Spanking and Sex

Here are some more oddities about the study.  According to this report:

"the study found that 29 percent of the
male and 21 percent of the female students had verbally coerced sex
from another person….The percentages of those who physically forced sex were much lower: 1.7 percent   of the men and 1.2 percent of the women…."

Don’t these percentages seem very high? Especially for the women?

And get this,

"Straus found that 15 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women
had insisted on sex without a condom at least once in the past year.

Using the four-step corporal punishment scale, Straus found that of
the group with the lowest score on the corporal punishment scale, 12.5
percent had insisted on unprotected sex. In contrast, 25 percent of
students in the highest corporal punishment group engaged in this type
of risky sex."

13 percent of the women insisted that the man not use a condom?

More importantly, I believe that there is a causal connection between child abuse (rather than spanking) and later problems of violence but to me a connection between the kid being spanked and later engaging in risky sex is especially suggestive that the connection is a risk-loving person.  Children who take a lot of risks, like running out on to the street a lot, are going to get spanked more.  Later these same children also engage in risky activities.  Not having seen the data I would be willing to bet that spanking is also correlated with skydiving, not wearing your seatbelt, gambling, and many other risky behaviors which are plausible not caused by spanking.

Finally, how about this for a non sequitur of the day:

"because over 90 percent of U.S. parents spank toddlers, the potential
benefits for prevention of sexual and relationship violence is large,”
Straus says."


Alternatively: Children who got spanked often are genetically predisposed to becoming spanking adults since they carry the same genes their spanking adults do.

13 percent of the women insisted that the man not use a condom?

Exactly why is a mystery to me, but yes, women do this. In fact, every women I've ever been with has at some point tried to talk me into sex without a condom. (Granted, not many--this thread could use some input from men with higher Ns, or at least more low-N men.)

Also, this study needs to control for IQ. Spanking is relatively low-class (or, if 90% of parents spank, it might be better to say that not spanking is high-class), people in lower classes tend to have lower IQs, and I suspect that most of these behaviors are more common among people with low IQs.

I wonder if any of those clever labor people have found a time when kids were chosen at random and spanked.

"Here is a simple alternative explanation of the data. Bad kids are spanked a lot. Bad kids turn into bad adults."

I see, so bad kids are an exogenous factor.

How about dysfunctional people - often those with sexually dysfunctional behavior as well - rear dysfunctional (what you call bad) kids, who the dysfunctional parent then feels warrant spanking. Voila! And the cycle repeats itself.

Tyler, shouting from the rooftops tends to get you in trouble with the neighbors. But hey if that's what it takes to get a few more people to know the difference between correlation and causation, I say go for it.

BTW it's "non sequitur" (no hyphen, no e) rather than "non-sequiter" which I'm sure you know but I can't seem to stop myself from pointing it out. Great that you used it in the logical sense as opposed to the humor sense though. Not that you don't have a sense of humor... but I digress.

"Verbal coercion" is a vague enough concept to cover the entire range of situations from, you had to ask twice, to, they assented under verbal threats. Who knows what it meant to any given respondent, and so no, the number doesn't seem high. As for physical coercion, the numbers are below the threshold where I trust human intuition to discriminate between rare and really rare events.

To paraphrase Judith Rich Harris, spanking is wrong because it's wrong for big, strong people to hit small, weak people.

It hurts, you know. And not just physically. I remember very well.

In response to Brandon and Alex -

Yes, women don't like to use condoms anymore than men do. From my experience anyways.


Judith Rich Harris is a fool. The relationship between parents and children is not one of equals or even peers. Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children grow up knowing right from wrong, as the evaluative ability is essential to the successful navigation of the world. It is a matter of their very survival that children be taught not to do certain things, and one of the ways to teach them is through reasonable physical punishment.

As with so many things, the virtue or vice in corporal punishment is in its use.

If you're spanking a child for spilling milk on the floor, you're wrong. If you're doing it because they got bad grades on their macaroni pictures (or some such other silly thing) you're wrong. If you do it because they intentionally broke something in a tantrum or physically hurt one of their siblings, then the punishment is justified.

It isn't a retributive act, it's a learning tool. It can be abused, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it.

Those percentages actually seem far too LOW to me. I would expect the proportion of people to have sex without condoms to be at 40%.

As to physically coercing sex...those numbers don't exactly surprise me.

