Most people think of spanking exclusively in terms of sexuality. And well, certainly the buttocks are physiologically set up for a great deal of erogenous potential. However, I find that spanking is a core part of me that taps into almost every aspect of who I am, with sexuality being only one part.
I've been reading a book recently entitled Being Human that has helped me be able to articulate all the different ways spanking is a part of my being. The authors synthesize comparative religion, biology, neuroscience, and psychology to form a model or construct for explaining the different aspects of what it means to be human that includes four basic aspects or forces. The material aspect relates to our genetic makeup and family history. The vegetal force is made up of the sensory information we translate into feelings as well as our connection to the Divine. The animal force is that part of us that is protective, always alert to danger, is ambitious, aggressive, and manifests our sexuality. The human aspect is the steward of the first three and is the part that takes all that exists in those lower three forces and combines them with analysis, thought, and language. Integrity or wholeness is what links all of them together in proper order and proportion.
Spanking touches on each of those four. It was someting I first learned of in the setting of my family and whether it's environment or genetics (or both), it is something I have inherited. Spanking is a sensory celebration. I relish the pain/pleasure dynamic, the explosion of endorphines, the feel of the hand, wood, or leather on my skin, the care, trust and love it requires. Not only does it tap into my sexuality, but I have also used it to try and enforce my ambitions through discipline. It encourages, and indeed, demands that I reflect, analyze, and discuss.
Yet it is in regard to integrity where I have found myself thinking about spanking the most lately. While I like to think of myself as a person with integrity in the normal sense of the word -- honest, principled, good -- I lack the sense of wholeness the authors mean when they talk about integrity. When I try to imagine myself as one whole person, I can't. Instead I imagine a number of dissperate shards strewn about or a disjointed, abstract Picasso. The very purpose of my blog is to give voice to one of those shards -- a quite significant one that I often think of as an entirely different person called "Natty."
There's a reason for it, of course. It's what I have done to survive. I separated certain parts of myself that were not safe in my environment or that impeded me from doing those things which felt safe. In the Being Human model, my animal force is completely dominant. My ears are always pricked up waiting for danger, whether that be emotionally from years of child abuse or physically from years of chronic pain and illness. I've been constantly striving to be better than my peers academically for the sake of my career, as well as for the approval of my advisor, professors, etc. or striving to be a better Christian for the approval of God or my priest or the people at church. Approval that I've falsely equated with self worth.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting talking to myself as I am prone to when I'm alone. At one point, I stopped and thought about what a silly habit it was as obviously no one else is listening. At that moment, my gaze happened to stop upon my small, laminated, paperboard icon of Christ above my computer, and I had one of those moments of Grace that those of you who are not religious will find quite possibly a bit uncomfortable to read about (and for which I'm not entirely unsympathetic), but during which I felt Christ remind me that He is always listening. Suddenly I felt that feeling of wholeness that I've been made aware I lack. Like all the pieces of me just suddenly lined up. Like I could feel them snap into place. Almost palpably down my chest. It was an amazingly profound moment of wholeness. A profoundly healing moment. Like Jesus had just extended his hand and healed me. Like someone-from-the-Vatican-was-going-to-be-
visiting-me kind of moment.
Later that evening I was waiting for my boyfriend to call. One of those days when I just really missed him. When he didn’t call, I felt very annoyed. I was desperately craving attention. And I think a part of me was a tiny bit envious of some of the recent experiences of my fellow writers at the Punishment Book. So, I decided that I wasn’t going to do any of the things on my list that I was supposed to do. Instead of reading and meditating and going to bed on time, I web surfed and hung out at chatrooms until the wee hours of the morning. But by the time I went to bed, I felt very embarrassed for what I’d done. What an absolutely silly, irrational, ineffective thing to do! I mean, it’s not like it really affects him if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do – *I* lose out. And if he’s in England, it’s not like he can give me that attention I was trying to get anyway. I was rather angry with myself. I’m 32 years old, not 8.
A few days later it occurred to me that I had done something similar last summer and wrote about it in my journal. Sure enough, on August 12th, I wrote:
"...Last night when I was reading for a review essay I need to write and having a hard time concentrating, I found myself doing something that I often do when it comes to academic stuff: I pretend I’m Natty and should be doing my homework and will get a spanking if I don’t. And often I’ll seek out a spanking for not doing my work as a way of giving Natty attention. Just like how real kids act up when they aren’t getting enough attention, even if the attention they get is not quite what they really want."
I had written about it in terms of *Natty* not doing her work in order to get spanked. As I thought about this, I smiled. What I had done that night when my boyfriend didn't call I did as *Michelle* not Natty. Maybe Jesus did heal me. Maybe I’ve finally integrated her into who I am as Michelle instead of some compartmentalized, separate piece of myself.
And it's not just "Natty." My body has also been a separate shard. I have become increasingly aware that almost from the day I was born there has been a full scale attack on who I am as a physical being. The more I think about it, the more I understand how my body and my mind/soul became separate. My body was clearly bad. It was fat and therefore clearly not reflecting the "victorious life in Jesus" my evangelical Protestant upbringing said I should have nor the healthy body my doctors bullied me about not having. It developed sexually too early when I finally had to start wearing a bra when I was nine years old because my breasts were large enough to fill a C cup. It hurt and was ill in ways laboratory tests could not explain.
But in my heart I was desperate to be a good girl. To follow the rules. Since my body was bad, I had to separate it from me. There was my deviant, disobedient body and my ever so obedient mind/soul craving what I understood to be "normal." As I’ve begun to appreciate the cultural, familial, medical and possible sexual violence done to my body, I’ve been able to integrate it into who I am as Michelle.
Who is fat.
And has a beautiful smile.
And soft, luscious skin.
And voluptuous curves.
And large, droopy breasts.
And a jiggly ass.
And a heart that breaks.
And hands and feet that hurt.
And a brain that thinks too much.
A body I want to protect. And nourish. And love. Not be drafted into, or even actively enlist myself into hating.
Spanking has been such a powerful way of integrating my body into me. It has provided a link between the physical sensation that I get from spanking and my soul. A way of loving my flesh, as ironic as it may be to others, by embracing the deviance of both my mind and my body.
It also becomes a tool that can remind me that I’ve lost that sense of wholeness, that connection to myself. An external way of connecting me back to whatever part of me I disconnected from, whether it be the academic, or the CFIDS/ME patient, the needy child or the protective adult. Or perhaps a means of putting back into proportion one of those aspects or forces that has come to dominate the rest of me. That makes me drive aggressively or push myself beyond what is healthy.
However, it is *a* way – not *the* way. A method I chose because it feels right for me. It has nothing to do with being an emotional female who requires a rational male to set me straight. It is genderless, as the amazing diversity of spankophiles demonstrates. Indeed, for me, spanking transcends sexual orientation. While the sexual aspect connects on a heterosexual level, the other parts of me find the same connection regardless of whether it is a man or woman who has me over his or her knee.
It's Lent now and in the Eastern Church we say a prayer each day by St. Ephraim of Syria that includes "Grant to me, your servant, a spirit of wholeness of being..."
Who would have thought that God, in part, would answer my prayer with a good, hard spanking.
[Cross-posted at The Punishment Book]