Arab Influences on European Love Poetry

By Roger Boas

omar khayyam rubiat

There is still a reluctance on the part of many medievalists to recognise that Arab culture had an impact on medieval Europe which went far beyond the acquisition of certain luxury goods. Of course Europe’s indebtedness to the Arabs as mediators in the transmission of Greek philosophy, medicine and mathematics is readily admitted, because such an admission does not undermine the conventional myth of European cultural identity, Graeco-Roman in its intellectual and artistic origins and imbued with Christian ethics. The transmission is presented as if it were a “a transaction similar to the purchase of some object in a store”. 1

It is thus assumed that Arabs played a purely passive role in this process. The courtly love tradition would seem to be something quintessentially European because it is associated with the rules of polite society and Christian chivalric ideals—and is at the very root of the modern concept of romantic love. For this reason many people would consider it preposterous to claim that it might have developed as a result of cultural links with the Arab world.

A hundred years ago no scholar would have dared to make such a claim. In fact, after the colonial era, which from the Arab point of view can be dated from Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign (1798-1801), discussion of Europe’s cultural debt to the Arabs became virtually taboo until the 1930s, when, outside Spain, research was done by Lawrence Ecker, Henri Peres, Emile Dermenghem, Evariste Levi-Provengal and A. R. Nykl. Even in Spain, where pioneering work was done by Julian Ribera y Tarrago, Miguel Asm Palacios, Emilio Garcia Gomez, Ramon Menendez Pidal, Americo Castro and others, there were those, like Claudio Sanchez-Albornoz and Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, who attributed most of Spain’s defects, in particular her “cultural belatedness”,2 to the baneful de-Europeanising influence of Islam.

Denis de Rougemont, who is more famous for his rather eccentric theory that Courtly Love was the product of a heretical Cathar environment, declared in 1956, in the revised edition of Passion and Society, that it was no longer necessary to establish “Andalusian influence” on the troubadours, because to him it was self-evident:

And I could fill pages with passages from Arabs and Provengals about which our great specialists of “the abyss which separates” would possibly fail to guess whether they were penned north or south of the Pyrenees. The matter is settled .3

But, unfortunately, the matter is far from settled, and the relationship between Arabic and Provengal poetry is more complicated than de Rougemont would have us believe. The two specialists of the abyss whom he had in mind (and whom he mentions in the same paragraph) were the 19th-century scholars Ernest Renan and Reinhardt Dozy. Modern scholars, it would seem, still find it difficult to shrug off the negative judgements pronounced by these two orientalists.

After conceding that Castilian and Portuguese are not the only Romance languages which contain many Arabic loan words, Renan writes:

With regard to literary and moral influences, these have been greatly exaggerated; neither Provencal poetry, nor chivalry, owe anything to the Muslims. An abyss separates the form and the spirit of Romance poetry from the form and the spirit of Arabic poetry; there is no evidence that Christian poets knew of the existence of Arabic poetry, and one may assert that, even had they known about it, they would not have been able to understand its language and its spirit.4

Dozy’s view on this matter was even more uncompromising:

As regards the possibility of a direct influence of Arabic poetry on Provencal poetry, or on Romance poetry in general, it has not been established and it will not be established. We consider this question to be an entirely idle one; we would like never to see it discussed again, although we are convinced that it will be for a long time yet. Every man has his own hobby horse! 5

Dozy’s telling words “on ne l’a prouvee et on ne la prouvera pas” clearly betray his lack of critical impartiality. One would not expect such bias from one of the leading historians of Muslim Spain. The tone of these words reminds me of Alfred Jeanroy’s reaction to Julian Ribera’s proposal (made in 1928) that the word trobar might derive from the Arabic verb taraba, “to sing, to play music; to be moved by joy or grief; to fill with delight”: “The Arabic etymologies ascribed by Ribera to the words troubadour … will certainly convince nobody”.6

Samuel Stern quoted with approval the lines by Dozy which I have just cited, in a paper delivered in Spoleto in 1964. His own conclusion was very similar:

That the troubadours could not have been in direct contact with Arabic poetry is a direct consequence of the indisputable fact that they did not know, and could not have known, enough to understand it… To my way of thinking, and the opinion is worth no more than that of anyone else, there is reason to doubt whether even a single element of the poetry of the troubadours is due to the influence of Arabic poetry .7

How can we be so sure that the troubadours had no knowledge of Arabic? And how can we be so sure that they could not have obtained a rough translation of the words of a song if they found the music and the rhythm and the rhymes pleasing to the ear? Although Stem does not deny that there are “similarities between the troubadour concept of love and certain ideas expressed in Arabic literature”, he suggests that “these similarities will have to be explained as parallel developments not linked to any genetic relationship”.8

When, in 1976, I confided to an American academic whom I met at a conference that I was doing some research on what scholars had said about amour courtois and that I was inclined to favour the Arab theory of origins, he was very dismissive: “I thought that theory had been finally disproved by Samuel Stern.”

Fortunately, I was not deterred: having completed a chronological survey of what I called Courtly Love scholarship, I had learnt that in literary and cultural history there are no fixed absolutes; theories change with the mood of the times and the scholar who makes the greatest claims to impartiality is often the most prejudiced. Incidentally, this does not mean that I consider the whole enterprise to be doomed from the start. Maria Rosa Menocal is surely being excessively modest when she implies that her alternative vision of the mixed ancestry of European culture is merely a myth with which to modify prevailing myths.9

On the basis of my own findings and my assessment of the evidence, I still believe that Courtly Love may be defined as “a comprehensive cultural phenomenon … which arose in an aristocratic Christian environment exposed to Hispano-Arabic influences”.10

Although the troubadours themselves used other expressions such as fin amors, bon amors and verai’ amors (and similar terms are found in other Romance languages), Courtly Love is a convenient description of a conception of love which informed a tradition of European literature from the 12th century until the Renaissance, so that, by extension, the term is applicable to this literature.12

Whether it is treated seriously or satirically, this literary or poetic convention, which was propagated in Europe by the Provencal troubadours, is evident in the works of most of the major medieval poets and writers of fiction, including Bernart de Ventadom, Guillaume de Lorris, Chretien de Troyes, Heinrich von Morungen, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Gottfried von Strassburg, Cavalcanti, Dante, Petrarch, Ausias March, Chaucer, John Gower, Malory, Marie de France, Charles d’Orleans, Santillana, Diego de San Pedro and Fernando de Rojas. It is also of central importance in some Renaissance writers, such as Gil Vicente and Garcilaso.

The essential features of this conception of love are the beloved’s sovereignty, the lover’s fidelity and submission, secrecy, the interdependence of love and poetry, and the ennobling, yet potentially destructive power of love. The beloved was invested with the sovereignty of a feudal overlord or the perfection of a goddess. The lover humbly pledged to serve her, as if he were a vassal or a slave, demanding no more than a sign of recognition for deeds performed on her behalf. Since a public display of emotion might jeopardise the lady’s honour, particularly if she were married, discretion was a fundamental precept and a condition of any sexual favour which she might confer.

This explains why it was customary for the poet to conceal his beloved’s identity by giving her a fictitious name or senhal. By endeavouring to make himself worthy of his beloved, the lover acquired a number of moral, courtly and chivalrous qualities. If she were too easily accessible, love would cease to be arduous and ennobling; yet if, on the other hand, she epitomised the archetypal belle dame sans mercy, the traditional symptoms of love—insomnia, emaciation, trembling, fainting and pallor—could deteriorate into a species of melancholia, leading ultimately to death. Founded, as it was, on the precarious coexistence of erotic desire and spiritual aspiration, this conception of love was inherently paradoxical. It was, to quote F. X. Newman, “a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and self-disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent”.12

With the exception of the analogy of feudalism, all the main features which I have just mentioned are founded in the Arab poetic tradition of chaste love, al-hubb al-‘udhri, which can be traced back to the lst/7th century poetry of the Banu ‘Udhra (“the Sons of Chastity”), a tribe renowned as martyrs of unrequited love, and to Jamil b. Ma’mar al- c Udhri (d. 82/701)—a poet better known as Jamil Buthayna on account of his love for Buthayna—in particular. This tradition was discussed and more clearly formulated in many treatises, the most famous being Kitab al-zahra (“The Book of the Flower”)13 by
Muhammad b. Dawud al-Isfahani (255/868-297/910), composed in Baghdad in the late 2nd/9th century, and Tawq al-hamama (“The Dove’s Neck- Ring”)14 by Ahmad b. Sa‘Id b. Hazm (Ibn Hazm) (383/993-456/1064), composed in Cordoba ca. 412/1022.

From Muslim Spain we may infer that this paradoxical tradition of profane spiritualised love was imported into southern France by musicians, singing-girls, captives and slaves. Another channel of communication between east and west was, of course, the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. But it not only needs to be demonstrated that Arabic poetry and/or
treatises on love were accessible to the Provencal troubadours; it is also necessary to prove that the undoubted parallels which exist between these two conceptions of love cannot be explained by coincidence or polygenesis, and to do this one should be able to produce literary evidence of a cultural exchange or transmission. The serious objections which have been raised have never been countered in a systematic way.

Peter Dronke, one of the participants in the discussion following Stern’s paper at Spoleto, believes that the parallels between Provencal and Arabic love-poetry are coincidental. This is the assumption underlying his Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric.15 In this impressive work, which begins with the oldest of all collections of love-songs, composed in Egypt in the second millennium B.C., and includes examples of Icelandic, Byzantine, Georgian, Arabic and Mozarabic poetry, it is proposed that amour courtois, here apparently used as a synonym for the experience or sensibility which gave rise to the European love-lyric, is universally possible and might occur “at any time or place” (p. ix).

