(Not So) Silly Monkeys

Brief Notice

Few, if any pages on this site include a formal content warning.

I’ve a notice that this site is for adult visitors only, as well as the blanket statement that it may contain unsettling material. For most of the content on this site, that seems sufficient. This page, however, is somewhat an exception.

Because of that, I want to state, quite plainly, that this page contains references to, and links to, material concerning both corporal punishment as a “kink” and the same as a form of physical abuse.

Some of these references and quotations contain violent descriptions and well as weird justifications for them. I never experienced this within Aristasia myself, though it quite clearly happened in the precursor groups.

Read onwards with that in mind.

Addled by Paddling

Aristasia no longer exists, of course. It often gets termed things like “the lesbian spanking cult of yesteryear <insert gasp in standard YouTube accent>” or “that sapphic otherkin S&M club.” But what role did spanking really play? For many years (starting, as far as I can tell, sometime in the 1980s), Aristasia and related groups did practice corporal punishment.

They gave various reasons for doing so, as well as often conflicting images (at least online) of the role discipline seemed to play in the group. Might’ve been my age, but it was dreadfully hard to get a read on the whole thing.

Isn't Aristasia all about discipline and spanking?

giggle Not really. That aspect has been played up by the Pit mass-media and some Aristasian books, like the delightful Children of the Void have lain emphasis upon it partly because they were selling into the disciplinary niche market - well, they have to sell somehow! It is a part of Aristasian life, but girls who do not find it of interest can easily take part in Aristasia without encountering it at all (providing they are good, of course). Many girls who encountered Aristasia from other directions have found discipline a very exciting and rewarding aspect of Life Theatre. On the other hand those whose only interest in Aristasia is discipline will not make good Aristasians. Aristasia is much more than any one aspect.

From a Q&A about Aristasia posted and archived in 2001.

The above quotation hails from a rather early Aristasian site. It alludes to the group’s practice of corporal punishment as part of the “life theatre” events. Despite the admonition that it wasn’t a major part of Aristasia, moments like the above told me that physical discipline was part of Aristasia in some capacity, though. It had become associated with the group for a reason, something they had never really denied.

Aristasia, you see, was perhaps most famous (initially, at least) for the above-embedded documentary, though. Filmed in the mid-1990s, it is split into three parts on Youtube. I, naturally, suggest only watching it if one is comfortable with scenes of such physical discipline.

The documentary is quite brief and aired on something called the BBC 4, an arcane system of broadcasting video in faraway lands that I, as an American millennial, couldn’t hope to comprehend. It showed once, as far as I know. Regardless, the short documentary eventually made its way to Youtube, under the auspices of Aristasian websites. We watched it as a group in a chatroom together, and there was much discussion once it finally “aired” on Youtube in the 2000s. I included it on this site’s Kinemas page alongside others

A screenshot announcing the documentary’s premiere on YouTube in the mid-2000s.
A screenshot announcing the documentary’s premiere on YouTube in the mid-2000s.

If you watch the documentary, you’ll notice that it describes the group’s primary figurehead as Marianne Martindale, disciplinarian first and foremost. Most of the scenes within the program focus on acts of physical punishment. I showed the documentary to an unrelated (enby, actually) individual from the pagan community - they commented that the exercises filmed, at least, seemed mostly an excuse for discipline. And watching it, can you really deny that, at least for what we saw on camera?

Perhaps that was the choice of those doing the filmmaking, and/or perhaps it really was for selling to the "discipline-y" niche. I wasn’t sure, being young and utterly ill-equipped for such a tangle. I couldn’t, I must say, see the merit in marketing Aristasia to such a niche to begin with, either. I found their reasoning for the documentary’s existence peculiar, either way, even after discipline (of any corporal sort) had been ditched by the movement.

This documentary made in 1997 is about an Aristasia that no longer exists - and in a way never really existed. The vast over-emphasis on corporal punishment did not represent the way Aristasia actually was even in Britain at that time, but it was considered necessary in those days to overstress it for publicity purposes (without that "hook" a television documentary would never have been made).

Whether that was a good or a bad decision is a matter of opinion. However, Aristasia as it exists today is largely American based and does not practice corporal punishment.

The ideals of goodness and purity in an all-feminine world, of course remain the same, but it is felt that "discipline" of this type encourages a sleazy interest that has no place in a world of beauty and innocence.

