The Christian wife-spanking movement [TW]

spanking paddleI really don’t know what to say. Victims of domestic violence probably shouldn’t read this post. Last night I discovered that there is a movement within neo-patriarchal Christian culture called Christian Domestic Discipline (or DD for short) in which men create a set of rules for their wives and spank their wives for violating them. The strangest thing about it is that the movement at least presents itself as something that ultra-conservative Christian women are begging their husbands to do. This seems like more than just Stockholm syndrome “solidarity” between a victim and her abuser. Is it the product of a Christianity that creates a fetish for punishment?

There are very detailed instructions for how to administer the spankings. There is more than one type of spanking: beginner, intermediate, advanced, blended, maintenance. There’s even a “punishment generator” app into which you can plug in misbehaviors and a menu of punishments. Honestly, the spanking instructions read like the stage directions for a low-budget pornographic film (Michel Foucault could write a 500 page book about this one website). It seems pretty clear that this is at least partly an erotic game, a sort of Fifty Shades of Grey live action edition for ultra-conservative housewives. But there’s more to it.

Here’s one woman’s account of her conversation with her husband trying to convince him to spank her:

I’m weak and crave your correction to make things better.  You are more organized and neater than me, and while I know you don’t want to admit that something upsets you/bugs you/disappoints you… I know it does.  Instead of just harboring those disappointing feelings, you get to do something proactive about it, something that inspires me… Look, I didn’t come into this marriage with the right frame of mind, and I can totally get how I got you to shut down, and seek to appease, to always find a peaceful middle ground… or even to acquiesce when it meant avoiding a fight.  I’m trying to tell you that I see that now as wrong.  I’m not asking you to be a dictator, or an authoritarian… just to be authoritative.

One of the things I love about complementarians is the way they make distinctions between two words that aren’t distinct: like authoritarian and authoritative. In the spanking movement, the same type of non-distinctive distinction is made between “spanking” and “hitting,” with the latter being physical abuse. In any case, when I read this conversation, it suggests to me that this particular wife wants to be spanked in order to get back a husband whom she perceives to have checked out emotionally from their marriage, an illustration of the horrifying presumption that men will never fully invest themselves in a relationship unless it involves their physical domination and outright violence against the other person.

But there also seems to be a weird sort of passive-aggressive reverse control dynamic going on here. There’s a strange paradox about the way that in more than a few complementarian relationships, the wife is actually covertly in charge, because it’s her job to make sure that her husband is decisive, authoritative, and fully invested. It kind of reminds me of the autistic woman Temple Grandin who invented a machine that squeezed her body in a particular way that made her feel safe, so that she eventually became an expert designer of farm animal equipment.

For a husband to enter into this kind of arrangement means that he has to pay a whole lot more attention to his wife’s behavior and devote substantial portions of each week to analyzing the details of their relationship and their communication patterns, all things that his wife probably spends hours talking on the phone about every day which he would otherwise be disinclined to care about (“Honey, I know you want to spend the entire evening zoned out in front of your basketball games, but you agreed that 9 pm is time for my daily confession and punishment”).

One thing that’s interesting is the phenomenon of “maintenance spankings,” which are spankings that are given without any infraction solely for the purpose of reminding that the husband is the boss (or for reminding the husband that he’s supposed to pay attention to his wife). One husband shares his experience of these:

Despite my dislike for maintenance spankings from the start, my wife and I agreed to give them a fair shot, so we continued on with them.  In all honesty my wife didn’t seem to have too much of an issue with them, but each time we had a maintenance session it was really awkward for me.  They did seem to help with my wife’s stress levels though, so I was seeing a little value in them even if I didn’t like doing them… They calm my wife down and give her a “reset” when she wants and needs it. They’re done at my wife’s request most times as well, which makes me feel better about conducting them.

In this example, the “punishment” dimension is completely out of the picture. It has nothing to do with the “correction” of “misbehavior,” but is purely about the wife gaining the husband’s undivided passionate attention as well as a physical erotic release that gives her a “reset.”

