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´╗┐Title: In Defense of Women
Author: Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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by H. L. Mencken


     I     The Feminine Mind
     II    The War between The Sexes
     III   Marriage
     IV    Woman Suffrage
     V     The New Age


As a professional critic of life and letters, my principal business in
the world is that of manufacturing platitudes for tomorrow, which is to
say, ideas so novel that they will be instantly rejected as insane and
outrageous by all right thinking men, and so apposite and sound that
they will eventually conquer that instinctive opposition, and force
themselves into the traditional wisdom of the race. I hope I need not
confess that a large part of my stock in trade consists of platitudes
rescued from the cobwebbed shelves of yesterday, with new labels stuck
rakishly upon them. This borrowing and refurbishing of shop-worn goods,
as a matter of fact, is the invariable habit of traders in ideas, at all
times and everywhere. It is not, however, that all the conceivable human
notions have been thought out; it is simply, to be quite honest, that
the sort of men who volunteer to think out new ones seldom, if
ever, have wind enough for a full day's work. The most they can ever
accomplish in the way of genuine originality is an occasional brilliant
spurt, and half a dozen such spurts, particularly if they come close
together and show a certain co-ordination, are enough to make a
practitioner celebrated, and even immortal. Nature, indeed, conspires
against all such genuine originality, and I have no doubt that God
is against it on His heavenly throne, as His vicars and partisans
unquestionably are on this earth. The dead hand pushes all of us into
intellectual cages; there is in all of us a strange tendency to yield
and have done. Thus the impertinent colleague of Aristotle is doubly
beset, first by a public opinion that regards his enterprise as
subversive and in bad taste, and secondly by an inner weakness that
limits his capacity for it, and especially his capacity to throw off
the prejudices and superstitions of his race, culture anytime. The cell,
said Haeckel, does not act, it reacts--and what is the instrument of
reflection and speculation save a congeries of cells? At the moment
of the contemporary metaphysician's loftiest flight, when he is most
gratefully warmed by the feeling that he is far above all the ordinary
airlanes and has absolutely novel concept by the tail, he is suddenly
pulled up by the discovery that what is entertaining him is simply the
ghost of some ancient idea that his school-master forced into him in
1887, or the mouldering corpse of a doctrine that was made official in
his country during the late war, or a sort of fermentation-product,
to mix the figure, of a banal heresy launched upon him recently by his
wife. This is the penalty that the man of intellectual curiosity and
vanity pays for his violation of the divine edict that what has been
revealed from Sinai shall suffice for him, and for his resistance to the
natural process which seeks to reduce him to the respectable level of a
patriot and taxpayer.

I was, of course, privy to this difficulty when I planned the present
work, and entered upon it with no expectation that I should be able to
embellish it with, almost, more than a very small number of hitherto
unutilized notions. Moreover, I faced the additional handicap of having
an audience of extraordinary antipathy to ideas before me, for I
wrote it in war-time, with all foreign markets cut off, and so my only
possible customers were Americans. Of their unprecedented dislike for
novelty in the domain of the intellect I have often discoursed in the
past, and so there is no need to go into the matter again. All I need do
here is to recall the fact that, in the United States, alone among the
great nations of history, there is a right way to think and a wrong way
to think in everything--not only in theology, or politics, or economics,
but in the most trivial matters of everyday life. Thus, in the average
American city the citizen who, in the face of an organized public
clamour (usually managed by interested parties) for the erection of an
equestrian statue of Susan B. Anthony, the apostle of woman suffrage, in
front of the chief railway station, or the purchase of a dozen
leopards for the municipal zoo, or the dispatch of an invitation to the
Structural Iron Workers' Union to hold its next annual convention in
the town Symphony Hall--the citizen who, for any logical reason, opposes
such a proposal--on the ground, say, that Miss Anthony never mounted a
horse in her life, or that a dozen leopards would be less useful than
a gallows to hang the City Council, or that the Structural Iron Workers
would spit all over the floor of Symphony Hall and knock down the busts
of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms--this citizen is commonly denounced as an
anarchist and a public enemy. It is not only erroneous to think thus;
it has come to be immoral. And many other planes, high and low. For an
American to question any of the articles of fundamental faith cherished
by the majority is for him to run grave risks of social disaster. The
old English offence of "imagining the King's death" has been formally
revived by the American courts, and hundreds of men and women are in
jail for committing it, and it has been so enormously extended that, in
some parts of the country at least, it now embraces such remote acts
as believing that the negroes should have equality before the law, and
speaking the language of countries recently at war with the Republic,
and conveying to a private friend a formula for making synthetic gin.
All such toyings with illicit ideas are construed as attentats against
democracy, which, in a sense, perhaps they are. For democracy is
grounded upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be
protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even half-wits would argue
it to pieces. Its first concern must thus be to penalize the free play
of ideas. In the United States this is not only its first concern, but
also its last concern. No other enterprise, not even the trade in public
offices and contracts, occupies the rulers of the land so steadily, or
makes heavier demands upon their ingenuity and their patriotic passion.

Familiar with the risks flowing out of it--and having just had to
change the plates of my "Book of Prefaces," a book of purely literary
criticism, wholly without political purpose or significance, in order
to get it through the mails, I determined to make this brochure upon the
woman question extremely pianissimo in tone, and to avoid burdening it
with any ideas of an unfamiliar, and hence illegal nature. So deciding,
I presently added a bravura touch: the unquenchable vanity of the
intellectual snob asserting itself over all prudence. That is to say,
I laid down the rule that no idea should go into the book that was
not already so obvious that it had been embodied in the proverbial
philosophy, or folk-wisdom, of some civilized nation, including the
Chinese. To this rule I remained faithful throughout. In its original
form, as published in 1918, the book was actuary just such a pastiche of
proverbs, many of them English, and hence familiar even to Congressmen,
newspaper editors and other such illiterates. It was not always easy
to hold to this program; over and over again I was tempted to insert
notions that seemed to have escaped the peasants of Europe and Asia.
But in the end, at some cost to the form of the work, I managed to get
through it without compromise, and so it was put into type. There is
no need to add that my ideational abstinence went unrecognized and
unrewarded. In fact, not a single American reviewer noticed it, and most
of them slated the book violently as a mass of heresies and contumacies,
a deliberate attack upon all the known and revered truths about the
woman question, a headlong assault upon the national decencies. In the
South, where the suspicion of ideas goes to extraordinary lengths, even
for the United States, some of the newspapers actually denounced the
book as German propaganda, designed to break down American morale, and
called upon the Department of Justice to proceed against me for the
crime known to American law as "criminal anarchy," i.e., "imagining the
King's death." Why the Comstocks did not forbid it the mails as lewd and
lascivious I have never been able to determine. Certainly, they received
many complaints about it. I myself, in fact, caused a number of these
complaints to be lodged, in the hope that the resultant buffooneries
would give me entertainment in those dull days of war, with all
intellectual activities adjourned, and maybe promote the sale of the
book. But the Comstocks were pursuing larger fish, and so left me to
the righteous indignation of right-thinking reviewers, especially
the suffragists. Their concern, after all, is not with books that are
denounced; what they concentrate their moral passion on is the book that
is praised.

The present edition is addressed to a wider audience, in more
civilized countries, and so I have felt free to introduce a number
of propositions, not to be found in popular proverbs, that had to be
omitted from the original edition. But even so, the book by no means
pretends to preach revolutionary doctrines, or even doctrines of any
novelty. All I design by it is to set down in more or less plain form
certain ideas that practically every civilized man and woman holds
in petto, but that have been concealed hitherto by the vast mass of
sentimentalities swathing the whole woman question. It is a question of
capital importance to all human beings, and it deserves to be discussed
honestly and frankly, but there is so much of social reticence, of
religious superstition and of mere emotion intermingled with it that
most of the enormous literature it has thrown off is hollow and useless.
I point for example, to the literature of the subsidiary question of
woman suffrage. It fills whole libraries, but nine tenths of it is
merely rubbish, for it starts off from assumptions that are obviously
untrue and it reaches conclusions that are at war with both logic
and the facts. So with the question of sex specifically. I have read,
literally, hundreds of volumes upon it, and uncountable numbers of
pamphlets, handbills and inflammatory wall-cards, and yet it leaves the
primary problem unsolved, which is to say, the problem as to what is to
be done about the conflict between the celibacy enforced upon millions
by civilization and the appetites implanted in all by God. In the
main, it counsels yielding to celibacy, which is exactly as sensible as
advising a dog to forget its fleas. Here, as in other fields, I do not
presume to offer a remedy of my own. In truth, I am very suspicious of
all remedies for the major ills of life, and believe that most of
them are incurable. But I at least venture to discuss the matter
realistically, and if what I have to say is not sagacious, it is at
all events not evasive. This, I hope, is something. Maybe some later
investigator will bring a better illumination to the subject.

It is the custom of The Free-Lance Series to print a paragraph or two
about the author in each volume. I was born in Baltimore, September 12,
1880, and come of a learned family, though my immediate forebears were
business men. The tradition of this ancient learning has been upon me
since my earliest days, and I narrowly escaped becoming a doctor
of philosophy. My father's death, in 1899, somehow dropped me into
journalism, where I had a successful career, as such careers go. At
the age of 25 I was the chief editor of a daily newspaper in Baltimore.
During the same year I published my first book of criticism. Thereafter,
for ten or twelve years, I moved steadily from practical journalism,
with its dabbles in politics, economics and soon, toward purely
aesthetic concerns, chiefly literature and music, but of late I have
felt a strong pull in the other direction, and what interests me chiefly
today is what may be called public psychology, ie., the nature of the
ideas that the larger masses of men hold, and the processes whereby they
reach them. If I do any serious writing hereafter, it will be in that
field. In the United States I am commonly held suspect as a foreigner,
and during the war I was variously denounced. Abroad, especially
in England, I am sometimes put to the torture for my intolerable
Americanism. The two views are less far apart than they seem to be.
The fact is that I am superficially so American, in ways of speech
and thought, that the foreigner is deceived, whereas the native, more
familiar with the true signs, sees that under the surface there is
incurable antagonism to most of the ideas that Americans hold to be
sound. Thus If all between two stools--but it is more comfortable there
on the floor than sitting up tightly. I am wholly devoid of public
spirit or moral purpose. This is incomprehensible to many men, and they
seek to remedy the defect by crediting me with purposes of their own.
The only thing I respect is intellectual honesty, of which, of course,
intellectual courage is a necessary part. A Socialist who goes to jail
for his opinions seems to me a much finer man than the judge who sends
him there, though I disagree with all the ideas of the Socialist and
agree with some of those of the judge. But though he is fine, the
Socialist is nevertheless foolish, for he suffers for what is untrue.
If I knew what was true, I'd probably be willing to sweat and strive for
it, and maybe even to die for it to the tune of bugle-blasts. But so far
I have not found it.

H. L. Mencken

I. The Feminine Mind

1. The Maternal Instinct

A man's women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit
and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something
akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them;
they see the actual man within, and know him for a shallow and pathetic
fellow. In this fact, perhaps, lies one of the best proofs of feminine
intelligence, or, as the common phrase makes it, feminine intuition.
The mark of that so-called intuition is simply a sharp and accurate
perception of reality, an habitual immunity to emotional enchantment,
a relentless capacity for distinguishing clearly between the appearance
and the substance. The appearance, in the normal family circle, is a
hero, magnifico, a demigod. The substance is a poor mountebank.

The proverb that no man is a hero to his valet is obviously of masculine
manufacture. It is both insincere and untrue: insincere because it
merely masks the egotistic doctrine that he is potentially a hero to
everyone else, and untrue because a valet, being a fourth-rate man
himself, is likely to be the last person in the world to penetrate his
master's charlatanry. Who ever heard of valet who didn't envy his master
wholeheartedly? who wouldn't willingly change places with his master?
who didn't secretly wish that he was his master? A man's wife labours
under no such naive folly. She may envy her husband, true enough,
certain of his more soothing prerogatives and sentimentalities. She
may envy him his masculine liberty of movement and occupation, his
impenetrable complacency, his peasant-like delight in petty vices,
his capacity for hiding the harsh face of reality behind the cloak
of romanticism, his general innocence and childishness. But she
never envies him his puerile ego; she never envies him his shoddy and
preposterous soul.

This shrewd perception of masculine bombast and make-believe, this acute
understanding of man as the eternal tragic comedian, is at the bottom
of that compassionate irony which paces under the name of the maternal
instinct. A woman wishes to mother a man simply because she sees into
his helplessness, his need of an amiable environment, his touching self
delusion. That ironical note is not only daily apparent in real life; it
sets the whole tone of feminine fiction. The woman novelist, if she
be skillful enough to arise out of mere imitation into genuine
self-expression, never takes her heroes quite seriously. From the day
of George Sand to the day of Selma Lagerlof she has always got into
her character study a touch of superior aloofness, of ill-concealed
derision. I can't recall a single masculine figure created by a woman
who is not, at bottom, a booby.

2. Women's Intelligence

That is should still be necessary, at this late stage in the senility of
the human race to argue that women have a fine and fluent intelligence
is surely an eloquent proof of the defective observation, incurable
prejudice, and general imbecility of their lords and masters. One finds
very few professors of the subject, even among admitted feminists,
approaching the fact as obvious; practically all of them think it
necessary to bring up a vast mass of evidence to establish what should
be an axiom. Even the Franco Englishman, W. L. George, one of the
most sharp-witted of the faculty, wastes a whole book up on the
demonstration, and then, with a great air of uttering something new,
gives it the humourless title of "The Intelligence of Women." The
intelligence of women, forsooth! As well devote a laborious time to the
sagacity of serpents, pickpockets, or Holy Church!

Women, in truth, are not only intelligent; they have almost a monopoly
of certain of the subtler and more utile forms of intelligence. The
thing itself, indeed, might be reasonably described as a special
feminine character; there is in it, in more than one of its
manifestations, a femaleness as palpable as the femaleness of cruelty,
masochism or rouge. Men are strong. Men are brave in physical combat.
Men have sentiment. Men are romantic, and love what they conceive to be
virtue and beauty. Men incline to faith, hope and charity. Men know how
to sweat and endure. Men are amiable and fond. But in so far as they
show the true fundamentals of intelligence--in so far as they reveal
a capacity for discovering the kernel of eternal verity in the husk of
delusion and hallucination and a passion for bringing it forth--to that
extent, at least, they are feminine, and still nourished by the milk of
their mothers. "Human creatures," says George, borrowing from Weininger,
"are never entirely male or entirely female; there are no men, there are
no women, but only sexual majorities." Find me an obviously intelligent
man, a man free from sentimentality and illusion, a man hard to deceive,
a man of the first class, and I'll show you aman with a wide streak
of woman in him. Bonaparte had it; Goethe had it; Schopenhauer had it;
Bismarck and Lincoln had it; in Shakespeare, if the Freudians are to be
believed, it amounted to down right homosexuality. The essential traits
and qualities of the male, the hallmarks of the unpolluted masculine,
are at the same time the hall-marks of the Schalskopf. The caveman is
all muscles and mush. Without a woman to rule him and think for him, he
is a truly lamentable spectacle: a baby with whiskers, a rabbit with the
frame of an aurochs, a feeble and preposterous caricature of God.

It would be an easy matter, indeed, to demonstrate that superior talent
in man is practically always accompanied by this feminine flavour--that
complete masculinity and stupidity are often indistinguishable. Lest
I be misunderstood I hasten to add that I do not mean to say that
masculinity contributes nothing to the complex of chemico-physiological
reactions which produces what we call talent; all I mean to say is that
this complex is impossible without the feminine contribution that it is
a product of the interplay of the two elements. In women of genius we
see the opposite picture. They are commonly distinctly mannish, and
shave as well as shine. Think of George Sand, Catherine the Great,
Elizabeth of England, Rosa Bonheur, Teresa Carreo or Cosima Wagner.
The truth is that neither sex, without some fertilization by the
complementary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches
of human endeavour. Man, without a saving touch of woman in him, is too
doltish, too naive and romantic, too easily deluded and lulled to sleep
by his imagination to be anything above a cavalryman, a theologian or
a bank director. And woman, without some trace of that divine
innocence which is masculine, is too harshly the realist for those vast
projections of the fancy which lie at the heart of what we call genius.
Here, as elsewhere in the universe, the best effects are obtained by a
mingling of elements. The wholly manly man lacks the wit necessary to
give objective form to his soaring and secret dreams, and the wholly
womanly woman is apt to be too cynical a creature to dream at all.

3. The Masculine Bag of Tricks

What men, in their egoism, constantly mistake for a deficiency of
intelligence in woman is merely an incapacity for mastering that mass
of small intellectual tricks, that complex of petty knowledges, that
collection of cerebral rubber stamps, which constitutes the chief mental
equipment of the average male. A man thinks that he is more intelligent
than his wife because he can add up a column of figures more accurately,
and because he understands the imbecile jargon of the stock market,
and because he is able to distinguish between the ideas of rival
politicians, and because he is privy to the minutiae of some sordid and
degrading business or profession, say soap-selling or the law. But
these empty talents, of course, are not really signs of a profound
intelligence; they are, in fact, merely superficial accomplishments, and
their acquirement puts little more strain on the mental powers than a
chimpanzee suffers in learning how to catch a penny or scratch a match.
The whole bag of tricks of the average business man, or even of the
average professional man, is inordinately childish. It takes no more
actual sagacity to carry on the everyday hawking and haggling of the
world, or to ladle out its normal doses of bad medicine and worse law,
than intakes to operate a taxicab or fry a pan of fish. No observant
person, indeed, can come into close contact with the general run of
business and professional men--I confine myself to those who seem to get
on in the world, and exclude the admitted failures--without marvelling
at their intellectual lethargy, their incurable ingenuousness, their
appalling lack of ordinary sense. The late Charles Francis Adams, a
grandson of one American President and a great-grandson of another,
after a long lifetime in intimate association with some of the chief
business "geniuses" of that paradise of traders and usurers, the United
States, reported in his old age that he had never heard a single one of
them say anything worth hearing. These were vigorous and masculine men,
and in a man's world they were successful men, but intellectually they
were all blank cartridges.

There is, indeed, fair ground for arguing that, if men of that kidney
were genuinely intelligent, they would never succeed at their gross an
driveling concerns--that their very capacity to master and retain
such balderdash as constitutes their stock in trade is proof of their
inferior mentality. The notion is certainly supported by the familiar
incompetency of first rate men for what are called practical concerns.
One could not think of Aristotle or Beethoven multiplying 3,472,701 by
99,999 without making a mistake, nor could one think of him remembering
the range of this or that railway share for two years, or the number
of ten-penny nails in a hundred weight, or the freight on lard from
Galveston to Rotterdam. And by the same token one could not imagine him
expert at billiards, or at grouse-shooting, or at golf, or at any other
of the idiotic games at which what are called successful men commonly
divert themselves. In his great study of British genius, Havelock Ellis
found that an incapacity for such petty expertness was visible in
almost all first rate men. They are bad at tying cravats. They do not
understand the fashionable card games. They are puzzled by book-keeping.
They know nothing of party politics. In brief, they are inert and
impotent in the very fields of endeavour that see the average men's
highest performances, and are easily surpassed by men who, in actual
intelligence, are about as far below them as the Simidae.

This lack of skill at manual and mental tricks of a trivial
character--which must inevitably appear to a barber or a dentist as
stupidity, and to a successful haberdasher as downright imbecility--is
a character that men of the first class share with women of the first,
second and even third classes. There is at the bottom of it, in truth,
something unmistakably feminine; its appearance in a man is almost
invariably accompanied by the other touch of femaleness that I have
described. Nothing, indeed, could be plainer than the fact that women,
as a class, are sadly deficient in the small expertness of men as a
class. One seldom, if ever, hears of them succeeding in the occupations
which bring out such expertness most lavishly--for example, tuning
pianos, repairing clocks, practising law, (ie., matching petty tricks
with some other lawyer), painting portraits, keeping books, or managing
factories--despite the circumstance that the great majority of such
occupations are well within their physical powers, and that few of them
offer any very formidable social barriers to female entrance. There is
no external reason why women shouldn't succeed as operative surgeons;
the way is wide open, the rewards are large, and there is a special
demand for them on grounds of modesty. Nevertheless, not many women
graduates in medicine undertake surgery and it is rare for one of them
to make a success of it. There is, again, no external reason why women
should not prosper at the bar, or as editors of newspapers, or as
managers of the lesser sort of factories, or in the wholesale trade,
or as hotel-keepers. The taboos that stand in the way are of very small
force; various adventurous women have defied them with impunity; once
the door is entered there remains no special handicap within. But, as
every one knows, the number of women actually practising these trades
and professions is very small, and few of them have attained to any
distinction in competition with men.

4. Why Women Fail

The cause thereof, as I say, is not external, but internal. It lies in
the same disconcerting apprehension of the larger realities, the same
impatience with the paltry and meretricious, the same disqualification
for mechanical routine and empty technic which one finds in the
higher varieties of men. Even in the pursuits which, by the custom of
Christendom, are especially their own, women seldom show any of that
elaborately conventionalized and half automatic proficiency which is the
pride and boast of most men. It is a commonplace of observation, indeed,
that a housewife who actually knows how to cook, or who can make her
own clothes with enough skill to conceal the fact from the most casual
glance, or who is competent to instruct her children in the elements
of morals, learning and hygiene--it is a platitude that such a woman is
very rare indeed, and that when she is encountered she is not usually
esteemed for her general intelligence. This is particularly true in the
United States, where the position of women is higher than in any other
civilized or semi-civilized country, and the old assumption of their
intellectual inferiority has been most successfully challenged. The
American dinner-table, in truth, becomes a monument to the defective
technic of the American housewife. The guest who respects his
oesophagus, invited to feed upon its discordant and ill-prepared
victuals, evades the experience as long and as often as he can, and
resigns himself toit as he might resign himself to being shaved by a
paralytic. Nowhere else in the world have women more leisure and freedom
to improve their minds, and nowhere else do they show a higher level
of intelligence, or take part more effectively in affairs of the first
importance. But nowhere else is there worse cooking in the home, or
a more inept handling of the whole domestic economy, or a larger
dependence upon the aid of external substitutes, by men provided, for
the skill that wanting where it theoretically exists. It is surely no
mere coincidence that the land of the emancipated and enthroned woman is
also the land of canned soup, of canned pork and beans, of whole meals
in cans, and of everything else ready-made. And nowhere else is there
more striking tendency to throw the whole business of training the
minds of children upon professional teachers, and the whole business of
instructing them in morals and religion upon so-called Sunday-schools,
and the whole business of developing and caring for their bodies upon
playground experts, sex hygienists and other such professionals, most of
them mountebanks.

