According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, “erotic spanking” (i.e., so called ‘spankophilia’) is the practice of spanking another person for the sexual gratification of either or both parties. He also reported that notable ‘spankophiles’ include poet Algernon Swinburne (as repeatedly implied in his poetry) and the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (as detailed in his autobiography Confessions).
Arguably the most well known (non-academic) spanking guide is Jules Markham’s 2005 book Consensual Spanking that examines (i) why people enjoy playing spanking games, (ii) how to conduct a spanking, (iii) how to receive a spanking, (iv) spanking safely, (v) organising a typical spanking session (vi) positions, postures and presentation of spanking, (vii) the use of spanking implements, (viii) aspects of spanking in role-play, (ix) basic control techniques, (x) sensual and erotic forms of spanking, (xi) spanking as foreplay, and (xii) domestic discipline. The Wikipedia entry on erotic spanking features reference to Markham’s book and Dr. Rebecca Plante’s paper on sexual spanking in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Homosexuality and notes:
‘[Spanking] activities range from a spontaneous smack on bare buttocks during a sexual activity, to occasional sexual roleplay to domestic discipline and may involve the use of a hand or the use of a variety of spanking implements…Erotic spanking may be administered to bare buttocks or normally dressed. Spanking can involve the use of bondage…The most common type of erotic spanking is administered on the bare buttocks but can also be combined with bondage in order to heighten sexual arousal and feelings of helplessness…A spanking may be carried out with the use of a bare hand, or with any of a variety of implements, including a paddle, strap, hairbrush, or belt. Other popular tools are canes, riding crops, whips, switiches, birches, sneakers, rolled-up newspapers, rulers or martinet”
Dr. Aggrawal reports that many spankophiles make use of a ‘spanking bench’ (and sometimes referred to as a ‘spanking horse’), a piece of furniture that is used to position the person who receives the spanking (i.e., a spankee), that may or may not have restraints. Aggrawal also makes reference to the nineteenth century British dominatrix Mrs. Theresa Berkley, someone that Aggrawal claims became famous for her invention of the Berkley Horse (a multi-functional device that combined spanking bench with several other sadomasochistic functions). The Wikipedia entry claims that:
“In some cultures, the spanking of women, by the male head of the family or by the husband (sometimes called domestic discipline) has been and sometimes continues to be a common and approved custom. In those cultures and in those times, it was the belief that the husband, as head of the family, had a right and even the duty to discipline his wife and children when he saw fit, and manuals were available to instruct the husband how to discipline his household. In most western countries, this practice has come to be regarded as unlawful and socially unacceptable wife-beating, domestic violence, or abuse. Today, spanking of an adult tends to be confined to erotic spanking or to BDSM contexts. The domestic discipline scenario is commonly invoked in erotic spanking, but with a bare bottom or totally nude, with bondage and less direct physical contact being a feature of BDSM”.
Most academic research papers (such as one on sexual paraphilias and fetishism by Dr. Michael Wiederman in a 2003 issue of The Family Journal) report that spanking is part of a much wider range of sadomasochistic activities including binding, gagging, blindfolding, whipping, choking, cutting, and piercing. For instance, a 1985 study by Dr. N. Breslow and colleagues and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior examined the sexual activities of 182 sadomasochists (130 men, 52 women). The study found that the most preferred sexual activities for both sexes were spanking and involvement in master–slave relationships. A similar finding was reported by Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. E. Levitt in a 1987 study published in the Journal of Sex Research. They surveyed 225 sadomasochists recruited from a specialist SM magazine (178 men and 47 women), The most common SM behaviours were flagellation (spanking and whipping) and bondage (rope, chains, handcuffs, gags) of which 50% to 80% of participants engaged in.
A more recent 2001 Finnish study headed by Dr. Laurence Alison and published in the Archives if Sexual Behavior reported fairly similar findings. Again, flagellation (including spanking) and bondage were among the most popular activities. Most interestingly (and as I noted in a previous blog on sexual masochism), Alison and colleagues identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. Spanking formed part of the first sub-group of sadomasochists. More specifically, these were:
- Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, electric shocks, etc.
- Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
- Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
- Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.
In 2007, psychotherapist Brett Kahr published his book Sex and the Psyche and reported the results of a survey on adult sexual fantasies of 13,500 British men and women of all sexual orientations. Kahr reported that 18% of man and 7% of women had specific spanking fantasies. Spanking may also be associated with other sexual paraphilias. For instance, Dr. W. Arndt reported in his 1991 book Gender Disorders and the Paraphilias that among a small sample of 21 (of which 20 were male) klismaphilacs (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from enemas), 40% of the participants reported accompanying paraphilic interests that included mild spanking and other punishments (and suggesting sexually masochistic behaviour).
Although empirical evidence suggests that erotic spanking is not particularly prevalent among the general population (at least in terms of engaging in such behaviour regularly), most academic research appears to indicate that erotic spanking is towards the ‘softer’ end of sadomasochistic activities, and that almost all instances of erotic spanking are consensual, enjoyable, and non-problematic. Consequently, treatment for the behaviour is rarely sought.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1–12.
Arndt, W. B., Jr. (1991). Gender Disorders and the Paraphilias. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.
Breslow, N., Evans, L., & Langley, J. (1985). On the prevalence of roles of females in the sadomasochistic subculture: Report of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 303–317.
Kahr, B. (2007). Sex and the Psyche. London: Allen Lane (Penguin Books).
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Markham, J. (2005). Consensual Spanking. London: Adlibbed Ltd
Moser, C., & Levitt, E. E. (1987). An exploratory descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322–337.
Rebecca F. Plante (2006). Sexual spanking, the self, and the construction of deviance. Journal of Homosexuality, 50 (2–3), 59-79.
Wiederman, M. W. (2003). Paraphilia and fetishism. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 11, 315-321.