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About gynocentrism

The golden casket above depicts scenes of servile male behaviour toward women that were typical of courtly love culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a rope or halter in a position of subservience.

It is clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in the Middle Ages with the cultural practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. In 12th century Europe feudalism served as the basis for a new kind of love in which men were to play the role of vassal to women who played the role of an idealized Lord. C.S. Lewis, back in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”1 Lewis states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 2

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Furthermore, unless evidence of broadspread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then gynocentrism is precisely 800 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.” 3 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the role of Lord in relation to male vassals.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.” 4 I agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, however the phrase ‘gynocentric culture’ more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website ‘gynocentrism’ refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which phrase I will define here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we can look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King, God and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, damsels, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminism. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not simply fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem of gender inequity is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. All we need do is look at the circumstances under which gynocentrism first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

Querelle des Femmes and perpetual advocacy for gynocentrism

The Querelle des Femmes translates as the “quarrel about women” and amounts to what we might today call a gender-war. The querelle des Femmes had its beginning in the twelfth century and finds its culmination in the feminist-driven ideology of today (though some authors claim, unconvincingly, that the querelle came to an end in the 1700s). The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women. If we consider the longevity of this revolution we might be inclined to agree with Barbarossaaa’s claim “that feminism is a perpetual advocacy machine for women”.

To place the above events into a coherent timeline, chivalric servitude toward women was elaborated and given patronage first under the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1137-1152) and instituted culturally throughout Europe over the subsequent 200 year period. After becoming thus entrenched on European soil there arose the Querelle des Femmes which refers to the advocacy culture that arose for protecting, perpetuating and increasing female power in relation to men that continues, in an unbroken tradition, in the efforts of contemporary feminism.5

Writings from the Middle Ages forward are full of testaments about men attempting to adapt to the feudalisation of love and the serving of women, along with the emotional agony, shame and sometimes physical violence they suffered in the process. Gynocentric chivalry and the associated querelle have not received much elaboration in men’s studies courses to-date, but with the emergence of new manuscripts and quality English translations it may be profitable to begin blazing this trail.6 For instance a text I was re-reading today, Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s ‘In The Service of Ladies’ (1250) provides a treasure trove of emotions faced by a man trying to adapt to the vassal role; texts like this could be included in syllabus and explored for a deeper understanding of male experience and the cultural expectations that are placed on men.

References

1. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
2. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
3. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
4. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”
5. Joan Kelly, Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes (1982), reprinted in Women, History and Theory, UCP (1984)
6. The New Male Studies Journal has published thoughtful articles touching on the history and influence of chivalry in the lives of males.

Woman nineteenth century Flickr

Female Power, Influence, and Privileges – 1835

“Female Power, Influences, and Privileges” is Chapter-one from ‘Woman: As She Is, And As She Should Be,’ – published 1835 by Cochrane & Co., and reprinted here in text form for the first time on the www. – PW.

O ye men; it is not the great king, nor the multitude of men, neither is it wine that excelleth: who is it then that ruleth them, or hath the lordship over them? – Are they not women? By this also ye must know that women have dominion over you. Do ye not labour, and toil, and give, and bring all to the woman? Yea! many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, and erred, and sinned, for women. — ESDRAS. ”

§ 1.–The supremacy of the weak over the strong is a very remarkable phenomenon, and it is as mischievous as it is it is remarkable. Whatever nature or law may have denied women, art and secret sway give them all: they are influential to a degree perfectly unguessed, and men are possessed by, not possessors of them.

“Woman was made of the man, and for the man:” this is the language of Scripture. Yet, though “expressly given to man for a comforter, for a companion, not for a counsellor,” Woman has managed to overstep her sphere – she has usurped the dominion of the head, when she should have aimed but at the subjection of the heart; and the hand which ought to be held out to the man, only to sustain and cheer him on his journey, now checks his steps, and points out the way he is to go! From moment to moment his purposes are thwarted and broken in upon by a capricious influence, which he scarcely dares to question, yet makes it his pride to indulge. Of this mighty evil it is that we are desirous to give a plain and unbiased view.

There is, perhaps, no country on earth where women enjoy such, and so great privileges, as in our own. The phenomenon has never passed unobserved by foreigners; and smartly enough it has been said, that were a bridge thrown across our Channel, the whole sex would be seen running to the British shores. In many countries women are slaves; in some they hold the rank of mistresses; in others they are (what they should be everywhere) companions; but in England they are queens!

It was remarked by Steele, even in his time, that “by the gallantry of our nation, the women were the most powerful part of our people;” and assuredly, female influence, far from finding its becoming level, has been on the growth among us ever since. It is now in its “high and palmy state,” and the star of Woman was perhaps never more in the ascendant than at this present writing.1 “The influence of Englishwomen,” as a contemporary observes, “of attractive women” (and a large portion of our countrywomen are attractive) “is vast indeed: be they slaves or companions, sensual toys or reasoning friends, that influence is all but boundless.”

§ 2.–Female influence necessarily exists by sufferance: it can only be by man’s verdict that it exists at all. And herein is the unaccountable part of the whole matter: there is actually something “stronger than strength,” –

And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.”

In the moral philosophy of Paley, there is a remark, so profoundly true, bearing upon our subject, that we cannot consent to hide it in a note. “Could we regard mankind,” says that writer, “with the same sort of observation with which we read the natural history, or remark the manners of any other animal, there is nothing in the human character which would more surprise us, than the almost-universal subjugation of strength to weakness. Among men (in the complete use and exercise of their personal faculties) you see the ninety-and-nine toiling and scraping together a heap of superfluities for one, and this one, too, oftentimes the feeblest and worst of the whole set–a child, a Woman, a madman, or a fool.”

And thus does Man (too often a creature of passion, but never so much or completely so, as when Woman is its object) yield himself an unthinking victim: a most willing bond-slave here, he suffers his head to become the dupe of his passions. How (perhaps many a man asks himself) should he look for harm, where he has garnered up his heart, and where his earliest, latest wishes centre? And yet we may love, like Othello, “not wisely, but too well;” we make unto ourselves idols of the heart, that shall wean us (as they weaned the wisest of old) from sobriety and duty. If the enthusiasm of devotion has sometimes stooped to borrow the language of love, far more often has the madness of love dared to borrow the language of devotion. Like the father in Parnell, our affections may become criminal, and “erring fondness” of this kind, amiable though it be, has to abide its consequences. Providence never fails to avenge any trespass on its own designs.

Led away “by a captive face,” “disturbed by a smile, or undone by a kiss;” a look sufficing to persuade, and a sigh to convince him: this is man’s position!

All they shall need, is to protest and swear,
Breathe a soft sigh, and drop a tender tear.” – Pope

Beauty has but to lecture through her tears, and with Dido of old, “ire iterim in lacrymas, iterum tentare precando,” and resolution is no longer a manly virtue. We resist, and resist, and resist again, –but at length turn suddenly round, and passionately embrace the enchantress.

Few are to be found who do not assume themselves with a toy of some kind during every stage of life, and Woman (though perhaps as little enduring in outward charm as any other, and one that, if critically eyed, would not retain its divinity long), is the most common and most fondled toy of all. How many, calling themselves men, are fooled by those who ought to be their comforters–prayed upon by harpies in the form of angels! The hypocrite affects attachment; the coquette trifles with feeling; the prude strikes at judgment; while the less principled reprobate lays out her traps for heedless passion.

In their most trifling pursuits do women somehow manage to create an almost-universal interest; in all their ordinary doings, in their ‘whereabouts,’–“leurs brouilleries leurs indiscretions, leurs repugnances, leurs penchans, leurs jalousies, leurs piques;” — They have, in fine, continues the author Montesquieu we are quoting, “cet art qu’on les petites ames d’interesser les grandes.” Nor are those mere “women’s fools” –the refuse of the other sex–who are led away blindfold thus: many of its chiefest ornaments are among their “following.” The great and small seem equally content to shape their desires to female foolishness, and with one false tear a pretty woman can undo at a moment what the best and wisest of men have been labouring for years to establish.

What is it Woman cannot do?
She’ll make a statesman quite forget his cunning,
And trust his dearest secrets to her breast,
Where fops have daily entrance.”

Where (apart from outward attractions) this especial fascination which belongs to woman lies, it is difficult to determine; wearing, as it does, the garb of secret and speculative influence, it becomes too vague to submit to a definition–and thus bases itself on a foundation as difficult to examine as to shake. We cannot look into the heart; and where women are concerned, the heart is more especially an enigma.

Thus much, however, may safely be concluded: were women really strong, the contact or the occasional superiority might alarm pride; but, as the truth is, this “mortal omnipotence” is at last but an insect in the breeze; and though a creature which by its will, its wit, or its caprices, is sometimes able to shake us, soul and body, it nevertheless, from instant to instant, is dependent upon ourselves for the minutest succour.

