Spanking Fetishism

There is an ongoing debate on whether the sexual deviation "spanking fetishism" is caused by spankings received or witnessed in childhood (or puberty age) or not.

A scientific approach to answer the question would need two groups of, say, 1000 adults each, who should be representative of the overall population. Group A are people who were spanked during childhood and group B are people who weren't. Any other differences between members of the two groups should be minimized to exclude the influence of other factors. Then the researcher would count the number of spanking fetishists in both groups. If it was significantly greater in group A, it would mean there was a correlation, from which one might draw the conclusion that there is a causal relationship.

It is however not known whether such a study was ever conducted. For this reason, all we can summarize on this page are theories and arguments in favor of and against the claim. (Theories to explain a correlation that has not yet been shown to exist.) It is up to the reader to make their own opinion. This website recommends that if you believe there may be a causal relationship between spanking and spanking fetishism, don't spank your children.

What is spanking fetishism?

"Fetishism" is the dependance on particular nonsexual objects, practices or nongenital body parts to obtain sexual arousal. Fetishes vary widely and might include items of clothing (such as shoes, boots or undergarments), materials (such as leather, rubber or silk) or body parts (such as hair, feet or legs).

"Spanking fetishism", also colloquially called "spankophilia", is a deviation where the person concerned is sexually aroused by spankings - either on the receiving or giving end, or both. It seems to be related to, but not identical with other deviations such as domination/submission play, bondage, sadomasochism and pygophilia (buttocks fetishism).

Arguments in favor of a causal relationship

  1. It corresponds to classical psychology theories. According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, sexual deviations are developed in childhood. The theory is that some children may work up a painful or traumatic experience by "eroticizing" it.
  2. The buttocks can be considered a secondary sexual body zone due to their proximity to the genital area, and because they are often patted or fondled by adult lovers in sexual situations. This is sometimes explained by the anatomical observation that their nerve endings are connected with those of the genitals (whatever that means). The theory is that spanking the buttocks can lead to an erotic reaction for the child, which might cause the sexual deviation.
  3. Physical pain is known to cause an endorphin rush which some individuals may experience as a pleasant sensation, comparable to the effect of certain drugs. If that is the case, a child that is spanked hard and frequently (resulting in frequent, intense endorphine rushs) may become "addicted" to spankings. At a later age he or she may associate spankings with not only pleasant but erotic feelings.
  4. The act of presenting the buttocks for a spanking resembles the pose that a female ape assumes during copulation. There is a theory that from our primate heritage a subconscious association of this pose with sexuality may be hard-wired into the human brain. The result could be a subconscious association of spanking with sex.

Arguments against a causal relationship

  1. There is no known study which showed a correlation between spanking fetishism and spankings received in childhood. For all we know, there are spankophiles who were, and spankophiles who weren't spanked as a child. The ratio of spanking fetishists who were spanked to those who were not spanked seems to be no greater than that of the general population.
  2. The trauma theory fails to explain other forms of fetishism which can't be linked to any imaginable corresponding traumatic key event in childhood. (If spanking fetishism is caused by spankings, what is foot, rubber, shoe, etc. fetishism supposed to be caused by?)
  3. If spanking fetishism was caused by spankings, it should have been a lot more common in past centuries when the corporal punishment of children was a lot more common than today. However, the opposite seems to be the case. Even in the days of Freud (1856-1939), spanking fetishism was little heard of while many other fetishisms are well documented. Spanking fetishism seems to have increased since the last two or three generations while the practice of spanking children has decreased in the same time interval.
  4. The fact that many adults enjoy patting or spanking their partner's buttocks in sexual situations may not so much be due to a "sexual nature" of the act of spanking. Rather, people in love often find it fun to play-act "parent and child", e.g. by calling their partners Baby (or Kiddie, Little One), feeding, cuddling, carrying, tickling, him/her, and so on, as if he/she were a little child. Playful spanks on the buttocks can be seen in the same context.
  5. There are theories that suspect other causes for spanking fetishism than childhood spankings (see below).

Other theories

  1. Many people believe that sexual deviations are not developed, but innate. They may be considered "freaks of nature", comparable to a fondness or dislike for certain food. Genetic factors may or may not play a role here (one researcher suggested the possibility of a genetic predisposition for fetishism). Some spankophiles who were not spanked until a relatively late age (e.g. 6 or 8) remember having had sexual/erotic sensations in connection with their very first spanking. This suggests that their fetish was not caused by, but preexisted to the first spankings they got.
  2. People who believe in reincarnation may also believe that mental traits can have their origin in past lives. So a spanking fetish could e.g. be the result of a traumatic corporal punishment in a previous life.
  3. Sexual fetishes may be developed in childhood by working up a fear, rather than an actual traumatic event. For example, balloon fetishists often report their earliest recollection was fear of balloons. There is a theory that mere fear may in some cases lead to the development of a sexual fetish about the feared object or subject. This could explain for those spankophiles who were never spanked, since they still might have had an infancy fear of spankings. This theory could also explain why the majority of children who are spanked doesn't develop this fetish. Fear of something unknown tends to be greater than fear of something known.
  4. Another theory says that fetishisms can result from society's tabooing of a certain object, subject, or body part. For example, female breasts are generally considered erotic (secondary sexual) body parts in so-called-civilized cultures, whereas they are not considered erotic body parts in aboriginal tribes where women walk bare-breasted all day. This theory could explain the fact that spanking fetishism was little known in past centuries despite the fact that corporal punishment was a lot more common then. It wasn't tabooed, as it became increasingly since mid-20th century in those parts of the world where the practice of spanking children was slowly but surely abandoned. (Side note: if this theory, or the previous one, is correct, it could mean that not spanking your child could actually increase his/her chances of developing a spanking fetish!)

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Last update: Mar-25-2003