02 January, 2007

Spanking vs. abuse

I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately. I think part of what makes it difficult for me to figure out is this: it's not something I feel comfortable talking about with lots of people I know (well, really, none in real life). And more than that, it's not something I feel comfortable talking about with my therapist.

On the one hand, that's not too much of a problem. W. and I talk about it, and I write about it here and over at the Punishment Book. But on the other hand... it feels a whole lot like the "secrets" I had to keep when I was little. And that's a big piece of why it's so very uncomfortable for me.

The thing is, I do feel some shame to be an adult woman who needs disciplinary spankings. And I know that, with external children, I'd be inclined to think it wasn't a good idea, that there are lots of other ways to bring children up.

But... there is the simple fact that, for me, spankings work. They help me to focus, to behave, to feel in control.

And there is this: I do believe that there is a difference between spankings and abuse. I can tell with my own thoughts about it, that spankings, per se, are not the problem.

Even more, I can tell from the feedback from my kid parts. They do not perceive that W. ever "hurts" us. They articulate this with specifics: she doesn't yell, she doesn't hit us in the head, she doesn't punch us or pinch us or slap us. The spankings are controlled. They are understandable. She is calm when I get them. She is nurturing and caring.

And, as I said to my sister when I was eleven or twelve, it wasn't the spankings I objected to getting. It was the context, the way they were delivered. What was abusive was not being hit, it was the way the hitting (spanking, whatever) was delivered.

But. There is always that but. I can't talk about this with most people. I expect they would immediately decide it was abusive, unhealthy, something that I shouldn't be doing. They wouldn't look at it from the perspective of something that normal people do, as something that can be part of a healthy relationship. They would see it as a very unhealthy power dynamic. And I don't feel secure enough in my role in this to be able to make it clear to them that I believe it is healthy. So I just don't say.

I guess I wrote this post mostly so that my kid parts could know I talk about it somewhere, and that it's not a bad secret, just something we choose not to mention to most people. I guess it's that it's something private, rather than a bad secret. But it's still a struggle, because it's hard to make it clear to them that there are different reasons for not talking about things, you know? And also, that I'm not entirely comfortable with having them write a post to this blog, or to the PB, because these are, in my mind, more adult forums. But I don't want to write about spankings at Jigsaw Analogy, because while you can find this blog from that one, I don't want to make the people in our life who do read that one have to know about this part of my life.

It's all very complicated, to say the least.

So, in the hopes of getting some responses: has anyone talked about spanking (in the context of DD) with their therapist? Any advice? Warnings? Wise words?



Serenity Everton said...


I haven't had to address the situation of therapists and my kink yet, fortunately, but I can completely see how this could be a huge issue - particularly for those of us with disciplinary kinks and or disciplinary relationships.

I look forward to seeing how this discussion develops, really.



Anonymous said...

So I have some things to say to your big parts and your little parts. Hope we can keep the comments straight! :-)

To your Big Selves and W:

I think you're doing an excellent and thoughtful job keeping your Little Selves protected. You recognize that they are sometimes out of control and that they need to be spanked, but you obtain that for them (from W) in a safe, sane, loving way. It communicates that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not, but that they are all loved and safe no matter what. This isn't easy for any parent, guardian, disciplinarian, partner, or adult. You have a fine line to walk--and you understand that line only too well, having seen the dark side of it. I think this gives you a great deal of power, though, because it helps you recognize more quickly when you might be at risk and protect all your selves, little and big. AND, you're doing this in a partnership with W, who is stepping outside her comfort zone and natural boundaries to give you safety, security, and love in a non-traditional way. Wow. And Bravo.

