How Spanking Can Cause Sexual Arousal In Children And Affect Them In Adulthood

This was not written as an attack on anyone but written to inform in the hope that it can promote grace and help prevent grief, guilt, and regret.

For some people, spanking can cause sexual problems that are irreversible or very difficult to reverse. I personally know several people, both male and female, who have had sexual problems because of spankings they received as a child. This post is for them and for all of us who love God and love our children.

I know the parents of these people never meant to abuse them in any way, certainly not sexually. I know these parents spanked in love believing it was what God commanded them to do. They had no idea they were hurting their children and causing them long-term psychological pain and damage.

There is a wealth of material which explains this phenomenon online but a good deal of it is vehemently anti-Christian so I thought maybe information presented from a Bible-believing Christian who used to believe the same thing would be more easily palatable.

Spanking a child on the buttocks, especially if naked and repeatedly, brings a rush of blood to the entire genital area which can cause involuntary sexual arousal. As the children are spanked over and over again, some children’s brains become hardwired to associate terror, shame, guilt, and physical pain with sexual arousal.

As children are spanked after they have a sense of shame, if they are spanked on their bare bottoms, it increases the sexual shame they feel.

Some people learn to disassociate these feelings later on in life. But others never do.

This means when they see or hear violence (other children getting spanked, see images of pain/torture such as an Auschwitz documentary, etc.), they become automatically aroused. This can cause years of confusion because children do not know why they feel this way but they know something is very wrong.

During adolescence, when they realize that these feelings are sexual arousal, it makes things even worse and the confusion turns to self-loathing. Many times, they have nobody to talk to about these feelings, especially if they are living mostly in a Christian context (home schooled, etc.). Seeing and hearing these types of things still bring on arousal even decades later in adulthood.

Many of these people who become aroused by hearing or seeing spankings or aroused by seeing pain and torture become convinced they are perverts because they do not know the cause: the spankings they received as children. Some of these people choose not to marry because they are so afraid and ashamed of themselves.

Some do get married and when they are with their spouses, they are filled with feelings of terror, shame, and guilt when they get aroused. Or when they are aroused, they involuntarily, instinctively find themselves wanting to have pain inflicted on them. Women with this problem often have trouble with getting beyond the first stages of arousal.

When they become parents, some find themselves horrified at becoming sexually aroused when they spank their own children.

Spanking in the context of sexual abuse is a problem that is not “kosher” to talk about in conservative Christian circles but it is a problem that definitely exists and it is not incredibly rare either. Most Christians with this problem feel too ashamed to admit it at all and if they do they are very reluctant to talk about it in public. None of the people who have talked to me about this feel ready to speak up publicly because they do not want to hurt their parents or they fear other repercussions. Some of them are closet non-spankers because their churches teach that it is sinful NOT to spank.

To be truly faithful to the Bible, beatings should be done on the back (not the buttocks) with big, thick wooden rods. The Bible doesn’t say to use your hand or a paddle or a switch or a spatula on a baby or a young child’s butt. The area that is supposed to be beaten is the back. Arbitrarily deciding to change things around is not being faithful to what the Bible says.

“Well, obviously, children would DIE if we actually used rods or whips on their backs so we’re just going to use a paddle on their bottoms instead.”

Click here for more information about why spanking is not actually commanded in the Bible.

I can understand how people get there because I used to be in the same place myself. They are simply obeying the teachings of people they trust. But as adults, we can’t afford to just believe everything we’re told. It’s time to for Bible-believing Christians to rethink extra-biblical, cultural teachings such as spanking.

Just because some or even most children do not have adverse results from spankings (or at least are reluctant to talk about them) and remain in the faith is not proof that spankings were instrumental in that and it certainly does not mean spanking itself is a biblical.

Sexual stimulation can be cross-wired with spankings. Here is a testimonial written by a girl who grew up in a Christian family who finally decided to go public about her experiences.


