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Generally (although not universally), "coming out" is considered a good thing to do. "Coming out" implies healthy self-acceptance and a willingness to be honest with others. Remaining "in the closet," on the other hand, means isolation, secret shame, and repression. Homosexuals, of course, were the first to speak of "coming out." Now the phrase is used freely by anyone who secretly indulges in any activity -- from chocolate eating to soap opera watching -- that may be perceived to be even vaguely disapproved of by others.

Somewhere between the serious life-altering decision involved in a homosexual's "coming out" and the joke of admitting to a harmless although perhaps embarrassing habit is where *spankophiles* find themselves. Spankophiles, or "spankos" as they are known to each other, are adult males and females who are interested in and/or practice spanking among themselves -- either administering or receiving, or both. All serious spankos will hasten to add that to the definition that they condone the practice for consenting adults only. Most either take no position on the question of spanking children, or they actively disapprove and refuse to practice it themselves. Many spankos dislike applying the judgmental term "perversion" to spanking and shun the clinical-sounding "fetish." Rather, they refer to their interest as just that -- an "interest" or perhaps a "kink" or "diversion or even "play."

People are spankos for as many different reasons -- and practice spanking in as many different ways -- almost as there are spankos themselves. Those are very individual issues and could be the subjects of a several other articles. One thing a number of spankos will point out, however, is that the practice of spanking between consenting healthy adults carries no risk of disease or permanent harm and is not known to be anywhere explicitly illegal. Yet, very few spankos are willing to come out to anyone but each other -- and then usually only in a carefully controlled and supportive environment.

If we think about it, we realize that almost every one of us knows at least one "out" homosexual, but very few of us know an "out" spanko. (Some of the homosexuals we know, of course, also might be spankos, but we can be sure they will be far less willing to discuss that aspect of their lives than they are their sexual orientation.) On the other hand, if we extrapolate from some of the numbers I will offer below, it is not unlikely that a great many of us know -- but don't know we know -- at least one closet spanko.

Who, then, are the spankos? Where are the spankos? How do they find each other? And why don't they come out of the closet?

The first question is easy to answer. Spankos are us. They are female and male, straight and gay. they live in the U. S., Canada, Europe, and many other places. (I'll admit that I've met relatively few spankos from the Eastern countries but have no way of knowing if that lack of representation is due to linguistic, cultural, or some other factors.) Spankos are sales persons, homemakers, musicians, college and graduate school students, health care professionals, computer systems administrators, college professors, actors, and business executives. When they are at home, they cook, do laundry, wash the dog, drive kids to the movies, garden, and plan family vacations. As I said, if we know any spankos, we probably don't know that we know them. Even spankos themselves are unlikely to be aware of it if they know other spankos. There's no secret handshake.

Where and how, then, do spankos find other spankos? In the old days -- that is, just a few short pre-Internet years ago -- it could be a pretty lonely business being a spanko. The more adventurous and more urban availed themselves of adult bookstores where spanking literature and films might be found scattered among sexual materials, and perhaps they found obscure publications through which they could find each other in personal ads. For many years, some fortunate spankos indeed were able to lead quite active spanking lives through these means. Others, more geographically isolated, depended upon finding the rare depiction of spanking in mainstream literature and film and chance encounters with other like-minded individuals.

In the last few years, however, more and more spankos have been able to freely -- although most often anonymously -- interact with each other electronically. Anyone who believes that spanking is some obscure fetish occurring in only the rare individual quickly would be disabused of that notion after taking a short trip down the information superhighway. Both subscribers to commercial online services and users of the public Internet have access to a world of spanking-related materials, activities, and contact. Subscribers to commercial services, such as CompuServe and America On-Line, can read and post to Usenet newsgroups (that is, special interest electronic bulletin boards) and join chat "rooms" in which subscribers with common interests gather. Users of the public Internet also can read the newsgroups (although it is far more difficult to do so, and the groups are subject to possible censorship), join IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels, and access World Wide Web pages devoted to spanking. Even some spanko users of local community networks have been known to seek each other out discreetly and converse on private channels.
The few available numbers are revealing: the Usenet newsgroup "" -- fondly known as "a.s.s." (which emerged from the pre-existing "" about two years ago) often contains more than fifty postings per day -- fiction, poetry, reminiscences, and general discussion. And a less voluminous group known as "alt.personals.spanking" also exists. One spanking Web site reports over 18,000 "hits" (instances of access) per month. And several IRC spanking-related channels host revolving casts of anywhere from 10 to 35 or more different users at virtually any time of the day or night.

