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Why are so many people into spanking

If you’ve never tried erotic spanking, it can seem like an odd act from the outside. “Isn’t that just a way that adults punish kids?” you might be wondering, or, “What could possibly feel good about hitting someone or being hit?”

However, spanking, and masochism more generally, remain quite popular. So what are its practitioners getting out of it? Here are a few key benefits many people cite when explaining their love of spanking or being spanked…

It evokes a power dynamic. Many spanking fans are drawn to the act for its associations with discipline and authority. It pairs well with roleplay scenarios that suit these themes, like a punitive altercation between a headmaster and student, or a drill sergeant’s grueling initiation of a new recruit. That said, spanking doesn’t have to involve a power differential – it’s a versatile activity!

Pain can feel like pleasure. Some people are literally neurologically wired to experience pain as pleasure, but for most spanking aficionados, pain still feels like pain – it’s just been recontextualized in their minds over time, the way a deep stretch in certain yoga poses can come to feel deliciously challenging rather than straight-up agonizing. In a certain frame of mind, pain can register as just another pleasantly intense sensation, in the same realm as sexual pleasure, excitement, or the frisson of fear you might feel while watching a terrific horror movie.

It can induce an altered state. People receiving a spanking often descend into what’s called “subspace,” a floaty, almost meditative headspace that many people find relaxing and restorative. Likewise, people who give spankings may find themselves in “topspace,” a mental state that has been compared to the “flow state” many artists and athletes experience when they’re “in the zone.” These states are associated with stress reduction and mood improvement, which may partly explain why some studies have found that kinky people are mentally healthier than the general population on average.

It prompts arousal. As spanking fetishist Jillian Keenan has noted, when blood rushes into the butt during a spanking, it also rushes into the genitals, because the two share an artery. Spanking can jiggle the butt and thighs, too, transmitting a mild “vibration” sensation to the genitals. For these reasons, spanking can be physically arousing as well as mentally arousing (which is also, incidentally, a good argument for banning its usage as a disciplinary tool for children – it’s harmful, ineffective, and crosses into sexual abuse territory).

It can help heal trauma. Granted, this certainly wouldn’t work for everyone, and it’s important to keep in mind (as always) that kink may be therapeutic but it’s not a replacement for therapy. That said, people with a trauma history related to being hit and/or punished may find it affirming to be consensually hit and/or “punished” by a loving, trustworthy partner. If you’ve got a therapist, it’d be a good idea to check with them before attempting this, just to make sure it’s safe for you to do.

It’s a highly customizable act. Do you prefer a good old-fashioned hand spanking, or do implements like paddles, canes, and hairbrushes get your heart racing? Do you like being bent over against a wall, or being draped over your partner’s lap? Do you enjoy heavy, intense pain, or lighter impact? Do you adore roleplay, or would you rather just be yourself when doing kinky things with a partner? There are basically infinite ways to carry out a spanking, and experimenting to find your favorites is all part of the fun.

Do you like spanking (or being spanked)? What is it about this kinky act that you enjoy?

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Kate Sloan is a journalist, blogger, podcaster, and educator who has been writing about sex online and in print for over five years. She writes about sex, kink, relationships, fashion, beauty, writing, and mental health. She has been voted a Kinkly.com Sex Blogging Superhero for four years running, and her words reach over 22,000 sex nerds, weirdos and queerdos every month. As a journalist and essayist, Kate has written for Glamour, Teen Vogue, Daily Xtra, the Establishment, Maisonneuve, Herizons, the Plaid Zebra, xoJane, and more.

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