There are three fundamental objections to this approach: first of all, it belittles the novelty of the poetry of the Provencal troubadours, both in style and content, and the extraordinary impact which this poetry had on European literature and social mores; secondly, it leaves the main literary tradition of the Middle Ages without a name: amour courtois is, after all, a critical concept, defining not simply an individual experience, but the content of a literary genre and a general cultural phenomenon; thirdly, before the 12th century, only Arabic poetry, or poetry influenced by the Arabic lyrical tradition, contains all of the essential features of Courtly Love which I listed earlier.

Of course it is an exaggeration to claim, as Curtius did, that “the passion and the sorrow of love were an emotional discovery of the French troubadours and their successors”, 16 or that, by comparison with this revolution, the Renaissance was, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “a mere ripple on the surface of literature”.17 However the manner in which the troubadours wrote about love, as well as their decision to do so in the vernacular, was revolutionary. As Mario Equicola wrote in the late 15th century, “the way in which they described their love was new, quite different from that of the ancient Latin authors; these wrote openly, without respect, without reverence, without fear of dishonouring their ladies”.18 Alan M. Boase made this point very well in the preface to the first volume of his anthology of French poetry:

In general, the Greeks and Romans, not unlike the Chinese, regarded love as a sickness, as soon as it overstepped the bounds of that sensual pleasure which was regarded as its natural expression. This attitude is still more inimical to passion than the almost pathological reprobation of sex which was that of patristic Christianity .19

He also wrote:

It is hardly in doubt… that the Arab forerunners of these poets [i.e., the troubadours] are to be found in ninth-century Andalusia and in the great Ibn Hazm of The Dove’s Necklace —who incidentally knew his Plato at a time when the philosopher was a mere name to the Christian West.20

Whilst I would agree with Dronke that the European love-lyric is a garden in which the roots can seldom be disentangled and that “it is far more important to watch the growth of the flowers”,21 we cannot fully appreciate the flowers unless we make comparisons, and, to my knowledge, no scholar has hitherto made a satisfactory comparative study of European and Arabic love-poetry. I have already alluded to some of the reasons why such a study has not been undertaken. The first priority is to develop a suitable methodological framework, bearing in mind the theoretical work which has been done on cultural transmission, in particular by Norman Daniel.22

In a study of this kind there could be five sections: the first dealing with the evidence of cultural links between Christian Europe and Arab-Islamic civilisation and possible avenues of transmission (i. e. Muslim Spain and Sicily); the second on musical theory and practice; the third on the question of formal and stylistic elements; the fourth on general themes and specific motifs; the fifth on the influence of philosophical ideas or theories, such as Platonism, Sufism or the medical description of love-melancholy. I am convinced that if this research were done properly, it would no longer be possible for a scholar like L. T. Topsfield to write a book entitled Troubadours and Love containing only one brief reference to Ibn Hazm and four cautious one-line references to hypothetical unnamed Hispano-Arabic sources.23

In the space of this paper I can do no more than offer some material for sections one and four: I shall mention a few facts about potential avenues of transmission and illustrate, by means of quotations, certain parallel themes in Arabic and European love-poetry. Some of these parallels are of a general nature; others are very specific and seem to demonstrate that certain passages of Ibn Hazm’s Tawq al-hamama were familiar to poets in France and Spain. First, I shall speak about the changing balance of power at the end of the 11th century; secondly, I shall discuss diplomatic and marital links between Navarre and the Caliphate of Cordoba; thirdly, I shall emphasise the role played by Arab ambassador-poets; fourthly, I shall mention relations between Castile and the Kingdom of Seville; and finally I shall consider the significance of the capture of the Aragonese stronghold of Barbastro and the influence of Arab singing-girls on the courts of southern France.

In the Iberian Peninsula, from at least the 10th century onwards, there had been many points of contact between Arabs and Christians: war, trade, diplomacy, intermarriage and migration. However, as a result of important political and economic changes, new channels of communication between Christian Europe and the dar al-lslam opened up in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. Here are some of the key dates: 457/1064, the sack of Barbastro by French knights; 478/1085, the capture of Toledo by Alfonso VI; 484/1091, the defeat of the poet-king al-Mu’tamid of Seville by the pious Berber Yusuf b. Tashfin, marking the end of the period of the muluk al-tawa’if, or Party Kings, and the beginning of the Almoravid era; 484/1091, the completion of the Norman conquest of Sicily; 1096-99, the First Crusade; 1112, the unification of Provence and Catalonia under Ramon Berenguer IV; 512/1118, the conquest of Saragossa by Alfonso I of Aragon.

From one end of the Mediterranean to the other Christendom was expanding: in Palestine, Syria, Sicily and Spain. The independent petty kingdoms of al-Andalus were so weakened by internal conflicts that, in desperation, they appealed to the Berber Almoravids of Morocco to intervene; then, realising too late that Ibn Tashfin had other ambitions, they turned in vain to the Christians for assistance. Whereas in the 4th/10th century the Christian kingdoms of northern Spain had lived in the shadow of the Caliphate of Cordoba, now the situation was reversed: the Muslim states sought to secure their survival by offering tribute to the Christian kings. With this shift in the balance of power, there was more willingness (as well as more opportunity) to imitate aspects of Arab culture which previously were perceived as debilitating and effeminate.
It is understandable that southern France should have been more receptive to the refinements of Arab culture than Castile, which had to remain in a constant state of military alert.24 The European sense of cultural inferiority, especially with regard to matters of love and marriage, is evident in Juan Manuel’s story about Saladin’s advice to the Count of Provence in El Conde Lucanor.25

It is surprising to find that, from the end of the 3rd/9th century, a special relationship was formed between the Kingdom of Navarre and the Caliphate of Cordoba. The amir ‘Abd al-Rahman II (r. 206/822-238/852), who defeated King Enneco and his Banu QasI allies in 228/843, owned a Navarrese singing-girl named Qalam; she had been trained in Medina to sing, to dance and to memorise verses and was skilled in the art of calligraphy.26 This caliph, who sought to make his court the rival of Baghdad under Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma’mun, was so infatuated by his love for Tarub, mother of his son ‘Abd Allah, that he was ready to submit to all her caprices, even though she once tried to poison him.27 His father al-Hakam I, who was a better poet, wrote several poems in which he describes himself as a slave or prisoner of love. “Submission,” he wrote, “is beautiful in a freeborn man Qiurr) when he is a slave ( mamluk ) of love”.28 The cruel ‘Abd Allah (r. 275/888-300/912), also a poet, married Onneca or Iniga, a Navarrese princess, whose father, Fortun Garces of Pamplona (r. ca. 882-905), had spent two decades as a hostage in Cordoba. Onneca’s son, Muhammad, married a Christian girl named Maria between 275/888 and 277/890, and she was the mother of the enlightened sovereign ‘Abd al-Rahman HI (r. 300/929-350/961).29 This explains why, when Sancho Garces I (r. 905-925) died in 925, Toda or Theuda, the Queen-Regent of Navarre, placed her territory under the protection of ‘Abd al-Rahman HI.30

Following the tradition of his forebears, his son, al-Hakam II (r. 350/961-366/976), whose library is recorded as containing four hundred thousand volumes, also married a Navarrese girl. Her name was Aurora, or Subh, the mother of Hisham II, and, according to Ibn Hazm, he loved her blindly.31 Ibn Hazm comments on this preference for pale blonde¬haired girls among the caliphs of Cordoba, especially since the reign of ‘Abd al-Rahman HI, as a consequence of which many of the caliphs had fair hair and blue eyes. During this period there were also close ties between Leon and Cordoba. Sancho I “the Fat” was restored to the throne of Leon in 353/964 by the forces of al-Hakam n, after receiving a slimming treatment from the Caliph’s doctor. It was then the turn of the usurper Ordono IV to prostrate himself before the Caliph and appeal for help.32 Another king of Navarre, Sancho Garces H (r. 971-994), offered his daughter in marriage to the self-appointed ruler al-Mansur (r. ca. 370/980-392/1002) and she subsequently became a fervent convert to Islam. In 383/993 Vermudo II of Leon (r. 982-999) sent his daughter Teresa to al-Mansur, who received her as a slave. He later released her in order to marry her, but she remained a Christian and retired to a monastery in Leon after her husband’s death in 392/1002.33

It should be understood that these diplomatic and marital links with Christian states were arranged through the mediation of ambassadors, the majority of whom were poets, and one must assume that they had some knowledge of Romance languages. An early example of such a poet-diplomat was Yahya b. al-Hakam, known as al-Ghazal (“the gazelle”) because of his vigour and good looks (ca. 156/772-249/864). He owed his success as a diplomat to his skill in winning the favour of women. For example, in about 207/822, on a mission to Normandy, he improvised some verses for the Norman Queen Theuda:

My heart, thou hast undergone a painful love,
and struggled with it, the fiercest of all lions.
I fell in love with a Norman lady fair,
she keeps the sun of beauty from ever setting.