Additional Information

The Bible commands us to train up our children. It commands us to discipline them. Any profession requires those things. Electricians, doctors, computer programmers, carpenters, no matter what you do, you need training to learn to do it and discipline to keep at it. None of them require physical beatings. It is possible to train and discipline children without beatings as well.

I plan to write more about this later but here are some Christian sites with a wealth of information.

Positive Parenting

Spanking Info


  • dawn

    06/17/2012 at 7:35 pm

    One thing that is only perfunctorily touched on, if it is at all, in most of the pro-spanking books I have read, is the door it opens for parents – who are, after all, sinful human beings like their children – to become abusive in the truest sense of the word, at a level that even the pro-spankers would agree is abuse. I know that for me, keeping the option open makes me far more likely to spank in the heat of the moment, with anger – exactly the way the authors say is the “wrong way” to go about it. And I say this as an attachment-parenting devotee; I nurture my children and deal with them gently; I do not have anger problems or a predisposition to violence. If it is still a temptation to ME to be harsh in discipline when spanking, how much more the parent with a tendency toward angry outbursts and a loss of self-control – the father with anger-management issues, the post-partum depressed mother. I can speak firsthand to what it is like growing up with such a parent, and the last thing it inspires in a child is love and respect. I know the authors and preachers of the pro-spank philosophy would NEVER intend that their teachings lead to those excesses, but perhaps they don’t comprehend how easy it is for the precarious self-control of parents, particularly those with spanking baggage of their own, to fly out the window once they feel justified in striking their children. Of all the spanking parents I know, every single one admits to spanking in anger sometimes. “Just because people do it wrong, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the method.” Really? Isn’t it possible that the method itself unlocks something in us that would be better in chains?

    Another point, to touch on “the effectiveness” of spanking: the very authors who talk about how quick the results are will, at some point, launch into anecdotes about the time their child tested some boundary over and over and over again until the devilry had been spanked out of them, perhaps over the course of hours, days, or months. Um…so, not so immediate, then? The question that comes to my mind is always, “And how do you know the behavior wouldn’t have stopped anyway, in that amount of time, using different discipline methods or even *gasp* waiting for them to outgrow it?” (since so often the “disobedience” cited is simply kids doing normal kid things, like exploring their environments and touching anything that looks interesting).

    I think it also bears mentioning that pro-spank advocates speak of the rod in terms that should only be applied to the saving grace of Christ. They are fond of using the “beat him with the rod and save his soul from death” verse, with no question of how this could be literally possible. The theological gymnastics some of these authors invoke to try to explain how “rod applied to buttocks” cleanses a child’s soul, or prepares them for a future understanding of their own salvation, would be laughable if they didn’t sound so idolatrous. I do not understand how the same Christians who affirm that the atoning blood of Christ is the /only hope/ for the saving of anyone’s soul can reconcile this teaching that until that happens to a child, it’s his parents job to save his soul for him by spanking his sinful nature out. It can’t be done. At best it is a behavior modifier. It does NOTHING for the soul.

  • Hannah

    06/17/2012 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for the info.

    I got “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp strongly suggested to me this past year after my 2 year old was misbehaving at the nursery during my work (1.5 hours a week of teaching at a homeschool co-op). The person recommending it downplayed the spanking on the bare butt part, but it still didn’t seem like a book worth buying after I read a few reviews. I am curious if you have read this book or have any opinions on it. (By the way, after 2 weeks of him catching up on sleep and adjusting to having a baby brother, as well as me reviewing the “rules” every week on the way there, we had absolutely no more behavior issues in the nursery.)

  • […] Hesed has posted an explanation of something few talk about, the risks of normal, disciplinary spankings causing sexual dysfunction.  Of course, it […]

  • TG

    06/20/2012 at 10:51 am

    Emeth, thanks for taking the time to write about this. I know a lot of parents react, “No way! Can’t be sexualized!”. . . but, honestly, I think the reality is that it can and is. . . even when not intended that way. I think it is harmful beyond what we really realize at times, when it is an accepted/acceptable part of our culture.

