Slaying the dragon

In an earlier piece Chasing The Dragon, we outlined Nikolaas Tinbergen’s concept of the supernormal stimulus (or superstimulus), which he characterized as an exaggerated environmental stimulus to which there is an existing tendency in animals to respond, or a stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

Tinbergen demonstrated the phenomenon by placing a larger artificial egg in the nest of an oystercatcher bird which lays several eggs and then chooses the largest one to incubate. The bird made fruitless attempts to retrieve the oversized egg and place it in the nest, while neglecting its own real, normal-sized egg. Even though giant eggs never occur in nature, larger eggs are usually healthier so the animal generally improves its genetic success by retrieving a larger egg first. In another experiment, Tinbergen placed a football-sized egg in the nest of a herring gull who showed preference for the grotesquely large egg, even though it was unable to move it into the nest and kept sliding off when attempting to sit on it.


Supernormal stimuli are bigger or more intense than normal in color, shape, texture, or smell; eliciting an abnormally exaggerated response from the animal or human. We referred to that exaggerated response as a superresponse; one that, applied to humans, contributes to the increasing discord, unhappiness and confusion among men and women today. Just like the herring gull we are sliding off the egg in every which way, failing to identify the mechanism behind it.

Humans are wired to respond to superstimuli, having numerous biological tendencies that can be misdirected through the deployment of an artificial stimulus. Even in the beginning, human babies will smile at an oval shape cardboard cut-out with two dark circles where eyes would be, providing one of the earliest examples of the human face as a sign stimulus and a ‘releaser’ of the innate response mechanism.

Think also of the nipple to which a human baby automatically gropes and begins sucking, and of the larger-than-normal plastic pacifier that infants will hungrily suck as an early example of the superstimulus at work. No breast, no milk, indeed no mother but it will pacify just the same. Examples of the phenomenon multiply as humans mature, acquiring as they do a habituated attraction to superstimuli that the modern world is now manufacturing on a scale unprecedented in human history. All of this, we think, forments the kind of unsustainable lunacy that now characterizes human interactions — especially those which are sexual in nature.

Attempts to deconstruct the insanity abound but almost none seem to be making a difference to our relational malaise. While offering some sharp observations, the theorizing from gender studies departments, nutty liberals, politicians, religious conservatives or evolutionary psychologists have done little to explain the root biological mechanisms for the madness, and that’s where supernormal stimuli, and their unhealthy growth in the modern world, might provide a new area of exploration and discussion.

One reason for avoiding discussion of the supernormal stimulus theory may be that people like to rest on more mechanistic, determinist and ultimately reductionist explanations for human behavior, preferring as they do a less manipulable ‘lock-and-key’ explanation. That approach eschews the ramifications of supernormal stimulus that would place more onus on a variable environment and its manipulations in regards to human behavior. Those with a reductive bent might like to fool themselves into believing that infant pacifiers, artificial intelligence, silicone breasts, cosmetics and sexbots have been with is since the Pleistocene, but of course such superstimuli are relatively new to the human species.

Evolutionary Psychologists for example, especially those cherishing a fantasy of ‘traditional gender roles’ to guide and ultimately bias their research, tend to omit the theory of superstimuli from their discourse because it indicates primal urges can and do overrun their evolutionary purpose – eg. pathological displays in even ‘traditional’ gender relations as case in point. The operation of the supernormal stimulus reveals their “normal biological response” of “traditional evolutionary sex roles” to be a pathological perversion, in which case the theory is swiftly overlooked. That move however leaves a lacuna in the theoretical base of Evolutionary Psychology, and its research results may equally suffer.

Dierdre Barrett, author of Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purposeremarks that many evolutionary concepts have been applied to human behavior either formally in Evolutionary Psychology or have just crossed over into popular conversation. “However the importance of superstimuli” states Barrett, “doesn’t seem to have been fully appreciated in either of those arenas.”1 She states (quote);

Evolutionary Psychology has picked up a lot of Darwin’s ideas, and some ethology ideas which is the Darwinian branch of animal behavior that Tinbergen was a part of. But somehow Evolutionary Psychology never adopted the idea of supernormal stimuli, and I really think that of all the evolutionary concepts it’s the most important and the most directly relevant to human behavior.”2

Independently of Barrett we have been applying the concept to human populations, and with her believe it to be the most important and relevant fact to human behavior today, particularly as it shows in the addict-like behaviors plaguing modern humans and relationships.

Venus_von_Willendorf_01-1

Venus of Willendorf, statue exaggerating body and breast stimuli.

Mythology itself has been suggested as a form of supernormal stimuli, a position forwarded by the late Joseph Campbell in his Masks of God series. There he statesWhile the influence of superstimuli is responsible for a range of destructive and potentially anti-species outcomes, it is not altogether new. Observe for example the Venus of Willendorf whose exaggerated body parts would have elicited a possible superresponse in those who carved and first gazed on her. Think also of the cave paintings in Lascaux with their stylized renditions of animals, or of shaman dressed in animal costumes, not to mention the ritual enactments of animal behaviors in traditional cultures who routinely adorned themselves with animal skins or feathers and engaged in theatric play that would have acted as supernormal stimuli inducing longing, wonder, fear or hunger in the audience.

There is a phenomenon known to the students of animal behavior as the “supernormal sign stimulus,” which has never been considered, as far as I know, in relation either to art and poetry or to myth; yet which, in the end, may be our surest guide to the seat of their force…

Within the field of the study of animal behavior— which is the only area in which controlled experiments have made it possible to arrive at dependable conclusions in the observation of instinct—two orders of innate releasing mechanisms have been identified, namely, the stereotyped, and the open, subject to imprint. In the case of the first, a precise lock-key relationship exists between the inner readiness of the nervous system and the external sign stimulus triggering response; so that, if there exist in the human inheritance many—or even any—IRMs of this order, we may justly speak of “inherited images” in the psyche. The mere fact that no one can yet explain how such lock-key relationships are established does not invalidate the observation of their existence: no one knows how the hawk got into the nervous system of our barnyard fowl, yet numerous tests have shown it to be, de facto, there. However, the human psyche has not yet been, to any great extent, satisfactorily tested for such stereotypes, and so, I am afraid, pending further study, we must simply admit that we do not know how far the principle of the [stereotyped] inherited image can be carried when interpreting mythological universals…

The concept of the sign stimulus as an energy-releasing and -directing image clarifies, however, the difference between literary metaphor, which is addressed to the intellect, and mythology, which is aimed primarily at the central excitatory mechanisms (CEMs) and innate releasing mechanisms (IRMs) of the whole person. According to this view, a functioning mythology can be defined as a corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli fostering the development and activation of a specific type, or constellation of types, of human life. Furthermore, since we now know that no images have been established unquestionably as innate, that our IRMs are not stereotyped but open, whatever “universals” we may find in our comparative study must be assigned rather to common experience than to endowment; while, on the other hand, even where sign stimuli may differ, it need not follow that the responding IRMs differ too. Our science is to be simultaneously biological and historical throughout, with no distinction between “culturally conditioned” and “instinctive” behavior, since all instinctive human behavior is culturally conditioned, and what is culturally conditioned in us all is instinct: specifically, the CEMs and IRMs of this single species.3

As detailed in Chasing The Dragon, nascent experimentation with superstimuli by our remote ancestors slowly increased from stone carvings, shaman costumes and mythological imagery, and went into overdrive in the Middle Ages with the birth of mass-produced cosmetics, the fashion industry, romantic love tropes, and the invention of the printing press. That revolution has been furthered by the invention of plastic surgery and the harnessing of electricity with its mediums of cinema, radio, television, internet, cellphone and the gaming console; all serving the superstimuli trends of the culture in which they were born.

