Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Spanking Good Time

Holy fucking Christ, I don't even know where to begin on this one. I'm only sorry I'm late to the party - other bloggers found out about this a year or so ago. Let's start with a quiz: who do you think is speaking in the following passage:

    I'm not kidding, I felt my stomach drop when I saw my ****** bring out a heavy belt. It is one of those old ones that came with a silver buckle and had a name stamped on it. He doesn't wear it much anymore because it is to heavy for style today. I only got seven, which I have to admit I thought was lenient although I was howling the whole time. I don't get a discipline often and it is amazing how quickly I forget how much it hurts--just a blinding pain. You would think this is the end of the story wouldn't you? Well, you're wrong, when I mess up, I make sure I do it right.

If you guessed "rebellious teenaged son," you'd be wrong. This is a woman speaking about her husband.

A few years ago, back when I was writing at Notes from the Abattoir, I told the strange story of an online Christian sex toys store. Today it's time to move on to the story of Christian S&M (or is it theologically rationalized domestic violence? Or just complete and utter fucking stupidity? I can't tell).

Arguably the Christian domestic discipline movement may be summarized by this $14 thong, the front of which reads "this side for loving" and the back, "this side for spanking." I think I want to cry.

What really disturbs me here is not that couples are engaging in certain practices of ritual dominance and submission. This is present in plenty of non-religious contexts as well, and while I don't find it particularly appealing myself, as a general rule I really don't care all that much about what two consenting persons decide to do with their time. A couple things are really troublesome about the Christian domestic discipline movement to me, however, despite the above - one of which is that it comes at least within striking distance (ha ha) of legitimizing male domestic violence, and the other of which is that God is called on to defend this. (Naturally this is so, because evangelicals call on God to legitimize damn near everything.)

My fairly usual sprinkling of profanity above has probably done more than enough to communicate my own particular biases and prejudices on this subject, but nevertheless, I'm going to try in this entry to let the men and women in this lifestyle speak for themselves as much as possible before saying something myself. I admit I doubt anyone who practices this lifestyle is ever actually going to read this blog, but from time to time people have a strange way of showing up here after I cite their blogs (there's probably some sort of automated tracking software for this purpose, but if so I'm ignorant of it).

Forms of Discipline

First, and in all fairness, it would be inappropriate to summarize this as "wife-beating," or even "wife-spanking," since in the words of participants, it is a general pattern of wifely submission, of which physical discipline is only one part:

    Domestic discipline is not spanking. A domestic discpline relationship begins when a couple decides that one partner will maintain a leadership role. For us, this means a married couple with the husband in that role. We also believe that DD means that the "head" will utlize discipline when necessary. What form that discipline will take is determined by each couple. Most couples who use domestic discipline will include spanking, but some do not. (here)

Most commonly, the husband is expected to "discipline" his wife for some perceived failure to follow the rules.

Occasionally, of course, the woman "fails" to understand what she has done wrong, but is expected to submit to discipline anyways, in order to reinforce the authority of the husband. This female blogger explains:

    We even had one time where we really were not on the same page. He insisted on spanking and I didnt agree the spanking was deserved, but I didn't argue in order to show him that I really wanted him to be HOH. And on his side, he didnt' back down from what he believed to be the right thing. In the past if I would've even given a hint to disagreeing with him he would've backed off in order to not "force it" on me, but this time he stood firm. We never did figure out who was "right" that night, but we felt really good with the outcome.

In addition to the above, some practitioners advocate "maintenance discipline," sort of the physical equivalent to doing a general prayer of repentance once in a while for any sins you forgot to confess specifically. In the words of this blogger, for instance:

    Maintenance Discipline involves regular spanking to maintain the woman's good behavior and attitude. A Maintenance Discipline spanking takes place outside of and separate from any disciplinary spanking that she may receive for specific misbehavior. Importantly, a Maintenance Discipline is also a regular event that takes place at the same interval of time, unlike a disciplinary spanking, which will only occur when the woman needs guidance and physical encouragement to behave properly. So a Maintenance Discipline might occur every day, or every week, or every month, depending on what the couple agree is necessary or depending on what the male HOH decides is necessary for the woman.

The blogger in question goes in in great detail, discussing various flows and interconnections of "masculine" and "feminine energy."

The Importance of Masculine Leadership and Feminine Submission

Men are the heads of household - the "HOH," in the lingo of the discipline movement - and thus a man is "not answerable to anyone except himself, the laws of the land and God."

The woman, by contrast, must submit, because she is not capable of sound judgement:

    Women respond to emotional content, not rational content. Women filter out everything that is said or done to them through an emotional filter. This is an emotional filter, not a rational one. Every single thing that is said or done to a woman passes through her emotional filter. Every single experience she has is directed through her emotional filter so that she can extract what she considers to be significant meaning for herself.

Therefore, according to the same author, discipline is necessary to force important concepts through women's emotional blindness:

    Spanking is an emotional experience for a woman. If you doubt that, you simply need to remember that spanking is intended to result in crying. The woman should be brought to tears whenever she is spanked by her HOH. Her crying indicates emotion. Intense emotion. This is why it is so important to spank a woman to tears whenever she is disciplined or punished. Because spanking her to tears gets her attention. It is necessary to spank a woman to tears so that rational content can be slipped past her emotional filters and inserted into her brain.

