This is, no doubt, a subject that should scare any parent who might be considering the idea of spanking his children (perhaps as well as some confirmed spankers).
An often-heard rationalization used to justify striking children is associated with `love’. We commonly hear spankers insist that they only spank their children `because they love them’. Many even claim that they spank in love. The danger in associating loving behavior with physical punishment lies in the risk of children developing confusion between love, pain, and violence. In a worst-case scenario, the child comes to form a direct association between love, pain, and violence.
I think it’s pertinent to add here that physical punishments are also a part of this learned behavior that tends to pass from one generation down to the next. When verbalized, these family values might sound something like, “Parents hit children, that is the way things are … it’s what I know … it’s all I know … it’s a normal part of my reality … and I learned to believe deeply that parents hit children in certain circumstances.” Formative years learning can become a deeply ingrained belief involving firm convictions that often remain throughout life.
Under closer examination, it might be discovered that these types of values have been formed on no other basis than blind acceptance. These kinds of passed-down values and beliefs can be identified when they are held in the absence of a justifying rationale for the behavior in question. An example of this blind learning might sound something like the following:
“I learned and adopted the following values and rules from my mother, but I am unable to offer a rationale basis for their existence. Nevertheless, my parenting consists of the following:
- A child should be hit for potty mouth.
- I only yell for accidental spills.
- A child should be hit for openly expressing anger.
- I also learned from mother that babies should be given a sharp smack on the hand for touching No, No’s.
The thinking process associated with these behaviors might sound something like, “Now, this is exactly what I have a strong tendency to do in these particular circumstances, so I’ll just make those things a part of my rules, and do what feels right in terms of how I treat my kids. After all, it’s how my mother raised me, and I turned-out okay.”
But I digress. Over the years, I’ve seen and heard enough testimony and accounts to believe that spanked children are at some degree of risk for developing a spanking fetish. I’ll go so far as to take this possibility one step further by saying that if you show me someone who qualifies as a spanking fetishist, I’ll show you someone who was spanked as a child (whether or not they remember being spanked).
The science of Physiology has identified the buttocks as an erogenous zone, and there are indications that some children come to associate spankings with sexual stimulation. It seems highly implausible to me that some children could be born with a penchant for being painfully struck on the buttocks as a means of sexual stimulation. Unfortunately, there is little likelihood of a grown child admitting to their parents (or to the general public, for that matter) that they have developed a spanking fetish. But, the existence of this sexual fetish can be evidenced by anyone who would care to enlist the aid of any search engine for the word `spank’. What will be found is a surprising number of sites dedicated to those kids who became adults with a desire for either being a spanker or being spanked in association with sexual behavior (including fantasized ideation). Unfortunately, a number of these particular individuals don’t feel good about themselves with regard to having developed a sexual fetish as a part of who they are. And again, there can be little doubt as to the degree of power and long term impact early learning carries with it as a permanent, life-long influence on who we become.
It’s worth noting that it’s too often the case that people with various fetishes and atypical sexual proclivities tend to suffer a degree of damage to their self-esteem. This diminished level of self esteem can be attributed, at least in some part, to the atypical sexual behavior in question being viewed by society as perverse, perverted, sick, and/or sexually deviant. No one benefits from social rejection; that’s for certain. Worse yet, there is also a real risk of the atypical individual coming to suffer damage to their self-concept through having adopted the view that they are indeed, flawed, abnormal, sick, and wholly unappealing as individuals. Needless to say, these are not the kinds of views toward oneself that could be considered as being conducive to the continued maintenance of a healthy psychological sense of well-being.
It is my opinion that the great majority of BDSM (Bondage Dominance Submission Masochism) behavior is determined by circumstantial learning experiences being internalized by children during their formative years. Unfortunately, we are hampered in attempts to increase our knowledge regarding these maladaptive behaviors because of the existence of social taboos that tend to stifle, if not completely thwart, public discussions in open forums. The fact that this type of behavior is largely secretive, and closeted, also helps to explain why we see a relative unavailability of freely shared information for scientific field research. Our knowledge is largely limited to the experiences and opinions of mental health care professionals. While this situation might be understandable, it never- theless serves to deprive us of a learning resource that could come by way of the small percentage of socially conscious BDSM individuals who would be willing to share their experiences in public arenas.
With reference to spanking in love, it should be reiterated that spanking parents do a great disservice to their children by telling them things like, “I strike you and cause you pain only because I love you.” Truth is, children would be much better served to instead be told that the blows, and the pain they cause, are acts of disdain, which in fact they are in the eyes of humanity. Children are left as the only segment of the human race where it is still acceptable to allow a degree of violence and demeaning disrespect to remain within the definition of love. In truth, this definition should be reserved as a category of substandard love termed, Child Love which allows for hateful treatment within the definition of a loving relationship.
Punitive violence, pain, dominance, and hateful regard in the name of parental love can, and do, plant the seeds of perversity. In addition, sexual stimulation associated with spankings (whether or not intended) carries the risk of producing a spanking fetish as a learned behavior.
© 2009 James Talbot
Author of The Road To Positive Discipline: A Parent’s Guide.