The Sexual Element in Spanking Children: Let’s Ask the Uncomfortable Questions

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Abuse, Parenting Young Kids, Sex, Sexual Intimacy | 61 comments

Could spanking a child be sexual assault?
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Can we talk about something hush hush? What if spanking kids is also a form of sexual assault?

Hear me out on this one, okay?

I’ve shared a number of social media posts and podcasts about spanking lately, including what the large meta-analysis of 160,000 children shows: Spanking is neutral or negative, but not positive.

In other words, if you were spanked and  you’re okay, that’s DESPITE being spanked, not BECAUSE you were spanked.

There are many forms of discipline that are far more effective, that do not harm attachment styles, and that better fit with the spirit of Jesus.

As I was sharing about this, though, I had several people send me direct messages about something they didn’t want to comment on publicly.

One way that spanking hurt them was that it made them sexually aroused–and that seriously messed them up.

This doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does seem to occur for some. 

Here’s a comment I received from one woman:

I believe spanking violates bodily autonomy. Because how can we justify hitting children’s buttocks when we are also teaching them that NO ONE is allowed to touch their private areas with the exception of help with hygiene or medical care? Every definition of private areas I have seen includes the buttocks along with genitals. I was never taught there was an exception for spanking. Nobody wants to talk about that.

But really I’ve come to the conclusion that it could be sexual assault and parents would never know that they are sexually assaulting their kids.

Nobody wants to talk about the possibility that children could be sexually aroused by a spanking. Who wants to tell their parent they felt aroused from a spanking? I sure do not! I know I experienced something before the age of 6 that I am not able to explain or define at this time. Definitely experienced arousal as a teen when my parents adopted a mix of Michael Pearl and Denny Kenaston child training. They used a wooden paddle my dad made out in his workshop. It is extremely disturbing and confusing to feel arousal while anticipating and experiencing a paddling that also inflicted real pain. I felt like some kind of sick pervert and wondered what was wrong with me. Not something I could have admitted to my parents.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. I suppressed most of it until I went down the internet rabbit hole and looked into the stories of other survivors and victims of the Pearl’s teachings. I found some very disturbing stories and explanations of the physical effects of spanking.

She included several links in her email, and I went on a bit of a rabbit trail, reading other people’s stories and looking up the scientific evidence for what she was saying.

And, yes, this does look like a not-so-uncommon problem.

But let’s break this down, bit by bit:

Spanking, especially spanking done “in love”, teaches kids that love should hurt

Here’s how one writer processing the effects of spanking put it:

One of the things I dislike the most about the way some Christians spank their kids is the idea that it models God’s love for us, because he “chastises those he loves.” Because this means that as a child, you’re thus indoctrinated with the idea that you will receive pain when you’re bad, and that in fact, it is a sign of great love to be physically hurt by those in authority over you. It means they are paying attention to your flaws, and making sure you don’t show them in public. There is little to no room for grace, and because the parents are flawed, they may hurt you even when you don’t really deserve it either.

But if you wouldn’t accept that in a boyfriend, why would you accept it in your theology? Or your parenting style? If you’re raised thinking it’s OK to be hurt by those who love you, and that, actually, you should be hurt by those who love you, don’t you think this might have unintended consequences?

Botkin Creative

When Love is Pain: Corporality Part II

Spanking can also bring on sexual feelings

In her article, she quotes Darlene Barriere, a child abuse prevention specialist, who explains how sexual feelings can be triggered with spanking

When a child experiences fear or anxiety, the physical sensations he or she feels during that time are very close to those of sexual feelings. The brain can easily confuse the two. When the child is a pubescent adolescent, this is even more pronounced. With young males, it is perfectly natural to experience an erection when they are scared, anxious or nervous. Young females can also experience what can be misinterpreted as arousal during such times. What can be even more confusing and disturbing to the young person is when their bodies betray them further by experiencing an involuntary orgasm. When a child grows up believing that love hurts or must be in some way painful for it to actually BE love, that child may enter into adulthood looking for painful relationships.

