Discovery of Sexual Side Effects of Spanking Won’t Change Minds

Psychiatry_Psychology.jpgThere’s something undiscriminating about change. Regardless of age, social status, education, or upbringing, most people’s first reaction to change is usually one of resistance. It doesn’t seem to matter if the change is positive or even if the change is backed up by substantial evidence, it takes a while before we are willing to fully embrace it.

This train of thought started when I heard about Murray Straus’ most recent findings. Straus’ area of expertise is spanking. Over the years numerous studies have come out showing the dangers of spanking or other methods of corporal punishment. From a greater chance of having depression to slower rates of mental growth to increased aggression, there’s no shortage of evidence backing up the belief that corporal punishment is a harmful method of discipline.

Straus recently presented even more evidence against corporal punishment from a study that is the first to show a correlation between sexual behaviour and corporal punishment. He found that adults who were spanked (or experienced other forms of corporal punishment) have,

an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex.

Let’s consider for a second that Straus’ collective body of research is the most substantial and most valid of corporal punishment research available. Would this new information convince those die-hard spankers to change their beliefs? Now that the list of negatives associated with spanking has grown, will the number of people who spank, shrink?

I wish I could answer that question but I can’t; there are many theories regarding people and change. But I believe that this topic highlights just how complicated the human mind is. After all, on the surface it seems as if the issue of spanking would be a done deal. After all, parents don’t want their children to have all the problems that corporal punishment seems to cause; yet a huge percentage of people still spank their children. There seems to be a disconnect.

Therein lies the problem inherent throughout society. When new research or theories provide insights that will improve efficiency or motivation or marital happiness, etc. it doesn’t mean too much. Not at first. Because people must buy into this new information. They must buy into it enough so that they become willing to accept change. Therefore, the ability to create change is quite powerful.

In the end, I appreciate the work of Straus and his colleagues. Unfortunately, I know that their information is just the first step. Now the real work begins. How do you convince people that spanking isn’t a good method of discipline –- ever? If someone has the answer, let me know; I know a number of people who will insist, in spite of Straus’ discovery, that a little spanking never hurt anyone.


Straus, Murray A. (Powerpoint Presentation) Spanking By Parents: The Primordial Violence and Its Effects on Children. Soc 695 Family Violence Research In World Perspective.

Gardner, Amanda. Spanking Raises Chances of Risky, Deviant Sexual Behavior. U.S. News and World Report. 2008.

  • Yes, the evidence is overwhelmingly against spanking, yet in the U.S. hitting kids with boards in public schools, paddling, continues to be legal in 21 states. The author asks how we put into practice the clear findings of the harm done by spanking? We need to end this model of physical violence against children, subsidized with our tax dollars, with federal legislation outlawing it, as 109 nations have done before us. And April 30th is the annual SpankOut Day USA, now celebrated worldwide, called No Hitting Day in some countries. If each person reading this would e-mail a letter to the editor of their nearest urban newspaper about this event, about the research findings, asking that all teachers and parents stop hitting children, we could advance the cause of having our raising of children become more humane, more rational, more in keeping with this solid body of research findings. Learn more at

  • I am writing to inform your readers of our 16-page booklet, “Plain Talk About Spanking,” and offer to supply it at no charge to professionals in child-related fields for distribution in your programs. If, after reading the online version, you decide to use it, please let me know how many you want and where to mail them.

    Here’s what some experts have written to us about Plain Talk:

    Alice Miller, Psychotherapist and internationally renowned author of (among other books) the best-selling For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence — “Thank you so much for your clear, true, brave and convincing booklet. It should be offered free to every parent immediately after the birth of EACH of their children.”

