Christian Domestic Discipline, or CDD as its adherents call it, is a movement that seeks to carry out God's will. Which specific plan of God's? Oh, you know, just that all women obey their husbands fastidiously — a dynamic that CDD thinks is best maintained through doling out out corporal punishments. Its few thousand practitioners, however, claim that it's not domestic abuse.
The Christian Domestic Discipline Yahoo! group, which is private, opens with a quote from Hebrews 12:11: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." And, whom are we to train into righteousness and peace? Women only (duh)! The group's description goes on to say, "We offer a LOVING approach to all who wish to learn and grow in a traditional Male, head of household, female submissive, Christian Domestic Discipline relationship." One last caveat:
This is not a typical "spank" site. We are NOT a dating service, a list for personal ads, bratting, erotic stories, or alternate lifestyles. We do not discuss Sadomasochism, the disciplining of children, same gender relationships, or Fem domination/male submission.
According to CDD practitioners, Domestic Discipline is neither erotic nor abusive. It's merely a "practice between two consenting life partners in which the head of the household (HoH) takes necessary measures to achieve a healthy relationship dynamic... to create a healthy home environment... [and] to protect all members of the family from dangerous or detrimental outcomes by punishing the contributing, and thus unwanted, behaviors for the greater good of the entire family."
Here is a list of the "necessary measures," as culled from the Beginning Domestic Discipline "Beginner's Packet", which is 50 pages long (it also includes photographs of ideal spanking positions, as well as of spanking implements, with a list of pros and cons for each). Beneath each "necessary measure" I've placed a quote that illustrates how delusionally fucked-up it is:
Lecturing. According to the pamphlet, there are three components to the punishment process: the lecture, the punishment itself, and the subsequent comforting.
If the submissive partner asks, “What’s my punishment going to be?” it’s recommended the HoH say something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about that too much right now, dear. Let’s just go into the bedroom and talk about what happened. I want to hear your side of the story. I just want to get to the bottom of what happened.”... It’s recommended that the HoH essentially “walk” the submissive partner through the conversation and let them do most of the talking/thinking.
Removing Privileges. The list of privileges that "can be removed" include credit card privileges, driving privileges, "going out with friends" privileges, computer privileges, phone privileges, and cosmetic privileges.
This punishment is generally used when the privilege is being misused or abused, but it can also be a punishment for specific behaviors. It can be used as motivation as well. For example, "Before I left for work you said you'd get all the laundry done, but it sounds like you've watched TV all day instead. No more TV until the laundry is finished. It's up to you as to when you get your TV privilege back." That sort of thing.
Corner Time/Bedroom Time. These are fairly typical "time outs," the sort of punishment a parent administers to a child in elementary school.
Corner time is considered to be a reasonable and appropriate punishment to address behaviors such as a poor attitude, failure to listen, nagging, light back talking, or any other minor behavior deemed immature, annoying, or completely uncalled for and unnecessary by the head of the household.
Spanking. This is, predictably, the longest section of the packet — it constantly reaffirms that the head of household "MUST be under control when administering a spanking," which is administered when "a mistake is made, or poor judgment is exhibited by the submissive partner."
Rubbing the buttocks after the spanking, or providing ice/lotion/aloe vera is not recommended. Rubbing or providing a soothing pain reliever essentially defeats the purpose of a spanking. The spanking must be painful to act as a strong deterrent to repeating the unwanted, dangerous, or detrimental behavior in the future.
According to Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who has written a book on abuse in Christian homes, CDD is "an outlet for emotionally disturbed men with intimacy deficits"; it draws in "a more pathological group of people" because it infantilizes women (the Beginner's Packet addresses concern this under a section titled "Hesitations": "A lot of HoHs feel that by creating rules/setting boundaries... they will lose their partner and gain a child."). However, Alsdurf characterizes CDD as "an act of distorted sexual arousal" that's all-too-often done "in a controlling, mildly abusive way."
A healthy S&M relationship involves two equal partners — both of whom are free to give or rescind consent at any moment — exploring a sexual power dynamic, not abiding by it constantly. The submissive partner isn't expected to obey the dominant partner's wishes in every aspect of life. The dominant partner doesn't control the submissive partner's finances or leisure activities, and the dominant partner doesn't dictate completely when punishments should occur. Even if CDD is a displaced form of sexual arousal, it's one that reflects and severely intensifies an abusive power dynamic under the guise of a completely consenting relationship.
One look at the Christian DD Group Advice blog confirms this. Although it dates back to 2008, it's filled with entries from women who no longer enjoy the practice because it's transformed into a method of intimidation and control. In one post, an anonymous woman wrote that "spanking [has] worked too well. It's gone from something that brings us together to something that I am really afraid of. So afraid that I will do anything I can to avoid one." According to the Daily Beast, another woman wrote on a different popular CDD blog:
I wanted the spankings to stop and my husband told me it was either DD and marriage or divorce....I chose divorce. I couldn’t handle the pain of spankings anymore, emotionally or physically.
On the other hand, even for couples who don't explicitly experience the abusive dynamic as such, their aversion to seeing the practice as sexual leads to unsatisfying communication between the two. It's not surprising that a woman would unable to articulate her needs within a CDD power dynamic, since she has little, if any, deciding power. For instance, a woman named April took to the CDD advice blog to complain that that she'd assumed that DD "would be just what [she] was looking for"; however, the lack of communication between herself and her husband had begun to infuriate her. "Where do my feelings and needs fall within his leadership though?... How am I supposed to respond when he thinks that a spanking will fix everything and reset things between us yet there's no discussion involved?"
And what about when a man makes a mistake? According to Vera, a CDD practitioner, it's not the woman's job to point that out. "[My husband] self corrects," she tells the Daily Beast. According to the Beginning Domestic Discipline packet, the husband's means of addressing his own mistakes is to give his wife a "very heart-felt and sincere apology", and then to "make a genuine, conscious effort to prevent the mistake from happening again." After all, "if the submissive partner is expected to follow the rules, the head of the household is as well." The only difference is that the submissive partner has no power at all to decide what the rules should be.
Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.