In another testimony, an older woman talks about how she got her young stallion Prince Charming back through domestic discipline:

We have rediscovered the safety of talking in the car. When we were dating, the car was our place for privacy and talking. Jack proposed to me in the car. The car was our safe haven. When DD entered our lives, the car became important again. We had big discussions about spankings and how this would work while we were on the road. Eyes forward, my hand on his leg, he talked quietly and gently. We asked one another questions, lots of questions. He answered my questions firmly, confidently. I answered his questions shyly and in a hushed voice. Incredible……….. this is my husband of over 30 years.

So holding hands and talking through the details of how she wanted to be punished by him, it was like they were suddenly teenagers again, off to the drive-thru movie. He becomes the confident stud with his letter jacket; she becomes the shy, fluttery dreamer in his arms (or beneath his paddle). I suppose this could be called the midlife crisis edition of the spanking movement.

Much is revealed in the following paragraph from the list of “benefits” of domestic discipline.

It greatly reduces arguments. A lot of couples (who don’t practice DD) argue about things such as children, money, and the list goes on and on. However, when you have DD as a part of your marriage, it reduces those arguments by giving both of you a different way to outlet your feelings. If your husband is having an issue with how much you spend, instead of yelling/arguing/etc. with you about it, he’ll punish you and the issue will be resolved (or on it’s way to being resolved). This gives him a feeling of “okay, she’s going to really work on this now. The problem will be fixed, and I don’t have to repeatedly argue with her about it” and it gives the wife a sense of “I’m forgiven, I’ve been punished for it, and now I can take the necessary steps to fix the problem.” It also makes her feel that her husband is with her in fixing the problem, not against her.

There are two things that I notice here. First is the need for arguments and conflicts within a marriage to be “fixed.” So a basic anxiety about any tension that isn’t completely and immediately resolved. According to the logic here, it is better for the husband to be right all the time than for there to be any conflict within the marriage. Again, this seems to be driven by a paranoia about losing the husband if he gets tired of arguing and checks out (since he’s out at work all day interacting with God knows how many other women while the stay-at-home wife is cooped up in the house).

The twisted logic of the final line is fascinating. It obviously seems bizarre to say that somebody shows that he’s “with” you and “not against” you by inflicting physical violence against you. But what this “solution” to marital arguments does is to negate anything in the wife that contradicts the husband’s will. It removes the possibility of an “against” for the husband to be against. The husband and wife are “partners” in enforcing his infallibility. He is “with” her because he is present; to be “against” her would not be to disagree with her, but to say, “Whatever you want, honey,” and check out.

Fellow blogger Nathan Smith (from whom I discovered this whole phenomenon) draws a connection between the relationship dynamics in domestic discipline and the theology that understands God primarily in penal terms.

In these stories of DD, many times it is the woman in the relationship who wants to be disciplined by their husbands, and at times, is the initiator of this approach to the marriage.  Why would that be the case?  Well, for Christians, we can actually stave off the constant sense we feel of God’s absence when we can, in its place, sense God’s fearful and wrathful punishment. Something is better than nothing right?

The larger-scale counterpart to the household of domestic discipline is the church with the hellfire and brimstone preacher. As long as the preacher talks enough about sin and God’s wrath, the people in the congregation can feel secure that God hasn’t checked out of the marriage and hooked up with His secretary at work. It also means that they don’t have to internalize any sense of discipline since their preacher is their disciplinarian:

Sometimes we as people want to be told off by our preachers only to reinforce the desire to avoid telling it to ourselves. It’s easier to return weekly to hear what we should do from an external source than to daily cultivate internal disciplines which provide us with who we should be. Failing to break out of this dynamic causes arrested development and we forfeit our contribution to the world’s need for wisdom with meandering obedience – a process that we actually desire in order to avoid growing up.

As long as we are sufficiently “told off” each week in church, we can feel secure that any mistakes we’ve made have been sufficiently “paid for.” Of course, we believe that Jesus paid for our sins, but it helps to have the added security of getting chewed out.

The theology of punishment fetish starts with understanding God’s primary act of love (the cross) primarily as an act of punishment against His Son, which means that if every man’s headship over his household is analogous to God’s headship over the universe, the best way men can be loving household gods to their wives is by spanking them.

I could never be a good complementarian husband because I don’t feel safe in situations in which I am completely in charge. I want to know exactly how other people are feeling as part of my discernment process in decision-making, and I want the “leadership” I provide to be a distillation of careful listening to how God has spoken to every member of my community. It’s true that I don’t care about everything that my wife wants me to care about, but I’m not going to insist on being her household god in order to be fully present in our marriage.

