In the film Along Came Polly Ben Stiller’s character spanks a woman. When she is displeased, he pretends that he had a crick in his wrist. Polly might have reacted differently had the smack occurred after the release of Fifty Shades of Grey. The best-selling novel has influenced our society, normalising S&M and making spanking in the bedroom more acceptable. But given Christian Grey, its male protagonist, is a tortured soul, perhaps we ought to consider the roots of such physicality.
Spanking is often associated with one’s childhood, so its use in a sexual context can be questionable. Author Darlene Barriere explores this in her article ‘Can Childhood Spankings…Lead to a Spanking Fetish,’ where she concludes that corporal punishment as a child can result in spanking fetishes as a grown-up. One explanation for this is that children can confuse spanking with intimacy. The bottom is a centre of sexual signals due to its high concentration of nerve endings and its proximity to the genitals. Barriere states that “it is perfectly natural” for young males to experience an erection when they are scared (like, say, when they’re getting smacked). This makes erotic spanking feel like borderline infantilisation.
But what if we examine spanking from a biological perspective instead? Men and women are physiologically different. When a man spanks a woman, he is showcasing what he brings to the table—his strength. Unfortunately, that logic pretty much validates all violence as mere demonstrations of skill, and that’s a justification I cannot accept. It’s all so confusing! Being physically dominated shouldn’t make my heart race but when 90210’s Liam shoved Naomi against the lockers and made out with her, it instantly became my greatest fantasy.
Anyway, this is all based on the assumption that men are dominant and women are submissive, when this isn’t the case at all. For many couples, the roles are reversed with a man happy to lie across his lover’s lap. The biological line is hard to apply here, so I revert back to spanking as a means of infantilising. This certainly holds true in some cases with certain individuals wanting to wear nappies, drink from bottles and just generally be parented by their supposed equal.
For most people, the aforementioned is plain bizarre and not sexy at all. Yet the same people who deem nappy-wearing repugnant are often happy to suck on a woman’s nipple—undeniable infantile behaviour. Of course, since such breast tending is so widely accepted, it’s not weird at all. Which begs the question: who decides what is and isn’t a fetish?
I like a little lip biting. But to me there ain’t nothing hot about hot wax. Others, however, find that pain causes an endorphin rush, which can be pleasurable. Spanking, in particular, causes blood to surge to the pelvic region, mimicking sexual arousal. It seems that despite sex being a (mostly) private act, public thought has managed to sneak its way in. Just like ideal body types and hair styles, Hollywood sex has entered my psyche and decided what I will and won’t like. For me, this means more extreme forms of BDSM aren’t in my foreseeable future. But if you’re keen, why not try it? You can always feign a crick in the aftermath.