No, Jillian, Spanking Is Not Sex

New York writer and self-proclaimed kink (NTTAWWT!) Jillian Keenan says in Slate that “spanking is great for sex,” which makes it “grotesque for parenting.” Here’s more:

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I have a spanking fetish. In my case, that means I like to be spanked, usually with a hand, belt, hairbrush, wooden spoon, switch, or paddle. It sexually gratifies me. I’ve had submissive fantasies for as long as I can remember, and it’s part of my identity. I consider my kink to be my sexual orientation.

To be clear—because apparently I have to be—I am an adult. My husband, who is not kinky, is an adult. My first boyfriend (the only other sexual partner I’ve had) was an adult, too. Everyone is an adult. Everyone consents.

So I have a question: If it’s “somewhat pedophilic” when my adult husband consensually spanks me in a simulated “punishment,” what should we call it when parents do the same physical thing to actual children in an actual punishment?

I make no judgements about what consenting adults do for enjoyment, so I’ll leave it to you, gentle (or not-so-gentle) reader, to make your own judgement, if you must, about Keenan’s little hijinks.

But the flaw in Keenan’s thinking lies in that single word “consensually.” Punishment is not consensual, or it wouldn’t be punishment. Sex is consensual, or it isn’t sex — it’s rape.

On the flip side, spanking a child without cause isn’t discipline or punishment — it’s abuse. And I’m sure Keenan would agree that if her husband spanked her without her consent or past her safe word, that would be abuse, too.

But spanking a child with cause is not abuse (to a point), and nor is it remotely sexual. It’s not fun for the child, and it certainly shouldn’t be any fun for the parent. Any parent getting any sort of sexual thrill out of discipling their child is no longer a parent, but a molester.

My view on spanking is that the occasional, single swat on the bottom can sometimes be necessary. A temper tantrum can cause a child to stop listening to your sweet voice of reason, and some public bad behavior can be so awful that it must be stopped at once. That aside, the old-school method of “bring me a belt and bend over my knee so I can swat you repeatedly” strikes me, so to speak, more like parental terror than parental discipline — but that’s my own conclusion and I don’t expect or require any other parent to agree. On the other hand, again so to speak, my boys have never been punished in that manner, and both are about as polite and well-behaved as a parent could hope for.

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But the few times they did deserve and get a swat? The temper tantrums stopped at once — and dad’s heart broke a little. Each and every time.

If that’s “gross” and a “sex act,” as Kennan says, then the oversexualization of absolutely everything in America is now complete. And as a dad, that breaks my heart more than a spanking ever could.

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