Sometimes in a relationship someone forgets to do something. Or lets the other person down. It may be something as trivial as burning the toast. I remember one time, early on in our marriage after some random event saying to Mrs. W., “Oh, oh! I’ll have to give you a spanking.”
I said this rather playfully, since probably in my mind it conjured up something sexual; something kinky. Mrs. W. was not amused. Down other branches of her family tree there is some history of abuse. After using this line on one or two more occasions, I learned to drop the suggestion of corporal punishment. And for the record, we’re not into the kinky stuff, and nobody has ever dressed up in black in the bedroom.
But wife-spanking as a disciplinary action is more common than you might think.
Enter the website Learning Domestic Discipline, a collection of resources dedicated to help you “Learn the DD Lifestyle.”
To begin with, egalitarians need not apply. This is for hardcore complementarians, though I suggest I’m only using that word because in our Evangelical milieu the one is considered the opposite of the other. The blog approach is friendly enough, but the situation described is much more authoritarian, with the husband described as the HoH or “head of household,” and submissive wife described as… the wife.
To best understand this, you need to go to some of the earliest posts on the blog, go to the archives and scroll back to Spring, 2011. (Clicking the image at the top of this article takes you to one specific article on spanking positions. One in May, 2011 discusses whether this should be over or under clothing.)
Again, the earlier articles spell out the lifestyle most clearly, such as one in June, 2011 which tries to clarify the difference between spanking and abuse or BDSM. Anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence — who is probably cringing as they read this — would want to read that article and see if they feel it checks out.
An ‘About’ page makes clear that everything being discussed is fully consentual, and I trust that both partners would see it that way. (The issue of consent was at the center of one of Canada’s biggest news stories late in 2014.) In many ultra-conservative or fundamentalist setting, the role of the husband as HoH is given to be granted by divine authority, and the blogosphere is filled with horror stories of women who suffered all manner of abuse before breaking free.
In the case of Clint and Chelsea, who co-write the LDD blog, it seems to be working for them. They conduct retreats — next one is September, 2015 — and I’m not sure if you bring your own ‘equipment’ or if it is provided. (I’m not saying that tongue-in-cheek, I would think you need to know before you pack.)
More recently, the blog takes a Q&A approach, and unless they’re making up all the questions, they do have an army of followers. Still, these questions are all concerned with the how of DD practice, the why is taken as a given. You pretty much have to have bought in before you start reading. But one column dealt with why the woman would want to go along with this. Reason #1: “It make women feel more loved.”
I know I may get pushback from DD advocates here, but longtime readers of this blog may find all of this eerily similar to some articles we did about the child discipline advocated by Michael Perl and Debi Pearl in To Train Up a Child and other resources, such as this one, or this one. I can easily see how a situation like this could be, for lack of a better word, abused; or how Clint and Chelsea’s blog and website could be used to justify a host of activities that they are careful not to condone.
I should also say that nowhere on the blog did I see specific references to the spiritual authority of the HoH. This in no way overtly purports to be a Christian resource, though obviously we’re discussing it here because of the way it would suit the purposes of many fundamentalist groups. Any temptation to quote scripture verses here or discuss church contexts seems to be carefully avoided.
But of course we can’t end there. There is in fact, CDD or Christian Domestic Discipline. One 2013 article goes so far as to describe it as a “new Christian trend sweeping America.” Huffington Post called it “Spanking in the name of the Lord.”
I’m also presenting this relatively without comment. It’s one of the those internet curiosities that proves the “different strokes for different folks” adage. Quite literally as it turns out.