To your Little Selves:

It's very clear that you're loved quite a bit. You're too young to understand all the parts of this conversation, but I bet you know when you feel loved and when you feel safe--and it sounds like spankings help bring about both those feelings. I'm so glad you have such attentive adults to take care of you and watch out for you. :-)

In general:

I've been thinking about finding a therapist lately for a non-spanking related thing, but have decided to pre-screen everyone I talk to before going to see them. I have a couple recommendations from friends and I intend to ask the therapists something like, "How comfortable are you with alternative sexualities and how much experience do you have with clients who are into BDSM or other sexual expressions?" My preference is that they have lots of comfort AND experience, but the minimum is that they have to be open to it. Because even though the issue I want to talk about isn't directly related to spanking or discipline, there are parts that are related--and really, in a lot of ways, everything in my life is related to spanking and discipline. So I couldn't feel comfortable with someone who wasn't open to it.

A long comment, but you set out a lot of food for thought! Thank you for the topic!


Natty said...

What a thoughtful comment, Iris! I can't remember what you're doing your grad work in, but you sound like you'd make a great therapist. :) Though, if it's not that, I don't doubt you'd make a great whatever. :)

And I'm the process of returning to therapy and I found the way you phrased it, Iris, really helpful as I approach potential therapists.

I would be curious too, if anyone has talked to their therapist about spanking/discipline with their partner. I've mentioned spanking to a massage therapist and to the hematologist, but did not at ALL get into that. Why is it so shameful for us? I mean, I know it's that there is so much baggage -- abuse, feminism, beliefs about child-rearing, etc. But I definitely hear ya, JA, about feeling like you're having to keep a dirty secret. Mine were never as bad as the ones you had to keep, but they were hard enough and I really dislike having to hide parts of me now.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you Iris!

I stopped going to therapy last year, partially cause I felt like there were too many things I wasn't read to talk about, and money and energy and yadda yadda.

DD was one of the main things. I really WANT to go back. I'm just stuck.

Thanks for addressing *me*. That made me feel good.


Jigsaw Analogy said...

Definitely, thank you for your comments. It felt really nice to have different parts addressed (chalk one up for "in all likelihood, I'm not making up the DID").

Therapy is definitely a complicated subject. A couple of months ago, when I was feeling particularly stuck and not progressing in therapy, and was planning on finding a new therapist, I was also thinking about finding one who was comfortable with discussing some levels of BDSM (yeah, 'cause it's so easy to find a therapist who is skilled with DID and takes our insurance that I really needed another layer of complication!).

W and I were talking about this, and some of the nervousness about people's response vs. my own awareness that it's the right thing for me, is like coming out as a lesbian. There are people who would try to get me to have allt he same issues about that, because they believe that being anything but straight is a matter of pathology. So there is that to consider. And I wouldn't see a therapist who was uncomfortable with my sexuality (well, not more than once, anyways!), so perhaps I should consider whether I should see a therapist who pathologizes other parts of my identity.

Anonymous said...

It's not that we KNOW our therapists are closed off to those topics. At least not in my case. It's just that we're not SURE they ARE.

Oh and I'm only writing as anonymous cause I screwed up my passwords and stuff.


Anonymous said...

Hi again,

I'm glad to have this conversation here about therapists and being open. I think it can be a long process, coming to terms with any part of ourselves that doesn't fit the norm. First we recognize it in ourselves, then come to accept it, then tell other people (these two are often mixed), then we hopefully reach a point where that identity piece is as comfortable and natural as saying, "I graduated from X High School," or "I shop at Whole Foods." Something that we can state calmly and if anyone has a problem with it, it's their problem, not ours.

I'm getting closer to that with my spanking/discipline identity, though I don't share it openly with everyone obviously. But I recognize it as fundamentally important to me and as a healthy, love-able (if somewhat unusual) part of myself. Recognizing that I'm bi was a similar process, one that I don't think much about anymore, though. If people ask, I'm open about it, but I don't feel the need to tell everyone (and I have the luxury not to at the moment).

More ramblings, forgive me. I'm stuck in bed, sick, and have lots of time on my hands to either comment (read: distract myself) or be itchy from the allergic reaction to the meds I'm on.

JA and W, I hope you're all able to find a therapist who is at least comfortable with all the pieces you want them to be, even if she's not skilled or a specialist.


Vivian said...

I spent yesterday evening reading through your blog and found it touching, honest, thoughtful and well done.