Darlene Barriere

And this is doubly true because spanking is often done on the child’s bare bottom, which is a sexual erogenous zone. Here’s how another woman explained it in an anonymous letter to a pastor:

 

 

When I was a child I used to experience sexual feelings whenever I read a scene of corporal punishment in a children’s book; or when I saw a scene of corporal punishment in a film; I used to think about being spanked when I would play with myself as a child, and as an adolescent masturbation was always accompanied by thoughts about spanking. I never really questioned any of this until I started college. I realized that it seemed really strange that my sexual thoughts would revolve around something that was so painful and frightening as a child; I mean, sex is supposed to be focused on something beautiful, not on being inflicted with pain. I did some research and I found some answers to explain this. I discovered that there was both a biological and psychological component to the sexualization of corporal punishment; and I also discovered that there were many other people who suffered sexual side effects from childhood corporal punishment.

The biological factor revolves around the fact that the buttocks is an erogenous, or sexual, zone of the human body. The buttocks are in close proximity to the sex organs, and the nerves and blood vessels in the buttocks are also connected to the male and female genitalia. Therefore, striking a child’s bottom as a form of punishment can stimulate the nerves connected to the genitalia causing sexual arousal. When a child’s bottom is hit it also causes blood to rush to the blood vessels of the buttocks (causing redness), and since those blood vessels of the buttocks are connected to a person’s genitalia, the blood can also rush to the sex organs which of course causes sexual arousal.

During the spanking, the child may not even realize that the sexual arousal is occurring because of the intense physical pain and anxiety they are experiencing; however, the connection between the spanking and the sexual arousal can be stored in the subconscious and later manifest itself in sexual fantasies where the child imagines being spanked, hit, or humiliated in order to reach a state of sexual arousal.

Another Letter to Another Pastor on Spanking

Research also supports this: Spanking affects people’s sexual desires and experience of sexuality

This may be interesting–but is their research to support it?

Well, I followed some rabbit trails of links that were in a bunch of older blog posts that these people sent, and found an old article in Science Daily reporting on a presentation at the American Psychological Association’s Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships: Connecting Agendas and Forging New Directions held Feb. 28 and 29, 2008, in Bethesda, MD.

At it, Professor Murray Straus from the University of New Hampshire presented four studies of how corporal punishment as a child affected sexuality later in life. They measured corporal punishment on a four-part scale. Here are just a few findings:

  • Being spanked as a child makes it more likely you will coerce sex from others later: “each increase of one step on a four-step measure of corporal punishment was associated with a 10 percent increase in the probability of verbal sexual coercion by men and a 12 percent increase in sexual coercion by women,” Straus says. “The relation of corporal punishment to physically forcing sex was even stronger. Each increase of one step in corporal punishment was associated with a 33 percent increase in the probability of men forcing sex and a 27 percent increase in the probability of women doing this.”
  • The studies also found that people who were spanked the most were the most likely to engage in risky sex, while those who were not spanked were the least likely to engage in risky sex. Moving up a step on the four-part scale of corporal punishment meant you were more likely to engage in risky sex.
  • People who were spanked are more likely to want to engage in masochistic sex–75% compared with 40%.

I found his synopsis of the findings really interesting:

 

 

“What is new about this study is a scientific test of the idea that being spanked as a child inclines people to want to be spanked when having sex, and that this is especially likely to be true when there is a combination of lots of spanking and lots of love.”

Murray Straus

Science Daily

So we can’t make the argument: “Well, spanking has been shown to be bad simply because lots of people do it wrong, in anger! If you do it in love, it’s okay!”. No, actually, it’s not.

Could we start to consider the sexual implications of spanking?

Even though kids are sexually immature, they do have nerve endings in the typical erogenous zones, and can be victimized sexually. They need our respect and protection.

Now think about this: Slapping an adult’s buttocks or carressing an adult’s buttocks without consent are both considered sexual assault.

Caressing a child’s buttocks is also considered sexual assault.

Do you think we should start asking why slapping a child’s bare buttocks is not considered a sexual assault, given the research and the science behind it? This is the first time I’ve read much about this, and honestly, it’s really alarming to me. Are we prepared to look at the research? To realize what we may be doing, and to adopt a new way?

