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Spanking Fetishism  Written by: Mistress Tracy, 10/22/2007

"I will on occasion, with a hand or a light whip, beat you. But it is not because you've caused me offense – it is only for my sexual pleasure."

-- Octavian to Livia, Rome, Season 2, episode 20

Who doesn't love a light tap on his or her butt from a lover? Even those who might consider themselves vanilla have probably received a slightly harder slap on the ass during sex, and if not, then they've surely been taunted with one in jest at some point in their adult lives. From The Bride's comic over-the-knee (OTK) spanking of a member of the Crazy 88 in Tarantino's Kill Bill V. I (2003) to television's drama series Rome or even Lois Griffin in The Family Guy dressed in a school uniform saying, "Oh I need a spanking. I've been a bad, bad girl!" spanking appears in popular culture more often than many fetishes.

Whatever one's cultural or religious background, there are probably very few people who wouldn't be able to define spanking. "To strike, especially on the buttocks, with an open hand," is the definition given by Merriam-Webster Online. [1] However, as simple as the meaning might seem on the surface, spanking takes on a more complex definition when associated with sexual fetishism, and certainly it takes on a richer and more pleasurable meaning to those who put spanking to practice in their erotic lives.

First of all, spanking is a form of corporal punishment, which in its strictest meaning, is forced pain intended to change behavior, but it is not the only form, and behavior-modification isn't particularly the goal in spanking fetishism, although it may be a scenario played out by enthusiasts. Similar forms of corporal punishment include Flagellation, the act of whipping the body, and fustigation, the act of caning the body or using crops and other instruments to carry out punishment. Some might consider all of these to be part and parcel of spanking, but spanking is predominantly restricted to the buttocks and purists might suggest that "spanking is only a spanking if the hand is used." [2]

While easy to trace the history of corporal punishment over time, it's hard to determine an exact moment when its various forms crossed over from severe penal, educational and religious punishment to a pleasurable aspect of eroticism and/or fetish. However, as early as 100 to 500 AD, the Kama Sutra acknowledged spanking as an ingredient in lovemaking and not only offered guidance regarding the appropriate places on the body to strike, but also the kinds of strikes that should be made, and the accompanying sounds that lovers should make while engaged in the pleasures of spanking.

The ancient East Indians weren't the only ones to recognize the benefits and rewards of spanking. There are many historical examples of spankings' curative effects. At various points in time, spankings were administered to rid people of diseases like small pox or even to ward off the effects of old age. Romans believed that spanking a bride-to-be on the bottom would help her conceive a child. This belief persisted to the 16th century, when the pleasures of erotic whipping became a common practice among the French court. It's also commonly said that Catherine de Medici was so delighted by the spanking of female bottoms that, at a banquet in 1577, she personally required that all the noble ladies of the court appear to be spanked on the buttocks with the palm of her hand.[3]

Even the church, acknowledging the benefits of spanking, defined two forms: a superior spanking, which refers to the whipping of the back, and an inferior, which refers to whipping of the buttocks. In both instances, such spankings can be carried out with various tools such as a flogger, the afformentioned cane and crop, and also instruments like the belt, strap and paddle, among others. However, it's only when such paraphernalia is confined to the buttocks that the punishment is specifically referred to as a spanking.

While the occasional pat on the butt may be enjoyed by a majority of individuals, some might wonder how on earth anyone could possibly find the blazing sting of hand on flesh pleasurable during a sexual encounter. Yet, there has been some medical insight, when it comes to the physiology of such gratification. According to Brame, Brame and Jacobs, Sports Medicine researchers have discovered a conceivable explanation for the thrill of pain: Athletes frequently note the rush of endorphins that can accompany pain and fatigue. Endorphins are natural opiates that are secreted by pituitary glands in response to pain. They bind the opiate receptors in the brain, bringing not only the cessation of pain but a sense of well-being or even euphoria. Pain can literally bring pleasure. [4]

With this in mind, it is understandable that some devotees find the feeling of spanking to be as pleasurable as a kiss and as sensual as foreplay, or even orgasmic. While spanking and sex don't often go hand in hand (sex typically occurs after a spanking in these scenarios) some women - though only a small number - are occasionally prone to orgasm during a session, particularly in an OTK position where wriggling and writhing on a spanker's lap can stimulate a woman's clitoris. For others, the ritual of spanking can be a cathartic experience not unlike purging oneself of feelings of sexual guilt or alternately giving oneself permission to feel sexually aroused without the accompanying responsibility. Still, there are also some who simply enjoy the experience of spanking or feel the need to be dominant or submissive, or both at differing times, since many spanking enthusiasts also enjoy switching roles more often than fetish players like those engaged in SM.