In Chasing The Dragon we reviewed three domains of human instinct that have been hypnotized by the creation of superstimuli. Briefly reviewed as follows these are:

1. Neoteny and the parental instinct

While there are notable exceptions, adult women are not generally endowed with neotenous features sufficient to provoke men to find them cute in the way of a small child. Artifice however makes up for it by allowing women to imitate the features of children through the application of cosmetics or cultivation of childish gestures, with the ultimate aim of shirking responsibility and being cared for by a man and society with the least amount of effort on her part. Naturally such a routine robs her of agency, parentifies the man, and becomes a drag on relationships.

The following instruction video for women from the Fascinating Womanhood Movement provides an example of how this biological ruse, essentially a feigned neoteny, is a result of cultural learning (1.37 to 2.33):

The instruction for women to feign childlikeness is now endemic in the Western world, which may account at least partially for the tradition of ‘women and children first’ – a statement that captures not only that women look after children, but that they themselves are children in need of saving – in which sense the phrase might be more accurately rendered as ‘Children and children first.’

2. Sexual stimuli and sexual arousal

We regularly hear hand-wringing about the increase in skimpy, sexualized clothing among women and even young girls, along with the booming trend in tummy tucks, butt implants, botox injections, lip augmentation and boob jobs. We are told that women become overly reliant of these powerful methods of superstimulating men’s sexuality, and we are equally told that this makes sex like a powerful drug and leads to sex addiction. In a sense they are not completely wrong – the supersizing of sexual phenomena do result in an addiction-like intensity or what we have called the superresponse.

Many men and MGTOW have said NO to the exploitative potential that comes with female use of superstimuli, men who ironically opt out of relationships with real women in favor of more superstimuli in the form of internet porn and neotenous sexbots – superstimuli over which they secure full control. While a certain degree of superstimuli may prove healthy in catering to one’s sexual needs, it is up to each man to determine whether the stimuli are catering to a healthy expression of needs, or into an overly intense superstimulus and unhealthy superresponse.

3. Pairbonding – secure and insecure

In the pre medieval period simple courtship practices and arranged marriages ruled, leaving little room for the supernormal exaggerations of attachment security that we see in practice today. Modern rules for pairbonding are encapsulated in the notion of romantic love, which unfortunately turns out to be a cornucopia of destructive superstimuli. Romantic love is geared to fostering an extreme tension between feelings of possessing and losing a pairbond. It relies on an oscillation between secure and insecureattachment that generates a supernormal intensity of lovers’ feelings for each other, with the downside of inner turmoil and insecurity that feeds relational dysfunction and not infrequently psychological illnesses.

The poets are not lying when they say love is like a roller-coaster ride.

Frank Tallis’ book Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness elaborates on the kind of pathologies that come hand-in-hand with the romantic-love based approach to pairbonding. From the blurb on Tallis book we read;

Obsessive thoughts, erratic mood swings, insomnia, loss of appetite, recurrent and persistent images and impulses, superstitious or ritualistic compulsions, delusion, the inability to concentrate — that exhibiting just five or six of these symptoms is enough to merit a diagnosis of a major depressive episode. Yet we all subconsciously welcome these symptoms when we allow ourselves to fall in love. In Love Sick, Dr. Frank Tallis considers our experiences and expressions of love, and why the combinations of pleasure and pain, ecstasy and despair, rapture and grief have come to characterize what we mean when we speak of falling in love. Tallis examines why the agony associated with romantic love continues to be such a popular subject for poets, philosophers, songwriters, and scientists, and questions just how healthy our attitudes are and whether there may in fact be more sane, less tortured ways to love. A highly informative exploration of how, throughout time, principally in the West, the symptoms of mental illness have been used to describe the state of being in love, this book offers an eloquent, thought-provoking, and endlessly illuminating look at one of the most important aspects of human behavior.4

Tallis traces the sickness-making version of pairbonding to its origin in the middle ages, and rightly suggests there are less tortured ways to love. Humans have loved less tortuously in the long past, and we might hope it’s possible to relate that way again in the stability and simplicity of a secure attachment. To love in that way however requires a slaying the dragon; finding alternative modes of pairbonding to those we’ve been duped into following.

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Recognition of supernormal stimuli and their proliferation in the modern world answers the Why question, which leads us naturally to the question of What – what can we do to manage this biological and cultural travesty? As concluded in our previous article we can begin by recognizing we’ve been hypnotized by a stage show of sound and light, and deciding that we no longer wish to indulge it. As we suggested there it’s as simple as choosing not to chase the dragon, but to slay it. In essence we can say the dragon represents our unmoderated appetite, given freely and stupidly over to the snares of superstimili, and our thus-far untapped discernment and discipline can serve as the sword of redress.

Slaying of the dragon demands we employ our substantial neocortexes which are designed for overriding primitive impulses that lead us willy nilly into pain and injury. With that we can construct a defensive, self-protective approach toward the activities and the people we might choose to associate with, activating the traditional values of restraint, delayed gratification, conservation and self-protection against the arrival of superstimuli in our field of vision.

Think of it this way. By overriding our knee-jerk attraction to the false neoteny created by women’s makeup and sexually exaggerated dress, we build in a defense against gynocentric obedience as well as a protective measure for screening out personality disordered women from our lives. That is one application of many.

By that path we find a way forward, but also strangely a way back – back to the protective values of past cultures; to Buddhist teachings about pleasure as an illusion and potential suffering; to the Christian teachings of the Seven Deadly Sins and how to resist them; or to the messages of classical myth which invite us to hold fast to our values like Odysseus who tied himself to the ship’s mast in order to resist the Siren’s call, knowing that all the boons of Penelope await him at Ithaca as a result of his intelligent avoidance of gratification.

References:

[1] Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. Talk on Supernormal Stimuli, at TAM 2012
[2] Discussion with Dierdre Barrett and Natasha Mitchell, Radio National Science, Technology and Culture Program, 2011
[3] Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, Vol. 4 in Masks of God Series, 1959
[4] Frank Tallis Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness, Da Capo Press, 2005 (GoodReads synopsis)

The tantalizing pairbond

We have all heard the advice of the seasoned matron to younger women; “Don’t turn your love on like a tap or he will lose interest – withhold some affection and you’ll always have him begging for more.”

Attachment 2 smallThis message is now so widespread that animal-training techniques are being redeployed by women who wish to control their man’s attachment needs. In How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers we read,

Consistently a dog is “nicest” when he wants to be fed. Then he becomes all wags and licks. A known trick for keeping a dog on his best behavior is to just fill his bowl halfway so he’s yearning for more.