In brief, women rebel--often unconsciously, sometimes even submitting
all the while--against the dull, mechanical tricks of the trade that the
present organization of society compels them to practise for a living,
and that rebellion testifies to their intelligence. If they enjoyed and
took pride in those tricks, and showed it by diligence and skill, they
would be on all fours with such men as are headwaiters, ladies' tailors,
schoolmasters or carpet-beaters, and proud of it. The inherent tendency
of any woman above the most stupid is to evade the whole obligation,
and, if she cannot actually evade it, to reduce its demands to the
minimum. And when some accident purges her, either temporarily or
permanently, of the inclination to marriage (of which much more anon),
and she enters into competition with men in the general business of the
world, the sort of career that she commonly carves out offers additional
evidence of her mental peculiarity. In whatever calls for no more than
an invariable technic and a feeble chicanery she usually fails; in
whatever calls for independent thought and resourcefulness she usually
succeeds. Thus she is almost always a failure as a lawyer, for the law
requires only an armament of hollow phrases and stereotyped formulae,
and a mental habit which puts these phantasms above sense, truth and
justice; and she is almost always a failure in business, for business,
in the main, is so foul a compound of trivialities and rogueries that
her sense of intellectual integrity revolts against it. But she
is usually a success as a sick-nurse, for that profession requires
ingenuity, quick comprehension, courage in the face of novel and
disconcerting situations, and above all, a capacity for penetrating and
dominating character; and whenever she comes into competition with
men in the arts, particularly on those secondary planes where simple
nimbleness of mind is unaided by the masterstrokes of genius, she holds
her own invariably. The best and most intellectual--i.e., most original
and enterprising play-actors are not men, but women, and so are the best
teachers and blackmailers, and a fair share of the best writers, and
public functionaries, and executants of music. In the demimonde one
will find enough acumen and daring, and enough resilience in the face
of special difficulties, to put the equipment of any exclusively male
profession to shame. If the work of the average man required half the
mental agility and readiness of resource of the work of the average
prostitute, the average man would be constantly on the verge of

5. The Thing Called Intuition

Men, as every one knows, are disposed to question this superior
intelligence of women; their egoism demands the denial, and they are
seldom reflective enough to dispose of it by logical and evidential
analysis. Moreover, as we shall see a bit later on, there is a certain
specious appearance of soundness in their position; they have forced
upon women an artificial character which well conceals their real
character, and women have found it profitable to encourage the
deception. But though every normal man thus cherishes the soothing
unction that he is the intellectual superior of all women, and
particularly of his wife, he constantly gives the lie to his pretension
by consulting and deferring to what he calls her intuition. That is to
say, he knows by experience that her judgment in many matters of
capital concern is more subtle and searching than his own, and, being
disinclined to accredit this greater sagacity to a more competent
intelligence, he takes refuge behind the doctrine that it is due to some
impenetrable and intangible talent for guessing correctly, some half
mystical super sense, some vague (and, in essence, infra-human) instinct.

The true nature of this alleged instinct, however, is revealed by an
examination of the situations which inspire a man to call it to his aid.
These situations do not arise out of the purely technical problems that
are his daily concern, but out of the rarer and more fundamental, and
hence enormously more difficult problems which beset him only at long
and irregular intervals, and go offer a test, not of his mere capacity
for being drilled, but of his capacity for genuine ratiocination. No
man, I take it, save one consciously inferior and hen-pecked, would
consult his wife about hiring a clerk, or about extending credit to some
paltry customer, or about some routine piece of tawdry swindling; but
not even the most egoistic man would fail to sound the sentiment of his
wife about taking a partner into his business, or about standing for
public office, or about combating unfair and ruinous competition,
or about marrying off their daughter. Such things are of massive
importance; they lie at the foundation of well-being; they call for the
best thought that the man confronted by them can muster; the perils
hidden in a wrong decision overcome even the clamors of vanity. It is
in such situations that the superior mental grasp of women is of obvious
utility, and has to be admitted. It is here that they rise above the
insignificant sentimentalities, superstitions and formulae of men,
and apply to the business their singular talent for separating the
appearance from the substance, and so exercise what is called their

Intuition? With all respect, bosh! Then it was intuition that led Darwin
to work out the hypothesis of natural selection. Then it was intuition
that fabricated the gigantically complex score of "Die Walkure." Then
it was intuition that convinced Columbus of the existence of land to the
west of the Azores. All this intuition of which so much
transcendental rubbish is merchanted is no more and no less than
intelligence--intelligence so keen that it can penetrate to the hidden
truth through the most formidable wrappings of false semblance and
demeanour, and so little corrupted by sentimental prudery that it is
equal to the even more difficult task of hauling that truth out into the
light, in all its naked hideousness. Women decide the larger questions
of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not
because they are divinely inspired, not because they practise a magic
inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense.
They see at a glance what most men could not see with searchlights and
telescopes; they are at grips with the essentials of a problem before
men have finished debating its mere externals. They are the supreme
realists of the race. Apparently illogical, they are the possessors of
a rare and subtle super-logic. Apparently whimsical, they hang to the
truth with a tenacity which carries them through every phase of its
incessant, jellylike shifting of form. Apparently unobservant and easily
deceived, they see with bright and horrible eyes. In men, too, the same
merciless perspicacity sometimes shows itself--men recognized to be more
aloof and uninflammable than the general--men of special talent for the
logical--sardonic men, cynics. Men, too, sometimes have brains. But
that is a rare, rare man, I venture, who is as steadily intelligent, as
constantly sound in judgment, as little put off by appearances, as the
average women of forty-eight.

II. The War Between the Sexes

6. How Marriages are Arranged

I have said that women are not sentimental, i.e., not prone to permit
mere emotion and illusion to corrupt their estimation of a situation.
The doctrine, perhaps, will raise a protest. The theory that they are is
itself a favourite sentimentality; one sentimentality will be brought
up to substantiate another; dog will eat dog. But an appeal to a few
obvious facts will be enough to sustain my contention, despite the vast
accumulation of romantic rubbish to the contrary.

Turn, for example, to the field in which the two sexes come most
constantly into conflict, and in which, as a result, their habits of
mind are most clearly contrasted--to the field, to wit, of monogamous
marriage. Surely no long argument is needed to demonstrate the superior
competence and effectiveness of women here, and therewith their greater
self-possession, their saner weighing of considerations, their higher
power of resisting emotional suggestion. The very fact that marriages
occur at all is a proof, indeed, that they are more cool-headed than
men, and more adept in employing their intellectual resources, for it is
plainly to a man's interest to avoid marriage as long as possible, and
as plainly to a woman's interest to make a favourable marriage as soon
as she can. The efforts of the two sexes are thus directed, in one of
the capital concerns of life, to diametrically antagonistic ends. Which
side commonly prevails? I leave the verdict to the jury. All normal
men fight the thing off; some men are successful for relatively long
periods; a few extraordinarily intelligent and courageous men (or
perhaps lucky ones) escape altogether. But, taking one generation with
another, as every one knows, the average man is duly married and the
average woman gets a husband. Thus the great majority of women, in
this clear-cut and endless conflict, make manifest their substantial
superiority to the great majority of men.

Not many men, worthy of the name, gain anything of net value by
marriage, at least as the institution is now met with in Christendom.
Even assessing its benefits at their most inflated worth, they are
plainly overborne by crushing disadvantages. When a man marries it is
no more than a sign that the feminine talent for persuasion and
intimidation--i.e., the feminine talent for survival in a world
of clashing concepts and desires, the feminine competence and
intelligence--has forced him into a more or less abhorrent compromise
with his own honest inclinations and best interests. Whether that
compromise be a sign of his relative stupidity or of his relative
cowardice it is all one: the two things, in their symptoms and effects,
are almost identical. In the first case he marries because he has
been clearly bowled over in a combat of wits; in the second he resigns
himself to marriage as the safest form of liaison. In both cases his
inherent sentimentality is the chief weapon in the hand of his opponent.
It makes him [caroche] the fiction of his enterprise, and even of his
daring, in the midst of the most crude and obvious operations against
him. It makes him accept as real the bold play-acting that women always
excel at, and at no time more than when stalking a man. It makes him,
above all, see a glamour of romance in a transaction which, even at its
best, contains almost as much gross trafficking, at bottom, as the sale
of a mule.

A man in full possession of the modest faculties that nature commonly
apportions to him is at least far enough above idiocy to realize that
marriage is a bargain in which he gets the worse of it, even when, in some
detail or other, he makes a visible gain. He never, I believe, wants
all that the thing offers and implies. He wants, at most, no more than
certain parts. He may desire, let us say, a housekeeper to protect his
goods and entertain his friends--but he may shrink from the thought
of sharing his bathtub with anyone, and home cooking may be downright
poisonous to him. He may yearn for a son to pray at his tomb--and yet
suffer acutely at the me reapproach of relatives-in-law. He may dream
of a beautiful and complaisant mistress, less exigent and mercurial than
any a bachelor may hope to discover--and stand aghast at admitting her
to his bank-book, his family-tree and his secret ambitions. He may want
company and not intimacy, or intimacy and not company. He may want a
cook and not a partner in his business, or a partner in his business
and not a cook. But in order to get the precise thing or things that he
wants, he has to take a lot of other things that he doesn't want--that
no sane man, in truth, could imaginably want--and it is to the
enterprise of forcing him into this almost Armenian bargain that the
woman of his "choice" addresses herself. Once the game is fairly set, she
searches out his weaknesses with the utmost delicacy and accuracy, and
plays upon them with all her superior resources. He carries a handicap
from the start. His sentimental and unintelligent belief in theories
that she knows quite well are not true--e.g., the theory that she
shrinks from him, and is modestly appalled by the banal carnalities of
marriage itself--gives her a weapon against him which she drives home
with instinctive and compelling art. The moment she discerns this
sentimentality bubbling within him--that is, the moment his oafish
smirks and eye rollings signify that he has achieved the intellectual
disaster that is called falling in love--he is hers to do with as she
will. Save for acts of God, he is forthwith as good as married.

7. The Feminine Attitude

This sentimentality in marriage is seldom, if ever, observed in women.
For reasons that we shall examine later, they have much more to gain by
the business than men, and so they are prompted by their cooler sagacity
tenter upon it on the most favourable terms possible, and with the
minimum admixture of disarming emotion. Men almost invariably get
their mates by the process called falling in love; save among the
aristocracies of the North and Latin men, the marriage of convenience is
relatively rare; a hundred men marry "beneath" them to every woman who
perpetrates the same folly. And what is meant by this so-called falling
in love? What is meant by it is a procedure whereby a man accounts for
the fact of his marriage, after feminine initiative and generalship have
made it inevitable, by enshrouding it in a purple maze of romance--in
brief, by setting up the doctrine that an obviously self-possessed and
mammalian woman, engaged deliberately in the most important adventure of
her life, and with the keenest understanding of its utmost implications,
is a naive, tender, moony and almost disembodied creature, enchanted and
made perfect by a passion that has stolen upon her unawares, and which
she could not acknowledge, even to herself, without blushing to death.
By this preposterous doctrine, the defeat and enslavement of the man is
made glorious, and even gifted with a touch of flattering naughtiness.
The sheer horsepower of his wooing has assailed and overcome her maiden
modesty; she trembles in his arms; he has been granted a free franchise
to work his wicked will upon her. Thus do the ambulant images of God
cloak their shackles proudly, and divert the judicious with their
boastful shouts.

Women, it is almost needless to point out, are much more cautious about
embracing the conventional hocus-pocus of the situation. They never
acknowledge that they have fallen in love, as the phrase is, until the
man has formally avowed the delusion, and so cut off his retreat; to
do otherwise would be to bring down upon their heads the mocking and
contumely of all their sisters. With them, falling in love thus appears
in the light of an afterthought, or, perhaps more accurately, in the
light of a contagion. The theory, it would seem, is that the love of
the man, laboriously avowed, has inspired it instantly, and by some
unintelligible magic; that it was non-existent until the heat of his own
flames set it off. This theory, it must be acknowledged, has a certain
element of fact in it. A woman seldom allows herself to be swayed by
emotion while the principal business is yet afoot and its issue still
in doubt; to do so would be to expose a degree of imbecility that
is confined only to the half-wits of the sex. But once the man is
definitely committed, she frequently unbends a bit, if only as a relief
from the strain of a fixed purpose, and so, throwing off her customary
inhibitions, she, indulges in the luxury of a more or less forced and
mawkish sentiment. It is, however, almost unheard of for her to permit
herself this relaxation before the sentimental intoxication of the man
is assured. To do otherwise--that is, to confess, even post facto, to an
anterior descent,--would expose her, as I have said, to the scorn of all
other women. Such a confession would be an admission that emotion had
got the better of her at a critical intellectual moment, and in the eyes
of women, as in the eyes of the small minority of genuinely intelligent
men, no treason to the higher cerebral centres could be more

8. The Male Beauty

This disdain of sentimental weakness, even in those higher reaches where
it is mellowed by aesthetic sensibility, is well revealed by the fact
that women are seldom bemused by mere beauty in men. Save on the stage,
the handsome fellow has no appreciable advantage in amour over his
more Gothic brother. In real life, indeed, he is viewed with the utmost
suspicion by all women save the most stupid. In him the vanity native to
his sex is seen to mount to a degree that is positively intolerable. It
not only irritates by its very nature; it also throws about him a
sort of unnatural armour, and so makes him resistant to the ordinary
approaches. For this reason, the matrimonial enterprises of the more
reflective and analytical sort of women are almost always directed to
men whose lack of pulchritude makes them easier to bring down, and,
what is more important still, easier to hold down. The weight of opinion
among women is decidedly against the woman who falls in love with an
Apollo. She is regarded, at best, as flighty creature, and at worst,
as one pushing bad taste to the verge of indecency. Such weaknesses are
resigned to women approaching senility, and to the more ignoble variety
of women labourers. A shop girl, perhaps, may plausibly fall in love
with a moving-picture actor, and a half-idiotic old widow may succumb
to a youth with shoulders like the Parthenon, but no woman of poise and
self-respect, even supposing her to be transiently flustered by a lovely
buck, would yield to that madness for an instant, or confess it to her
dearest friend. Women know how little such purely superficial values are
worth. The voice of their order, the first taboo of their freemasonry,
is firmly against making a sentimental debauch of the serious business
of marriage.

This disdain of the pretty fellow is often accounted for by amateur
psychologists on the ground that women are anesthetic to beauty--that
they lack the quick and delicate responsiveness of man. Nothing could
be more absurd. Women, in point of fact, commonly have a far keener
aesthetic sense than men. Beauty is more important to them; they
give more thought to it; they crave more of it in their immediate
surroundings. The average man, at least in England and America, takes
a sort of bovine pride in his anaesthesia to the arts; he can think of
them only as sources of tawdry and somewhat discreditable amusement; one
seldom hears of him showing half the enthusiasm for any beautiful thing
that his wife displays in the presence, of a fine fabric, an effective
colour, or a graceful form, say in millinery. The truth is that women
are resistant to so-called beauty in men for the simple and sufficient
reason that such beauty is chiefly imaginary. A truly beautiful man,
indeed, is as rare as a truly beautiful piece of jewelry. What men
mistake for beauty in themselves is usually nothing save a certain
hollow gaudiness, a revolting flashiness, the superficial splendour of a
prancing animal. The most lovely moving picture actor, considered in the
light of genuine aesthetic values, is no more than a piece of vulgarity;
his like is to be found, not in the Uffizi gallery or among the
harmonies of Brahms, but among the plush sofas, rococo clocks and
hand-painted oil-paintings of a third-rate auction room. All women, save
the least intelligent, penetrate this imposture with sharp eyes. They
know that the human body, except for a brief time in infancy, is not
a beautiful thing, buta hideous thing. Their own bodies give them no
delight; it is their constant effort to disguise and conceal them; they
never expose them aesthetically, but only as an act of the grossest
sexual provocation. If it were advertised that a troupe of men of easy
virtue were to appear half-clothed upon a public stage, exposing their
chests, thighs, arms and calves, the only women who would go to the
entertainment would be a few delayed adolescents, a psychopathic old
maid or two, and a guard of indignant members of the parish Ladies Aid

9. Men as Aesthetes

Men show no such sagacious apprehension of the relatively feeble
loveliness of the human frame. The most effective lure that a woman can
hold out to a man is the lure of what he fatuously conceives to be
her beauty. This so-called beauty, of course, is almost always a pure
illusion. The female body, even at its best is very defective in form;
it has harsh curves and very clumsily distributed masses; compared to
it the average milk-jug, or even cuspidor, is a thing of intelligent and
gratifying design--in brief, an objet d'art. The fact was curiously (and
humorously) display during the late war, when great numbers of women in
all the belligerent countries began putting on uniforms. Instantly they
appeared in public in their grotesque burlesques of the official garb of
aviators, elevator boys, bus conductors, train guards, and so on, their
deplorable deficiency in design was unescapably revealed. A man, save he
be fat, i.e., of womanish contours, usually looks better in uniform than
in mufti; the tight lines set off his figure. But a woman is at once
given away: she look like a dumbbell run over by an express train. Below
the neck by the bow and below the waist astern there are two masses that
simply refuse to fit into a balanced composition. Viewed from the side,
she presents an exaggerated S bisected by an imperfect straight line,
and so she inevitably suggests a drunken dollar-mark. Her ordinary
clothing cunningly conceals this fundamental imperfection. It swathes
those impossible masses in draperies soothingly uncertain of outline.
But putting her into uniform is like stripping her. Instantly all her
alleged beauty vanishes.

Moreover, it is extremely rare to find a woman who shows even the modest
sightliness that her sex is theoretically capable of; it is only the
rare beauty who is even tolerable. The average woman, until art comes to
her aid, is ungraceful, misshapen, badly calved and crudely articulated,
even for a woman. If she has a good torso, she is almost sure to be
bow-legged. If she has good legs, she is almost sure to have bad teeth.
If she has good teeth, she is almost sure to have scrawny hands, or
muddy eyes, or hair like oakum, or no chin. A woman who meets fair tests
all 'round is so uncommon that she becomes a sort of marvel, and usually
gains a livelihood by exhibiting herself as such, either on the stage,
in the half-world, or as the private jewel of some wealthy connoisseur.

But this lack of genuine beauty in women lays on them no practical
disadvantage in the primary business of their sex, for its effects
are more than overborne by the emotional suggestibility, the herculean
capacity for illusion, the almost total absence of critical sense of
men. Men do not demand genuine beauty, even in the most modest doses;
they are quite content with the mere appearance of beauty. That is
to say, they show no talent whatever for differentiating between the
artificial and the real. A film of face powder, skilfully applied, is
as satisfying to them as an epidermis of damask. The hair of a dead
Chinaman, artfully dressed and dyed, gives them as much delight as the
authentic tresses of Venus. A false hip intrigues them as effectively as
the soundest one of living fascia. A pretty frock fetches them quite as
surely and securely as lovely legs, shoulders, hands or eyes. In brief,
they estimate women, and hence acquire their wives, by reckoning up
purely superficial aspects, which is just as intelligent as estimating
an egg by purely superficial aspects. They never go behind the returns;
it never occurs to them to analyze the impressions they receive. The
result is that many a man, deceived by such paltry sophistications,
never really sees his wife--that if, as God is supposed to see, her, and
as the embalmer will see her--until they have been married for years.
All the tricks may be infantile and obvious, but in the face of so naive
a spectator the temptation to continue practising them is irresistible.
A trained nurse tells me that even when undergoing the extreme
discomforts of parturition the great majority of women continue to
modify their complexions with pulverized talcs, and to give thought to
the arrangement of their hair. Such transparent devices, to be sure,
reduce the psychologist to a sour sort of mirth, and yet it must be
plain that they suffice to entrap and make fools of men, even the most
discreet. I know of no man, indeed, who is wholly resistant to female
beauty, and I know of no man, even among those engaged professionally by
aesthetic problems, who habitually and automatically distinguishes the
genuine, from the imitation. He may doit now and then; he may even preen
himself upon is on unusual discrimination; but given the right woman and
the right stage setting, and he will be deceived almost as readily as a
yokel fresh from the cabbage-field.

10. The Process of Delusion

Such poor fools, rolling their eyes in appraisement of such meagre
female beauty as is on display in Christendom, bring to their judgments
a capacity but slightly greater than that a cow would bring to the
estimation of epistemologies. They are so unfitted for the business
that they are even unable to agree upon its elements. Let one such
man succumb to the plaster charms of some prancing miss, and all his
friends will wonder what is the matter with him. No two are in accord as
to which is the most beautiful woman in their own town or street. Turn
six of them loose in millinery shop or the parlour of a bordello, and
there will be no dispute whatsoever; each will offer the crown of love
and beauty to a different girl.

And what aesthetic deafness, dumbness and blindness thus open the way
for, vanity instantly reinforces. That is to say, once a normal man has
succumbed to the meretricious charms of a definite fair one (or, more
accurately, once a definite fair one has marked him out and grabbed him
by the nose), he defends his choice with all the heat and steadfastness
appertaining to the defense of a point of the deepest honour. To tell a
man flatly that his wife is not beautiful, or even that his stenographer
or manicurist is not beautiful, is so harsh and intolerable an insult to
his taste that even an enemy seldom ventures upon it. One would offend
him far less by arguing that his wife is an idiot. One would relatively
speaking, almost caress him by spitting into his eye. The ego of the
male is simply unable to stomach such an affront. It is a weapon as
discreditable as the poison of the Borgias.

Thus, on humane grounds, a conspiracy of silence surrounds the delusion
of female beauty, and so its victim is permitted to get quite as much
delight out of it as if it were sound. The baits he swallows most are
not edible and nourishing baits, but simply bright and gaudy ones. He
succumbs to a pair of well-managed eyes, a graceful twist of the body,
a synthetic complexion or a skilful display of ankles without giving
the slightest thought to the fact that a whole woman is there, and
that within the cranial cavity of the woman lies a brain, and that the
idiosyncrasies of that brain are of vastly more importance than all
imaginable physical stigmata combined. Those idiosyncrasies may make for
amicable relations in the complex and difficult bondage called marriage;
they may, on the contrary, make for joustings of a downright impossible
character. But not many men, laced in the emotional maze preceding, are
capable of any very clear examination of such facts. The truth is that
they dodge the facts, even when they are favourable, and lay all stress
upon the surrounding and concealing superficialities. The average stupid
and sentimental man, if he has a noticeably sensible wife, is almost
apologetic about it. The ideal of his sex is always a pretty wife, and
the vanity and coquetry that so often go with prettiness are erected
into charms. In other words, men play the love game so unintelligently
that they often esteem a woman in proportion as she seems to disdain
and make a mock of her intelligence. Women seldom, if ever, make that
blunder. What they commonly value in a man is not mere showiness,
whether physical or spiritual, but that compound of small capacities
which makes up masculine efficiency and passes for masculine
intelligence. This intelligence, at its highest, has a human value
substantially equal to that of their own. In a man's world it at
least gets its definite rewards; it guarantees security, position, a
livelihood; it is a commodity that is merchantable. Women thus accord it
a certain respect, and esteem it in their husbands, and so seek it out.

11. Biological Considerations

So far as I can make out by experiments on laboratory animals and by
such discreet vivisections as are possible under our laws, there is
no biological necessity for the superior acumen and circumspection
of women. That is to say, it does not lie in any anatomical or
physiological advantage. The essential feminine machine is no better
than the essential masculine machine; both are monuments to the
maladroitness of a much over-praised Creator. Women, it would seem,
actually have smaller brains than men, though perhaps not in proportion
to weight. Their nervous responses, if anything, are a bit duller than
those of men; their muscular coordinations are surely no prompter. One
finds quite as many obvious botches among them; they have as many bodily
blemishes; they are infested by the same microscopic parasites; their
senses are as obtuse; their ears stand out as absurdly. Even assuming
that their special malaises are wholly offset by the effects of
alcoholism in the male, they suffer patently from the same adenoids,
gastritis, cholelithiasis, nephritis, tuberculosis, carcinoma, arthritis
and so on--in short, from the same disturbances of colloidal equilibrium
that produce religion, delusions of grandeur, democracy, pyaemia, night
sweats, the yearning to save humanity, and all other such distempers in
men. They have, at bottom, the same weaknesses and appetites. They react
in substantially the same way to all chemical and mechanical agents.
A dose of hydrocyanic acid, administered per ora to the most sagacious
woman imaginable, affects her just as swiftly and just as deleteriously
as it affects a tragedian, a crossing-sweeper, or an ambassador to the
Court of St. James. And once a bottle of Cte Rtie or Scharlachberger
is in her, even the least emotional woman shows the same complex of
sentimentalities that a man shows, and is as maudlin and idiotic as he

Nay; the superior acumen and self-possession of women is not inherent
in any peculiarity of their constitutions, and above all, not in any
advantage of a purely physical character. Its springs are rather to
be sought in a physical disadvantage--that is, in the mechanical
inferiority of their frames, their relative lack of tractive capacity,
their deficiency as brute engines. That deficiency, as every one knows,
is partly a derricked heritage from those females of the Pongo pygmaeus
who were their probable fore-runners in the world; the same thing is to
be observed in the females of almost all other species of mammals. But
it is also partly due to the effects of use under civilization, and,
above all, to what evolutionists call sexual selection. In other words,
women were already measurably weaker than men at the dawn of human
history, and that relative weakness has been progressively augmented in
the interval by the conditions of human life. For one thing, the process
of bringing forth young has become so much more exhausting as refinement
has replaced savage sturdiness and callousness, and the care of them
in infancy has become so much more onerous as the growth of cultural
complexity has made education more intricate, that the two functions now
lay vastly heavier burdens upon the strength and attention of a woman
than they lay upon the strength and attention of any other female.
And for another thing, the consequent disability and need of physical
protection, by feeding and inflaming the already large vanity of man,
have caused him to attach a concept of attractiveness to feminine
weakness, so that he has come to esteem his woman, not in proportion as
she is self-sufficient as a social animal but in proportion as she is
dependent. In this vicious circle of influences women have been caught,
and as a result their chief physical character today is their fragility.
A woman cannot lift as much as a man. She cannot walk as far. She cannot
exert as much mechanical energy in any other way. Even her alleged
superior endurance, as Havelock Ellis has demonstrated in "Man and
Woman," is almost wholly mythical; she cannot, in point of fact, stand
nearly so much hardship as aman can stand, and so the law, usually an
ass, exhibits an unaccustomed accuracy of observation in its assumption
that, whenever husband and wife are exposed alike to fatal suffering,
say in a shipwreck, the wife dies first.

