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In Defense of Women by H. L. Mencken

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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


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.


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

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

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.


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 resist.

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.


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 muchas 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.


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

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.


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


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.


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 all.

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.


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
be had always been privy. But instead of being complimented, as a
man might have been if told that his wife had married him because
be 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.


Woman Suffrage


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

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


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 them.

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.


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 Harding.

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.


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.


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 astate, 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.


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

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 bad 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 comer, 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

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 girls.


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.


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 bearable.

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 acquaintance.


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.


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.


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.

The New Age



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

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

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

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