A second, similar perspective, states that

    Spanking is effective because it is the backdoor to a woman's mind. A woman 's buttocks are the *ears* that she cannot stop up and refuse to listen. When coupled with a firm, but concerned voice, it can say things that will not be heard any other way.

Another blogger explains that women need to learn proper submission to their man, much, I suppose, as Christians must learn proper submission to God:

    The secret to getting past a woman's resistance is much the same as for getting a motor vehicle through a stretch of mud on a back road. Keep going and do not get bogged down...

    By nature, women test a man's resolve. It is only after he has proven himself capable of handling her that this attribute fades...

    This is where *time* is paramount, because many women are aware that they can *outlast* a man's hand. As a result, one way of assuring a woman that the man is up to the task at hand is to have a suitable implement - commonly a paddle or hairbrush in the United States - already in hand. Not only does the visual effect convey the message that the utensil in hand will *win* over a woman's brain when applied to her bare buttocks, it also keeps the man from the awkward realization that his hand is inadequate to task at hand.

    The emotional collapse of the woman should be tacitly palpable. There should be no doubt in her mind, or his, that *he* is in control. Despite politically correct rhetoric, there is security in the knowledge that the man is *in charge*. That singular fact of life explains why *domestic discipline* survived - even thrived under - the feminist onslaught.

The Role of God

According to the Christian Domestic Discipline blog,

    First, God put men in charge. It is sexist; but it is also true. Despite reams of politically correct propaganda, God did make men a little brighter and a little stronger so that they could be in charge.

    Second, He gave men a mechanism for maintaining order. Call it *domestic discipline*, *moderate restraint*, or *wife spanking*. Properly used, it will sufficiently stabilize the relationship between a man and woman so that they are able to raise viable children even in a turbulent age.

    Third, both physically and psychologically, He designed women to accept the authority of men. As Leah pointed out, most of the time it is the WOMAN, rather than the man, who wants discipline in the home. When men are unable to provide that which the woman requires or unwilling to restrain their own behavior, women want out of the relationship in about the same percentage as request *domestic discipline*.

Some writers tend to legitimize discipline, and submission more generally, with the argument that the model of Christ shows us that he who submits is the one who benefits most from the relationship of dominant and submissive. Of course, if that were true, they would follow the writings of Jesus and Paul, which say that we should "submit to one another." Instaed, what's really involved here is a one-directional relationship, with wives submitting to husbands. This reduces the teachings of Jesus and at least some of Paul - that in serving one another we abolish repressive relations of power and thus are united in the kingdom of God - and restore repression in the form of the husband-woman relationship.

I think it's only fair to point out that there are differences in perspective here - another website, for example, claims that on their website, "You won't find the concept that God mandates or requires this lifestyle."

It would also be wrong to suggest that this phenomenon is simply a group of men plotting to write websites legitimating domestic abuse - actually, it's striking that many of the women writers - like Debbie and April, for example - say it was their idea to enter into this lifestyle. A few months ago, April complained on her blog that discipline had become inconsistent:

    Where do my feelings and needs fall within his leadership though. Am I supposed to just stand back and be okay with the fact that something is spankable one day, but not the next time and it is the next time or three after that, but not the one after that. Am I supposed to be okay with me following our agreement to journal my behavior each day and having it ignored. Am I supposed to be a robot that is able to just flip a switch to the proper mindset whenever he decides the he finally has the time or energy to address a behavior even if it happened days ago? How am I supposed to respond when he thinks that a spanking will fix everything and reset things between us and there's no discussion involved?

What you are supposed to be is a free human being subject only to God. Christ told us to "decide for yourselves what is right" (Luke 12:57).

It's telling, in my opinion, that it's fairly difficult to find support for this sort of "domestic discipline" lifestyle even within the New Testament, whose ideas on gender are rather less progressive than those that are common today. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul envisioned human beings, both men and women, as free moral agents who should enter into marriage only in mutual submission, and only if they had no other choice. Granted Paul himself seems to have been unmarried and not all that concerned about the subject of intra-marital affairs, but this is quite the opposite of a ringing endorsement of this rigid "discipline" and the resulting infantilization of women. You have to get into the more conservative books, like 1 Timothy, to get anywhere even close.

It grieves me that people value their integrity, freedom and humanity so little.


Anonymous said...

it just sounds like evangelically sanctioned S&M . . . sorta

Blaisteach said...

See, that's part true, and I'd be fine with that - it's something that doesn't interest me, but whatever.

My problem is that basically they're trying to define their entire relationship according to the same structure of physical and mental "discipline," though, which makes it sound more like just slavery to me.

brigid said...

I am in a DD relationship...but I am not Christian. I am a woman who desires leadership and a sense of security in her relationship. I trust my husband to make good decisions, and he accepts that heavy responsibility. In return, I do not question him. I often give him my perspective, but do not challenge him. We find we are both better people in all areas of our lives. He helps with the housework and children...I am not a slave. I requested this type of relationship, and he obliged. He does not beat me. If he is angry because I have yelled or been sarcastic, he leaves the room for a few minutes so he will not strike me in anger. Call me old-fashioned, but I find my relationship more intense and romantic than it was before our DD arrangement.

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