So far we have been among platitudes. There is less of overt platitude
in the doctrine that it is precisely this physical frailty that
has given women their peculiar nimbleness and effectiveness on the
intellectual side. Nevertheless, it is equally true. What they have done
is what every healthy and elastic organism does in like case; they have
sought compensation for their impotence in one field by employing their
resources in another field to the utmost, and out of that constant and
maximum use has come a marked enlargement of those resources. On the
one hand the sum of them present in a given woman has been enormously
increased by natural selection, so that every woman, so to speak,
inherits a certain extra-masculine mental dexterity as a mere function
of her femaleness. And on the other hand every woman, over and above
this almost unescapable legacy from her actual grandmothers, also
inherits admission to that traditional wisdom which constitutes the
esoteric philosophy of woman as a whole. The virgin at adolescence is
thus in the position of an unusually fortunate apprentice, for she
is not only naturally gifted but also apprenticed to extraordinarily
competent masters. While a boy at the same period is learning from his
elders little more than a few empty technical tricks, a few paltry vices
and a few degrading enthusiasms, his sister is under instruction in all
those higher exercises of the wits that her special deficiencies make
necessary to her security, and in particular in all those exercises
which aim at overcoming the physical, and hence social and economic
superiority of man by attacks upon his inferior capacity for clear
reasoning, uncorrupted by illusion and sentimentality.

12. Honour

Here, it is obvious, the process of intellectual development takes
colour from the Sklavenmoral, and is, in a sense, a product of it. The
Jews, as Nietzsche has demonstrated, got their unusual intelligence
by the same process; a contrary process is working in the case of the
English and the Americans, and has begun to show itself in the case
of the French and Germans. The sum of feminine wisdom that I have just
mentioned--the body of feminine devices and competences that is handed
down from generation to generation of women--is, in fact, made up
very largely of doctrines and expedients that infallibly appear to the
average sentimental man, helpless as he is before them, as cynical and
immoral. He commonly puts this aversion into the theory that women have
no sense of honour. The criticism, of course, is characteristically
banal. Honour is a concept too tangled to be analyzed here, but it
may be sufficient to point out that it is predicated upon a feeling of
absolute security, and that, in that capital conflict between man and
woman out of which rises most of man's complaint of its absence--to wit,
the conflict culminating in marriage, already described--the security of
the woman is not something that is in actual being, but something that
she is striving with all arms to attain. In such a conflict it must be
manifest that honor can have no place. An animal fighting for its very
existence uses all possible means of offence and defence, however foul.
Even man, for all his boasting about honor, seldom displays it when he
has anything of the first value at hazard. He is honorable, perhaps, in
gambling, for gambling is a mere vice, but it is quite unusual for him
to be honorable in business, for business is bread and butter. He is
honorable (so long as the stake is trivial) in his sports, but he seldom
permits honor to interfere with his perjuries in a lawsuit, or with
hitting below the belt in any other sort of combat that is in earnest.
The history of all his wars is a history of mutual allegations of
dishonorable practices, and such allegations are nearly always well
grounded. The best imitation of honor that he ever actually achieves in
them is a highly self-conscious sentimentality which prompts him to be
humane to the opponent who has been wounded, or disarmed, or otherwise
made innocuous. Even here his so-called honor is little more than a form
of playacting, both maudlin and dishonest. In the actual death-struggle
he invariably bites.

Perhaps one of the chief charms of woman lies precisely in the fact that
they are dishonorable, i.e., that they are relatively uncivilized. In
the midst of all the puerile repressions and inhibitions that hedge them
round, they continue to show a gipsy spirit. No genuine woman ever
gives a hoot for law if law happens to stand in the way of her private
interest. She is essentially an outlaw, a rebel, what H. G. Wells
calls a nomad. The boons of civilization are so noisily cried up by
sentimentalists that we are all apt to overlook its disadvantages.
Intrinsically, it is a mere device for regimenting men. Its perfect
symbol is the goose-step. The most civilized man is simply that man who
has been most successful in caging and harnessing his honest and natural
instincts-that is, the man who has done most cruel violence to his own
ego in the interest of the commonweal. The value of this commonweal is
always overestimated. What is it at bottom? Simply the greatest good to
the greatest number--of petty rogues, ignoramuses and poltroons.

The capacity for submitting to and prospering comfortably under this
cheese-monger's civilization is far more marked in men than in women,
and far more in inferior men than in men of the higher categories. It
must be obvious to even so pathetic an ass as a university professor of
history that very few of the genuinely first-rate men of the race
have been, wholly civilized, in the sense that the term is employed
in newspapers and in the pulpit. Think of Caesar, Bonaparte, Luther,
Frederick the Great, Cromwell, Barbarossa, Innocent III, Bolivar,
Hannibal, Alexander, and to come down to our own time, Grant, Stonewall
Jackson, Bismarck, Wagner, Garibaldi and Cecil Rhodes.

13. Women and the Emotions

The fact that women have a greater capacity than men for controlling
and concealing their emotions is not an indication that they are more
civilized, but a proof that they are less civilized. This capacity,
so rare today, and withal so valuable and worthy of respect, is a
characteristic of savages, not of civilized men, and its loss is one
of the penalties that the race has paid for the tawdry boon of
civilization. Your true savage, reserved, dignified, and courteous,
knows how to mask his feelings, even in the face of the most desperate
assault upon them; your civilized man is forever yielding to them.
Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical;
especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat
of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace
alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series
of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by
the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and
intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of
them. They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they
are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury. Here the effect
of civilization has been to reduce the noblest of the arts, once the
repository of an exalted etiquette and the chosen avocation of the very
best men of the race, to the level of a riot of peasants. All the wars
of Christendom are now disgusting and degrading; the conduct of them
has passed out of the hands of nobles and knights and into the hands of
mob-orators, money-lenders, and atrocity-mongers. To recreate one's self
with war in the grand manner, as Prince Eugene, Marlborough and the Old
Dessauer knew it, one must now go among barbarian peoples.

Women are nearly always against war in modern times, for the reasons
brought forward to justify it are usually either transparently dishonest
or childishly sentimental, and hence provoke their scorn. But once the
business is begun, they commonly favour its conduct outrance, and are
thus in accord with the theory of the great captains of more spacious
days. In Germany, during the late war, the protests against the
Schrecklichkeit practised by the imperial army and navy did not come
from women, but from sentimental men; in England and the United States
there is no record that any woman ever raised her voice against the
blockade which destroyed hundreds of thousands of German children. I was
on both sides of the bloody chasm during the war, and I cannot recall
meeting a single woman who subscribed to the puerile doctrine that, in
so vast a combat between nations, there could still be categories of
non-combatants, with aright of asylum on armed ships and in garrisoned
towns. This imbecility was maintained only by men, large numbers of whom
simultaneously took part in wholesale massacres of such non-combatants.
The women were superior to such hypocrisy. They recognized the nature
of modern war instantly and accurately, and advocated no disingenuous
efforts to conceal it.

14. Pseudo-Anaesthesia

The feminine talent for concealing emotion is probably largely
responsible for the common masculine belief that women are devoid of
passion, and contemplate its manifestations in the male with something
akin to trembling. Here the talent itself is helped out by the fact that
very few masculine observers, on the occasions when they give attention
to the matter, are in a state of mind conducive to exact observation.
The truth is, of course, that there is absolutely no reason to believe
that the normal woman is passionless, or that the minority of women who
unquestionably are is of formidable dimensions. To be sure, the peculiar
vanity of men, particularly in the Northern countries, makes them place
a high value upon the virginal type of woman, and so this type tends to
grow more common by sexual selection, but despite that fact, it has by
no means superseded the normal type, so realistically described by the
theologians and publicists of the Middle Ages. It would, however, be
rash to assert that this long continued sexual selection has not made
itself felt, even in the normal type. Its chief effect, perhaps, is to
make it measurably easier for a woman to conquer and conceal emotion
than it is for a man. But this is a mere reinforcement of a native
quality or, at all events, a quality long antedating the rise of the
curious preference just mentioned. That preference obviously owes its
origin to the concept of private property and is most evident in those
countries in which the largest proportion of males are property owners,
i.e., in which the property-owning caste reaches down into the lowest
conceivable strata of bounders and ignoramuses. The low-caste man is
never quite sure of his wife unless he is convinced that she is entirely
devoid of amorous susceptibility. Thus he grows uneasy whenever she
shows any sign of responding in kind to his own elephantine emotions,
and is apt to be suspicious of even so trivial a thing as a hearty
response to a connubial kiss. If he could manage to rid himself of such
suspicions, there would be less public gabble about anesthetic wives,
and fewer books written by quacks with sure cures for them, and a good
deal less cold-mutton formalism and boredom at the domestic hearth.

I have a feeling that the husband of this sort--he is very common in the
United States, and almost as common among the middle classes of England,
Germany and Scandinavia--does himself a serious disservice, and that he
is uneasily conscious of it. Having got himself a wife to his austere
taste, he finds that she is rather depressing--that his vanity is almost
as painfully damaged by her emotional inertness as it would have been
by a too provocative and hedonistic spirit. For the thing that chiefly
delights a man, when some, woman has gone through the solemn buffoonery
of yielding to his great love, is the sharp and flattering contrast
between her reserve in the presence of other men and her enchanting
complaisance in the presence of himself. Here his vanity is enormously
tickled. To the world in general she seems remote and unapproachable; to
him she is docile, fluttering, gurgling, even a bit abandoned. It is
as if some great magnifico male, some inordinate czar or kaiser, should
step down from the throne to play dominoes with him behind the door.
The greater the contrast between the lady's two fronts, the greater
his satisfaction-up to, of course, the point where his suspicions are
aroused. Let her diminish that contrast ever so little on the public
side--by smiling at a handsome actor, by saying a word too many to an
attentive head-waiter, by holding the hand of the rector of the parish,
by winking amiably at his brother or at her sister's husband--and at once
the poor fellow begins to look for clandestine notes, to employ private
inquiry agents, and to scrutinize the eyes, ears, noses and hair of his
children with shameful doubts. This explains many domestic catastrophes.

15. Mythical Anthropophagi

The man-hating woman, like the cold woman, is largely imaginary. One
often encounters references to her in literature, but who has ever
met hex in real life? As for me, I doubt that such a monster has ever
actually existed. There are, of course, women who spend a great deal of
time denouncing and reviling men, but these are certainly not genuine
man-haters; they are simply women who have done their utmost to
snare men, and failed. Of such sort are the majority of inflammatory
suffragettes of the sex-hygiene and birth-control species. The rigid
limitation of offspring, in fact, is chiefly advocated by women who run
no more risk of having unwilling motherhood forced upon them than so
many mummies of the Tenth Dynasty. All their unhealthy interest in such
noisome matters has behind it merely a subconscious yearning to attract
the attention of men, who are supposed to be partial to enterprises that
are difficult or forbidden. But certainly the enterprise of dissuading
such a propagandist from her gospel would not be difficult, and I know
of no law forbidding it.

I'll begin to believe in the man-hater the day I am introduced to a
woman who has definitely and finally refused a chance of marriage to
aman who is of her own station in life, able to support her, unafflicted
by any loathsome disease, and of reasonably decent aspect and
manners--in brief a man who is thoroughly eligible. I doubt that any
such woman breathes the air of Christendom. Whenever one comes to
confidential terms with an unmarried woman, of course, she favours one
with a long chronicle of the men she has refused to marry, greatly
to their grief. But unsentimental cross-examination, at least in my
experience, always develops the fact that every one of these suffered
from some obvious and intolerable disqualification. Either he had a wife
already and was vague about his ability to get rid of her, or he was
drunk when he was brought to his proposal and repudiated it or forgot
it the next day, or he was a bankrupt, or he was old and decrepit, or he
was young and plainly idiotic, or he had diabetes or a bad heart, or his
relatives were impossible, or he believed in spiritualism, or democracy,
or the Baconian theory, or some other such nonsense. Restricting the
thing to men palpably eligible, I believe thoroughly that no sane woman
has ever actually muffed a chance. Now and then, perhaps, a miraculously
fortunate girl has two victims on the mat simultaneously, and has to
lose one. But they are seldom, if ever, both good chances; one is
nearly always a duffer, thrown in in the telling to make the bourgeoisie

16. A Conspiracy of Silence

The reason why all this has to be stated here is simply that women,
who could state it much better, have almost unanimously refrained from
discussing such matters at all. One finds, indeed, a sort of general
conspiracy, infinitely alert and jealous, against the publication of the
esoteric wisdom of the sex, and even against the acknowledgment that any
such body of erudition exists at all. Men, having more vanity and less
discretion, area good deal less cautious. There is, in fact, a whole
literature of masculine babbling, ranging from Machiavelli's appalling
confession of political theory to the egoistic confidences of such men
as Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Casanova, Max Stirner, Benvenuto
Cellini, Napoleon Bonaparte and Lord Chesterfield. But it is very rarely
that a Marie Bashkirtsev or Margot Asquith lets down the veils which
conceal the acroamatic doctrine of the other sex. It is transmitted
from mother to daughter, so to speak, behind the door. One observes its
practical workings, but hears little about its principles. The causes
of this secrecy are obvious. Women, in the last analysis, can prevail
against men in the great struggle for power and security only by keeping
them disarmed, and, in the main, unwarned. In a pitched battle, with the
devil taking the hindmost, their physical and economic inferiority
would inevitably bring them to disaster. Thus they have to apply their
peculiar talents warily, and with due regard to the danger of arousing
the foe. He must be attached without any formal challenge, and even
without any suspicion of challenge. This strategy lies at the heart of
what Nietzsche called the slave morality--in brief, a morality based
upon a concealment of egoistic purpose, a code of ethics having for its
foremost character a bold denial of its actual aim.

III. Marriage

17. Fundamental Motives

How successful such a concealment may be is well displayed by the
general acceptance of the notion that women are reluctant to enter
into marriage--that they have to be persuaded to it by eloquence and
pertinacity, and even by a sort of intimidation. The truth is that, in a
world almost divested of intelligible idealism, and hence dominated by a
senseless worship of the practical, marriage offers the best career that
the average woman can reasonably aspire to, and, in the case of very
many women, the only one that actually offers a livelihood. What is
esteemed and valuable, in our materialistic and unintelligent society,
is precisely that petty practical efficiency at which men are expert,
and which serves them in place of free intelligence. A woman, save she
show a masculine strain that verges upon the pathological, cannot hope
to challenge men in general in this department, but it is always open to
her to exchange her sexual charm for a lion's share in the earnings of
one man, and this is what she almost invariably tries to do. That is
to say, she tries to get a husband, for getting a husband means, in
a sense, enslaving an expert, and so covering up her own lack of
expertness, and escaping its consequences. Thereafter she has at least
one stout line of defence against a struggle for existence in which the
prospect of survival is chiefly based, not upon the talents that are
typically hers, but upon those that she typically lacks. Before the
average woman succumbs in this struggle, some man or other must succumb
first. Thus her craft converts her handicap into an advantage.

In this security lies the most important of all the benefits that a
woman attains by marriage. It is, in fact, the most important benefit
that the mind can imagine, for the whole effort of the human race, under
our industrial society, is concentrated upon the attainment of it. But
there are other benefits, too. One of them is that increase in dignity
which goes with an obvious success; the woman who has got herself a
satisfactory husband, or even a highly imperfect husband, is regarded
with respect by other women, and has a contemptuous patronage for those
who have failed to do likewise. Again, marriage offers her the only safe
opportunity, considering the levantine view of women as property which
Christianity has preserved in our civilization, to obtain gratification
for that powerful complex of instincts which we call the sexual, and, in
particular, for the instinct of maternity. The woman who has not had
a child remains incomplete, ill at ease, and more than a little
ridiculous. She is in the position of a man who has never stood
in battle; she has missed the most colossal experience of her sex.
Moreover, a social odium goes with her loss. Other women regard her as
a sort of permanent tyro, and treat her with ill-concealed disdain,
and deride the very virtue which lies at the bottom of her experiential
penury. There would seem to be, indeed, but small respect among women
for virginity per se. They are against the woman who has got rid of
hers outside marriage, not because they think she has lost anything
intrinsically valuable, but because she has made a bad bargain, and one
that materially diminishes the sentimental respect for virtue held by
men, and hence one against the general advantage an dwell-being of the
sex. In other words, it is a guild resentment that they feel, not a
moral resentment. Women, in general, are not actively moral, nor,
for that matter, noticeably modest. Every man, indeed, who is in wide
practice among them is occasionally astounded and horrified to discover,
on some rainy afternoon, an almost complete absence of modesty in some
women of the highest respectability.

But of all things that a woman gains by marriage the most valuable is
economic security. Such security, of course, is seldom absolute, but
usually merely relative: the best provider among husbands may die
without enough life insurance, or run off with some preposterous light
of love, or become an invalid or insane, or step over the intangible
and wavering line which separates business success from a prison cell.
Again, a woman may be deceived: there are stray women who are credulous
and sentimental, and stray men who are cunning. Yet again, a woman
may make false deductions from evidence accurately before her, ineptly
guessing that the clerk she marries today will be the head of the firm
tomorrow, instead of merely the bookkeeper tomorrow. But on the whole it
must be plain that a woman, in marrying, usually obtains for herself
a reasonably secure position in that station of life to which she is
accustomed. She seeks a husband, not sentimentally, but realistically;
she always gives thought to the economic situation; she seldom takes
a chance if it is possible to avoid it. It is common for men to marry
women who bring nothing to the joint capital of marriage save good looks
and an appearance of vivacity; it is almost unheard of for women to
neglect more prosaic inquiries. Many a rich man, at least in America,
marries his typist or the governess of his sister's children and
is happy thereafter, but when a rare woman enters upon a comparable
marriage she is commonly set down as insane, and the disaster that
almost always ensues quickly confirms the diagnosis.

The economic and social advantage that women thus seek in marriage--and
the seeking is visible no less in the kitchen wench who aspires to the
heart of a policeman than in the fashionable flapper who looks for a
husband with a Rolls-Royce--is, by a curious twist of fate, one of the
underlying causes of their precarious economic condition before marriage
rescues them. In a civilization which lays its greatest stress upon
an uninspired and almost automatic expertness, and offers its
highest rewards to the more intricate forms thereof, they suffer
the disadvantage of being less capable of it than men. Part of this
disadvantage, as we have seen, is congenital; their very intellectual
enterprise makes it difficult for them to become the efficient machines
that men are. But part of it is also due to the fact that, with marriage
always before them, coloring their every vision of the future, and
holding out a steady promise of swift and complete relief, they are
under no such implacable pressure as men are to acquire the sordid arts
they revolt against. The time is too short and the incentive too
feeble. Before the woman employee of twenty-one can master a tenth of
the idiotic "knowledge" in the head of the male clerk of thirty, or even
convince herself that it is worth mastering, she has married the head
of the establishment or maybe the clerk himself, and so abandons the
business. It is, indeed, not until a woman has definitely put away the
hope of marriage, or, at all events, admitted the possibility that she,
may have to do so soon or late, that she buckles down in earnest to
whatever craft she practises, and makes a genuine effort to develop
competence. No sane man, seeking a woman for a post requiring laborious
training and unremitting diligence, would select a woman still
definitely young and marriageable. To the contrary, he would choose
either a woman so unattractive sexually as to be palpably incapable of
snaring a man, or one so embittered by some catastrophe of amour as to
be pathologically emptied of the normal aspirations of her sex.

18. The Process of Courtship

This bemusement of the typical woman by the notion of marriage has been
noted as self-evident by every literate student of the phenomena of sex,
from the early Christian fathers down to Nietzsche, Ellis and Shaw. That
It is denied by the current sentimentality of Christendom is surely no
evidence against it. What we have in this denial, as I have said, is
no more than a proof of woman's talent for a high and sardonic form
of comedy and of man's infinite vanity. "I wooed and won her," says
Sganarelle of his wife. "I made him run," says the hare of the hound.
When the thing is maintained, not as a mere windy sentimentality, but
with some notion of carrying it logically, the result is invariably a
display of paralogy so absurd that it becomes pathetic. Such nonsense
one looks for in the works of gyneophile theorists with no experience of
the world, and there is where one finds it. It is almost always wedded
to the astounding doctrine that sexual frigidity, already disposed
of, is normal in the female, and that the approach of the male is made
possible, not by its melting into passion, but by a purely intellectual
determination, inwardly revolting, to avoid his ire by pandering to his
gross appetites. Thus the thing is stated in a book called "The Sexes
in Science and History," by Eliza Burt Gamble, an American lady

The beautiful coloring of male birds and fishes, and the various
appendages acquired by males throughout the various orders below man,
and which, sofar as they themselves are concerned, serve no other useful
purpose than to aid them in securing the favours of the females, have by
the latter been turned to account in the processes of reproduction. The
female made the male beautiful _That She Might Endure His Caresses_.

The italics are mine. From this premiss the learned doctor proceeds
to the classical sentimental argument that the males of all species,
including man, are little more than chronic seducers, and that their
chief energies are devoted to assaulting and breaking down the native
reluctance of the aesthetic and anesthetic females. In her own words:
"Regarding males, outside of the instinct for self-preservation, which,
by the way is often overshadowed by their great sexual eagerness, no
discriminating characters have been acquired and transmitted, other
than those which have been the result of passion, namely, pugnacity and
perseverance." Again the italics are mine. What we have here is merely
the old, old delusion of masculine enterprise in amour--the concept of
man as a lascivious monster and of woman as his shrinking victim--in
brief, the Don Juan idea in fresh bib and tucker. In such bilge lie the
springs of many of the most vexatious delusions of the world, and of
some of its loudest farce no less. It is thus that fatuous old maids are
led to look under their beds for fabulous ravishers, and to cry out that
they have been stabbed with hypodermic needles in cinema theatres, and
to watch furtively for white slavers in railroad stations. It is thus,
indeed, that the whole white-slave mountebankery has been launched,
with its gaudy fictions and preposterous alarms. And it is thus, more
importantly, that whole regiments of neurotic wives have been convinced
that their children are monuments, not to a co-operation in which their
own share was innocent and cordial, but to the solitary libidinousness
of their swinish and unconscionable husbands.

