Probation Officer #71: The Junior Probation Officer’s Handbook

Ana made a protesting noise.

“Look, Ana, why not come and see me, at the office?”

“Tomorrow?” She was being puppyish.

“Can’t be tomorrow. No, I’m sorry, I’m going to be busy all day. Talking to people much less lovely than you. Make it Friday.”

“After work?”

ana spankingNo. At the office. Ana, you’re a bad girl.” 

 “You spank Sa’afia. Maybe you should -” 

“Yeah, you need a spanking, Ana. But it’s not in the probation officer’s handbook.” 

“You looked it up? For me?” 

“Absolutely I did. Turns out I’m not allowed to spank my clients. Says so, on page 96. Look, come and see me, at the office, and we’ll have a talk. Ok?” 

“I should rip page 96 out. And I bet there’s no such book, anyway.” 

“There damn well is.” There isn’t, of course. 

Probation Officer #61: Holding his own

I didn’t have much time to think about Sa’afia once I got to work. The manager of a farm about ten kilometres out of town had caught Lance Holder masturbating behind a barn. When the manager challenged him Lance had run for it. The manager had caught up with him near the barn entrance, and punched him a couple of times while Lance got his pants up.



The manager had tried to lock Lance in the barn, so he could call the cops. Lance had hit him with a garden stake. The manager fell over, and Lance ran. Another farmhand called the police, who’d picked Lance up while he was hitchhiking back to town. The farm manager had provoked a pointless incident, and he hadn’t really been hurt, but he’d shown that Lance had more violence in him than anyone had thought. Lance’s career as a comic figure was over.

His violence had arguably been provoked, it was relatively trivial, and it was only indirectly connected to his sexual behaviour. But he was now a violent sexual offender. He was in police custody.

I got to see him after waiting three hours, but he had nothing to say. So I went back to the office and started a report on what the probation service had been doing with him for the past year, including the four months he’d been on my caseload. Because that was a question someone was going to ask.

There were many ugly aspects to the situation, but one of them was that I could see that we’d been wrong to think Lance wasn’t capable of violence, but I couldn’t see what we could have done to prevent that incident. Lance wasn’t in jail. If I wrote a report that really did say what I thought had gone wrong, it’d be referred above my head and get re-written. But even if I can’t write the full truth I like to have an idea what the full truth is. In this case I didn’t know.

So it was a bad day. Sa’afia called me in the afternoon. On my office phone. She’d been expecting to hear from me. She wanted to tell me off for not calling, and putting my mobile on “Do not disturb.” I stopped her. 

“Have you heard from your mother?”

“Yes. She’s still out. So you can come over tonight. If you still even want to.”

“Sa’afia, you can stop that right now. I expect you to call me and tell me whether your home is available or if you’re coming to me.”

“Yes, but -“

“Is that understood?” There was silence. I found myself cheering up, though I kept any trace of that out of my voice. “Do you understand, girl?”

“Well. Yes.” 

lipI considered asking if she’d just bitten her lip. She would have if I’d been there to see it. But there were parts of the game that couldn’t be played over the phone. Instead I said, “Yes, what?”

“Yes, indeed.” 

I had to grin. Sa’afia didn’t have a bratty bone in her body, but it was a good try.

Anyway, she wouldn’t see the grin. I made myself sound angry. “Sa’afia!” 

Probation officer #52: Cousins have no secrets?

I said, “Well, you will go squealing into the phone. She could hardly have missed it.”

“That wasn’t a spanking. That’s just slapping my arse a couple of times. Lots of men would do that.”

“Lots of men? You get lots of men slapping your arse?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“I’m not being jealous. Well, not out loud. It just seems kind of surreal, that’s all.”

table 1“And I said lots of men would do that. If they got the chance. I meant when you ripped my clothes off and pushed me over the table. I said that’s when you spanked me. Just before you fucked me.”

“You told Ana about that? Jesus.”

“What? We’re cousins.” As though cousins have no secrets. I have cousins. They don’t know anything. “She told me you get bossy sometimes. It makes you a different person. You keep that side of you hidden, mostly. But sometimes it comes out. She thinks it’s kind of hot. That’s why I told you to spank her.”

“Ah huh. You were looking after her best interests. And it got you spanked instead. There’s justice for you.”

“It’s not fair at all! Ana was so jealous!”

What does it mean, “oh please sir not the cane i’m a good girl really”? 2

Umberto Eco wrote – I think it was in “Travels in Hyper-reality” – that there are some things that people can’t say in a post-modern world. His example was that you can’t just say, “I love you”, because those words have been spoken so often, for example by actors in daytime soaps and characters in true romance novels, that it just sounds insincere or else naive when someone says it in real life.