    Janice Christenson, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist –“ ‘Plain Talk’ is my #1 tool in helping parents make the decision to stop spanking. I can’t tell you how many have come in after reading it and said, ‘I’ll never spank my child (children) again!’ ”

    Katherine Bensinger, M.S., LCPC, Program Director, Parenting Education Program, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago — “This is the most articulately written argument against spanking I have ever seen. A free resource like this is invaluable as we serve a low income population out of a Community Mental Health Center. If every pediatrician in this country gives this booklet to their patient’s parents on the first visit and recommends a short discussion on the second visit, we will have a reduction in child abuse.”

    James A. Deutch, DSW, LCSW, Lecturer, Family and Consumer Sciences, U. Of Hawaii; Past President, Family Education Centers of Hawaii — “I have made ‘Plain Talk About Spanking’ required reading for my parenting classes at the University of Hawaii and for parents at our Family Education Training Center. Thank you for helping me teach that discipline and spanking are not the same. As an Adlerian family counselor, your booklet is congruent with my professional and personal beliefs. Both of my now grown children were successfully parented without ever being spanked.”

    Janelle Kaye, M.A., Instructor of Speech Communication, South Central College, Minnesota — “Students report to me that they have changed their views on spanking and discipline as a result of reading this booklet. I hope to be able to continue ordering this wonderful booklet for as long as I teach.”

    Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE); Web site: “Project NoSpank” at ; PTAVE, P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507 US; Tel: 925-831-1661; FAX: 925-838-8914

  • I host a website about school paddling as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. Many of these issues also spill over into spanking outside of school.

    The problems with this kind of change are many. First off, the spanking parents didn’t descend from another planet, they were raised here and were often spanked. The increased adult problems from spanking are present to various degrees in all of them, in all of us. Further many are sexualized to spanking, particularly in institutions like schools where they can spank other people’s “kids” through adulthood with impunity, so they are highly motivated by their own hidden lusts to keep the spanking rhetoric and practice going and to try to discredit science and research.

    Further, even well meaning people are confused by thousands of years of heresy and false teachings within major religions like Christianity that have turned Jesus’ gentle teachings on childcare upside down. Actual torture of people has been religicized during 700+ years of Inquisition and 400 years of American slavery, where the paddle was invented and first used, and was also granted “biblical sanction.”

    To have change we have to teach the true history of torture and abuse in the West, teach the true Christian texts to believers so they know there is not one single New Testament verse that instructs anyone to hit anyone, teach and show that hitting children is never necessary, and finally if those roadblocks crumble, people might open their minds to science as well.

    It will take and has taken decades of efforts by many people from many perspectives, but the results are worth it and are actually liberating for the parents and adults as well, once they get used to family nonviolence.

    I’m not talking about “someone else” here either — I’ve had a long struggle to understand this and to search out the truth, and it was not easy. I hope my efforts make it easier for some others to learn nonviolence toward children.

  • BeatKid

    It’s comical that we are discussing the sexual aspects of spanking as if the concept were either new or controversial. A letter to the editor of New York Times entitled “Corporal Punishment: A Futile Discipline Which Harms Both Parent and Child” spelled out the sexual dangers of spanking in unequivocal terms in 1913.

    A passion for flogging is a well recognized form of sexual mania. I am far from suggesting that all parents who whip their children are flagellomaniacs or that all children who are so punished will develop into sexual perverts, but I do maintain that an unhealthiness of mind is produced in those children who undergo such punishment.

    How anyone in their right mind can deny that spanking produces sexual fetishism is beyond me. Type “spanking” into the Google Image search box and you’ll come up with almost nothing BUT sexual imagery of spanking, much of which features adults dressed in childish costumes role-playing scenes of disciplinary spanking at home and at school.

    How sad that our culture gives adults who are sexually gratified by spanking children a license to indulge their lusts upon their offspring with only the limitation that they not inflict serious bodily harm likely to cause death or loss of use of a limb.

  • Chris Dugan

    Analogous to the spanking issue, in late 2005 a common over-the-counter decongestant drug, was taken off the shelves. The vast majority of people who used phenylpropanolamine suffered no ill effects. But a small minority of women had very serious permanent damaging reactions to this drug. And since there is no way to predict in advance who will be aversely affected, the FDA reclassified this drug as “not generally recognized as safe.”