§ 3.–Let us consider female influence under the several aspects in which it presents itself;– and first, as acting upon society at large. The supremacy of women is quite as much general and public, as it is domestic and individual: it spreads along the innumerable lines of social intercourse,–exerting itself, not merely over manners, but, which is often to be regretted, over modes of thinking. We see around the sex an almost-Chinese prostration–of mind as well as body: their approval it is that stamps social reputation–their favour, and their favour alone, that is supposed to confer happiness. Nothing, forsooth, is right, but that which bears their approbation; and theirs alone is the great catholic creed of manners, any deviation from which is heresy. And women have no merit or qualifications then such as they themselves please to dictate,–having been early taught to feel their own consequence, more than what is due to their creature, Man.

§ 4.–But in the connubial state do women exercise the most unlimited power. Female influence, in its action merely over manners and conventionalisms, might seem somewhat on the surface; but such is by no means its narrow bounds: mediately, if not directly, it is an agent in every possible direction. The wife controls her husband, and he acts upon others, and upon the state at large, according to his sphere in life.

Within the whole circle of deception, there is perhaps no creature so completely beguiled as manya modern husband;–we can all, in our private circles, point to a score of instances. Such a being is but an appendage to another–nothing of himself; he is a slave, and a slave of the worst kind–fooled by the bent of another’s will. Free agency is a thing quite gone from him, and, if mere confinement makes not captivity, he suffers a loss of liberty at his own hearth. He is under a charm–loving, as Shakespeare phrases it, with an “enraged affection.” Let the dear enchantress cry for the moon, she should have it from its sphere, were it possible. He would have the world from its axis, to give it her: no one can be richer than she in his promises: she, who but she, the cream of all his care!

Dilige, et dic quicquid voles.”

Women there are affectionate enough–it may be, devoted–in their character as wives; but then, it is at their husbands’ peril to be happy by other means than such as in their wisdom they please to subscribe. Regents of the heart, they take care to govern it most absolutely: and thus it happens (as Phaedrus said long ago) that “men are sure to be losers by the women, as well when they are objects of their love, as when they lie under their displeasure!”

In right of marriage, Englishwomen become endowed with many and great privileges,–privileges that are growing in number and importance every day. Claims, greater than were ever before awarded, are now allowed them in Law and in Equity: over pecuniary matters they have no small control, and are always at full liberty to plunge into wanton expenditure, leaving their husbands the responsible parties.

In short, the ceremony of wedlock, with its present obligations, more than restores any natural inequality between the sexes. No longer are women cyphers beyond the sphere of domestic life: they are parceners of of our power. They are not, it is true, suffered as yet to dispute the prizes of ambition, but they partake largely of its reward; they have the lion’s share–they divide, where they do not monopolise the spoil!

Were it not for difference of dress and person, one might almost mistake the wife for the husband in this country. Her will is not carried in His pocket, as is wisely arranged elsewhere:– “he pays the bills indeed, but my lady gives the treat.” And while she is spending money with both hands, and with a zeal that would lighten the bags of a loan-monger, he has to sell his woods and lands, borrow, or beg!

Slyly and unperceived does the foot of female authority slip itself in: the wedge is easily driven home. This is a species of power that never exists long without favouring itself;–let an ascendancy be once gained (and the collar of command is soon slipped!)–let a system of unsinuation once transfer the authority of wedlock,–and, afterwards, every act, be it of large or small import–what must be done, what is to be said,–becomes not the act of the Man, but of the Woman. It is not planned, it is determined; and where the lady cannot give her reason, she gives her resolution.

Hoc volo, sic jubeo; sit pro ratione voluntas:
Imperat ergo viro!”

This is “Gynocracy” with a vengeance! as Lord Byron was pleased, on some occasion, to denominate petticoat-sway. This very peculiar and distinct species of government (partaking in its nature not so much of mild despotism, as of a pure unmixed tyranny) has now grown so common among us, that (albeit laid down neither in Plato nor Aristotle) it well deserves, as it has obtained, a definite and scientific denomination.

We have all seen the ivy twining around the oak, but behold a novelty–the oak twining itself about the ivy! The man who suffers himself to be led away blindfold thus, can only be likened to the fool “that rejoiceth when he goeth to the correction of the stocks.”–“Give not thy soul to a woman, to set her foot upon thy substance.” To submit thus is contrary to the first law of nature–it is a direct spurning of Revelation:-

Was she thy God, that thou didst obey?
Or was she made they guide,
Superior, or but equal–that to her
Thou didst resign thy manhood?” — MILTON, P.L.

Let us presume to offer one word of advice to the sex that, in truth, most needs it. Men should let their love be at least manly; it is always possible to be affectionate without being over-fond;–to copy the gentleness, without the amorousness, of the dove. It is in itself a folly to allow those we love to perceive the vehemence of our affection; for such is human nature,–and such especially is female nature, that where it can control, it is nearly sure to become indifferent about pleasing, and at last despotic. Persecution may appear in many shapes, at home as well as abroad; it may address us in the voice of mildness as well as of imperious command; and the soft and playful creatures of our idle hours may cause us misery for years: Nothing is to be disregarded, however seemingly powerless! Though the capacities of Woman are comprised within a narrow sphere, these act within the circle of vigour and uniformity. It is often by seeming to despise power, that women secure it to satiety! A love of power would seem almost part and parcel of Woman’s composition;–for to this end they early learn to enlist every art they are mistresses of;–

In men we various ruling passions find.
In women two almost divide the kind;
These only fix’d, they first or last obey–
The love of pleasure, and the love of sway. — POPE

§ 5.–Nor is the political influence belonging to women of contemptible amount. There is an old and true maxim, that though kings may reign, women virtually govern: ’tis they who hold the strings of all intrigues, great or small. “There are perhaps few instances,” says an elegant writer, “in which the sex is not one o the secret springs that regulate the most important movements of private or public transactions.”

Not merely over the fanciful regions of fashion does the female empire extend itself; it dictates to the senate, as well as legislates for the ball-room. Women make no laws, it is true; they abrogate none: in so far Law shakes hands with Divinity; but they have an influence beyond any law: “Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut?” Nothing resists them! What follows, though it be poetry, is too true a picture.

What trivial influences hold dominion
O’er wise men’s counsels and the fate of empire!
The greatest schemes that human wit can forge,
Or bold ambition dares to put into practice,
Depend upon our husbanding a moment,
And the light lasting of a Woman’s will!” — ROWE

Nor are women without civil and political power of the direct kind. They are vested with many important trusts, and enjoy most of those privileges which accompany property. They vote for many public functionaries, and their sweet voices are made admissible in electing directors for the government for thirty or forty millions of souls of British India.

And where their influence is but indirect, it is little less powerful on that account. In our public elections ’tis they who are the actual constituency,–they, after all, who virtually elect; for which is the vote that they do not influence? The system of female canvassing has of late years become a traffic quite notorious.

The lady in Hudibras, did not exceed the truth when she asserted the vast powers and privileges of her sex:–

We manage things of greatest weight
In all the world’s affairs of state;
We make and execute all laws
can judge the judges and the cause;
We rule in every public meeting
And make men do what we judge fitting;
We are magistrates in all great towns
Where men do nothing but wear gowns!
We are your guardians, that increase,
Or waste, your fortunes as we please;
And, as you humour us, can deal
In all your matters, ill or well.”

 
Notes:

[1] “A low estimate of female pretensions is certainly not the fault of the present day. Women are, perhaps, sometimes in danger of being spoilt, but they cannot complain that they are too little valued. Their powers are too highly rated: their natural defects are overlooked, and the consideration in which they are held, the influence they possess, and the confidence placed in their judgment, are in some instances disproportionate with their real claims.” — Mrs. Sandford

Brown riding donkey

Riding the Donkey Backwards: Men as the Unacceptable Victims of Marital Violence

Article by Malcolm J. George

In post-Renaissance France and England, society ridiculed and humiliated husbands thought to be battered and/or dominated by their wives (Steinmetz, 1977-78). In

France, for instance, a “battered” husband was trotted around town riding a donkey backwards while holding its tail. In England, “abused” husbands were strapped to a cart and paraded around town, all the while subjected to the people’s derision and contempt. Such “treatments” for these husbands arose out of the patriarchal ethos where a husband was expected to dominate his wife, making her, if the occasion arose, the proper target for necessary marital chastisement; not the other way around (Dobash & Dobash, 1979).

Although the patriarchal view supporting a husband’s complete dominance of his wife persisted into the twentieth century (E. Pleck, 1987), during the latter half of this century, we find a definite shift in people’s attitudes toward marital relationships. Beginning in the 1970s, for instance, advocates like Del Martin (1976) and Erin Pizzey (Pizzey 1974; Pizzey & Shapiro, 1982) exposed the “hidden” secret of domestic violence. As a result, terms like “domestic violence,” “domestic abuse,” and “battered wife” have found their way into our everyday speech. Finally, society seems to be taking the issue of domestic violence against women seriously and looking for solutions to stem if not to end the violence.