In this case these and the remaining lines were explained to the queen by an interpreter. Nykl, from whom I quote, also cites a poem of his and compares it to an early song of Guilhem IX (William IX of Aquitaine, regarded as the first troubadour).34 Although this incident occurred more than two and a half centuries earlier than the troubadour period, this is how Arabic poetry could have been later communicated. A person more likely to have had some influence on the early troubadours was the poet and ambassador Ibn ‘Ammar, in the service of al-Mu’tamid. In 471/1078, after persuading Alfonso VI of Castile to withdraw his forces by defeating him at a game of chess, Ibn
‘Ammar urged his master to embark upon the conquest of Murcia. He pledged to give 10,000 dinars to Ramon Berenguer If of Barcelona, if the Count would collaborate in this enterprise.35

Hostages were exchanged to guarantee the agreement: the Count’s nephew was sent to Cordoba, while al-Mu’tamid’s son, al-Rashld, who was a poet like his father and an excellent lute-player,36 was sent to the Count. When the payment was not forthcoming by the date fixed, Ibn ‘Ammar and al-Rashid were both detained by the Count. Al-Rashld was not released until Ramon received 30,000 dinars, some of it in debased coin. It is quite possible that the courtiers of Ramon Berenguer II had the opportunity to study the poetry of these two Arab poets. Here is a sample of Ibn ‘Ammar’s poetry, in which the nature of love is defined:

That which confers upon love a high rank [jah ]— let them understand it well—is its shameful humility, and its delights—if you seek the pleasant taste—consist of burning torments. Do not seek power [‘izz] in love [hubb], since only the slaves of love’s law are free men.37

It was not uncommon during this period for Christians and Muslims to be allies. The Cantar de Mio Cid is inspired by events in the life of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, an ally of al-Mu’tamid, who became for a short time the virtually independent ruler of Valencia (r. 487/1094-493/1099). The Cid’s Muslim friend, Abengalbon, is depicted as a far nobler man than the evil heirs of Carrion who inhabit Alfonso Vi’s court. Alfonso himself had spent some of his youth in exile at the Muslim court of Toledo, and when his fifth wife failed to produce a male heir, he took al-Mu’tamid’s daughter-in-law, Sayyida, as his wife or mistress, and she took the name Maria or Isabel.38 This was in the year 484/1091 or 485/1092. She died in childbirth a few years later, and her son Sancho would have succeeded his father if he had not been killed in the Battle of Ucles in 501/1108. In view of the fact that it is forbidden in Islam for a Muslim girl to marry a Christian, this event reflects the tragic downfall of the Sevillian kingdom. A romantic account of how this Moorish princess fell in love by hearsay is given in Alfonso X’s Estoria de Espana: “she fell in love with him; not by seeing him (for she never did), but on account of his good reputation and his high honour which grew day by day.”39 Ibn Hazm devotes a short chapter to this topic in his Tawq al-hamama, observing that ladies of high birth, living in seclusion, often fall in love in this fashion,40 and amor de lonh was, of course, the central theme of the poetry of the early Provencal troubadour Jaufre Rudel, addressed to the
Countess of Tripoli.41

Finally, we should consider the possible repercussions of a single military expedition against the Muslim stronghold of Barbastro in Aragon by an army of Normans and some knights from southern France, including Guilhem VII of Aquitaine, the father of the first troubadour. According to the Arab chronicler Ibn Hayyan, the campaign was led by “the commander of the cavalry of Rome”, therefore by Guillaume de Montreuil, who was in the service of Pope Alexander II42 According to Amatus de Monte Cassino, in his Historia Normannorum (written 1080-1083), the leader was Robert Crespin, a Norman lord and soldier of fortune.43

What is certain is that the booty included a vast number of slave-girls—Amatus mentions one thousand five hundred—most of whom became lute-playing singers and concubines in the courts of southern France. Despite the pledge of an amnesty, six thousand fugitives from the town were slain. Then all householders were ordered to return to their homes with their wives and children. “Each knight who received a house for his share,” writes a contemporary Arab author, “received in addition all that it contained—women, children and money … the infidels, by a refinement of cruelty, took delight in violating the wives and daughters of the prisoners before the eyes of their husbands and fathers.”44

After behaving like true barbarians, the Christians were apparently seduced by the Arab style of life. Ibn Hayyan recounts how a Jewish merchant, a friend of his, visited one of the Christian princes in Barbastro to discuss the ransom of the daughters of the former commander of the fortress. This prince, dressed in Arab robes, was installed in the alcaide’s harem. He asked the girl to take her lute and sing to him, and then made gestures of delight as if he understood the words. After hearing the song, the Christian prince dismissed the Jew, saying that the pleasure which he derived from his slave-girls was worth more than all the gold which he might receive as a ransom.45 Whether or not this prince was Guilhem VIII of Aquitaine, we can be sure that Guilhem would have received his full share of captives. It is therefore probable that his son, Guilhem IX, inherited some Arab singing-girls when he succeeded his father in 1086 at the tender age of fifteen. Guilhem IX continued the family’s connections with Spain. When Sancho I of Aragon died at the Siege of Huesca in 1094, he married the king’s young widow Philippa, whose “retinue would almost certainly have included some jongleurs or female singers similar to those who had been captured at Barbastro”.46

Furthermore, his sisters had respectively married Peter I of Aragon and Alfonso VI of Castile; and one of his daughters married Ramiro II of Aragon. His father was buried in Santiago de Compostela; and it was here that his son died as a pilgrim in 1137. When we bear in mind that his grand-daughter was Eleanor of Aquitaine, the great patroness of courtly poets, who after divorcing Louis VIII, became the wife of Henry Plantagenet and the mother of Richard the Lionheart, then we perceive how ideas borrowed from Muslim Spain could soon have reached England and Northern France. The frequent allusions to Spain in the poetry of all the early troubadours tell the same story.47

The Arabic lyrical tradition was maintained by the social institution of singing-girls or qiyan, whose position in society was comparable to that of the geisha girls of Japan. The description of the beloved in Arabic love-poetry owes much to the ambivalent figure of the qayna, who was taught by her master to play the role of the courtly beloved: she was coquettish and modest, demanding and deceptive, raising hopes, but rarely fulfilling them, giving each man the illusion that her words were addressed to him alone. As al-Jahiz (d. 255/868) explains in his Risalat al-qiyan (“Epistle on Singing Girls”), she “is hardly ever sincere in her passion … for both by training and by innate instinct, her nature is to set up snares and traps for her victims”.48 “When the girl raises her voice in song, the gaze is riveted on her, the hearing is directed attentively to her, and the heart surrenders itself to her sovereignty … From this there arises, together with the feeling of joyous abandon, [an indulgence in] the sense of touch.”49 Thus the girl pleases all the senses, providing “a combination of pleasures such as nothing else on the face of the earth does”.50

If singing-girls in the 5th/11th century were still expected to have “a repertoire of upwards of four thousand songs, each of them two or four verses long”,51 then one can imagine the influence which several hundred of these girls must have exerted on the society of the Languedoc. The talents of these girls were also much appreciated in the courts of Castile, Aragon and Navarre. We know, for example, that Sancho Garcia, Count of Castile (r. 995-1017), received a gift of singing-girls and dancers from the Caliph of Cordoba.52 Even in the 14th century such songs were still enjoyed in Christian Spain. Juan Ruiz, the Archpriest of Hita, informs us that he wrote many songs for Moorish singing-girls and he gives a list of instruments which he considers unsuitable for these songs.53

Having proved that there is no problem with regard to the means of cultural transmission, let us turn to the question of parallel themes. It seems to me that the most important feature of Courtly Love is the lover’s attitude of sub¬ mission. One thinks, for example, of Bemart de Ventadorn:

Bona domna, re deman
Mas que.m prendatz per servidor,
Qu’ servirai com bo senhor,
Cossi que del gazardon m’an.54

(“Good lady, I ask of you nothing more than that you take me as your servant.
I will serve you as I would a good lord, whatever I may receive as the reward.”)

Similarly, Guilhem IX, many of whose poems are scurrilous, asks his beloved to register his name in the charter of her slaves, saying that he will yield to her whatever case she may bring against him.55 Among Arab poets the name of al- £ Abbas b. al-Ahnaf (d. 190/806) immediately springs to mind:

I am your slave, torment me if you will, or whatever you will of me, do it, whatever it is!56

Accept my love, I give it as a gift!
Then reward me with rejection—that is love!
This soul of mine is given to you;
the best gift demands no return.57

It has been said that al-‘Abbas is unique in “his consistent display of the courtly attitude to his Lady.”58 However there were many Hispano-Arab poets, including several caliphs, who expressed the same sentiments. Referring to the example of al-Hakam n, Ibn Hazm wrote:

Submission in love is not odious,
For in love the proud one humbles himself;
Do not be surprised at my docility in my condition,
For before me al-Mustansir has suffered the same lot!59

“Humiliation before the beloved,” said Ibn Dawud (d. 294/907), “is the natural characteristic of a courteous man”. 60 Al-Hakam I (d. 206/822), a contemporary of al-‘Abbas b. al-Ahnaf, wrote:

A king am I, subdued, his power humbled
To love, like a captive in fetters, forlorn!…
Excessive love has made him a slave.
Though before that he was a mighty king!
If he weeps, complains of love, more unjustly
They treat, eschew him, bring him near to death!61

Sulayman al-Mustafin (ruled 400/1009-10, 403/1013-407/1016) also seems
to allude to al- c Abbas in his use of the phrase sultan al-hawa, “the sovereign¬
ty of love”:

Concerning the three beauties [who have conquered my heart], I have men¬
tioned oblivion to love, and love has decreed that its sovereignty [ sultan ]
should be used against mine.

Do not blame a king for prostrating himself in this way before love [ hawa ],
for humiliation in love is a power and a second royalty.62

‘Abd al-Rahman V (r. 414/1023-4), speaking of his marriage to his cousin Habiba, wrote:

I have stipulated as a condition [of marriage] that I shall serve her as a slave and that I have conveyed my soul to her as my dowry.