And finally, though I may get in trouble for saying this, when it comes to spanking in the bedroom, I would rather be on the receiving end than the giving end.

54 thoughts on “The Christian wife-spanking movement [TW]

  1. Christian Domestic Discipline is not “DD” for short. In fact,many would argue that Christian Domestic Discipline is a very small part of domestic discipline and is very extremist (almost like saying Westboro Baptist Church is what all Christians are like). I don’t condone CDD, nor DD really, but the sites you referenced (other than the Christian Domestic Discipline one you linked in the first paragraph) state clearly they are not CDD sites. If a couple chooses to use DD in their marriage I think it’s crazy but it’s not my place to judge, nor is it yours.

  2. All this is,pure and simple, is Sado-machochistic domination submission fetish,PURE AND SIMPLE. Not Christian and not healthy.It is thought that some folks, overly diciplined as children, confuse love and abuse and can’t experience sexual release without profound guilt.For them “submiitting” to someone takes away the guilt. However, it is based on abuse and the corresponding need that some feel pleasure by hurting others. It is sick and evil and is primarly found upon those of Euro descent. Why? Ancient and cruel Monarchies often availed themselves sexually of any peasant woman they so desired and many wives within the court. Frequent cruel whippings to keep the lower classes down were done as well as at those wonderful private all girls or all boys school. The homoerotic nature of this was also present. Entire generations by virtue of beatings and humiliations have grown into sexual deviancy. In other cultures where there is an emphasis on fertility and women have more control over their own bodies, these behaivors is alsmost UNKOWN and considered sick. Thus I can safely say Bondage and beatings serve as a way of showing love almost exculsively amongst Euros who were conditioned by frequent harsh punishment by their Monarchs to accept it. Not natural, not spiritual, not Christian. Quit trying to put lipstick on the pig.I am disgusted by this movement. And if you knew how many adults today suffer from low back pain and damage to their coccyx from childhood beatings you’d be sick. And that does not even get into the emotional damage. I might add that almost all pedophiles use physical beatings also to silence kids and wives from telling, and the pleasure for them is in A POWER DYNAMIC, and the ability to control and abuse another…..Having control over another is counter to Christian teachings. You are supposed to be dealing with your own sins….Sick sick sick.

    • I haven’t found the best way to respond to all this weird **** posted on various sites and blogs since first discovering it on YouTube. Your response is short and concise. It’s creepy enough when people engage in “Loving Domestic Discipline”. But placing it in the context of Christianity is worthy of satirical comment from Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert. So, I heartily agree it’s S&M or BDSM whatever anyone calls incorporating dominant/submissive pain and pleasure into their bedrooms where in fact it belongs. And christians quoting the bible to support beating their children in a loving manner stems from personal issues and a lack of patient responsible parenthood. I hope eventually it is completely outlawed everywhere.

      • I think what I’ve been hearing from folks is that DD IS an erotic practice. They’re not in denial about that and don’t want to be judged for it. I guess maybe it’s different things for different people.

  3. I don’t believe that any punishment is legitimate in a marriage. We have spanking in the bedroom though. Is that a contradiction? I don’t think so. We just find it very erotic and bonding. It’s a private thing that we never share with others except perhaps anonymously online occasionally. Most would thing it bizarre and would imagine all kinds of things which don’t exist so it is better that way.

    • I tease my wife about wanting her to do it to me. She doesn’t feel comfortable with it so I don’t really push the issue. It is interesting to think about whether having an element of not-straight-forward-ness to our sexual relationship would make it more passionate.

  4. Ok, fine, I’ll be the dissenting voice on this thread. You guys are such champions for LGBT sexuality – and you would never say that LGBT people “need therapy” for wanting someone of the same sex to engage with them sexually.
    My *entire* life, every sexual fantasy of mine has involved the fantasy of submitting to some form of discipline by another person. I’m not “infantile” and if you knew me in real life, you would NEVER think that I am anything but a strong, independent, self-assured woman. But I know that for me, sexually, I would never be fully satisfied in my married without some element of CDD being involved. It’s just how I’m wired. I can accept myself in this, and my spouse is generally facing that I’m serious when I ask him to be open to my needs in this, that he’s not a creep for spanking me. So please, if you guys are going to be progressive, be a little MORE progressive…and make room for those of us who find “wives submit to your husbands” to have a whole extra layer of fulfillment for our sexual needs. It’s so much easier to sit back behind your computer and label people like me as “sick” and say “this is not of God.” But I can tell you that you just…don’t…know.