Most of the early research dealing with domestic violence focused solely on the female victims and the social factors that supported the victimization of women (Smith, 1989). Consequently, a voluminous literature now exists that portrays domestic violence as a unitary social phenomenon stemming from a patriarchal social order where women are portrayed as the victims and men perceived as the perpetrators (Dobash & Dobash, 1979). Such research has had a significant impact upon the evolution of recent changes in civil law, enforcement of criminal law, and the ways law enforcement and social agencies respond to the needs of battered wives (see Victim Support, 1992).

As noted in the opening section, finding evidence that society in centuries past found it necessary to punish men who did not uphold the patriarchal way suggests previous recognition that a husband could be assaulted or dominated by his wife. In recent years though, such a possibility has found little support or credence. Rather, the view of husband-as-victim of domestic violence is more likely a subject of cartoons (Saenger, 1963) or of jokes about “hen-pecked” husbands (Wilkinson, 1981). In fact, raising the issue of husband-as-victim has spawned a heated controversy within academic circles pitting those who have reported such evidence (see Mills, 1990; Mold, 1990; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980) against those who scoff at such a possibility (see Pagelow, 1985; Pleck, Pleck, & Bart, 1977; Walker, 1989, 1990).

A number of factors apparently are stoking the debate. Among those most often cited are the relative numbers of male versus female victims, the methods used to determine whether or not male victimization has occurred, and the nature and context of female violence. With respect to this last factor, the nature and context of female violence, the debate has widened to include whether the violence perpetrated by a woman against a man is motivated solely in terms of self-defense from either actual or possible bodily threat, whether the violence perpetrated by a woman against a man is in retaliation to previous victimization by a male partner, and whether the resulting injury inflected on a man by a woman is comparable to that inflicted on a woman by a man.

With respect to the first issue much of the data available on domestic violence in the United States, for instance, indicates that, as Mildred Daley Pagelow (1985) argues, females far outnumber males in terms of being the victims of violence. Such is also the conclusion of a literature review prepared for the United Kingdom’s Home Office (Smith, 1989). Given that most studies suggest that domestic violence is exclusively perpetrated by men against women and propose theoretical frameworks to account for this unilateral condition, men who experience unilateral violence at the hands of their wives or female partners have been all but neglected. Dismissed by the argument that few men are actually the victim of spousal abuse or that these few were in all probability men in denial of their own abuse complaining of their spouses’ self-defense needs, the experiences of such men have warranted sparse academic concern.

Another feature preventing serious attention toward the issue of battered men is the belief that studies of battered women will suffice to provide a background for understanding male victims. Further, it has been suggested that in those very few cases of battered men that their social and legal needs are already met within the context of present and available social and legal provisions (Pagelow, 1985).

Although some argue that the relatively few cases of battered men warrant little serious study, incidents of battered men have drawn the attention of numerous social agencies in the United Kingdom, for instance, among the police (Burrell & Brinkworth, 1994; Kirsta, 1994), police surgeons (Harrison, 1986), counseling agencies (Jaevons, 1992; Kirsta, 1991, 1994; Thomas, 1993), probation services (Jaevons, 1992), social agencies like the Samaritans, the Salvation Army, and shelters for the homeless (Harrison, 1986; Jaevons, 1992; Lewin, 1992), psychiatrists and physicians, (Borowski, Murch, & Walker, 1983; Harrison, 1986; Oswald, 1980), fathers’ rights groups (Harrison, 1986), lawyers (Wolff, 1992), and even among those who work with battered women (L. Davidson, personal communication, April, 1994; ; Kirsta, 1991; Lewin, 1992; E. Pizzey, personal communication, December, 1992).

This paper addresses the question of male victimization by reviewing research studies and literature in which domestic violence directed against husbands/male partners has been found or considered. Further, I argue that more research is needed to help define the similarities and differences between male and female victims of domestic violence. The contention that the numbers of battered men in society are very small and thus present an anomaly to the general thinking that women are the only “legitimate” subject of domestic violence is denied. The fact is that taking a serious look at the phenomenon of battered men may actually be a necessary next step to help “de-contaminate” the study of domestic violence (Note 1).

ARE MEN VICTIMS?
RESEARCH AND CONTROVERSY

Although domestic assaults against men have been reported in the literature since the 1950s (Bates, 1981; Straus, 1993), the earliest academic reference to “battered husbands” can be traced to the work of Suzanne Steinmetz (1977, 1977-78). Extrapolating from a small scale study, Steinmetz suggested that the incidence of “husband beating” rivaled the incidence of “wife battering” and that it was husband abuse, not wife abuse, that was a largely underreported form of domestic violence. Her claims received considerable media attention in the United States and elsewhere, but she was savagely attacked for misreading, misinterpreting, and misrepresenting her findings by opponents. Pagelow, for one, (1985) criticized Steinmetz’s evidence on a number of grounds, for instance, the use of aggregate, as opposed to couple samples. Further, she noted that Steinmetz’s work did not address the context in which women were the perpetrators of violence, namely, “self-defense.” Consequently, Pagelow argued that the claim of husband abuse could not be supported and that the “battered husband syndrome” was “much ado about nothing.”

Despite the criticisms leveled at Steinmetz and her concept of the battered husband, violence directed at husbands has been reported by others. For instance, Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Suzanne Steinmetz (1980) estimated that about one in eight men in the United States acted violently during marital conflict. However, they estimated a similar number of women also acted violently during marital conflict. They also noted that in a majority of these cases, violence was a mutual or bilateral activity, with only 27% of cases finding that husbands were the sole perpetrators of violence and 24% of cases finding only wives acting violently. With respect to serious violence, as judged by the Conflict Tactics Scales (Note 2), these authors stated that the rate for men beaten by their wives was 4.6%; a figure that indicated “over 2 million very violent wives.” While 47% of those husbands who beat their wives did so severely three or more times a year, 53% of women who beat their husbands severely did so three or more times a year.

In a later article, Straus and Gelles (1986) reviewed both their own and other studies in the United States and reported somewhat equivalent assault rates for both male-to-female and female-to-male. In their 1975 survey, Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz (1980) estimated that approximately 38 out of every 1000 families experience severe husband-to-wife violence, while 46 out of every l000 families experience severe wife-to-husband violence. Ten years later, Straus & Gelles (1986) reported that the rates have dropped from 38 to 30 and 46 and 44 per 1000 couples, respectively. In overall acts of violence, as defined by the Conflict Tactics Scales, husband-to-wife rates of violence were 121 and 113 and wife-to-husband rates of violence were 116 and 121 per 1000 couples for the two study years (i.e., 1975 and 1985).

Although Straus and Gelles (1986) did not dwell on these comparisons, they did make a statement that seems to run counter to the prevailing academic and public perception of the time, namely, that “an important and distressing finding about violence in American families is that, in marked contrast to the behavior of women outside the family, women are about as violent within the family as men” (p. 470). The small change in the wife-to-husband rate of violence, as opposed to some change in the husband-to-wife violence, was suggested to result from a lack of attention or concern to male victimization. The case for giving due regard to domestic women-on-men assaults and an acceptance of this higher level of victimization was backed by reference to other studies finding similar levels of male victimization (Brutz & Ingoldsby, 1984; Gelles, 1974; Giles-Sims, 1983; Jourilles & O’Leary, 1985; Lane & Gwartney-Gibbs, 1985; ; Laner & Thompson, 1982; Makepeace, 1983; Sack, Keller, & Howard, 1982; Saunders, 1986; Scanzoni, 1978; Steinmetz, 1977, 1977-78; Szinovacz, 1983).

In conclusion, summarized such data as Straus and Gelles (1986) indicating that women engage in minor assaults against their male partners at a slightly higher rate than for the same attacks upon women by men. In situations in which both partners use violence, men and women were also almost equally responsible for the first blow, but in only one quarter of these relationships was the man the sole victim. At more potentially injurious levels of assault, men were considered to exceed women in their aggressive behavior and it was suggested that a relative rate in the order of 6 or 7 to 1 (male versus female) was evident for the perpetration of injurious assaults.

Returning to the controversy surrounding the issue of violence against husbands, Straus (1989, 1993) and Straus and Kaufman-Kantor (1994) have extended such observations and reiterated the importance of giving due consideration to the issue. Straus (1993) has pointed out that some studies fail to report findings of female-to-male violence. For instance, Straus noted that in a Kentucky study of battered wives, the study failed to report a 38% rate of unilateral female-to-male violence. Straus further noted that in reviewing over thirty studies, every (Straus’s emphasis) study using a sample that was not self-selecting had found rough equivalence of assault rates for both women and men (e.g., Brush, 1990; Sorensen & Telles, 1991). Some of the variation in the reports of incidence of violence directed against husbands or male partners could be attributed to the difference in whether the studies surveyed the general population or were based upon samples of reported victims as found in police records or agencies dealing with domestic violence. The much lower rates of male victimization evident from studies on samples of victims of domestic violence drawn from victimization programs police records, or other similar agencies working in the field were suggested to introduce a “clinical sample fallacy” into the debate. In contrast evidence derived from the use of the Conflict Tactics Scales, although widely recognized and used, has been criticized by some as seemingly giving credence to attacks by women upon men by erroneously equating female assaults with potentially more harmful male assaults (e.g., Bogarde, 1990; Kurz, 1993).