From the description of the Miss Martindale documentary, posted on the Rosemaidens YouTube channel in 2006.

By the point of that (particular copy of) the video being posted, Aristasia had abandoned corporal punishment for the reasons given, and was indeed (as far as I'm aware), mostly Americans like me. Despite this talk of discipline being “overstressed” for marketing, though, as I’ll discuss, the history of Aristasian-adjacency to such activities goes back decades.

For many years, physical discipline was an undeniable part of Aristasia, and even part of Romantia and other offshoot groups, too. We saw it at St. Bride's School in the early eighties, and it shows up in this Sunday Telegraph Article from 1993 after the group had relocated to Oxford. But how did corporal punishment of all things enter the picture, and why?

My Perspective

I just want everyone reading this website to know that I don’t condone actual corporal punishment. Of maids, of schoolgirls, of whoever. I'm sorry, but that's just what I think. I'm not going to mince words about it. You're welcome to disagree. I'm not, I think, kinkshaming, because here, I don't refer to kink.

I'm referring specifically to corporal punishment as punishment, as such. I don’t believe it can be “purifying” or that it even works for providing structure or correcting behavior. Even in children, for heaven's sake.

I could be wrong; I’m not an expert, but the (actual) experts I’ve read seem to agree here. I, like most millennials, experienced the usual amount of corporal punishment as a young child, and I don't think it was life-improving, comforting, or structuring.

Many, many years ago, back before the Aristasians had abandoned corporal punishment, they would talk about structure. Corporal punishment created a world with hard, strong edges, and some maidens needed that, finding it nourishing and comforting.

I don't believe that now, and was confused by the notion at the time. I understand a need for structure, but why bring physical pain into it, when there are plenty of other ways?

Oddly enough, the one and only kind of physical “punishment” I can think of that I do think is pretty much okay? Those silly, silly (consenting) monkeys, where both parties presumably enjoy themselves within certain limitations. In the 1990s, the Aristasians derided sadomasochism and, like I said, called it "silly monkeys," insisting they didn't practice it. Instead, explanations like the above "it provides structure" were given.

There's nothing wrong with consent-based sexual sadomasochism though. It's actually much preferable to actual physical violence as a punishment. And? I get that some people probably find pain enjoyable in a non-sexual, sensual way, too.

And, as long as there’s safe and sane limitations, and all parties consent, there’s nothing wrong with it, whether in a sexual or sensual context, I think. I'm okay with kink (sexual or otherwise); but not with people actually smacking each other around and administering beatings as a form of actual "discipline.”

In what was said to be a roleplay (“life theatre”) context, though, well, everyone seemed to have signed up for it. That, to me, implied both consent and enjoyment, at least in theory. I had trouble seeing how that didn’t qualify as, well silly monkeys (S&M), aside from it apparently being not sexual, and yet there was all this talk of philosophy too…

Miss Martindale, the Aristasian schoolmistress (amongst other roles) who appears in the documentary, had something to say about this, speaking to Miranda Sawyer of The Observer in 1995.

Silly Monkey is the Aristasian euphemism for the Pit- bound perverts who find discipline stimulating. 'If you take the two initials I think you'll understand the people we're referring to,' giggles Miss M, coyly.

But your book refers to physical chastisment as 'thrilling' and 'vibrant'. Someone in Aristasia has been playing Silly Monkeys...

'I can understand people having sexual feelings about discipline,' demurs the lady. 'It's just a cruder manifesta- tion. Sexual, to me, implies something rather fleshy - whereas sensual doesn't. Discipline is most certainly sensual. But if you set out a punishment and say: "This is going to be a really sensual punishment," then it wouldn't work. The sensuality catches you unawares. You suddenly feel melty.'

Do you feel as melty doling blows out as receiving?

'It's not the same. The sensuality you get from giving a punishment is because you're submitting yourself to something that knows better than you do what's appropriate. There was once a girl who'd been really very naughty and I gave her six strokes harder than I've ever managed before. Something higher than me decided that it had to be a very severe punishment.'

We sip our coffees in brief silence.

'Discipline,' concludes Miss Martindale, in her well- modulated tones, 'is not chained to fleshy gross things. It can be an inner feeling, very uplifting. Enlightening.'