    • Thanks for having the courage to share a different perspective candidly. That’s how people learn and stop judging what they don’t understand. For you to name it as a sexual need is helpful to my understanding, though I recognize different people are going to have different labels for what they’re doing.

      • I just discovered this conversation – interesting. I, too, would describe myself as a strong and independent woman. However, I adore being spanked by my husband. Yes, it is sexual. Over the knee and hot passionate sex after… and the orgasms are incredible. He threatens me w/ it and I am putty in his hands 🙂 Yeah, it is probably messed up – but – who cares – we enjoy it and married for 12 yrs.. He does not Beat me ! There is an art to the process and he knows how to spank. Honestly, I believe society has become just too damn complicated. In some ways, I feel that women are yearning for masculine old-fashioned men who take charge.

    • It seems to me that what you refer to here is more BDSM – which is strictly erotic – rather than CDD – which is an entire relationship dynamic and justified on religious grounds. I don’t find it problematic that somebody like yourself would want to engage in “power play” or be physically disciplined, since when done well these things are “safe, sane, and consensual”. The person being “discliplined” generally has all the control in a situation like that. However, I think healthy BDSM relationships or dynamics come out of a place of communication, mutual respect, and personal confidence and security. CDD smacks to me an awful lot like none of those things – where it bothers me is where it takes itself too seriously and where it suggests that CDD is better than other types of relationships.

      • Teresa,
        Christian Domestic Discipline differs in various ways from “normal BDSM” (ok, I know that is an oxymoron) in that the desire to experience spanking really does have to do with intimacy and the dynamics of the relationship, rather than just sexual eroticism. I’m not sure I’m explaining it well. But that is to say – that people who are “into” CDD aren’t generally choosing it in my opinion because of theology, as much as they find it is something they have always wanted and the theology of various Bible texts lends itself to it being an acceptable shape for their romantic relationship in their understanding.
        A woman who chooses CDD differs from a woman who would not choose CDD in that, the idea of her husband having all this authority over her and even being allowed to physical discipline her, makes her feel MORE loved, secure, and close to her husband, whereas in a typical non-CDD relationship, a woman would feel violated, estranged, and disgusted towards her husband treating her this way.
        Unlike BDSM, there generally are not “safe words” in play in this relationship; but that is not to say that there is not “safe, sane, and consensual” things going on… it just plays out differently. In general, one only arrives at a CDD relationship through lots of communication, mutual respect, and confidence, etc… most women have to CONVINCE their husband that it really is safe to have this arrangement with them and it is really what the woman wants. It takes a great deal of trust and communication for that to be initiated, and for it to work over the long haul. Usually, it is the men that feel the most uneasy about the setup, at least initially, and it takes a ton of communication for them to be at ease with being given that much power and permission in the role.
        But I agree with you – CDD can be twisted into “everyone should have this relationship” and I have actually seen couples that I know very much struggling with their marriage, and have avoided mentioning CDD to them as any sort of possible solution for them, because the dynamic in their relationship seemed too unstable for any form of CDD to be brought up as a feedback mechanism for resolving emotional angst. In fact, in my own relationship, I get spanked most when things are going well between us, and all spanking generally ceases when we are not really getting along well, as we no longer feel that spanking is the right way for us to resolve anything when we’re not trusting and listening to each other well. But I do realize that that is just me/us.

    • I agree with Erica. I’ve looked into the Christian DD scene out of curiosity and have come to the conclusion that it is a more vanilla form of bdsm. These people are sexually turned on by spanking, but can’t embrace this form of kink, so need to wrap it into their spritual belief. I, too, can remember fantasizing about being spanked ever since I can remember. My Ken dolls spanked my Barbies. I tried to pray away this tendency in me, tried all kinds of things to deny it, but it is as much a part of me as anything else. I too, have likened it to sexual orientation, and feel that those of you who “judge” me as “sick” or unbalanced yet would never say that about someone of LGBT orientation are hypocrites. Educate yourselves a bit more before you go passing judgement on what you personally are not into. It took years for me to be able to admit this to another person, years of feeling sexually and emotionally unfulfilled, of feeling dirty and sick and dysfunctional. I would like to suggest that the success of the 50 Shades of Gray books indicate that clearly more people fantasize about this than the mainstream culture have realized. If you aren’t into it, God Bless you, don’t do it, but don’t call those of us who feel this deep-seated pull “sick” or “broken”.