Several American and Canadian studies have indicated levels of female violence against husbands or male partners as more than just an anomaly or a small percentage of isolated individual cases. For instance, Nisonoff and Bitman (1979) reported that 15.5% of men and 11.3% of women reported having hit their spouse, while 18.6% of men and 12.7% of women reported having been hit by their spouse. Studies of both dating and married/cohabiting couples have also found that women admit committing unilateral acts of violence against their male partners at levels not greatly dissimilar to those committed by men (Arias & Johnson, 1989). In a survey of 884 United States university students, Breen (1985) found that both male and female students reported being the victim of an act of violence by a romantic partner in approximately equal proportions (18% of the men and 14% of the women). And among married male students, Breen found that 23% reported being slapped, punched, or kicked, while 9% reported being the victim of an assault involving a weapon and a similar percentage reported receiving injuries that required them to seek medical treatment. In a study of particular interest, as it surveyed patients attending an emergency department, Goldberg and Tomianovich (1984) found that men constituted 38% of the victims of spousal violence.

Bland and Orn (1986), in a Canadian study of the relationships between family violence, psychiatric disorder, and alcohol abuse, found that men and women were nearly equal in committing acts of violence against their partners. In another study, this time for 562 married and co-habiting couples living in Calgary, Canada, Brinkerhoff and Lupri (1988) found nearly twice as much wife-to-husband, as husband-to-wife, severe violence. Using data derived again from the Conflict Tactics Scales, these researchers reported a 4.7% rate of severe violence in husband-to-wife relationships while a 10.4% rate was found for wife-to-husband severe violence. These authors also suggested that male violence decreased with level of educational attainment, but female violence increased. Also Sommers, Barnes, and Murray (1992) reported a higher incidence of at least one incident of partner abuse for females as opposed to males (39.1% versus 26.3%).

In the United Kingdom, surveys of domestic incidents are more restricted than the National Family Violence Survey or other comparable surveys in the United States or Canada (Smith, 1989). However, if we allow as evidence the reporting in the popular media, evidence of male victims can be found. For instance, in a UK survey of 2,075 people about family life reported in the popular press, Moller (1991) reported that three times as many women, as men, admitted hitting their spouse or partner. Individual case histories of battered men have also been reported in various popular presses as well as details of an unpublished British study, using the Conflict Tactics Scales, where similar results were found (e.g., Kirsta, 1989, 1991, 1994; Stacey & Cantacuzino, 1993; Wolff, 1992). In an article reviewing a number of legal cases, Bates (1981) commented that while “little had been written about male victimization, it was not difficult to find male victims from even a superficial search of case law.”

By contrast, a study of police and court records in Scotland found that only 2.4% of cases involved a male victim (Dobash & Dobash, 1978). Two other studies in the United Kingdom gave a somewhat different picture. Borowski, Murch, and Walker (1983) in a survey of fifty general practitioners found that just over 80% of physicians reported seeing a case of a female victim of domestic violence about once every six months, but totally unsolicited, 27% of the physicians reported seeing a male victim with about the same frequency. In a study by psychiatrists in Scotland, Oswald (1980) reported on 299 women involved in violent relationships. Forty-six percent of these women reported being both victims of violence by a spouse/partner or near relative and perpetrators of violence towards their spouse/partner or near relative. Another 12% stated they had been violent towards a spouse/partner or near relative, but received no violence from them. In a more recent UK study, Smith, Baker, Buchan, and Bodiwala (1992) reported on the results of their gender-blind study of victims of domestic assaults attending Leicester Royal Infirmary casualty department. Retrospective study of the casualty department records for 1988, of assault victims of both genders who identified their injury as arising from “domestic incidents,” found an incidence of male victims of spousal assault. Covering a number of categories of inter-relational violence within the home, eleven men and 55 women were positively identified as the victim of an assault by their spouse or partner. Another six men and 30 women were identified as having been assaulted by a romantic partner. In the total study of 142 male and 155 female identified victims, an interesting feature was the fact that 59% of males and 25% of females did not identify their assailant.

Furthermore, reports of male victims of female-perpetrated domestic violence can be found using data from Australia (Scutt, 1981). Thus academic literature reporting studies of domestic violence from four countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia) has reported an incidence of male victimization from zero to slightly higher than the incidence of female victimization. While a surprising number of studies find rates of male victimization, the data is not always complete. What is clear, however, is that assaults by women against their husbands or male partners do occur. This is even acknowledged by some of critics of the concept of “battered men” (Walker, 1990). Whatever the incidence of female assaults on male partners is, Pagelow’s (1985) view that male victimization hardly ever occurs is being challenged by numerous researchers coming from a variety of disciplines and research areas (Macchieto,1992). Further, the debate about battered men is becoming more heated, as more men come forth and publicly describe their status as victims of domestic abuse (see Aardoom, 1993; Edwards, 1992; Greenfield, 1992; Raeside, 1993; Smith, 1992; Thomas, 1993; and Turner, 1988).

ON THE NATURE OF ASSAULTS AGAINST HUSBANDS

SELF-DEFENSE?

A major criticism leveled at Steinmetz’s claim of “battered husbands” was that she failed to address the context or the situation that would have prompted a woman to act violently against her male partner. The critics claimed that in those (rare) cases when a woman attacked a man such an assault was in all probability justified in terms of self-defense, stemming from either his previous assaults or the likelihood of imminent assault. Initially, owing to this criticism and believing that most assaults by women on men would be in self-defense, Straus did not pursue any of the initial interest from the original 1975 survey (Straus, 1993). Subsequently, however, reviewing both their own and other studies in the United States, somewhat equivalent assault rates for both male-to-female and female-to-male were identified and discussed (Straus & Gelles, 1986) in the context of this criticism. Detailed considerations to take account of the severity of assault, different reporting and surveying methodologies, and the likelihood that assaults were in self-defense or in response to previous victimization were addressed. It was argued from national survey data that the reported rates at which women admitted a violent act against their spouse and the rate that men reported an attack upon them, seemed to indicate that all female-to-male violence could not be exclusively explained as only women retaliating in self-defense. The responses of women themselves concerning unprovoked assaults on their male partners also mitigated against self-defense as being the sole reason for female-to-male violence. Additionally, the higher median and mean rates of assaultive behavior for women in such studies also mitigates against an explanation that all assaults by women are in self-defense (McNeely & Robinson-Simpson, 1987).

She repeatedly started fights, then called the police accusing him of assault. The cops refused to believe that he had been the victim. It had reached the point where he would stand with his hands clasped behind his back refusing to react or retaliate in any way, while she attacked him with her fists and her nails. (Thomas, 1993, p. 167)


In concluding whether assaults by women were always in self-defense, Straus (1993) pointed out that every study that had investigated who initiates violence, using methods that did not preclude the wife as the instigator, has found that wives instigate violence in a large proportion of cases. Straus’ case that women are likely to be violent in the home is given further support by observations of the behavior of young women in a youth assessment center. The levels of aggression and violence by females has been reported to be as high as for males, but in contrast to the males, is more likely to be expressed inside the center rather than outside in public places (Kirsta, 1994, p. 322). Straus stresses, however, that the high level of violence by women in the studies he reviews might not indicate who started the argument or whether wives attacked as a way of obviating a potential assault from their physically more able male partner.

Critics of Straus’s thesis point out that such evidence against assaults by wives being in self-defense, which are based upon data obtained from the Conflict Tactics Scales, fail to take account of the occurrence of acts of violence before the survey year for which questions are asked and fail to take account of the more serious potential for injury to women (Bogarde, 1990; Kurz, 1993; Pagelow, 1985). Thus, it is suggested that assaults by women may be a result of abuse and violence in previous years by the husband or male partner. Straus (1993), in reply to such criticism, has stated that he considers at least some writers to misrepresent his published work in respect to the victimization of both women and men (e.g., Kurz, 1993). Nowhere perhaps is controversy more acute than in the argument over assaults made by women that result in death of their male partner. In this instance, considerable attention has been paid to the cumulative process of abuse that may lead a woman to commit such an attack out of shear desperation (Walker, 1993). Even here, however, Mann (1989) has propounded that there is room for doubting that all such attacks are as a result of “delayed” self-defense by noting that not one woman in her sample of women imprisoned for murdering husbands or lovers had been battered. Straus (1989, 1993) and Sommer, Barnes, and Murray (1992) have also noted that other studies of homicides indicate women not acting in self-defense.

