What is it? Perhaps that is more easily explained by what it is not. It is not abuse.
Why am I so emphatic about that statement? Because many readers and reviewers consider a dominant alpha male who is spanking a consenting adult female to be abusing her. Spankings, whether of children or wives, are considered highly controversial today. I am not here to debate that point. I am only here to provide my perspective on why I allow my heroes to spank their heroines.
All of my novels (regardless of genre, time period or locale) contain a dominant alpha man who, when in a committed relationship, believes in protecting the woman he adores, but he has absolutely no qualms about putting her over his knee when he feels it is necessary.
However, even with great surety in his beliefs, the hero also understands that need and acceptance do not always equate enjoyment. My heroes often state genuine regret before dispensing a corporal punishment, but they will still administer it when firm action is needed or required.Although my heroes consider themselves the masters of their domains, none of them would ever abuse a woman, and would willingly kill anyone who did. So, these novels (in my opinion) have nothing to do with a man abusing a woman. The hero I create has no desire to seriously hurt the heroine, but he does view spankings as an acceptable form of discipline for the woman he loves. In return, she accepts his domination, even if she doesn't always appreciate it. She has given him the right to discipline her as he deems necessary. In my historical fantasy romances, sometimes that right is a given due to the time period, so consent in those books could be considered dubious.
However, just as historical romances are a popular way to revisit previous times in history, so are books that allow the reader to experience fantasies where men dominate and women submit. The stories in this genre can vary greatly in sensuality and eroticism in order to cater to different readers' tastes. And though some of the scenes may be based on real-life events, they should always be viewed as adult fantasies. Yes, there are couples who practice domestic discipline, so spankings can be very real punishments for them. But even if these books portray a DD couple, unless it is non-fiction, the story is highly romanticized. So, none of these books should ever be taken as advocating any non-consensual spanking activity, or the spanking of minors. As a genre, most of these books hark back to the sort of relationships men and women had in vintage TV shows like Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, and I Love Lucy, but with lots more sex (no twin beds for these characters) and a lot more spankings. Even so, these stories are not intended to denigrate women's liberation, or condone the physical abuse of women anymore than a historical romance is meant to actually turn back time. Women have struggled for years to be where they are today, and these novels are not meant to take anything away from the battles so many brave ladies have fought to gain the respect of their male peers, friends and husbands.
All relationships between adults should be safe, sane and consensual.
This is my opinion only, and is therefore open to debate and discussion. Assuming you are 18 or older, you are free to leave a comment if you wish to chime in on this topic.