Child-spanking fetish groups have managed to find a place on Facebook. On a platform where a bare nipple or buttock is beyond the pale, these spanking groups are not considered illegal, immoral, or even suspect. In fact, because spanking children is perfectly legal in the United States, Facebook allows these groups to gather under the premise of biblically inspired discipline. We’re asking Facebook to address this problem by alerting their moderators to how discipline groups can provide cover for those who fetishize child abuse, and by updating their Community Standards if necessary.
What Jillian Keenan discovered
On September 27, 2019, author and spanking expert Jillian Keenan posted a YouTube video about the child-spanking fetish groups she’d discovered on Facebook. In it, she details how she managed to get hold of the plans for a “workshop” that would demonstrate spanking techniques on bare-bottomed children and teens, and children spanking each other. The program lists the age ranges for each “workshop”—which smacks of catering to chronophilias as well as the child-spanking fetish.
A few “highlights” from the program:
children/teens will bare themselves from waist down or totally nude and parents demonstrate how they spank their children (5-10 minutes per parent/child)
9:30 – 11:30 Prayer/Role playing (Children will bare themselves and demonstrate responsible spanking with each other)
You can watch the entire video here:
A consensual spanking fetish is not the same as a child-spanking fetish
As a spanking expert, Keenan is well-aware of the nuances that might traverse the lines between consensual kink and abuse between adults—and she is also aware of what constitutes child sexual abuse.
Facebook said the group didn’t violate their Community Standards, even though those standards expressly prohibit “advocating for… Acts of physical harm committed against people” and also “Videos or photos that depict non-sexual child abuse, defined as… Repeated kicking, beating, slapping, or stepping on by an adult or animal.”
In the end, this particular child-spanking fetish group left Facebook after they were convinced to do so by an outraged viewer of Keenan’s video, as she explains in this follow-up. But, as she also explains, similar groups still exist on the platform, and will likely continue to do so until Facebook takes a clear stand against them.
Is it legal?
Here, we have to ask the obvious question: why isn’t this illegal? Keenan argues that these real-life images and “workshops” are nothing more than a resource for child-spanking fetishists. As she notes,
The organisers of this event have clearly realised that, as long as they wrap child sexual abuse in a veil of “old fashioned discipline”, fetishistic predators don’t even need to hide the desire to get children naked and beat them on a sexual body part.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C7GyhR_c-0&t=377s (5:48)
Indeed, a quick search of “spanking” on Facebook reveals there are still several groups that advocate for child spanking. An “adult” spanking group posts a huge number of illustrated and digital images of children being spanked, including this video where the child appears to sigh in pleasure at the end of the clip.
Regarding the groups noted by Keenan, Prostasia has written a letter to the Global Safety Policy team at Facebook but, as of this date, has yet to receive a response. You can read that letter below.Letter-re-spanking-groups_jk
What should be done?
When evidence of real world child abuse is discovered online, simply removing the forum where it is posted isn’t a sufficient response to the problem. That’s why in the case of images of child sexual abuse, there is a legal obligation on Internet companies not just to remove that material but to report it to the authorities as well.
The same considerations should apply to sexualized spanking groups. If a group is simply banned, it’s not hard for its administrators to build a new following using coded language and targeting susceptible demographics. If that’s all that happens, the children and teens participating in this “workshop” are still at risk.
When children are at risk, society has a responsibility to step in.
Stopping child-spanking fetishists online and offline
So how do we stop child-spanking fetishists from posting on Facebook, while also ensuring that we are not just driving them into the shadows?
As Keenan notes in her video, “I do kind of feel like I’m responsible for getting this kind of crap shut down! I certainly can’t just ignore it …Our culture needs to change.”
Obviously, the first thing our culture needs to change is allowing child-spanking fetish groups to thrive under the protection of religious or old-fashioned values. Correlations between corporal punishment and child sexual abuse have been demonstrated in research (see here and here).
Education will also change the culture. The author of this blog has spoken to non-offending child-spanking fetishists. They are quite aware that their actions would cause sexual and physical harm to a child, so they refrain from doing so—just as most people in the world refrain from using another person’s body without their consent. Allowing this topic to become normalized in a conversation about spanking would reduce the number of offenders just through role modeling.
Amplifying the voices of child sexual abuse prevention groups (rather than kicking them off the site for talking about sex, as happened on Tumblr) will also reduce instances of this in our culture.
What’s Facebook’s role?
One of the things that makes the Internet so rich is the diversity of content standards that it allows to co-exist. That’s why adult social networks such as FetLife and vanilla social networks such as Facebook complement each other so well. But child sexual abuse content should not be allowed anywhere.
Facebook’s standards for sexual content—fictional or non-fictional—are much stricter than those of other platforms. Its Community Standards do already contain rules that ban this sort of behavior and imagery.
The problem lies in the standards being applied inconsistently, because the sexually abusive character of the material is not being recognized.
Though some users of Facebook—and other platforms—may support spanking as a form of discipline, platforms and their users share responsibility in ensuring no children are harmed, and that child sexual abuse is not being perpetuated in their forums. This means that they must find a way to prevent the groups from being infiltrated by abusers and distributors of child abuse images.