If you are, just a reminder for those who signed up for Wendy’s parenting workshop yesterday! The replay is available, and you should have it in your inbox.

(If you missed the signup, I’ll find out from Wendy if we can still give the replay; I don’t know).

But the big thing is simple: We can break the cycle. We can parent a new way. We can encourage discussions in our churches about this. And our kids need us to speak up!

UPDATE: A commenter noted that some of the dynamic we’re seeing here, where you get aroused by something that you don’t want to arouse  you, is similar to my arousal non-concordance post. You may find that helpful too!

Could spanking a child be sexual assault?

What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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61 Comments

  1. J

    I think my brain just exploded. In a this is horrible but true way.

    Reply
    • Still Stinging

      I was whipped a lot as a child. I hated it. I could not wait until the day I was considered too old for such things. It was embarrassing and made me furious as a child. Really felt violating. I sunk into a deep depression as a teenager and started self-harming at age 14. I had two teachers ask me about sexual abuse because I apparently had the symptoms. Later on in life, I had boyfriends who asked me the same thing. I could not remember being sexually abused as a child, but the subject of sex embarrassed me so much I would not discuss it at all. In fact, almost everything embarrassed me. I wanted to revert back to babyhood, which felt strange. What you’ve described in this article is probably exactly what happened to me. I still get aroused during spanking scenes in books and movies. What a sick, perverted thing! I feel like I want to discuss this with my therapist today, but I don’t think I am brave enough to. The mere mention of the word spanking humiliates me to my core.

      Reply
  2. Angharad

    Interested to read your comments about children being sexually aroused by spanking.

    But you didn’t comment on the possibility of adults also finding it arousing to spank children.

    I saw the John Piper quote you shared yesterday and it made me sick. Talking about little children having ‘little fat bottoms’ that are good for spanking sounds queasily like he enjoys the idea. I hope I’m misreading him, but that quote has become one of those things I really wish I hadn’t read. While at the same time, feeling like I need to have read it to be aware.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      That quote made me sick as well. I honestly couldn’t finish reading it when I saw that phrase. Very triggering.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I didn’t go there. I just hate to think about it, honestly. But I wonder how much that plays a role? A power fetish?

      Reply
    • Jo R

      Well, that’s all of a piece with his statement that a wife should endure a night of being smacked around before she has her husband hauled before, not the cops, but the church elders. 🙄😳🤯😱

      Reply
    • EOF

      I missed that quote, but wow! That is massively disturbing.

      Reply
  3. Jane Eyre

    Pulling down a child’s pants is humiliating. It is a massive violation of bodily autonomy and bodily integrity. Of course that would translate over into the bedroom as an adult.

    Reply
    • Lauren

      I remember being horrified when my husband told me that was how his parents spanked him. This subject has always been a tender point for me, but in spite of difficulties I’ve had with my own childhood experiences, I am so thankful it never went THAT far.

      Reply
  4. Jo R

    I noticed a long time ago that I never cried from sadness (because, as I now realize, I gaslit myself to not ever think I was sad, because good Christians are always supposed to be joyful, but I digress), but that the tears flowed from frustration and anger (the latter of which also induced guilt, because good Christians aren’t supposed to be angry, so more self-gaslighting, but again I digress).

    But only lately have I realized that there are really only a relative handful of ways the body can respond to the enormous range of emotions we experience. That means lots of very different and even contradictory emotions will manifest physically in the same way, as well as in some possibly odd and definitely non-obvious ways.

    Sheila, perhaps add some links to the arousal nonconcordance posts you wrote recently?

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    I completely agree with this and Ann so horrified. I think most pro spanking people will say, “But we don’t do it on bare bottoms!” What would your response be to them? I still think it’s not ok. If you wouldn’t do that to an adult, why a child?

