I’m doing a brief persuasive research paper for one of my classes about how any degree of corporal punishment of children is wrong and destructive. I thought at first of sticking to the moral arguments, logical arguments, arguments from effect, and the scientific research, but there’s another topic involving the effects of corporal punishment that I’m unsure about using. It’s clear to me that spanking of children is very often a safe haven for sexual perverts who seek a socially-approved method of satisfying their sick desires. There are hundreds of stories available of covert or overt sexual abuse occurring during a spanking, and this has become more and more apparent as I do my research. Some examples of this can be found here: Spanking as Sexual Abuse. I recently looked on amazon to read a book description of something I found in the library catalog, and I was horrified and physically disgusted by some of the stories of parents there. These people were clearly using pornographic, sexually-charged language to describe the “discipline” of their children up to and beyond puberty. Take a look at this link, but be warned. It is disturbing:
Many kinds of spanking are a rape metaphor, and it’s no wonder to me why studies show that children who were spanked are far more likely to grow up to become rape perpetrators and rape victims than children who were raised without spanking. I think the sexual element is hard for many people to understand or, perhaps more accurately, to accept. They often look at this issue as, “Well, it’s just a spanking,” as in it does not generally cause lasting bodily harm or “significant” pain. But oftentimes, the pain is not the point. The humiliation is the point. The feeling of invasion and violation is the point. Whether or not it’s apparent, during this kind of sexually ambiguous situation, the child can always get the sense that his or her body is being used and abused for the pleasure of someone else.
If we deconstruct what spanking really is, perhaps we can gain a better perspective. Slapping the bottom of a strange woman would obviously be seen as sexual harassment. Fondling the bottom of a child would obviously be seen as a sexual violation. However, miraculously, when you combine these two elements to the slapping of a child’s bottom, it becomes…not a sexual violation? We must denormalize these commonly acccepted practices in our society. According to research, the slapping of the buttocks leads to stimulation of the nerve endings that lead to sexual arousal. This means that even if a child is in extreme pain, he can simultaneously be experiencing arousal. In the worst case, this may lead to a lifelong association with sexual arousal and pain. Many people, like the BDSM culture, take pride in these fetishes, but I can’t help but think that given the choice, children would decide to grow up with a normal sexuality.
We all know that exploitation increases with power disparity. The parent-child relationship is the largest power disparity that exists in the world. In the industrialized nation of America, it is preported that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually molested or raped before they reach age 18. These are only the reported cases. Some experts estimate the real numbers may be closer to a third of all girls and a fourth of all boys. Furthermore, these numbers only include sexual abuse that involves direct contact, like molestation and rape. They do not account for the many other ways that parents, family members, or other authority figures can sexually exploit their children. Verbal threats, lewd comments, body teasing, invasion of privacy, and yes, in many cases even spanking, paddling, and whipping, are also forms of sexual exploitation. Even in our “civilized” society, being a victim of rape, incest, or child sexual abuse is far more common than belonging to a racial minority group of any kind. I only suggest the following exercise, not because child sex abuse has anything to do with race, but because the visual nature of it carries more of an impact: Just for a day, imagine every non-white person you see on TV, in the street, or at your place of work or school was a victim of child rape. The actual numbers are more than that.
It generally falls on us, the survivors of sexual molestation, rape, and exploitation, to take up the torch to protect future generations from these atrocities. Not many people are willing to discuss these crimes, because, frankly, large segments of the population benefit from them. Sex abuse is recognized by psychologists to have the worst effects of any other kind of abuse, often leading people into lives of crime, drugs, alcohol, early motherhood, low-impact jobs, and even sex work. A brilliant thinker points out in a book that will soon be released that these effects clear much of the competition out of the way for more functionally-raised people in the workforce. So in addition to sparing the parents and family members who perpetrate these crimes and allow them to occur, the silence and inaction of people on issues of childhood sex abuse proves very economically advantageous for those who do not have to suffer it. Of course, none of this is consciously realized, but our instant recognition of it as a potent truth shows that this is something we have perhaps unconsciously realized all along. In a world where child abuse did not take place, those with functional upbringings would have to work harder to achieve what they can more easily achieve now. They would have to compete with more well-adjusted people. They could not indulge in the vanity that they are just “better” than the people who have ended up as criminals, prostitutes, or single-mother fast food employees.
However, many of us survivors are still hiding behind a shame that is not ours and a fear of society’s indifference to these issues. The biggest challenge for me is what I’ve just discussed in this article. Not to downplay the extreme emotional difficulty, but if I bring up the fact that I was molested, I can expect some degree of sympathy from people. Everyone you meet, even people who perpetrate child-rape, will tell you that it is wrong and evil. However, if I bring up the possible sexual effects and crimes that can be associated with spanking, it’s a completely different, hostile, and defensive reaction, which is hard to take but reinforces that I’m onto something. In my view, sexual abuse and spanking as punishment lays the groundwork in our society for rape as an instrument of control. A fear of being imprisoned is fundamentally a fear of rape. The rape or sexual violation of prisoners by other prisoners or by prison guards is so prevalent, that, in our court systems, we are essentially sentencing people to be raped. Sexual torture and rape are well-documented crimes that our military perpetrate on prisoners of war and civilian populations. Recently, an innocent woman was gang-raped on video, under the guise of a “cavity search,” by a bunch of policemen after she placed a call to 911. Only a society that passively accepts the sexual abuse and exploitation of children would also passively accept these horrifying atrocities.
If we want these things to stop, we have to speak the truth and we have to create consequences. We have to keep emphasizing that adult relationships are voluntary, and that people do not need to support, financially or emotionally, the parents who abused them or led them directly into danger. We have to rise up out of the shame that was inflicted upon us. We must cast off the stain that is not ours. We must learn to love and respect our bodies, even though we were taught to abuse, exploit, and loathe them. We must raise our own children to have a sense of their own worth, security, privacy, and respect for their bodies. We must reach out to do what we can protect the children we know are being abused. Get involved in whatever way you can. Write about it in your blog, your local paper, your classes. Volunteer to work with children. Pick up the phone and call the police on your neighbor if you suspect he’s abusing his child. Talk about it with the people you know. Above all, always, always take the side of the child and be an advocate. Give sympathy to people discussing their abusive histories. Listen to children when they try to express what they’re feeling. Don’t spare the parents when getting to the reality of someone’s childhood.
For more information on the ideas, studies, and arguments mentioned in this article, visit:
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