Same goes for his appetite for affection. Keep him in constant emotional hunger for you and he’ll be more attentive and easier to control.

As cruel as it sounds, withholding affection, sex, approval and love have become part of women’s repertoire of superstimuli used to coerce men into service. Perhaps there was a time when that service could have been considered an appropriate response to a survival oriented stimulus. Now, however, it has been replaced by superstimuli and male service has degenerated into a destructive superresponse.

Such dating advice for women abounds on the internet with the aim to intensify a man’s desire by turning a secure bond, a necessity for healthy relationships, into a brass ring. Only on the ride of romantic chivalry, like all carnival sideshows, the game is rigged. The brass ring remains ever just out of reach.

Men’s basic human need for love, acceptance, and security, is frustrated, leaving them in a perpetual cycle of deprivation.

Indeed, it is one of the core principles of romantic love to keep the bond in the realm of tantalizing denial, and men, therefore in constant readiness to be manipulated and used.

TantalusThe word tantalizing comes from the Greek story of Tantalus. Tantalus, as the fable goes, offended the Gods. His punishment was to be placed in a river with the water up to his neck. A tree full of ripe, red apples leaned toward him.

The Gods afflicted him with a raging thirst and hunger. When he bent his head down to slake his thirst – the waters receded. Likewise, when he reached up to grab one of the apples, the branch recoiled higher and out of his reach.

Women are socialized to tantalize men with the possibility of pair-bonding, to keep fruit of love ever out of reach, and to further muddy the waters with the dictates of romantic chivalry.

If you want that pair-bond, which is to say if you want to be more tantalized, you had better greet her with flowers, hold the door open, and of course pick up the bill.

Be prepared to live that way for the rest of your life, exiled to the river with Tantalus, ever thirsty and hungry. In modern times, simple attachment is transformed into something complex – an impulse now guided by customs of a romantic chivalry, designed to tilt maximum power toward the woman.

Even when the pair-bond is supposedly attained, you may still experience the withdrawal of love, sex and approval as a method of control. It can even be worse once bonded than during the courtship process.

Such behavior from women is not a simple, innate reflex, but one in which they are culturally educated and socialized. Most girls become fluent in the game of inclusion and exclusion, in groups or among friends, well before the reach the age of 10 and the meta-rules learned there reappear again in popular dating advice – rules designed to meddle in the attachment security we social creatures would otherwise enjoy sans the manipulations.

The rules for women resonate shamelessly throughout an entire genre of literature:

  • Keep an air of mystery
  • Only put in 30 percent effort
  • Make him come to you
  • Never see him with less than 7 days notice
  • Never call him unless returning a call
  • Never return a call or text immediately
  • Make him approach you
  • Don’t call back immediately. You are a girl in demand.
  • End call first after 15 minutes ALWAYS. (Even though it sucks. He will call you more.)
  • Even if you are not busy, pretend like you are

Those items are the product of a cursory scan of just two internet dating sites with advice for women. They are not, however, an invention of the information age. They are the long codified expressions of what women have been taught, from generation to generation, since the advent of romantic chivalry.

They are obedience training basics for conditioning the romantically chivalrous man — superstimuli, powerfully effective in eliciting a superresponse. In this case, servile, blind sycophancy from weak, non-introspective men.

The Supernormal Sign Stimulus

Some readers will have read or viewed the piece on superstimuli titled Chasing The Dragon, co-authored by myself and Paul Elam. The following piece written in 1959 by Joseph Campbell, scholar of religion and mythology, suggests Supernormal Stimuli as an explanation of the role of mythological and religious imagery in the lives of individuals and civilizations. – PW

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The Supernormal Sign Stimulus

by Joseph Campbell

One further lesson may be taken from animals. There is a phenomenon known to the students of animal behavior as the “supernormal sign stimulus,” which has never been considered, as far as I know, in relation either to art and poetry or to myth; yet which, in the end, may be our surest guide to the seat of their force, and to an appreciation of their function in the quickening of the human dream of life.

“The Innate Releasing Mechanism (IRM),” Tinbergen declares, “usually seems to correspond more or less with the properties of the environmental object or situation at which the reaction is aimed. . . . However, close study of IRMs reveals the remarkable fact that it is sometimes possible to offer stimulus situations that are even more effective than the natural situation. In other words, the natural situation is not always optimal.” 11

It was found, for instance, that the male of a certain butterfly known as the grayling (Eumenis semele), which assumes the initiative in mating by pursuing a passing female in flight, generally prefers females of darker hue to those of lighter—and to such a degree that if a model of even darker hue than anything known in nature is presented, the sexually motivated male will pursue it in preference even to the darkest female of the species.

“Here we find,” writes Professor Portmann, in comment, “an ‘inclination’ that is not satisfied in nature, but which perhaps, one day, if inheritable darker mutations should appear, would play a role in the selection of mating partners. Who knows whether such anticipations of particular sign stimuli may not play their part in the support and furthering of new variants, inasmuch as they may represent one of the factors in the process of selection that determines the direction of evolution?” 12

Obviously the human female, with her talent for play, recognized many millenniums ago the power of the supernormal sign stimulus: cosmetics for the heightening of the lines of her eyes have been found among the earliest remains of the Neolithic Age. And from there to an appreciation of the force of ritualization, hieratic art, masks, gladiatorial vestments, kingly robes, and every other humanly conceived and realized improvement of nature, is but a step—or a natural series of steps.

Evidence will appear, in the course of our natural history of the gods, of the gods themselves as supernormal sign stimuli; of the ritual forms deriving from their supernatural inspiration acting as catalysts to convert men into gods; and of civilization—this new environment of man that has grown from his own interior and has pressed back the bounds of nature as far as the moon—as a distillate of ritual, and consequently of the gods: that is to say, as an organization of supernormal sign stimuli playing on a set of IRMs never met by nature and yet most properly nature’s own, inasmuch as man is her son.

But for the present, it suffices to remark that one cannot assume out of hand that simply because a certain culturally developed sign stimulus appeared late in the course of history, man’s response to it must represent a learned reaction. The reaction may be, in fact, spontaneous, though never shown before. For the creative imagination may have released precisely here one of those innate “inclinations” of the human organism that have nowhere been fully matched by nature. Hence, not only the ritual arts and the development from them of the archaic civilizations, but also—and even more richly—the later shattering of those arts by the modern arrows of man’s flight beyond his own highest dream, would perhaps best be interpreted psychologically, as a history of the supernormal sign stimuli that have released—to our own fright, joy, and amazement—the deepest secrets of our being. Indeed, the depths of the mystery of our subject—which are the depths not only of man but of the living world—have not been plumbed.