From The Observer, an article archived here in two parts (1, 2)

I myself wasn’t interested in much of this. I was young, had a burgeoning, ahem, appreciation for other women, and a fondness for other aspects of Aristasia at the time. Still, I found the discipline aspects dull, though. This was true even when they were framed as sensual rather than sexual. In neither respect did they interest me, really. I wasn’t disturbed by what appeared to be consensual roleplayed interactions - it just didn’t interest me personally. I was quite glad it didn’t feature in my participation in Aristasia.

Who was Miss Martindale?

Photograph of Miss Martindale from Not Only Blue magazine, circa late 1990s (?)
Photograph of Miss Martindale from Not Only Blue magazine, circa late 1990s (?)

Miss Martindale walks into the boardroom, swinging a long cigarette holder containing a pink Sobranie. She is wearing a fur coat, and a Forties black hat with a pheasant feather perched perkily on the brim. She has wing- tipped glasses from which dangle a gold chain. Behind the glasses, her eyelids are weighed down with layers of bright blue eye shadow and long, false eyelashes.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," she begins in a voice characterised by high-pitched, perfect vowels circa 1950. "I wish to introduce you to something completely new. It is one of those things so obvious, so natural, so fundamental ... one is surprised that it has not been done over and over again." She pauses, for effect. "The subject of discipline - corporal punishment, spanking, caning and so forth - is of perennial interest."

The man from Bookseller shifts nervously and looks at the table. Miss Martindale continues to smile and read her speech; and as she does, it becomes clear that her book is hardly the stuff of serious literary magazines.

"The book examines," continues Miss Martindale, "the different types of cane and how they should be used. The many and varied methods of spanking in the detail that they so richly deserve. There are clear and precise instructions on the use of the strap

The book is called The Female Disciplinary Manual. It is the latest publication from the Wildfire Club, an organisation run by Miss Martindale and her colleagues, all "ladies passionately interested in discipline". The Female Disciplinary Manual purports to be a "complete guide to the correction and chastisement of young ladies".

Written in a clipped tone reminiscent of a classic Fifties schoolbook, the Manual discusses variations on "old-fashioned discipline" in grim detail. Want to know how long the disciplinary cane is? Compound punishments? The use of the strap? Turn to page 80, where you will learn that "the strap is much less dangerous to use than the cane. If you do catch the wrist or thumb, it will do no real harm"

From The Independent, Friday, March 3, 1995.

Miss Martindale spoke centrally for 1990s Aristasia and the Wildfire Club. She held press conferences and appeared at book releases for their discipline-inspired volumes, like the one quoted above. In fact, I was given the impression that she often appeared throughout the British press during that decade. As an American, it’s hard for me to say for sure whether this was accurate or an assumption made from limited information on my part; even back then, we sure had a lot of news clippings about her to pass around, though.

MISS MARIANNE MARTINDALE is an elegant lady who dresses in the style of the 1930s, not just for special occasions, but all the time. Fox-furs and cigarette-holders are her everyday accessories. Real, non-stretch 1950s nylons that crinkle their exquisite fineness at the ankle and behind the knee. "Nobody makes them exactly right in the Pit." So Miss Martindale and her Aristasian girls have started another company to supply traditional stockings.

You may think she is rather unusual, but she does not.

 "Every one I know dresses like this. How else would one dress?" She smiles engagingly. Miss Martindale belongs to an all-female group which believes that things went very wrong in the 1960s. Her friends do not necessarily dress in a glamorous 1930s style. They may choose more modest 1950s attire. They may affect pencil-skirts or wide, circular skirts held out by a dozen petticoats, or just a plain skirt and cardigan which could almost pass as rather conservative late-20th-century dress.

But the point is that these ladies do not belong to the late 20th century. Their hearts and souls are otherwhere engaged.

In 2004, the Wildfire Club had a page called “Who is Marianne Martindale?” to explain in their own terms.

When I found Aristasia online, though, it got reiterated to me over and over that she was, in fact a a persona, not a physical person. I didn’t quite believe it myself, and can only ever see Miss Martindale as the woman pictured in the documentary. Said person (as anyone doing further research will learn) was the “primary” Miss Martindale, and likely the one to create said Aristasian persona. Still, others did act as Miss Martindale; that became clear after a while.

This has been confirmed by several outsiders, though - she wrote a small ladies’ column for The Chap magazine, and was known to appear as different ladies at different events for said magazine. At such instances, it was apparently declared that there were “many Miss Martindales,” and that the one most convenient had been sent. I’m trying to dig up a source for this, and will link it when I find it.