BTW, this article was posted by Alex, not Tyler.

1) Tyler is NOT arguing "Bad kids are spanked a lot. Bad kids turn into bad adults." He is, without working very hard, simply offering an alternative hypothesis for the data that the study made no effort to exclude.

2) While I (a male) have never been coerced into sex without a condom, I HAVE had to make the choice between without a condom and not at all. As this was a girl I very much trusted, I went without a condom. To this DAY I almost invariable go without a condom, but since I have been married over 20 years I really don't feel this "risky behavior" is necessarily related to the spankings I had as a child.

3) Nevertheless, why waste your spankings on ungrateful kids when there are so many grateful adults available?

Why is it okay to batter a child, but not another adult?

1) In the law, it is recognized that children are not capable of reasoning as adults. Thus it should be no surprise that disciplinary methods with children emphasize baser reinforcement mechanisms (spanking versus tax incentives). In general, as children grow up and their faculties improve, the role of spanking diminishes.

2) It's a punishment, not a random assault.

3) Adults are legally responsible for the actions of their children. Adults are not (generally) responsible for the actions of other adults.

4) The number of minor infractions for which punishment is needed is far greater for a child than for an adults. Other popular punishment mechanisms (grounding / time-out) are much more time-intensive for the adult. Eliminating spanking would decrease efficiency.

An aside - I also think corporal punishment should be brought back for adults. Still serves as a deterrent/punishment, but without the loss of economic productivity associated with incarceration (it is also scale-independent of income in terms of its deterrent/punishment effect). Of course, there's situations where incarceration is needed, but for other cases a good public caning or flogging should be much more effective than a week in the slammer.

"If I did to another adult what the child-beating advocates do to their children, I'd be guilty, rightly, of battery.

Why is it okay to batter a child, but not another adult?"

Exactly! Can't you see how stupidly the adults today act?

Jody, you beat (heh) me to it.

And did a much better job, I might add.

"Why is it okay to batter a child, but not another adult?"

I take it you haven't read 'A Modest Proposal' :)

Your disclaimers are always interesting Mr. Tabarrok. "I am not a proponent of spanking". You do a great job at fooling people into believing you are an independant thinker but in reality your just about as right-wing nutty as they come. There is no margin in your thinking other than keeping the masses marginalized.

By the way children should never be taught that violence is a solution.

Correlation does not imply causation!

Oh, but see, that is where you are wrong. It does imply causation, but not necessarily one of the correlating phenomenon implying the other. Where there is correlation, something is causing it.

And the explanation that bad behaviour causes spanking is weaker than the other way around since spanking precedes the particular behaviour implicated here.

That is not to say that there is strong evidence one way or the other. However, if you have to choose between the two, i'd say an unbiased observer with no prior view of the merits or dismerits of spanking would, given only this piece of information, have to conclude that spanking is more likely to cause the problem.

There isn't any evidence that spanking works better than other techniques at behavior modification. I really don't think that a priori we should consider it acceptable compared to nonviolent actions, so it would have to have some significant benefit to overcome those issues. That benefit just doesn't exist.

I have to admit that my bias is in favor of allowing parents to spank their children. This is how I was raised, and I never got the impression that my parents derived any pleasure from inflicting minor pain on me (quite the opposite, in fact). Anecdotally, it seems like the people I know who do not discipline their children are raising little hellions.

That said, I'm fairly interested in aim of this study, though I would question the methodology (and therefore the results), given this little amount of information. What I'm saying is that I'm trying to keep an open mind. The parts of the study that raise flags for me are:

1. What is the wording used when asking if subjects "verbally coerce" someone into having sex with them? This could mean anything between "I will beat you up if you don't have sex with me" and "Come on baby, please." I imagine this question will be easily answered once the study becomes available.

2. On a related note, what does it mean to physically coerce someone into having sex? Does it mean rape? If so, I'm surprised that women in this group do so a mere 0.5% less than men.

3. The study focuses (exclusively, I think) on current University students. Why? This could highly skew any results you get for any number of reasons, ranging from socioeconomic (middle to upper class people tend to go to university) to purely social and age-related. (Having recently been one, I tend to think that university students as a group are at least mildly insane.)

More sophomoric studies. So some boneheaded psych dabblers asked their students to tell them what they wanted to hear. The studies cannot be generalized to the overall populations, and the correlations are therefore mere figments of the psychobabblers immagination.