    And side bar- my husband brought up a good point the other day. Just by virtue of the fact that this thing called “spanking” exists, it seems to acknowledge that ever hitting a child is bad and kinda tells on itself that spanking too is bad. What I mean is that, people just came up with this arbitrary thing called spanking so they could still strike a child. But why? It admits that hitting a child is wrong just by virtue of the fact it exists…..so why is it ok to hit their butts? How is that biblical whatsoever? Who on earth came up with that???

    Reply
    • EOF

      Realizing that it’s an erogenous zone should kill that argument. One wouldn’t squeeze, fondle, or hit one of the other erogenous zones. Why would this be okay, clothed or not? If someone tried to fight for that, they have serious mental problems.

      Reply
    • Plocb

      The best place to strike someone without leaving incriminating marks is somewhere soft. And as far as the terms go, it’s a euphemism…like “collateral damage” instead of “we blew up a school bus.”

      Reply
  6. J R

    This article is very interesting and brings up something that has been sitting at the back of my mind for a long time. You didn’t address it here, but this is what I’m wondering: In your research, did you come across any data that suggested that being spanked on your bare bottom as a child could cause you to be more inclined to want to be the dominant one in a bondage/submission/spanking-during-sex type experience? Like could it have the opposite effect? Could it cause you to be aroused by ‘dominating’ your partner sexually? Also, is it inherently wrong to find that scenario arousing if both you and and your partner enjoy it (he enjoys being dominated/spanked) and all boundaries are discussed and respected and the end goal is both people feeling sexually satisfied? This has confused me for a long time because being dominant in that way has always been arousing to me and I was bare-bottom spanked as a child (though I have no memory of being sexually aroused during). My husband was spanked as a child as well, but I don’t think it was as often as I was, and not bare bottom… I guess my real question is, am I actually really messed up and more broken than I thought? and if so, what is the way forward?
    I’m sorry if this is TMI and I won’t be offended if you don’t post my comment. I’ve just wanted insight into this for a long time and you’re the first person I trust who has ever even come close to discussing it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi J R, yes, the last finding from Straus did find that you’re far more likely to want to engage as the dominant one in masochistic sex (even if it’s consensual) if you were spanked as a child. I do think this warrants a lot more research and a lot more awareness!

      Reply
    • Andrea

      I know this is hugely controversial, but there is a view that BDSM can be healing of trauma because it gives you full control of a situation that was out of your control before. As in, you plan it all with your husband ahead of time, tell him how hard you want him to spank you, you can also change your mind at any point… The idea is to simulate the situation, but with you (the submissive) in full control, calling all the shots, that’s how BDSM is done properly, including talking about it afterwards, cuddling, doing whatever your body feels is necessary to process it all. So that is a possible way forward because it is not your fault what was done to you as a child, but this is one way of taking back control.

      Reply
      • J R

        Thank you for your kind response Andrea

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, I have heard many BDSM proponents describe it that way. I think many gravitate to BDSM for the purpose of resolving the trauma. I’d love to see studies on whether it works or not!

        Reply
  7. EOF

    This is seriously disturbing. Sickening. I seriously hope people listen. Everything modern Christianity teaches about relationships and authority needs to be thrown out.

    I was rarely spanked as a child (not brought up in a religious environment at all). I’m glad to say we rarely spanked our kids. We did to our oldest a few times — because the church said we had to — but then we decided firmly against it. It wasn’t right, and our kids respond so much better to a simple conversation. (Or moving them to a different situation, when they were younger.)

    Reply
  8. exwifeofasexaddict

    Oof. This explains some things. I feel kind of nauseous now.

    Reply
  9. Kristin

    Such huge relief to finally have someone address this! Yes!! Spanking is sexual assault hands down.

    Reply
  10. Kayla

    This is disgusting and makes complete sense. Thank you so much for bringing this up. You are totally my hero. 🦸‍♀️

    Reply
  11. Horrified

    I have never thought of this before, and it’s very disturbing.
    It also makes me think about how my dad, who was actually NOT the disciplinarian in our house, would slap my butt in passing sometimes. I don’t know if it was to be funny or show his power or what. He did that until I was 13 and I once overreacted in pain so that he wouldn’t anymore, and he didn’t.
    I never thought of it as odd until a few weeks ago. Like, that’s inappropriate, right?
    But I feel like spankings being okay made the random butt slapping seem acceptable.
    So even if kids don’t feel aroused, it might make them more vulnerable because the backside isn’t an off limits zone.

