Is Spanking Your Kid a Form of Sexual Abuse?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

That’s what reader Carly believes, turning a previous reader’s argument against itself:

“One example [of acceptable spanking] would be a little kid messing around with his sister. You have to stop that instantly; it’s a sex offense, and they do prosecute little kids for it.”

I really don’t think sexually abusing your son to stop him from sexually abusing his sister is the right approach. Therapy would be a wonderful alternative.

And spanking IS sexual abuse.

While the buttocks is not a sexual organ, it is a sexual part of the body, similar to women’s breasts. Children are not sexually mature, but that does not mean they are incapable of feeling sexual sensations. Spanking can greatly interfere with a child’s sexual development, modesty, and their understanding of bodily autonomy. Spanking an adult would be considered a sexual offense and it should be the same for children.

I understand how hard it is for some to come to terms that one of the oldest child rearing practices is wrong, especially if you were also spanked, but we need to drop this practice for the better of society.

Also, if your response is “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” then I have to counter with the fact that you think hitting a child is okay, and I would not say that is fine.

Disagree with that reasoning? Make your case here.