A martinet (French) is a short whip made of a wooden handle of about 25 cm (9.8 inches) in length and 5 to 18 thin leather thongs, like bootlaces. It is a traditional instrument of corporal punishment in France and other European countries. The traditional martinet has short, rounded and soft thongs to make it easy to handle and to avoid damage. It is a comparatively safe instrument, specifically designed for the corporal punishment of children: it is very painful with little risk of damage. Serious damage can only be caused when the tips of the thongs wrap around and hit weak tissue with excessive force.
The martinet is used on bare skin. The martinet was most often applied on the calves or thighs, for children did not have to disrobe that way - usually just one or two strokes when given on the legs. For a more prolonged punishment it was applied on the bare buttocks - a severe spanking may have consisted of 80 to 300 strokes. The thongs curve round the contours of buttocks or legs and then draw over the skin, causing an intense stinging pain. The martinet leaves burning, red weals that disappear quickly.
It is generally considered abusive to use it on children nowadays. Still, according to one survey, ten percent of French parents still use a martinet, and many households still have one, even if they don't use it. Today, martinets are sold in BDSM shops and sometimes also in the pet sections of French supermarkets.
The martinet was named after the French lieutenant-colonel and Inspector General Jean Martinet (died 1672), who was a severe drillmaster.