He also wrote:

I have given her my kingdom, my spirit, my blood and my soul, and there is nothing more precious than the soul.63

Given the conventional image of the Muslim despot and the allegedly abject status of women in Islam, it is amazing that so many of the rulers of Muslim Spain subscribed to this concept of the beloved’s sovereignty, even within the state of marriage. I cannot think of a European king before Wenzel IV of Bohemia in the late 14th century who would speak in this fashion.64

Chaucer was, I believe, the first European writer to attempt to reconcile the courtly idea of the beloved’s sovereignty with married love. In The Franklin’s Tale, Arveragus, a true courtly lover, is reluctant to be his wife’s lord in marriage after serving her with “meke obeysaunce” (1. 739). He therefore swore to do her will and obey her in all things:

And for to lede the moore in blisse hir lyves.
Of his free wyl he swoor hire as a knyght
That nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght,
Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie
Again hir wyl, ne kithe hire jalousie,
But hire obeye, and folwe hir wyl in al,
As any lovere to his lady shal,
Save that the name of soveraynetee,
That wolde he have for shame of his degree. (11.744-752)

Thus Arveragus becomes simultaneously a servant and a lord, “Servant in love, and lord in marriage” (1. 793). The Franklin, who seems to be here expressing Chaucer’s opinion, approves of this solution because, as he says, “Love wol nat been constreyned by maistiye” (1.764). In these lines Chaucer’s direct source could have been Bernart de Ventadorn:

Mas en amor non a om senhoratge,
e qui l’i quer vilanamen domneya,
que re no vol amors qu’esser no deya.65

(“But in love a man has no sovereignty, and if he seeks it there, he woos like a churl, for love desires nothing unseemly.”)

Although Bernart de Ventadom declares that he hopes, by his obedience, to arouse his beloved’s compassion, he stresses the need for mutual consent:

En agradar et en voler
Es F amors de dos fis amans.
Nula res no i pot pro tener
Si.lh voluntatz non es egaus.66

(“In accord and in assent is the love of two noble lovers. Nothing can be of profit in it if the will thereto is not mutual.”)

Closely linked with the theme of submission is the precept of discretion. Just as Arab poets often used the masculine form sayyidi or mawlaya (my lord), corresponding to the Provencal midons, so it was also customary for both Arab and Provencal poets to conceal the beloved’s identity by employing a fictitious name (Arabic kunya, Provencal senhal). Failure to observe this convention could bring dishonour on the lady. Thus ‘Umar b. Abi Rabi’a (ca. 23/643-101/719) wrote:

Zaynab secredy sent a message to say:
you have brought dishonour upon me by uttering my name in the love-prelude [naslb\ instead of my ficdtious name [kunya].
Thus you have profaned our secret.67

Ibn Hazm declares that he would become mad rather than betray the secret
of his beloved’s identity:

They say: “By God, name the one whose love has driven sweet sleep from
Yet I will never do so! Before they obtain what they seek,
I will lose all my wits and face all misfortunes.68

These celebrated lines by Ibn Zaydun (394/1003-463/1071), addressed to the
princess Wallada, might well have been written by a troubadour:

If you wished it we could share something which does not die,
a secret that would remain when all secrets are divulged.
You have sold your share in me, but know that I
would not sell my share in you, even at the price of my life!
Know, may this suffice, that if you burdened my heart
with what other hearts cannot bear, mine would bear it
Be disdainful. I’ll endure it; postpone. I’ll be patient;
be haughty. I’ll be humble;
leave, I’ll follow; speak. I’ll listen; command, I’ll obey.69

In another poem to Wallada, he speaks of his love as an open secret:

We do not name you by reason of our respect and honour [for you]; besides your elevated rank makes it unnecessary to do so.70

Similarly, Muhammad b. al-Haddad (d. 480/1088) addressed some fine poems to a Christian girl, to whom he gave the kunya Nuwayra:

O how carefully do I hide the name of my beloved,
for it is my custom never to pronounce it,
and I never cease, by my enigmas, to make it more obscure.71

Both Arab and Provencal love-poets communicate by means of secret signs, demanding some gesture of recognition or bel accueil, and sometimes, as in Dante’s Vita nuova, using another lady as a screen. Advice of this kind may be found in Ibn Hazm’s treatise on love. Bernart de Ventadom writes:

Parlar degram ab cubertz entresens
E, pus no.ns val arditz, valgues nos gens! …
C’amor pot om e far semblans alhor
E gen mentir lai on non a autor.72

(“We should speak in secret signs and, since boldness avails us not, may guile
avail us! … For one can love and make pretence elsewhere, and smoothly lie
there where there’s no sure proof.”)

In connection with the need for secrecy, one encounters the same dramatis personae in both Arabic and Provencal poetry: the spies or slanderers (Ar. wushat, pi. of washi; Prov. lauzengiers), the guard (Ar. raqib; Prov. gardador), and the jealous persons (Ar. hussad, pi. of hasid; Prov. envejos). But in Arabic poetry and in 15th-century Castilian poetry the chief threat to the lovers’ secret is the lover’s urge to express himself.

In Spanish cancionero poetry there are literally hundreds of poems on the conflict between secrecy and the need for self-expression. One of the best definitions of this secret love is given in Rust’haveli’s The Knight of the Leopard’s Skin (ca. 1196-1207), a Georgian prose adaption of a Persian romance, Wis and Ramin, composed by Gorganl in the middle of the 5th/11th century:

There is a noblest love; it does not show, but hides its woes; the lover thinks
of it when he is alone, and always seeks solitude; his fainting, dying, burning,
flaming, all are from afar; he must face the wrath of his beloved, and he must
be fearful of her.

He must betray his secret to none, he must not basely groan and put his belo¬
ved to shame; in nought should he manifest his love, nowhere must he reveal
it; for her sake he looks upon sorrow as joy, for her sake he would willingly
be burned.73

The meaning of the Provencal concept of joy, which is obviously associated with the later expression gay saber, has been much debated.74 But there could hardly be a better explanation than that which Ibn ‘Arab! gives in his vast mystical work Al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (“The Meccan Revelations”):

If union with the beloved is not personal union, and the beloved is a superior being who imposes obligations on the lover, then the fulfilment of these obligations sometimes takes the place of personal union, producing in him a joy which obliterates the awareness of sorrow from his soul.75

This type of passionate love (‘ishq) is always potentially destructive, because it is a species of melancholy. For this reason we cannot fully understand medieval love-poetry without consulting medieval treatises on medicine, most of which contain a chapter based on Arabic sources, concerning “the malady of love.”76 The paradoxical nature of love was emphasised by Ibn Hazm:

Love, my dear friend, is an incurable disease and in it there is remedy against it, according to the manner of dealing with it; it is a delightful condition and a disease yearned for he who is free from the disease does not like to stay immune, he who suffers from it does not find pleasure in being cured of it; it makes appear beautiful to a man what he has been abstaining from because of shame, and makes appear easy to him what was difficult for him, to the extent of changing inborn characteristics and innate natural traits …

All opposites, as thou dost see,
In him subsist combined;
Then how shall such variety
Of meanings be defined?77

The ennobling influence of suffering and self-restraint was still understood by the Aragonese poet Pedro Manuel Ximenez de Urrea at the end of the 15th century, and it is significant that he uses the Provencal term fino amor:

El amor qu’es fino amor
ningun galarddn procura…
esto sdlo es remediar:
ver que la causa ennoblece
aquella pena que crece. 78

(“Love which is perfect love (fin’amors) does not seek any reward … this
alone is its remedy: to see that the cause [of love] ennobles that growing

Vosotros por bien amar
entendeys la de alcangar
es yerro pensar quitar
los muy devidos dolores. 79

(“You mean, by loving well, attainment; but it is wrong to think of removing
the obligatory sorrows.”)

Of course, by this period, especially in Spain, the language of the court lyric had become more abstract and less explicitly sensual, yet, at the same time, more replete with doubles entendres. The Provengal troubadours dream of contemplating the lady’s naked body, or speak of this as a favour granted. They also speak of being revived by a kiss. But, as a rule, they do not celebrate sexual fulfilment. For example, the Provengal troubadour Guiraut Riquer writes: “I deem myself richly rewarded by the inspiration I owe to the
love I bear my lady, and I ask no love in return … Had she ever granted me her favours, both she and I would have been defiled by the act.”80 In biblical terms the courtly lover is necessarily guilty of adultery on account of his immoderata cogitatione, to use a phrase employed by Andreas Capellanus in his De amore.81 However, his conduct is compatible with chastity ( c afaf) as understood by those Arab poets who regarded themselves as the spiritual successors of Jamil al-‘Udhri. Consider these lines by Ibn Faraj al-Jayyanl (d. 366/976), a confessed admirer of Ibn Dawud al-Isfahani:

Often, when she would submit, it was I who abstained,
and Satan, as a result, was not obeyed.
During the night she revealed her face
and thus the night unveiled its shade.
Not a glance did she cast but it contained
an urge to stir temptations in men’s hearts.
To the custody of my mind I entrusted my desires,
remaining, true to my nature, chaste.
And so I passed the night with her in thirst,
like a camel colt, muzzled, prevented from suckling the breast.
My beloved is a garden where, for the likes of me,
there are only fine sights and scents;
For I am not an abandoned beast, roaming free,
such as would take a garden as a grazing ground.82

Similarly, Abu T-Fadl b. Sharaf wrote:

If I have obtained its fragrance, I have not coveted the favour of tasting it, since love’s garden is composed of flowers without fruit.83

Ibn Sara, who lived in Santaren and died in 517/1123, says in one of his poems that he remained with his beloved until “a dawn like her face” and abstained from her “like a man who is noble, endowed with strength”, adding that “chastity is only a virtue when practised by a person in the fullness of health”.84 For these poets, and also for Ibn Hazm, the union of hearts is considered a thousand times nobler than the mingling of bodies. It is assumed that there is a hierarchy of the senses, with the sense of sight associated with the spirit and the sense of touch associated with matter. Thus, in his treatise on passionate love (‘ishq), Ibn Sina wrote:

If a man loves a beautiful form with an animal desire, he deserves reproof, even
condemnation and the charge of sin, as, for instance, those who commit unnatural
adultery and in general people who go astray. But whenever he loves a pleasing
form with an intellectual consideration, in the manner we have explained, then
this is to be considered an approximation to nobility and an increase in

This distinction between animal desire and ennobling passion, which seems to be based on scientific rather than religious grounds, is analogous to the distinction made by Andreas Capellanus between amor mixtus and amor purus:

This kind [of love, amor purus] consists in the contemplation of the mind and the
affection of the heart; it goes so far as the kiss and the embrace and the modest
contact with the nude lover, omitting the final solace, for that is not permitted to
those who wish to love purely.86

Although, in the Renaissance, the Florentine neo-Platonists studied Plato in the original Greek, their views on this subject are strikingly similar. I am thinking, in particular, of Bembo’s speech in Castiglione’s Il libro del Cortegiano (“The Courtier”) and Ficino’s Commentary on Plato’s Symposium. One should remember, however, that Ficino was a physician familiar with Arab theories concerning the “malady of love”.