    Reply
  12. Abigail Williams

    Wow. This would explain so much about my whole life. I didn’t even get spanked that much as a kid (because I was, and still am, a massive people pleaser — that’s a whole other issue). This is horrifying. I’m going to have to sit with this one for a while….

    Reply
  13. Ally

    Spanking does a lot more harm than simply its effect on sexual identity. It harms the developing psyche in relation to attachment, understanding emotions and interpersonal relationships, all of which have been studied and reported on extensively.
    I sincerely hope that continued light like this post will be shed on the harm it perpetuates and will see this outdated practice where it belongs. Our children deserve better! Thank you.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly. I’ve written about the attachment issues before, but this was a newer one for me. Just awful.

      Reply
  14. Matthew

    This topic is really important to me as this form of “discipline” was implemented in severe ways by my parents. I think that Christians are taught that in such a way that the verse “spare the rod, spoil the child” condones physical abuse to children or create a context in which hitting a child is permissible.
    I think also a detriment of spanking is that, if it is done out of anger, the child is taught that expressing anger through violence to another person is acceptable. It does not teach the child how to properly regulate their emotions or to have proper boundaries with others. One is taught to become a passive recipient to violence, whether that be emotional or physical.
    And all of this is not biblical. The verse, Proverbs 13:24, is referring to a shepherd’s staff; a guiding, protecting, and nurturing image. A shepherd does not beat their sheep. Christ leaves the 99 to find, protect, and heal the one.
    What books or resources would you recommend for parenting? What alternatives are there to parenting? I am not a father yet and I am getting married in a year. I am anxious about being a parent because I do not want to repeat the cycles of abuse inherited in my family.

    Also, here are some links to some more research as well, though I don’t know if all of them are credible.

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-03-13-0503120312-story.html
    https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-does-spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child-mean.html
    https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/21/04/effect-spanking-brain
    https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447048/
    https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/28/health/spanking-worsens-child-behavior-wellness/index.html

    Thank you for writing on this. This topic so near and dear to my heart. God bless you.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for those links, Matthew, and especially that so many of them are peer reviewed articles! Seriously, people–research is so clear on this. Spanking is detrimental in so many ways.

      Reply
    • Jen

      I had tripple P (Positive Pedagocig Program) courses, from Child Services Protection and I found them tremendously helpfull. There’s a toddler and teen program and it’s easy to follow and gives lot of alternative tools. What I like is that it focusses on the positive ways to raise a child and I can tell from experience that it changed our household from a fear based, angry one into a for the most time serene household with lots of open communication. The course is originally from Australia, but has been given world wide. Your gp may be able to get you in touch with someone who gives this or a similar parenting course. I would also recommend talking to a therapist, cause a lot of anger towards children is caused when they remind the parent of their past and causes a trauma respons. This can be solved with therapy. What also helps is to visualize a situation and than find the way you would like to act and repeat this scenario in your head. Or find a scenario that did happen in which you became angry and write down the feelings behind it and than how you would like to respond instead. Yet if after all your efforts you ever make a mistake or lash out, children understand apologies like no other. Especially when accompanied by change and showing you own up. My kids forgive me their younger years and I have to admit that I do not feel like I deserve that. Kind regards Jen.

      Reply
  15. M.H.

    So to clarify, spanking has correlations with sadistic AND masochistic sexual behaviors?
    I saw the study addressed the masochistic side, but it seems as though that’s actually sadistic behavior (pleasure from other’s pain rather than one’s own pain). I’d be interested to see a study that addresses how both the tendencies ca stem from being spanked as a child.

    I’m so thankful my parents didn’t buy into spanking!

    Thank you for this fantastic – yet sobering – post!

