A spanking debate, almost
Message to the NoSpankList, June 26, 2003


Thank you for all the encouraging mail, and especially for all the excellent coaching about what points to raise and traps to avoid. Please excuse me for not responding to everyone who asked what time, what channel, what day, how it went, etc. As it turns out, you didn't miss anything because nothing happened. Here's the story with a bit of scenery:

Monday, shortly before dawn, the limo dropped me at the Doubletree Hotel around the corner from Fox studios. I hadn't been in New York for years, and even though I was totally hammered by the all-night flight from San Francisco to Phoenix to JFK, I was too energized to sleep and went out for an early breakfast. I chose a café just up the street from Times Square. My table next to the window gave me a view of the morning's action. It was like having a front-row seat at a performance like no other in the world: midtown Manhattan, early Monday morning before business starts.

The low sun hadn't yet penetrated the cool depths of the canyons, but the delivery trucks were already scrambling for curb space. I watched a short Filipino man wearing a khaki undershirt sweat-glued to his sinewy brown torso as he struggled with a hand truck stacked too high with cases of bottled water. Like a juggler, he steadied the top case with his chin. He made several trips, resting briefly between each and panting. I watched him and thought surley the flushing of countless New Yorkers' kidneys was as vital a contribution as any to the life of the city. Without it, nothing else would work. I watched a black-coated Hassidic Jew stride past me en route to his place of business. He was easily 6 1/2 feet tall. Oh, what a loss to pro basketball! My eye followed his black fedora as it glided away past a cryptic advertisement emblazoned on a telephone booth which read "THE WORLD IS MY PORK CHOP."

I arrived early at Fox. The Green Room - they're never actually green, you know - was in a state of turmoil. Producers, assistant producers and intern producers racing to and fro, trying to keep everything and everybody on schedule. The breaking news blaring from the Green Room's TV was about the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action. The producers were scrambling to locate expert guests to illuminate that subject, and the school spanking issue was pushed back. Then more breaking news: President Bush speaking live, and everything else had to wait until he finished.

The producer of DaySide with Linda Vester apologized to me and asked if I could stay until Tuesday. I agreed.

But Tuesday turned out to be a repeat performance of Monday. She apologized again. She told me Wednesday would be Vester's day off and Greta Van Susteren would host DaySide in her place. Could I just wait until 2:30 when a decision would be made if the spanking discussion could run on Wednesday? Nothing certain, of course. I decided it was time to go home.

The debate that didn't happen

Had the plan stayed on track, and had I been able to script my contribution, I would have said something like this:

First, let's clarify our terms. "Corporal punishment," is a euphemism for battery to a child's pelvic area, or what is called sexual battery when done to an adult. Schools districts that condone the practice had might as well place an advertisement in the newspapers stating that persons with a spanking fetish and a teaching credential are welcome here. Where else can people who derive sexual titillation by whacking other people's buttocks receive a daily offering of fresh meat, and earn a living in the process?

I can imagine the groans and muttering: How dare he imply that teachers are doing that? When has he tried to control a classroom full of kids running wild all day?

There are about 1/3 of a million reported legal paddlings annually in the schools of 22 states of the US. There is no way to estimate how many are sexually motivated and/or will have adverse sexual consequences for the victims. But you can be certain the numbers are substantial. Schoolteachers are only human, after all. They aren't perfect like, say, priests.

If, for the sake of argument, one accepts the soothing fictions offered by spankers and their apologists about "a gentle tap on the bottom just to show the child who's in charge," how does one justify establishing in the child's critical early experience the dangerous precedent that the integrity of his or her body is not inviolate, but subject to the whim and will of more powerful people? Are there parents and schoolteachers who are so utterly heedless of the dangers, that they will set children up to be easy prey for future exploiters and predators, or put them on a path that will lead some to becoming exploiters and predators themselves? Responsible caretakers don't do that.

I had hoped to raise this issue on national television, where, to my knowledge, it has never been touched. Maybe next time.


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