Spanking


Spanking, defined as slapping of the buttocks, is a form of hitting and thus of physical violence. That fact alone should make the spanking of children unacceptable by the same standards that protect adults, who are not as vulnerable. However, there is more to spanking than simply hitting: spanking also trespasses on one of the body’s most private and sexual areas—the buttocks. To fully address the wrongness of spanking children, therefore, we must consider not only the issue of physical violence, but also the issue of sexual trespass. While the harm of spanking’s physical violence has been thoroughly explained and demonstrated over the past century in a vast body of academic literature, scientific research, legal treatises, and relatively recently in the popular media, it is quite rare that the sexual consequences of spanking are openly and seriously discussed. This pamphlet aims to raise public awareness about the sexual aspects which make spanking an especially inappropriate and even dangerous way of disciplining children, whether it is done by parents, educators or other caretakers. While this pamphlet focuses on “spanking,” the most seemingly benign form of physical punishment, the arguments raised herein apply equally to paddling, switching, caning, strapping, or any other mode of forcible buttock-beating.


Buttocks are a sexual zone
Like women’s breasts, the buttocks are a sexual or erogenous part of the human anatomy, even though they are not actually sex organs. This is why baring one’s buttocks in public is considered indecent as well as unlawful and why their exposure in movies or on television constitutes nudity. It is also why someone who uninvitedly fondles another person’s buttocks is treated by law as a sexual offender. The sexual nature of the buttocks is explained not only by their proximity to the genitals, but also by their high concentration of nerve endings which lead directly to sexual nerve centers. Hence, the buttocks are a major locus of sexual signals.


Children are sexual beings
The sexuality of the buttocks is significant not just to adults, but to children as well. Even though they are sexually immature and without an active sex drive, children are from birth neurologically complete sexual beings who are capable of experiencing erotic sensation. The existence of pedophiles, furthermore, means that children can also become the targets of sexual intentions. As much as we might like to imagine childhood as an innocent, carefree world beyond the influence of sexuality, we do children a disservice if we fail to recognize that they too have erogenous zones which deserve consideration and respect.


Spanking as sexual violation
Since children are sexual beings and since the buttocks are a sexual region of the body, we should question the propriety of slapping children’s buttocks. We generally understand that fondling or caressing a child’s buttocks is a sexual offense (even if the child does not understand it to be so). We also know that slapping an adult’s buttocks is a sexual offense (even if the offender does not get sexual pleasure from doing so).


The question, then, is why slapping a child’s buttocks is not considered a sexual offense. Is it because spanking, unlike fondling, is physically painful and used to punish misbehavior? No, or painfully spanking a misbehaving adult would not be a sexual offense. Is it because children are less likely to be sexual targets than adults, less likely to feel violated, and therefore protected less strictly? No, or fondling an adult would be a far more serious crime than fondling a child. A more plausible explanation for this breach of logic is simply that the majority of people are unable or unwilling to believe there could be anything indecent about a practice as old, common and accepted as the spanking of children—something which nearly everyone has received, given or witnessed at least once. And since spankings typically come from esteemed or even beloved authority figures, many people are loath to question this behavior.


In any case, freedom from sexual violation is one of the basic tenets of liberty most revered by Americans and by most of the free world. As this principle of inviolacy applies to adults, it should apply equally, if not especially, to children, who are below the age of consent. Spanking children may be a time-honored tradition, but any tradition that so gratuitously disregards