INJURY OR NON-INJURY?

The final dismissal of violence by wives against husbands or male partners derives from the assumption that female violence is not as injurious or is less injurious than violence perpetrated by men. Data already discussed indicates that assaults by women on men can fall into the more serious category of the Conflict Tactics Scales or, in other words, the level of assault at which there is much greater risk of injury. Reviewing data obtained in hospitals, both Goldberg and Tomianovich (1984) and Smith (et al., 1992) found that male victims received injuries that required medical attention. Smith (et al. 1992) also reported that males tended to receive more severe injuries and lost consciousness more often than women.

[A] man was admitted to Barts [St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London] after his wife had split his head with a meat knife. He was lucky to escape with his life. (quoted in Harrison, 1986, p. 34)

I’ve sewn up men who have had crockery thrown at them and bottles smashed over their heads. I once saw a man who looked as if he’d walked into a steamroller … he was covered in bruises and cuts. (quoted in Harrison, 1986, p. 35)

In one well publicized case last year, Mrs. D… C…, ripped off one of her husbands testicles. Surgeons failed to save it and the judge ordered the woman to pay £480 in costs. A judge ordered Mrs. C… to pay court costs of £480 but did not make a compensation order. (quoted in Wolff, 1992, p. 22)

It must be pointed out, however, that in the case of the United Kingdom study (Smith et al, 1992), victims had been attacked by a variety of related and unrelated aggressors in the home, and some male victims could have received greater injuries as a result of attacks by men. The upper body strength of the average woman is less than that of the average man and so it is possible to argue that there is less ability to injure. However, the difference in strength need not be large (Fausto-Sterling, 1992). Reference has also been made to the disparities in method of assault used by women as opposed to men (Flynn, 1990; Straus, 1980) whereby a woman attacking a man tends to use methods of assault not dependent upon strength, for example, using a household implement as a weapon. Seeking to determine whether females sustained greater injury than males, McLeod (1984) reported on an analysis of 6,200 cases of domestic assaults reported to law enforcement officers or the National Crime Survey interviewers. Therein, she reported that women, in attacking men, were more likely to use weapons (75% of females used weapons while 25% of males did so). Although the numbers of women attacked in the sample were larger, the extent of the injuries suffered by the male victims tended to be more serious. Thus women made up for their lack of physical strength by using a weapon, usually a household object. The prevalence of women using weapons has been reported in United Kingdom studies (George, 1992) as well as in an Australian study of battered husbands (B. Thurston, personal communications, May-November, 1993). These findings are in keeping with the suggestion that women are more prone to use weapons and forms of assault that do not depend upon physical strength for their efficacy (Straus, 1980). The rate at which men might report injuries, and indeed attacks, was also suggested to conceal the extent of male victimization; a point that has been made by others (Mack, 1989; McNeely & Robinson-Simpson, 1987). Evidence that men view attacks made upon them and the resulting injuries somewhat differently than women’s reactions was presented by Adler (1981) in a paper that was essentially refuting domestic violence against men. The consequence of this tendency to underreport, which is also very evident by women victims, would have considerable implications for the reported incidence of male victimization.

I suffered broken ribs…. I certainly never seriously contemplated taking any action that might have resulted in her being charged with assault. (Scottish victim, abstracted from a personal letter to author, March, 1992)


In any case, Straus (1989, 1993) has pointed out that dismissing male victimization on the basis of less or lack of injury has implications for the whole consideration of domestic violence. By noting the difference between the figures derived from the Conflict Tactics Scales studies and injury adjusted rates, he pointed out that the number of women victimized would be drastically reduced, even though they had still been technically assaulted in the home and potentially left fearful. Thus it could also be considered an inequity to dismiss non-injurious attacks against men on this basis and assumes that even non-injurious attacks on a man are of no psychological trauma; a view that presupposes a stereotypical attitude towards men. Psychological trauma of men as a result of threat or stressful life events is established by literature from both physiological and psychological studies (Frankenhaeuser, 1975; Stoney, Davis, & Mathews, 1987) and the social sciences (e.g., Travato, 1986).

The danger is, however, that this view could either result in, or be used to legitimize, subsequent attacks by the man (Straus, 1989,1993; Straus & Gelles, 1986). It is clearly appropriate that concern should be addressed to even non-injurious assault given the fact that medically it is well established that, for instance, blows to the head need only inflict superficial soft-tissue injury to be associated with loss of consciousness and potential for neural or cerebrovascular trauma (Kelly, Nichols, Filey, Lilliehei, Rubinstein, & Kleinschmidt-DeMasters, 1991).

THE CONTEXT OF VIOLENCE?

Little attention has been paid within the debate over battered husbands as to the reasons why women might attack their male partners other than for reasons of self-defense (Makepeace, 1983; Walker, 1984). The prevalent thinking underlying why men attack their female partners rests upon the notion that men need to control women (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Makepeace, 1983; Walker, 1984). In contrast, even Straus (1993) tends to discuss female violence against male partners only with reference to either self-defense or “slap the cad” scenarios that imply an element of justification.

Not all accounts accept the notion that a woman’s aggressive behavior toward a man is a consequence of her need to protect herself from imminent danger, though. For instance, in a chapter dealing with violent women, Shupe, Stacey, and Hazlewood (1987) argue against the “universal” application of the self-defense motive in women’s aggression noting that “women’s violence cannot be dismissed as sheer rationalization” (p. 52). Women can act in very aggressive ways for reasons other than self-defense. Certainly, the aggression found among some lesbian couples cannot be attributed to self-defense only (Hart, 1986; Renzetti, 1992), including among some couples a high level of sexual coercion (Waterman, Dawson, & Bologna, 1989). The fact is that women are capable of performing instrumental acts of aggression against their partners. Some have argued that women’s aggression toward men, as well as men’s toward women, can be attributed to their need to dominate, possess, or from feelings of insecurity (Marsh, 1976). In the author’s governmental report dealing with battered men (George, 1992), two thirds of the male victims surveyed identified “bullying” or “control” as the major reason why they felt their wives used violence in their relationship. Similar findings are also reported in studies of abused husbands in Australia (B. Thurston, personal communications, May-November, 1993) and Canada (Gregorash, 1993). Bates (1981), in his review of legal cases, such as Willan vs. Willan (United Kingdom), Keehn vs. Keehn (United States), Green vs. Green (Canada), and Sangster vs. Sangster (South Australia), found evidence of bullying, massive ill-treatment, and acts that caused danger to life and limb. Thus these isolated reports of male victims seem to indicate that, at least in some cases, violence directed at men by their wives has very similar motivation and content to that reported for men’s aggression against their wives.

Also as women are often the victims of sexual aggression (Walker, 1989), reports of male victims of female sexual abuse can be found in the literature (Bates, 1981; Stets & Pirgood, 1989; Struckman-Johnson, 1988; Swet, Survey, & Cohan, 1990; Thomas, 1993; Travin, Cullen, & Potter 1990). Further, such sexual abuse can be very devastating for the male victims (Sarrel & Masters, 1982).

Some have suggested that battered husbands may precipitate their wives’ violence by being “emotionally unresponsive” (Harrison, 1986; Kusta, 1991), inattentive (Straus, 1993), or being physically weak or disabled (Pagelow, 1985). The suggestion, however, that a man’s “emotional passivity” or “inattentiveness” may be the cause for some women’s assaultive behavior can hardly be used to justify such behavior. Arguably, we would never justify a man’s assault on a woman, for instance, for her passivity or inattentiveness.

Early accounts of battered wives echoed popular misconceptions that such women were to blame for their victimization (Pizzey & Shapiro, 1982). Recently, such victim blaming has been firmly rebutted as little more than a mechanism for the abuser to escape or excuse his antisocial actions (Smith, 1989). Victim blaming is also very much a problem suffered by battered men; while it’s roots lie in humor of the hen-pecked husband variety, it can also be seen within academic analysis of violence against husbands. For instance, Adler (1981) suggested that some men may be accepting and unconcerned by their partners assaults, express jocularity at them, and thus see no reason to end the relationship despite being exposed to violence. It is open to question whether such denial by a victim of his victimization is anything other than an attempt to suppress such feelings and to escape stigmatization by using humor, even though self-directed. Men may view violence towards them and even the resulting injuries with little overt concern, arguably though experiencing inward trauma, all because of the need to deny a sense of their vulnerability (Levant, 1991). The “slap the cad” scenario would seem to be an instance of the application of blame on the male victim based on stereotypical notions that it is not injurious and that men should accept such admonishment for any and all perceived failings in their behavior.