In sum, then: Within the field of the study of animal behavior— which is the only area in which controlled experiments have made it possible to arrive at dependable conclusions in the observation of instinct—two orders of innate releasing mechanisms have been identified, namely, the stereotyped, and the open, subject to imprint. In the case of the first, a precise lock-key relationship exists between the inner readiness of the nervous system and the external sign stimulus triggering response; so that, if there exist in the human inheritance many—or even any—IRMs of this order, we may justly speak of “inherited images” in the psyche. The mere fact that no one can yet explain how such lock-key relationships are established does not invalidate the observation of their existence: no one knows how the hawk got into the nervous system of our barnyard fowl, yet numerous tests have shown it to be, de facto, there. However, the human psyche has not yet been, to any great extent, satisfactorily tested for such stereotypes, and so, I am afraid, pending further study, we must simply admit that we do not know how far the principle of the inherited image can be carried when interpreting mythological universals. It is no less premature to deny its possibility than to announce it as anything more than a considered opinion.

Nor are we ready, yet, to say whether the obvious, and sometimes very striking, physical differences of the human races represent significant variations of their innate releasing mechanisms. Among the animals such differences do exist—in fact, changes in the IRMs of the major instincts appear to be among the first things affected by mutation.

For example, as Tinbergen observes:

The herring gull (Larus argentatus) and the lesser black-backed gull (L. fuscus) in north-western Europe are considered to be extremely diverged geographical races of one species, which, having developed by geographical isolation, have come into contact again by expansion of their ranges. The two forms show many differences in behavior; L. fuscus is a definite migrant, traveling to south-westem Europe in autumn, whereas L. argentatus is of a much more resident habit. L. fuscus is much more a bird of the open sea than L. argentatus. The breeding-seasons are different. One behavior difference is specially interesting. Both forms have two alarm calls, one expressing alarm of relatively low intensity, the other indicative of extreme alarm. L. argentatus gives the high-intensity alarm call much more rarely than L. fuscus. The result is that most disturbances are reacted to differently by the two forms. When a human intruder enters a mixed colony, the herring gulls will almost always utter the low-intensity call, while L. fuscus utters the high-intensity call. This difference, based upon a shift of degree in the threshold of alarm calls, gives the impression of a qualitative difference in the alarm calls of the two forms, such as might well lead to the total disappearance of one call in one species, of the other in the second species, and thus result in a qualitative difference in the motor-equipment. Apart from this difference in threshold, there is a difference in the pitch of each call.13

Between the various human races differences have been noted that suggest psychological as well as merely physiological variation; differences, for example, in their rates of maturing, as Géza Róheim has indicated in his vigorous work on Psychoanalysis and Anthropology.1* However, it is still far from legitimate, on the

basis of the mere scraps of controlled observation that have been recorded, to make any such broad generalizations about intellectual ability and moral character as are common in discussions of this subject. Furthermore, within the human species there is such broad variation of innate capacity from individual to individual that generalizations on a racial basis lose much of their point.

In other words, the whole question of the innate stereotypes of the species Homo sapiens is still wide open. Objective and promising studies have been commenced, but they have not yet progressed very far. An interesting series of experiments by E. Kaila,15 and R. A. Spitz and K. M. Wolf,16 has shown that between the ages of three and six months the infant reacts with a smile to the appearance of a human face; and by fashioning masks omitting certain of the details of the normal human countenance, the observers were able to establish the fact that in order to evoke response the face had to have two eyes (one-eyed, asymmetrical masks did not work), a smooth forehead (wrinkled foreheads produced no smile), and a nose. Curiously, the mouth could be omitted; the smile, therefore, was not an imitation. The face had to be in some movement and seen from the front. Moreover, nothing else—not even a toy—would evoke this early infant smile. Following the sixth month, a distinction began to be made between familiar and unfamiliar, friendly and unfriendly faces. The richness of the child’s experience of its social environment having already increased, the innate releasing mechanism had been altered by impressions from the outer world, and the situation had changed.

It has been remarked that in certain primitive Australian rock paintings of ancestral figures the mouths are omitted, and that a significant number of very early, paleolithic female figurines also lack the mouth. How far one can presume to carry these suggestions toward the conclusion that there is a “parental image” in the central nervous structure of the human infant, however, we cannot say. As Professor Portmann has pointed out: “Since the effect of this form on the infant can be demonstrated with certainty only from the third month, the question remains open as to whether the central nervous structure that makes possible the recognition of the human countenance and the social response of the smile is of the open, i.e. imprinted, type, or entirely innate. All of the indices available to us speak for a largely inherited configuration; and yet, the question remains open.”17

How much more open, then, the question broached by Professor Lorenz in his paper on “The Innate Forms of Human Experience”: 18 the question of the parental response evoked in the adult by the sign stimuli provided by the human baby! The figure tells the story—as far as it goes.

Lorenz

And finally, it must be noted that there is no consensus among students of the subject even as to what categories of appetite may be regarded as instinctive in the human species. Professor Tinbergen, speaking for the animal world, has named sleep and food-seeking; so also, in many species, flight from danger, fighting in self-defense, and a number of activities functionally related to the reproductive urge, as, for example, sexual fighting and rivalry, courtship, mating, and parental behavior (nest-building, protection of the young, etc.). The list greatly varies, however, from species to species; and how much of it can be carried over into the human sphere is not yet known. Tentatively, it might reasonably be supposed that food-seeking, sleep, self-protection, courtship and mating, and some of the activities of parenthood should be instinctive. But the question—as we have seen—remains open as to what precisely are the sign stimuli that generally trigger these activities in man, or whether any of the stimuli can be said to be as immediately known to the human interior as the hawk to the chick. We do not, therefore, speak of inherited images in the following pages.

The concept of the sign stimulus as an energy-releasing and -directing image clarifies, however, the difference between literary metaphor, which is addressed to the intellect, and mythology, which is aimed primarily at the central excitatory mechanisms (CEMs) and innate releasing mechanisms (IRMs) of the whole person. According to this view, a functioning mythology can be defined as a corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli fostering the development and activation of a specific type, or constellation of types, of human life. Furthermore, since we now know that no images have been established unquestionably as innate and that our IRMs are not stereotyped but open, whatever “universals” we may find in our comparative study must be assigned rather to common experience than to endowment; while, on the other hand, even where sign stimuli may differ, it need not follow that the responding IRMs differ too. Our science is to be simultaneously biological and historical throughout, with no distinction between “culturally conditioned” and “instinctive” behavior, since all instinctive human behavior is culturally conditioned, and what is culturally conditioned in us all is instinct: specifically, the CEMs and IRMs of this single species.

Therefore, though respecting the possibility—perhaps the probability—of such a psychologically inspired parallel development of mythological imagery as that suggested by Adolf Bastian’s theory of elementary ideas and C. G. Jung’s of the collective unconscious, we cannot attempt to interpret in such terms any of the remarkable correspondences that will everywhere confront us. On the other hand, however, we must ignore as biologically untenable such sociological theorizing as that represented, for example, by the anthropologist Ralph Linton when he wrote that “a society is a group of biologically distinct and self-contained individuals,” 19 since, indeed, we are a species and not biologically distinct. Our approach is to be, as far as possible, skeptical, historical, and descriptive—and where history fails and something else appears, as in a mirror, darkly, we indicate the considered guesses of the chief authorities in the field and leave the rest to silence, recognizing that in that silence there may be sleeping not only the jungle cry of Dryopithecus, but also a supernormal melody not to be heard for perhaps another million years.