Dr. Gamble, of course, is speaking of the lower fauna in the time of
Noah. A literal application of her theory toman today is enough to bring
it to a reductio ad absurdum. Which sex of Homo sapiens actually does
the primping and parading that she describes? Which runs to "beautiful
coloring," sartorial, hirsute, facial? Which encases itself in vestments
which "serve no other useful purpose than to aid in securing the
favours" of the other? The insecurity of the gifted savante's position
is at once apparent. The more convincingly she argues that the primeval
mud-hens and she mackerel had to be anesthetized with spectacular
decorations in order to "endure the caresses" of their beaux, the more
she supports the thesis that men have to be decoyed and bamboozled into
love today. In other words, her argument turns upon and destroys itself.
Carried to its last implication, it holds that women are all Donna
Juanitas, and that if they put off their millinery and cosmetics, and
abandoned the shameless sexual allurements of their scanty dress, men
could not "endure their caresses."

To be sure, Dr. Gamble by no means draws this disconcerting conclusion
herself. To the contrary, she clings to the conventional theory that the
human female of today is no more than the plaything of the concupiscent
male, and that she must wait for the feminist millenium to set her
free from his abominable pawings. But she can reach this notion only
by standing her whole structure of reasoning on its head--in fact, by
knocking it over and repudiating it. On the one hand, she argues that
splendour of attire is merely a bait to overcome the reluctance of
the opposite sex, and on the other hand she argues, at least by fair
inference, that it is not. This grotesque switching of horses, however,
need not detain us. The facts are too plain to be disposed of by a lady
anthropologist's theorizings. Those facts are supported, in the field
of animal behaviour, by the almost unanimous evidence of zoologists,
including that of Dr. Gamble herself. They are supported, in the field
of human behaviour, by a body of observation and experience so colossal
that it would be quite out of the question to dispose of it. Women, as
I have shown, have a more delicate aesthetic sense than men; in a world
wholly rid of men they would probably still array themselves with vastly
more care and thought of beauty than men would ever show in like case.
But with the world what it is, it must be obvious that their display of
finery--to say nothing of their display of epidermis--has the conscious
purpose of attracting the masculine eye. Anormal woman, indeed, never
so much as buys a pair of shoes or has her teeth plugged without
considering, in the back of her mind, the effect upon some unsuspecting
candidate for her "reluctant" affections.

19. The Actual Husband

So far as I can make out, no woman of the sort worth hearing--that is,
no woman of intelligence, humour and charm, and hence of success in
the duel of sex--has ever publicly denied this; the denial is confined
entirely to the absurd sect of female bachelors of arts and to the
generality of vain and unobservant men. The former, having failed to
attract men by the devices described, take refuge behind the sour grapes
doctrine that they have never tried, and the latter, having fallen
victims, sooth their egoism by arrogating the whole agency to
themselves, thus giving it a specious appearance of the volitional,
and even of the audacious. The average man is an almost incredible
popinjay; he can think of himself only as at the centre of situations.
All the sordid transactions of his life appear to him, and are depicted
in his accounts of them, as feats, successes, proofs of his acumen. He
regards it as an almost magical exploit to operate a stock-brokerage
shop, or to get elected to public office, or to swindle his fellow
knaves in some degrading commercial enterprise, or to profess some
nonsense or other in a college, or to write so platitudinous a book as
this one. And in the same way he views it as a great testimony to his
prowess at amour to yield up his liberty, his property and his soul
to the first woman who, in despair of finding better game, turns her
appraising eye upon him. But if you want to hear a mirthless laugh, just
present this masculine theory to a bridesmaid at a wedding, particularly
after alcohol and crocodile tears have done their disarming work upon
her. That is to say, just hint to her that the bride harboured no
notion of marriage until stormed into acquiescence by the moonstruck and
impetuous bridegroom.

I have used the phrase, "in despair of finding better game." What I mean
is this that not one woman in a hundred ever marries her first choice
among marriageable men. That first choice is almost invariably one who
is beyond her talents, for reasons either fortuitous or intrinsic. Let
us take, for example, a woman whose relative navetete makes the process
clearly apparent, to wit, a simple shop-girl. Her absolute first choice,
perhaps, is not a living man at all, but a supernatural abstraction in
a book, say, one of the heroes of Hall Caine, Ethel M. Dell, or
Marie Corelli. After him comes a moving-picture actor. Then another
moving-picture actor. Then, perhaps, many more--ten or fifteen head.
Then a sebaceous young clergyman. Then the junior partner in the firm
she works for. Then a couple of department managers. Then a clerk. Then
a young man with no definite profession or permanent job--one of the
innumerable host which flits from post to post, always restive, always
trying something new--perhaps a neighborhood garage-keeper in the end.
Well, the girl begins with the Caine colossus: he vanishes into thin
air. She proceeds to the moving picture actors: they are almost as
far beyond her. And then to the man of God, the junior partner, the
department manager, the clerk; one and all they are carried off by girls
of greater attractions and greater skill--girls who can cast gaudier
flies. In the end, suddenly terrorized by the first faint shadows of
spinsterhood, she turns to the ultimate numskull--and marries him out of

This, allowing for class modifications, is almost the normal history
of a marriage, or, more accurately, of the genesis of a marriage, under
Protestant Christianity. Under other rites the business is taken out of
the woman's hands, at least partly, and so she is less enterprising in
her assembling of candidates and possibilities. But when the whole thing
is left to her own heart--i.e., to her head--it is but natural that
she should seek as wide a range of choice as the conditions of her
life allow, and in a democratic society those conditions put few if any
fetters upon her fancy. The servant girl, or factory operative, or even
prostitute of today may be the chorus girl or moving picture vampire
of tomorrow and the millionaire's wife of next year. In America,
especially, men have no settled antipathy to such stooping alliances;
in fact, it rather flatters their vanity to play Prince Charming to
Cinderella. The result is that every normal American young woman,
with the practicality of her sex and the inner confidence that goes
therewith, raises her amorous eye as high as it will roll. And the
second result is that every American man of presentable exterior and
easy means is surrounded by an aura of discreet provocation: he cannot
even dictate a letter, or ask for a telephone number without being
measured for his wedding coat. On the Continent of Europe, and
especially in the Latin countries, where class barriers are more
formidable, the situation differs materially, and to the disadvantage of
the girl. If she makes an overture, it is an invitation to disaster; her
hope of lawful marriage by such means is almost nil. In consequence, the
prudent and decent girl avoids such overtures, and they must be made by
third parties or by the man himself. This is the explanation of the fact
that a Frenchman, say, is habitually enterprising in amour, and
hence bold and often offensive, whereas an American is what is called
chivalrous. The American is chivalrous for the simple reason that
the initiative is not in his hands. His chivalry is really a sort of

20. The Unattainable Ideal

But here I rather depart from the point, which is this: that the average
woman is not strategically capable of bringing down the most tempting
game within her purview, and must thus content herself with a second,
third, or nth choice. The only women who get their first choices
are those who run in almost miraculous luck and those too stupid to
formulate an ideal--two very small classes, it must be obvious. A few
women, true enough, are so pertinacious that they prefer defeat to
compromise. That is to say, they prefer to put off marriage indefinitely
rather than to marry beneath the highest leap of their fancy. But such
women may be quickly dismissed as abnormal, and perhaps as downright
diseased in mind; the average woman is well-aware that marriage is far
better for her than celibacy, even when it falls a good deal short
of her primary hopes, and she is also well aware that the differences
between man and man, once mere money is put aside, are so slight as to
be practically almost negligible. Thus the average woman is under none
of the common masculine illusions about elective affinities, soul mates,
love at first sight, and such phantasms. She is quite ready to fall in
love, as the phrase is, with any man who is plainly eligible, and she
usually knows a good many more such men than one. Her primary demand
in marriage is not for the agonies of romance, but for comfort and
security; she is thus easier satisfied than a man, and oftener happy.
One frequently hears of remarried widowers who continue to moon about
their dead first wives, but for a remarried widow to show any such
sentimentality would be a nine days' wonder. Once replaced, a dead
husband is expunged from the minutes. And so is a dead love.

One of the results of all this is a subtle reinforcement of the contempt
with which women normally regard their husbands--a contempt grounded, as
I have shown, upon a sense of intellectual superiority. To this primary
sense of superiority is now added the disparagement of a concrete
comparison, and over all is an ineradicable resentment of the fact
that such a comparison has been necessary. In other words, the typical
husband is a second-rater, and no one is better aware of it than his
wife. He is, taking averages, one who has been loved, as the saying
goes, by but one woman, and then only as a second, third or nth choice.
If any other woman had ever loved him, as the idiom has it, she would
have married him, and so made him ineligible for his present happiness.
But the average bachelor is a man who has been loved, so to speak, by
many women, and is the lost first choice of at least some of them. Here
presents the unattainable, and hence the admirable; the husband is the
attained and disdained.

Here we have a sufficient explanation of the general superiority of
bachelors, so often noted by students of mankind--a superiority so
marked that it is difficult, in all history, to find six first-rate
philosophers who were married men. The bachelor's very capacity to
avoid marriage is no more than a proof of his relative freedom from
the ordinary sentimentalism of his sex--in other words, of his greater
approximation to the clear headedness of the enemy sex. He is able to
defeat the enterprise of women because he brings to the business an
equipment almost comparable to their own. Herbert Spencer, until he was
fifty, was ferociously harassed by women of all sorts. Among others,
George Eliot tried very desperately to marry him. But after he had made
it plain, over a long series of years, that he was prepared to resist
marriage to the full extent of his military and naval power, the girls
dropped off one by one, and so his last decades were full of peace and
he got a great deal of very important work done.

21. The Effect on the Race

It is, of course, not well for the world that the highest sort of men
are thus selected out, as the biologists say, and that their superiority
dies with them, whereas the ignoble tricks and sentimentalities of
lesser men are infinitely propagated. Despite a popular delusion that
the sons of great men are always dolts, the fact is that intellectual
superiority is inheritable, quite as easily as bodily strength; and that
fact has been established beyond cavil by the laborious inquiries of
Galton, Pearson and the other anthropometricians of the English school.
If such men as Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, and Nietzsche
had married and begotten sons, those sons, it is probable, would have
contributed as much to philosophy as the sons and grandsons of Veit Bach
contributed to music, or those of Erasmus Darwin to biology, or those of
Henry Adams to politics, or those of Hamilcar Barcato the art of war.
I have said that Herbert Spencer's escape from marriage facilitated his
life-work, and so served the immediate good of English philosophy, but
in the long run it will work a detriment, for he left no sons to carry
on his labours, and the remaining Englishmen of his time were unable
to supply the lack. His celibacy, indeed, made English philosophy
co-extensive with his life; since his death the whole body of
metaphysical speculation produced in England has been of little more,
practical value to the world than a drove of bogs. In precisely the same
way the celibacy of Schopenhauer, Kant and Nietzsche has reduced German
philosophy to feebleness.

Even setting aside this direct influence of heredity, there is the
equally potent influence of example and tuition. It is a gigantic
advantage to live on intimate terms with a first-rate, man, and have his
care. Hamilcar not only gave the Carthagenians a great general in his
actual son; he also gave them a great general in his son-in-law, trained
in his camp. But the tendency of the first-rate man to remain a bachelor
is very strong, and Sidney Lee once showed that, of all the great
writers of England since the Renaissance, more than half were either
celibates or lived apart from their wives. Even the married ones
revealed the tendency plainly. For example, consider Shakespeare. He
was forced into marriage while still a minor by the brothers of Ann
Hathaway, who was several years his senior, and had debauched him and
gave out that she was enceinte by him. He escaped from her abhorrent
embraces as quickly as possible, and thereafter kept as far away from
her as he could. His very distaste for marriage, indeed, was the cause
of his residence in London, and hence, in all probability, of the
labours which made him immortal.

In different parts of the world various expedients have been resorted to
to overcome this reluctance to marriage among the better sort of men.
Christianity, in general, combats it on the ground that it is offensive
to God--though at the same time leaning toward an enforced celibacy
among its own agents. The discrepancy is fatal to the position. On the
one hand, it is impossible to believe that the same God who permitted
His own son to die a bachelor regards celibacy as an actual sin, and on
the other hand, it is obvious that the average cleric would be damaged
but little, and probably improved appreciably, by having a wife to
think for him, and to force him to virtue and industry, and to aid him
otherwise in his sordid profession. Where religious superstitions
have died out the institution of the dot prevails--an idea borrowed by
Christians from the Jews. The dot is simply a bribe designed to overcome
the disinclination of the male. It involves a frank recognition of the
fact that he loses by marriage, and it seeks to make up for that loss by
a money payment. Its obvious effect is to give young women a wider and
better choice of husbands. A relatively superior man, otherwise quite
out of reach, may be brought into camp by the assurance of economic
ease, and what is more, he may be kept in order after he has been taken
by the consciousness of his gain. Among hardheaded and highly practical
peoples, such as the Jews and the French, the dot flourishes, and
its effect is to promote intellectual suppleness in the race, for the
average child is thus not inevitably the offspring of a woman and a
noodle, as with us, but may be the offspring of a woman and a man of
reasonable intelligence. But even in France, the very highest class of
men tend to evade marriage; they resist money almost as unanimously as
their Anglo-Saxon brethren resist sentimentality.

In America the dot is almost unknown, partly because money-getting is
easier to men than in Europe and is regarded as less degrading, and
partly because American men are more naive than Frenchmen and are
thus readily intrigued without actual bribery. But the best of them
nevertheless lean to celibacy, and plans for overcoming their habit are
frequently proposed and discussed. One such plan involves a heavy tax on
bachelors. The defect in it lies in the fact that the average bachelor,
for obvious reasons, is relatively well to do, and would pay the tax
rather than marry. Moreover, the payment of it would help to salve his
conscience, which is now often made restive, I believe, by a maudlin
feeling that he is shirking his duty to the race, and so he would be
confirmed and supported in his determination to avoid the altar. Still
further, he would escape the social odium which now attaches to his
celibacy, for whatever a man pays for is regarded as his right. As
things stand, that odium is of definite potency, and undoubtedly has its
influence upon a certain number of men in the lower ranks of bachelors.
They stand, so to speak, in the twilight zone of bachelorhood, with one
leg furtively over the altar rail; it needs only an extra pull to bring
them to the sacrifice. But if they could compound for their immunity
by a cash indemnity it is highly probable that they would take on new
resolution, and in the end they would convert what remained of their
present disrepute into a source of egoistic satisfaction, as is done,
indeed, by a great many bachelors even today. These last immoralists are
privy to the elements which enter into that disrepute: the ire of women
whose devices they have resisted and the envy of men who have succumbed.

22. Compulsory Marriage

I myself once proposed an alternative scheme, to wit, the prohibition
of sentimental marriages by law, and the substitution of match-making
by the common hangman. This plan, as revolutionary as it may seem, would
have several plain advantages. For one thing, it would purge the serious
business of marriage of the romantic fol-de-rol that now corrupts it,
and so make for the peace and happiness of the race. For another thing,
it would work against the process which now selects out, as I have said,
those men who are most fit, and so throws the chief burden of paternity
upon the inferior, to the damage of posterity. The hangman, if he made
his selections arbitrarily, would try to give his office permanence
and dignity by choosing men whose marriage would meet with public
approbation, i.e., men obviously of sound stock and talents, i.e., the
sort of men who now habitually escape. And if he made his selection by
the hazard of the die, or by drawing numbers out of a hat, or by
any other such method of pure chance, that pure chance would fall
indiscriminately upon all orders of men, and the upper orders would thus
lose their present comparative immunity. True enough, a good many men
would endeavour to influence him privately to their own advantage, and
it is probable that he would occasionally succumb, but it must be plain
that the men most likely to prevail in that enterprise would not be
philosophers, but politicians, and so there would be some benefit to
the race even here. Posterity surely suffers no very heavy loss when
a Congressman, a member of the House of Lords or even an ambassador or
Prime Minister dies childless, but when a Herbert Spencer goes to the
grave without leaving sons behind him there is a detriment to all the
generations of the future.

I did not offer the plan, of course, as a contribution to practical
politics, but merely as a sort of hypothesis, to help clarify the
problem. Many other theoretical advantages appear in it, but its
execution is made impossible, not only by inherent defects, but also by
a general disinclination to abandon the present system, which at least
offers certain attractions to concrete men and women, despite
its unfavourable effects upon the unborn. Women would oppose the
substitution of chance or arbitrary fiat for the existing struggle for
the plain reason that every woman is convinced, and no doubt rightly,
that her own judgment is superior to that of either the common hangman
or the gods, and that her own enterprise is more favourable to her
opportunities. And men would oppose it because it would restrict their
liberty. This liberty, of course, is largely imaginary. In its common
manifestation, it is no more, at bottom, than the privilege of being
bamboozled and made a mock of by the first woman who ventures to essay
the business. But none the less it is quite as precious to menas any
other of the ghosts that their vanity conjures up for their enchantment.
They cherish the notion that unconditioned volition enters into the
matter, and that under volition there is not only a high degree of
sagacity but also a touch of the daring and the devilish. A man is often
almost as much pleased and flattered by his own marriage as he would be
by the achievement of what is currently called a seduction. In the one
case, as in the other, his emotion is one of triumph. The substitution
of pure chance would take away that soothing unction.

The present system, to be sure, also involves chance. Every man realizes
it, and even the most bombastic bachelor has moments in which he humbly
whispers: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." But that chance has
a sugarcoating; it is swathed in egoistic illusion; it shows less stark
and intolerable chanciness, so to speak, than the bald hazard of the
die. Thus men prefer it, and shrink from the other. In the same way, I
have no doubt, the majority of foxes would object to choosing lots to
determine the victim of a projected fox-hunt. They prefer to take their
chances with the dogs.

23. Extra-Legal Devices

It is, of course, a rhetorical exaggeration to say that all first-class
men escape marriage, and even more of an exaggeration to say that their
high qualities go wholly untransmitted to posterity. On the one hand it
must be obvious that an appreciable number of them, perhaps by reason
of their very detachment and preoccupation, are intrigued into the holy
estate, and that not a few of them enter it deliberately, convinced that
it is the safest form of liaison possible under Christianity. And on
the other hand one must not forget the biological fact that it is quite
feasible to achieve offspring without the imprimatur of Church and
State. The thing, indeed, is so commonplace that I need not risk a
scandal by uncovering it in detail. What I allude to, I need not add,
is not that form of irregularity which curses innocent children with the
stigma of illegitimacy, but that more refined and thoughtful form
which safeguards their social dignity while protecting them against
inheritance from their legal fathers. English philosophy, as I have
shown, suffers by the fact that Herbert Spencer was too busy to permit
himself any such romantic altruism--just as American literature gains
enormously by the fact that Walt Whitman adventured, leaving seven sons
behind him, three of whom are now well-known American poets and in the
forefront of the New Poetry movement.

The extent of this correction of a salient evil of monogamy is very
considerable; its operations explain the private disrepute of perhaps a
majority of first-rate men; its advantages have been set forth in George
Moore's "Euphorion in Texas," though in a clumsy and sentimental way.
What is behind it is the profound race sense of women--the instinct
which makes them regard the unborn in their every act--perhaps, too, the
fact that the interests of the unborn are here identical, as in
other situations, with their own egoistic aspirations. As a popular
philosopher has shrewdly observed, the objections to polygamy do not
come from women, for the average woman is sensible enough to prefer half
or a quarter or even a tenth of a first-rate man to the whole devotion
of a third-rate man. Considerations of much the same sort also justify
polyandry--if not morally, then at least biologically. The average
woman, as I have shown, must inevitably view her actual husband with
a certain disdain; he is anything but her ideal. In consequence, she
cannot help feeling that her children are cruelly handicapped by the
fact that he is their father, nor can she help feeling guilty about
it; for she knows that he is their father only by reason of her own
initiative in the proceedings anterior to her marriage. If, now, an
opportunity presents itself to remove that handicap from at least some
of them, and at the same time to realize her ideal and satisfy her
vanity--if such a chance offers it is no wonder that she occasionally
embraces it.

Here we have an explanation of many lamentable and otherwise
inexplicable violations of domestic integrity. The woman in the case is
commonly dismissed as vicious, but that is no more than a new example
of the common human tendency to attach the concept of viciousness to
whatever is natural, and intelligent, and above the comprehension of
politicians, theologians and green-grocers.

24. Intermezzo on Monogamy

The prevalence of monogamy in Christendom is commonly ascribed to
ethical motives. This is quite as absurd as ascribing wars to ethical
motives which is, of course, frequently done. The simple truth is that
ethical motives are no more than deductions from experience, and that
they are quickly abandoned whenever experience turns against them.
In the present case experience is still overwhelming on the side of
monogamy; civilized men are in favour of it because they find that it
works. And why does it work? Because it is the most effective of all
available antidotes to the alarms and terrors of passion. Monogamy,
in brief, kills passion--and passion is the most dangerous of all the
surviving enemies to what we call civilization, which is based upon
order, decorum, restraint, formality, industry, regimentation. The
civilized man--the ideal civilized man--is simply one who never
sacrifices the common security to his private passions. He reaches
perfection when he even ceases to love passionately--when he reduces
the most profound of all his instinctive experience from the level of
an ecstasy to the level of a mere device for replenishing armies and
workshops of the world, keeping clothes in repair, reducing the infant
death-rate, providing enough tenants for every landlord, and making it
possible for the Polizei to know where every citizen is at any hour of
the day or night. Monogamy accomplishes this, not by producing satiety,
but by destroying appetite. It makes passion formal and uninspiring, and
so gradually kills it.

The advocates of monogamy, deceived by its moral overtones, fail to get
all the advantage out of it that is in it. Consider, for example,
the important moral business of safeguarding the virtue of the
unmarried--that is, of the still passionate. The present plan in
dealing, say, with a young man of twenty, is to surround him with
scare-crows and prohibitions--to try to convince him logically
that passion is dangerous. This is both supererogation and
imbecility--supererogation because he already knows that it is
dangerous, and imbecility because it is quite impossible to kill a
passion by arguing against it. The way to kill it is to give it rein
under unfavourable and dispiriting conditions--to bring it down, by slow
stages, to the estate of an absurdity and a horror. How much more, then,
could be accomplished if the wild young man were forbidden polygamy,
before marriage, but permitted monogamy! The prohibition in this case
would be relatively easy to enforce, instead of impossible, as in the
other. Curiosity would be satisfied; nature would get out of her cage;
even romance would get an inning. Ninety-nine young men out of a hundred
would submit, if only because it would be much easier to submit that to

And the result? Obviously, it would be laudable--that is, accepting
current definitions of the laudable. The product, after six months,
would be a well-regimented and disillusioned young man, as devoid of
disquieting and demoralizing, passion as an ancient of eighty--in brief,
the ideal citizen of Christendom. The present plan surely fails to
produce a satisfactory crop of such ideal citizens. On the one hand its
impossible prohibitions cause a multitude of lamentable revolts, often
ending in a silly sort of running amok. On the other hand they fill the
Y. M. C. A.'s with scared poltroons full of indescribably disgusting
Freudian suppressions. Neither group supplies many ideal citizens.
Neither promotes the sort of public morality that is aimed at.

25. Late Marriages

The marriage of a first-rate man, when it takes place at all, commonly
takes place relatively late. He may succumb in the end, but he is almost
always able to postpone the disaster a good deal longer than the average
poor clodpate, or normal man. If he actually marries early, it is nearly
always proof that some intolerable external pressure has been applied
to him, as in Shakespeare's case, or that his mental sensitiveness
approaches downright insanity, as in Shelley's. This fact, curiously
enough, has escaped the observation of an otherwise extremely astute
observer, namely Havelock Ellis. In his study of British genius he notes
the fact that most men of unusual capacities are the sons of relatively
old fathers, but instead of exhibiting the true cause thereof, he
ascribes it to a mysterious quality whereby a man already in decline is
capable of begetting better offspring than one in full vigour. This is
a palpable absurdity, not only because it goes counter to facts long
established by animal breeders, but also because it tacitly assumes
that talent, and hence the capacity for transmitting it, is an acquired
character, and that this character may be transmitted. Nothing could
be more unsound. Talent is not an acquired character, but a congenital
character, and the man who is born with it has it in early life quite as
well as in later life, though Its manifestation may have to wait. James
Mill was yet a young man when his son, John Stuart Mill, was born, and
not one of his principle books had been written. But though the "Elements
of Political Economy" and the "Analysis of the Human Mind" were thus
but vaguely formulated in his mind, if they were actually so much as
formulated at all, and it was fifteen years before he wrote them, he was
still quite able to transmit the capacity to write them to his son,
and that capacity showed itself, years afterward, in the latter's
"Principles of Political Economy" and "Essay on Liberty."

