Frock ‘n’ roll: A beginner’s guide to petticoating

In a previous blog I examined transvestism and noted that people who cross-dress typically fall into one of four types. These were (i) transvestic fetishists who cross-dress for sexual pleasure and that in some cases may involve sexual arousal from a very specific piece of clothing, (ii) female impersonators who cross-dress to entertain, (iii) effeminate homosexuals who may occasionally cross-dress for fun, and (iv) transexuals who cross-dress because they fell they have been biologically assigned to the wrong sex and typically suffer from a gender identity disorder. However, while researching a previous blog on clothing fetishes, I came across a fifth type of cross-dressing that I didn’t mention in my first blog on cross-dressing. This fifth type is called ‘petticoating’ (sometimes spelt ‘pettycoating’ and also referred to as ‘pinaforing’). According to a Wikipedia entry:

“Petticoating or pinaforing, refers to a type of forced feminization that revolves around the practice of dressing a boy in girls’ clothing for the purpose of humiliating punishment or behaviour modification (or to the literature, erotic fiction, or roleplaying of such a fantasy). While this practice is rare in modern society (as the humiliation of children has become socially unacceptable) it has occasionally been observed. However, the terms ‘petticoating’ and ‘pinaforing’ nearly always refer to the sexual fantasy, as opposed to the actual practice”.

Academically, I’ve come across very few references to such sexual behaviour although Dr. Anil Aggrawal makes a number of references to it in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. In relation to homeovestism (“sexual attraction towards the clothing of one’s own gender”), Dr. Aggrawal describes ‘petticoat punishment’ as a variation of transvestism. More specifically, he writes that: “a male paraphiliac, afflicted with transvestism and masochism, derives pleasure in getting spanked when he is dressed like a school girl or servant girl”. Elsewhere in his book, in a small section on ‘petticoat discipline’, Dr. Aggrawal defines the practice as”

“…a kind of roleplay or fantasy that revolves around a male being dressed as a girl in front of his mother, sisters, or in some cases, girls of his own age whom he had offended by his boorish behavior. Many mothers who discipline their sons in this fashion have either wanted daughters for long or find it erotic to feminize their sons. This type of punishment is also found in the history of some people who eventually develop transvestic fetishism”.

Dr. Brenda Love also has a section on ‘petticoat discipline’ in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Interestingly, she claims the practice is Scottish in origin and relates to the wearing of kilts. I don’t know where her evidence originates (as there are no references to back up any of the claims she makes) but Dr. Love states that:

“Petticoat discipline refers to the discipline used on young males whereby they are forced to wear kilts without the sporran (purse) by their mother, sister, governess, or aunt. English and Scottish mothers both used this method for controlling an unruly boy. The ploy worked by humiliating or embarrassing the boy so much that he was careful not to engage in any type of activity that would draw attention to himself, thus making him easy to control in public. Older males were sometimes subjected to this type of humiliation due to the power a widowed mother had over their inheritance”.

She then asserts later in the same section that:

“Sexual literature often relates fiction stories of fourteen to twenty year old boys who are humiliated by a female, other than their mother. These females add frills to their shirt, shoes, or underpants. The kilt may be cut short so that the lace underwear will show if they bend over. As often is the custom, underpants are not worn with kilts. Most of the story lines include embarrassment suffered from having others look up their skirt, pull their pants down for a spanking, or having females rub against their genitals. Petticoat discipline differs from cross-dressing or transvestism because the intent is to have the masculinity and the identity of the male remain prominent. The male is not trying to pass as female, the change in gender identity would humiliate him nearly as much”.

A number of (non-academic) articles that I have read on petticoating also appear to concur with Dr. Aggrawal and Dr. Love, and refer to the practice being used within sadomasochistic activity as a form of discipline and/or humiliation (so-called ‘petticoat punishment’) that dates back to the mid-1800s. The feminization aspect of petticoating also means that it goes beyond clothing, and that individuals may also be forced to have make-up applied and to carry female accessories such as purses and handbags, in addition to engaging in other activities that might be more associated with females – particularly female girls – such as playing with dolls. The Wikipedia article also notes that:

“’Pettycoat punishment as a sexual fetish interest, involves imagining or reenacting this scenario. However, as a fetish interest, these activities are usually heavily exaggerated and sexualized, including elaborate humiliation and public nudity. They often involve the male being feminized into a sissy (the term used to describe a feminized male) by a powerful female presence (often a mother or aunt) in front of his cousins, sisters, or in some cases, girls of his own age whom he had offended by his boorish behaviour…Sometimes, boys were made to perform tasks that they considered to be ‘girls’ work’ and to appear in public in girls’ clothing with their mothers, who occasionally dressed in matching outfits. Some people claim that for the mothers, pinaforing sometimes had a sexual context, and many mothers who disciplined their sons in this fashion either had long wanted daughters or found it erotic to feminize their sons. In addition, according to the folklore of people with this condition, this type of castigation is found in the history of some of those who later develop transvestic fetishism”.

There is clearly a large fantasy and/or roleplay aspect to petticoating, and prior to being forced to wear women’s clothing, submissive males are often forced by their dominatrix partners to strip naked (and may also be part of ‘CFNM’ sexual play – ‘clothed female, naked male’). Other mildly sexually sadistic acts may accompany the petticoating (such as ‘erotic spanking’). The Wikipedia article also claims that:

“Petticoat discipline also occurs in the context of some marital relationships, as a means by which a wife may exert control over her husband. This may involve various items of feminine clothing or underwear in a variety of contexts, ranging from the husband having to wear a feminine apron around the house whilst performing household chores, to the wife insisting that the husband wears a brassiere on a full-time basis under ordinary male clothing. In all such circumstances, there is a strong reliance on the element of humiliation, whether actual or potential, should the husband’s secret be discovered”.

A 1998 issue of the International Journal of Transgenderism included papers that had been presented at the ‘Third International Congress on Sex and Gender’. One of the papers by Dr. Stella Gonzalez-Arnal was entitled ‘The ambiguous politics of petticoating’. She argued that petticoating is a politically incorrect form of sexuality. More specifically she argued that:

“The submissive in a petticoat feels humiliated by having to dress as a woman and by having to behave as a woman. Petticoating has all the ingredients of a straightforward politically incorrect form of sexuality. It considers women’s clothing and women’s traditional occupations as inferior and humiliating; reinforcing undesirable stereotypes by characterizing females as submissive, passive, helpless and subservient. From a feminist perspective it is a practice that should be avoided…Petticoating is a politically ambiguous form of sexuality”.

(The same journal issue also featured the work of Peter Farrer who has documented almost all of the Victorian literature from 1840 onwards that has made reference to the practice of petticoating. He has also edited many books on the topic although the extracts I found online are from the tradition of literary criticism rather than psychology or sociology).

As with many of the rarer sexual practices I have covered in my blog to date, I can’t see there ever being much academic research into petticoating as between consensual adults it is not likely to be perceived as problematic or have any negative psychosocial impact on those practitioners that engage in it.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Bullough, B. (1993). Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Ekins, R. (1996). Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. London: Routledge.

Farrer, P. (2001-2002). Petticoat punishment in erotic literature (Parts 1-7). Located at:

Gonzalez-Arnal, S. (1998). The ambiguous politics of petticoating. International Journal of Transgenderism, 2(3). Located at:

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on April 10, 2015, in Case Studies, Gender differences, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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