Belting is the use of belts made of strong materials (usually leather or PVC) as a whip-like instrument for corporal punishment such as woodshed treatment. It is most often associated with educational institutions where it has been used as disciplinary measure but it is also applied domestically by parents. This practice has now been abolished by most schools, at least in the Western world, as it is seen by many as abusive and excessive punishment.
The punisher can use his own belt (always at hand) or the one worn by the person to be punished. Indeed, in the mid-19th century many boys were made to wear a belt by their parents or guardians, in part to be used as a punishment device and as a permanent reminder; in other cases, especially in an institutional context, a separate belt is kept (e.g. in the head’s office) solely for disciplinary use, and possibly displayed, again as a warning.
The difference with a strap, although in practice both terms are also used unprecisely as synonyms, is that a strap is harder, made from heavier and/or thicker leather, and may be specially made for discipline and have a handle (notably a prison strap), unlike a 'real' belt.
A belt can be used to lash in three ways:
- doubled by holding both ends in one hand. This halves its length (necessary in case of bending over knee or lap) but increases its effective thickness, both making it behave more like a strap;
- single, while holding the buckle or wrapping that around the fist; its weight is reduced which results in softer impact, but its length increased
- least common but most severe, holding the buckle-less end, so that the buckle can 'bite' the flesh particularly hard.
In domestic discipline it is mainly used by fathers, while mothers are more likely to use a slipper, or some kitchen utensil.
- The military corporal punishment called sling belting was applied with the soldier's own musket sling on his bare buttocks.
The term is also used figuratively for any beating in general, regardless of the implement (e.g. in Scotland, the tawse, a forked type of strap, was frequently called the belt) or even absence thereof, also in the figurative sense, such as a defeat or similarly unpleasant, painful and/or humiliating (e.g. verbal) treatment, or even an impersonal misfortune that feels as painful, such as a financial loss.