But Ellis' faulty inference is still based upon a sound observation, to
wit, that the sort of man capable of transmitting high talents to a son
is ordinarily a man who does not have a son at all, at least in wedlock,
until he has advanced into middle life. The reasons which impel him to
yield even then are somewhat obscure, but two or three of them, perhaps,
may be vaguely discerned. One lies in the fact that every man, whether
of the first-class or of any other class, tends to decline in mental
agility as he grows older, though in the actual range and profundity
of his intelligence he may keep on improving until he collapses into
senility. Obviously, it is mere agility of mind, and not profundity,
that is of most value and effect in so tricky and deceptive a combat as
the duel of sex. The aging man, with his agility gradually withering,
is thus confronted by women in whom it still luxuriates as a function of
their relative youth. Not only do women of his own age aspire to ensnare
him, but also women of all ages back to adolescence. Hence his average
or typical opponent tends to be progressively younger and younger than
he is, and in the end the mere advantage of her youth may be sufficient
to tip over his tottering defences. This, I take it, is why oldish men
are so often intrigued by girls in their teens. It is not that age calls
maudlinly to youth, as the poets would have it; it is that age is no
match for youth, especially when age is male and youth is female. The
case of the late Henrik Ibsen was typical. At forty Ibsen was a sedate
family man, and it is doubtful that he ever so much as glanced at a
woman; all his thoughts were upon the composition of "The League of
Youth," his first social drama. At fifty he was almost as preoccupied;
"A Doll's House" was then hatching. But at sixty, with his best work all
done and his decline begun, he succumbed preposterously to a flirtatious
damsel of eighteen, and thereafter, until actual insanity released him,
he mooned like a provincial actor in a sentimental melodrama. Had it not
been, indeed, for the fact that he was already married, and to a very
sensible wife, he would have run off with this flapper, and so made
himself publicly ridiculous.

Another reason for the relatively late marriages of superior men is
found, perhaps, in the fact that, as a man grows older, the disabilities
he suffers by marriage tend to diminish and the advantages to increase.
At thirty aman is terrified by the inhibitions of monogamy and has
little taste for the so-called comforts of a home; at sixty he is beyond
amorous adventure and is in need of creature ease and security. What he
is oftenest conscious of, in these later years, is his physical decay;
he sees himself as in imminent danger of falling into neglect and
helplessness. He is thus confronted by a choice between getting a
wife or hiring a nurse, and he commonly chooses the wife as the less
expensive and exacting. The nurse, indeed, would probably try to marry
him anyhow; if he employs her in place of a wife he commonly ends
by finding himself married and minus a nurse, to his confusion and
discomfiture, and to the far greater discomfiture of his heirs and
assigns. This process is so obvious and so commonplace that I apologize
formally for rehearsing it. What it indicates is simply this: that
aman's instinctive aversion to marriage is grounded upon a sense of
social and economic self-sufficiency, and that it descends into a mere
theory when this self-sufficiency disappears. After all, nature is on
the side of mating, and hence on the side of marriage, and vanity is a
powerful ally of nature. If men, at the normal mating age, had half
as much to gain by marriage as women gain, then, all men would be as
ardently in favour of it as women are.

26. Disparate Unions

This brings us to a fact frequently noted by students of the subject:
that first-rate men, when they marry at all, tend to marry noticeably
inferior wives. The causes of the phenomenon, so often discussed and
so seldom illuminated, should be plain by now. The first-rate man, by
postponing marriage as long as possible, often approaches it in the
end with his faculties crippled by senility, and is thus open to the
advances of women whose attractions are wholly meretricious, e.g., empty
flappers, scheming widows, and trained nurses with a highly developed
professional technic of sympathy. If he marries at all, indeed, he
must commonly marry badly, for women of genuine merit are no longer
interested in him; what was once a lodestar is now no more than a
smoking smudge. It is this circumstance that account for the low calibre
of a good many first-rate men's sons, and gives a certain support to the
common notion that they are always third-raters. Those sons inherit from
their mothers as well as from their fathers, and the bad strain is often
sufficient to obscure and nullify the good strain. Mediocrity, as every
Mendelian knows, is a dominant character, and extraordinary ability is
recessive character. In a marriage between an able man and a commonplace
woman, the chances that any given child will resemble the mother are,
roughly speaking, three to one.

The fact suggests the thought that nature is secretly against the
superman, and seeks to prevent his birth. We have, indeed, no ground
for assuming that the continued progress visualized by man is in actual
accord with the great flow of the elemental forces. Devolution is quite
as natural as evolution, and may be just as pleasing, or even a good
deal more pleasing, to God. If the average man is made in God's image,
then a man such as Beethoven or Aristotle is plainly superior to God,
and so God may be jealous of him, and eager to see his superiority
perish with his bodily frame. All animal breeders know how difficult it
is to maintain a fine strain. The universe seems to be in a conspiracy
to encourage the endless reproduction of peasants and Socialists, but
a subtle and mysterious opposition stands eternally against the
reproduction of philosophers.

Per corollary, it is notorious that women of merit frequently marry
second-rate men, and bear them children, thus aiding in the war upon
progress. One is often astonished to discover that the wife of some
sordid and prosaic manufacturer or banker or professional man is a woman
of quick intelligence and genuine charm, with intellectual interests
so far above his comprehension that he is scarcely so much as aware of
them. Again, there are the leading feminists, women artists and other
such captains of the sex; their husbands are almost always inferior men,
and sometimes downright fools. But not paupers! Not incompetents in a
man's world! Not bad husbands! What we here encounter, of course, is no
more than a fresh proof of the sagacity of women. The first-rate woman
is a realist. She sees clearly that, in a world dominated by second-rate
men, the special capacities of the second-rate man are esteemed above
all other capacities and given the highest rewards, and she endeavours
to get her share of those rewards by marrying a second-rate man at
the to of his class. The first-rate man is an admirable creature; his
qualities are appreciated by every intelligent woman; as I have just
said, it may be reasonably argued that he is actually superior to God.
But his attractions, after a certain point, do not run in proportion
to his deserts; beyond that he ceases to be a good husband. Hence the
pursuit of him is chiefly maintained, not by women who are his peers,
but by women who are his inferiors.

Here we unearth another factor: the fascination of what is strange, the
charm of the unlike, hliogabalisme. As Shakespeare has put it, there
must be some mystery in love--and there can be no mystery between
intellectual equals. I dare say that many a woman marries an inferior
man, not primarily because he is a good provider (though it is
impossible to imagine her overlooking this), but because his very
inferiority interests her, and makes her want to remedy it and mother
him. Egoism is in the impulse: it is pleasant to have a feeling of
superiority, and to be assured that it can be maintained. If now, that
feeling he mingled with sexual curiosity and economic self-interest, it
obviously supplies sufficient motivation to account for so natural and
banal a thing as a marriage. Perhaps the greatest of all these factors
is the mere disparity, the naked strangeness. A woman could not love a
man, as the phrase is, who wore skirts and pencilled his eye-brows, and
by the same token she would probably find it difficult to love a man who
matched perfectly her own sharpness of mind. What she most esteems in
marriage, on the psychic plane, is the chance it offers for the exercise
of that caressing irony which I have already described. She likes to
observe that her man is a fool--dear, perhaps, but none the less damned.
Her so-called love for him, even at its highest, is always somewhat
pitying and patronizing.

27. The Charm of Mystery

Monogamous marriage, by its very conditions, tends to break down this
strangeness. It forces the two contracting parties into an intimacy
that is too persistent and unmitigated; they are in contact at too many
points, and too steadily. By and by all the mystery of the relation is
gone, and they stand in the unsexed position of brother and sister. Thus
that "maximum of temptation" of which Shaw speaks has within itself the
seeds of its own decay. A husband begins by kissing a pretty girl, his
wife; it is pleasant to have her so handy and so willing. He ends by
making machiavellian efforts to avoid kissing the every day sharer
of his meals, books, bath towels, pocketbook, relatives, ambitions,
secrets, malaises and business: a proceeding about as romantic as having
his boots blacked. The thing is too horribly dismal for words. Not all
the native sentimentalism of man can overcome the distaste and boredom
that get into it. Not all the histrionic capacity of woman can attach
any appearance of gusto and spontaneity toit.

An estimable lady psychologist of the American Republic, Mrs. Marion
Cox, in a somewhat florid book entitled "Ventures into Worlds," has a
sagacious essay upon this subject. She calls the essay "Our Incestuous
Marriage," and argues accurately that, once the adventurous descends
to the habitual, it takes on an offensive and degrading character. The
intimate approach, to give genuine joy, must be a concession, a feat of
persuasion, a victory; once it loses that character it loses everything.
Such a destructive conversion is effected by the average monogamous
marriage. It breaks down all mystery and reserve, for how can mystery
and reserve survive the use of the same hot water bag and a joint
concern about butter and egg bills? What remains, at least on the
husband's side, is esteem--the feeling one, has for an amiable aunt.
And confidence--the emotion evoked by a lawyer, a dentist ora
fortune-teller. And habit--the thing which makes it possible to eat the
same breakfast every day, and to windup one's watch regularly, and to
earn a living.

Mrs. Cox, if I remember her dissertation correctly, proposes to
prevent this stodgy dephlogistication of marriage by interrupting its
course--that is, by separating the parties now and then, so that neither
will become too familiar and commonplace to the other. By this means,
she, argues, curiosity will be periodically revived, and there will be
a chance for personality to expand a cappella, and so each reunion will
have in it something of the surprise, the adventure and the virtuous
satanry of the honeymoon. The husband will not come back to precisely
the same wife that he parted from, and the wife will not welcome
precisely the same husband. Even supposing them to have gone on
substantially as if together, they will have gone on out of sight and
hearing of each other, Thus each will find the other, to some extent
at least, a stranger, and hence a bit challenging, and hence a bit
charming. The scheme has merit. More, it has been tried often, and with
success. It is, indeed, a familiar observation that the happiest couples
are those who are occasionally separated, and the fact has been embalmed
in the trite maxim that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps
not actually fonder, but at any rate more tolerant, more curious, more
eager. Two difficulties, however, stand in the way of the widespread
adoption of the remedy. One lies in its costliness: the average couple
cannot afford a double establishment, even temporarily. The other lies
in the fact that it inevitably arouses the envy and ill-nature of those
who cannot adopt it, and so causes a gabbling of scandal. The world
invariably suspects the worst. Let man and wife separate to save their
happiness from suffocation in the kitchen, the dining room and the
connubial chamber, and it will immediately conclude that the corpse is
already laid out in the drawing-room.

28. Woman as Wife

This boredom of marriage, however, is not nearly so dangerous a menace
to the institution as Mrs. Cox, with evangelistic enthusiasm, permits
herself to think it is. It bears most harshly upon the wife, who is
almost always the more intelligent of the pair; in the case of the
husband its pains are usually lightened by that sentimentality with
which men dilute the disagreeable, particularly in marriage. Moreover,
the average male gets his living by such depressing devices that boredom
becomes a sort of natural state to him. A man who spends six or eight
hours a day acting as teller in a bank, or sitting upon the bench of a
court, or looking to the inexpressibly trivial details of some process
of manufacturing, or writing imbecile articles for a newspaper, or
managing a tramway, or administering ineffective medicines to stupid and
uninteresting patients--a man so engaged during all his hours of labour,
which means a normal, typical man, is surely not one to be oppressed
unduly by the dull round of domesticity. His wife may bore him
hopelessly as mistress, just as any other mistress inevitably bores a
man (though surely not so quickly and so painfully as a lover bores a
woman), but she is not apt to bore him so badly in her other capacities.
What he commonly complains about in her, in truth, is not that she tires
him by her monotony, but that she tires him by her variety--not that
she is too static, but that she is too dynamic. He is weary when he gets
home, and asks only the dull peace of a hog in a comfortable sty. This
peace is broken by the greater restlessness of his wife, the fruit of
her greater intellectual resilience and curiosity.

Of far more potency as a cause of connubial discord is the general
inefficiency of a woman at the business of what is called keeping
house--a business founded upon a complex of trivial technicalities. As I
have argued at length, women are congenitally less fitted for mastering
these technicalities than men; the enterprise always costs them more
effort, and they are never able to reinforce mere diligent application
with that obtuse enthusiasm which men commonly bring to their tawdry and
childish concerns. But in addition to their natural incapacity, there
is a reluctance based upon a deficiency in incentive, and deficiency
in incentive is due to the maudlin sentimentality with which men regard
marriage. In this sentimentality lie the germs of most of the evils
which beset the institution in Christendom, and particularly in the
United States, where sentiment is always carried to inordinate lengths.
Having abandoned the mediaeval concept of woman as temptress the men of
the Nordic race have revived the correlative mediaeval concept of woman
as angel and to bolster up that character they have create for her a
vast and growing mass of immunities culminating of late years in the
astounding doctrine that, under the contract of marriage, all the duties
lie upon the man and all the privileges appertain to the woman. In part
this doctrine has been established by the intellectual enterprise
and audacity of woman. Bit by bit, playing upon masculine stupidity,
sentimentality and lack of strategical sense, they have formulated it,
developed it, and entrenched it in custom and law. But in other part it
is the plain product of the donkeyish vanity which makes almost every
man view the practical incapacity of his wife as, in some vague way, a
tribute to his own high mightiness and consideration. Whatever is revolt
against her immediate indolence and efficiency, his ideal is nearly
always a situation in which she will figure as a magnificent drone,
a sort of empress without portfolio, entirely discharged from every
unpleasant labour and responsibility.

29. Marriage and the Law

This was not always the case. No more than a century ago, even by
American law, the most sentimental in the world, the husband was the
head of the family firm, lordly and autonomous. He had authority over
the purse-strings, over the children, and even over his wife. He could
enforce his mandates by appropriate punishment, including the corporal.
His sovereignty and dignity were carefully guarded by legislation, the
product of thousands of years of experience and ratiocination. He was
safeguarded in his self-respect by the most elaborate and efficient
devices, and they had the support of public opinion.

Consider, now, the changes that a few short years have wrought. Today,
by the laws of most American states--laws proposed, in most cases,
by maudlin and often notoriously extravagant agitators, and passerby
sentimental orgy--all of the old rights of the husband have been
converted into obligations. He no longer has any control over his wife's
property; she may devote its income to the family or she may squander
that income upon idle follies, and he can do nothing. She has equal
authority in regulating and disposing of the children, and in the case
of infants, more than he. There is no law compelling her to do her share
of the family labour: she may spend her whole time in cinema theatres or
gadding about the shops an she will. She cannot be forced to perpetuate
the family name if she does not want to. She cannot be attacked with
masculine weapons, e.g., fists and firearms, when she makes an assault
with feminine weapons, e.g., snuffling, invective and sabotage. Finally,
no lawful penalty can be visited upon her if she fails absolutely,
either deliberately or through mere incapacity, to keep the family
habitat clean, the children in order, and the victuals eatable.

Now view the situation of the husband. The instant he submits to
marriage, his wife obtains a large and inalienable share in his
property, including all he may acquire in future; in most American
states the minimum is one-third, and, failing children, one-half. He
cannot dispose of his real estate without her consent; He cannot even
deprive her of it by will. She may bring up his children carelessly and
idiotically, cursing them with abominable manners and poisoning their
nascent minds against him, and he has no redress. She may neglect her
home, gossip and lounge about all day, put impossible food upon his
table, steal his small change, pry into his private papers, hand
over his home to the Periplaneta americana, accuse him falsely of
preposterous adulteries, affront his friends, and lie about him to the
neighbours--and he can do nothing. She may compromise his honour by
indecent dressing, write letters to moving-picture actors, and expose
him to ridicule by going into politics--and he is helpless.

Let him undertake the slightest rebellion, over and beyond mere
rhetorical protest, and the whole force of the state comes down upon
him. If he corrects her with the bastinado or locks her up, he is good
for six months in jail. If he cuts off her revenues, he is incarcerated
until he makes them good. And if he seeks surcease in flight, taking the
children with him, he is pursued by the gendarmerie, brought back to his
duties, and depicted in the public press as a scoundrelly kidnapper, fit
only for the knout. In brief, she is under no legal necessity whatsoever
to carry out her part of the compact at the altar of God, whereas he
faces instant disgrace and punishment for the slightest failure to
observe its last letter. For a few grave crimes of commission, true
enough, she may be proceeded against. Open adultery is a recreation that
is denied to her. She cannot poison her husband. She must not assault
him with edged tools, or leave him altogether, or strip off her few
remaining garments and go naked. But for the vastly more various and
numerous crimes of omission--and in sum they are more exasperating and
intolerable than even overt felony--she cannot be brought to book at

The scene I depict is American, but it will soon extend its horrors to
all Protestant countries. The newly enfranchised women of every one of
them cherish long programs of what they call social improvement, and
practically the whole of that improvement is based upon devices for
augmenting their own relative autonomy and power. The English wife
of tradition, so thoroughly a femme covert, is being displaced by a
gadabout, truculent, irresponsible creature, full of strange new ideas
about her rights, and strongly disinclined to submit to her husband's
authority, or to devote herself honestly to the upkeep of his house, or
to bear him a biological sufficiency of heirs. And the German Hausfrau,
once so innocently consecrated to Kirche, Kche und Kinder, is going the
same way.

30. The Emancipated Housewife

What has gone on in the United States during the past two generations
is full of lessons and warnings for the rest of the world. The American
housewife of an earlier day was famous for her unremitting diligence.
She not only cooked, washed and ironed; she also made shift to master
such more complex arts as spinning, baking and brewing. Her expertness,
perhaps, never reached a high level, but at all events she made
a gallant effort. But that was long, long ago, before the new
enlightenment rescued her. Today, in her average incarnation, she is not
only incompetent (alack, as I have argued, rather beyond her control);
she is also filled with the notion that a conscientious discharge of her
few remaining duties is, in some vague way, discreditable and degrading.
To call her a good cook, I daresay, was never anything but flattery; the
early American cuisine was probably a fearful thing, indeed. But today
the flattery turns into a sort of libel, and she resents it, or, at all
events, does not welcome it. I used to know an American literary
man, educated on the Continent, who married a woman because she had
exceptional gifts in this department. Years later, at one of her
dinners, a friend of her husband's tried to please her by mentioning
the fact, to which he had always been privy. But instead of being
complimented, as a man might have been if told that his wife had married
him because he was a good lawyer, or surgeon, or blacksmith, this
unusual housekeeper, suffering a renaissance of usualness, denounced the
guest as a liar, ordered him out of the house, and threatened to leave
her husband.

This disdain of offices that, after all, are necessary, and might as
well be faced with some show of cheerfulness, takes on the character of
a definite cult in the United States, and the stray woman who attends to
them faithfully is laughed at as a drudge and a fool, just as she is apt
to be dismissed as a "brood sow" (I quote literally, craving absolution
for the phrase: a jury of men during the late war, on very thin
patriotic grounds, jailed the author of it) if she favours her lord with
viable issue. One result is the notorious villainousness of American
cookery--a villainousness so painful to a cultured uvula that a French
hack-driver, if his wife set its masterpieces before him, would brain
her with his linoleum hat. To encounter a decent meal in an American
home of the middle class, simple, sensibly chosen and competently
cooked, becomes almost as startling as to meet a Y. M.C. A. secretary
in a bordello, and a good deal rarer. Such a thing, in most of the
large cities of the Republic, scarcely has any existence. If the average
American husband wants a sound dinner he must go to a restaurant to get
it, just as if he wants to refresh himself with the society of charming
and well-behaved children, he has to go to an orphan asylum. Only the
immigrant can take his case and invite his soul within his own house.

IV. Woman Suffrage

31. The Crowning Victory

It is my sincere hope that nothing I have here exhibited will be
mistaken by the nobility and gentry for moral indignation. No such
feeling, in truth, is in my heart. Moral judgments, as old Friedrich
used to say, are foreign to my nature. Setting aside the vast herd which
shows no definable character at all, it seems to me that the minority
distinguished by what is commonly regarded as an excess of sin is very
much more admirable than the minority distinguished by an excess of
virtue. My experience of the world has taught me that the average
wine-bibber is a far better fellow than the average prohibitionist, and
that the average rogue is better company than the average poor drudge,
and that the worst white, slave trader of my acquaintance is a decenter
man than the best vice crusader. In the same way I am convinced that
the average woman, whatever her deficiencies, is greatly superior to
the average man. The very ease with which she defies and swindles him
in several capital situations of life is the clearest of proofs of her
general superiority. She did not obtain her present high immunities as a
gift from the gods, but only after a long and often bitter fight, and
in that fight she exhibited forensic and tactical talents of a truly
admirable order. There was no weakness of man that she did not penetrate
and take advantage of. There was no trick that she did not put to
effective use. There was no device so bold and inordinate that it
daunted her.

The latest and greatest fruit of this feminine talent for combat is the
extension of the suffrage, now universal in the Protestant countries,
and even advancing in those of the Greek and Latin rites. This fruit
was garnered, not by an attack en masse, but by a mere foray. I believe
that the majority of women, for reasons that I shall presently expose,
were not eager for the extension, and regard it as of small value today.
They know that they can get what they want without going to the actual
polls for it; moreover, they are out of sympathy with most of the
brummagem reforms advocated by the professional suffragists, male and
female. The mere statement of the current suffragist platform, with
its long list of quack sure-cures for all the sorrows of the world, is
enough to make them smile sadly. In particular, they are sceptical
of all reforms that depend upon the mass action of immense numbers of
voters, large sections of whom are wholly devoid of sense. A normal
woman, indeed, no more believes in democracy in the nation than she
believes in democracy at her own fireside; she knows that there must
be a class to order and a class to obey, and that the two can never
coalesce. Nor is she, susceptible to the stock sentimentalities upon
which the whole democratic process is based. This was shown very
dramatically in them United States at the national election of 1920,
in which the late Woodrow Wilson was brought down to colossal and
ignominious defeat--The first general election in which all American
women could vote. All the sentimentality of the situation was on the
side of Wilson, and yet fully three-fourths of the newly-enfranchised
women voters voted against him. He is, despite his talents for
deception, a poor popular psychologist, and so he made an inept effort
to fetch the girls by tear-squeezing: every connoisseur will remember
his bathos about breaking the heart of the world. Well, very few women
believe in broken hearts, and the cause is not far to seek: practically
every woman above the age of twenty-five has a broken heart. That is
to say, she has been vastly disappointed, either by failing to nab some
pretty fellow that her heart was set on, or, worse, by actually nabbing
him, and then discovering him to be a bounder or an imbecile, or both.
Thus walking the world with broken hearts, women know that the injury is
not serious. When he pulled out the Vox angelica stop and began sobbing
and snuffling and blowing his nose tragically, the learned doctor simply
drove all the women voters into the arms of the Hon. Warren Gamaliel
Harding, who was too stupid to invent any issues at all, but simply took
negative advantage of the distrust aroused by his opponent.

Once the women of Christendom become at ease in the use of the ballot,
and get rid of the preposterous harridans who got it for them and
who now seek to tell them what to do with it, they will proceed to
a scotching of many of the sentimentalities which currently corrupt
politics. For one thing, I believe that they will initiate measures
against democracy--the worst evil of the present-day world. When they
come to the matter, they will certainly not ordain the extension of the
suffrage to children, criminals and the insane in brief, to those ever
more inflammable and knavish than the male hinds who have enjoyed it for
so long; they will try to bring about its restriction, bit by bit, to
the small minority that is intelligent, agnostic and self-possessed--say
six women to one man. Thus, out of their greater instinct for reality,
they will make democracy safe for a democracy.