These parallels—and I could give countless further examples—should be sufficient to demonstrate that the Provencal troubadours and European poets in general were influenced by Arabic poetry and treatises on love, either directly or indirectly. And here I should emphasise again that, although no early translations of Arabic poetry into any Romance language are extant (except those cited in a commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics),87 there were numerous opportunities for oral transmission. Anyone who still entertains doubts should consult my appendix, in which I quote passages on the affinity
between love and hate and love’s paradoxical effects. Although we do find passages in Ovid on the bitter-sweet nature of love, we do not find anything comparable to Ibn Hazm’s psychological insights.

Appendix on the influence of Ibn Hazm

I. Affinity between love and hate

Opposites are of course likes, in reality; when things reach the limit of contrariety… they come to resemble one another. This is decreed by God s omnipotent power, in a manner which baffles entirely the human imagination. Thus, when ice is pressed a long time in the hand, it finally produces the same effect as fire. We find that extreme joy and extreme sorrow kill equally … Similarly with lovers: when they love each other with an equal ardour … they will turn against one another without any valid reason, each purposely contradicting the other in whatever he may say; they quarrel violently over the smallest things, each picking up every word that the other lets fall and wilfully misinterpreting it All these devices are aimed at testing and proving what each is seeking in the other.

(Ibn Hazm, Tawq al-hamama , written ca. 412/1022, trans. A. J. Arberry, pp. 36-37)

Often bursts of anger arise between lovers in this state, often they start quarrels, and when true grounds of antagonism are not there they invent false ones, often not even
probable. In this condition love often turns to hate, since nothing can satisfy their longing for each other … and in a wondrous, or rather in a wretched way, out of desire springs hate, and out of hate desire … Yet beyond measure, beyond nature even, fire gathers strength in water, in that the flame of love bums more fiercely through their opposition than it could through their being at peace.

(Richard of St Victor, d. 1173, Tractatus de quatuor gradibus violentae charitatis,
quoted from P. Dronke, Medieval Latin, 1,65 n.)

It is well if lovers pretend from time to time to be angry at each other, for if one lets the other see that he is angry and that something has made him indignant with his loved one, he can find out clearly how faithful she is. For a true lover is always in fear and trembling lest the anger of his beloved last for ever, and so, even if one lover does show at times that he is angry at the other without cause, this disturbance will last but a little while if they find that their feeling for each other is really love. You must not think that by quarrels of this kind the bonds of affection and love are weakened; it is only clearing away the rust.

(Andreas Capellanus, writing ca. 1185, De amore, trans. J. J. Parry, pp. 158-59.)

“Before the face of God rapt silence shouts.” Look at other stations, and you will see the same [concord through opposition] there: when lovers fight in quarrels with each other, their peace of spirit grows through that war of words; love is spiced with hate. So too in metaphors: inwardly the words love each other, though on the outside there are enmities. Among the words themselves there is conflict, but the meaning calms all conflict in the words.

(Geoffrey de Vinsauf, writing 1208-1213, Poetria nova , quoted by P. Dronke, “Medi¬
eval rhetoric”, in The Mediaeval World, ed. D. Daiches and A. Thorlby, London,
1973, pp. 334-35.)

“Pero donde yo me llego
todo mal y pena quito;
delos yelos saco fuego …

Assi yo con galardon
muchas vezes mezclo pena,
que en la paz de dissension
entre amantes la quistion
reyntegra la cadena.”

(Rodrigo Cota, writing ca. 1490, “Love’s words”, Dialogo entre el Amory un viejo, in
Cancionero general, ed. Antonio Rodriguez-Monino, Madrid, 1958, fols. 73v-74v.)

2. Love’s paradoxical effects

How often has the miser opened his purse-strings, the scowler relaxed his frown, the coward leapt heroically into the fray, the clod suddenly become sharp-witted, the boor turned into the perfect gentleman, the stinker transformed himself into an elegant dandy, the sloucher smartened up, the decrepit recaptured his lost youth, the godly gone wild, the self-respecting kicked over the traces—all because of love!

(Ibn Hazm, Tawq al-hamama, pp. 34-35.)

Per son joy pot malautz sanar,

E per sa ira sas morir,

E savis horn enfolezir,

E belhs horn sa beutat mudar,

E. 1 plus cortes vilaneiar,

E totz vilas encortezir.

(Guilhem IX, 1071-1127, The Poetry of William VII, Count of Poitiers, IX Duke of Aquitaine, ed. and trans. Gerald A. Bond, New York: Garland 1982, no. 9,11. 25-30,
p. 33.)

Love causes a rough and uncouth man to be distinguished for his handsomeness; it
can endow a man even of the humblest birth with nobility of character; it blesses the
proud with humility; and the man in love becomes accustomed to performing many
services gracefully for everyone. O what a wonderful thing is love, which makes a
man shine with so many virtues and teaches everyone, no matter who he is, so many
good traits of character!

(Andreas Capellanus, De amore, written ca. 1185, trans. J. J. Parry, p. 31)

Ancaras trob mais de ben en Amor,

Que.l vil fai car e.l nesci gen de parlan,

E 1’escars larc, e leial lo truan,

E.l fol savi, e.l. pec conoissedor;

E. l’orgoillos domesga et homelia;

E fai de dos cors un, tan ferm los lia.

Per c’om non deu ad Amor contradir,

Pois tant gen sap esmendar e fenir.

(Aimeric de Peguilhan, d. 1230, The Poems, ed. William P. Shepard and Frank M.
Chambers, Evanston, Illonois.: Northwestern University Press, 1950, no. 15,11. 17-
24, pp. 101-03.)

Muchas noblezas ha en el que a dueiias sirve:
lo?ano, fablador, en ser franco se abive;
en servir a las duenas el bueno non se esquive,
que si much trabaja, en mucho plazer bive.

El amor faz ’sotil al omne que es rudo;
fazele fablar fermoso al que antes es mudo;
al omne que es covarde fazelo muy atrevudo;
al perezoso faze ser presto e agudo.

Al mancebo mantiene mucho en mancebez,
e al viejo faz ’perder mucho la vejez;
faze bianco e fermoso del negro como pez:
lo que non vale una nuez amor le da gran prez.

(Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita, writing ca. 1330, Libro de Buen Amor, ed. and trans.
Raymond S. Willis, Princeton: University Press, 1972, sts 155-57, pp. 50-51.)

And considering the effect and essence of the said science, which is known by one of
love’s terms as the Joyous or Gay Science and by another as the Science of
Invention; that science which, shining with the most pure, honourable and courtly
eloquence, civilises the learned, trims the hirsute, discloses hidden things, sheds light
and purges the senses … nurturing the old men, … it sustains them as though in the
freshness of their youth.

(Document issued by Joan I of Aragon, 20 February 1393, establishing the Festival
of the Gay Science; see Roger Boase, The Troubadour Revival, London: RKP, 1979,
p. 130.)

“Al rudo hago discrete,
al grossero muy polido,
desembuelto al encogido,
y al invirtuoso neto;
al covarde, esforgado,

escasso, al liberal,
bien regido, al destemplado,
muy cortes y mesurado
al que no suele ser tal.”

(Rodrigo Cota, writing ca. 1490, Dialogo entre el Amor y un viejo, in Cancionero
general , fol. 73v.)

Aun podemos en otra manera dezir que las saetas que fazen amar sean de oro, por
quanto, segun los vulgares piensan, el amor mueve alos mancebos a alguna claridad
de nobleza y de virtud humanal, aunque no divinal, ca son algunos mancebos, torpes,
perezosos, no despiertos para actos de proeza, tristes en si mismos, o no alegres, pes-
ados, no curantes de si mismos, agora sean apuestos, agora incompuestos, callados,
no gastadores o destribuydores segun alguna liberalidad; al amor les haze tomar
todas las contrarias condiciones … todos los amadores curan andar alegres, y limpios,
y apuestos, y conversan con las gentes, y distribuyen, y donan algo, como todo esto
requiera el amor. Esto fara todo hombre que amare, aun que su natural condition sea
melancolica, triste, pensosa y apartada, sin fabla, sin compostura, sin conversation, y
escassa o avarienta, porque no es possible en otra manera amar y mostrarse amador.

(Alfonso de Madrigal, El Tostado, d. 1455, Libro de las diez questiones vulgares,
fol. 35v.)

Clau. Que tan bien os parecen las mugeres?

Amin. Nasci d’ellas, y que donde ellas no andan ni hay alegria ni descanso ni perfeto
gozo ni contentamiento, y por el contrario, el favor de la hembra da esfuerjo al
cobarde, y haze al [perezoso] despierto, y al tartamudo elocuente, y al nescio discre¬
te, y al parlero templado. Y al grosero haze polido, y al bovo prudente, y del rudo
avisado, y del descuidado toma diligente, y del liberal prodigo y del avaro liberal. Y
al desabrido toma de dulce conversation, y del mudo toma parlero, y del cobarde
haze esforpado, y del mal christiano toma y haze religioso, compeliendo all hombre a
que ni pierda missa ni biesperas ni cumpletas.

(Anon., La comedia Thebaida, Valencia, 1521, ed. G.D. Trotter and K. Whinnom,
London: Tamesis, 1969, p. 180).