    No one argued, “I took phenylpropanolamine and it never did ME any harm!” as if that proved it should remain on the market and that evidence of harmful
    side effects was false.

    If even a small percentage of users are harmed for life and we can’t tell who they will be until it is too late, no one should take this drug. The logic of that proposition is obvious to all. But somehow, when we are talking instead about a childrearing method in common use rather than a drug, and talking about serious lifelong psychosexual effects rather than physical medical effects, logic seems to go out the window.

    Check out my site for testimonials by spanking fetishists about how childhood spankings permanently altered their sexuality.

    These kinds of reactions may not be typical, any more than severe adverse reactions to phenylpropanolamine are typical. But unlike the adverse reactions to the drug, long lasting sexual effects of childhood spankings aren’t exactly rare either. We don’t know in advance which child will become sexually fixated for life as a result of spankings and which child won’t. So spanking needs to be “taken off the market” immediately in the interest of general child welfare and safety. Research by Murray Straus and others has sufficiently demonstrated that spanking should be “not generally recognized as safe.”

  • Dale

    It’s not good practice to claim results without giving numbers, especially since the practice of spanking could include anything from a very occasional pop on the behind, to frequent, full out whipping with leather belts or other spanking devices.

    If you’re having a problem getting your point across about spanking, that’s why. Offer some practical data along with some discrimination between levels of spanking, and people will pay more attention.

    I was spanked a few times with a belt as a child, but more often than not, all my father had to do was pop the belt to “keep me in line.” With my own child, I popped on the diapered behind once when she was about 18 months old after she suddenly ran out into the street. She never did that again.

    I only spanked her twice after that, and then by the time she was two, all I had to do was ask if she wanted to be spanked, and I didn’t take it to that level very often.

    Of course, personal anecdotes are hardly better than unnumbered correlations, but the point of my story is that spanking was an effective tool for me as a parent, which I used sparingly and judiciously. Personal experience makes it difficult to take seriously child rearing ideas which seem based on nebulous data and definitions.

  • Doctor Slack

    If there are supporting data for the increased risk of physical and verbal abusiveness, or indulgence in unprotected sex, I can see that changing minds. Both of these are big enough negatives that even many people who were staunchly pro-spanking would probably want to at least look at the evidence, though as Dale notes, a lot hangs on the question of what exactly “spanking” means as connected to those risks.

    I daresay that raising the specter of “spanking during sex” as some terrifying aberrant practice, though, is not a smart move. This form of sex play is relatively commonplace, and if Western society is trending to disapproval of non-consensual or dangerous sexual practices, it’s also (and not necessarily paradoxically) trending toward more tolerance of consensual S&M among adults. If you’re going to bring up “masochistic sex” as a negative, you need to unpack why you’re doing so.

  • Jon

    I wish to personally testify to the damage done to one’s sexuality by child spanking as I’m a victim of it. To defend spanking fetishes as harmless commonplace sexual desires to be consensually acted on with a partner is naive.

    I’ll share with you that my comments here are those of a married 48 year old man with a wife and three kids who’s taken 10 months of psychotherapy in the last year to deal with a life long sexual spanking fetish as an addictive compulsion lived in secret shame.

    It’s true that people vary in their degree of compulsion with a spanking fetish. The lucky ones think they have control over it to be only expressed in sexual relations with a willing partner and leave it to only that act. But there are many others who do this and then still continue to deliberatly and/or unwittingly recieve sexual arousal gratifications from spanking their own children living with a complete dissociation from their trauma and fetish while they perceive the two adult acts as being healthy and separate expressions of sexuality and good parenting. When in reality they are actually experiencing the same sexual feelings and desires in both.