It’s also true that Miss Martindale (the lady shown in the documentary) likely communicated under other personae as well. I’ve absolutely no idea if I ever spoke to said lady in any capacity; I do know that I never interacted directly with a pette using the name “Miss Martindale” online. We spoke of her frequently, her legacy and influence on the movement. Even in its early days, she was not a presence within online Aristasia that I knew. It may well have been a matter of me just not being as deeply-involved, however.

It is not this site’s purview to dig into the current personal lives of personages involved in this movement, so there won’t be a discussion of “where she is now” and such, which particular online (and prior) personae were likely to have been her, and so on.

Instead, let’s return to the question at hand - what role did discipline play in Aristasia? Why?

Was it spiritual or religious?

In short, I doubt this immensely. It may have been justified as such at a later time, but I do not believe it was a fixture of Aristasian religion in the early days.

The discipline aspect of this whole movement seemed to enter the equation at St. Bride’s School for (adult) Girls. I really don’t see it prior to this in The Coming Age or The Book of Rhiannë, products of the early 1980s Rhennish commune also known as the Silver Sisterhood. If I am wrong about this, please, please do contact and correct me, with proof.

A flyer advertising the opening of St. Bride’s School for (adult) Girls.
A flyer advertising the opening of St. Bride’s School for (adult) Girls.

I believe it was introduced via the emulation of British boarding school life at St. Bride’s. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, physical discipline was a common part of British education, religious or secular. One might expect to actually be paddled by a teacher as a youngster, if one misbehaved. Seems odd to us millennial Americans, but it’s true. It seems a bit untoward (to say the blooming’ least) that a roleplay school for adults wishing to relive their school days would involve that aspect, but apparently St. Bride’s School did.

Media reports about St. Bride’s did mention it on occasion (“canings,” for example), but it was portrayed as St. Bride’s attempts to create that “British schoolgirl” feeling amongst visitors. This was the impression given by the (all too brief) interview between the BBC’s “Assume Nothing” Podcast and the (former, of course) headmistress of St. Bride’s School in 2022. Other parts of the same podcast also say it was depicted like that, at least. This does not mean that was the real reason for discipline’s sudden inclusion It also does not mean it was the only reason. Still, it was the reason most commonly given for the supposed “canings” at St. Bride’s School itself.

Whether the “creating a school atmosphere” explanation was a mere excuse or the real reason, it doesn’t seem to have had a religious basis, either way. Multiple sources (of note, The Critical Apparatus to the Eastminster Library Edition of the Clear Recital, on pages 334, and several other places) describe St. Bride’s School as a wholly secular affair, too. It was meant to attract women of all religions, or none at all. There’s (going to?) be more about that on the page about St. Bride’s School itself soon, I hope.

In the later years, during my own involvement, I saw only a few attempts to spiritualize the discipline aspect of Aristasia. This may well have been due to my involvement just prior to Bridgehead and the abandonment of physical punishment, of course. There was some talk of the spiritual necessity of structure, though.

There was also mention of the concept of the Golden Chain of Being. This regularly appears in the lore and mythos surrounding Aristasia Pura, but taken as a serious metaphysical truth. This was alluded to (poorly, IMHO) in the podcast on St. Bride’s, where it got reduced to “some maids just need to be told what to do.” I can’t abide that kind of thing as a “metaphysical truth,” now, regardless of how it is stated, of course; but the view they showed me in the 2000s was far more nuanced.

Still, the Golden Chain that connects all things in Thamë (Harmony) appears in the Clear Recital, the scriptures largely accepted within Aristasian communities and their precursors such as Rhennes. I’m having a dreadful time finding the actual Aristasian edition of that to share, but I’ll share a clip from The Eastminster Critical Edition which alludes to the concept.

Let the brother obey the sister, and the younger sister obey the elder. Let the child obey the mother and the husband obey the wife. Let the wife obey the lady of the household. Let the lady of the household give obedience to the priestess; let the priestess give obedience unto Me. Let the maid obey the mistress, let the pupil obey the ranya. Thus shall all things be in harmony and harmony be in all things.

Fear not the way of obedience, for in that way art thou wholly secure. Let thy mistress direct thee and thou shalt be led unto the perfect garden of Avala.

