, sometimes used ‘petticoat punishment’, and sometimes seemed quite eager to dress misbehaving boys in the frilliest, laciest white frocks with appropriate undies, and tie bows in their hair.

I obviously did not understand this at the time. Mum, being Mum, would have confessed to the priest what she was doing, and whilst congratulations would not have been forthcoming in the confessional, I know that she would have been encouraged to discuss such matters on a one-to-one basis, and most certainly would have got every encouragement to enforce such matters.

As I said, in those days I was up at the church quite a lot doing various jobs. Being a lonely sort of lad, and craving adult approval and company rather than that of people my own age, I was blissfully happy that I was needed, and was spending time doing something useful.

Suddenly I began being treated in a more adult manner. I was invited to engage in conversation with the priest, whom would appear to value my opinion on a number of matters. This was eventually brought round to my opinions on discipline, punishments, and how good they both were for the soul. In time, conversations came around to how I was punished, and like a fool I told him all about Mum’s new regime.

Given the circumstances it was quite easy to accept what was happening, I was being found more things to do around the place, which involved spending more and more time there. We spoke more and more about our religion, faith, and penance, and how much happier I was than being alone. Eventually during one of our deep debates the situation of punishments and penance came up again, and I was asked how long it had been since I had been in trouble.

I explained, and the priest suggested that I had gone too long without some real discipline, and that I should accept some form of punishment for God. When asked what he meant, he explained to me that as a sinner it was better in the eyes of the Faith to be repentant for all of our sins no matter how small, and as such suggest a regime whereby I could be punished in a similar manner to that of the new regime as threatened at home, and carried out on my friend. The priest went on to convince me that it was a very good thing.

It was agreed that we would start the next day. I explained that I had never been given the strap, and certainly had never been caned. There was a selection of both items in the presbytery, from the priest’s teaching days.

The next day, after I had completed some tasks, I was back there again. A little apprehensive if I am honest, but trusting of my new friend, and now a pillar of righteousness. I had not done anything wrong, but it was deemed that I needed to know what would happen when I admitted to some wrongdoing.

I felt that I was being encouraged to confess some minor misbehaviour, but I could not bring myself to do it, but deep down inside I wanted to, for all of the reasons we had talked about, repentance and the like, but I was just scared. He then decided that my reluctance justified a bigger threat, that of telling Mum that I refused to accept a punishment from the priest, and suffer being dressed up by my mother in girls’ clothes and still get the strap. It was then put to me that it would be better if I accepted my home punishment whilst I was out, with Mum none the wiser. This made a lot more sense.

Whilst a suitable school skirt was found amongst the stock already at the ‘Bring and Buy’ sale I went home for lunch in a quandary about what was happening. I was told that whilst at home I should put on the tights that Mum had made me wear previously, and to go back after lunch wearing the tights.

After lunch I told Mum I needed to go back to mow the lawns and do some hedge trimming. I did not put the tights on however, as I was too nervous, but put them in my pocket and went back. When I got there I was asked if I was wearing the tights. There was no point in lying about it, so I admitted that I was not. The priest explained that he was most disappointed in me, and had hoped that I was different from most people in so much that I had indicated to him that I had promised to be a truly repentant Christian.

It was at that moment that it all caved in on me, I asked what I could do to redeem the situation where upon I was told to get dressed in the skirt and tights and contemplate what I had done and what a let-down I had been. I did get dressed in the clothes, which did not fit too well, and went about cleaning the windows inside whilst dressed like a girl. All the time I was thinking about the strap that I ought to accept and when I had finished I went and found him.

I told him how silly I looked, but how wearing these clothes had made me feel very different. I was asked to explain myself. I went on to explain that I felt vulnerable, silly, embarrassed, and very alert of my surroundings all at once, and whilst the outfit was undoubted punishment, the sense of well-being had returned to me again.

* * * * *

The next time I was there was Sunday for Church, after the service the priest asked me if I should like to clean the car on Monday after school. I said yes, as long as I had not got to much homework. He said that I could use the office to do some homework in if I needed to. I had only got the dining table at home, which was sometimes in convenient. Mum agreed that I could do some homework there, and this became a regular theme of events.

Things progressed quite uneventfully until one day I was asked why I had not made it to confession. My reasons were not satisfactory and another punishment session was deemed to be required. This time though, it was going to be for real. A proper girl’s dress had been acquired this time. I was told to arrive after school the following day and expect a punishment. This kept me awake all night. When I eventually arrived I had forgotten to take Mum’s tights with me. This made matters even worse, and I was told to get to the shops and buy a pair: I felt so embarrassed, and I do not know how I managed to do it! After a lot of nervous soul-searching I managed it, and once again achieved an adrenalin rush just buying them, hoping against hope that no one would see me.

When I got back I was made to put on the dress and tights as before, and do my homework. The strap was on the table in the office, and made concentration very difficult whilst dressed in what were now my ‘girl’s punishment clothes’.

