May 25, 2011
Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701
Dear Governor Perry:
Please consider the part of the corporal punishment debate that is typically excluded from polite conversation: the sexual part.
Medical science has long recognized and documented in great detail how being struck on the buttocks can stimulate sexual feelings. Children are especially susceptible. The tragic consequence for many children who have been punished by paddling or spanking is that they form a connection between pain, humiliation and sexual arousal that endures for the rest of their lives.
In his book, Slaughter of the Innocents (1971), the noted psychologist, Dr. David Bakan has written, “...The buttocks are the locus for the induction of pain in a child. We are familiar with the argument that it is a safe ‘locus’ for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic region at precisely the time the child is likely to be beaten there. Thus it is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood...”
Would any professional teacher knowingly do this to a child? The answer, sadly, is yes. It happens about 1/4 of a million times annually in the 19 states where school corporal punishment is legal. The United States stands alone among first world nations in authorizing this kind of child abuse.
Why is that so? Here's the short answer.
Apparently many people experience a profound need to dominate defenseless children, including the need to inflict humiliation, fear and pain. This compulsion surely has its origin in their own experience of cruel treatment at some critical stage of their early development. Such people find it difficult to resist the temptation to indulge this special appetite. Some become teachers and find employment in schools that allow corporal punishment. For them, that job is like a gift on a silver platter. It gives them free reign to indulge their worst impulses while shielding them inside a permissive/protective professional environment.
In an apparent attempt to guard against accusations of impropriety, schools that allow buttocks beating as punishment typically require the act to be done in the presence of a witness.
What's the witness supposed to be watching out for or preventing? No one can say. Are hitters and watchers merely accomplices in acts of sexual battery? No one can say they're not. The main factors that distinguish school corporal punishment from felony sexual battery are the settings in which it occurs and the professional status of the perpetrators.
It should be noted that the only people, other than paddle-wielding schoolteachers, who can legally batter a human being on the buttocks with a weapon as part of their paid professional duties are porn stars and prostitutes. I offer this imperfect comparison with my sincere apologies to sex workers who, by definition, deal exclusively with freely consenting adults. What happens to schoolchildren is a different matter.
In light of these dangers, why is buttocks beating still legal in many American schools? Why is it even applauded and encouraged in some circles? The answer isn’t complicated.
Adults who hit children have merely stepped into the shoes of their erstwhile abusers. Yesterday they were victims; today they are perpetrators. That's the formula. And so it goes from generation to generation.
In closing, we encourage you to become part of the first line of defense in protecting Texas schoolchildren from being abused at school. All educators and education policy makers should protest in a single voice against the outrageous custom of disciplinary buttocks beating, and lawmakers should be lining up to co-sponsor legislation forbidding the practice. There's no excuse for further delay.
For your further information, please examine these related pages:
Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., PTAVE Paula Flowe, Member, Board of Trustees
cc: All members of the Texas Senate & House Education Committees
Various editors of online and print news publications