Ye rest in the hands of a mistress that ruleth in ðamë is to rest in Mine own hands, and I shall enfold you in the hand of love and keep you in a gentle safe-keeping. But she that followeth not the path of obedience resteth in the hands of the passions, whose wild winds blow this way and that, who giveth obedience to the demons of the wind that lead her not into safety, but toss her upon the storm. They raise her up only to throw her down and take delight in her anguish. The way of obedience is a safe harbour and a well-made vessel that shall bear the soul unto the nether shore.

A golden chain of love doth link each maid with her mistress, from the humblest of them that love Me unto the very Janyati of Heaven; a golden chain from the summit of the mountain unto the deepest depth. And it shall lift up each soul to the golden land of Avala, and to the yet more beauteous lands beyond.

A maid rule by authority of ðamë and yet obeyeth not; if ðamë be broken and her heart be turned to ice, let her be made the least among the children and be the servant of those she has wrongly ruled. Let her feel the chastening willow-rod and feel also the love of her mistress until her heart be melted.

But they that rule not by authority of ðamë, whose dominion floweth not from the love of My Mother, truly the gates of their empire shall be shattered, even as the gates of Hell.

From pages 62-63 of the Eastminster Critical Edition of the Clear Recital. Please note that the Aristasian version, unlike this one, contained no references to males.

Please note that ðamë is, of course, a spelling of Thamë, the Raihiralan/Rhennish term for Harmony and the Angel of such. That is really much what Déanism has to say about the matter of discipline, a chain of command of sorts, structure, and all of what the Aristasians might later, with a shrug, mention in the discipline context. There is no mention of paddling, that’s for sure.

From what I heard in the BBC podcast about St. Bride’s (linked earlier in this article) early on, the Rhennish group did practice a sort of symbolic ritual scourging, but this differs from physical abuse or roleplay kink. I haven’t gotten through all the Rhennish and Lux Madriana documents, of course, and if someone out there can offer some kind of counter-example, please do drop me a line!

In the meantime, I offer the conjecture that nothing about the Aristasian fascination with corporal punishment ever had much of a spiritual origin. It entered the movement’s history at St. Bride’s School for (Adult) Girls, apparently emulating the life of British schoolgirls.

This is not to say that I believe physical pain has no place in spirituality; that’s not my right to say, after all. It is a part of many traditions, many of which are quite old. Most of these involve consent, at least in theory. Either way, it does not seem that Aristasia’s interest in corporal punishment began, or was carried out, for spiritual reasons.

Discipline, to Structure and Bond?

Reiterated over and over, however, was the notion that discipline (physical or otherwise) provides a lifestyle with firm, yet soft edges, often lacking in today’s world of baggy pants and drinking Coca Cola straight from the bottle or whatever criticism Miss Martindale penned in The Chap.

"Part of what we're doing in Aristasia is giving girls a place in a hierarchy and a place in our hearts as well. Those things that are lost in the Pit.”

Being able to trust and being able to love without being rejected. Anyone who enters deeply into Aristasia finds that they can trust it will be forever. If the girl decides -as has happened at various times - that she wants to go back to the Pit, then she does so and that's that. But if she doesn't, then she knows it will be for always and that's an important contrast when everything is so impermanent and fragmented in the Pit."

"So how is that created?"

"Well," Miss Martindale continues in the assured, well modulated tones of someone who understands exactly what she's talking about, "it's partly created through love and affection and the fact you're given so much time and so on. But it's also created through discipline and the bond that's created through trusting the person who's disciplining you. It creates a sort of magical connection. Nearly all the girls who come to us feel very strongly how drab everything is in the Pit. They discover in Aristasia a whole world that deals with everything from traditional philosophy to how you ought to do your eyes. It covers so much it's often difficult to know what to focus on in an interview. And it's all very fascinating. But, fundamentally, it is a hierarchy; it is about genuine discipline, not 'dominating'. Mainstream journalists do tend to get very interested in the picturesque side of what we're doing, so we do tend to end up as these funny little people doing something odd. And we are doing much, much more.”

A man named Roy Turner, purview unknown by me, interviewed Marianne Martindale, who had this to say about the role of discipline in Aristasia back in the mid-1990s.

There is also, as you can surely read in the above, the sense of spanking for bonding, out of love. This is the closest we get to a spiritual basis for corporal punishment as part of Aristasia or Aristasia-related groups, I think. The notion of that connection between disciplinarian and subject likely intends to echo the Golden Chain of Thamë mentioned in the scripture quoted earlier.