  5. I’m sorry…this is NOT a product of Christianity. This is a product of sickness. Period.

    To call it Christianity is to not know Jesus. Anyone who follows Jesus and actually reads those red letter words in the Bible would find this tragic and laughable. People who make up rules and call them religion 1) doing that religion an incredible disservice, 2) driving people away from God in droves, and 3) playing mind games with other people that amount to no less than criminal abuse.

    Setting women on fire and calling it a product of Islam is also NOT a Muslim practice.

    Please don’t blame the religion for these abhorrent practices. Put the blame solely and rightfully on the individuals who practice them, and prosecute them accordingly.

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  7. wow. My mind wants to implode. It seems that someone likes a bit of hanky-spanky but doesn’t feel the freedom in their Christian walk to pursue that – so they legitimize it with this warped weirdness.
    I cannot in anyway see where this would be endorsed in the Bible. You think it would have at least been mentioned in the Song of Solomon – which is already replete with sensuality. But no.

    That said – if a wife and husband want to pursue this then that is between them and God.

    But to have this actually called a “thing” or a “movement” smacks of (Ha! a pun) doctrinal theology going greatly a muck.

  8. Jesus came to show us what to do by paying for sins he didn’t commit, not taking payments from those that sinned. That is now our model. That’s why he left; so we could do what he did and approach the Father as he did.
    We are supposed to pay for others sins, as He did, not punish the sinners who need it.
    Even if you think God the Father is supposed to punish (instead of being all-forgiving and all-merciful) God the Father is not our role model. That is idolatry. You ain’t God the Father.

    Who did Jesus ever spank? Not even the moneylenders were personally whipped.

    At the same time, this lunacy also is a reflection of our own failure, our lack of courage as a universal church, in failing to evolve a New Testament paradigm for sexual relations.
    When I was studying to become a minister I was ordered to go to “Boundaries Training”; a euphemism for “Sex Rules for the Employees of this Franchise.” Despite the politically-correct title, it was a terrific day-long course, and it attempted to create an updated paradigm for ministers in the face of failures to keep hands off the flock. The teacher was a wonderful minister from out west, Karen McClintock, and my reading of what she has written about this problem is that in the absence of a New Testament sexuality story, we are left only with Mosaic law. When you don’t say what is true, the old “wine skins” remain in use.
    Thousands of years later we still fear saying what Mosiac law became; “How to Oppress the Females.”

    But who among us has the courage to handle this challenge? This is one of those tasks for which prophets are and will be crucified, because they are going to have to gore all kinds of sacred cows and slay false gods. Our gods of misogyny and homophobia will need to be put out of our misery first.
    What might, for example, this new paradigm tell us about the origins of the virgin birth message? I humbly submit that I am still waiting for a revelation regarding the theological value of the message involved in that story. I don’t know yet why being born of a virgin is central to the appearance of God on earth in human form. I pray for God’s guidance on this. Does it have to do with the problem we have with sexuality in general? I notice that Paul didn’t seem to think it was worth mentioning in his half of the New Testament.