11. Tinbergen, op. cit., p. 44.
12. Adolf Portmann, “Die Bedeutung der Bilder in der lebendigen Energiewandlung,” Eranos-Jahrbuch 1952 (Zurich: Rhein-Verlag, 1953), pp. 333-34.
13. Tinbergen, op. cit., p. 197.
14. Gaza Róheim, Psychoanalysis and Anthropology (New York: International Universities Press, 1950), pp. 403-404.
15. E. Kaila, “Die Reaktionen des Säuglings auf das menschliche Gesicht,” Annales Universitatis Aboensis, Turku, Vol. 17 (1932).
16. R. A. Spitz and K. M. Wolf, “The Smiling Response,” Genetic Psychology Monographs, Vol. 34 (1946).
17. Adolf Portmann, “Das Problem der Urbilder in biologischer Sicht,” Eranos-Jahrbuch 1949 (Zurich: Rhein-Verlag, 1950), p. 426.
18. Konrad Lorenz, “Die angeborenen Formen möglicher Erfahrung,” Zeitschrift der Tierpsychologie, Bd. 5 (1943), pp. 235-409.
19. Ralph Linton, The Study of Man (New York and London: D. Appleton-Century
Company, 1936), p. 108.

[Excerpt from ‘Masks Of God: Volume 4,’ by Joseph Campbell]

Latin love teaching of Facetus: Moribus et vita miseducated men

By Douglas Galbi

Charles Darwin’s seminal 1871 book, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, pushed down men’s sexual status along with much subsequent, poor-quality academic work on sexual selection. Yet men’s sexual status descended even more significantly in medieval Europe through the love teaching in the Latin work Facetus: Moribus et vita {Courtly living: manners and life}. The miseducation of men about love and sex provides a sobering case study in the need to question authority and undertake independent thinking and probing.

troubadour Marcabru

Disseminated across Europe from about the middle of the twelfth century, Facetus: Moribus et vita imitates Ovid’s Ars Amatoria {The Craft of Loving}. Yet while Ovid offered considerable roguish wisdom for men in love, Facetus: Moribus et vita promotes the men-abasing, counter-productive cult of courtly love. For example, it advises men to address their beloved with extravagant praise:

Bright, radiant star, lovely, gracious of countenance,
look here — permit your servant to speak with you now.
If your nobility, virtue, and beauty are
praised properly, you are without peer.
You surpass all girls in shapely beauty
and would conquer Venus, were she not a goddess.
Your hair is golden, your forehead is high and rightly so,
your eyes are laughing, your brows gorgeous.

{ Stella serena micans, facie rutilante decora,
ecce tuum famulum nunc patiare loqui.
Si tua nobilitas, probitas vel forma decora
laudatur velut est, par tibi nulla manet;
tu superas cunctas forma praestante puellas
et vincis Venerem, ni foret illa dea.
Aurea cesaries tibi, frons est, ut decet, alta,
ridentes oculi, pulchra supercilia. } [1]

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Those words just encourages the girl to feel superior to you, if she actually believes such all-too-common nonsense. According to a late-twelfth-century troubadour lyric, an upper-class man seeking sex with a peasant girl tried such lines on her. He received poor but fitting payment from her:

“Sir, you have praised me so much
that I’ve gotten bored.
Since you have extolled my virtue,
Lord,” said the peasant girl,
“you’ll have this wage
when you leave: ‘Beware, fool, beware!’
and having wasted the afternoon.”

{ Seigner, tan m’avetz lauzada,
Que tota·n sui enojada!
Pois en pretz m’avetz levada,
Seigner, so·m dis la vilana,
Per so n’auretz per soudada
Al partir : bada, fols, bada,
E la muz’a meliana. } [2]

Facetus: Moribus et vita goes on to advise the man to act pathetic and to proclaim his willingness to have his beloved rule over him:

When I do not see you, I desire to see and perish —
I die foolishly, for love burns me excessively.
Already I am your domestic servant. To you I deliver myself, if that pleases you,
so that I can do always what you alone command to me.
If you should look upon me or deign to love me,
I would rejoice more than if kingdoms were given to me.
I pray only for this: that you acknowledge your loving domestic servant,
so that he may live through you, my life and my health.

{ Cum te non video, pereo cupioque videre,
insipiens morior, nam nimis urit amor.
Iam tibi sum famulus; tibi, si placet, exibeo me
ut semper faciam quod michi sola jubes.
Si me conspicias vel me dignaris amare,
gaudebo plus quam si mihi regna darent.
Deprecor hoc tantum: famulum fatearis amandum
ut per te vivat, vita salusque mea. }

Men relating to their wives in this way has increased the incidence of sexless marriage and divorce. Of course most women are happy to acquire a domestic servant. But fawning, weak-willed domestic servants don’t stimulate most women’s passion. Men who believe otherwise are learned fools.

Facetus: Moribus et vita even advises men to commit a serious crime in order to please women. Almost all men, like almost all male primates, won’t use force to compel women to have sex with them. Rape of women has been regarded as a serious crime throughout history, and most men are not rapists. Seeking to pervert men’s natural respect for women, Facetus: Moribus et vita declares:

Then let them not merely join sweet lips;
let them dally in long, passionate embraces.
Meanwhile, let one roving hand grasp her breast,
and let him feel her thigh and belly in turn.
After such play both will be aroused,
and having thrown off their clothes, he should lift her legs.
Let the boy use force, even if she fights back,
for if he should stop, the girl would grieve in her mind.
A woman expects to be conquered in the wrestling, rather than
wants to endure, like a whore, the crime willingly.
Only in brothels are they commonly soliciting sex,
those who for a price sell themselves to anyone.
He who desires sex, but refrains from using force after kisses,
is a simpleton, never worthy of greater loving.

{ Tunc non simpliciter jungantur grata labella,
sed teneant longas basia pressa moras.
Mobilis interea stringat manus una mamillas.
Et femur et venter sentiat inde vicem.
Sic postquam ludens fuerit calefactus uterque,
vestibus ejectis, crura levare decet.
Vim faciat juvenis, quamvis nimis illa repugnet,
nam si desistat, mente puella dolet.
Expectat potius luctando femina vinci
quam velit, ut meretrix, crimina sponte pati.
A ganeis tantum coitus solet esse petitus,
que se pro precio vendere cuique volunt.
Qui querit coitum, si vim post oscula differt,
Rusticus est, nunquam dignus amore magis. }

This advice upholds the pattern, prevalent throughout human history, of making men responsible for an act considered to be criminal. Men, merely by virtue of their human dignity, are entitled to a life that includes loving, consensual, enthusiastic sex. Men should not be required to rape women in order to please women. Instructing men to undertake a criminal act in order to please women promotes the huge gender protrusion among persons held in prisons.

Frustration and anger are the primary effect of literature encouraging men to abase and criminalize themselves in seeking love with women. Because men are generally unwilling to rape women, rape of men is about as prevalent as rape of women despite miseducation of men. Many men taught that they must rape women in order to have sex with women will instead simply not have sex with women. In their miseducation and ignorance, these men will become frustrated and angry. Such frustration and anger is apparent in some late twelfth-century troubadour lyrics:

Three pass before me up the passage-way.
Before I know where I am the fourth fucks her and the fifth comes running up.
Thus love declines and gets worse.