    Reply
  16. Grew Up Fundie

    I also think it’s odd that some parents only spank until their kids start maturing sexually. Have you come across research that relates childhood spanking to other sexual issues or even pelvic floor issues? It may be hard to distinguish the effects of spanking vs. the effects of purity culture, as I know they are often intertwined, in the same households. However, as someone who was spanked regularly, at least until puberty hit (thankfully early, in this case), I have never liked spanking in a sexual manner or even as a playful jest between close friends. I did get involved in riskier sexual behavior briefly, in my 20s, but that area being touched would completely shut things down for me. Even if I am overstimulated, in a completely nonsexual situation (like a rough day with our toddler who decided not to nap), and my husband tries to touch my butt when I’m preparing dinner, I usually shrink out of his reach and he may end up getting an earful I have to apologize for later. I feel like, unlike the majority in these studies you quote, it has done the opposite to me. My sister swears up and down that purity culture didn’t mess her up, but she found out when she “saved herself” for marriage that she had pelvic floor issues – not diagnosed vaginismus, but treated similarly. Even though she received much less spanking than I did, I wonder if it played a part, too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sure it did play a part! I think we’re all so different, that people will react differently to the same stimuli. What we do know is that it certainly doesn’t HELP–but the harm can show up in a variety of ways. I can understand shrinking from touch like that, even today.

      Reply
    • Birdie

      I very recently started following Stacey Patton and she writes about how spanking/hitting can trigger early puberty. I don’t think it affected me as my parents took a break during my preteen years and then because of the influence of their friends and the Pearls, started spanking me again as a teen. I’d be interested in the connection to pelvic floor issues as I have sciatic type pain and tensing the muscles in my butt like I would as a child for a spanking makes the pain worse. https://www.muthamagazine.com/2017/04/dont-be-a-fast-girl-how-hitting-your-daughter-can-trigger-early-puberty/

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, that would be really interesting to know! I can see it totally having a relationship to that. I’m so sorry for the health problems you’re going through!. That’s awful.

        Reply
      • Jen

        Dear Birdie, Though not in illness I can relate to that. It wasn’t untill my gynecologist mentioned that my cramps, which where very severe, where actually caused by myself. I since had a long and hard road of uncovering how the past did not just hurt me emotionally, but also caused physical problems. I took emdr, which took some of the edges off, but did never adress my physical respons. What I did find very helpfull was reading in, like articles as these, which give insight, but also to start yoga and meditation. Though praying is a very good way of meditation I would also recommend guided meditations with chakra’s. Because, wheaher you believe in chakra’s or not, it allows you to feel on a concious level, which part of your body is doing what. I find that especially on my chest and in, the past ,also my pelvic was just cramped. I was clinging so hard, especially when feelings of shame occured I stored it there. Just like you said, like you are brasing for what’s to come. With meditation you can during the meditation, go to the part in your body where you feel you cannot relax and than find the memorie and emotions that accompany this. Allow yourself to feel the emotion while getting back to relaxating your body, best you can. As in everything we learn, practice makes perfect and the first few times you may come no further than just finding the aching. That’s okay. You did not learn to write in a day and you would not hold that against yourself. I hope this helps. I wish you all the best and you are not allone. Kind regards, Jen

        Reply
  17. Journey

    I have thought something like this for the past two years and finally feel as if I’m not crazy. 🙂 When I had the lightbulb moment in connecting these two things, I felt physically sick. (Based on my own prior history.) But then I heard a small voice and it said “I won’t leave you, there’s nowhere I won’t go”. If you are just finding this connection for yourself and feel alone and broken and horrified, just remember, He won’t leave you and there’s nowhere He wouldn’t go with you. <3 Sending love to anyone who struggles!

    Reply
  18. August

    About 4 years ago, I started questioning spanking. I never could “do it in love”. It always felt like retribution… against my 2 year old. And I hated myself for it. I discovered gentle parenting and have never looked back. The biggest reason I couldn’t spank anymore was because of this research. I read it and decided right then, no more spanking. It made me sick to my stomach.