    While in psychotherapy I’ve experienced emotionally painful trauma flashbacks to a time some 40 years ago to very terrifying utterly humiliating moments when my most trusted caregiver, my mother, methodically removed my lower clothing to a completely bared state to be genitally exposed to her while she unwittingly indulged in her own sexual pleasure sadistically smiling at my utter emotional degradation almost to a point of a self- annihilation as she ordered me to bend over her knees for a spanking! To this day I can’t even remember any other details after such devestating images! I still hyperventilate with a rapid heart rate when I write these accounts!

    Some child personalities escape this trauma while others like myself are handicaped for a lifetime in our sexuality suffering feelings of feeling uncomplete and emotionally unloved unless we find a willing sadistic partner who can participate in our spanking fetish. If no willing partner is available we continue to seek relief in fantasy or extramarital relationships for fulfillment. The distractive loss of productive life and potential marriage conflicts are real dangers of masochistic spanking fetishes!

    To claim that only a minor number of children are actually traumatized by spanking and develope masochistic sexual fetishes is really just a predatorial self serving argument used to preserve parents ability to consciously and/or unconsciously act out their need for sexual satisfaction when spanking their own children and/or to preserve corporal punishment for the absolute control of immediate child behaviors among non-spanking fetish pro-spanking parents. It’s almost alwasy argued as morally and anciently culturally accepted. For some children, who’s parents will not preemptively be able to identify, the damage is real emotional trauma resulting in a subsequently induced sexual addiction for masochistic sexual acts. Such children when they grow to adulthood have such a fetish with spanking and are then motivated to aggresively use spanking upon their own children. They may deny out of some condeming moral sexual taboo any sense of emotional or sexual enjoyment from doing it but unconsciously or consciously in secret, they enjoy sexually the spanking of their own children.

    My trauma was so strong I was fortunate not to engage in spanking my children out of some self-intuition of harming them. My therapy has brought me past the most painful post-tramatic stress feelings of my childhood but I live with, and according to my therapist will continue to live with, masochistic sexual desires. The childhood trauma and inability to express my fetish with a sexual partner has left me feeling isolated and incomplete with my emotional intimacy with my sexuality.

    The professional psychology community will only uncover this insideous form of sexual abuse to the degree it’s admitted by sexual fetishists and society can bravely face the true harm over the pressures of cultural tradition and mislead religious advocacy.

    To explain why some people claim to have “innocent” adult sexual fetishes my therapist states the a person doesn’t need to actually have been spanked as a child to have a spanking fetish. A child may have been too young to recall the experience of being spanked or they developed the spanking fetish when they felt threatened to a point of emotional trauma from the exposure of observing, percieving or understanding the concept of a spanking as a shocking threat to themselves.

    I’m only one small bit of empirical data but stil a real living defending witness to the harm of spanking. I’m encouraged even by the slow progress of exposing the truth despite human resistance to change and the prefference to deny it. A few hundred years ago the world was believed to be flat, but was radically changed by the truth. I hope for the very sake of a healthier human race we find enlightenment sooner rather than later.

  • Scot

    I agree with Jon.
    This is my story…

    I grew up in a small community in eastern Canada. At the age of 8 back in the early 1970 I was subjected to corporal punishment in school. This always happened in front of the whole classroom of 7-8 year olds, boys and girls. This was a small community where these children were my neighbours and relatives and friends. Everyone knows everyone. From my research I have discovered that indeed children were receiving the strap to their hands at as young as primary and first grade. I didnt receive my abuse until 3rd grade and it wasn’t the strap to the hands!!

    It all began with me being sent to the corner. Time and time again. Sometimes she moved this portable display board thing between the class and I, further isolation me. It was always me and only me! This corner ritual went on for quite sometime…me with my nose pressed to the cement corner as the children snickered and whispered at the entertainment.

    One day this woman took me to the front of the class and took out a chair. She sat down and ordered the class to be quiet. She lifted me up and put me across her lap where she proceeded to spank my pants with her hand. I had never been spanked before so this was all a shock. It was painful and humiliating.Then it was corner time again. This became the new ritual. A spanking up front of the class as the children sat quietly with hands folded on their desks to watch.