These cunts are lusty and rapacious.
All these ruffians claim a share in them, and they in the ruffians,
and the man who behaves best fares worst, as do shepherds with lambs.

{ Denan mei n’i passson trei al passador;
no·n sai mot tro·l quartz la fot, e·l quinze lai cor;
enaissi torn’a decli l’amors e torna en peior.

Aquist con son deziron e raubador;
tuit cill gartz i clamon partz et ill en lor:
e qui mieills fa, sordeitz a, cum de l’agol’ an pastur. } [3]

A society that cared for its men would provide a minimal level of sexual welfare for men. Instead, men in the U.S. are forced to pay monthly “child support” to women who have raped them. The lesson is obvious: question authority, think independently, and explore how life actually works.

*  *  *  *  *

Notes:

[1] Facetus: Moribus et vita {Courtly living: Manners and life} 209-16, Latin text from Cantavella (2013) pp. 273-87, English translation adapted from Elliott (1977) to follow the Latin more closely. Morel-Fatio (1886) provides Elliott’s Latin text. Cantavella’s Latin text incorporates small variants from a Barcelonian manuscript dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century. Cantavella’s study primarily concerns a Catalan adaptation made in the first half of the fourteenth century.

The second part of the conventional title Facetus: Moribus et vita comes from its first line, Moribus et vita quisque vult esse facetus {Whoever wishes to be courtly in manners and life}. Another, different twelfth-century Facetus poem begins Cum nichil utilius humane credo saluti {Since I believe that nothing is more beneficial to human welfare}. The latter Facetus poem, not the former, became part of the Auctores octo.

Facetus: Moribus et vita is thought to have been written in the mid-twelfth century. In some manuscripts it’s attributed to the poet Aurgena. Id. p. 27. At least thirty manuscripts of it have survived. The section on instruction to men in love also circulated independently. It has survived in whole or in part in at least twenty-five manuscripts. Dronke (1976) pp. 126, 128.

The subsequent two quotes from Facetus: Moribus et vita are sourced as the quote above. They are (cited by Latin line numbers) 235-42 (When I do not see you…) and 289-302 (Then let them…).

[2] Marcabru, song 30, L’autrier jost’ una sebissa {The other day, by a hedge}, stanza 8, from Old French trans. from trobar.org. Marcabru florished between 1129 and 1150.

[3] Marcabru, song 24, En abriu, s’esclairo·il riu contra·l Pascor {In April, the streams become clear towards Easter}, stanzas 7-8, from Old French trans. Gaunt (2006) (stanza 7) and Kay, Cave & Bowie (2013) p. 36 (stanza 8). For a looser translation of the full poem, see trobar.org. Here’s the fully edited, Old French text. Gaunt provides a conventional, academic-gynocentric reading of the poem:

we should take this altogether typical misogynist and crude language in which women are spoken about as cunts, represented as whores with queues of men waiting to fuck them, and caricatured as only being interested in the size of a man’s penis, simply for what it is: Marcabru was steeped in the worst forms of clerical misogyny.

Gaunt (2006) p. 87. Like miseducating men, describing men as ruffians and reducing them to their penises harms men. More generally, engaging in misandristic labeling isn’t an enlightening scholarly enterprise. Literature like Facetus: Moribus et vita circulated far beyond clerics. Cantavella (2013). The corresponding, understandable frustration and anger of men undoubtedly also was widespread. Literature of men’s sexed protest provides a high return to serious, compassionate study.

[image] The troubadour Marcabru. Illumination from folio 102r in Chansonnier provençal (Chansonnier K) manuscript made in the second half of the 13th century. Preserved in Bibliothèque nationale de France as Français 12473. Via Gallica.

References:

Cantavella, Rosanna. 2013. El Facet, una ars amandi medieval: edició i estudi. València: Barcelona.

Dronke, Peter. 1976. “Pseudo-Ovid, Facetus, and the Arts of Love.” Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch (Stuttgart) 11: 126-131.

Elliott, Alison Goddard. 1977. “The Facetus: or, The Art of Courtly Living.” Allegorica. 2: 27–57.

Gaunt, Simon. 2006. “Obscene Hermeneutics in Troubadour Lyric.” Ch. 5 (pp. 85-104) in McDonald, Nicola, ed. Medieval obscenities. Woodbridge: York Medieval Press.

Kay, Sarah, Terence Cave, and Malcolm Bowie. 2003. A short history of French literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Morel-Fatio, Alfred. 1886. “Mélanges de littérature catalane.” Romania. 15 (58): 192-235.

Article published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

The role of ladies in the first sporting tournaments

The following by Charles Mills (1825) documents interaction between men and women at the first sports tournaments, a tradition from which we derive much of the structure and symbolism of today’s sporting tournaments. Have we moderns lost some of the gynocentrism of the early sports tournaments, or have we added to it? You be the judge. – PW

Ladies were judges of the tournament

Chivalry tornament joust

The ladies were the supreme judges of tournaments, and if any complaint was raised against a knight, they adjudged the cause without appeal. Generally, however, they deputed their power to a knight, who, on account of this distinction, was called the Knight of Honour. He bore at the end of his lance a ribbon or some other sign of woman’s favour, and with this badge of power he waved the fiercest knights into order and obedience.

The heralds read to the knights the regulations of the sport, and announced the nature of the prize they were to contend for. The dames and maidens sometimes proposed jewels of price, a diamond, a ruby, and a sapphire, as rewards of valour. But the meed of renown was often more military, and the reader of Italian history remembers that at a tournament celebrated at Florence in the year 1468, Lorenzo de’ Medici bore away the prize of a helmet of silver with a figure of Mars as the crest. It was the general wont of tournaments for a vanquished knight to forfeit his armour and horse to his victor.

Knights were led by ladies

The knights then trooped to the listed a plain, with lords, ladies, and damsels, the chivalry and beauty of the country, mounted on gaily-caparisoned steeds and palfreys, whose housings swept the ground. Sometimes a lady fair led the horse of her chosen knight, and in the song of the minstrel the bridle became a golden chain of love. At the day appointed for a merry tournament, in the reign of Richard II., there issued out of the Tower of London, first, three-score coursers, apparelled for the lists, and on every one a squire of honour riding a soft pace.

Then appeared three-score ladies of honour; mounted on fair palfreys, each lady leading by a chain of silver a knight sheathed in jousting harness. The fair and gallant troop, with the sound of clarions, trumpets, and other minstrelsy, rode along the streets of London, the fronts of the houses shining with martial glory in the rich banners and tapestries which hung from the windows. They reached Smithfield where the Queen of England and many matrons and damsels were already seated in richly adorned galleries. The ladies that led the knights joined them; the squires of honour alighted from their coursers, and the knights in good order vaulted upon them.

Knights wore ladies’ favours, who imitated the dress of knights

The tilting armour in which knights were sheathed was generally of a light fabric, and splendid. Its ornaments came under a gentler authority than that of royal constables and marshals. If the iron front of a line of cavaliers in the battle-field was frequently- gemmed with the variously coloured signs of ladies’ favors, those graceful additions to armour yet more beseemed the tournament. Damsels were wont to surmount the helmets of their knights with chaplets, or to affix streamers to their spears, and a cavalier who was thus honoured smiled with self-complacency on the highly emblazoned surcoat of his rival in chivalry.

