Painful lesson in sprog-flogging
By Emma Tom, The Australian, January 9, 2010

THERE'S something odd about the Chastise with Love website.

Cited by Wikipedia as an authoritative source on the corporal punishment of children, it insists its position is one of harm-minimisation rather than spank-maximisation.

Before accessing the site, you are faced with a disclaimer that the website "gives recommendations for parents who choose to use spanking as a parenting tool. It does not encourage, advocate or recommend spanking, but it recommends the replacement of inappropriate forms of spanking by more appropriate ones."

Yet the site offers a wide range of forensic detail on child striking, even though the heated debate on punishment can raise the unsavoury possibility that darker motivations are at play.

The site, with the address, advocates bare-bottom spanking partly because trousers absorb about 70 per cent of a spanking's impact, and canvasses::

l Rolling up one's sleeves to permit a better swing of the arm;

lPulling children's pants down to the knees or ankles or at least "a bit lower than absolutely necessary" to increase "the ritual aspect of the baring"; and

l Increasing the number of strikes, using implements or dressing older children in G-strings or jockstraps if the recommended route of bare-bottomed spanking is not followed.

While the site's anonymous contributors trumpet the rote rhetoric that sprog-flogging is an unpleasant but essential act of parental responsibility, some of the material seems to have a salacious subtext.

Consider one reader's suggestion that offending offspring be dressed in a thin pair of panties or tight Spandex shorts soaked in water so the fabric clings to the buttocks and makes "a good view for the spanker".

Or the advice portal for delinquent teens who want their parents to spank them. In this off-the-topic section, a pundit suggests adolescents casually drop the topic into conversation (perhaps by mentioning that a friend has been punished physically by their parents) before asking, "Why don't you spank me?"

"If you feel that you have no alternative but to go down the road of being spanked by someone other than a parent," it continues, "then choose someone you know very well and trust absolutely."

Equally unsettling are the realms of spank poetry such as To Bare Or Not To Bare which drops all pretence that familial flagellation hurts parents more than children:

While spanking kids on panties nice and tight

Is for many parents a real delight;

Most would feel that there's nothing to compare

With an old-fashioned spanking on the bare.

A CwL pictorial team member appears to have slipped up by including, among the site's raft of retro artwork, an illustration in which both spanker and spankee seem roughly the same age and in possession of sets of breasts. Could be a bit of a giveaway, guys.

While it's easy to dismiss all this as the work of faceless cyber nerds, the concern is that the site articulates what many mainstreamers think but know better than to say out loud.

During the past week, the Australian media has heard from plenty of pro-paddlers who claim hands-on parental discipline is the only way to counter social problems such as drunkenness, street rioting and -- ironically, surely -- violence.

Sleaze is obviously not usually a factor in impassioned pro-corporal punishment positions. But neither is evidence. Studies into the effectiveness of smacking kids are inconclusive and contested. By painstakingly planning for repeat smackings, advocates of ongoing disciplinary regimes are also indirectly acknowledging their methods don't work for long.

For argument's sake, however, let's say: a) there was some practical and ethical way to scientifically evaluate intra-domiciliary drubbing; and, b) that this research revealed corporal punishment did reduce crime.

What would remain unresolved is the vexing question of whether it's ever OK to use violence to punish, particularly to punish tiny and exquisitely vulnerable new human beings. A related dilemma involves utilitarian ethics and whether spanking really would result in the greatest good for the greatest number.

Should all children, for instance, endure the pain and humiliation of routine canings or ear clippings so that a few grown-ups no longer have to suffer the agony and indignation of car stereo theft? And do we really believe an action's ability to achieve a desired result automatically makes it right?

If we answer yes to the latter, thereby accepting that a satisfactory end justifies any means, we may as well adopt other efficacious methods of reducing lawlessness, such as incarcerating all poor children. Increased social order could also be achieved by treating likewise some members of groups deemed over-represented in crimes such as wife-beating or tax evasion.

Let's try not to wander off topic, to employ a favoured phrase of the CwL squad. Research may one day exist that sheds a more fluorescent light on the relative costs and benefits of physical discipline. But the motivation of corporal punishers is something we'll never be able to adequately investigate or police.

Sure, a percentage of smackers may truly believe that sparing rods creates dangerously spoiled children. But there's an unacceptable risk that others are thoughtlessly lashing out, indulging a self-serving nostalgia for old-fashioned and simplistic social cure-alls or, worst of all, using it as a cover for sadistic and-or pedophilic activity.

Champions of hitting children should also think carefully before countering with the old and chestnutty, "I had the bejesus belted out of me as a kid and it didn't do me any harm."

This tired and depressing cliche conveniently ignores the fact that a rigid pro-corporal punishment position (not to mention a wall of self-defensive denial) may well be part of the legacy of childhood thrashings.


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