And correlation does not imply causation. The confusion arises because if causation is suspected, but the correlation is nil, the one must conclude that the causation model is wrong. It doesn't work the other way.

dag writes (in a critique of what he thinks are my "right-wing nutty" views.

"By the way children should never be taught that violence is a solution."

Yes, adults shouldn't be taught this either which is why I am a libertarian.

Mr. Tabarrok-

There is a principal in ethics that states decisions should be evaluated base on range of known consequences. With all of your education please stop hiding in the hills with the libertarian view. Come down and fight. Mankiw or Krugman is the decision. This country needs leaders not fence sitters. Don't claim to be 'fair and balanced.'

I think we can agree the study just flat out doesn't mean anything. What the hell is daq talking about? Weirdo.

Um... yes, yes it was.
There was a lot of skirmishing in Northern Africa and the Pacific Rim.

Apparently there are no women whop read this blog, since everyone seems mystified by the fact that women prefer sex without condoms - but nobody has any clue as to why. This seems to assume that condoms to not substantially change the friction and feel of sex for woman but only for men. This would appear to be because tight fitting condoms reduce sensitivity. Why then, are there no loose fitting condoms?

Well, I'm not a woman, but this doesn't surprise me at all. I've never had a woman specifically request that I not use a condom, but I was always pretty clear on the point that not just any old object will do - what men have going on naturally is what usually works best.

Isn't it possible that toddlers who behave in ways that illicit spankings from their parents are more likely to have sexual problems later in life regardless of whether or not they were spanked?

"Bad kids are spanked a lot. Bad kids turn into bad adults."

There are numerous variables that have been shown to relate to rates of spanking. While you might argue that some (the level of arguing between parent and child) are the result of a child being "bad", most identified variables do not involve child behavior, but rather parental characteristics (eg. age, number of children, gender, education level) and child characteristics (gender, age).

J Giles-Sims, MA Straus, DB Sugarman. Child, Maternal, and Family Characteristics Associated with Spanking. Family Relations, 1995

Chewxy is right. I believed TC was writing for his other blog and missed a key ands sent it to the wrong blog


There is more to a word than the dictionary definition, as you readily acknowledge with your use of the phrase 'should not be rationalized with cutesy, harmless sounding euphemisms like "spank".'. So please lay off the semantical chicanery.

That said, you are building a strawman, though a bit more subtlely than some of the other opponents of spanking. The whole thrust of your post builds the case that spanking is an all or nothing proposition, that people that use spanking as any part of their disciplinary measures, are functionally equivalent to those who "resort to violence to solve their problems" and those who have an inclination to "ready use of violence".

I'm not going rehash what I feel to be the merits of spanking. Its an effective tool and must be judiciously applied. Disagree with me if you will, but leave off the personal attacks.

Tom: Why is it okay to force a child to go to school, but not to compel an adult?

Why is it okay to ever do anything to one set of persons it's not acceptable to do anything to another?

Why, because the sets are meaningfully and relevantly different, of course.

I have no desire to discuss the right or wrongness of spanking, but that argument? Not so good.

@ simpsonian

That's an interesting use of Occam's razor, but I can't support its universal application: phenomenon A can be convincingly counterfeited. As entities should not be unnecessarily multiplied, all observed examples of A must be counterfeits.

Spankings do not = beatings. Discipline does not = violence. Condoms smell funny.

"I bet the same people who..."

You lose the bet. What do I win?

I'm always amused by people who believe violence is never a solution, when it actually has been a very effective solution for most of human history. Nothing solves a problem faster than making the person causing the problem die.

I think @Bartman wasn't spanked enough as a child. That's why he's so whiny.

Generally, I am skeptical that men pleasure women at all. (Who can know when they are faking?)

For a counterpoint, Geoffrey Miller argues in The Mating Mind that penises are naturally selected for giving pleasure to women. Otherwise we'd still have 3-inch long, rigid penises like chimpanzees.

Generally, I am skeptical that men pleasure women at all. (Who can know when they are faking?)

WTF?! You are sharing too much of your personal experience. If you're doing it right, women can experience pleasure. Even if she doesn't orgasm every time (which is different from a male orgasm, anyhow), she can still derive a lot of pleasure from the experience. I know this is true, because I've had remarkably different results in different situations, sometimes with the same women. And many times these women had no motivation to be faking one way or another. You don't have to always know when they're faking to know that sometimes they enjoy it.

