Friday, March 11, 2011

Finding an Alternative Model for Child Training, Getting Out of a Patriarchal Marriage, and the Various Issues related to Domestic and Child Discipline, Etc.:  Plans for Future Posts

I continue to get more email feedback than I can address in a timely manner sometimes, but I do my best to answer emails from those with the most pressing needs.  (If you’re among those who have written to me this past fall, I’m still wading through those!)  What I find most troubling are those emails from parents and mothers who have difficulty coping with the demands that patriarchy has put upon them, albeit without the lofty benefits promised to them by the system.  For some with adequate resources, their families seem to make it through patriarchy, but that is not so for all.

Over the next few weeks and months, and with the help of friends of this blog and professional colleagues, I would like to address some of the more common requests for help and advice that I receive. 

It is vitally important for people emerging from high demand groups to make their own decisions, but I hope to provide some alternatives that might inspire others find good solutions for themselves. Parents frequently ask about alternatives to the child training methods used in patriarchy, a matter of great concern for many who just need to find a better model for dealing with their kids. Some want advice about how to get away from verbal abuse in the home which becomes much more complicated when this involves children. Some women just want out of their marriages, but how does one accomplish this when custody becomes an issue? Is it better to stay and suffer, and if not, how does one find help and support if you can't do it anymore? How do you do it when you have children or many children?

Some other issues that are more difficult will take more time and research to address, and they are more long-term interests. I don't know that there is truly more to add to the discussion of these issues beyond the writing of this blog post at this point and without structured study. It is certainly an introduction into a wider discussion of the problems faced by some Christians who have tasted the bitter fruit of patriarchal teachings.

The Various Faces of Discipline, Patriarchy-Style

The “Christian Domestic Disipline” (CDD) issue and related problems are perhaps the most difficult of topics that many have asked me to address, and I suspect that it is a growing problem among those who are emerging from all types of patriarchy and patriocentric lifestyles.  I hope to address this over the coming years as I expect more data will become known over time. Perhaps it won't. ???  *And please take note that I use the term CDD loosely merely because the term is used in the circles that ascribe to it, for I see no Christian merit in it personally.*
Some follow the practice of the physical discipline of wives by husbands as an adjunct to the Bible-based belief system that teaches that women are of lesser essence than men or are subordinate to men, thus requiring correction and male governance in the home and in marriage.  According to that reasoning and the logical conclusions of the teaching, women therefore need a male disciplinarian and governor as well as the vague implications and fuzzy logic of the need for a male spiritual intercessor. Some Christians argue the practice of CDD as an adjunct to complementarian ideology and teaching, a matter that has been discussed on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s own forum in years past. Other Christians have reported to me that many ex-Mormons continue to follow the practice, though they have left the Mormon faith.
Though little is said openly about the practice of CDD (apart from its presence on the internet), a consistent five to ten percent of visitors on this blog that use a search engine to arrive here at find their way here because of searches on CDD and related issues.  I’ve found that people often question this finding, and I wanted to again bring it to the attention of the Christian community and to those who read here.  Discussing Christian Domestic Discipline has been the third most popular blog post on this site over the past ten months according to blogger analytics (a post that defines the practice as unhealthy and associated with elements of addiction and unresolved shame).  That is not to suggest that this reflects anything meaningful about true numbers of adherents, but it does indicate that CDD is practiced and that individuals are searching for communities of people who follow the same.  (See this 2008 post for additional information regarding interest in the topic as reflected by search engine referrals.)

I am also told of a growing number of adult children that have emerged from the first generation of aggressive Michael Pearl-style parenting, who in their rebellion against the system in which they were raised, have adopted an interest in sadomasochism in conjunction with promiscuity. Concerned parents have approached me to address this topic because the practice has created self-destructive problems for their grown children.   

It is believed that in the study of aberrant sexual behavior and addiction that aggressive spanking does trigger sexual stimulation.  A few months ago, I had the privilege of speaking to Maureen Canning, clinical consultant to the The Meadows' sexual addiction treatment program and noted expert in the field of sexual disorders.  She explained to me in a discussion of this growing phenomenon among those who have exited patriarchy to think of slapping one loosely held hand with a firm hand.  The vibration of the impact travels through both hands and into the fingers.  The impact does not remain in only the palm of the hand alone, and the more aggressive the impact, the further the vibration travels.  She explained that is long believed that in the treatment of sexual addiction and disorders that aggressive spankings cause the same type of vibration to travel to the sexual areas, too.  Many who were spanked regularly and aggressively as children and suffer sexual addictions and fetishism as adults are believed to have experienced a “fusion” of sexual arousal areas in the brain with their pain centers in the brain on a physiologic level, in addition to whatever conditioning also reinforced a mental link.  Because of this physical stimulation in childhood which includes inadvertent stimulation of sexual organs because of the spankings, as adults, these grown children are unable to experience sexual pleasure without the induction of pain and sometimes shame.  In their brains, the two are synonymous and they can no longer separate between the two sensations on a functional level sexually.

Have parents unknowingly trained their children in such a way that fosters sexual deviance along with its other unfortunate legacies including the deaths of Sean Paddock and Lydia Schatz?

In both of these cases of discipline, be they the logical conclusions of complementarian theology or the regretful sexual practices of those children who were aggressively spanked in the name of Michael Pearl, one notable factor emerges from them both:  a lack of intimacy with one’s partner.  

[11Mar11 Late edit for clarity:  "from them both" refers to 1.) practices of discipline based on the idea that a woman is a man's subordinate and of lesser essence/value/power as defined by alleged Christian principle, and 2.) those adults who identify/seek help for sexual problems that they associate with aggressive discipline in childhood.  This is not a post intended to discuss sex play or practice within the confines of healthy adult intimate relationships.]

Many argue that sexual behaviors and even domestic discipline itself is harmless if no one gets hurt, but is it healthy?  According to Maureen Canning in a private discussion, in her writings, as well as in the writings of other experts like Patrick Carnes, a sexual practice is only considered to be healthy so long as it promotes healthy emotional intimacy and relationship.  The practices discussed here promote objectification, degradation, and toxic shame.  Rather than promoting deep love and trust through physical intimacy, these practices promote dissociation and a displacement of the self in time and space. They are the enemies of intimacy, the clinical perspective of the problem.

Again, aside from broaching these topics, at this point in the unfolding of the legacy of patriarchy, I don't know what additional factors can be addressed.  I hope that those who perhaps see themselves in this post will consider what is written here, perhaps finding some validation and provoking some deeper thought about their experiences.  In my opinion, Michael Pearl is guilty of far more than that which readily meets the eye.

For anyone engaged in domestic discipline or in other types of sexual behaviors as mentioned, I highly recommend Maureen Canning's book, “Love, Anger Lust: Understanding Sexual Addiction and the Road to Healthy Intimacy.” Also, Patrick Carnes books concerning sexual addiction are excellent, and The Betrayal Bond is helpful for all types of relationship issues. Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Steffans and Means is also an excellent resource.

*Late edit and highlighting added for clarity.*