More eloquent and reliable than these random figures, however, are the words of those spankos who for the first time have found each other online. Ever more widely accessible personal computing technology and most importantly the anonymity it allows are making it possible for more and more people with an interest in spanking to learn more about it -- and about themselves. All the serious spankos who associate online have in common a profound and frequently-expressed thankfulness and relief that they have found each other. Many of them in their pre-electronic days shared a fear that they were afflicted with some sort of perverted desire in which they were totally alone. Others who may have known better than that still lacked any way of giving voice to their interest, much less practicing it with fellow spankos. Online contact, even if it consists of no more than just reading the Usenet group, provides a much-welcome sense of support that ordinarily is lacking in the typical spanko's life. Very few spankos, even those who are quite open on the 'net, would ever dream of "coming out" to RL ("real-life") people in their non-cyber lives.


Admittedly, it may be argued that spanking is a private sexual activity that would not be in good taste to discuss with other than one's bed-partner. that spanking is a sexual activity is often but not 100% true. Even if it were, propriety never has demanded that all sexual proclivities be hidden. For example, some men always quite frankly and publicly have expressed their preference for big breasts. And in some circles, it is not considered offensive to openly mention oral sex. In fact, it even has been not so discreetly depicted on daytime soaps. Another example is that among some late teens and twenty-somethings, it recently has become fashionable to announce participation in bondage and dominance/submission activities.

But to claim spankophilia -- never. It simply is not done.

One reason undoubtedly is the inevitable confusion of adult consensual spanking with the forced spanking of children, and thus with the taboo of child abuse. It never will be explained to some critics' satisfaction that adult spanking has absolutely no connection with cruelty to children. That confusion is compounded by the fact that some spankos trace their current interest to childhood spankings they received, and thus adult spanking is stigmatized as a perverted consequence of child abuse. Other spankos, however, never were spanked until well into adulthood, so the specter of child abuse does not even come into play. Few spankos with whom I have come in contact approve of the spanking of children. In fact, with a twinkle in their eyes, some maintain, "Spanking is too good for kids!" Yet the association of the childish punishment with the adult diversion discourages many spankos from frankly discussing their interest.

A related reason for the inhibition of many spankos is the abhorrence the better part of our society rightfully feels toward the battering of women. Here the association is just too close for comfort for many. Even if one accepts the premise of adult spanking by consent, it may yet be asked how it is different from battering -- especially since the most obvious and popular gender mix of spanko activity is "M/F," or adult male spanking adult female. And that M/F activity usually is depicted as a husband spanking his wife, boyfriend his girlfriend, boss his secretary, policeman a female speeder, etc. -- the possibilities are endless, but they have in common a dominant (at least temporarily) male spanker humiliating and hurting a subservient female spankee. That's a tough one to explain -- really tough. It gets even tougher if we add to that understandable concern for the physical well-being of women the contemporary feminist contention that any depiction of the even fantasized abuse of women leads to actual abuse. One can understand easily why a closet spanko would be unwilling to "come out" and step into that landmine -- especially, for example, if the spanko is, say, a female spankee who also happens to be an accomplished professional person in real life. Worse even for a male spanker to admit that he delights in having bare female buttocks draped across his knees awaiting the punishment he is very willing to deliver.

The implicit charge spankos fear facing is that spanking is nothing but part and parcel of domestic violence and the general denigration of women. Answering that charge involves untangling many fine threads of mistaken assumptions.
First, while M/F spanking constitutes the most obvious of spanking incidents either real or fictional, adult spanking occurs in all possible gender combinations. In fact, some spankos of both sexes are proud "switches," meaning that they are just as happy to find themselves in either the spanker or spankee position. Others, both male and female, are confirmed spankers or confirmed spankees. (And possibly worst off of all spankos as far as "coming out" is concerned are the fewer but not insignificant number of heterosexual male spankos who identify themselves at least some of the time as spankees. Even thinking about admitting that proclivity in this essentially macho culture is impossible for them.) Real spankos cheerfully tolerate this internal diversity in their ranks, but that diversity is not even apparent let alone appreciated by non-spankos.