A confluence between male and female domestic violence in terms of defined psychiatric conditions was suggested by Bates (1981), although it has also been estimated independently that less than ten per cent of family violence can be explained by psychopathology (Gelles & Straus, 1988). In contrast, some have suggested that family violence is highly prevalent among individuals with particular mental health problems (Gondolf, Mulvey, & Lidz, 1989). Sommers, Barnes, and Murray (1992) have criticized the view, derived from sociological study, that mental disorders play a negligible role in the genesis of family violence. For instance, Bland and Orn (1986) found a positive correlation between certain personality disorders, alcohol abuse, and violence against either a spouse or children in both male and female aggressors. Sommers, Barnes, and Murray (1992) found certain factors more predictive for both female and male abusers, namely, being young and achieving high scores on Eysenck’s Psychoticism Scale, the Neurotiscism Index, and the McAndrew Scale. Similarly, O’Leary (1993) found that the men in his sample who batter also scored high on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, measures of emotional lability, or evidenced certain personality disorders.

Thus, despite the fact that certain psychiatric conditions are thought associated with a propensity toward violence, there has been relatively little consideration of the role of psychiatric/psychological criteria in the genesis of inter-spousal violence in much of the literature. For instance, jealousy has been linked to patterns of abuse and even homicide among men and women (Bourlet, 1990; Docherty & Ellis, 1976; Freeman, 1990; Renzetti, 1992; Seeman, 1979; Tarrier, Beckett, & Ahmed, 1989).

If we are to develop a cogent theory of the causes of family violence we need to integrate and define the interplay between the social, psychological, and physiological factors (Johnston & Campbell, 1993). Rather than assume we have all the answers by focusing only on the social (e.g., issues of power in relationships) or the psychological (e.g., need to dominate), we must look at all the possibilities. For instance, further research is needed to understand better the underlying neurochemical abnormalities (e.g., dysfunction of the Raphe 5-Hydroxytryptamine system), which leads to impulsivity, heightened aggressiveness, and violent behaviors in some individuals. Medical studies indicate that some women, as well as some men, are found to have conditions that might predispose towards violence and abuse of a partner (Brown et al., 1979; Lidberg, Asberg, & Sundqvist-Stensman, 1984; Lidberg et al., 1985; Linnoila et al., 1983). Rather than focus on purely social theories of family violence we need to reexamine partner abuse in light of what the neurosciences can tell us of such behaviors as well.

MEN AS VICTIMS: THE GREAT TABOO

Straus & Gelles (1986) sum up much of the problem we find when discussing male victims of female violence when they say “Violence by wives has not been an object of public concern. There has been no publicity, and no funds have been invested in ameliorating this problem because it has not been defined as a problem” (p. 472, italics added). It can be argued that by defining wife battering as the problem, and husband battering as a non-problem, realistic estimates of husband-battering, be they large or small, are nearly impossible to obtain. It is easy, for instance, to argue that battered husbands occur only as rare and isolated cases. Nearly all male victims are isolated individuals owing to the relative paucity of groups willing to acknowledge their victim status. The fact is that a large proportion of the social agencies that deal with family violence target only female victims. Thus we should not be surprised if these groups do not find evidence of male victims of domestic violence. Further, the politicized nature of domestic violence among many within academia mitigates against finding any evidence of male victims (Note 3). Consequently, some professionals, like mental health professionals, may be insensitive or even hostile to a man describing himself in victim terms (Macchieto, 1992). Added to all this, the traditional stereotypes give creditability to a woman to be seen as a victim. The stereotypes associated with men, however, lead most to deny such a possibility or to ridicule’ such a notion as male-as-victim (Farrell, 1993; Wilkinson, 1981). This clearly deters men from making such an admission (Machietto, 1992; Steinmetz, 1980). Also, male victims may be aware, if only dimly, that to proclaim victim status will only lead to unfavorable or unequal treatment compared with female victims (Harris & Cook, 1994).

If a man is attacked by his wife and decides to call the police, he is the one who is likely to be arrested. (quoted in Wolff, 1992, p. 22)

She was knocking the shit out of me; no one would believe me. (Male victim and resident of the Kingsland Estate, Hackney, London, England speaking on Kingsland, Channel 4, television documentary, 4th June 1992)

When you are talking to your mates, it’s hard to admit you’re being bullied by a woman. (quoted in Kent, 1993, p. 37)

If they knew how she knocks me about, and the fact that every time it happens she manages to take me by surprise, catching me off guard, can you imagine how they’d take the piss? (quoted in Kirsta, 1994, p. 237)


Steinmetz (1980) has suggested that some men, following traditional social norms, consider it unmanly to attack or even retaliate against an assault by a woman. Further, when men and women rate violent male-female interactions, they perceive male-to-female aggression as more negative than female-to-male aggression (Arias & Johnson, 1989). By implication, female-to-male violence has a type of social acceptance not accorded to male-to-female violence (Greenblatt, 1983). Thus while it is argued that “society does not appear to shape the attitudes of most men and women to accept the use of violence by men against women…” (O’Leary, 1993, p. 24), we could suggest that society does appear to condone the use of violence by a woman against a man.

And finally, the whole issue of male victimization can be suggested to receive scant attention because of the threat it poses to masculine self images and “patriarchal” authority, as much as for any threat it poses towards efforts to counter female victimization. The lack of attention of female aggression, as opposed to male aggression, has been suggested to be rooted in scholarly debates on nature, culture, and gender in which “sameness” or “differences” are key issues; but actually result from a reluctance to consider similarities between men and women, as opposed to differences (Fry & Gabriel, 1994). Thus it is not surprising that domestic violence against women, as opposed to men, is a socially acceptable concern and receives study and support. This reinforces two more easily recognized social stereotypes, female vulnerability and male authority or dominance, and protectiveness. The admission and recognition of male victimization, in the battered husband, is the antithesis of this acceptable order and an equality between the sexes that has been resisted historically, especially by men (e.g., see judgments in the Willan vs. Willan and Teal vs. Teal cases, Bates, 1981).

It can be argued that the social values (e.g., patriarchy) that form the foundation for male violence against women, also underpin the lack of acceptance of the battered husband. Why the “battered husband syndrome” is so belittled and considered a non-social problem can be found in the patriarchal ethos that reinforces female victimization. By rooting the debate on domestic violence only in notions such as gender and physical size or strength, rather than the inherent attitudes and propensity of individuals to use violence and abuse as an interrelational strategy, female victimization will continue as will the unseen victimization of some men both inside and outside the home. The fact that so many in society, including some academics, are so unwilling to accept the unilateral battering of men by women stems, in large part, from the deep and profoundly disturbing challenge such a fact poses to cherished male and female stereotypes.

While most only view male victims of domestic violence as the subject of incredulity or objects of humor, the fact is that some men are battered. No matter their number, battered men deserve better than to be seen as little more than footnotes from earlier historical periods when they were castigated and forced to ride a donkey backwards.

NOTES

1. Richard Gelles and Murray Straus (1988), two of the leading researchers in family violence, have described how the often inflammatory debate over the issue of battered men helped to squelch any serious study of the subject as well as sent a signal to many well-intentioned scholars to avoid the field totally. They write:

Perhaps the most unfortunate outcome of the wrangle over battered men is that since the debate in the late 1970s, there has been virtually no additional research carried out on the topic. The furor among social scientists and in the public media has contaminated the entire topic. Consequently, we have refused every request for an interview or to appear on any talk show on this topic for fear of yet again being misquoted, miscast, or misrepresented. Other social scientists who witnessed the abuse heaped on our research group—especially on Suzanne Steinmetz—have given the topic of battered men a wide berth. (pp. 105-106, italics added)

2. The Conflict Tactics Scales, devised by Murray Straus (1978, 1979) and several co-workers at the University of Minnesota, consists of several scales designed to assess the various ways that family members try to deal with conflicts in the home. The Conflict Tactics Scales is divided in three parts, with one part asking a series of questions about escalating levels of threatened or actual physical assault between adult partners. Starting with “Threatened to hit or throw something at the other,” it concludes with “used a knife or gun on the other.” The eight point scale is often analyzed by researchers in terms of less serious and more serious violence; more serious violence being those acts more likely to cause injury. See Straus (1993) for a recent discussion of the validity and criticisms of The Conflict Tactics Scales.

3. We could argue that “husband-battering” is a more emotionally contested and politically charged issue in the U.S. than in many other industrialized countries. In Sweden, for instance, refuges have been established for male victims of domestic violence (Kirsta, 1994). In another example of the difference in attitudes toward male victims, Detective Inspector Sylvia Aston, West Midlands Police Force (UK), reported:

We’ve made absolutely sure through our training that no officer will ever dismiss a male domestic violence victim just because he’s a man. We don’t take the attitude that a man can leave—many can’t And it’s invariably the nice sensitive ones who get battered. I think we risk going down a very dangerous path by discriminating between the sexes in these offenses. Some of the most violent people I’ve dealt with as an officer are women, and if you don’t judge a woman by her crime, but by her gender, then not only do you perpetrate the old, misleading stereotypes but you risk such offenses recurring, perhaps in another relationship. Domestic violence as we see it is not a women’s issue—it’s a social issue. (quoted in Kirsta, 1994, p. 229)

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WAF twitter logo

Women Against Feminism – a snapshot of concerns

The following is an analysis of all ‘selfie’ messages (From March 16 to August 7) from http://womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com/, categorized according to the subject headings below. Each message posed between one and several reasons for being against feminism, and each reason is counted in this analysis as a seperate data point.

