Bullying Technique – Indian Rug Burn

While discussing childhood bullies with a group of my friends, a unique method of torture was brought up. As a child growing up, my friend experienced several types of physical bullying. Perhaps the most miserable of all, he told us was known as the “Indian Rug Burn”.

In case the reader is not familiar with this term, an Indian Rug Burn is inflicted as follows:

A bully grabs an unsuspecting shrimpy nerd by the arm, despite his desperate attempts to escape.

Said bully places both of his hands adjacent to one another on said nerd’s forearm.

When said bully has finished milking the pre-pain period, he tightens his grip, and twists each hand in opposite directions.

This causes immediate and terrible pain for said nerd.

While simple, Indian Rug Burns are effective in inflicting a large amount of pain on the victim in a very short period of time. From a folkloric perspective, it is interesting to consider two things:

  1. Why is this bullying technique called an “Indian Rug Burn”?
  2.  What makes this such a compelling method of torture?

To address these questions one at I time, I began by asking my friend from whom I originally collected the information. He replied that he was not sure where he first heard the term “Indian Rug Burn”, or when it was first done to him. He simply “Just knew what it was”. In response to the second question, he said that, as a former highly-bullied individual, the main reason for the popularity of Indian Rug Burns is that there is no accountability to the bully. It leaves no lasting marks on the victim, yet causes a great amount of pain. In addition, my friend said that it was a very common method of bullying, and therefore was difficult to trace back to a single source.

My personal take on the first question is perhaps a stretch, but possible nonetheless. We must consider the physical state of one’s forearm post-Indian Rug Burn. It is usually pretty red. Although 10 year-olds may not have known it, perhaps their actions reflected subjects (racism) that far exceeded their ages.  As we discussed in class, this is also found with the game of Bloody Mary and little girls. They do not yet have knowledge of their menstrual cycle, yet play a game that is directly tied to it.