By Gigi Engle
I 'd be lying if I said I didn't love a good spanking. I'm sure you've quickly surmised this thorny little detail, but I do mean spanking in a sexual way. Just a flat palm and a willingness to explore is all you need for this sado-masochistic activity—unless you're into paddles and floggers (and if so, good on you, soldier).
But what is it about spanking that people enjoy so much? Is it the raw nerves after a hand meets your butt? The flood of feel-good chemicals into the body?
Spanking is for some, and for me certainly, the beginning of an exploration into the world of kink. It feels like being dropped into an ice bath and then wrapped in a warm towel: Shocking at first, unpleasant AF even, but overall quite soothing. It's a reminder that you are, no matter how crazy life gets, tethered to this earth.
And if you do a quick Google of the terms "spanking therapy" or "BDSM therapy," you'll see that people are using spanking as more than just a way to get off. This channeling of pain into pleasure also becomes a therapeutic way for practitioners to lose themselves in the moment and can actually help people cope with serious trauma. Below, we talked to experts and researchers about how spanking therapy works and why it's been so effective for the kink community.
1. People who enjoy being spanked, up until recently, would have been classified as mentally ill.
But first, some history. Up until the 1980s, S&M (sadomasochism) was classified as an actual mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Which is pretty disconcerting considering studies have found that 36 percent of American adults admitted to using bondage tools during sex.
2.Spanking can be a catalyst for pleasure and excitement.
When we're enjoying a certain sex act, whatever that sex act may be, our brains are flooded with feel good chemicals, most notably the neurotransmitter dopamine. How pain plays into this game is pretty rad. According to an article from the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, there are far more similarities between how our brains process pleasure and pain than we ever knew before.
"Spanking can enhance excitement and physical sensations; increase adrenalin, endorphins, and oxytocin; explore and maybe push the line between pleasure and pain; increase intimacy and bonding," explains Dulcinea Pitagora, a psychotherapist, sex therapist, and founder of the series, KinkDoctor.
3. This excitement likely stems from a sense of the taboo.
Dr. Nikki Goldstein, a sexologist and author of Single But Dating, says that we are inherently excited by anything that seems naughty and different. "It's not rocket science when we consider this is how we also get enjoyment out of life. We like to push the boundaries and especially when sexual boredom could be at play, any sexual act that is even a bit different excites us."
4. Control plays a big role in the sexual release of spanking.
The sadomasochistic practice of sexual spanking is about more than just the brain converting feelings of physical pain into a rush of delightful dopamine. There's also the psychological release of power. According to Psychology Today, "The essential component is not the pain or bondage itself, but rather the knowledge that one person has complete control over the other, deciding what that person will hear, do, taste, touch, smell, and feel."
"It feels good to be totally in control, and sometimes it's nice to be totally submissive. Power play is a way to break free from the roles we're trapped in during our everyday lives, and it can be a powerful release," says Sandra LaMorgese, PhD.
5. There are many therapeutic benefits to spanking.
A submissive finds therapy, stress-relief, and a sense of calm through the relinquishment of their power. Giving someone total control over you transfers your worries and psychological burdens onto the other person. "Still others describe the stress release as an escape from self-awareness and compulsive thinking and processing of emotions," says Pitagora.
She adds that practitioners of spanking describe it as an opportunity to enter into a consensual, time-bound interaction with someone they trust and feel close to, where they are free to let go and stop thinking about other things for a bit. "When body chemistry changes in a rush of pleasure and adrenaline, and then comes back down to baseline and levels out, that trajectory can result in a very calm and zen-like feeling."
6. Some use BDSM and spanking to deal with trauma.
There are conflicting thoughts among experts and researchers on whether or not spanking can be used as a true form of therapy, but it *can* be a coping mechanism for those dealing with trauma. Sure, it's a surreal concept for those who have never flirted with BDSM before, but La Morgese says it's more common than you might think. "Just Google 'spanking therapy'—it's all focused on positivity, healing, and working through issues in a safe, supportive space. Think of it as a form of massage."
It's about remembering how intertwined our physical and mental sensations are, too. Forget yoga: "For some, spanking is a way to let go, relax, and surrender to physical sensation so they can have a clearer and calmer mind."
7. People within the kink community seek each other out for comfort and healing.
The kink community can be a place to grow and learn about yourself. It isn't all scary dungeons and the stuff of nightmares, but a faction of like-minded individuals exploring sexuality. So long as people's rules, boundaries, and consent are being respected, says Dr. Goldstein, "It's a world where people's emotions and well-being is paramount."
She uses aftercare as an example, where a dominant will nurture a submissive after a sexual act and bring them back to reality by holding them and comforting them. "There is so much care there that someone with trust issues and problems with personal boundaries could benefit from."
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