The desire to please ladies fair formed the very soul of the tournament. Every young and gallant knight wore the device of his mistress, while, indeed, the hardier sons of chivalry carried fiercer signs of their own achievements but they were unmarked by the bright judges of the tourney, for their eyes could only follow through the press their own emblems of love. Nothing was now to be heard but the noise and clattering of horse and armour.

Knights thanked by ladies

Every preux cavalier had by his side a lady bright. The minstrels tuned their harps to the praise of courtesy and prowess, and when the merriment was most joyous, the heralds presented to the ladies the knights who had worthily demeaned themselves. She, who by the consent at her fail companions was called La Royne de la Beaulte et des Amours, delivered the prizes to the kneeling knights. This queen of beauty and love addressed each of them with a speech of courtesy, thanking him for the disport and labour which he had taken that day, presenting to him the prize as the ladies’ award for his skill, and concluding with the wish that such a valorous cavalier would have much joy and worship with his lady.

“The victory was entirely owing to the favor of my mistress, which I wore in my helmet,” was the gallant reply of the knight, for he was always solicitous to exalt the honor of his lady-love. As tournaments were scenes of pleasure, the knight who appeared in the most handsome guise was praised and, to complete the courtesies of chivalry, thanks were rendered to those who had travelled to the lists from far countries.

Source: Charles Mills, The History of Chivalry Or Knighthood and Its Times (1825)

See also: Sporting tournaments: a gynocentric tradition

Instruction of boys in the arts of chivalry

The following excerpt is from the 1825 classic The History of Chivalry Or Knighthood and Its Times, by Charles Mills. Like many historical articles it shows that chivalry came to be about much more than military conduct, becoming conflated as it were with deferent and servile behaviour toward women – as it does to this day. The following describes the process whereby young boys were inducted into the cult of chivalry.

_______________________

The education of a knight generally commenced at the age of seven or eight years, for no true lover of chivalry wished his children to pass their time in idleness and indulgence.

At a baronial feast, a lady in the full glow of maternal pride pointed to her offspring, and demanded of her husband whether he did not bless Heaven for having given him four such fine and promising boys. “Dame,” replied her lord, thinking her observation ill timed and foolish, ” so help me God and Saint Martin, nothing gives me greater sorrow and shame than to see four great sluggards, who do nothing but eat, and drink, and waste their time in idleness and folly.” Like other children of gentlebirth, therefore, the boys of this noble Duke Guerin of Montglaive, in spite of their mother’s wishes, commenced their chivalric exercises.

In some places there were schools appointed by the nobles of the country, but most frequently their own castles served. Every feudal lord had his court, to which he drew the sons and daughters of the poorer gentry of his domains ; and his castle was also frequented by the children of men of equal rank with himself, for (such was the modesty and courtesy of chivalry) each knight had generally some brother in arms, whom he thought better fitted than himself to grace his children with noble accomplishments.

The duties of the boy for the first seven years of his service were chiefly personal. If sometimes the harsh principles of feudal subordination gave rise to such service, it oftener proceeded from the friendly relations of life; and as in the latter case it was voluntary, there was no loss of honourable consideration in performing it. The dignity of obedience, that principle which blends the various shades of social life, and which had its origin in the patriarchal manners of early Europe, was now fostered in the castles of the feudal nobility.

The light-footed youth attended the lord and his lady in the hall, and followed them in all their exercises of war and pleasure ; and it was considered unknightly for a cavalier to wound a page in battle. He also acquired the rudiments of those incongruous subjects, religion, love, and war, so strangely blended in chivalry ; and generally the intellectual and moral education of the boy was given by the ladies of the court.

“Generally the intellectual and moral education of the boy was given by the ladies of the court.”

From the lips of the ladies the gentle page learned both his catechism and the art of love, and as the religion of the day was full of symbols, and addressed to the senses, so the other feature of his devotion was not to be nourished by abstract contemplation alone. He was directed to regard some one lady of the court as the type of his heart’s future mistress ; she was the centre of all his hopes and wishes ; to her he was obedient, faithful, and courteous.

While the young Jean de Saintre was a page of honour at the court of the French king, the Dame des Belles Cousines enquired of him the name of the mistress of his heart’s affections. The simple youth replied, that he loved his lady mother, and next to her, his sister Jacqueline was dear to him. “Young man,” rejoined the lady, “I am not speaking of the affection due to your mother and sister ; but I wish to know the name of the lady to whom you are attached par amours.” The poor boy was still more confused, and he could only reply, that he loved no one par amours.

The Dame des Belles Cousines charged him with being a traitor to the laws of chivalry, and declared that his craven spirit was evinced by such an avowal. ” Whence,” she enquired, “sprang the valiancy and knightly feats of Launcelot, Gawain, Tristram, Giron the courteous, and other ornaments of the round fable of Ponthus, and of those knights and squires of this country whom I could enumerate : whence the grandeur of many whom I have. known to arise to renown, except from the noble desire of maintaining themselves in the grace and esteem of the ladies ; without which spirit-stirring sentiment they must have ever remained in the shades of obscurity? And do you, coward valet, presume to declare that you possess no sovereign lady, and desire to have none ?”

Jean underwent a long scene of persecution on account of his confession of the want of proper chivalric sentiment, but he was at length restored to favour by the intercession of the ladies of the court. He then named as his mistress Matheline de Coucy, a child only ten years old. “Matheline is indeed a pretty girl,” replied the Dame des Belles Cousines, “but what profit, what honour, what comfort, what aid, what council for advancing you in chivalrous fame can you derive from such a choice? You should elect a lady of noble blood, who has the ability to advise, and the power to assist you ; and you should serve her so truly, and love her so loyally, as to compel her to acknowledge the honourable affection which you entertain for her. For, be assured, that there is no lady, however cruel and haughty she may be, but through long service, will be induced to acknowledge and reward loyal affection with some portion of mercy.

By such a course you will gain the praise of worthy knighthood, and till then I would not give an apple for you or your achievements but he who loyally serves his lady will not only be blessed to the height of man’s felicity in this life, but will never fall into those sins which will prevent his happiness hereafter. Pride will be entirely effaced until the heart of him who endeavours by humility and courtesy to win the grace of a lady. The true faith of a lover will defend him from the other deadly sins of anger, envy, sloth, and gluttony ; and his devotion to his mistress renders the thought impossible of his conduct ever being stained with the vice of incontinence.”

 

Source: Charles Mills, The History of Chivalry Or Knighthood and Its Times (1825)

A New Aristocracy

When Marxist activist Rudi Dutschke looked at ways to stage a neo-Marxist revolution he hit on the plan of “a long march through the institutions of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery.” His strategy was to work against the established institutions while working surreptitiously within them. Evidence of the attempt to implement his plan can be seen today through many levels of society – especially in universities.

