I'm pretty sure that this is an older story, but parts of it have really stuck with me. I read it somewhere in the 1990s, but I think it came from a collection that my parents owned, so it might be much older. It was a short story, part of an anthology (I don't remember the other stories) but it had a psychologist who was trying to prove that it's not necessary to use the carrot and the stick (reward and punishment), but rather that you can just use rewards. He had a device that neurally stimulated the subject with settings for pleasure and for pain (and I remember they were for specific types of pleasure and pain). Odd detail, I remember the machine being described much like a church organ with different buttons for the different pain settings and some method for changing intensities. I also think that the machine was not created by the psychologist, but something mass produced, or at least used in other locations. He was trying to reform a young boy who behaved badly. Through the course of the story, he was trying to only provide pleasure stimulus when the boy acted well, proving his pet theory that punishment was not necessary when teaching proper behavior but it just wasn't working. The boy remained delinquent. Finally, he cracks, and starts using the machine on both himself and the boy (I remember specifically that one of the settings used then involved the pain of "a corncob inserted into the rectum") with him and the boy finally collapsing, crying, beside each other, and the boy becoming much more well behaved.

It's one of those stories which get a lot weirder as you get older. As a kid, I understood it as a "spare the rod and spoil the child" kind of thing. Now, as an adult, I'm looking back on it and it has a very sadomasochistic / pederastic feel to it, especially with the one pain setting involving pain to the anal areas and the psychologist feeling like he needed to suffer with the boy.

  • 6
    My goodness, Googling for this was eye opening! Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 9:02
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    @JohnRennie: Certainly not one I'd search for at work.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 10:12
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    So actually a scientist sat down and invented a punishment machine: "Well than", he said, "What do we need? Whip across back - classic, slap in the face - must-have ... ah: punch in the stomach (that never grows old)... and, oh: lets not forget: The good old corncob in the anus!" And how did he perform tests, if he got the sensation right? And above all: Who financed that kind of research!?
    – Einer
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:43
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    @SeanDuggan I hear you! Now it's stuck in my head too. Thanks for that ;-)
    – Einer
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:48
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    Possibly since there was no neural stimulation machine there? :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 12:36

1 Answer 1


John Boyd's The Organ Bank Farm.

The kids concerned are mentally or emotionally disturbed, and liable to be stripped down for spare parts if they can't be cured in time. This particular child is being cured of incontinence by simulating "A nappy rash for number one, a corncob for number two". It also takes place in a world where a virulent plague has reduced the population to about ten percent of previous.

  • I am requesting a copy via ILL, but this sounds like it would probably be right. Some of the reviews mention the use of music to coordinate his experiments, which might explain me thinking the device was built like an organ.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 14:03
  • I have a copy and I'm partway in. It's sounding very familiar, although I don't remember the beginning part, which makes me wonder if maybe I read an excerpt, although ISFDB has no mention of anything like that. When I'm home for Christmas, I may be able to verify whether my father has the book on his shelf.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:44
  • I couldn't find the book at home, but I am satisfied that this is the correct book.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:55

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