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.
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.
- Mothering by Grace
- Get Off Your Butt Parenting
- Parenting Freedom
- And the Bible Sayeth, Train up a Child in the Way He Should Go (by a Christian medical doctor, William Sears, M.D.)
- Gentle Christian Mothers Resources: click here and click here.
- The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children (detailed article with further info about books, studies, articles)
- The Christian History of Spanking
- A Brief History of Spanking (in Egypt, Rome, Europe; picture of bare bottom at top of page)
- The Spencer Spanking Plan (Historical origins of spanking.)
- Are the Rod Verses Literal or Figurative?
- To Spank or Not To Spank? (A 6th-century abbot and a group of 17th-century Calvinist “divines” weigh in on the issue)
- The Rod Is A Means of Grace & More on Tripp & Spanking
- Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding A Child’s Heart (really great article)