The curse of man, and the cause of nearly all his woes, is his
stupendous capacity for believing the incredible. He is forever
embracing delusions, and each new one is worse than all hat have gone
before. But where is the delusion that women cherish--I mean habitually,
firmly, passionately? Who will draw up a list of propositions, held and
maintained by them in sober earnest, that are obviously not true? (I
allude here, of course, to genuine women, not to suffragettes and other
such pseudo-males). As for me, I should not like to undertake such a
list. I know of nothing, in fact, that properly belongs to it. Women,
as a class, believe in none of the ludicrous rights, duties and
pious obligations that men are forever gabbling about. Their superior
intelligence is in no way more eloquently demonstrated than by their
ironical view of all such phantasmagoria. Their habitual attitude toward
men is one of aloof disdain, and their habitual attitude toward what men
believe in, and get into sweats about, and bellow for, is substantially
the same, It takes twice as long to convert a body of women to some new
fallacy as it takes to convert a body of men, and even then they halt,
hesitate and are full of mordant criticisms. The women of Colorado
had been voting for 21 years before they succumbed to prohibition
sufficiently to allow the man voters of the state to adopt it; their own
majority voice was against it to the end. During the interval the men
voters of a dozen non-suffrage American states had gone shrieking to the
mourners' bench. In California, enfranchised in 1911, the women rejected
the dry revelation in 1914. National prohibition was adopted during the
war without their votes--they did not get the franchise throughout
the country until it was in the Constitution--and it is without their
support today. The American man, despite his reputation for lawlessness,
is actually very much afraid of the police, and in all the regions
where prohibition is now actually enforced he makes excuses for his
poltroonish acceptance of it by arguing that it will do him good in
the long run, or that he ought to sacrifice his private desires to the
common weal. But it is almost impossible to find an American woman of
any culture who is in favour of it. One and all, they are opposed to the
turmoil and corruption that it involves, and resentful of the invasion
of liberty underlying it. Being realists, they have no belief in
any program which proposes to cure the natural swinishness of men by
legislation. Every normal woman believes, and quite accurately, that the
average man is very much like her husband, John, and she knows very well
that John is a weak, silly and knavish fellow, and that any effort to
convert him into an archangel overnight is bound to come to grief. As
for her view of the average creature of her own sex, it is marked by a
cynicism so penetrating and so destructive that a clear statement of it
would shock beyond endurance.

32. The Woman Voter

Thus there is not the slightest chance that the enfranchised women of
Protestantdom, once they become at ease in the use of the ballot,
will give, any heed to the ex-suffragettes who now presume to lead
and instruct them in politics. Years ago I predicted that these
suffragettes, tried out by victory, would turn out to be idiots. They
are now hard at work proving it. Half of them devote themselves
to advocating reforms, chiefly of a sexual character, so utterly
preposterous that even male politicians and newspaper editors laugh
at them; the other half succumb absurdly to the blandishments of
the old-time male politicians, and so enroll themselves in the great
political parties. A woman who joins one of these parties simply becomes
an imitation man, which is to say, a donkey. Thereafter she is nothing
but an obscure cog in an ancient and creaking machine, the sole
intelligible purpose of which is to maintain a horde of scoundrels in
public office. Her vote is instantly set off by the vote of some sister
who joins the other camorra. Parenthetically, I may add that all of the
ladies to take to this political immolation seem to me to be frightfully
plain. I know those of England, Germany and Scandinavia only by their
portraits in the illustrated papers, but those of the United States
I have studied at close range at various large political gatherings,
including the two national conventions first following the extension
of the suffrage. I am surely no fastidious fellow--in fact, I prefer a
certain melancholy decay in women to the loud, circus-wagon brilliance
of youth--but I give you my word that there were not five women at
either national convention who could have embraced me in camera without
first giving me chloral. Some of the chief stateswomen on show, in fact,
were so downright hideous that I felt faint every time I had to look at

The reform-monging suffragists seem to be equally devoid of the more
caressing gifts. They may be filled with altruistic passion, but they
certainly have bad complexions, and not many of them know how to dress
their hair. Nine-tenths of them advocate reforms aimed at the alleged
lubricity of the male-the single standard, medical certificates for
bridegrooms, birth-control, and so on. The motive here, I believe,
is mere rage and jealousy. The woman who is not pursued sets up the
doctrine that pursuit is offensive to her sex, and wants to make it a
felony. No genuinely attractive woman has any such desire. She likes
masculine admiration, however violently expressed, and is quite able to
take care of herself. More, she is well aware that very few men are bold
enough to offer it without a plain invitation, and this awareness makes
her extremely cynical of all women who complain of being harassed,
beset, storied, and seduced. All the more intelligent women that I know,
indeed, are unanimously of the opinion that no girl in her right senses
has ever been actually seduced since the world began; whenever they bear
of a case, they sympathize with the man. Yet more, the normal woman
of lively charms, roving about among men, always tries to draw the
admiration of those who have previously admired elsewhere; she prefers
the professional to the amateur, and estimates her skill by the
attractiveness of the huntresses who have hitherto stalked it. The
iron-faced suffragist propagandist, if she gets a man at all, must get
one wholly without sentimental experience. If he has any, her crude
manoeuvres make him laugh and he is repelled by her lack of pulchritude
and amiability. All such suffragists (save a few miraculous beauties)
marry ninth-rate men when they marry at all. They have to put up with
the sort of castoffs who are almost ready to fall in love with lady
physicists, embryologists, and embalmers.

Fortunately for the human race, the campaigns of these indignant
viragoes will come to naught. Men will keep on pursuing women until
hell freezes over, and women will keep luring them on. If the latter
enterprise were abandoned, in fact, the whole game of love would play
out, for not many men take any notice of women spontaneously. Nine men
out of ten would be quite happy, I believe, if there were no women in
the world, once they had grown accustomed to the quiet. Practically
all men are their happiest when they are engaged upon activities--for
example, drinking, gambling, hunting, business, adventure--to which
women are not ordinarily admitted. It is women who seduce them from such
celibate doings. The hare postures and gyrates in front of the hound.
The way to put an end to the gaudy crimes that the suffragist alarmists
talk about is to shave the heads of all the pretty girls in the world,
and pluck out their eyebrows, and pull their teeth, and put them in
khaki, and forbid them to wriggle on dance-floors, or to wear scents, or
to use lip-sticks, or to roll their eyes. Reform, as usual, mistakes the
fish for the fly.

33. A Glance Into the Future

The present public prosperity of the ex-suffragettes is chiefly due
to the fact that the old-time male politicians, being naturally very
stupid, mistake them for spokesmen for the whole body of women, and so
show them politeness. But soon or late--and probably disconcertingly
soon--the great mass of sensible and agnostic women will turn upon them
and depose them, and thereafter the woman vote will be no longer at
the disposal of bogus Great Thinkers and messiahs. If the suffragettes
continue to fill the newspapers with nonsense, once that change has been
effected, it will be only as a minority sect of tolerated idiots, like
the Swedenborgians, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists and
other such fanatics of today. This was the history of the extension
of the suffrage in all of the American states that made it before the
national enfranchisement of women and it will be repeated in the nation
at large, and in Great Britain and on the Continent. Women are not taken
in by quackery as readily as men are; the hardness of their shell of
logic makes it difficult to penetrate to their emotions. For one
woman who testifies publicly that she has been cured of cancer by
some swindling patent medicine, there are at least twenty masculine
witnesses. Even such frauds as the favourite American elixir, Lydia
Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, which are ostensibly remedies for
specifically feminine ills, anatomically impossible in the male, are
chiefly swallowed, so an intelligent druggist tells me, by men.

My own belief, based on elaborate inquiries and long meditation, is that
the grant of the ballot to women marks the concealed but none the less
real beginning of an improvement in our politics, and, in the end,
in our whole theory of government. As things stand, an intelligent
grappling with some of the capital problems of the commonwealth is
almost impossible. A politician normally prospers under democracy, not
in proportion as his principles are sound and his honour incorruptible,
but in proportion a she excels in the manufacture of sonorous phrases,
and the invention of imaginary perils and imaginary defences against
them. Our politics thus degenerates into a mere pursuit of hobgoblins;
the male voter, a coward as well as an ass, is forever taking fright at
a new one and electing some mountebank to lay it. For a hundred years
past the people of the United States, the most terrible existing
democratic state, have scarcely had apolitical campaign that was not
based upon some preposterous fear--first of slavery and then of the
manumitted slave, first of capitalism and then of communism, first of
the old and then of the novel. It is a peculiarity of women that they
are not easily set off by such alarms, that they do not fall readily
into such facile tumults and phobias. What starts a male meeting to
snuffling and trembling most violently is precisely the thing that would
cause a female meeting to sniff. What we need, to ward off mobocracy and
safeguard a civilized form of government, is more of this sniffing. What
we need--and in the end it must come--is a sniff so powerful that it
will call a halt upon the navigation of the ship from the forecastle,
and put a competent staff on the bridge, and lay a course that is
describable in intelligible terms.

The officers nominated by the male electorate in modern democracies
before the extension of the suffrage were, usually chosen, not for
their competence but for their mere talent for idiocy; they reflected
accurately thymol weakness for whatever is rhetorical and sentimental
and feeble and untrue. Consider, for example, what happened in a salient
case. Every four years the male voters of the United States chose from
among themselves one who was put forward as the man most fit, of all
resident men, to be the first citizen of the commonwealth. He was
chosen after interminable discussion; his qualifications were thoroughly
canvassed; very large powers and dignities were put into his hands.
Well, what did we commonly find when we examined this gentleman? We
found, not a profound thinker, not a leader of sound opinion, not a man
of notable sense, but merely a wholesaler of notions so infantile that
they must needs disgust a sentient suckling--in brief, a spouting geyser
of fallacies and sentimentalities, a cataract of unsupported assumptions
and hollow moralizings, a tedious phrase-merchant and platitudinarian,
a fellow whose noblest flights of thought were flattered when they were
called comprehensible--specifically, a Wilson, a Taft, a Roosevelt, or a

This was the male champion. I do not venture upon the cruelty of
comparing his bombastic flummeries to the clear reasoning of a woman
of like fame and position; all I ask of you is that you weigh them, for
sense, for shrewdness, for intelligent grasp of obscure relations, for
intellectual honesty and courage, with the ideas of the average midwife.

34. The Suffragette

I have spoken with some disdain of the suffragette. What is the matter
with her, fundamentally, is simple: she is a woman who has stupidly
carried her envy of certain of the superficial privileges of men to such
a point that it takes on the character of an obsession, and makes her
blind to their valueless and often chiefly imaginary character. In
particular, she centres this frenzy of hers upon one definite privilege,
to wit, the alleged privilege of promiscuity in amour, the modern droit
du seigneur. Read the books of the chief lady Savonarolas, and you will
find running through them an hysterical denunciation of what is called
the double standard of morality; there is, indeed, a whole literature
devoted exclusively to it. The existence of this double standard seems
to drive the poor girls half frantic. They bellow raucously for its
abrogation, and demand that the frivolous male be visited with even more
idiotic penalties than those which now visit the aberrant female; some
even advocate gravely his mutilation by surgery, that he may be forced
into rectitude by a physical disability for sin.

All this, of course, is hocus-pocus, and the judicious are not deceived
by it for an instant. What these virtuous bel dames actually desire in
their hearts is not that the male be reduced to chemical purity, but
that the franchise of dalliance be extended to themselves. The most
elementary acquaintance with Freudian psychology exposes their secret
animus. Unable to ensnare males under the present system, or at all
events, unable to ensnare males sufficiently appetizing to arouse the
envy of other women, they leap to the theory that it would be easier if
the rules were less exacting. This theory exposes their deficiency in
the chief character of their sex: accurate observation. The fact is
that, even if they possessed the freedom that men are supposed to
possess, they would still find it difficult to achieve their ambition,
for the average man, whatever his stupidity, is at least keen enough in
judgment to prefer a single wink from a genuinely attractive woman to
the last delirious favours of the typical suffragette. Thus the theory
of the whoopers and snorters of the cause, in its esoteric as well as
in its public aspect, is unsound. They are simply women who, in their
tastes and processes of mind, are two-thirds men, and the fact explains
their failure to achieve presentable husbands, or even consolatory
betrayal, quite as effectively as it explains the ready credence they
give to political an philosophical absurdities.

35. A Mythical Dare-Devil

The truth is that the picture of male carnality that such women conjure
up belongs almost wholly to fable, as I have already observed in
dealing with the sophistries of Dr. Eliza Burt Gamble, a paralogist on a
somewhat higher plane. As they depict him in their fevered treatises on
illegitimacy, white-slave trading and ophthalmia neonatorum, the average
male adult of the Christian and cultured countries leads a life of gaudy
lubricity, rolling magnificently from one liaison to another, and
with an almost endless queue of ruined milliners, dancers, charwomen,
parlour-maids and waitresses behind him, all dying of poison and
despair. The life of man, as these furiously envious ones see it, is
the life of a leading actor in a boulevard revue. He is a polygamous,
multigamous, myriadigamous; an insatiable and unconscionable debauche, a
monster of promiscuity; prodigiously unfaithful to his wife, and even to
his friends' wives; fathomlessly libidinous and superbly happy.

Needless to say, this picture bears no more relation to the facts than
a dissertation on major strategy by a military "expert" promoted from
dramatic critic. If the chief suffragette scare mongers (I speak without
any embarrassing naming of names) were attractive enough to men to get
near enough to enough men to know enough about them for their purpose
they would paralexia the Dorcas societies with no such cajoling libels.
As a matter of sober fact, the average man of our time and race is quite
incapable of all these incandescent and intriguing divertisements. He is
far more virtuous than they make him out, far less schooled in sin far
less enterprising and ruthless. I do not say, of course, that he is pure
in heart, for the chances are that he isn't; what I do say is that, in
the overwhelming majority of cases, he is pure in act, even in the face
of temptation. And why? For several main reasons, not to go into minor
ones. One is that he lacks the courage. Another is that he lacks the
money. Another is that he is fundamentally moral, and has a conscience.
It takes more sinful initiative than he has in him to plunge into any
affair save the most casual and sordid; it takes more ingenuity and
intrepidity than he has in him to carry it off; it takes more money
than he can conceal from his consort to finance it. A man may force his
actual wife to share the direst poverty, but even the least vampirish
woman of the third part demands to be courted in what, considering his
station in life, is the grand manner, and the expenses of that grand
manner scare off all save a small minority of specialists in deception.
So long, indeed, as a wife knows her husband's in come accurately, she
has a sure means of holding him to his oaths.

Even more effective than the fiscal barrier is the barrier of
poltroonery. The one character that distinguishes man from the other
higher vertebrate, indeed, is his excessive timorousness, his easy
yielding to alarms, his incapacity for adventure without a crowd behind
him. In his normal incarnation he is no more capable of initiating an
extra-legal affair--at all events, above the mawkish harmlessness of
a flirting match with a cigar girl in a cafe-than he is of scaling the
battlements of hell. He likes to think of himself doing it, just as
he likes to think of himself leading a cavalry charge or climbing the
Matterhorn. Often, indeed, his vanity leads him to imagine the thing
done, and he admits by winks and blushes that he is a bad one. But at
the bottom of all that tawdry pretence there is usually nothing more
material than an oafish smirk at some disgusted shop-girl, or a scraping
of shins under the table. Let any woman who is disquieted by reports
of her husband's derelictions figure to herself how long it would have
taken him to propose to her if left to his own enterprise, and then let
her ask herself if so pusillanimous a creature could be imaged in the
role of Don Giovanni.

Finally, there is his conscience--the accumulated sediment of ancestral
faintheartedness in countless generations, with vague religious fears
and superstitions to leaven and mellow it. What! a conscience? Yes,
dear friends, a conscience. That conscience may be imperfect, inept,
unintelligent, brummagem. It may be indistinguishable, at times, from
the mere fear that someone may be looking. It may be shot through with
hypocrisy, stupidity, play-acting. But nevertheless, as consciences go
in Christendom, it is genuinely entitled to the name--and it is always
in action. A man, remember, is not a being in vacuo; he is the fruit and
slave of the environment that bathes him. One cannot enter the House
of Commons, the United States Senate, or a prison for felons without
becoming, in some measure, a rascal. One cannot fall overboard without
shipping water. One cannot pass through a modern university without
carrying away scars. And by the same token one cannot live and have
one's being in a modern democratic state, year in and year out, without
falling, to some extent at least, under that moral obsession which is
the hall-mark of the mob-man set free. A citizen of such a state, his
nose buried in Nietzsche, "Man and Superman," and other such advanced
literature, may caress himself with the notion that he is an immoralist,
that his soul is full of soothing sin, that he has cut himself loose
from the revelation of God. But all the while there is a part of
him that remains a sound Christian, a moralist, a right thinking and
forward-looking man. And that part, in times of stress, asserts itself.
It may not worry him on ordinary occasions. It may not stop him when he
swears, or takes a nip of whiskey behind the door, or goes motoring on
Sunday; it may even let him alone when he goes to a leg-show. But the
moment a concrete Temptress rises before him, her noses now-white, her
lips rouged, her eyelashes drooping provokingly--the moment such an
abandoned wench has at him, and his lack of ready funds begins to
conspire with his lack of courage to assault and wobble him--at that
precise moment his conscience flares into function, and so finishes his
business. First he sees difficulty, then he sees the danger, then he
sees wrong. The result is that he slinks off in trepidation, and another
vampire is baffled of her prey.

It is, indeed, the secret scandal of Christendom, at least in the
Protestant regions, that most men are faithful to their wives. You will
a travel a long way before you find a married man who will admit that he
is, but the facts are the facts, and I am surely not one to flout them.

36. The Origin of a Delusion

The origin of the delusion that the average man is a Leopold II or
Augustus the Strong, with the amorous experience of a guinea pig, is not
far to seek. It lies in three factors, the which I rehearse briefly:

1. The idiotic vanity of men, leading to their eternal boasting, either
by open lying or sinister hints.

2. The notions of vice crusaders, nonconformist divines, Y. M.C. A.
secretaries, and other such libidinous poltroons as to what they would
do themselves if they had the courage.

3. The ditto of certain suffragettes as to ditto.

Here you have the genesis of a generalization that gives the less
critical sort of women a great deal of needless uneasiness and vastly
augments the natural conceit of men. Some pornographic old fellow, in
the discharge, of his duties as director of an anti-vice society, puts
in an evening ploughing through such books as "The Memoirs of Fanny
Hill," Casanova's Confessions, the Cena Trimalchionis of Gaius
Petronius, and II Samuel. From this perusal he arises with the
conviction that life amid the red lights must be one stupendous whirl of
deviltry, that the clerks he sees in Broadway or Piccadilly at night
are out for revels that would have caused protests in Sodom and Nineveh,
that the average man who chooses hell leads an existence comparable
to that of a Mormon bishop, that the world outside the Bible class is
packed like a sardine-can with betrayed salesgirls, that every man who
doesn't believe that Jonah swallowed the whale spends his whole leisure
leaping through the seventh hoop of the Decalogue. "If I were not saved
and anointed of God," whispers the vice director into his own ear, "that
is what I, the Rev. Dr. Jasper Barebones, would be doing. The late King
David did it; he was human, and hence immoral. The late King Edward
VII was not beyond suspicion: the very numeral in his name has its
suggestions. Millions of others go the same route.... Ergo, Up, guards,
and at 'em! Bring me the pad of blank warrants! Order out the seachlights
and scaling-ladders! Swear in four hundred more policemen! Let us
chase these hell-hounds out of Christendom, and make the world safe for
monogamy, poor working girls, and infant damnation!"

Thus the hound of heaven, arguing fallaciously from his own secret
aspirations. Where he makes his mistake is in assuming that the
unconsecrated, while sharing his longing to debauch and betray, are
free from his other weaknesses, e.g., his timidity, his lack of
resourcefulness, his conscience. As I have said, they are not. The vast
majority of those who appear in the public haunts of sin are there, not
to engage in overt acts of ribaldry, but merely to tremble agreeably
upon the edge of the abyss. They are the same skittish experimentalists,
precisely, who throng the midway at a world's fair, and go to smutty
shows, and take in sex magazines, and read the sort of books that our
vice crusading friend reads. They like to conjure up the charms of
carnality, and to help out their somewhat sluggish imaginations by
actual peeps at it, but when it comes to taking a forthright header into
the sulphur they usually fail to muster up the courage. For one clerk
who succumbs to the houris of the pave, there are five hundred who
succumb to lack of means, the warnings of the sex hygienists, and their
own depressing consciences. For one "clubman"--i.e., bagman or suburban
vestryman--who invades the women's shops, engages the affection of some
innocent miss, lures her into infamy and then sells her to the Italians,
there are one thousand who never get any further than asking the price
of cologne water and discharging a few furtive winks. And for one
husband of the Nordic race who maintains a blonde chorus girl in
oriental luxury around the corner, there are ten thousand who are as
true to their wives, year in and year out, as so many convicts in
the death-house, and would be no more capable of any such loathsome
malpractice, even in the face of free opportunity, than they would be of
cutting off the ears of their young.

I am sorry to blow up so much romance. In particular, I am sorry for the
suffragettes who specialize in the double standard, for when they get
into pantaloons at last, and have the new freedom, they will discover
to their sorrow that they have been pursuing a chimera--that there is
really no such animal as the male anarchist they have been denouncing
and envying--that the wholesale fornication of man, at least under
Christian democracy, has little more actual existence than honest
advertising or sound cooking. They have followed the porno maniacs in
embracing a piece of buncombe, and when the day of deliverance comes it
will turn to ashes in their arms.

Their error, as I say, lies in overestimating the courage and enterprise
of man. They themselves, barring mere physical valour, a quality in
which the average man is far exceeded by the average jackal or wolf,
have more of both. If the consequences, to a man, of the slightest
descent from virginity were one-tenth as swift and barbarous as the
consequences to a young girl in like case, it would take a division of
infantry to dredge up a single male flouter of that lex talionis in
the whole western world. As things stand today, even with the odds so
greatly in his favour, the average male hesitates and is thus not lost.
Turn to the statistics of the vice crusaders if you doubt it. They show
that the weekly receipts of female recruits upon the wharves of sin
are always more than the demand; that more young women enter upon the
vermilion career than can make respectable livings at it; that the
pressure of the temptation they hold out is the chief factor in
corrupting our undergraduates. What was the first act of the American
Army when it began summoning its young clerks and college boys and
plough hands to conscription camps? Its first act was to mark off a
so-called moral zone around each camp, and to secure it with trenches
and machine guns, and to put a lot of volunteer termagants to patrolling
it, that the assembled jeunesse might be protected in their rectitude
from the immoral advances of the adjacent milkmaids and poor working

37. Women as Martyrs

I have given three reasons for the prosperity of the notion that man
is a natural polygamist, bent eternally upon fresh dives into Lake
of Brimstone No. 7. To these another should be added: the thirst for
martyrdom which shows itself in so many women, particularly under the
higher forms of civilization. This unhealthy appetite, in fact, may be
described as one of civilization's diseases; it is almost unheard of
in more primitive societies. The savage woman, unprotected by her rude
culture and forced to heavy and incessant labour, has retained her
physical strength and with it her honesty and self-respect. The
civilized woman, gradually degenerated by a greater ease, and helped
down that hill by the pretensions of civilized man, has turned her
infirmity into a virtue, and so affects a feebleness that is actually
far beyond the reality. It is by this route that she can most
effectively disarm masculine distrust, and get what she wants. Man is
flattered by any acknowledgment, however insincere, of his superior
strength and capacity. He likes to be leaned upon, appealed to, followed
docilely. And this tribute to his might caresses him on the psychic
plane as well as on the plane of the obviously physical. He not only
enjoys helping a woman over a gutter; he also enjoys helping her dry her
tears. The result is the vast pretence that characterizes the relations
of the sexes under civilization--the double pretence of man's cunning
and autonomy and of woman's dependence and deference. Man is always
looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder
to put her head on.

