The Politics of Spanking


“I got so mad at my wife,” Oswald told Charlie in their Grand Ole Opry routine, “I turned her over my knee and lifted up her skirt to spank her. Then I forgot what I was mad about.”

Did Oswald go on to actually spank his wife or did he switch gears and have sex with her? It really doesn’t matter. What makes this old joke timelessly funny is that we all recognize the inherent eroticism in spanking an upturned, ceremoniously unveiled, bared butt, as well as the innate absurdity of the old-time “wisdom” that spanking will solve a real problem? or whatever it was that made Oswald “so mad.”

What is it about spanking, and/or being spanked, that turns so many of us on so much? Why does spanking have the power to revive an otherwise jaded libido and/or destroy a robust career? In an attempt to answer these eternal and evermore relevant questions, this bloggamy explores the art and science, the philosophy, psychology, physiology, theory, practice, politics, emotion, eroticism and? as one of my sex therapy clients puts it? the “slightly deviant naughtiness” of spanking.

Spanking Children for Punishment vs. Adults for Fun

First, let’s define our terms. The word “spank,” both a verb and a noun, has been a part of the English language since 1727 and appears to be onomatopeic in nature. To spank, according to Webster’s, is “to strike or slap the buttocks, usually with the palm of the hand.” Spankings may be given for the express purpose of punishment?as in spanking a prisoner or child against his or her will?or spankings may be given for pleasure?as in spanking your adult lover who enjoys being spanked, whether or not you make believe that it’s a “punishment.”

Spanking, paddling, whipping, whupping or otherwise beating children is, in my opinion, an almost universally bad idea. Why? First, because it tends to hurt, and deliberately hurting a vulnerable, defenseless child is the essence of cruelty. Moreover, spanking children teaches them, at an impressionable age, that physical aggression is an acceptable answer to problems. It gives them a deeply-wired, internal excuse for violent behavior . That is, they rationalize to themselves that their victims (from spouses to foreign countries) “deserve” it, like a bad child deserves a spanking. Even if they manage to keep their violent, punitive impulses at bay?as many do?it often gives rise to a spanking fetish.

This isn’t just my opinion. A meta-analysis of spanking studies conducted by Elizabeth Gershoff, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, found 93% agreement among child development studies (an extraordinarily high figure for consensus) that spanking leads to delinquent and anti-social behavior in childhood along with aggression, violence, criminal behavior and spousal and/or child abuse as an adult, as well as risky sexual behavior and a tendency to favor authoritarian solutions to social problems. It would be interesting to do a study on warmongering politicians to find out what percentage were spanked as children.

Apparently, spanking kids also makes them stupid. Professor Murray Straus from the University of New Hampshire tested the IQs of 806 children ages 2-4 and 704 ages 5-9; both groups were then retested four years later. The IQs of the spanked toddlers ages 2-4 dropped by 5 points, while the IQs of spanked kids ages 5-9 dropped up to 2.8 points. The IQs of kids who were not spanked stayed essentially the same. So if you want your kid to be less intelligent and more accepting of violence, spanking is the child-raising technique for you.

But there is something quite different about spanking consenting adults, even if they pretend to be children. What makes the Grand Ole Opry joke funny is that Oswald is getting ready to spank his wife; if we substituted “daughter” or “son” for “wife,” no one would be laughing, at least not in public. But everybody knows that, even if we think it’s a bit kinky, spanking adults can be fun. Moreover, therapeutic spanking with a trusted partner can help an adult who was spanked as a child to erotically transcend some of the negative effects of his or her traumatic childhood. Even if a consenting adult didn’t have a traumatic, abused childhood (and many, if not most, of us didn’t), recreational spanking can be more fun than a rollercoaster ride and a great way to channel natural violent, punitive impulses.

Therefore, I agree with Gore Vidal: “I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.”

Erotic Spankings through History

How might I spank thee? Let me count the ways? The piquant, pain-laced pleasures of adult recreational spanking can range from light slaps on the rear, mixed with squeezes and caresses in the midst of lovemaking, to more elaborate, roleplay-rich, over-the-knee, panties down spankings, to a mistress or master whipping a whimpering slave’s reddened rear end with a riding crop. Serious sadomasochists might also use a cat o’ nine tails, leather or rubber whip, cane, paddle, switch, strap, belt, shoe, hairbrush, ruler, chain or Vidal’s beloved birch. On the other end of the sensation spectrum is the soft deerskin flogger which feels more like a silky waterfall, cascading luxuriantly across the buttocks, than any sort of pain…



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