    Reply
  19. Faith

    So, I am not at all pro-spanking. I can’t deny to research. But one thing I can’t help subconsciously taking away from your parenting posts is that you expect parents to be absolutely perfect. There isn’t any room for imperfection, personal struggle, or mistakes. There isn’t any grace. If a parent isn’t absolutely perfect, then their children will end up with all kinds of issues as adults that they’ll deal with for the rest of their lives. And it’s all the parent’s fault. Loving them and trying your best by the grace of God isn’t enough. That’s just really discouraging.

    Reply
  20. Annie

    This has been a fascinating series Sheila.
    I can only get aroused and achieve orgasm if I fantasize about pain & humiliation. In 15 years of marriage we’ve never figured out foreplay because I just get comfortable & sleepy when we kiss/cuddle/touch. I have to imagine things that I don’t actually want in real life to get aroused and frankly that’s sad.
    I was forced to remove my pants and willingly bend over for spankings done “in love”. Absolutely it messed up my sex life, probably forever. My earliest sexual discovery was to inflict pain on erogenous zones. I’ve always thought of arousal in this way just over the years it becomes more extreme.

    Reply
  21. Ingrid

    I got spanked a lot as a child but not as punishment. It was a “game” my dad had that was “spanking for future badness”. My dad is a creep. This makes me realize how bad it was.

    Reply
  22. Mothertrying

    This is heart breaking. We’ve spanked our girls in an attempt to teach them obedience as we seek to obey the Word of God but this has me wondering if we’ve really been misinterpreting. I grew up in a nearly neglectful home and had no boundaries and so I thought this was the most loving thing I could do. I feel really broken hearted about this. Please advise on how to undo this damage. As a child who was sexually abused from people outside the family and has dealt with the damage through the years, the thought of putting any stumbling block in our girls path in this area is terrifying to me. The more I read about spanking in your articles the more clearly I can see negative effects that were in our home.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      First–don’t beat yourself up! Please. No one of us is perfect, and it sounds like you are absolutely doing the best you know how to do, which is awesome. I strongly recommend checking out some gentle parenting resources, like Wendy from Fresh Start Families. They have lots of ideas of how to transition out of spanking and how to talk to your kids about it. But it can be done!

      Reply
  23. LeeAnn Summerfield

    Sheila, you are wonderful and have done the perfect work here about this life and death subject! My comments were all really for you…I’d like to share this page, assuming your permission, in every way that I can 🙂

    Reply
  24. Tom

    This is actually the subject of an autobiographical book published a couple of years ago, by Laura Priestess. Unfortunately, it’s only available in Polish but hopefully it will be translated at some point.

    https://replika.eu/tytul/11-te-nie-dotykaj/

    Reply
  25. Plocb

    Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about this, too. A big element is spanking/beating, and the one that sticks with me the longest isn’t the pain, it’s the humiliation. The victim is forced to assume a helpless position, either by physical force or threat of further violence. Their clothing may be removed. Often it’s performed in public; even “private” beatings are audible to everyone else around, as well as the aftermath. If they try to move, defend themselves from assault, or even cry out, the punishment gets worse. Every step serves to teach the one lesson of violence: I may hurt you as I please, and you can do NOTHING except perhaps grovel…or bend over and take it. Whether done in anger or sociopathic distancing, the message received is the same. And then, when the pain inflicted is to the abuser’s satisfaction, the burden lies on the victim to apologize, often to their tormentor. And that’s not even getting into “loving” trauma bonding.

    Reply
    • Rose

      Something about this comment definitely hit a memory. This whole post is difficult because I KNOW this is a piece of my childhood that has severely messed me up. But it’s like watching a trainwreck I can’t seem to stop reading – it’s horrifying how many people this has effected. And it’s awful that I know some of my best friends were deeply wounded in this way even though their parents were trying to be good and do what was best for them. It’s actually easier to accept when it came from abusive homes, because at least then you have someone to blame.