Your comments in your latest post about private vs. secret inspired my latest post on my blog. Hope you'll take a look and see if I can return the favor and inspire you...!

-Vivian "The Disciplined Feminist"

Jigsaw Analogy said...

Thanks for the comments. I'll be writing a post sooner or later with some of my further thoughts on this topic, since I do have some more.

And Vivian--I'd love to check out your blog, but your profile doesn't seem to be viewable.

Anonymous said...

I found out you were talking about this topic over at Vivian's place. Poor Vivian got a huge ramble from me in her commnets. I have not opened up to a therapist about this - but I do know a GREAT therapist (and I have the hands on experience to know the difference) in so. cal. if any one is interested. Patty of patty draws did discuss it and somewhere in her older blog readers. (Mostly I gleamed - it focused on being matter of fact and emphasizing the consent/fun part of if - which doesnt solve the discipline aspect.) As for abuse/vs discipline - having been in a marriage that was one and a relationship that was the other - you can absolutley feel the difference. As for child abuse - my issues are purely emotional there (significant - but no physical) However, around the time the emotional/abanodnment stuff started the ordinary well deserve nothing major childhood spankings stopped. Once my father was out of the house - there wasn't any more spanking. However whenever I succeeded in upseting my father or step mother the "punishment" was usually to not be allowed at his house or have contact with my father. SO one personal awareness I discovered is spankings make me feel SAFE - becuase he is present with me - he doesn't leave me - he corrects me so I can remember to do better - but the correction involves physical and emotional connection - so in the absence of feeling a fear of abandonment for being "bad" - I feel SAFE being spanked. (Oh and I am always reminded that I am a good girl after- so that I do not feel like I am "bad". )

Anonymous said...

i have had an extremely positive experience sharing my D/s relationship with my therapist. she asked lots of questions to assess whether i was being hurt, and i think that this is understandable and important for a therapist to do. i mean, of course i experience pain and she gets that, but she wanted to get a handle on my consent and safety.

she doesn't have much experience with BDSM stuff, but in a way i'm glad that she doesn't because i don't feel like experience with other people's BDSM kink would help her to understand mine. i told one other therapist about it once, and he immediately asked me whether i was ever a cutter, as if those two things automatically go together, and assumed that i adore pain, even though i hate pain and i'm into spanking for the control aspect, and just accept the pain as part of that. i think the key is finding a therapist that you really feel you can trust and that the other things may not be as important. i also told her that i was nervous about sharing it with her because i was nervous about how it would affect my relationship with her. so we were able to process that first and she understood how important it was to me, and reassured me of her support, before i said a word.

anyway, i did explain to her that the needs that D/s fills for me are not exclusively erotic and she understood that. i explained how far back my interest went, and i explained a lot of the way my dynamic works with my owners. i even told her about subspace. so far she has begun to help me see the connections to my childhood and the other issues that i'd been addressing with her up until i shared this... but she is completely respectful of only discussing it as much as i want to.

more than anything else she seems to be *impressed* by everything that i've told her. she caught on to how intense it can be and how close it can make me feel to my owners. and she said that she thought it showed an amazing amount of ego strength to be able to confront and work through things in this way. and she knows that it's something that i don't want to change, and she sees that it is a very powerful and helpful force in my life.

i couldn't be more pleased with the way that it worked out for me, to tell you the truth. but i was disappointed once in the past... i know that therapists do come up short and it's hard to pick the right one. but i think if you do trust someone then it can end up being really positive. :)

Jigsaw Analogy said...

As for abuse/vs discipline - having been in a marriage that was one and a relationship that was the other - you can absolutley feel the difference.

SO one personal awareness I discovered is spankings make me feel SAFE

These are both very true statements, and I hold on to them as I'm negotiating this. One thing that has helped me is to clarify the difference between what feels abusive, and what feels SAFE, and context is definitely everything here. (It's like being sent to one's room--as a kid, I spent tons of time in my room, but resented being sent there. It was all in the context!)

Persephone--Thanks for sharing your positive experience with your therapist. It's something I will think about as I'm considering whether to talk with my own therapist about the things we do in our relationship.