“Stang riding” as punishment for male victims of intimate partner violence

domestic violence DV woman commons

Stang riding, alternatively referred to as stanging, charivari, or riding the skimmington is a centuries-old practice intended to shame male victims of intimate partner violence by parading them through town on a wooden platform while enduring mockery and ridicule by onlookers. Essentially a vigilante justice action, the practice ceased by the earlier part of last century, or rather has been supplanted by more subtle forms of shaming male victims; ie. telling them to “man up” or by insinuating that a man must have done something wrong to “cause” his female partner to act violently.

From old newspaper reports in England we get clear evidence of the desire to shame those who rode the stang:

Stang riding – It has been asserted by an old writer that “Shame produceth reformation, where punishment faileth.” 1

“Riding the stang” was one of the few old customs still remaining by which the people of a particular place took the law into their own hands as an assumed right. It was formerly the tendency of the law that for minor offenses the culprits should be punished by some process that appealed to their sense of shame, such as that of the stocks or ducking stool, the pillory and so forth, and “riding the stang” was a popular way of acting on the same principle. 2

Stang riding was employed for married men and women transgressing social norms, including the norm that a man should defend himself when his wife perpetrated physical violence against him – i.e. If the man failed to defend himself he was forced to ride the stang, as described in the following English newspaper articles from the 1800s:

Stang Riding, or Riding the Skimmington, a mode of punishing certain delinquencies, or of ridiculing a man who allows his wife to beat him, [is] still followed in some parts of the country. It consists of making him ride a wooden horse in procession, with the accompaniment of much noise.3

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Stanging, or riding the stang, was a name by which a mode of punishment, at one time very popular, especially in the north of England, was known. It was resorted to in cases where, through the frailty or fault of either party, conjugal felicity had been violated. Sometimes the punishment was occasioned by a rustic swain having allowed his termagant wife to beat him; and this form of the custom has given rise to the slang word “stangey,” ie. a person under petticoat government.4

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In several parts of this country there was an old custom… believed to be of Saxon origin, prevailing, which was called Riding Stang. It occurred when a woman was known to have beaten her husband, and the mode of procedure was as follows:- the neighbours being assembled together, two men get into a cart and are drawn about by other men, when they beat an old tin can with a stick, a number of nonsensical lines are repeated, and the assembled multitude shout; and all this must be done in four neighbouring townships before the Stang Riding can be completed. Two men of the names Bent and Muddyman sometime ago came to reside at Hyde from a Stang Riding district, where they had not long been, before Bent got married, and Muddyman promised that when he [ie. Bent] allowed his wife to thrash him, he would give him the benefit of a Stang Ride. It was not long before Muddyman’s anticipations that Bent’s wife would thrash him were realized, and not forgetting his promise, a muster was made, and the ceremony was commenced on the evening of the 27th of July, when the plaintiff and Muddyman got into a cart, with a stick and a saucepan, with which they contrived to make some music, and the plaintiff repeated the following lines:-

Ran, dan, dan,
This you mun know by the sound of our can,
One of our neighbours has beat her good man;
Not for eating or drinking or feeding on souse,
But for spending two-pence in a neighbour’s house;
If he’ll be a good fellow and do so no more,
We won’t never sound our can at no neighbour’s door.

Muddyman, who was in the cart, and held one of the musical instruments, then made the following beautiful response:-

Tink of a kettle—tank of a pan,
This brassy-faced woman has beaten her man,
Neither with sword, dagger or knife,
But with an old shuttle she’d like to have taken his life.

The can was then again tinkled, and the shout having been set up, the cart was drawn to the townships of Godley and Haughton, the crowd accompanying it, where the same ceremony was performed, and the cavalcade returned in perfectly good order, through Hyde, toward another township, it being necessary that they should visit four.5

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The stang is of Saxon origin, and is practiced in Lancashire, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, for the purpose of exposing a kind of gynocracy, or, the wife wearing the gallskins. When it is known (which it generally is) that the wife falls out with her spouse, and beats him right well, the people of the town or village produce a ladder, and instantly repair to his house, where one of the partly is powdered with flour–face blackened–cocked hat placed upon his cranium–white sheet thrown over his shoulders–is seated astride the ladder–with his back where his face should be–they hoist him upon men’s shoulders–and in his hands he carries and long brush, tongs, and poker. A sort of mock proclamation is then made in doggerel verse at the door of all the ale-houses in the parish, or wapentake, as follows:

It is neither for your sake nor my sake
That I ride the stang;
But it is for Nancy Thomson,
Who did her husband hang.
But if I hear tell that she doth rebel,
Or him complain, with fife and drum
Then we will come,
And ride the stang again.
With a ran tan tang,
And a ran tan tan tang,” &c.6

Notice the man in the latter example is forced to carry a “long brush, tongs, and poker,” household objects usually attended by women, perhaps as an attempt to feminize and portray him as unmanly. One is reminded here of the centuries old Henpecked Club which held annual street processions of battered men carrying women’s household utensils, which symbolized their humility and humiliation.

Stanging as a method of shaming abused men took many forms, differing from town to town and from incident to incident. However one thing these rituals had in common was the attempt to shame male victims of domestic violence. While this history is readily available in newspaper and other archives, today’s historians of sociology have avoided any publishing or commentary on the material, hence this article to raise awareness of what we might aptly refer to as his-tory.

Sources:

[1] Chester Chronicle – Friday 28 May, 1813
[2] Cork Examiner – Monday 28 August, 1865
[3] Salisbury and Winchester Journal – Saturday 27 September, 1856
[4] Kent and Sussex Courier – Friday 13 August, 1880
[5] Chester Chronicle – Friday 27 April, 1827
[6] Lancashire Mirror – 18 January, 1829

See also:

Riding the Donkey Backwards: Men as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence
Fire-poker princesses: a snapshot of female violence in nineteenth-century England
The Henpecked Club – a 200 year fellowship of abused husbands
A random selection of nineteenth century newspaper articles referencing stanging

Fire-poker princesses: a snapshot of female perpetrated IPV in nineteenth-century England

The following are a small selection of newspaper articles from the British Newspaper Archive showing a prevalence of severe violence perpetrated by women against men in the nineteenth century. Click on images to enlarge where needed. – PW

1809 Hereford Journal - Wednesday 18 October 1809

1822 Morning Chronicle - Monday 06 May 1822

1823 Bristol Mirror - Saturday 26 April 1823

1838 Morning Post - Tuesday 27 February 1838

1839 Morning Post - Wednesday 26 June 1839

1846 Reading Mercury - Saturday 01 August 1846

1852 Morning Post - Monday 28 June 1852

1853 Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 29 January 1853

1853 Morning Post - Thursday 03 February 1853

1858 Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser - Tuesday 23 March 1858

1861 Dundee Advertiser - Monday 23 September 1861

1861 Morning Chronicle - Thursday 03 October 1861

1863 Gloucester Journal - Saturday 07 November 1863

1864 Belfast News-Letter - Tuesday 19 July 1864

1864 Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 20 July 1864

1865 Dundee Advertiser - Friday 14 April 1865

1865 Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 12 November 1865

1867 London Evening Standard - Friday 04 October 1867

1867 Sussex Agricultural Express - Tuesday 07 May 1867

1869 Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 09 May 1869

1869 London Standard - Friday 27 August 1869

1869 Western Daily Press - Monday 25 January 1869

1870 Essex Standard - Friday 02 December 1870

1872 Bristol Mercury - Saturday 22 June 1872

1872 Falkirk Herald - Thursday 20 June 1872

1874 Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 14 April 1874

1874 Worcester Journal - Saturday 17 October 1874

1875 Derby Mercury - Wednesday 21 July 1875

1877 London Daily News - Wednesday 20 June 1877

1877 Staffordshire Sentinel - Friday 01 June 1877

1878 Leeds Mercury - Friday 06 December 1878

1885 Hampshire Telegraph - Saturday 11 April 1885

1889 Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 03 January 1889

1892 London Standard - Monday 24 October 1892

1896 Exeter Flying Post - Saturday 09 May 1896

See also:

Riding the Donkey Backwards: Men as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence
“Stang riding” as punishment for male victims of intimate partner violence
The Henpecked Club – a 200 year fellowship of abused husbands
A random selection of nineteenth century newspaper articles referencing stanging