Recently a great deal of attention has been drawn to what may be a growing trend amongst evangelical Christians. It is a practice called Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD).
It was has been around for a very long time, but it was recently brought to public interest by this article on The Daily Beast. It has become of such interest to the general public that it was even mentioned on The View earlier this week.
The practice is basically this. The man is the head of the household, his wife should submit to him, therefore he has the right to discipline her. Discipline may take many forms such as corner time, bedroom time, humiliation or writing lines. However, the most prevalent punishment is spanking.
The spanking may be by hand, but that is often just a warm up to be followed by wooden spoons, paddles, belts etc. It may be done over the knee or over a piece of furniture. The wife may be in various states of dress from fully clothed to bare on the lower region.
Is CDD healthy?
The practitioners of this belief base their opinions on biblical scripture and the internet is abundant with websites on the subject, but not all evangelical Christians consider it to be acceptable. Conservative Christian radio host Bryan Fischer feels it to be a horrifying trend, un-Christian and not biblically justified.
According to Fischer, “Christian husbands are taught to lay down their lives for their wives and to treat them with honor as fellow-heirs of the gift of eternal life.” __Source, Huffington Post.
Since this is a column about family, not religion, we will leave the biblical discussion to those who care to debate it. The issue is not whether or not the practice is justified on religious grounds. The issue is how such a marriage affects a family.
The answer to that, regardless of what is claimed by practitioners of CDD, is badly, very badly. When there is spousal abuse in the home, children are insecure, emotionally unstable and most often do poorly in school, though not always.
The practitioners of CDD claim that is it good for the family because it creates harmony for the wife to be submissive to the husband. It is a way to resolve conflict within the marriage. Therefore they believe it is healthy.
Not a bit. In a healthy marriage, partners may not always agree, but they know how to disagree in a civilized manner without yelling, screaming or resorting to physical punishment. Not only is this less harmful to the children the CDD, it also models a way to get along with others in life in general.
But is CDD abuse?
There can be no doubt of it. Forensic psychologist Jim Alsdurf, author of “Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home” says “No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship.” He feels this type of relationship “infantilizes” the woman.–The Daily Beast
It would indeed seem so. The wife is punished as if she were an errant child, though even treating children this way is highly questionable.
CDD is consensual so it is not abuse.
While both husbands and wives on these sites claim the discipline is consensual, in reality, the actual practice does not appear to be consensual. The couple discusses it together and the wife consents, at the beginning, but once that is agreed to, the wife has no choice to accept the punishment.
One CDD site tells husbands that if the wife is fearful and resistant, he should reassure her, then spank her anyway. They claim is that she will no longer respect him if he does not.
This alone negates the claim of this being a consensual act. As a human being with human rights, the wife has the ethical and legal right to say no at any point.
CDD is just another form of kinky sex
For some it may be, for others not likely. Wives report feeling relaxed and calm after spanking. This is not unusual even in cases of severe abuse. Being spanked or beaten raises endorphins that send calming messages to the mind. This is nature’s way of keeping the body and mind from overloading from the stress of the incident.
It is also why some people do this as a sexual thrill. The spanking heightens sexual tension and makes it more exciting. However most CDD couples, however, claim that they rarely if ever have sexual intercourse after spanking. This is not unusual amongst those to practice spanking as part of a sexual kink. For many in that lifestyle, spanking actually takes the place of sex.
Therefore, CDD might well be another form using spanking for sexual enhancement. Alsdurf suggests CDD is more like an act of distorted sexuality than violence. “If people want to spank each other, go ahead,” he says. But, according to Alsdurf, if it is done is a controlling and mildly abusive way, it is not healthy.
There are some other difference between CDD and spanking as kink. In other DD and DS relationships the submissive partner can say no at any time. Second, those practicing DD or DS try to avoid doing it around their children. Many people in CDD do not.
One CDD wife claims that her husband spanks her in the presence of her children and makes her apologize to them. Supposedly this models to the children what Christian marriage should be.
This is utterly horrible for the children. Seeing someone hurt their mother, even if it is intended for “her own good”, is very damaging to their sense of security and their emotional development. Boys of domineering, controlling fathers tend to become weakened emotionally or emulate their fathers and become bullies.
Both genders exhibit a variety of anxiety disorders depending on their ages. The list of variants in behavioral effects is too long to include in this article since they are dramatically different depending on age and gender.
Suffice it to say, it is not the degree of violence done to their mother that matters. It is that it is done at all whether it is a spanking or a punch in the face. It teaches that the mother is a lesser person and deserving of ill treatment. This holds true if the abuse verbal and emotional without a single blow being struck.
The bottom line on CDD is this. It is definitely abuse. This is evident when the wife makes the same arguments in defense of her husband commonly heard from battered wives. However, unless physical evidence is seen by someone else or the wife reports it, there is little to be done about it.
The situation changes, however, when there are children who witness these acts. Then it is a case for social services.