Marxists however are not the only ones to use this strategy. In fact when we look at the numerous political forces attempting to infiltrate and influence our cultural institutions we see that another, much more influential candidate, has twisted its tendrils through every layer of society – and it existed long before Marx and Marxism was born. That force is political feminism,1 whose culture project has been in play now for several hundred years.

Protofeminists like Lucrezia Marinella, Mary Wollstoncraft, Margaret Cavendish, Modesta Pozzo, or Christine de Pizan were advocating a ‘long march’ through institutions for centuries before Marxism emerged and began its tragic experiment. Pizan’s main book for example titled A City of Ladies sketched an imaginary city whose institutions were controlled completely by women, and each of the protofeminists advanced some theory of female rule or ‘integration’ of women into governing institutions. Later feminists followed suit, such as Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote the famed book HerLand (1915) envisioning a society run entirely by women who reproduce by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction), resulting in an ideal (utopic) social order free from war, conflict, and male domination.

A survey of protofeminist writings reveals consistent advocacy for the superior abilities of women as functionaries: women’s greater compassion, virtue, nonviolence, intelligence, patience, superior morality and so on, combined with a concomitant descriptions of male destructiveness, insensitivity and inferiority as we see continued in the rhetoric of modern feminists.

Via that polarizing narrative feminists sought to grab not just a big slice of the governance pie; as contemporary feminists have shown they would stop at nothing but the whole pie. Nothing but complete dominance of the gendered landscape would satisfy their lust for control, and it appears they have succeeded.

We see that dominance in women’s occupation of pivotal bureaucratic positions throughout the world, from the UN and World Bank all the way down through national governments, schools and universities, and HR departments in most medium to large workplaces. Feminists not only govern the world via these roles, but as surveyed in Janet Halley’s recent book Governance Feminism: An Introduction, that governance is far from the utopia early feminist promised.

The long feminist tradition underlines the danger of viewing ‘the march through the institutions’ as a Cultural Marxism project, because it deflects us from the historically longer, more powerful, more dangerous and ultimately more successful project that is political feminism.

Moreover, the protagonists of Marxist and feminist worldviews are not one and the same; the former aims to dismantle social-class oppression, and the latter gender oppression. While there are some individuals working to amalgamate these two contrary theories into a hybrid of Frankenstein proportions, their basic theoretical aims remain distinct.

Like Marxism, feminism too can be imagined as a socio-political ideology, in this case modelling itself on a medieval feudalism which was structured with two social classes: 1. A noble class of aristocrats, priests, princes and princesses, and 2. a peasant class of serfs and slaves overseen by indentured vassals.

Stripped of its medieval context we see the purveyors of political feminism working to institute a new sex-stratified version of feudalism which serves to maximize the power of women. With this move we have seen an increased tendency to emphasize women’s “power,” “dignity,” “honor,” “esteem” and “respect” – descriptors historically reserved for dignitaries.

As in medieval times, the assets and wealth generated by the labour class – predominately men – are taxed and redistributed to the new quasi-aristocratic class via a plethora of social spending programs of governments, or alternatively via asset transfers like alimony, child support, divorce settlements and other court mandated conventions. Children themselves form part of that asset portfolio which men are often forced to relinquish to women in the event of divorce. In the face of such practices men are reminded that women’s “dignity” is very much at stake, and their acquiescence mandatory.

The push to establish a female aristocratic class has long been recognized, as mentioned by the following writer from more than a century ago (1896), who in his ‘Letter To The editor’ observed the granting of unequal social privileges to female prisoners;

“A paragraph in your issue of the week before last stated that oakum-picking as a prison task had been abolished for women and the amusement of dressing dolls substituted. This is an interesting illustration of the way we are going at present, and gives cause to some reflection as to the rate at which a sex aristocracy is being established in our midst. While the inhumanity of our English prison system, in so far as it affects men, stands out as a disgrace to the age in the eyes of all Europe, houses of correction for female convicts are being converted into agreeable boudoirs and pleasant lounges…

I am personally in favour of the abolition of corporal punishment, as I am of existing prison inhumanities, for both sexes, but the snivelling sentiment which exempts females on the ground of sex from every disagreeable consequence of their actions, only strengthens on the one side every abuse which it touches on the other. Yet we are continuously having the din of the “women’s rights” agitation in our ears. I think it is time we gave a little attention to men’s rights, and equality between the sexes from the male point of view.–YoursYours, &c.,, A MANLY PROTESTOR,”2

Another comes from a 1910 Kalgoorlie Miner which reported a push to set up a female aristocracy in America. It was entitled The New Aristocracy:

A question of deep human interest has been raised by The Independent.
 
“To be successful in the cultivation of culture a country must have a leisure class,” says the editor. “We Americans recognise this fact, but we are going about the getting of this leisure class in a new way.

“In Europe the aristocracy is largely relieved from drudgery in order that they may cultivate the graces of life. In America the attempt is being made to relieve the women of all classes from drudgery, and we are glad to see that some of them at least are making good use of the leisure thus afforded them. It is a project involving unprecedented daring and self-sacrifice on the part of American men, this making an aristocracy of half the race. That it is possible yet remains to be proved. Whether it is desirable depends upon whether this new feminine aristocracy avoids the faults of the aristocracy of the Old World, such as frivolousness and snobbishness.”3

Lastly a comment from Adam Kostakis who gives an eloquent summary of feminism’s preference for a neo-feudal society in his Gynocentrism Theory Lectures:

“It would not be inappropriate to call such a system sexual feudalism, and every time I read a feminist article, this is the impression that I get: that they aim to construct a new aristocracy, comprised only of women, while men stand at the gate, till in the fields, fight in their armies, and grovel at their feet for starvation wages. All feminist innovation and legislation creates new rights for women and new duties for men; thus it tends towards the creation of a male underclass.”4

By many accounts what we’ve achieved today under feminist modelling is the establishment of a neo-feudal society with women representing an aristocratic class and men the labour class of serfs, slaves and peasants who too often spend their lives looking up from the proverbial glass cellar. When men do rule, it is usually not with a life “free of drudgery” as mentioned above, but with hard-work as CEOs, executives and prime ministers in service of the ruling female class who are busy with little more than lifting their lattes.

This gendered enterprise is now several hundred years in the making, enjoying further consolidations with every passing year of feminist governance. That a widespread female aristocracy now exists is undeniable, at least in the Western world, although we remain reluctant to name it as such for fear of offending our moral betters. We can only hope that the recent petition to abolish the House of Lords becomes infectious and begins to tackle the unearned privileges of those new aristocrats who serve nobody but themselves.

Sources:

[1]. Ernest Belfort Bax coined the phrase ‘political feminism’ in his book The Fraud of Feminism. London: Grant Richards Ltd, 1913
[2] New Feminine Aristocracy; Narrowly Trained Men, Kalgoorlie Miner, Wednesday 5 January 1910, page 2 (3)
[3]. A Privileged and Pampered Sex, Letter to the Editor, Reynolds Newspaper, 1896
[4]. Adam Kostakis, Lecture 11: The Eventual Outcome of Feminism –II, Gynocentrism Theory Lectures, 2011

*An earlier version of the above article was published in my book Feminism And The Creation of a Female Aristocracy.