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In Defense of Women by H. L. Mencken

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Etext prepared by
Joseph Gallanar

In Defense of Women
by H. L. Mencken


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


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

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

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

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

It is the custom of The Free-Lance Series to print a paragraph or
two about the author in each volume. I was born in Baltimore,
September 12, 1880, and come of a learned family, though my
immediate forebears were business men. The tradition of this
ancient learning has been upon me since my earliest days, and I
narrowly escaped becoming a doctor of philosophy. My father's
death, in 1899, somehow dropped me into journalism, where I had
a successful career, as such careers go. At the age of 25 1 was the
chief editor of a daily newspaper in Baltimore. During the same
year I published my first book of criticism. Thereafter, for ten or
twelve years, I moved steadily from practical journalism, with its
dabbles in politics, economics and soon, toward purely aesthetic
concerns, chiefly literature and music, but of late I have felt a
strong pull in the other direction, and what interests me chiefly
today is what may be called public psychology, ie., the nature of the
ideas that the larger masses of men hold, and the processes whereby
they reach them. If I do any serious writing hereafter, it will be in
that field. In the United States I am commonly held suspect as a
foreigner, and during the war I was variously denounced. Abroad,
especially in England, I am sometimes put to the torture for my
intolerable Americanism. The two views are less far apart than they
seem to be. The fact is that I am superficially so American, in ways
of speech and thought, that the foreigner is deceived, whereas the
native, more familiar with the true signs, sees that under the surface
there is incurable antagonism to most of the ideas that Americans
hold to be sound. Thus If all between two stools--but it is more
comfortable there on the floor than sitting up tightly. I am wholly
devoid of public spirit or moral purpose. This is incomprehensible
to many men, and they seek to remedy the defect by crediting me
with purposes of their own. The only thing I respect is intellectual
honesty, of which, of course, intellectual courage is a
necessary part. A Socialist who goes to jail for his opinions seems
to me a much finer man than the judge who sends him there, though
I disagree with all the ideas of the Socialist and agree with some of
those of the judge. But though he is fine, the Socialist is
nevertheless foolish, for he suffers for what is untrue. If I knew
what was true, I'd probably be willing to sweat and strive for it, and
maybe even to die for it to the tune of bugle-blasts. But so far I
have not found it.

H. L. Mencken

The Feminine Mind

The Maternal Instinct

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

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

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


Women's Intelligence

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

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

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


The Masculine Bag of Tricks

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

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

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


Why Women Fail

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

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


The Thing Called Intuition

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

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

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

The War Between the Sexes


6. How Marriages are Arranged

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

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

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

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


The Feminine Attitude

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

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


The Male Beauty

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

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


Men as Aesthetes

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

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

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


The Process of Delusion

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

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

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


Biological Considerations

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

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

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



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

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

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


Women and the Emotions

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

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



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

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


Mythical Anthropophagi

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

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


A Conspiracy of Silence

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




Fundamental Motives

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

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

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

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


The Process of Courtship

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

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

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

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

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


The Actual Husband

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

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

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


The Unattainable Ideal

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

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

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


The Effect on the Race

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

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

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

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