This feminine affectation, of course, has gradually taken on the force
of a fixed habit, and so it has got a certain support, by a familiar
process of self-delusion, in reality. The civilized woman inherits that
habit as she inherits her cunning. She is born half convinced that she
is really as weak and helpless as she later pretends to be, and the
prevailing folklore offers her endless corroboration. One of the
resultant phenomena is the delight in martyrdom that one so often finds
in women, and particularly in the least alert and introspective of them.
They take a heavy, unhealthy pleasure in suffering; it subtly pleases
them to be bard put upon; they like to picture themselves as slaughtered
saints. Thus they always find something to complain of; the very
conditions of domestic life give them a superabundance of clinical
material. And if, by any chance, such material shows a falling off, they
are uneasy and unhappy. Let a woman have a husband whose conduct is not
reasonably open to question, and she will invent mythical offences to
make him bearable. And if her invention fails she will be plunged into
the utmost misery and humiliation. This fact probably explains many
mysterious divorces: the husband was not too bad, but too good. For
public opinion among women, remember, does not favour the woman who is
full of a placid contentment and has no masculine torts to report; if
she says that her husband is wholly satisfactory she is looked upon as a
numskull even more dense that he is himself. A man, speaking of his
wife to other men, always praises her extravagantly. Boasting about her
soothes his vanity; he likes to stir up the envy of his fellows. But
when two women talk of their husbands it is mainly atrocities that they
describe. The most esteemed woman gossip is the one with the longest and
most various repertoire of complaints.

This yearning for martyrdom explains one of the commonly noted
characters of women: their eager flair for bearing physical pain. As
we have seen, they have actually a good deal less endurance than men;
massive injuries shock them more severely and kill them more quickly.
But when acute algesia is unaccompanied by any profounder phenomena they
are undoubtedly able to bear it with a far greater show of resignation.
The reason is not far to seek. In pain a man sees only an invasion of
his liberty, strength and self-esteem. It floors him, masters him,
and makes him ridiculous. But a woman, more subtle and devious in her
processes of mind, senses the dramatic effect that the spectacle of her
suffering makes upon the spectators, already filled with compassion for
her feebleness. She would thus much rather be praised for facing pain
with a martyr's fortitude than for devising some means of getting rid of
it the first thought of a man. No woman could have invented chloroform,
nor, for that matter, alcohol. Both drugs offer an escape from
situations and experiences that, even in aggravated forms, women relish.
The woman who drinks as men drink--that is, to raise her threshold of
sensation and ease the agony of living--nearly always shows a deficiency
in feminine characters and an undue preponderance of masculine
characters. Almost invariably you will find her vain and boastful,
and full of other marks of that bombastic exhibitionism which is so
sterlingly male.

38. Pathological Effects

This feminine craving for martyrdom, of course, often takes on a
downright pathological character, and so engages the psychiatrist.
Women show many other traits of the same sort. To be a woman under our
Christian civilization, indeed, means to live a life that is heavy with
repression and dissimulation, and this repression and dissimulation, in
the long run, cannot fail to produce effects that are indistinguishable
from disease. You will find some of them described at length in any
handbook on psychoanalysis. The Viennese, Adler, and the Dane, Poul
Bjerre, argue, indeed, that womanliness itself, as it is encountered
under Christianity, is a disease. All women suffer from a suppressed
revolt against the inhibitions forced upon them by our artificial
culture, and this suppressed revolt, by well known Freudian means,
produces a complex of mental symptoms that is familiar to all of us.
At one end of the scale we observe the suffragette, with her grotesque
adoption of the male belief in laws, phrases and talismans, and her
hysterical demand for a sexual libertarianism that she could not put
to use if she had it. And at the other end we find the snuffling and
neurotic woman, with her bogus martyrdom, her extravagant pruderies and
her pathological delusions. As Ibsen observed long ago, this is a man's
world. Women have broken many of their old chains, but they are
still enmeshed in a formidable network of man-made taboos and
sentimentalities, and it will take them another generation, at least, to
get genuine freedom. That this is true is shown by the deep unrest that
yet marks the sex, despite its recent progress toward social, political
and economic equality. It is almost impossible to find a man who
honestly wishes that he were a woman, but almost every woman, at some
time or other in her life, is gnawed by a regret that she is not a man.

Two of the hardest things that women have to bear are (a) the stupid
masculine disinclination to admit their intellectual superiority,
or even their equality, or even their possession of a normal human
equipment for thought, and (b) the equally stupid masculine doctrine
that they constitute a special and ineffable species of vertebrate,
without the natural instincts and appetites of the order--to adapt a
phrase from Hackle, that they are transcendental and almost gaseous
mammals, and marked by a complete lack of certain salient mammalian
characters. The first imbecility has already concerned us at length. One
finds traces of it even in works professedly devoted to disposing of it.
In one such book, for example, I come upon this: "What all the skill
and constructive capacity of the physicians in the Crimean War failed to
accomplish Florence Nightingale accomplished by her beautiful femininity
and nobility of soul." In other words, by her possession of some
recondite and indescribable magic, sharply separated from the ordinary
mental processes of man. The theory is unsound and preposterous. Miss
Nightingale accomplished her useful work, not by magic, but by hard
common sense. The problem before her was simply one of organization.
Many men had tackled it, and all of them had failed stupendously.
What she did was to bring her feminine sharpness of wit, her feminine
clear-thinking, to bear upon it. Thus attacked, it yielded quickly, and
once it had been brought to order it was easy for other persons to carry
on what she had begun. But the opinion of a man's world still prefers to
credit her success to some mysterious angelical quality, unstatable in
lucid terms and having no more reality than the divine inspiration of an
archbishop. Her extraordinarily acute and accurate intelligence is thus
conveniently put upon the table, and the amour propre of man is kept
inviolate. To confess frankly that she had more sense than any male
Englishman of her generation would be to utter a truth too harsh to be

The second delusion commonly shows itself in the theory, already
discussed, that women are devoid of any sex instinct--that they submit
to the odious caresses of the lubricious male only by a powerful effort
of the will, and with the sole object of discharging their duty to
posterity. It would be impossible to go into this delusion with proper
candour and at due length in a work designed for reading aloud in the
domestic circle; all I can do is to refer the student to the books of
any competent authority on the psychology of sex, say Ellis, or to the
confidences (if they are obtainable) of any complaisant bachelor of his

39. Women as Christians

The glad tidings preached by Christ were obviously highly favourable
to women. He lifted them to equality before the Lord when their
very possession of souls was still doubted by the majority of rival
theologians. Moreover, He esteemed them socially and set value upon
their sagacity, and one of the most disdained of their sex, a lady
formerly in public life, was among His regular advisers. Mariolatry is
thus by no means the invention of the mediaeval popes, as Protestant
theologians would have us believe. On the contrary, it is plainly
discernible in the Four Gospels. What the mediaeval popes actually
invented (or, to be precise, reinvented, for they simply borrowed the
elements of it from St. Paul) was the doctrine of women's inferiority,
the precise opposite of the thing credited to them. Committed, for
sound reasons of discipline, to the celibacy of the clergy, they had
to support it by depicting all traffic with women in the light of
a hazardous and ignominious business. The result was the deliberate
organization and development of the theory of female triviality, lack
of responsibility and general looseness of mind. Woman became a sort of
devil, but without the admired intelligence of the regular demons. The
appearance of women saints, however, offered a constant and embarrassing
criticism of this idiotic doctrine. If occasional women were fit to sit
upon the right hand of God--and they were often proving it, and forcing
the church to acknowledge it--then surely all women could not be as bad
as the books made them out. There thus arose the concept of the angelic
woman, the natural vestal; we see her at full length in the romances
of mediaeval chivalry. What emerged in the end was a sort of double
doctrine, first that women were devils and secondly that they were
angels. This preposterous dualism has merged, as we have seen, into a
compromise dogma in modern times. By that dogma it is held, on the one
hand, that women are unintelligent and immoral, and on the other
hand, that they are free from all those weaknesses of the flesh which
distinguish men. This, roughly speaking, is the notion of the average
male numskull today.

Christianity has thus both libelled women and flattered them, but with
the weight always on the side of the libel. It is therefore at bottom,
their enemy, as the religion of Christ, now wholly extinct, was their
friend. And as they gradually throw off the shackles that have bound
them for a thousand years they show appreciation of the fact. Women,
indeed, are not naturally religious, and they are growing less and less
religious as year chases year. Their ordinary devotion has little if any
pious exaltation in it; it is a routine practice, force on them by the
masculine notion that an appearance of holiness is proper to their lowly
station, and a masculine feeling that church-going somehow keeps them
in order, and out of doings that would be less reassuring. When they
exhibit any genuine religious fervour, its sexual character is usually
so obvious that even the majority of men are cognizant of it. Women
never go flocking ecstatically to a church in which the agent of God in
the pulpit is an elderly asthmatic with a watchful wife. When one finds
them driven to frenzies by the merits of the saints, and weeping over
the sorrows of the heathen, and rushing out to haul the whole vicinage
up to grace, and spending hours on their knees in hysterical abasement
before the heavenly throne, it is quite safe to assume, even without an
actual visit, that the ecclesiastic who has worked the miracle is a fair
and toothsome fellow, and a good deal more aphrodisiacal than learned.
All the great preachers to women in modern times have been men of suave
and ingratiating habit, and the great majority of them, from Henry Ward
Beecher up and down, have been taken, soon or late, in transactions
far more suitable to the boudoir than to the footstool of the Almighty.
Their famous killings have always been made among the silliest sort of
women--the sort, in brief, who fall so short of the normal acumen of
their sex that they are bemused by mere beauty in men.

Such women are in a minority, and so the sex shows a good deal fewer
religious enthusiasts per mille than the sex of sentiment and belief.
Attending, several years ago, the gladiatorial shows of the Rev. Dr.
Billy Sunday, the celebrated American pulpit-clown, I was constantly
struck by the great preponderance of males in the pen devoted to the
saved. Men of all ages and in enormous numbers came swarming to the
altar, loudly bawling for help against their sins, but the women were
anything but numerous, and the few who appeared were chiefly either
chlorotic adolescents or pathetic old Saufschwestern. For six nights
running I sat directly beneath the gifted exhorter without seeing a
single female convert of what statisticians call the child-bearing
age--that is, the age of maximum intelligence and charm. Among the male
simpletons bagged by his yells during this time were the president of
a railroad, half a dozen rich bankers and merchants, and the former
governor of an American state. But not a woman of comparable position
or dignity. Not a woman that any self-respecting bachelor would care to
chuck under the chin.

This cynical view of religious emotionalism, and with it of the whole
stock of ecclesiastical balderdash, is probably responsible, at least in
part, for the reluctance of women to enter upon the sacerdotal career.
In those Christian sects which still bar them from the pulpit--usually
on the imperfectly concealed ground that they are not equal to its
alleged demands upon the morals and the intellect--one never hears of
them protesting against the prohibition; they are quite content to leave
the degrading imposture to men, who are better fitted for it by talent
and conscience. And in those baroque sects, chiefly American, which
admit them they show no eagerness to put on the stole and chasuble. When
the first clergywoman appeared in the United States, it was predicted
by alarmists that men would be driven out of the pulpit by the new
competition. Nothing of the sort has occurred, nor is it in prospect.
The whole corps of female divines in the country might be herded into
one small room. Women, when literate at all, are far too intelligent to
make effective ecclesiastics. Their sharp sense of reality is in endless
opposition to the whole sacerdotal masquerade, and their cynical humour
stands against the snorting that is inseparable from pulpit oratory.

Those women who enter upon the religious life are almost invariably
moved by some motive distinct from mere pious inflammation. It is a
commonplace, indeed, that, in Catholic countries, girls are driven into
convents by economic considerations or by disasters of amour far oftener
than they are drawn there by the hope of heaven. Read the lives of the
female saints, and you will see how many of them tried marriage and
failed at it before ever they turned to religion. In Protestant lands
very few women adopt it as a profession at all, and among the few a
secular impulse is almost always visible. The girl who is suddenly
overcome by a desire to minister to the heathen in foreign lands is
nearly invariably found, on inspection, to be a girl harbouring a theory
that it would be agreeable to marry some heroic missionary. In point
of fact, she duly marries him. At home, perhaps, she has found it
impossible to get a husband, but in the remoter marches of China,
Senegal and Somaliland, with no white competition present, it is equally
impossible to fail.

40. Piety as a Social Habit

What remains of the alleged piety of women is little more than a social
habit, reinforced in most communities by a paucity of other and more
inviting divertissements. If you have ever observed the women of Spain
and Italy at their devotions you need not be told how much the worship
of God may be a mere excuse for relaxation and gossip. These women, in
their daily lives, are surrounded by a formidable network of mediaeval
taboos; their normal human desire for ease and freedom in intercourse is
opposed by masculine distrust and superstition; they meet no strangers;
they see and hear nothing new. In the house of the Most High they escape
from that vexing routine. Here they may brush shoulders with a crowd.
Here, so to speak, they may crane their mental necks and stretch their
spiritual legs. Here, above all, they may come into some sort of contact
with men relatively more affable, cultured and charming than their
husbands and fathers--to wit, with the rev. clergy.

Elsewhere in Christendom, though women are not quite so relentlessly
watched and penned up, they feel much the same need of variety and
excitement, and both are likewise on tap in the temples of the Lord.
No one, I am sure, need be told that the average missionary society
or church sewing circle is not primarily a religious organization. Its
actual purpose is precisely that of the absurd clubs and secret orders
to which the lower and least resourceful classes of men belong: it
offers a means of refreshment, of self-expression, of personal display,
of political manipulation and boasting, and, if the pastor happens to be
interesting, of discreet and almost lawful intrigue. In the course of a
life largely devoted to the study of pietistic phenomena, I have never
met a single woman who cared an authentic damn for the actual heathen.
The attraction in their salvation is always almost purely social. Women
go to church for the same reason that farmers and convicts go to church.

Finally, there is the aesthetic lure. Religion, in most parts of
Christendom, holds out the only bait of beauty that the inhabitants are
ever cognizant of. It offers music, dim lights, relatively ambitious
architecture, eloquence, formality and mystery, the caressing
meaninglessness that is at the heart of poetry. Women are far more
responsive to such things than men, who are ordinarily quite as devoid
of aesthetic sensitiveness as so many oxen. The attitude of the typical
man toward beauty in its various forms is, in fact, an attitude of
suspicion and hostility. He does not regard a work of art as merely
inert and stupid; he regards it as, in some indefinable way, positively
offensive. He sees the artist as a professional voluptuary and
scoundrel, and would no more trust him in his household than he would
trust a coloured clergyman in his hen-yard. It was men, and not women,
who invented such sordid and literal faiths as those of the Mennonites,
Dunkards, Wesleyans and Scotch Presbyterians, with their antipathy to
beautiful ritual, their obscene buttonholing of God, their great talent
for reducing the ineffable mystery of religion to a mere bawling of
idiots. The normal woman, in so far as she has any religion at all,
moves irresistibly toward Catholicism, with its poetical obscurantism.
The evangelical Protestant sects have a hard time holding her. She can
no more be an actual Methodist than a gentleman can be a Methodist.

This inclination toward beauty, of course, is dismissed by the average
male blockhead as no more than a feeble sentimentality. The truth is
that it is precisely the opposite. It is surely not sentimentality to be
moved by the stately and mysterious ceremony of the mass, or even, say,
by those timid imitations of it which one observes in certain Protestant
churches. Such proceedings, whatever their defects from the standpoint
of a pure aesthetic, are at all events vastly more beautiful than any of
the private acts of the folk who take part in them. They lift themselves
above the barren utilitarianism of everyday life, and no less above the
maudlin sentimentalities that men seek pleasure in. They offer a means
of escape, convenient and inviting, from that sordid routine of thought
and occupation which women revolt against so pertinaciously.

41. The Ethics of Women

I have said that the religion preached by Jesus (now wholly extinct
in the world) was highly favourable to women. This was not saying, of
course, that women have repaid the compliment by adopting it. They are,
in fact, indifferent Christians in the primitive sense, just as they are
bad Christians in the antagonistic modern sense, and particularly on the
side of ethics. If they actually accept the renunciations commanded
by the Sermon on the Mount, it is only in an effort to flout their
substance under cover of their appearance. No woman is really humble;
she is merely politic. No woman, with a free choice before her, chooses
self-immolation; the most she genuinely desires in that direction is
a spectacular martyrdom. No woman delights in poverty. No woman yields
when she can prevail. No woman is honestly meek.

In their practical ethics, indeed, women pay little heed to the precepts
of the Founder of Christianity, and the fact has passed into proverb.
Their gentleness, like the so-called honour of men, is visible only in
situations which offer them no menace. The moment a woman finds herself
confronted by an antagonist genuinely dangerous, either to her own
security or to the well-being of those under her protection--say a child
or a husband--she displays a bellicosity which stops at nothing, however
outrageous. In the courts of law one occasionally encounters a male
extremist who tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the
truth, even when it is against his cause, but no such woman has ever
been on view since the days of Justinian. It is, indeed, an axiom of the
bar that women invariably lie upon the stand, and the whole effort of
a barrister who has one for a client is devoted to keeping her within
bounds, that the obtuse suspicions of the male jury may not be unduly
aroused. Women litigants almost always win their cases, not, as is
commonly assumed, because the jurymen fall in love with them, but simply
and solely because they are clear-headed, resourceful, implacable and
without qualms.

What is here visible in the halls of justice, in the face of a vast
technical equipment for combating mendacity, is ten times more obvious
in freer fields. Any man who is so unfortunate as to have a serious
controversy with a woman, say in the departments of finance, theology
or amour, must inevitably carry away from it a sense of having passed
through a dangerous and almost gruesome experience. Women not only bite
in the clinches; they bite even in open fighting; they have a dental
reach, so to speak, of amazing length. No attack is so desperate that
they will not undertake it, once they are aroused; no device is so
unfair and horrifying that it stays them. In my early days, desiring to
improve my prose, I served for a year or so as reporter for a newspaper
in a police court, and during that time I heard perhaps four hundred
cases of so-called wife-beating. The husbands, in their defence, almost
invariably pleaded justification, and some of them told such tales of
studied atrocity at the domestic hearth, both psychic and physical, that
the learned magistrate discharged them with tears in his eyes and the
very catchpolls in the courtroom had to blow their noses. Many more men
than women go insane, and many more married men than single men. The
fact puzzles no one who has had the same opportunity that I had to find
out what goes on, year in and year out, behind the doors of apparently
happy homes. A woman, if she hates her husband (and many of them do),
can make life so sour and obnoxious to him that even death upon the
gallows seems sweet by comparison. This hatred, of course, is often,
and perhaps Almost invariably, quite justified. To be the wife of an
ordinary man, indeed, is an experience that must be very hard to
bear. The hollowness and vanity of the fellow, his petty meanness and
stupidity, his puling sentimentality and credulity, his bombastic air of
a cock on a dunghill, his anaesthesia to all whispers and summonings
of the spirit, above all, his loathsome clumsiness in amour--all these
things must revolt any woman above the lowest. To be the object of the
oafish affections of such a creature, even when they are honest and
profound, cannot be expected to give any genuine joy to a woman of sense
and refinement. His performance as a gallant, as Honor de Balzac long
ago observed, unescapably suggests a gorilla's efforts to play the
violin. Women survive the tragicomedy only by dint of their great
capacity for play-acting. They are able to act so realistically that
often they deceive even themselves; the average woman's contentment,
indeed, is no more than a tribute to her histrionism. But there must be
innumerable revolts in secret, even so, and one sometimes wonders
that so few women, with the thing so facile and so safe, poison their
husbands. Perhaps it is not quite as rare as vital statistics make it
out; the deathrate among husbands is very much higher than among wives.
More than once, indeed, I have gone to the funeral of an acquaintance
who died suddenly, and observed a curious glitter in the eyes of the
inconsolable widow.

Even in this age of emancipation, normal women have few serious
transactions in life save with their husbands and potential husbands;
the business of marriage is their dominant concern from adolescence to
senility. When they step outside their habitual circle they show the
same alert and eager wariness that they exhibit within it. A man who
has dealings with them must keep his wits about him, and even when he
is most cautious he is often flabbergasted by their sudden and
unconscionable forays. Whenever woman goes into trade she quickly gets a
reputation as a sharp trader. Every little town in America has its Hetty
Green, each sweating blood from turnips, each the terror of all the
male usurers of the neighbourhood. The man who tackles such an amazon
of barter takes his fortune into his hands; he has little more chance of
success against the feminine technique in business than he has against
the feminine technique in marriage. In both arenas the advantage of
women lies in their freedom from sentimentality. In business they
address themselves wholly to their own profit, and give no thought
whatever to the hopes, aspirations and amour propre of their
antagonists. And in the duel of sex they fence, not to make points, but
to disable and disarm. Aman, when he succeeds in throwing off a woman
who has attempted to marry him, always carries away a maudlin sympathy
for her in her defeat and dismay. But no one ever heard of a woman who
pitied the poor fellow whose honest passion she had found it expedient
to spurn. On the contrary, women take delight in such clownish agonies,
and exhibit them proudly, and boast about them to other women.

V. The New Age

42. The Transvaluation of Values

The gradual emancipation of women that has been going on for the last
century has still a long way to proceed before they are wholly delivered
from their traditional burdens and so stand clear of the oppressions
of men. But already, it must be plain, they have made enormous
progress--perhaps more than they made in the ten thousand years
preceding. The rise of the industrial system, which has borne so
harshly upon the race in general, has brought them certain unmistakable
benefits. Their economic dependence, though still sufficient to make
marriage highly attractive to them, is nevertheless so far broken
down that large classes of women are now almost free agents, and quite
independent of the favour of men. Most of these women, responding
to ideas that are still powerful, are yet intrigued, of course, by
marriage, and prefer it to the autonomy that is coming in, but the fact
remains that they now have a free choice in the matter, and that dire
necessity no longer controls them. After all, they needn't marry if they
don't want to; it is possible to get their bread by their own labour
in the workshops of the world. Their grandmothers were in a far more
difficult position. Failing marriage, they not only suffered a cruel
ignominy, but in many cases faced the menace of actual starvation. There
was simply no respectable place in the economy of those times for the
free woman. She either had to enter a nunnery or accept a disdainful
patronage that was as galling as charity.

Nothing could be, plainer than the effect that the increasing economic
security of women is having upon their whole habit of life and mind. The
diminishing marriage rate and the even more rapidly diminishing
birth rates how which way the wind is blowing. It is common for male
statisticians, with characteristic imbecility, to ascribe the fall in
the marriage rate to a growing disinclination on the male side. This
growing disinclination is actually on the female side. Even though no
considerable, body of women has yet reached the definite doctrine that
marriage is less desirable than freedom, it must be plain that
large numbers of them now approach the business with far greater
fastidiousness than their grandmothers or even their mothers exhibited.
They are harder to please, and hence pleased less often. The woman of a
century ago could imagine nothing more favourable to her than marriage;
even marriage with a fifth rate man was better than no marriage at all.
This notion is gradually feeling the opposition of a contrary notion.
Women in general may still prefer marriage, to work, but there is an
increasing minority which begins to realize that work may offer the
greater contentment, particularly if it be mellowed by a certain amount
of philandering.

There already appears in the world, indeed, a class of women, who, while
still not genuinely averse to marriage, are yet free from any theory
that it is necessary, or even invariably desirable. Among these women
are a goodman somewhat vociferous propagandists, almost male in their
violent earnestness; they range from the man eating suffragettes to such
preachers of free motherhood as Ellen Key and such professional shockers
of the bourgeoisie as the American prophetess of birth-control, Margaret
Sanger. But among them are many more who wake the world with no such
noisy eloquence, but content themselves with carrying out their ideas in
a quiet and respectable manner. The number of such women is much larger
than is generally imagined, and that number tends to increase steadily.
They are women who, with their economic independence assured, either
by inheritance or by their own efforts, chiefly in the arts and
professions, do exactly as they please, and make no pother about it.
Naturally enough, their superiority to convention and the common frenzy
makes them extremely attractive to the better sort of men, and so it
is not uncommon for one of them to find herself voluntarily sought
in marriage, without any preliminary scheming by herself--surely an
experience that very few ordinary women ever enjoy, save perhaps in
dreams or delirium.

