King, Nigel, Butt, Trevor and Green, Lorraine (2003) Spanking and the corporal punishment of children: the sexual story. International Journal of Children's Rights, 11 (2). pp. 199-217. ISSN 0927-5568

In the late 1970s there was a report in the British tabloid press that a manufacturer
of school canes or straps (memory is uncertain after 25 years) was
apparently indignant that his products were being sold in London sex shops,
where they were favoured by “perverts”. The tone of the article comprised
that mixture of moral outrage and titillation with which those familiar with
the media will be well acquainted. With the cover of indignation, readers are
allowed vicarious excitement and sexual thrill (Conrad, 1999). In the very
different social climate of the early 21 century, it is hard to imagine this story
being either told or received in quite the same way. Even in the UK (the last
western European country to outlaw school corporal punishment), beating
has been banned in all schools, and the recognition that spanking is for many
people a sexual practice is widespread and would no longer count as news. Yet
there remains at least a sense in which the story still works, if only in a diluted
form. We have not gone all the way in seeing any sexual activity between
consenting adults as acceptable, and smacking children is generally seen as
an unequivocally non-sexual act and as regrettably necessary or even a good
thing (McGillivray, 1997). Debates on corporal punishment still generate an
extraordinary amount of heat on the part of those insisting on its legitimacy.
It is even claimed that it is a religious duty – witness the christian parents
in the recent BBC documentary “A Good Smack?” (2002) who state that
“the Bible : : : does sanction smacking within a loving family environment”.
The Labour Government has refused to extend to children that freedom from
assault that all adults have, and have even famously defended the value of
“loving smacks” (Gittens, 1998).

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