Erotic spanking isn't solely about pain, and it's rarely just about bending a person over your knee and striking them, although the latter is the ultimate objective in any spanking scenario. While some purists might balk at the association of spanking and BDSM, there's no denying that elements of dominance and submission are important aspects of the spanking scene. After all, there must be an individual willing to administer and control the spanking, and one willing to submit to it, and in this case, there are a number of common features that make consensual spanking a rich and gratifying experience for those involved.

The integrity of the authoritarian figure is paramount. The authoritarian person, or spanker, must want and be able to assume control and should be able to benevolently push the thresholds of the spankee's physical and psychological expectations, while respecting his or her boundaries. Often, those who enjoy being spanked seek out motherly or fatherly figures to add to the credibility of their authority, although just as many indulge in role-play, which balances the physical and psychological sides of spanking. Some of the more popular spanking role-playing scenarios include teacher/student, employer/employee, doctor or nurse/patient, governess/naughty charge, and master of the manor/maid roles.

Ritual is another common element in spanking. While creativity and the ability of the spanker to intuit the needs or wants of the spankee is important, Brame, Brame and Jacobs point out that some enthusiasts only enjoy strictly scripted scenarios, which ultimately have important psychological and/or symbolic impact. In a domestic scene, for example, a master may use his hand on his maid's buttocks for certain infractions like leaving spots on washed dishes, but may assign the use of a hairbrush or shoe for more serious violations of the rules. Etiquette is another important feature that can be bound with spanking ritual, and etiquette can range from how to properly address a dominant partner to the choice of terms used to refer to the buttocks. A majority of spanking purists finds the words 'ass' and 'arse' vile, and prefer kinder and less crass words, like bottom, buns or fanny. [5]

While all spanking scenarios are different, many of them follow a similar type of pattern. In the book Consensual Spanking, Jules Markham outlines five sections of a spanking session. The warm-up is the introduction, which includes mental sparring and, quite literally, warming up the bottoms' bottom with some playful or light spanking. Next comes the build-up, which adds to the submission and humiliation parts of the experience and moves into medium-force spanking. In section three, the spanking becomes more serious, with harder spanks usually assigned to the bare bottom of the spankee. By the end of this section, Markham states that the spankee should be firmly under the control of the spanker, so that in the final stage he/she can experiment and push the limits of the spankee, sometimes by introducing new implements [6]. While Markham doesn't include aftercare as a specific section, I would add it as part of a spanking scenario, since some spankees require attention after a spanking. In my experience, this has included rubbing a special lotion on the rosy cheeks, although others might hold or cuddle their spankees.

In the end, a spanking is never just a spanking. No matter what the role-play, tool, ritual or etiquette, each spanking scenario is unique, just like most sexual encounters, and is tailored to individual wants and needs. Governed partly by fantasy and desire and also by rules, which should be established by the participants beforehand, spanking can result in a rich and pleasurable experience that touches a nerve, whether some of the myriad of nerves on the bottom itself, or a more intimate psychological or symbolic one.

References

[1] Spanking, transitive verb. Merriam-Webster Online, 2007. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 29 Sep. 2007.

[2] Markham, Jules. Consensual Spanking. Publish and be Damned (PABD), England, 2005. p. 6.

[3] Unknown author. A Short History of Spanking. Accessed: 05, Oct. 2007.

[4] Brame, Gloria G., Brame, William D., Jacobs, Jon. Different Loving: The world of sexual dominance and submission. Villard, New York, 1993. p. 191.

[5] Brame, Gloria G., Brame, William D., Jacobs, Jon. Different Loving: The world of sexual dominance and submission. Villard, New York, 1993. p. 241.

[6] Markham, Jules. Consensual Spanking. Publish and be Damned (PABD), England, UK 2005. p. 41 to 46.




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