Is Domestic Discipline Loving Correction or Domestic Violence?

A woman sitting on the floor
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The domestic discipline movement encourages wife-spanking and is condoned and supported by some religions. It's been argued that giving husbands this type of authority in a marriage can lead to spousal abuse and can destroy the self-esteem of the person being spanked. Here's a look at whether the practice borders on domestic abuse and constitutes violence, and whether it's scripture-based or sexually motivated.

What Is Domestic Discipline?

Domestic discipline is a submissive marriage lifestyle that encourages husbands to spank their wives for mistakes or misbehavior. Those who support the domestic discipline lifestyle believe that: 

  • Domestic discipline comes from the Bible.
  • Domestic discipline is not BDSM.
  • Domestic discipline is non-erotic.
  • Domestic discipline is an essential part of the marital relationship.
  • Domestic discipline provides a physical correction with one who truly cares.
  • Domestic discipline is responsible authority.
  • Domestic discipline is appropriate punishment.
  • Domestic discipline requires that there must be total consent from both parties.

Research on domestic discipline has revealed that: 

  • Domestic discipline is based on misinterpretations of the Bible.
  • It is indeed BDSM.
  • Domestic discipline is sexually erotic.
  • Physical correction is not life-giving to relationships.
  • Spanking a wife as a means of correction or punishment is a control issue and is potentially abusive.
  • Marriage calls a couple to mutuality, not superiority of one spouse over the other that involves punishment. 

Is Domestic Discipline Scripture-Based? 

Although defenders of domestic discipline believe that the DD lifestyle is based on Bible passages, some Christian religious leaders disagree. Those who practice domestic discipline often mention scripture texts that call for a woman to be submissive to her husband, but there are many who follow a submissive marriage belief without beating or striking their wives.

The Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches states in "Harmony in the Home": 

"The difficulty with the traditional view of headship is that it has been misused to keep women subservient and in some cases to justify the emotional and/or physical abuse of women within the couple relationship. This is far from mutual submission and is not as God intended for the couple relationship." 

Reverend Al Blonigen, Chaplain for the metro-Detroit Retrouvaille, has said:

"I do not believe that there is one husband who is so perfect that he would be justified to use that kind of authority (spanking). Besides, nowhere in Scripture did Jesus use physical pain on anyone."

And TheMarriageBed.com writes in "Domestic Discipline at Odds With the Word of God": 

"I can find no statement in scripture where God tells or allows, husbands, to physically discipline their wives (odd, because He doesn't seem to have forgotten to tell parents to discipline their children.) I also find no reference to Christ physically disciplining His disciples or followers (the Christ/church and husband/wife analogy.)"

Why Do Women Agree With Domestic Discipline?

Some believe that women want or agree with domestic discipline due to guilt over past sexual behavior, or because they believe that God has deemed that this is the proper role of a husband. Perhaps these women have poor self-images, but some women find spanking sexually exciting.

TheMarriageBed.com says: 

"These women will 'misbehave' because they feel the act is worth the punishment they will get for doing it. It's as if being spanked, or losing driving privileges for a couple of days, eliminates the wrong. It's free reign to do whatever you want, as long as you can deal with the punishment -- I don't see that as being biblical. DD can also look good to a woman who wants to be free from having to make decisions or taking responsibility in life. All responsibility falls on the husband and the wife is relegated to child status. If she does not live up to her responsibility, she gets a spanking and that's the end of it. There is little effort or motivation to grow into a mature woman of God."

The Issue of Domestic Violence Within the Domestic Discipline Lifestyle

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three U.S. women has been the victim of domestic violence in an intimate relationship. Almost 20 people of any gender are abused by a partner every minute. If you are in a domestic discipline marriage and you're uncomfortable with the arrangement, please seek counseling so you can make an informed, rational decision about your relationship.