Also, regarding spanking. It's pretty obvious that most people do a shitty job raising their kids b/c it's really hard to do. Similarly, many people who use spanking will use it inappropriately. I am perfectly willing to believe that inappropriate physical punishment is more damaging than other types of poor parenting. But that is what this kind of study is more likely to determine- not the impact of properly used physical punishment. With most kids, the kind of spanking required just cannot raise to the level of physical abuse b/c it just doesn't hurt that much. On the other hand, some kids are truly terrible. Grown adults who do not have experience with these things have a hard time imaginging it, but a bad kid can be like an irrational sociopath. There are some kids where physical punishment may be the only chance of minimizing the damage he does to other kids. These kids probably are a little screwed up when they get older, but they do tend to grow out of these early shenanigans, to some extent.

"Bad kids are spanked a lot. Bad kids turn into bad adults." Doesn't this show that spanking is ineffective?

As for condoms, some women like the feel of a man ejaculating inside them.

Why then, are there no loose fitting condoms?

There are; the question is failure not of supply, but of marketing. The insufficient advertising of condoms has appeared on this blog before.

Everyone has it backwards. The kids who were brought up without discipline see nothing wrong with lying to a survey, the spanked children told the truth.

"Generally, I am skeptical that men pleasure women at all. (Who can know when they are faking?)"

As I wrote this and people commented I thought I'd clarify. I was just basically making a joke. I didn't write it very well. Obviously, men can pleasure women. But what I am skeptical about is that physical pleasure is women's main motivation for sex. I didn't find it very likely that a woman would request condomless sex for a pure physical pleasure reason. So I suggested an evolutionary reason.

Not sure your argument is sound, because the problem of selection you point out seems weak at best. My thinking is that all kids are bad sometimes. I also think that at parents that are spankers will spank and parents that are not spankers do not spank. So the empirical results should go through, because all spankers are presented with the opportunity to spank - I doubt that one would find a spanker with a child that is such an angel that he/she is never spanked and I also dont think there are many non spankers that would become a spanker because they drew a little devil.

Anyways, I have kids and I am not a spanker.


Several women will tell you, if asked, that it simply feels better without a condom. I'm guessing that it has something to do with the shape of the penis (specifically, the head) being changed by the cramped quarters of a comdom. Condoms also tend to chafe a bit more as the man can't tell if lubrication os lacking and just pumps away.

My girlfriend says that she hates the way condoms feel, and early on in our relaionship asked about both going in for STD testing so we could safely stop using them.

@Manly Joe

There are condoms that fit the same as standard condoms over the bottom half of the shaft, but leave the top half of the shaft and head more loosely blanketed.

Check out Lifestyles Extra Pleasure. The only condoms that I can finish with.

I was spanked WAY too much as a kid. I am dealing with many of the issues from that now. One of those main issues is that I can't stop thinking about being spanked or spanking when I have sex. Infact I can't really climaz without it. I know plenty of kids who were spanked, some abusively and some just for punishment, that now have this same problem. If you are going to spank kids NEVER do it with the pants down. Also be sure to talk to your kids about why they got spanked and how to not get spanked in the future and ALWAYS forgive your kids for whatever they did as soon as you are done punishing them. Also, once a child has turned 9 or 10 they have started sexual devleopment, so spanking should no longer be a punishment.Sorry if you like it through the teen years but that did the most damage in my mind to me. I was spanking A LOT as a kid. I wasn't a bad kid and I certainly am not a bad adult now. People who say that have no clue what people like me go through every day, dealing with what was done to us and with people like you who say those things.

Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc, available on the topic that can easily be found by doing a little research on "spanking".

Just a handful of those raising awareness of why child buttock-battering isn't a good idea:

American Academy of Pediatrics,

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,

Center For Effective Discipline,

PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,

Churches' Network For Non-Violence,

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,

Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Countries where child buttock-battering is prohibited by law:
Sweden, Finland, Norway, Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Denmark, Latvia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, Iceland, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Spain, Costa Rica, Republic of Moldova, and more in process.
In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The US also has the highest incarceration rate. The states within the US with the highest crime rates also have the highest rates of child buttock-battering (in schools etc).

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