I’ve made clear my own stance on that earlier in this article, regardless - I do not find it a healthy perspective, and was relieved when it was abandoned. I am 100% accepting of sexual or sensual S&M games and such - but not any kind of usage of pain for actual behavior modification. I also, well - I find the sensual and sexual games a bit dull? But I shan't judge those who don't.

Was it abusive?

A tabloid newspaper article about the situation at St. Bride’s School.
A newspaper article about the situation at St. Bride’s School.

According to some accounts, yes, some Aristasian-adjacent and precursor groups did engage in physical discipline that pressed the boundaries of consent, and was what I’d, personally, consider abusive.

If you have listened to the final episode of the BBC podcast about St Bride’s School, for example, you will have heard a woman’s firsthand account of living within such a group (specifically St. Bride’s School for (Adult) Girls). This story is quite horrifying and involves terrible physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the headmistress of St. Bride’s, a woman known at the time as Miss Scarlett.

While I have many, many criticisms of that podcast itself, the story told by this woman rings true to me. I realize the podcast featured a lot of edits, likely for privacy. Still, I’ve known many abuse survivors in my lifetime. I don’t believe that she is lying. There was a rather well-publicized court case where the headmistress was convicted after administering corporal punishment to a maid at St. Bride’s.

Despite this, information about it didn’t show up online until long after I’d left Aristasian spaces entirely. This sort of thing would’ve given me pause had I seen it prior to any kind of Aristasian involvement. Prior to the 2010s, though, the world (and Internet) seemed to have a shorter memory for “small” stories such as that, though. News articles and such weren’t always digitized, and those that were made vague references to the conviction at St. Bride’s School.

Back when I was involved in Aristasia, the court case, and the entire debacle surrounding it, was shrouded in mystery. A lot of us girls seemed to assume it was just another incident of The Straights freaking out about “obscene” queer sexual practices, and perhaps hadn’t even involved a lack of consent at all. Weirder things have happened. There was little talk of it, anyways.

Tabloids (and actual news articles, which are still quite scant) about the case weren’t digitized for a while. Once they were, I felt incredibly betrayed by the revelation that such things had allegedly happened, yet remained unrevealed by those who did know about them. When, recently, it became apparent that, quite possibly, the true nature of these events had been kept from girls like me, I positively fumed.

Despite my lack of interest in paddling, I had (previously) seen Miss Martindale as (mostly) a stylish dominatrix (alongside Aristasia). What news reports I was exposed to presented Aristasian discipline as a rich, sensual and (most importantly) consensual affair. There were hints of cruelty in some of the fiction - but I wrote that off as, well, fiction When she “vanished” as a persona within Aristasia, I actually missed the stylishness, at least, a bit. And now? I feel as if they’d been pulling the wool over my eyes. It really completely changed the way I saw the movement’s trajectory.

At the same time, it did not fit at all with my experiences of Aristasia in the 2000s. I still have no idea what to make of that, except perhaps to conclude that it resulted from a different temperament amongst the leadership and group as a whole. If not, I really don’t know. I was decidedly not present (nor born yet) for such events. The 1980s are terribly beyond me. Anything I can say on this will be, de facto, based on the accounts of other people (even if they were aired by the BBC). I, of course, admit this entirely.

Was it a kink?

A screenshot from the Wildfire Club website from 2004.
A screenshot from the Wildfire Club website from 2004.

Fast forward a bit to the mid-1990s, though - Aristasia was often referred to as a group of “kinky” lesbians, though they resisted being called such. This question really just begs another question: what is a kink, even? I’m hardly an expert.

When the Aristasians said that their affection for discipline wasn’t kinky, they primarily meant that it wasn’t sexual. This gets alluded to in a quite telling statement from Miss Martindale to The Independent in 1995. She talks about discipline as an important and, more importantly, enjoyable, part of Aristasian life at the time.

”We live in a country called Aristasia. It's a feminine version of the Greek Aristos, meaning the best. Actually, it's a house near Epping Forest, ha ha ha." Miss Martindale delivers a finely controlled peal of silvery laughs. The press conference starts looking slightly uncomfortable. "Between three and six of us live there at a time. It is the embassy for the entire world of Aristasia, ha ha ha.”