Eco said a young man wanting to declare himself to his loved one would have to take into account all the other times those words have been said or typed, and express his emotion while at the same time acknowledging that the words have become a cliché.

Brady & Chloe, from "Days of Our Lives". Oh god, how they could love

Brady & Chloe, from “Days of Our Lives”. Oh god, how they could love

So instead of saying, “I love you”, he should say, “Well, as Lohengrin once said to Elsa, in the words in which Brady opened his heart to Chloe in “Days of our Lives”, as Paul McCartney’s songs so frequently declare, I love you.”

And so, Eco argues, the young woman will still receive the emotional message, but be charmed and impressed at the way her young man has managed to surround his emotional confession with quotation marks and irony, deftly avoiding cliché.

Eco was one of the least wanky of the post-modernists, but that still left him a lot of room to be wanky in.*

Eco’s claim about the impossibility of saying “I love you” would be fatuous even if it were true.

But the problem of fatuity doesn’t really arise because, first and foremost, it’s complete bullshit.

The words “I love you” are still available to be spoken with sincerity and emotional force, regardless of all the other ways they might be spoken. Anyone who really has trouble saying those words because someone used the same words in a bad soap opera is as nuts as those Christians who think their marriages will become meaningless if gays and lesbians are allowed to marry. 

The school skirt she bought mail order. But finding a desk that looked school-y, ay about the right height: that took serious shopping

The school skirt she bought mail order. But finding a desk that looked school-y, at about the right height: that took serious shopping

So take that phrase, “oh please sir, not the cane; i’m a good girl really”. Let’s say it’s spoken by a woman in her thirties who has bought herself a saucy pleated skirt and a white blouse, and she’s about to bend over a school desk.

She’s just waiting for the command of her dom, or master. Anyway, her lover, who is standing just behind her, flexing a cane.

When she begs not to be caned, she may or may not be being sincere.

If getting the cane is part of her life, then the chances are that even if she doesn’t enjoy the cane strokes at the instant they land, she likes being a submissive woman whose discipline and control includes the cane, and she especially likes being a submissive woman who’s just been caned. Once the immediate pain dies away to warmth, and she’s being comforted in her dom or master’s arms, having just been caned can be a happy, loving, sexy feeling.

Still, she might genuinely be afraid of the caning just before it begins. She knows that begging not to be caned won’t work, except possibly to get extra strokes, but perhaps it’s sincere. 

But when she says she’s a good girl really, what in the world do those words mean? Not in the fantasy they’re playing with, but (ahem) really

* What did I mean, Eco “was”? Well, post-modernism is dead, and a lot of the key pomo writers are dead too, but Eco is still alive. Still, like a lot of people who were once liable to refer to something like massacres in Syria as “discourse”, and to talk about living in “post-modernity”, he doesn’t talk in pomo cliches any more.

Watching a former post-modernist get reminded of something they once said about Lacan, say, is rather like watching a dog-owner walking away from their dog’s turds on a neighbour’s lawn, pretending they never knew about it and it’s got nothing to do with them.

What does it mean, “oh please sir not the cane i’m a good girl really”?

In the fantasy scenario, the girl forgot her gym shoes for the third day running; she called a woman teacher a rude name, she did something. She did it deliberately or unconsciously to attract the attention of the older, but still fit and sympathetic, teacher whose name she whispers to her pillow when it – the pillow – is clasped tight between her thighs.

And now she’s alone with him in his office, about to bend over his desk, lift her pleated skirt, and wonder if she’ll have to lower her panties as well. She hopes not, but when she fantasises about this moment, she always hears the command to take down her panties. When she dares, in her dreams she is told to undress, and she bares herself completely for the man she desires so badly.

She has bent over, and she waits. She listens for information about the man behind her. She hears the faint rattle that tells her he has selected the cane and not the strap, and in a kind of panic she pulls her skirt higher for him.

She hears his slight cough when she lifts her skirt so high, as he takes in the delicate bones of her lower spine, the delicacy of her waist, and her desire to please him. The knowledge that she has moved him with her obedience and her body overtakes her with a rush of emotion and passion. She cries out, “Oh sir, please not the cane. i’m a good girl really.” 

Whatever ‘really’ means.

But in reality, that line is likely to be spoken by a woman in her 20s or her 50s or anywhere between, who left school and tremulous virginity long ago. She speaks the sentence knowingly, mocking it while also acknowledging the power of the scenario in which it’s embedded.