1 Maria Rosa Menocal, “Close Encounters in Medieval Provence: Spain’s Role in the Birth
of Troubadour Poetry”, Hispanic Review, 49,1981, p. 51.

2 The phrase was coined by Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask, London, 1953, pp. 541-43.

3 L’Amour et l’Occident, trans. Montgomery Belgion, London, 1956, pp. 106-07.

4 Histoire generate et systeme compare des langues semitiques, 4th rev. ed., Paris, 1863, p. 397. Here and elsewhere, my translation unless otherwise indicated.

5 Recherches sur l’histoire et la litterature des musulmans d’Espagne au moyen age, Leiden, 1849, p.611.

6 La Poesie des troubadours, 1934, I, 75, n. 2., cited by Maria Rosa Menocal, “The Ety¬
mology of Old Provenjal trobar, trobador: A Return to the ‘Third Solution’”, Romance Philology, 36, 1982-83, pp. 137-53.

7 Hispano-Arabic Strophic Poetry, ed. L.P. Harvey, Oxford, 1974, pp. 216-17,220.

8 Ibid., p. 216.

9 The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage, Philadelphia, 1987,

p. 16.

10 The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love: A Critical Study of European Scholarship,
Manchester, 1977, pp. 129-30.

11 The adjective “courtly” was rarely applied to love in this way by medieval poets, but the expression is appropriate because it indicates both the ethic of courtliness and the milieu in which the convention flourished; see Boase, Origin and Meaning, p. 4, n. 1.

12 The Meaning of Courtly Love, ed. Newman, Albany, 1968, p. vii.

13 It was partially edited by A. R. Nykl, Chicago, 1932. For this and many similar works, see Lois Anita Giffen, Theory of Profane Love Among the Arabs: The Development of the Genre, New York, 1971, and Joseph Normant Bell, Love Theory in Later Hanbalite Islam, Albany, 1979.

14 Trans. A. R. Nykl, A Book Containing the Risala Known as the Dove’s Neck-Ring about
Love and Lovers, Paris, 1931.

15 Dronke, Oxford, 1965,1966,2 vols.

16 Op. cit., p. 588.

17 pile Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, Oxford, 1936, p. 4.

18 “H modo de descrivere loro amore fu novo, diverso de quel de antichi Latini; questi senza respecto, senza reverentia, senza timore de infamare sua donna apertamente scrivevano”, Libro de natura de amore, Venice, 1525, fol. 194r.

19 Alan M. Boase, The Poetry of France, I, London, 1964, p. xx.

20 Ibid., p. 22.

21 Op. cit., 1,56.

22 The Cultural Barrier: Problems in the Exchange of Ideas, Edinburgh, 1975. He remarks
that “what was taken was always either culturally common or culturally neutral” (p. 177); “The exact part played by Arab literary practice in Provencal poetry and in the conventions of courtly love is still controversial; but it seems that much original stimulus came from the Moors; macaronic Arab and Romance love songs unequivocally indicate a common world of singing girls” (p. 176).

23 Published Cambridge (England), 1975.

24 For example, in the eyes of the Castilian epic hero, El Cid, the troops of Ramon Berenguer were over-effete in their dress and riding equipment; The Poem of the Cid, ed. Ian Michael, Manchester, 1975,11. 992-95.

23 Ed. and trans. John England, Warminster, 1987, No. 25, pp. 156-67. The moral of the story is that virtue is more important than either lineage or wealth, a question much discussed by the Provensal troubadours; see Erich Kohler, “Observations historiques et sociologiques sur la poesie des troubadours”, Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale, 7,1964, pp. 27-51.

26 Henri Peres, La Poesie andalouse en arabe classique au XIe siicle, trans. Mercedes Garcia Arenal, Esplendor de al-Andalus, Madrid, 1983, p. 385, n. 128.

27 A. R. Nykl, Hispano-Arabic Poetry and its Relations with the Old Provengal Troubadours, Baltimore, 1946, p. 21.

28 Pdr&s, op. cit., p. 413.

29 Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000, London, 1983, pp.
174, 251; cf. Bernhard and Ellen M. Whishaw, Arabic Spain: Sidelights on her History and Art, London, 1912, p. 79.

30 Collins, op. cit., p. 266.

31 See Ibn Hazm’s list of the Cordoban caliphs renowned as lovers: ‘Abd al-Rahman I, al-
Hakam I, ‘Abd al-Rahman n, Muhammad I and al-Hakam II, Tawq, trans. Emilio Garcia
Gomez, El collar de la paloma: tratado sobre el amor y los amantes, Madrid, 1952, p. 74. Al-Mansur also seems to have been infatuated by Subh. This would explain why he ordered a slave-girl to be killed for singing a song about her by one of her admirers (ibid., p. 125).

32 Collins, op. cit., pp. 199-200.

33 Ramdn Menendez Pidal, Historia y epopeya, Madrid, 1934, pp. 18-21.

34 Hispano-Arabic Poetry, pp. 24-26.

35 Reinhardt Dozy, Spanish Islam: A History of the Moslems in Spain, trans. Francis Griffin Stokes, London, 1988, pp. 677-81.

36 Peres, op. cit., p. 382.

37 Ibid., p. 428.

38 Colin Smith, Christians and Moors in Spain. I: 711-1150, Warminster, 1988, chap. 883 of Alfonso X’s Estoria de Espaha, pp. 104-07. The epitaph on her tombstone states that she was Alfonso’s wife and al-Mu’tamid’s daughter: “H.R. Regina Elisabet uxor Regis Alfonsi; filia Benavet Regis Sibiliae; quae prius Zayda fait vocata”; see Whishaw, Arabic Spain, p. 255.

39 “Se enamord dell; et non de uista ca nunqual uiera, mas de la su buena fama et del su buen prez que cresjie cada dfa”. Smith, Christians and Moors, I, 104. She owned the castles of Cuenca, Ocafia, Uclds and Consuegra, but was obviously in need of a protector.

40 Trans. Garci’a-Gomez, p. 98.

41 See Leo Spitzer, L’Amour lointain de Jaufre Rudel et le sens de la poesie des troubadours. Chapel Hill, 1944. This theme is also found in early Sicilian poetry by Iacopo da Lentini and others.

42 R. Dozy, Spanish Islam: A History of the Muslims in Spain, trans. Francis Griffin Stokes, London, 1988, p. 657.

43 Smith, op. cit., I, 84.

44 Dozy, Spanish Islam, p. 658.

45 Reinhardt Dozy, Recherches sur I’histoire et la litterature de I’Espagne pendant le moyen age , 3rd rev. ed., Amsterdam, 1965, n, 345-48. According to Yaqut’s Geographical Dictionary the booty included 7000 young girls, later offered to the ruler of Constantinople.

46 Angus MacKay, Spain in the Middle Ages: From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500, London,
1977, p. 93.

47 See Carlos Alvar, La poesia trovadoresca en Espaha y Portugal, Madrid-Barcelona, 1977.

48 Ed. and trans. A.F.L. Beeston, Warminster, 1980, pp. 31-32.

49 Ibid., p. 31.

50 Ibid., pp. 30-31

51 Ibid., p. 35

52 Ramdn Menendez Pidal, Poesia arabe y poesia europea, Madrid, 1941, p. 33.

53 Libro de Buen Amor, ed. Raymond S. Willis, Princeton, 1972, sts. 1513-17, p. 406; Juan
Ruiz also uses many Arabic words, as in sts. 1509-12.

54 Chansons d’amour, ed. Moshd Lazar, Paris, 1966, No. 1,11.49-52.

55 Martin de Riquer, Los trovadores: Historia literaria y textos, Barcelona, 1975,1,125.

56 Dronke, Medieval Latin, I, 21, from J. Hell, ‘“Al-‘Abbas ibn al-Ahnaf’, Islamica, 2, 1926,
pp. 271-307.

57 Ibid., p. 21.

58 Hilary Kilpatrick, “Selection and Presentation as Distinctive Characteristics of Mediaeval Arabic Courtly Prose Literature”, Courtly Literature: Culture and Context, ed. Keith Busby and Erik Kooper, Amsterdam, 1990, p. 338.

59 Tawq, trans. Nykl, p. 62.

60 Ibid., p. cv.

61 Nykl, Hispanic-Arabic Poetry, p. 20.

62 Pdres, op. cit., p. 422.

63 Ibid., p. 413.

64 King Wenceslaus celebrated his love for Sophia Euphemia, his own wife, in a most extraordinary way—by having himself depicted as a wild man enthralled by a glamorous damsel from the bath house with a bucket and broom: see Josef Krfca, Die Handschriften Konig Wenzels, Prague, 1971, plate 13 opposite p. 40, p. 88, and elsewhere.

65 Ed. Lazar, No. 7,11.15-17.

66 Ibid., No. 2,11.29-32.

67 See Jean Claude Vadet, L’Esprit courtois en Orient dans les cinq premiers sticles de
THegire, Paris, 1968, p. 126.

68 Tawq, trans. Arberry, The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab
Love, London, 1953, p. 174.

69 Pdres, op. cit., p. 413.

70 Nuniyya, I, 33, in ibid., p. 418.

71 Ibid.

72 Ed. Lazar, No. 20,11.47-48,53-54.

73 Bernard O’Donoghue, The Courtly Love Tradition, Manchester, 1982, p. 80. This work is obviously influenced by Arabic models, such as the story of Qays Majniin (the “Mad One”) or that of Jamil and Buthaynah. Note: “In the Arabic tongue they call the lover ‘madman’, because by non-fruition he loses his wits.” (Ibid., p. 79).

74 See Charles Camproux, Joy d’amor des troubadours (Jeu et joie d’amour), Montpellier,
1965, and A.J. Denomy, “Jois among the early Troubadours. Its meaning and possible source”.