The "perfect world" is a collection of six or seven Aristasian "houses" across the country, all similarly inhabited by "mistresses", "maidservants" and "girls"; all with schoolrooms, uniforms, lessons, and most importantly, discipline. "But we have no Silly Monkeys. Now you know what I'm talking about, Miss Millard," says Miss Martindale sternly. "Silly Monkeys. Think of the initials, ha ha ha. No, none of that. We live in an aesthetic world, a sensuous world, an artistic world. Not a sexual world."

Rosie Millard’s article on her interview with Miss Martindale in March of 1995 for The Independent.
A news article from 1993 detailing telephone hotlines managed by the early Aristasians.
A article from 1993 detailing telephone hotlines managed by the early Aristasians.

I would argue that kinks aren’t always sexual, however, and those dreadful silly monkeys aren’t just a sexual thing, though. One can be a masochist (or perhaps a sadist, even) on an entirely non-sexual level. Perhaps this isn’t (or, at least wasn’t) discussed much (until recently), but it does seem that many people enjoy such play for wholly sensual reasons.

Someone unrelated to this once mentioned that, when it came to masochistic impulses, they felt that a sound spanking could be enjoyable much like a too-spicy meal. Neither was sexual, naturally, but both had an appeal to this person (I guess) for similar reasons. I don’t know for sure if the Aristasians felt similarly at times, but Miss Martindale’s statements seem to suggest that, she, at least, wanted that. Other Aristasians (whom I won’t cite given they were private conversations) have echoed this notion of discipline as sensual, rather than sexual.

Still, it’s pain; and if one is enjoying it (safely and consensually, we’d hope) - it qualifies as S&M, or, in Miss Martindale’s terms, “Silly Monkeys.” That’s just how I see it. And I have no qualms about it, I suppose. It just isn’t for me.

Even as early as 1999 (roughly the time I discovered Aristasia), there were efforts to downplay the discipline aspect of Aristasia, though it was still present. I was told that many of the books about Aristasian life had a (non-sexual) discipline focus for mere financial purposes, for example, as did the, uh, ahem, above-advertised 1-900 ran by the group. I hardly bought that excuse, even as a teenager.

Still, stuff like that pictured above could hardly make it less clear - someone, at least, was meant to find this arousing. Who? Other Aristasians? Customers, to bring in cash? I’m unsure, but as I alluded to before, financial motivations were often mentioned. At the same time that this was happening, of course, Avenbridge School operated in London, an Aristasian-themed school for grown-ups. It was a small affair, but did include physical discipline. All material circulating about it warned that discipline was not the primary focus.

Entering Avenbridge is like entering any other girls' school. Given the initial premiss of "roleplay" everything that takes place in the School is perfectly genuine. Lessons are real, work is real. Homework is set and expected to be completed. Discipline is administered, but the School is certainly not a mere excuse for discipline. Indeed, some weeks there may be no physical punishment at all; though a girl may bring a "note from her mother" if discipline is specially required.

From a 2004 webpage advertising Avenbridge School events in London.

Strangely, pages like this one both imply that extra discipline could be arranged and that discipline as a focus was frowned upon. Either way, I could hardly see it as anything other than a (consensual and possibly just sensual rather than sexual) kink at the time. It was deeply integrated into the concept of Aristasian “life theatre.”

People seemed to have signed up for it, and to enjoy it. It didn’t seem to be a prerequisite for Aristasia, but it was certainly meant to draw people in. Once more, I was not there in person, and have nothing to go on but what I read and discussed with others, but it seemed that way.

Oh, and one last thing. I’ve not been asked this too much, thankfully, but to clear away a couple questions I did get: I was never asked nor pressured to receive discipline in any of my Aristasian personae online. This may perhaps be because I am speaking of online interactions, but it wasn’t part of my experience.

Similarly, I was never pressured into any sexual banter or roleplay, either. While some of the fiction offerings on the sites featured ladies being spanked, my teenaged self yawned at those. None of them were aware I was underaged. They likely would have blocked me had they known, hinting at as much.

A few more sections to follow...

This page is unfinished. Whenever Clarity Anne manages to secure a few days off from work and a sufficient supply of quality coffee, it may well be completed. The final sections will focus on Operation Bridgehead and the abandonment of corporal punishment in Aristasia. I will discuss reactions from both Aristasians and onlookers, and how this affected the movement as a whole. Thank you for visiting the Aristasian Reminiscence Project, and for reading a page about such a difficult topic as this one.

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