Altogether there were 279 items isolated below and categorised under the respective heading to which each item best applied. A percentage of the overall number is calculated for each category:

SNAPSHOT:

Rejects being classified as member of victim class – 20.4%
Feminists are misandric / unconcerned for men – 15%
Views feminism disengenuous about seeking equality – 14.7%
Other – 14%
Pro human-rights / egalitarian / humanist – 12.9%
Desires traditional gender roles / chivalry-seeking – 6.09%
Feminists/feminism is misogynistic – 4.6%
Anti-gynocentrism / female supremacy / unreasonable entitlements – 4.3%
Values being a mother – 3.9%
Doesn’t want feminists speaking for her / women’s personal life not a political tool – 3.9%

_____________________________________________________________

Desires traditional gender roles / chivalry-seeking – 6.09%

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Anti-gynocentrism/female supremacy/unreasonable entitlements promoted by feminism – 4.3%

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Views feminism as disengenuous about seeking equality / bigoted / corrupt – 14.7%

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Pro human-rights / egalitarian / humanist (simple definition of humanist applies) – 12.9%

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Rejects fixation on female victimhood/weakness narrative / sees self as strong / advocates self reliance / rejects intantilizing women / does not want to be “seen” “classified” as a victim – 20.4%

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Feminists/feminism is misandric / unconcerned for men – 15%

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Feminists/feminism is misogynistic – 4.6%

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Values being a mother – 3.9%

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Doesnt want feminists speaking for her / women’s personal life not to be used for political gain – 3.9%

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Other – 14%

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Gynocentric etiquette for men (1929)

The following excerpts on the subject of male etiquette are from ‘Etiquette for men: A Book of Modern Manners and Customs’ published in 1929. – PW

9780753704134

Everyday Etiquette

You may know that you are doing the right thing at all times when offering little courtesies to others, especially to ladies, whether you know them or not.

Raising your Hat

It is not necessary to raise your hat if you see a lady of your acquantance in a public vehicle in which you are also a passenger. A little nod or smile is sufficient. Otherwise, you should always raise your hat when meeting a lady whom you know. If the lady is a close friend, raise your hat immediately she gets near; but if you do not know her very well, you should wait until she acknowledges your presence before raising your hat.

Meeting a Lady

When you meet a lady whom you know, and you wish to speak to her, do not keep her standing still. You should walk with her in the direction in which she is going. You should not offer a lady your arm when walking with her, unless you are escorting her across a busy street. You should always take the outside of the pavement when walking with a lady. You should also take the outside when walking with two ladies, and should not walk between them.

introductions

When you are introduced to a lady, it depends upon her whether you shake hands. In all circumstances the matter rests with the lady, and you should make no movement to shake hands before the lady offers hers. Men usually shake hands at the best of times.

You should raise your hat when introduced to a lady out of doors, and your right-hand glove should be removed, in case a hand is offered you. Indoors, you should never remain seated when a lady is introduced, though you need not stand to be introduced to another man.

When introduced to a lady at a dance, party or other function, you must remember, if you see her again, that recognition must come from her. You should not raise your hat, or make any sign, until she either nods or smiles at you. At a party you need not wait for an introduction before speaking to any other man present, but you should not enter into general conversation with any of the ladies until an introduction has been given.

Should lady guests arrive during your visit, rise from your seat when they enter the room, and remain standing until introduced. If the ladies leave before you, you should stand while they are maxing their departure.

SOURCE: Etiquette for men: A Book of Modern Manners and Customs

Gynocentric etiquette for men (1897)

The following excerpts on the subject of male etiquette are from ‘Manners for Men: by Mrs Humpry the Madge of Truth’ published in 1897. – PW

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Walking with a Lady

“The rule of the road is a simple one, “Keep to the right.” Easy enough for women, it is complicated in the case of men by the necessity of always remaining on the kerb side of any lady they should be accompanying. Should the lady keep to the right in meeting or in passing other persons, her escort may either keep by her or go out into the road. He will be able to judge for himself which course will be advisable. His first duty is always to his companion, but that need not make him wanting in courtesy to other women. If remaining by the side of his companion should involve any inconvenience to the ladies of the other approaching party, then he must give up his position, and go out onto the roadway to let the latter pass. Should these be men, no consideration is necessary.

He keeps close by his lady’s side, but in crowded streets he may often have to fall behind, but he should never allow any one to interpose between her and him. Should the pressure from the crowd become extreme, his duty is to protect her from it as much as possible, but never by putting his arm around her waist. A hand on either side of the lady’s shoulders is usually sufficient.

Communicating with a Lady

“The well-mannered man never puts out his hand in greeting until a lady extends hers. This is a test of good breeding that is constantly applied. To those uninitiated in the ways of society, it would naturally appear the right thing to give as cordial a greeting as possible. Therefore the hand is held out, even on introduction to a perfect stranger. This is wrong. The first move in the direction of cordiality must come from the lady, the whole code of behaviour being based on the assumption that she is the social superior.

“It must always be borne in mind that the assumption of Woman’s social superiority lies at the root of these rules of conduct. It is bad manners to introduce people without permission. Nor must this permission be asked within the hearing of the second party. If Mr. A wishes to know Miss B., the lady’s leave must be obtained before he can be presented to her. The only exception to this rule is at a dance or ball, where introductions need not be regarded as leading to acquaintanceship. They are only for the dance, and may be ignored next day. Here, again, it is the lady’s privilege to ignore her partner, if she choose. But if she should bow to him he must raise his hat, whether he desires to follow up the acquaintanceship or not.

SOURCE: Manners for Men: by Mrs Humpry the Madge of Truth

Romantic Love, by Lester F. Ward (1903)

The Proposal. John Pettie, R.A. (1839-1893). Oil On Canvas, 1869.
The following essay is from the book Pure Sociology by Lester F. Ward 1903 [pp. 390-403] – PW

Romantic Love

It is the psycho-physiological progress going on in all races that have undergone repeated and compound social assimilation, that has laid the foundation for the appearance (in the most advanced races) of a derivative form of natural love which is known as romantic love. It is a comparatively modern product, and is not universal among highly assimilated races. In fact, I am convinced that it is practically confined to what is generally understood as the Aryan race, or, at most, to the so-called Europeans, whether actually in Europe or whether in Australia, America, India, or any other part of the globe. Further, it did not appear in a perceptible form even in that ethnic stock until some time during the Middle Ages. Although I have held this opinion much longer, I first expressed it in 1896.1 It is curious that since that time two books have appeared devoted in whole or in part to sustaining this view.2 There is certainly no sign of the derivative sentiment among savages. Monteiro, speaking of the polygamous peoples of Western Africa, says: -

The negro knows not love, affection, or jealousy. … In all the long years I have been in Africa I have never seen a negro manifest the least tenderness for or to a negress. … I have never seen a negro put his arm round a woman’s waist, or give or receive any caress whatever that would indicate the slightest loving regard or affection on either side. They have no words or expressions in their language indicative of affection or love.3

Lichtenstein4 says of the Koossas: “To the feeling of a chaste tender passion, founded on reciprocal esteem, and an union of heart and sentiment, they seem entire strangers.“ Eyre reports the same general condition of things among the natives of Australia,5 and it would not be difficult to find statements to the same effect relative to savage and barbaric races in all countries where they have been made the subject of critical study. Certainly all the romances of such races that have been written do but reflect the sentiments of their writers, and are worthless from any scientific point of view. This is probably also the case for stories whose plot is laid in Asia, even in India, and the Chinese and Japanese seem to have none of the romantic ideas of the West; otherwise female virtue would not be a relative term, as it is in those countries. This much will probably be admitted by all who understand what I mean by romantic love.

The point of dispute is therefore apparently narrowed down to the question whether the Ancient Greeks and Romans had developed this sentiment. I would maintain the negative of this question. If I have read my Homer, Æschylus, Virgil, and Horace to any purpose they do not reveal the existence in Ancient Greece and Rome of the sentiment of romantic love. If it be said that they contain the rudiments of it and foreshadow it to some extent I shall not dispute this, but natural love everywhere does this, and that is therefore not the question. The only place where one finds clear indications of the sentiment is in such books as “Quo Vadis,” which cannot free themselves from such anachronisms. I would therefore adhere to the statement made in 1896, when I said, “Brilliant as were the intellectual achievements of the Greeks and Romans, and refined as were many of their moral and esthetic perceptions, nothing in their literature conclusively proves that love with them meant more than the natural demands of the sexual instinct under the control of strong character and high intelligence. The romantic element of man’s nature had not yet been developed.”