    I admit that there may be a reason we say God chose a virgin, and I fear being burned for heresy, but being born of a woman who has been sexually active is good enough for almost all of us regular humans. Jesus was fully human. He entered the world through a vagina like you and I. It is glorious, not scandalous. Think of how different the virgin birth message is from the other messages involved our stories about the birth of Jesus. He was born as lowly as is possible by other measures. He was born in a backwater town, far from the center of the world’s action, to a conquered people, most of whom who couldn’t even read. He spoke an obscure Eastern language that was rather hard to define, not good old solid Greek. He couldn’t even find a regular bed to be born in, and had to settle for a stinking pigsty.
    But his mother, at least, was a virgin? (curiously similar to the myths created for the Caesars and Alex the Great). Because women who aren’t virgins are what? Less valuable in what way? How about this? You can’t sell them for as much as you can a virgin. My God is not limited to bringing His son to us via a virgin.
    What will Christ’s new paradigm say to us about stories of adultery which are biblically only female-inclusive? As I read the gospels, Jesus broke the rules about women quite obviously, offering eternity to those you were supposed to stone (the woman at the well), and allowing a woman to massage his feet with precious oils in public.
    Will the god of celibacy will eventually have to die as well? In the long run, the god of monogamy himself may meet his end.
    I don’t remember Jesus practicing either monogamy or celibacy. He taught that a covenant between two people and God to love one another was sacred. But even He allowed for divorce. Mostly He healed and He taught and He hugged and He kissed people. Those last two practices are out-of-bounds now for ministers, by the way.

    • Re: why the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin: because it is important that He is manifest as the Seed of the Woman, victorious crusher of the serpent’s head. So often we ( this includes all of us!) want to ignore the Old Testament, but it is crucial (in every sense of the word) to Who Jesus Christ is. To Who our Father is if we have placed our faith in His only begotten Son. And indeed this is Who our wonderful Lord Jesus truly is! Glory to God!

      My feelings about this particular post, which is not in reply to your post, but which I feel compelled to share by the precious Holy Spirit:.
      This “permissioned” assault is from the pit. It is ungodly, will lead to much harm of women and men. Even the seeming giving over of the power to the woman that Morgan writes of is sick, because in reality, an abusive spouse is ever watching the littlest move, ever willing to treat the (in this case) woman as something other than an equal.

      Morgan, I feel physically sick after reading this post, but then again, not only am I a woman, I was in an abusive marriage.

      I know that we as a society try not to make fun of drunks and alcoholics anymore, because we have grown to understand that to make fun of such a lifestyle seemingly mitigates its effects on us while perpetuating harm to those immersed in it. I wonder if decent (not even just Christian, but decent) men and women will choose not to make jokes about this perverse, God dishonoring lifestyle that truly harms those in it.

      • You’re right. It’s not funny. If there’s humor in my tone, it’s out of a horrified awkwardness. Im very sorry to hear about what you’ve been through.

  9. I. am. stunned. stunned. do the mega preachers of the prosperity gospel know about this? imagine the fundraising potential. anointed spanking kits. spanked by daddy demo dvds. new Christian groups – the spanks and the spankettes – all live concerts feature demonstrations of the official canonized spanking technique. let me stop before I yield to the temptation to spank somebody.

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  11. Morgan. Morgan, Morgan–where on earth have you been? The charming phenomenon of CDD was all over Politico, Salon, and HuffPo months ago! I’ve checked out some of the CDD websites and, quite frankly, didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Mostly I was just disgusted. The mere idea that any woman would choose to allow herself to be infantilized in such an appalling manner is beyond my comprehension. And any husband who really prefers to be his wife’s Daddy strikes me as equally weird. I try very hard not to be judgmental, but really, CDD marriages just aren’t healthy, adult relationships. Therapy seems to be needed all around.

    As I said, I checked out the websites. And, as far as I’m concerned, it may bill itself as Christian–but it’s still porn! (only WAY more hilarious!)

  12. I wrote this back in August…….

    Well that wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. When your brain spontaneously explodes into thousands of tiny pieces, gathering them up and putting them back together is work, work made harder still because you have no brain, just a lot of little brain pieces.

    “How is it, John, that your brain just up and exploded with no warning?”

    I’m glad you asked.

    Over the years I’ve developed a favorites list numbering almost two hundred Christian websites. I find a website or a blogger that I like and that website/blogger leads to another. In time you have all these wonderful voices writing about Christ and the faith bookmarked so that you can return over and over again.

    But every once in a while you stumble onto a website that is so totally bat crap crazy, so weird that before you have time to x-out your brain explodes. The closest I can describe the experience is sticking your finger in an electrical outlet, or for those of you who were products of the sixties, that moment when the LSD kicked in.

    This time, it was the Christian Domestic Discipline Network- Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage.

    As they explain it, “A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is set up according to the guidelines set forth in the Holy Bible, meaning the husband has authority over his wife within the bounds of God’s Word and enforces that authority, if need be, through discipline including but not limited to spanking. He uses his authority to keep peace and order in his home, protect his marriage, and help his wife mature in her Christian walk.”