      Ugh. Another subject I know I’m going to need to talk through with my husband. At least we’ve both been on the same page with our kids. No spanking and NO open-handed hitting of any kind! If we really REALLY need to get a point home with something physical, they get a one-fingered flick on the head or hand (depending on the offense). It stings for a second, but there’s no way it can be construed as hitting, so they don’t learn that hitting is okay. And it’s also something that keeps my brain from triggering into feeling violent if I’m very angry with them. (My husband doesn’t have the same issues, but he wasn’t brought up in a spanking household! Causation? ;~; )

      But yeah I’ve done my best to keep this from effecting how I discipline the kids but I have definitely not dealt with how it affects my thoughts and desires in the bedroom. I have a lot of guilt and shame over these things, and I’m still not really sure where it’s appropriate to draw the line in what’s an acceptable “want”.

      Reply
  26. Trina

    Thank you, Sheila for this post.
    Recently, I’ve begun to notice that my experience of the world is not normal. I easily dissociate from my body and my emotions. This is an area that Jesus and I have been working on for 3 years now. I have specifically thought of myself as incapable of having sexual feelings. I don’t find guys attractive and while my roommate occasionally comments about feeling her sex drive, I can think of no experience that is in any way shape or form similar.
    I’ve known for a while that I have sexual trauma. There was an incident when I was 15. It did not involve anything physical but I felt incredibly violated. However, my severe dissociation (physical, emotional, and sexual) started long before that. Up to this point, I had assumed it was the unfortunate combination of growing up in purity culture and other emotional traumas I had at younger ages.
    However, as I read your post, I realized that I experienced very similar things when I was spanked by my parents (maybe arousal, I’m not really sure). These physical feelings continued to occur throughout my life and even as I read your post.

    I am a young person (still in college) and I don’t know what to do with any of this information. I feel scared and ashamed. The physical sensation is incredibly uncomfortable, almost painful, and makes me scared and ashamed. I never want to feel it again especially now that I know (more) of what it actually is.

    Do you have any advice for me? What do I do with this information? How can I make the sensation stop? Should I even be trying that or am I slipping back into ignoring my body?

    Also, is it possible for me to heal as a single woman or do I have to wait until I’m married or God decides to magically heal me?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Trina, I’m so sorry! That’s tough

      It sounds like you’re doing some good stuff with embodiment and figuring out how to stop dissociating. That’s awesome.

      You may benefit from seeing a licensed therapist to see if there is trauma that needs to be dealt with (there are actually practices that don’t take very long that can be very helpful).

      Also, you may benefit from my attachment series, especially the podcast with Krispin Mayfield. See if that helps. And I’m sorry you’re walking through this!

      Reply
  27. RLS

    Interesting…I have slowly come to the conclusion that spanking is not only unnecessary, but harmful. I had always thought the trauma I felt over being spanked as a child was because my parents should have done a better job… been more consistent, fair, better with reconciling afterwards,
    etc. The fact is… I’ve yet to hear of parents who could get it “right”… and now, I believe
    that’s because it’s not right. I know my own parents thought they were doing the right thing. They were doing what their parents had done, and what they had read from James Dobson.

    As a kid, I was obsessed with making sure I did the right thing and felt so guilty if I ever got away with something without being punished. I felt so humiliated whenever I was spanked, and then, felt compelled to humiliate myself in some way whenever I did wrong. I had an obsession with reading and rereading stories about spanking or beatings, and in my fantasy world of stories, almost all of my characters had scenes where someone was hitting them. I never understood it, but I was always thoroughly confused by feeling an odd sense of pleasure when I thought of getting spanked. It was so contradictory and weird. I had no idea that those feelings were in any way sexual. It wasn’t until many years later that I made that connection. I’m not yet sure how much that contributes to problems I have now. I do know that the humiliation from being spanked is still something I am working through well into my 30’s.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, RLS! It sounds like you’re already working through it well, and I do think that understanding the root of things often helps us get over them. I hope that’s true with you too!

      Reply
  28. Barbara

    The way me and my 3 sisters were punished was clearly sexual abuse. First of all, from as young as I can remember, we were always spanked completely naked, usually with a length of leather dog leash that felt like a whip. And they had no qualms about whipping our bare genitals as well as our bare bottoms. The pain was awful, and the sexual stimulation quite obvious. All 4 of us suffered from sexual anxiety when we married, and I still associate sex with being whipped. It’s a terrible thing to do to a little girl.

    Reply

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