Why spanking kids should be illegal

Author Jillian Keenan talks to "The Lonely Hour" about why she believes corporal punishment is assault

By Julia Bainbridge
Published September 24, 2017 10:00PM (UTC)
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(Salon / Ilana Lidagoster)

Jillian Keenan’s debut memoir, "Sex with Shakespeare," details her coming to terms with her lifelong spanking fetish. But there’s an extra layer to Jillian’s story. She was disciplined as a child by the occasional spanking, as are around 60 percent of American minors. For her, every time she was spanked as a child, an unwanted sex act was taking place. Keenan believes her spanking fetish is innate, and therefore spanking should be banned to avoid unintended abuse.

Jillian’s realization happened in college, while driving on the 101 freeway in the Bay Area. “I just started crying — violent, choking sobs, the kind of crying that made me pull over onto the shoulder of the freeway because I didn’t want to crash my car,” she told me on "The Lonely Hour." She’d had a flashback about her mother spanking her. “I was just sitting on the shoulder, totally immobilized with tears, and eventually a fist of nausea punched up through my stomach. I opened the car door, fell out onto the asphalt, and threw up.”


It took her a long time to figure it all out. Now, she feels strongly that the spanking of children as a form of discipline should be eradicated.

“I was at a party recently, and the topic of spanking came up, as it always does with me, and I said, ‘Well, there’s still one demographic that it’s legal to assault.’ Someone said, ‘No, it’s not legal to assault anyone.’ People always have this reaction because we don’t even think of it as assault. Spanking children is so banal, it’s so commonplace, that we don’t even think about what we’re actually doing. But if I took you over my knee right now and spanked you in this booth, I would be assaulting you. I don’t see why if you were 5 years old, that would be any different.”

Listen to hear more about Keenan’s story.


"The Lonely Hour" is a podcast that explores the feeling of loneliness — and solitude, and other kinds of aloneness — at a time when it may become our next public health epidemic. The show is co-produced by Julia Bainbridge and The Listening Booth. Julia, the host and creator, is an editor and a James Beard Award-nominated writer.

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