Boss abusing power with demands for erotic spanking: Ethically speaking
By Ken Gallinger, Toronto Star, March 30, 2012

Q: Our parents never hesitated to inflict corporal punishment on my younger sister and me. We were also sent to a Christian school that was free about using the paddle. I resent how we were raised.

Now my sister has confided that her boss spanks her. It started when he caught her smoking in a restricted area — she was facing dismissal, but if she submitted to a spanking he would give her a second chance. She now allows him to put her over his knee once a week, and he swats the seat of her pants 20 times. She claims it is mutually beneficial as he allows her to take long lunches in exchange. She also confided that she is “turned on” by this. The whole thing is sick! Should I mind my business or try to talk sense into her?

A: Your use of the word “sick,” and your reference to your parents, tells me this is complicated.

Let’s separate the layers.

It is appropriate that you resent the violence with which you were raised, but blaming your parents for what is happening in your sister’s life is unfair. Not everyone raised in a home like yours grows up to enjoy erotic spanking — you are proof of that. And not everyone who enjoys paddling was raised with corporal punishment. So whatever this is about, it’s not, primarily at least, about your parents.

And it’s not really about spanking, either. Getting your bum smacked is not pleasurable for you, but it is for some people — arguably, many people. Erotic spanking is merely one among the wild and wonderful variety of sexual games people play. When those games are played within relationships of respect, open communication, clear boundaries and mutual trust, they are not only harmless — they can be exciting.

So there’s nothing “sick” about the fact that your sister is turned on by being spanked; lots of perfectly healthy couples keep a paddle in their bedside table.

The problem is that your sister is not in a relationship defined by respect, trust or mutuality. There is a tremendous power imbalance at play here; her boss is using his authority in a way that is, simply, abusive.

It may help you see this more clearly if you forget “spanking” and insert the words “having sex” into the narrative. Your sister’s boss is forcing her to have sex with him weekly, in his office, to keep her job. The fact that she’s enjoying it is irrelevant, because her boss doesn’t care a whit about that. He is using her as a tool to get himself off.

God knows how many other women this guy takes advantage of the other six days of the week. Your sister is wrong about this being mutually beneficial. Nothing good can come of this.

So yes, talk to her. But before you do, set aside the judgmental tone about the spanking, and the resentment toward your parents. And don’t even think of using words like “sick.” Instead, talk about self-respect, setting clear boundaries and reclaiming her sense of human dignity. A bruised backside heals quickly; a bruised spirit takes much longer.


Return to:
Spanking can be sexual abuse
The Newsroom
Front Page