The sexualization of corporal punishment: The construction of sexual meaning

Trevor Butt, Jeff Hearn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Corporal punishment has been increasingly understood in western industrial societies as having a sexual meaning. This article examines alternative interpretive frameworks or discourses of corporal punishment. Three main such discourses are described: the judicial, the comic, and the sexual. The prime focus of the article is the examination of how the sexual discourse has become elaborated, and has intersected with and subverted other discourses. The competing claims for both essentialist and constructionist explanations of this process of sexualization of corporal punishment are critically reviewed. A more adequate account is then outlined comprising the following elements: embodied subjectivity; gendered power relations; the focus on the bottom; practices, representation and pornography; and historical contexts, specifically modernist/postmodernist narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-227
Number of pages25
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1998
Externally publishedYes


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