    The spankings consisted of 25-30 hard whacks with her hand as I fought back cries and tears staring at the floor as the whole community watched. I was to take my seat afterward which was well warmed to sit in by now, but more times than not the spanking was followed by standing in the corner. I dont know how often I was spanked . Maybe once a week, maybe 3 times in a week, it was often.
    One day while laying across her lap I felt her hand reach under the back of my pants. I felt her fingers hook into the elastic waist band of my pants. I felt a tug and then she let go and they snapped back against my skin. This scared the crap out of me! This should have been a warning for what was coming next.

    One day we were all up out of our seats doing some project or something. The teacher grew frustrated with the children walking behind her while she was seated at her desk. Being kids I suppose we were excited working in groups and getting help from the teacher. She warned us all to not go behind her again. I dont know if I was pushed or funneled or what but she snapped. She grabbed me and screamed/ordered everyone back to their seats. This woman hauled out a chair and sat down. She unbuttoned my pants and told me to keep my hands out of the way. She unzipped my pants and put me over her lap. She pushed my shirt all the way up to my neck so far that my head was almost completely covered. The children were making noise. They were moving in their seats and whispering. Then she grabbed the back of my pants and underwear and pulled. I felt my pants going down and tried to reach and look behind but couldn’t.

    In a second motion she pulled again and my pants came out from beneath me where they were pulled to about below my knees. The children’s reaction to seeing this caused her to scream at them. She screamed..”The next one who makes even a single sound WILL BE NEXT!!”
    With this there wasn’t another sound as she lifted me up and repositioned me farther over. I was now upside down with my shirt falling over my head. I felt the cool air on my back and body. I felt the blood rushing to my head and my throat close off and become dry. All I could find for support were the chair lags for which I grabbed hold. Her hand began to strike my bare bottom. I remember hoping that it wasn’t bare but then I knew. My buttocks stung intensely, and grew hot rapidly. There was no compassion for dignity. This beating continued hard and long until I was crying freely and broken. Something happened to me that day. Ive never been the same.
    She beat me until I was too tired to struggle. I pushed and arched my back and squirmed but eventually my hands lost grip and slid down the chair legs where I remained upside down exhausted and crying and broken and still. Once finished she lifted my up off and onto my feet. At this point her hands were under my armpits holding my shirt up so my shirt didnt fall to cover me. My pants were at my feet. This all at the front of the full classroom. She dressed me and ordered me back to my seat where I couldn’t sit. I buried my head and cried.

    This for the crime of walking behind her!

    She never laid a hand on another child in that class, just me. Shortly after this I was caught on the playground playing too rough. Don’t you know that spanking causes aggression in children. This sick woman took me to the teachers lounge and closed the door. I trembled as she took a strap out of a drawer. It was here in front of a witness that she took my pants down and over her knee. She proceeded to whip my bare bottom until I blanked out and everything went white. My next memory is of me standing in the hall alone and crying with a tremendous amount of burning pain inside my pants.
    I couldn’t sit on the bus drive home. I never told my parents yet everyone knew. The children talked. The children regaled there stories.

    Its been 36 years and I have never seeked professional counseling for my problems. I suffer extreme anxiety. A crippling social anxiety. I live alone lonely , dont trust people, hate authority, have no female relationships to speak of. Cant hold a job, suffer depression, I.B.S. , P.T.S.D., drugs and alcohol struggles. Not to mention the sexual side effects. I dont have to list I’m sure. I remember wanting to be spanked as a 13 year old and self spanking.

    Did this woman thing she was producing a well adjusted contributing member of society? Did they teach her this crap at teacher college? What would I do to her now if I could find her? Good for her anyway as I have blocked out so much of my childhood I dont remember her face of name.

    Thanks for listening.

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.

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