Mediaeval Studies, 13, 1951, pp. 177-217. Since tarab is the special Arabic word used to describe the rapture produced by music and passionate love-service, it is not surprising to find the same association of ideas among poets known as “troubadours”, a word derived from the same Arabic root

75 Miguel Asm Palacios, El Islam cristianizado, Madrid, 1931, p. 501. Sufis such as Ibn
‘Arab! drew upon the psychology of ‘ishq and the tradition of c uuhri love to explain their spiritual states, a procedure adopted by Ramon LIull in his Llibre d’Antic e Amat : see Brian Dutton, “Hurt y Midons: el amor cortes y el paraiso musulm&n”, Filologla, 13,1968-69, pp. 151-64.

76 The contradictory and erotic effects of an excess of black bile were described by Aristotle in his Problemata physica , but the theory of melancholy was greatly expanded by Arab physicians who often rejected Aristotle’s materialism, stressing the influence of mind over matter.
Ishaq b. ‘Amran (executed in the early 4th/10th century) seems to have been one of the first to mention the contradictory symptoms of melancholy repeated by Ibn Hazm (see Appendix), and his words were cited by Constantinus Africanus, Opera, Bale, 1536,1, 288: see Boase, Origin and Meaning, pp. 67-68.

77 Tawq, trans. Arberry, p. 30.

78 Cancionero, Logrono, 1513, fol. 40r.

77 Ibid., fol. 38v.

80 Robert S. Briffault, The Troubadours, Bloomington, 1965, pp. 151-52.

81 Henri Davenson, Les Troubadours, Paris, 1961, p. 151.

82 Ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi, El libro de las banderas de los campeones, ed. and trans. Emilio
Garcia G6mez, Madrid, 1942, No. 91, pp. 72-73. Cf. The Bannners of the Champions: An
Anthology of Medieval Arabic Poetry from Andalusia and Beyond, trans. James A. Bellamy and Patricia Owen Steiner, Madison, 1989, p. 187, and my foreword, pp. v-viii.

83 Peres, op. cit., p. 425.

84 Ibid., p. 426.

85 “A Treatise on Love, by Ibn Sina” [Risala fi ’l-‘inhq], trans. Emil L. Fackenheim,
Mediaeval Studies, 7,1945, p. 221.

86 The Art of Courtly Love (De amore), trans. John Jay Parry, New York, 1941, p. 122. Of
course it is now generally agreed that Andreas is basically misogynistic and his work can by no means be taken as “the bible of courtly love”. Nonetheless it contains ideas disseminated from Muslim Spain.

87 Ibn Rushd completed his commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics about the year 575/1180. It
was translated into Latin in Toledo in 1256 by Hermannus Alemmanus and this text was probably the source of Petrarch’s unflattering remarks about Arabic poetry; see C. H. G. Bodenham, ‘Tetrarch and the Poetry of the Arabs”, Romanische Forschungen, 94,1982, pp. 167-78.

The above essay by Roger Boas from the Public Domain work The Legacy Of Muslim Spainby Salma Khadra Jayyusi.

How to feign neoteny: an instruction manual for women


The following instruction video from the Fascinating Womanhood Movement teaches women how to feign neoteny to get their own way with husbands. (1.37 to 2.33):

The practice is elaborated in greater depth in the 1965 volume Fascinating Womanhood which gives instruction for women in feigning “childlikeness.” Click on the link below to read an excerpt:

Childlekeness teaching for women

Cosechando la Mirada Masculina


Todos sabemos sobre la mirada masculina y la resultante sexualización del cuerpo femenino. La acusación estándar es que nosotros los hombres estamos escaneando nuestro ambiente por mujeres pasivas para pervertir, un acto que reduce a las mujeres de seres humanos complejos a simples objetos sexuales para nuestro placer. La siguiente definición del Diccionario de Referencias de Oxford representa la visión usual de que la mirada masculina, o al menos la que promueven activamente las feministas:

Mirada Masculina

1. Una manea de tratar a los cuerpos de las mujeres para ser observados, lo cual es asociado por feministas con la masculinidad hegemónica, en la vida diaria en cada interacción social y en relación con su representación visual en los medios: [vea también cosificación].

Lo que se destaca de estas definiciones de la mirada masculina es la agencia de los hombres: los hombres “tratan” a los cuerpos de las mujeres, “observan”, los cuerpos de las mujeres, y instauran “heremonía” sobre los cuerpos de las mujeres – una cosa impensable que le quita a las mujeres agencia de acuerdo a la crítica de cine feminista que creó la expresión “la mirada masculina”1

Pero de ser así, las mujeres siempre son las víctimas pasivas de las miradas violadoras, ¿o están jugando una parte en  provocar a esas miradas en los hombres? ¿Podría ser que ellas son agentes provocadoras en un juego que inician y en gran medida controlan? Yo creo que la mayoría de la gente, al menos aquellos que no viven en negación, saben la respuesta a esa pregunta es un gran si.

Las horas y años gastados probándose ropas diferentes, y ensallando posturas o gestos de las manos en frente de un espejo – tocándose la cara, poniéndolas en sus caderas o en sus labios o ligeramente arriba de sus senos; o practicando gestos faciales – las sonrisas, los labios apretados, inclinar la cabeza, tocarse el pelo y las miradas, todo diseñado para cosechar la mirada de blancos hombres quienes no sospechan nada.

¿Podría ser que a través de un repertorio altamente cultivado de gestos y poses de mujeres poseen una agencia enorme y que los hombres sirven como blancos pasivos con poca agencia aparte de reacciones sin procesar?

Ya sea el caso de que primero necesitamos deshacernos del mito de que las mujeres son víctimas de este juego tan viejo, para lo cual voy a dar unas técnicas para cosechar la mirada masculina empleadas por las mujeres, una lista que puede fácilmente ser expandida al añadir sus propias observaciones sobre trucos de cosecha.

A continuación aquí hay algunas técnicas que las mujeres habitualmente usan para cosechar una reacción en movimiento, cada una envuelve a una mujer actuando y a veces agresivamente al ponerse en el rango de tus sentidos:

Giro y Giro

La mejor forma de describir esto es un giro del cuerpo en forma gentil de lado a lado, con frecuencia con las manos juntas en frente, para dar una imagen de exuberancia infantil como niñas pequeñas. A pesar de que esto parece ser un comportamiento apropiado para niñas de cinco años, el giro y giro no es algo para cosechar la mirada femenina – ella emplea esto para interrumpir el campo de la mirada masculina con un movimiento repentino, un gesto suficiente para ganar su atención y le permiten “escanear” su cuerpo.

El Bloqueo

Esto sucede cuando eres el blanco de una mujer quien quiere que tú te tomes tu tiempo para absorber su presencia. Ella va a pararse en una puerta, en medio del camino, o en un pasillo en una tienda a veces alludad por un carrito de compra el cual ella deja puesto estratégicamente en el pasillo. Si se hace bien, esto te fuerza a interactuar: “Disculpe yo moveré su carrito de modo que yo pueda pasar,” para lo cual ella responde “Oh, lo lamento,” mientras te muestra sus partes más atractivas – su vestido favorito, su cabello bien lavado, o la sonrisa por la cual ella fue famosa en el colegio.

El Asalto de Color

La práctica de usar colores que atraen la mirada es una técnica favorita, con el mensaje inequívoco de ¡VAS A MIRARME! Se fueron los colores pastel del año pasado, y entran los colores llamativos y directos diseñados para atraer la atención quien entra en el cuarto o cuando camina por la calle. Y no es sólo la ropa – la práctica se extiende al color del pelo, sombrero, , chal y bufanda se han vuelto igualmente llamativas, con las usuarias conformándose con nada menos que molestar a todos los ojos en el sector.

La Exclamación

La exclamación es usada en el momento en el cual en que un blanco masculino llega al alcance de su oído, y con frecuencia se usa en la forma de una pequeña muestra de sorpresa; “¡Oh, casi me desmallo!” declara una mujer al aire, o “Dios mío hoy hace calor” con la esperanza de que un total desconocido empiece a mirar en la dirección de la voz y, con suerte, siga con la conversación.

La exclamación también puede aparecer como un hablar en voz baja sobre algo en el momento preciso. Esta es una técnica favorita  y es normalmente usada en la forma de una pregunta o una declaración que necesite una respuesta, tal como cuando ella está cerca de la oreja del hombre correcto en un pasillo de una tienda y con frustración murmulla supuestamente para ella, “No puedo encontrar la lata de espagueti, ¿las habrán cambiado de lugar?” o “¡Espero que hoy tengan pan fresco!” de modo que el hombre que pasa por ahí escuche y se sienta motivado a responder.

Caminata de Mírame:

Caminar hermosamente, proyectando una imagen de autosuficiencia con una mirada de yo-no-necesito-un-hombre, la caminante ha dominado el arte de aparentar estar desinteresada en la atención de los demás, mientras hace una demostración física de brazos que se columpian, tacones que suenan fuerte, una vestimenta que atrae la atención y un mentón-en-el-aire que hace que los hombres la miren una segunda vez. Esta rutina generalmente hecha en un distrito de negocios donde ella asiduamente escanea las ventanas de las tiendas para capturar todas las miradas masculinas reflejadas que su caminata empoderada sueña capturar. Su habilidad para usar las ventanas de las tiendas para mirarse a si misma y las caras reflejadas de aquellos que la miran se ha convertido en un arte que le permite mirar a los costados y no caerse cuando tiene poca atención en el camino.