The Greeks, of course, distinguished several kinds of love, and by different words (έρως, άγάπη, Φιλία), but only one of these is sexual at all. For έρως they often used ‘AΦροδίτη. They also expressed certain degrees and qualities in these by adjectives, e.g., πάνδημος. Some modern writers place the adjective ούράνιος over against πάνδημος, as indicating that they recognized a sublimated, heavenly, or spiritual form of sexual love, but I have not found this in classic Greek. Neither do I find any other to the Latin Venus vulgivaga. But whether such softened expressions are really to be found in classic Greek and Latin authors or not, the fact that they are so rare sufficiently indicates that the conceptions they convey could not have been current in the Greek and Roman mind, and must have been confined to a few rare natures. Romantic love is therefore not only confined to the historic races, those mentioned in Chapter III as representing the accumulated energies of all the past and the highest human achievement, but it is limited to the last nine or ten centuries of the history of those races.

It began to manifest itself some time in the eleventh century of the Christian era, and was closely connected with the origin of chivalry under the feudal system. Guizot has given us perhaps the best presentation of that institution,6 and from this it is easy to see how the conditions favored its development. In the first place the constant and prolonged absenteeism of the lords and knights, often with most of their retainers, from the castle left the women practically in charge of affairs and conferred upon them a power and dignity never before possessed. In the second place the separation of most of the men for such long periods, coupled with the sense of honor that their knighthood and military career gave rise to, caused them to assume the rôle of applicants for the favor of the women, which they could not always immediately attain as when women were forcibly seized by any one that chanced to find them. These conditions produced a mutual sense on the part of both sexes of the need of each other, coupled with prolonged deprivation on the part of both of that satisfaction. The men, thus seeking the women, naturally became chivalrous toward them. The solitary life of women of high rank made them somewhat a prey to the lusts of men of low degree, and the knights assumed the rôle of protecting them from all dangers. Moral and Christian sentiments also played a part, and we find among the provisions of the oath that every chevalier must make the following solemn vows:

●To maintain the just rights of the weak, as of widows, orphans, and young women.
●If called upon to conduct a lady or a girl to any place, to wait upon her, to protect her,
and to save her from all danger and every offense, or perish in the attempt.
●Never to do violence to ladies or young women, even though won by their arms, without their will and consent.

 
Such an oath, made a universal point of honor, any breach of which would be an everlasting disgrace, and be punished severely by the order of knighthood to which they belonged, could not fail to produce a powerful civilizing effect upon the semi-barbaric men of that age. The whole proceeding must have also given to women a far greater independence and higher standing than they had ever before enjoyed since the days of gynæcocracy in the protosocial stage. Out of this condition of things there arose a special class of poets who wrote lyrics wholly different from the erotic songs of antiquity that go by that name. These poets were called troubadours, and some of them wandered from place to place singing the praises of the great court ladies, and still further inflaming the new passion, which was relatively pure, and contented itself with an association of men with women while conserving the honor and virtue of the latter. This, of course, was a passing phase and somewhat local, being mainly confined to southern France and parts of Spain. It degenerated, as did the whole institution of chivalry, and by the end of the thirteenth century nothing was left of either but the ridiculous nonsense that Cervantes found surviving into his time, and which he so happily portrayed in Don Quixote. But chivalry had left its impress upon the world, and while Condorcet and Comte exaggerated certain aspects of it, no one has pointed out its greatest service in grafting romantic love upon natural love, which until then had been supreme.

But it would be easy to ascribe too great a rôle, even here, to chivalry. The truth is not all told until chivalry is understood as an effect as well as a cause. Whatever may be said of the Middle Ages as tending to suppress the natural flow of intellectual activities, there can be no doubt that they were highly favorable to the development of emotional life. The intense religious fervor that burned in its cloisters for so many centuries served to create centers of feeling, and to increase the sensibility of all those nerve plexuses that constitute the true organs of emotion. Whatever may be the physiological changes necessary to intensify the inner feelings, corresponding to the multiplication and diversification of the neurons of the brain by which the intellect is perfected, such changes went on, until the men and women of the eleventh century found themselves endowed with far higher moral organizations than those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They had been all this time using their emotional faculties as they never had been used before, and the Lamarckian principle of increase through use is as true of those faculties as it is of external muscles and organs. It is true of the brain, too, and when educationalists wake up to this truth the only solid basis for scientific education will have been discovered. But without a preparation in this latent growth of the emotional faculties neither chivalry nor romantic love could have made its appearance. The crusades, contemporary to a great extent with chivalry, and due also to the surplus emotion, taking here a religious course, became also a joint cause in the development not only of romantic love but also of many other lofty attributes, both ethical and intellectual. They failed to save the holy city, but they gained a far greater victory than that would have been in rationalizing, moralizing, and socializing Europe. Any one who thinks they were a failure has only to read Guizot’s masterly summing up of their influence.7

Romantic love was due primarily to the greater equality and independence of woman. She reacquired to some extent her long-lost power of selection, and began to apply to men certain tests of fitness. Romantic love therefore marks the first step toward the resumption by woman of her natural scepter which she yielded to the superior physical force of man at the beginning of the androcratic period. It involves a certain degree of female selection or gyneclexis, and no longer permitted man to seize but compelled him to sue. But it went much farther than this. It did not complete a cycle and restore female selection as it exists in the animal world. It also did away with the pure male selection that prevailed throughout the androcratic régime. The great physiological superiority of the new régime cannot be too strongly emphasized. Its value to the race is incalculable. Female selection, or gyneclexis, as we saw, created a fantastic and extravagant male efflorescence. Male selection, or andreclexis, produced a female etiolation, diminutive stature, beauty without utility. Both these unnatural effects were due to lack of mutuality. Romantic love is mutual. The selection is done simultaneously by man and woman. It may be called ampheclexis. Its most striking characteristic consists in the phenomenon called “falling in love.“ It is not commonly supposed that this so-called “tender passion“ is capable of cold scientific analysis. It is treated as something trivial, and any allusion to it creates a smile. Yet libraries are filled with books devoted exclusively to it, and these are as eagerly devoured by philosophers and sages as by schoolgirls.

[...]

In the early days and in the upper classes the demands of woman may have been somewhat trivial. Man must do something heroic, must prove his worthiness by acts of prowess, and such acts may even be opposed to true progress. But they at least develop manhood, courage, honor, and under the code of chivalry they must have a moral element, must defend the right, protect the weak, avenge dishonor, and uphold virtue. But in the lower ranks even then, and everywhere since the fall of the feudal system, woman demanded support and the comforts of life, luxuries where possible, and more and more leisure and accomplishment. To-day she demands a home, social position, ease, and economic freedom. More and more, too, she requires of men that they possess industry, thrift, virtue, honesty, and intelligence. Man must work for all this, and this struggle for excellence, as woman understands that quality, is an extraordinary stimulus, and leads to all forms of achievement.

But man also selects. Romantic love is mutual. Woman has as much to lose as man if it results in failure. And man sets ideals before woman. She must be worthy of him and she gently and to understand is most grateful to him. Thus she develops herself in the direction of his ideals and both are elevated. She may also to some extent transform the environment, if it be no more than the inner circle of the family. The combined effect, even in an individual case, is considerable, and when we remember that in any given community, town, city, state, or country, the majority of men and women pass at least once, sometimes twice or several times, through the phase of life known as being in love, waiting and working for the longed-for day when they are to possess each other, struggling to prepare themselves for each other and for that happy event, we can readily believe that such a stimulus must work great social results. The history of the world is full of great examples, but the volume of achievement thus wrought is made up of thousands, nay, millions of small increments in all lands and all shades and grades of life, building ever higher and broader the coral reef of civilization.

 

REFERENCES

[1] International Journal of Ethics, Vol. VI, July, 1896, p. 453. [click thumbnail]
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[2] “Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Women in Greek Poetry,” by E. F. M. Benecke, London, 1896. “Primitive Love and Love Stories,” by Henry T. Finck, New York, 1899.
[3] “Angola and the River Congo,” by Joachim John Monteiro. In two volumes. London, 1875, Vol. I, pp. 242-243.
[4] “Travels in Southern Africa,” in the years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, by Henry Lichtenstein, English translation, Dublin, 1812, p. 261.
[5] Journals, etc., Vol. II, p. 321.
[6] “Histoire de la Civilisation en France depuis la chute de I’Empire Romain,” par M. Guizot, 3e éd., Vol. III, Paris, 1840, Sixième Leçon, pp. 351-382.
[7] “Histoire générale de Ia Civilisation en Europe depuis la chute de I’Empire Romain,” par M. Guizot, 4e éd., Paris, 1840, Huitième Leçon, pp. 231-257.