The old order changeth and giveth place to the new. Among the women's
clubs and in the women's colleges, I have no doubt, there is still much
debate of the old and silly question: Are platonic relations possible
between the sexes? In other words, is friendship possible without
sex? Many a woman of the new order dismisses the problem with another
question: Why without sex? With the decay of the ancient concept of
women as property there must come inevitably a reconsideration of the
whole sex question, and out of that reconsideration there must come
a revision of the mediaeval penalties which now punish the slightest
frivolity in the female. The notion that honour in women is exclusively
a physical matter, that a single aberrance may convert a woman of the
highest merits into a woman of none at all, that the sole valuable
thing a woman can bring to marriage is virginity--this notion is so
preposterous that no intelligent person, male or female, actually
cherishes it. It survives as one of the hollow conventions of
Christianity; nay, of the levantine barbarism that preceded
Christianity. As women throw off the other conventions which now bind
them they will throw off this one, too, and so their virtue, grounded
upon fastidiousness and self-respect instead of upon mere fear and
conformity, will become afar more laudable thing than it ever can
be under the present system. And for its absence, if they see fit to
dispose of it, they will no more apologize than a man apologizes today.

43. The Lady of Joy

Even prostitution, in the long run, may become a more or less
respectable profession, as it was in the great days of the Greeks. That
quality will surely attach to it if ever it grows quite unnecessary;
whatever is unnecessary is always respectable, for example, religion,
fashionable clothing, and a knowledge of Latin grammar. The prostitute
is disesteemed today, not because her trade involves anything
intrinsically degrading or even disagreeable, but because she is
currently assumed to have been driven into it by dire necessity, against
her dignity and inclination. That this assumption is usually unsound is
no objection to it; nearly all the thinking of the world, particularly
in the field of morals, is based upon unsound assumption, e.g., that
God observes the fall of a sparrow and is shocked by the fall of a
Sunday-school superintendent. The truth is that prostitution is one of
the most attractive of the occupations practically open to the sort of
women who engage in it, and that the prostitute commonly likes her
work, and would not exchange places with a shop-girl or a waitress
for anything in the world. The notion to the contrary is propagated
by unsuccessful prostitutes who fall into the hands of professional
reformers, and who assent to the imbecile theories of the latter
in order to cultivate their good will, just as convicts in prison,
questioned by tee-totalers, always ascribe their rascality to alcohol.
No prostitute of anything resembling normal intelligence is under the
slightest duress; she is perfectly free to abandon her trade and go into
a shop or factory or into domestic service whenever the impulse strikes
her; all the prevailing gabble about white slave jails and kidnappers
comes from pious rogues who make a living by feeding such nonsense to
the credulous. So long as the average prostitute is able to make a good
living, she is quite content with her lot, and disposed to contrast it
egotistically with the slavery of her virtuous sisters. If she complains
of it, then you may be sure that her success is below her expectations.
A starving lawyer always sees injustice, in the courts. A bad physician
is a bitter critic of Ehrlich and Pasteur. And when a suburban clergyman
is forced out of his cure by a vestry-room revolution be almost
invariably concludes that the sinfulness of man is incurable, and
sometimes he even begins to doubt some of the typographical errors in
Holy Writ.

The high value set upon virginity by men, whose esteem of it is based
upon a mixture of vanity and voluptuousness, causes many women to
guard it in their own persons with a jealousy far beyond their private
inclinations and interests. It is their theory that the loss of it
would materially impair their chances of marriage. This theory is not
supported by the facts. The truth is that the woman who sacrifices her
chastity, everything else being equal, stands a much better chance of
making a creditable marriage than the woman who remains chaste. This
is especially true of women of the lower economic classes. At once they
come into contact, hitherto socially difficult and sometimes almost
impossible, with men of higher classes, and begin to take on, with the
curious facility of their sex, the refinements and tastes and points
of view of those classes. The mistress thus gathers charm, and what has
begun as a sordid sale of amiability not uncommonly ends with formal
marriage. The number of such marriages is enormously greater than
appears superficially, for both parties obviously make every effort to
conceal the facts. Within the circle of my necessarily limited personal
acquaintance I know of scores of men, some of them of wealth and
position, who have made such marriages, and who do not seem to regret
it. It is an old observation, indeed, that a woman who has previously
dispose of her virtue makes a good wife. The common theory is that this
is because she is grateful to her husband for rescuing her from social
outlawry; the truth is that she makes a good wife because she is a
shrewd woman, and has specialized professionally in masculine weakness,
and is thus extra-competent at the traditional business of her sex. Such
a woman often shows a truly magnificent sagacity. It is very
difficult to deceive her logically, and it is impossible to disarm her
emotionally. Her revolt against the pruderies and sentimentalities of
the world was evidence, to begin with, of her intellectual enterprise
and courage, and her success as a rebel is proof of her extraordinary
pertinacity, resourcefulness and acumen.

Even the most lowly prostitute is better off, in all worldly ways, than
the virtuous woman of her own station in life. She has less work to do,
it is less monotonous and dispiriting, she meets a far greater variety
of men, and they are of classes distinctly beyond her own. Nor is her
occupation hazardous and her ultimate fate tragic. A dozen or more years
ago I observed a some what amusing proof of this last. At that time
certain sentimental busybodies of the American city in which I lived
undertook an elaborate inquiry into prostitution therein, and some of
them came to me in advance, as a practical journalist, for advice as to
how to proceed. I found that all of them shared the common superstition
that the professional life of the average prostitute is only five years
long, and that she invariably ends in the gutter. They were enormously
amazed When they unearthed the truth. This truth was to the effect that
the average prostitute of that town ended her career, not in the morgue
but at the altar of God, and that those who remained unmarried often
continued in practice for ten, fifteen and even twenty years, and then
retired on competences. It was established, indeed, that fully eighty
per cent married, and that they almost always got husbands who would
have been far beyond their reach had they remained virtuous. For one
who married a cabman or petty pugilist there were a dozen who married
respectable mechanics, policemen, small shopkeepers and minor officials,
and at least two or three who married well-to-do tradesmen and
professional men. Among the thousands whose careers were studied
there was actually one who ended as the wife of the town's richest
banker--that is, one who bagged the best catch in the whole community.
This woman had begun as a domestic servant, and abandoned that harsh
and dreary life to enter a brothel. Her experiences there polished
and civilized her, and in her old age she was a grande dame of
great dignity. Much of the sympathy wasted upon women of the ancient
profession is grounded upon an error as to their own attitude toward
it. An educated woman, hearing that a frail sister in a public stew is
expected to be amiable to all sorts of bounders, thinks of how she would
shrink from such contacts, and so concludes that the actual prostitute
suffers acutely. What she overlooks is that these men, however gross and
repulsive they may appear to her, are measurably superior to men of the
prostitute's own class--say her father and brothers--and that communion
with them, far from being disgusting, is often rather romantic. I well
remember observing, during my collaboration with the vice-crusaders
aforesaid, the delight of a lady of joy who had attracted the notice of
a police lieutenant; she was intensely pleased by the idea of having a
client of such haughty manners, such brilliant dress, and what seemed
to her to be so dignified a profession. It is always forgotten that
this weakness is not confined to prostitutes, but run through the whole
female sex. The woman who could not imagine an illicit affair with a
wealthy soap manufacturer or even with a lawyer finds it quite easy to
imagine herself succumbing to an ambassador or a duke. There are very
few exceptions to this rule. In the most reserved of modern societies
the women who represent their highest flower are notoriously complaisant
to royalty. And royal women, to complete the circuit, not infrequently
yield to actors and musicians, i.e., to men radiating a glamour not
encountered even in princes.

44. The Future of Marriage

The transvaluation of values that is now in progress will go on slowly
and for a very long while. That it will ever be quite complete is, of
course, impossible. There are inherent differences will continue to show
themselves until the end of time. As woman gradually becomes convinced,
not only of the possibility of economic independence, but also of its
value, she will probably lose her present overmastering desire
for marriage, and address herself to meeting men in free economic
competition. That is to say, she will address herself to acquiring
that practical competence, that high talent for puerile and chiefly
mechanical expertness, which now sets man ahead of her in the labour
market of the world. To do this she will have to sacrifice some of
her present intelligence; it is impossible to imagine a genuinely
intelligent human being becoming a competent trial lawyer, or buttonhole
worker, or newspaper sub-editor, or piano tuner, or house painter.
Women, to get upon all fours with men in such stupid occupations, will
have to commit spiritual suicide, which is probably much further than
they will ever actually go. Thus a shade of their present superiority
to men will always remain, and with it a shade of their relative
inefficiency, and so marriage will remain attractive to them, or at all
events to most of them, and its overthrow will be prevented. To abolish
it entirely, as certain fevered reformers propose, would be as difficult
as to abolish the precession of the equinoxes.

At the present time women vacillate somewhat absurdly between two
schemes of life, the old and the new. On the one hand, their economic
independence is still full of conditions, and on the other hand they are
in revolt against the immemorial conventions. The result is a general
unrest, with many symptoms of extravagant and unintelligent revolt.
One of those symptoms is the appearance of intellectual striving in
women--not a striving, alas, toward the genuine pearls and rubies of the
mind, but one merely toward the acquirement of the rubber stamps that
men employ in their so-called thinking. Thus we have women who launch
themselves into party politics, and fill their heads with a vast mass
of useless knowledge about political tricks, customs, theories and
personalities. Thus, too, we have the woman social reformer, trailing
along ridiculously behind a tatterdemalion posse of male utopians,
each with something to sell. And thus we have the woman who goes in for
advanced wisdom of the sort on draught in women's clubs--in brief,
the sort of wisdom which consists entirely of a body of beliefs and
propositions that are ignorant, unimportant and untrue. Such banal
striving is most prodigally on display in the United States, where
superficiality amounts to a national disease. Its popularity is due to
the relatively greater leisure of the American people, who work less
than any other people in the world, and, above all, to the relatively
greater leisure of American women. Thousands of them have been
emancipated from any compulsion to productive labour without having
acquired any compensatory intellectual or artistic interest or social
duty. The result is that they swarm in the women's clubs, and waste
their time, listening to bad poetry, worse music, and still worse
lectures on Maeterlinck, Balkan politics and the subconscious. It is
among such women that one observes the periodic rages for Bergsonism,
the Montessori method, the twilight sleep and other such follies, so
pathetically characteristic of American culture.

One of the evil effects of this tendency I have hitherto descanted upon,
to wit, the growing disposition of American women to regard all
routine labour, particularly in the home, as infra dignitatem and hence
intolerable. Out of' that notion arise many lamentable phenomena. On
the one hand, we have the spectacle of a great number of healthy and
well-fed women engage in public activities that, nine times out of ten,
are meaningless, mischievous and a nuisance, and on the other hand we
behold such a decay in the domestic arts that, at the first onslaught of
the late war, the national government had to import a foreign expert to
teach the housewives of the country the veriest elements of thrift. No
such instruction was needed by the housewives of the Continent. They
were simply told how much food they could have, and their natural
competence did the rest. There is never any avoidable waste there,
either in peace or in war. A French housewife has little use for a
garbage can, save as a depository for uplifting literature. She does
her best with the means at her disposal, not only in war time but at all

As I have said over and over again in this inquiry, a woman's
disinclination to acquire the intricate expertness that lies at the
bottom of good housekeeping is due primarily to her active intelligence;
it is difficult for her to concentrate her mind upon such stupid and
meticulous enterprises. But whether difficult or easy, it is obviously
important for the average woman to make some effort in that direction,
for if she fails to do so there is chaos. That chaos is duly visible
in the United States. Here women reveal one of their subterranean
qualities: their deficiency in conscientiousness. They are quite without
that dog-like fidelity to duty which is one of the shining marks of
men. They never summon up a high pride in doing what is inherently
disagreeable; they always go to the galleys under protest, and with
vows of sabotage; their fundamental philosophy is almost that of the
syndicalists. The sentimentality of men connives at this, and is thus
largely responsible for it. Before the average puella, apprenticed in
the kitchen, can pick up a fourth of the culinary subtleties that are
commonplace even to the chefs on dining cars, she has caught aman and
need concern herself about them no more, for he has to eat, in the last
analysis, whatever she sets before him, and his lack of intelligence
makes it easy for her to shut off his academic criticisms by bald
appeals to his emotions. By an easy process he finally attaches a
positive value to her indolence. It is a proof, he concludes, of her
fineness of soul. In the presence of her lofty incompetence he is

But as women, gaining economic autonomy, meet men in progressively
bitterer competition, the rising masculine distrust and fear of them
will be reflected even in the enchanted domain of marriage, and the
husband, having yielded up most of his old rights, will begin to reveal
anew jealousy of those that remain, and particularly of the right to a
fair quid pro quo for his own docile industry. In brief, as women shake
off their ancient disabilities they will also shake off some of their
ancient immunities, and their doings will come to be regarded with a
soberer and more exigent scrutiny than now prevails. The extension of
the suffrage, I believe, will encourage this awakening; in wresting
it from the reluctant male the women of the western world have planted
dragons' teeth, the which will presently leap up and gnaw them. Now that
women have the political power to obtain their just rights, they
will begin to lose their old power to obtain special privileges by
sentimental appeals. Men, facing them squarely, will consider them
anew, not as romantic political and social invalids, to be coddled
and caressed, but as free competitors in a harsh world. When that
reconsideration gets under way there will be a general overhauling of
the relations between the sexes, and some of the fair ones, I suspect,
will begin to wonder why they didn't let well enough alone.

45. Effects of the War

The present series of wars, it seems likely, will continue for twenty or
thirty years, and perhaps longer. That the first clash was inconclusive
was shown brilliantly by the preposterous nature of the peace finally
reached--a peace so artificial and dishonest that the signing of it
was almost equivalent to anew declaration of war. At least three new
contests in the grand manner are plainly insight--one between Germany
and France to rectify the unnatural tyranny of a weak and incompetent
nation over a strong and enterprising nation, one between Japan and the
United States for the mastery of the Pacific, and one between England
and the United States for the control of the sea. To these must be
added various minor struggles, and perhaps one or two of almost major
character: the effort of Russia to regain her old unity and power,
the effort of the Turks to put down the slave rebellion (of Greeks,
Armenians, Arabs, etc.)which now menaces them, the effort of the
Latin-Americans to throw off the galling Yankee yoke, and the joint
effort of Russia and Germany (perhaps with England and Italy aiding) to
get rid of such international nuisances as the insane polish republic,
the petty states of the Baltic, and perhaps also most of the Balkan
states. I pass over the probability of a new mutiny in India, of the
rising of China against the Japanese, and of a general struggle for a
new alignment of boundaries in South America. All of these wars, great
and small, are probable; most of them are humanly certain. They will
be fought ferociously, and with the aid of destructive engines of the
utmost efficiency. They will bring about an unparalleled butchery of
men, and a large proportion of these men will be under forty years of

As a result there will be a shortage of husbands in Christendom, and as
a second result the survivors will be appreciably harder to snare than
the men of today. Every man of agreeable exterior and easy means will
be pursued, not merely by a few dozen or score of women, as now, but by
whole battalions and brigades of them, and he will be driven in sheer
self-defence into very sharp bargaining. Perhaps in the end the state
will have to interfere in the business, to prevent the potential husband
going to waste in the turmoil of opportunity.

Just what form this interference is likely to take has not yet appeared
clearly. In France there is already a wholesale legitimization of
children born out of wedlock and in Eastern Europe there has been a
clamour for the legalization of polygamy, but these devices do not meet
the main problem, which is the encouragement of monogamy to the utmost.
A plan that suggests itself is the amelioration of the position of the
monogamous husband, now rendered increasingly uncomfortable by the laws
of most Christian states. I do not think that the more intelligent sort
of women, faced by a perilous shortage of men, would object seriously to
that amelioration. They must see plainly that the present system, if
it is carried much further, will begin to work powerfully against their
best interests, if only by greatly reinforcing the disinclination to
marriage that already exists among the better sort of men. The woman of
true discretion, I am convinced, would much rather marry a superior man,
even on unfavourable terms, than make John Smith her husband, serf and
prisoner at one stroke.

The law must eventually recognize this fact and make provision for it.
The average husband, perhaps, deserves little succour. The woman who
pursues and marries him, though she may be moved by selfish aims, should
be properly rewarded by the state for her service to it--a service
surely not to be lightly estimated in a military age. And that reward
may conveniently take the form, as in the United States, of statutes
giving her title to a large share of his real property and requiring
him to surrender most of his income to her, and releasing her from all
obedience to him and from all obligation to keep his house in order. But
the woman who aspires to higher game should be quite willing, it seems
to me, to resign some of these advantages in compensation for the
greater honour and satisfaction of being wife to a man of merit, and
mother to his children. All that is needed is laws allowing her, if she
will, to resign her right of dower, her right to maintenance and her
immunity from discipline, and to make any other terms that she may be
led to regard as equitable. At present women are unable to make most
of these concessions even if they would: the laws of the majority of
western nations are inflexible. If, for example, an Englishwoman should
agree, by an ante-nuptial contract, to submit herself to the discipline,
not of the current statutes, but of the elder common law, which allowed
a husband to correct his wife corporally with a stick no thicker than
his thumb, it would be competent for any sentimental neighbour to set
the agreement at naught by haling her husband before a magistrate for
carrying it out, and it is a safe wager that the magistrate would jail

This plan, however novel it may seem, is actually already in operation.
Many a married woman, in order to keep her husband from revolt,
makes more or less disguised surrenders of certain of the rights and
immunities that she has under existing laws. There are, for example,
even in America, women who practise the domestic arts with competence
and diligence, despite the plain fact that no legal penalty would be
visited upon them if they failed to do so. There are women who follow
external trades and professions, contributing a share to the family
exchequer. There are women who obey their husbands, even against
their best judgments. There are, most numerous of all, women who wink
discreetly at husbandly departures, overt or in mere intent, from the
oath of chemical purity taken at the altar. It is a commonplace, indeed,
that many happy marriages admit a party of the third part. There would
be more of them if there were more women with enough serenity of mind
to see the practical advantage of the arrangement. The trouble with such
triangulations is not primarily that they involve perjury or that
they offer any fundamental offence to the wife; if she avoids banal
theatricals, in fact, they commonly have the effect of augmenting the
husband's devotion to her and respect for her, if only as the fruit of
comparison. The trouble with them is that very few men among us have
sense enough to manage them intelligently. The masculine mind is readily
taken in by specious values; the average married man of Protestant
Christendom, if he succumbs at all, succumbs to some meretricious and
flamboyant creature, bent only upon fleecing him. Here is where
the harsh realism of the Frenchman shows its superiority to the
sentimentality of the men of the Teutonic races. A Frenchman would no
more think of taking a mistress without consulting his wife than he
would think of standing for office without consulting his wife. The
result is that he is seldom victimized. For one Frenchman ruined by
women there are at least a hundred Englishmen and Americans, despite
the fact that a hundred times as many Frenchmen engage in that sort of
recreation. The case of Zola is typical. As is well known, his amours
were carefully supervised by Mme. Zola from the first days of their
marriage, and inconsequence his life was wholly free from scandals and
his mind was never distracted from his work.

46. The Eternal Romance

But whatever the future of monogamous marriage, there will never be any
decay of that agreeable adventurousness which now lies at the bottom
of all transactions between the sexes. Women may emancipate themselves,
they may borrow the whole bag of masculine tricks, and they may cure
themselves of their present desire for the vegetable security of
marriage, but they will never cease to be women, and so long as they are
women they will remain provocative to men. Their chief charm today
lies precisely in the fact that they are dangerous, that they threaten
masculine liberty and autonomy, that their sharp minds present a menace
vastly greater than that of acts of God and the public enemy--and they
will be dangerous for ever. Men fear them, and are fascinated by them.
They know how to show their teeth charmingly; the more enlightened of
them have perfected a superb technique of fascination. It was Nietzsche
who called them the recreation of the warrior--not of the poltroon,
remember, but of the warrior. A profound saying. They have an infinite
capacity for rewarding masculine industry and enterprise with small and
irresistible flatteries; their acute understanding combines with
their capacity for evoking ideas of beauty to make them incomparable
companions when the serious business of the day is done, and the time
has come to expand comfortably in the interstellar ether.

Every man, I daresay, has his own notion of what constitutes perfect
peace and contentment, but all of those notions, despite the fundamental
conflict of the sexes, revolve around women. As for me--and I hope I
may be pardoned, at this late stage in my inquiry, for intruding my own
personality--I reject the two commonest of them: passion, at least
in its more adventurous and melodramatic aspects, is too exciting and
alarming for so indolent a man, and I am too egoistic to have much
desire to be mothered. What, then, remains for me? Let me try to
describe it to you.

It is the close of a busy and vexatious day--say half past five or six
o'clock of a winter afternoon. I have had a cocktail or two, and am
stretched out on a divan in front of a fire, smoking. At the edge of the
divan, close enough for me to reach her with my hand, sits a woman not
too young, but still good-looking and well-dressed--above all, a woman
with a soft, low-pitched, agreeable voice. As I snooze she talks--of
anything, everything, all the things that women talk of: books, music,
the play, men, other women. No politics. No business. No religion. No
metaphysics. Nothing challenging and vexatious--but remember, she
is intelligent; what she says is clearly expressed, and often
picturesquely. I observe the fine sheen of her hair, the pretty cut of
her frock, the glint of her white teeth, the arch of her eye-brow,
the graceful curve of her arm. I listen to the exquisite murmur of
her voice. Gradually I fall asleep--but only for an instant. At once,
observing it, she raises her voice ever so little, and I am awake. Then
to sleep again--slowly and charmingly down that slippery hill of dreams.
And then awake again, and then asleep again, and so on.

I ask you seriously: could anything be more unutterably beautiful? The
sensation of falling asleep is to me The most exquisite in the world.
I delight in it so much that I even look forward to death itself with a
sneaking wonder and desire. Well, here is sleep poetized and made doubly
sweet. Here is sleep set to the finest music in the world. I match this
situation against any that you ran think of. It is not only enchanting;
it is also, in a very true sense, ennobling. In the end, when the girl
grows prettily miffed and throws me out, I return to my sorrows somehow
purged and glorified. I am a better man in my own sight. I have grazed
upon the fields of asphodel. I have been genuinely, completely and
unregrettably happy.

47. Apologia in Conclusion

At the end I crave the indulgence of the cultured reader for the
imperfections necessarily visible in all that I have here set
down--imperfections not only due to incomplete information and fallible
logic, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to certain fundamental
weaknesses of the sex to which I have the honour to belong. A man is
inseparable from his congenital vanities and stupidities, as a dog is
inseparable from its fleas. They reveal themselves in everything he says
and does, but they reveal themselves most of all when he discusses the
majestic mystery of woman. Just as he smirks and rolls his eyes in her
actual presence, so he puts on apathetic and unescapable clownishness
when he essays to dissect her in the privacy of the laboratory. There
is no book on woman by a man that is not a stupendous compendium of
posturings and imbecilities. There are but two books that show even a
superficial desire to be honest--"The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman
Suffrage," by Sir Almroth Wright, and this one. Wright made a gallant
attempt to tell the truth, but before he got half way through his task
his ineradicable donkeyishness as a male overcame his scientific frenzy
as a psychologist, and so he hastily washed his hands of the business,
and affronted the judicious with a half baked and preposterous book.
Perhaps I have failed too, and even more ingloriously. If so, I am full
of sincere and indescribable regret.

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