Second, (although this cannot be accurately measured) it probably is true that at least the slight majority of spanking activity is of the M/F variety. This is the point at which it becomes vital to understand the spanko tenet of consent. Adult spanking by consent -- let's go ahead and call it M/F spanking, for the sake of argument -- is different from battering in that the spankee has explicitly consented or even asked to be spanked. It seems a simple concept, but spankos find themselves explaining it over and over again to newbies and the curious who find it difficult to believe that, as a very respected IRC male spanker recently said to me, "if a woman decides to withdraw her consent, even while over my knees mid-paddling, she sits straight up forthwith -- no questions asked." Of course, finding a spanking partner one can trust to that degree is one of the more difficult parts of actually practicing spanking. Many spankos believe the search to be well worth the time and trouble because the trust that must exist between a spanker and spankee necessarily exceeds that ordinarily found between more conventional partners. That this scenario bears no resemblance to female battering should not be a difficult concept to grasp.

The most complex charge leveled at the practice of adult spanking comes from contemporary feminists who claim that women spankees only think that they are consenting because they have been conditioned by a sexist male-dominated society to participate in their own abuse. When this point is raised among spankos, many simply shrug and adopt a "if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it" attitude. Others get angry, especially highly-educated accomplished and successful female spankees who resent being told that they really are not aware of what they are thinking and doing. One twenty-something male spanker ("occasional switch"), wise beyond his years, perhaps put the question in the best perspective I yet have heard it expressed: "Undoubtedly . . . women are conditioned by culture to be more submissive than men. That doesn't mean that playing out those scenarios in a consenting fantasy is sexist. [Rather] it means [we're] making use of sexist patterns in culture to play with them, transform them, change them." He went on to say that it was unfair of feminist critics to attempt to oppress sexual desires, either male or female, "in favor of vague political agendas."

For my own part, I will say that the most sincere, committed feminists I know are spankos, both female and male. A case in point is a gentleman from across the Atlantic who is one of the most artful and sought-after spankers on IRC. He had never heard of Shannon Faulkner, whom we all had been discussing one morning. When I explained the Citadel case to him, he was scandalized, exclaiming that he wasn't aware that we in the U. S. still allowed such blatant gender discrimination to exist. I couldn't find male support like that for Shannon Faulkner in my own family (husband excepted) or workplace. No. Rather, I found it in a man in front of whom women line up to play out cyber fantasies of pain and humiliation. Is there something wrong with this picture? Maybe nothing is wrong with the picture, but it is, at the very least, a difficult paradox to unravel. And, as I said, a great many spankos simply don't care to try.

After all, some of them, especially if they've successfully found spanking friends and partners, are just having too much damn fun to bother. To tell the truth, much humor frequently is inherent in typical spanking scenarios, and that aspect of the situation accounts for that good cheer and laughter one finds among either cyber or real life gatherings of spankos. Not all spanking relationships and encounters are upbeat, but many of them often are, and some, in fact, occasionally tend toward the downright riotous. Yet, non-spankos who probably don't think that spanking should be occurring in the first place are highly unlikely to understand that the activity can be plenty of fun.
And therein likes another paradox that helps us understand why many spankos simply never are going to "come out." How ya gonna explain it? A man who likes big-breasted women doesn't have to *explain* that preference -- even though in reality it might be infantile and shallow -- because it's thought to be "normal." On the other hand, spankos, if they were to "come out," would be called upon to explain why they *like* -- even have a good deal of fun -- giving or receiving sometimes extreme pain and humiliation, especially if their partners are people they profess to love. Yeah. Just imagine that conversation around the water cooler or at the next family gathering. Surely homosexuality must be far easier to explain and get other people to accept than is spankophilia.

After all, I can't even sign my real name to this article. Yes, I am a spanko -- a female spankee, to be precise, and I think I've known since adolescence what I am. No, I wasn't spanked as a child -- no more than half-heartedly swatted. My husband and I were married in the 1980s, but I only came out to him within the last year, and only after finding that all-important support via the Internet. He graciously has agreed to participate in my diversion, and I trust him with the, as he puts it, "timing, duration, and severity" of my spankings. Would he identify himself as a spanko? Probably not -- yet -- but he offers no objection to the "spanking lifestyle." And believe me, I know how fortunate I am. Many married spankos find little support from their spouses, and some spanking partners of my Internet acquaintance are separated by thousands of miles. Am I happy? Wildly! In fact, I've never had more fun in my life. Am I going to "come out"? No, absolutely not.