    They go on. “Christian Domestic Discipline is not BDSM. It is not a game. While we do not deny its sometimes erotic nature, it is ultimately not for erotic purposes. It is often much different than the domestic discipline you will find outside of the Christian faith. As in, “Yeah, we know it’s hot but that’s not the only reason we do it.”
    Paddles, apparently bare ass wives bent over a chair ready for a whipping, and the Bible? So yes, of course my brain exploded.

  13. It does sound like a really, really convoluted way to negotiate a bit of erotic spanking. Which, in my opinion, shouldn’t need a theological justification!

  14. Bwahahaha! I have been following DD at a distance, as all of the ladies on my wife’s Catholic moms email list have been talking about it. (And by “talking” I mean joking.)

    I am delighted that you wrote this. Your points are delicious. I think that it would be interesting to explore the intersection of something like this and corporal self-mortification.

    (Receiving end indeed! I love you.)

  15. Derek,

    The spanking movement could certainly be considered hyper-complementarianism, right? Just because it’s not “mainstream” does not mean that it’s not connected. Much like hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism — without the latter, the former has no basis.

      • Eh… I don’t know about that. I think there’s a spectrum. If you’re going to say that men are supposed to be the heads of their households and women are supposed to submit to them, be quiet in church, wear head scarves, etc, then I don’t see any reason to make a categorical separation between that and domestic discipline. I will grant that domestic discipline is a farcical dark comic version of complementarian logic, but their whole thing is founded on an an appropriation of complementarian that complementarianism has no means of declaring out of bounds. It doesn’t say anywhere in scripture that you should spank your wife but it doesn’t say anywhere that you shouldn’t, and anything you pull out can be waved away by saying oh that’s talking about “hitting,” not “spanking.”

        Also I don’t think it’s illegitimate to identify a connection between DD and the punishment fetish need for getting verbally spanked by your pastor with some hard-core wrath sermons. There’s something comforting about getting beaten up by a sermon because then you know that God’s really in the house and you’re not getting some imposter nice God like those Episcopalians worship. None of this is to say that we don’t need “the punishment that makes us whole,” that God’s wrath doesn’t exist, or anything like that. But we do need to name the psychological forces at play with this kind of stuff since so often penal substitutionarians and complementarians try to play the “You’re listening to your feelings instead of the Bible” card as their default argumentative move. There are feelings behind the need for an angry God and a hierarchical marriage just as there are behind the need for a softy God and an egalitarian marriage.

      • Interesting comparison. Just as two people can quit eating – one is actually anorexic, and other one is in an emotionally healthy mode of fasting – so also people can practice complementarianism and even CDD, either as abuse and sadism, or as intimacy that is fulfilling and respectful and mutual in a relationship.


    First, great post, great summations, very well crafted, and a much-needed response! Second, my stomach was in knots while reading this very disturbing subject (from the view of the “Christian” spanking movement — no, I don’t think it’s Christian at all, but rather Pagan). I’d love to get my therapist’s reaction to this. Third, your final statement was hilarious! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  17. Morgan,
    A few things:
    1. I love you.
    2. This movement is ridiculous and horrible.
    3. Your analysis of the psychological dynamic is great.
    4. Your tying this to penal theology and complementarianism in general is ridiculous and unfair. This is miles away from anything I’ve read in mainstream complementarianism. Go read Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, or even Bryan Chapell’s book on marriage and you’ll see how ridiculous linking the two is. What’s more,I heard about this months ago, I skimmed it because I couldn’t believe it and the ‘Christian’ connection is tenuous given that I remember they expand these instructions to partners of various sorts, etc.
    5. I do agree that sometimes people have a view of God like that, where, as long as they’ve been chewed out, they feel better, etc. The flipside is that Hebrews tells us to expect fatherly discipline. The difference is that nowhere in scripture are husbands to treat wives like children, and the best complementarian theologians out there clearly distinguish that sort of thing.

    Alright, that’s my 5 cents.


  18. Now most of this just frustrates me to no end. I don’t know what to do it. I wouldn’t be married to a man who would want this kind of power over me. (And I am not.)
    Thanks for sharing.

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