The harm from spanking doesn’t always come from the spanking being done in anger, or by terrible parents.
Sometimes the harm comes from good parents who spanked “in love”, exactly how the church taught them to.
When I wrote about the harms from spanking a few weeks ago on the blog, a number of people wrote to me about a consequence I hadn’t mentioned–becoming sexually aroused from the spanking. I wrote about that earlier this week, and went over how the research is confirming a link to corporal punishment as a child influencing our sexual preferences and sexual behaviours as adults, and being associated with masochistic tendencies and with sadistic proclivities, as well as more risky sexual behaviours.
I find this heartbreaking, and since that article was up, the floodgates have opened and I’ve received even more emails and DMs with women explaining how this impacted them.
I’d like to share two such stories, because they perfectly illustrate this. I know we spoke about this earlier this week, but I really want women (and men!) walking through this to know they are not alone, they are not freaks, and this is actually a natural response to what was done to them.
One woman writes:
I’ve had sexual fantasies about spanking since I was a little kid. I wasn’t even aware of what was happening until it led to an eventual porn and masturbation addiction. It got to the point of where I had to read about or watch videos with corporal punishment for me to get any kind of sexual arousal. Although I have been sober from masturbation and pornography for a couple of years now, I have little to no sex drive. I don’t know if you have an answer to this at all, but I would appreciate if you have any suggestions or resources I could look into. Thank you.
My quick answer is that often our sexual fantasies, especially if they began as children, are rooted in a trauma or a deep wound, where our intimacy wires have been crossed. The porn and masturbation may have reinforced that. Talking with a licensed counselor to work through the roots of those fantasies may help you recover the sex drive that you want and understand better why you’re drawn to this.
Another woman shares a story that also involves spanking being the root of a porn and masturbation habit:
I was always an extremely private child–my parents didn’t see me even in my underwear after I was 3 years old.
However, I was spanked up till I was 11, which was the year I got my period. I also really struggled with masturbation beginning when i was very little, and this was an area of deep shame for me. I absolutely felt sexual feelings when I read about corporal punishment and spanking and having to expose my bottom even if in my underwear for spanking was traumatizing for me.
The memories of the last few times I was spanked when I was 11 (I was already wearing a bra) are DEEPLY distressing for me. In my teens I developed an eating disorder, and I know that my desire to not have any curve at my hips or even to possess a bum at all was a major contributing factor to wanting to lose weight.
I still sometimes am woken from sleep with a pounding heart and strong image of being spanked when I was 11. I know it made me feel very emotionally distant from my parents for years and still impacts my relationship with them today, although I’ve only recently made that connection. I can’t think about my bum without thinking about spanking and all the feelings of horrendous shame and embarrassment and violation that went with that. I still feel awkward with any nakedness, even when I’m covered with a bathrobe, the feeling of anything against my skin that makes me conscious of that body part is full of shame for me.
I feel a need to process this and move past it, but I can’t talk to my parents about it. They were always the most loving supportive parents and never intended anything bad at all, and I don’t think they realized how physically mature I was. I mentioned something off-hand to my mum about spanking once (which is something I am now strongly opposed to), and she didn’t know that she and my Dad still spanked me at 11. She doesn’t think they did but they absolutely did (using sticks and paddles etc) and it was deeply traumatic and still makes me feel an intensity of shame, sadness, and anxiety whenever I think about it that I have never experienced another way.
What do you think I can do about this to process it without hurting my parents who I think would be themselves traumatized if they realized how much they hurt me and how many years it continued to impact my relationship with them and my physicality? I still feel like shrinking back when my Dad is around me or gently touches me, and struggle to be emotionally close to him even though he is such a kind man. The memory of the last day when he spanked me is just so awful. I remember walking on the opposite side of the road to my mum because I was just so embarrassed of my physicality when in her presence.
They always thought I just wasn’t a physical person since I didn’t want to be touched or hugged all through my teen years, but I’m actually a deeply physical person I was just so ashamed and confused by my feelings which only came when masturbating or reading about spanking.
Her parents thought they were doing the right thing by spanking, but they pushed her away and trapped her in shame.
My answer to how to get over this is twofold: First, see a licensed counselor to process yourself what you’re feeling.
But then after that you have a choice to make (and a counselor will likely help guide you through that choice). You can’t have real intimacy with people who hurt you when they don’t realize that they hurt you. You can have a good superficial relationship, but you’ll never have real emotional closeness when you’re doing all this work to heal and they don’t even know about the wounds that are so much a part of you.
Some people will decide that a superficial relationship is okay, because the likelihood of the parents understanding the pain and owning it is so low, that going through all that work and opening yourself up to even more potential rejection isn’t worth it. And some people will decide they can’t have a relationship with them unless they do the work.
So I don’t have an easy answer here; it really depends on you and your circumstance. But I do know that you can’t create intimacy one way.
As parents, we don’t want this to be our kids’ stories.
We have the ability to break the cycle. We can parent in a way that isn’t focused on punishment or control, but is instead focused on training kids with emotional connection. It’s such a better way! It’s a more peaceful way. Understanding your kids’ basic needs. Understanding the root of this particular misbehaviour, and dealing with that root, rather than just the behaviour.
And doing it all in a relationship where they feel loved and accepted.
If you missed our Tuesday workshop with Wendy from Fresh Start Families, I can still get you in to the replay! If you registered earlier, you should have received emails with the replay link! If you didn’t register, just sign up for my email list! I’ll be sending out emails this weekend to help people watch the replay. But the replay is only available until next Tuesday, so get in on it now.
I’m glad this conversation is happening, although I never thought I’d be starting it.
I’ve had a bit of a tough week, because a lot of people have been pushing back on social media, defending John Piper, and I’ve just felt so frustrated and angry that people can’t see the harm that was being done. I tweeted about that anger, and someone replied saying that it’s very likely what I’m really feeling is grief.
And I realized they were totally right.
So I just wanted to leave you all with that thought today: A lot of us are feeling such anger at what we grew up believing and being taught, and how we were treated. And we want others to understand, and they don’t. But maybe what’s really happening is tremendous grief for what you should have had but didn’t. You deserved parents who were emotionally available and were emotionally healthy. You deserved a picture of Jesus who loved you and who wasn’t trying to punish you or make your life terrible. You deserved not to be made to feel less than because you’re a woman, or because you don’t measure up to what the church thinks a man is.
You deserved to not have others try to control you or judge you for things that aren’t wrong.
And I’m sorry if you’re dealing with the repercussions of any of those things right now. All I can say is that I hope we can grieve together!
What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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