  • Emeth Hesed

    06/21/2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hannah, I read Tripp’s book a few years ago and remember I was dismayed and appalled by it but it’s been so long since I read it I hesitate to write anything about it without re-reading it.

    Here is a great article that interacts with it.

    And here are a couple more.

  • Melkmeid

    07/30/2012 at 11:48 am

    Thank you so much for being soooo brave to speak up for children!!!!

    I grew up in a homeschooled, christian home that believes that punishments are needed.
    It really messed me up and I have been trying to break free from that paradigm.
    I don’t have a close relationship with my parents even know they are wonderful people.
    So is having perfect obedience, worth risking your relationship with your children?

    I am 19 years old, I was spanked as a child and I’m Not Okay!!!
    While it hasn’t effected me in that way that is written in the article, it has effected me in other ways, like numbing emotions and shutting down, feeling voiceless. And not letting people touch me. When I feel so ashamed, I want to hurt myself to relieve the pain inside.
    That doesn’t sound too healthy does it, it isn’t. But I know that Papa(God) will love me out of this mess and bring me into greater space of peace and freedom.


  • Katie Botkin

    08/10/2012 at 12:41 pm

    Somehow I missed seeing this post by you until today. Thanks so much for your perspective. I linked to this in the comments section of the post I wrote back in July on this topic.

  • Caroline

    11/24/2012 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you, thank you. I just realized after 27 years what was wrong with me. I grew up in a loving Christian home and was rarely spanked (and never hard). However I would make myself have orgasms as a child and become immediately aroused when thinking about spankings..even though I hated being spanked. Even as an adult, if I feel shame, I sometimes feel aroused. I almost wondered if I was sexually abused even though I thought it impossible. Now I know I’m not crazy! I wish more people spoke up about this, but a lot of people are probably like me and haven’t figured it out bc there is such little research. Please let me know if there is a way I can advocate against this. I’m just so thankful this hasn’t affected my relationship with my husband. We have a baby now who will NEVER be spanked!

  • Julie

    01/24/2013 at 8:38 pm

    My parents believed that all spankings should be given completely naked with a belt, so that’s the way I was spanked from as early as I can remember up until age 16. For a young girl, it is mortifying to be seen naked by your dad. It’s also terrifying to have your most private and sensitive parts completely exposed to be whipped with a belt. This definitely had a sexual impact on me and I believe it’s totally abusive. My kids have never been spanked and never will be.

  • Not okay

    02/24/2013 at 12:31 am

    This article was written about me just about. In my marriage I have had strong surges of feeling like I need to be “punished” or hurt, and it does sexually arouse me. But it also isn’t healthy and I know that too.

    I wish I had the guts to come clean about just how deeply this has affected me. I have mentioned it a few times, and even labeled it sexual abuse, and I just get people telling me that what I am talking about are “liberal lies”. But they aren’t. I have and am living them, though recovering more all the time, thanks to the grace of a great and merciful savior. <3

    I don't even know if I have the guts to share this on FB, but I thank you so much for writing, and for validating all the people like me, who were spanked, but are not okay. <3

  • Angela

    04/09/2013 at 4:03 pm

    You guys can go to this site to fight against the use of Corporal Punishment. While we are situated in WA we seek to educate everyone and fight against it nationwide. We are young as a group, but many are talking about us.

    Someone told me that you can not get sexually aroused by a spanking because you must consent to the sexual implications. I told them they insulted every rape victim who was aroused by their non consenting confrontation. When you touch private parts, you run the risk of sexually arousing someone. People need to understand this is not okay, especially when used against children.

    It is old and barbaric, and people need to evolve.

  • SpankingShouldBeBanned

    12/08/2013 at 9:11 pm

    How wonderful of you to write this! I was spanked as a child, not at all in an abusive or sexual way, but even so, it caused me a lot of confusion both emotionally and sexually. Children should absolutely never be spanked.

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