As I left I was told to arrive in my tights whenever I was next to visit. I was also told to borrow a pair of Mum’s low-heeled shoes to enhance my embarrassment even further, as long as I could get into them. I explained that if she caught me doing this I could not contemplate the consequences, and what should I say if she caught me in the tights. He further went on to explain that, to really show my repentance, I should acquire a panty girdle. This was for a number of reasons, to hide any excitement that I may feel, as I was going to be wearing the clothes for longer periods of time, to demonstrate further proof that I actually appreciated the punishments that I was to receive and to accept that I deserved to be punished in this way.

It was proof to the priest that I was deserving of the attentions, and the girdle would serve to remind me even further that I not only needed, but also craved, penance through punishment.

It became apparent to me some time later that he knew that I would steal one of my Mum’s panty girdles, as I had not got the courage to get one from elsewhere, and the thoughts of buying one just horrified me. Having had a clear-out of some cupboards, there were some of Mum’s shoes in the garage, so I was able to borrow them.

At my next visit I did the small amount of homework that I had to do, and was then sent outside fully dressed to sweep the patio. This was my first time outside dressed in the girls’ clothes and I was really frightened. I refused to go at first, but as before gave in under the reason of accepting my punishments as a penance. Once outside fear of being seen took over, and I could not wait to get back in. Once I was back in again he said for the first time that I had been really good in going out fully dressed, and then asked me if I felt guilty for refusing at first. I reluctantly admitted that I did, but did not need to be strapped, as I had done it in the end fully dressed, shoes and all.

This went on for weeks until one day Mum crept up behind me putting her girdle back in the clothes basket, along with the fresh washing to be ironed. My embarrassment was unbelievable, and I begged her not to tell anyone. She took me to my room with the girdle; she confiscated all of my normal underwear, and told me that I was to be fully dressed as a girl until she decided how to punish me. I promised her anything if only she would keep this between ourselves.

Mum said if I wanted to know how it felt to wear girls’ clothes other than for punishment, then I could wear them permanently. I was kept in tights, knickers, and a girdle for two weeks under my normal clothes. I was only allowed socks when others were about, and I had to wear a skirt or a dress when we were alone. Her one concession was that I could have trousers for when my brother  was about as he would tell Dad, and he would not have approved of these goings on.

When I went back up to the presbytery I was, of course, dressed in full feminine underwear. I told the priest that I had begged Mum for a hiding and that she had refused, and given the reason why. As an extra punishment for upsetting Mum, and not buying the items that I had stolen, it was deemed that as a true punishment I should go out in the car with him to a nearby convent dressed in girls’ clothes, because they needed a kitchen maid of the Catholic faith.

I was horrified by this and got really upset. Once again using the powers of persuasion I complied, petrified and dying of embarrassment in case anyone saw me. I had heard from other Catholic children that nuns were real connoisseurs of petticoat punishment, and I refused to get out of the car, so the priest went in on his own and sent out two nuns to come out and take me in. I thought that this was the last straw, but actually they were very pleasant.

I had to go into a special room with them and wait until the business we had gone to attend to was done. The nuns explained that I should not to be frightened: they were sworn to secrecy about many matters, and they explained that what I was going through was very common amongst good Catholic families in years gone by.

They also said that when accompanied by corporal punishments it was well-recognised as being very effective in modifying behaviour, and building strength of character that lasted for a life time. I asked them if anyone else was still dealt with in this way. The response was, more people that I could imagine. When we left, it had been arranged that I would spend the time I had previously given to odd jobs, as the kitchen maid at the convent. Normally a male could not enter further than the office of a convent, but in my full-length girdle, and girls’ underwear, I would be quite helpless and harmless. For the brief time that I was with them I felt quite at ease.

Once back at the Presbytery we discussed the events of the day and, as I was wearing the girdle as well as everything else, I was given six with the strap over the desk, with my skirt raised over my well-padded bottom, although it did not feel like it had had much protection afterwards.  This situation continued until the priest was moved away, and subsequently died.

Mum never did thrash me but kept the clothes in my wardrobe for a long time, and used the threat of them as a deterrent on numerous occasions.

These experiences have made me the person that I am today, I was taught right from wrong, and a strong sense of morality. It has also left me with an inner conscience that bugs me all of the time, a need for self discipline constantly, a serious addiction to adrenalin rushes when suffering the confusion and embarrassment of being made to wear girls’ clothes, and an equal need to receive the loving spankings that I wished Mum had given me, and I had not been man enough to accept when they were on offer.

Christopher R.

The Catholic Church was a great and powerful institution, and certainly the only branch of Christianity with a profound tradition of scholarship and intellectual life, until it debased and trivialised itself at the Second Vatican Council. As a Jewish university friend of mine remarked at the time, in horror and amazement,  "What have they done to the Mass?"

This memoir is certainly of the pre-Vatican II Church, when Catholicism presented, especially to children, an odd mixture of the coldly ascetic, and the richly and opulently sensual. I have heard that nuns especially sometimes petticoat-punished misbehaving pupils.

I was brought up in the atmosphere of Scots Presbyterianism, not the most encouraging religion for a girl, and having all the prohibitory disadvantages of Catholicism, but without the spiritually stimulating and uplifting saving graces which produced so many great writers, artists, and scientists from the overcrowded Catholic schools.
Susan


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