El Incremento de Volumen

Esta técnica cosechadora de mirada sucede cuando estás caminando hacia una mujer que sucede ser una de las chicas quienes desean que tu mirada se dirija a ellas como un láser de un rifle de francotirador, ella de repente sube el volumen de la conversación que está teniendo, o se ríe muy muy fuerte, con frecuencia causando la sorpresa de su amiga quien no ha visto el propósito de esto. Tan ridículo como esto aparente ser a su amiga, ella sin embargo ha tenido éxito en atraer esos ojos de miradas sucias incluso si un tipo que está simplemente caminando se sintió atraído hacia el ruido repentino.

El Accesorio

Las mujeres utilizan accesorios para llamar la atención – un perro, un bolso, un niño o lo que sea que esté a la mano. El bolso se puede balancear o revisarlo en forma tal que capture la atención de la persona más ciega en la habitación. De la misma forma, los niños pueden ser, consentidos o castigados justo cuando un hombre camina cerca, en ese momento la madre dice “Que ese hombre tan lindo no te vea comiendo dulces” o “No te pongas en el camino de ese hombre tan lindo o te vas a lastimar.”

Algunas mujeres declaran que la mejor forma de conocer a un hombre es comprar un perro y llevarlo a una caminata, donde vas a conocer a un hombre guapo ya quien está paseando a su perro o tal vez está caminando sólo. Si se hace bien, ella sabe que su perro va a seguir la tentación irresistible de interactuar con el perro del hombre, y tiene el bono que las correas podrían enredarse. En esta escena ella gana los ojos de él, y con suerte su conversación… ¿Se van a casar?


Las mujeres son particularmente adeptas en usar movimientos físicos para ganar la mirada masculina. Los muchos movimientos y las posturas de los brazos, la mano puesta en el lugar estratégico del pecho, del muslo, del estómago y las puntas de los dedos extendidas para tocar varias partes del cuerpo o de la cara – el mentón, los labios, el escote. O consideren peinar, mover, o hacer rulos con el pelo, y los movimientos delicados, las miradas de los ojos, todo diseñado para forzar una interacción por parte del cosechado.

El Inclinarse

Lo que Sheryl Sandberg no ha admitido es que las mujeres se han estado inclinando durante milenios – con su escote. Ellas hacen esto por las mismas razones por las que Sandberg declara – para obtener un aumento de sueldo, una promoción, más dinero, estatus y matrimonio. Tal vez lo que Sandberg entiende inconscientemente al usar esa expresión-inclinarse – el viejo truco de mostrarle los senos. ¿A qué otra cosa se refiere con “inclinarse”?

Sin embargo, no sólo sucede en la reunión de trabajo o en la entrevista de contratación con el oficial de Recursos Humanos. Igualmente sucede en el bar, en el gimnasio, en el concierto y en el Mall, lugares donde las mujeres puden obtener in aumento sin siquiera pedir uno, al menos no pedirlo en forma verbal. Todo lo que tiene que hacer es inclinarse para obtener la atención que ella quiere.


¿Notaste algo sobre estas técnicas? Son las mismas usadas por quienes trabajan en ventas, como las que usan los que venden productos en un Mall, quienes rebotan en una cama rebotadora, giran una pluma o bailan mientras el comprador inocente en su dirección sólo para ser asaltado por un show de colores y movimiento. Pero en lugar de vender un producto, la mujer que cosecha la mirada quiere que tú la desvistas con tu mirada, una señal de que las técnicas tienen poder sobre tí para que ella pueda obtener ganancias narcisistas o materiales.

La próxima vez que te encuentres en esa situación, intenta agarrar un poco de agencia verdadera para mirar hacia otro lado de la cosechadora y disfruta de la comedia ya que ella se enfurece de que tú te rehúses y ella va a intentar salvar su esfuerzo fallido con más fuerza, velocidad, y en una forma más obstruyente.

Verás, la verdadera falta de agencia aparece cuando los sentidos de un hombre son violado por una llegada de estímulos sensoriales, un bombardeo que llega de los planes egoístas de alguien sobre lo que tú deberías estar mirando.


[1] Laura Mulvey is credited with coining the phrase ‘The Male Gaze’ in her 1975 article Visual pleasure and narrative cinema.


¿Qué Le Pasó a la Caballerosidad?


Tengo una alerta de Google para la palabra caballerosidad, y no pasa un día en que no reciba varios artículos sobre ese tópico. Estos artículos aparecen ligeramente sesgados hacia el tema de “la caballerosidad está muerta en los hombres”, seguidos de un número razonable de otros que dicen que “la caballerosidad está viva y bien” – los últimos son porque hay algún hombre, en alguna parte, arriesgó su vida, sus extremidades o dinero para servir al bienestar inmediato de una mujer.

Estén seguros de que la caballerosidad mostrada por hombres individuales está en declive, y las mujeres, los hombres el gobierno y los medios de prensa denuncia esta devolución con una sola voz: Los hombres se están convirtiendo en cerdos egoístas. los MRAs y los MGTOW elijen sumariarlo en forma diferente: los hombres están cansados de ser explotados y han elegido remover el desinterés innecesario.

La caballerosidad está documentada en manuales de etiqueta de siglos pasados explicando cómo un hombre debe sacarse su sombrero en presencia de una mujer, tomar su mano, abrir puertas, comprarle regalos y ayudarla en una multitud de formas. El mensaje es que estos gestos de deferencia a la superioridad de las mujeres:

“Si ves a una dama a quien no conozcas, que esté sin atención y quien desee la ayuda de un hombre, ofrécele tus servicios inmediatamente. Hazlo con gran cortesía, quitándote su sombrero y suplicando por el honor de ayudarla.” [Gynocentric etiquette for men – 1847]

“En el curso familiar de una sociedad, un hombre bien criado va a ser conocido por la delicadeza y deferencia con la cual se comporta con las mujeres. Que un hombre merezca ser mirado como alguien muy deficiente en cuanto a respeto, quien tome ventaja física de algún miembro del sexo débil, o quien ofrezca algún desliz hacia ella. Las mujeres buscan con razón, la protección de un hombre. Es la providencia del marido proteger a su esposa de cualquier herida; del padre proteger a su hija; del hermano tiene el mismo deber hacia su hermana; y en general, cada hombre debería, en este sentido, ser el campeón y amar a cada mujer. No sólo él debería estar listo para proteger, sino que debe estar deseoso de complacer y estar dispuesto a sacrificar gran parte de su comodidad personal si al hacerlo él puede incrementar la comodidad de cualquier mujer que se encuentre en su compañía. Poniendo estos principios en práctica, un hombre bien criado, en su propia casa, va a ser amable y respetuoso de su comportamiento con cada mujer en su familia. Él no va a usar lenguaje soez incluso si es para expresar insatisfacción sobre la conducta de ellas. Durante la conversación, él se va a abstener de cualquier tipo de alusión que sonroje la modestia. Él va, tanto como pueda, ayudar al trabajo de ella con asistencia voluntaria y alegre. Él va a conceder a ellas cada pequeña ventaja que pueda ocurrir en la vida doméstica:- el asiento más cómodo, si hay una diferencia; él lugar más cómodo cerca de la fogata en invierno;  y cosas así.” [Gynocentric etiquette for men – 1847]

“Siempre debes de tener en cuenta el supuesto de que la superioridad social de la mujer yace en la raíz de estas reglas de conducta.” [Gynocentric etiquette for men – 1847]

Una razón para el declive de la caballerosidad masculina es que la recompensa se desvaneció. Las mujeres ya no reciprocan la caballerosidad vía gestos anticuados como cocinar, limpiar la casa, alabar y mostrar afecto, cosas que podrían haber ocurrido en la era de los comentarios que he mostrado. Hoy ni siquiera reciben el gracias… ¿alguien se pregunta el por qué los hombres ven a la caballerosidad como un mal trato? La comida, las flores, ser un esclavo en el trabajo, la deferencia es mejor gastada en uno mismo.

A pesar de que la preocupación sobre el declive de la caballerosidad, las mujeres parecen estar haciéndolo muy bien ellas solas: están bien provistas de bienes materiales, muestran cada vez más libertad corporal y orgullo por sus cuerpos y su entrada en la fuerza laboral y las carreras es algo sin precedente. La sociedad continúa consintiéndolas como siempre – o a veces más.

Lo que uno podría preguntarse sobre este hecho es que si la caballerosidad meramente da la apariencia de estar en declive ¿y si las mujeres la están recibiendo de otra fuente? Mi observación – obvia para muchos en este movimiento es que han logrado una nueva y rica fuente de caballerosidad.

Del Esposo Sam al Tío Sam

Este es el titular de un capítulo del libro del Dr Warren Farrell, el Mito del Poder Masculino, donde él describe como los hombres se han esforzado tradicionalmente para que el gobierno, centrado en las mujeres, actúe como agentes proxy en la esfera política. Este comportamiento, explica Farrell, está basado en la tradición caballerosa de que los hombres sirvan a las necesidades de las mujeres. El siguiente pasaje del libro de Farrell, explica este fenómeno:

“¿Acaso el hecho de que la mayoría de los legisladores sean hombres prueba de que los hombres están a cargo y pueden elegir si y cuando proteger los intereses de las mujeres? En teoría, si. Pero hablando en la práctica del sistema legal americano no puede ser separado del votante. Y en las elecciones presidenciales de 1992, el 54 por ciento de los votantes eran mujeres, el 46 por ciento eran hombres. (las mujeres que votan superan a los hombres por más de 7 millones). En general, un legislador es para un votante lo que un chofer es para un jefe – ambos dan la apariencia de estar a cargo pero ambos pueden ser despedidos si no van a donde se les dice. Cuando los legisladores no dan la apariencia de proteger a las mujeres, es casi siempre porque las mujeres difieren en cuanto a lo que constituye protección. (Por ejemplo, las mujeres votaron casi igualmente por Republicanos y Demócratas durante la combinación de las cuatro elecciones previas a Clinton).”

El Gobierno como Esposo Substituto hico para las mujeres lo que los sindicatos aún no han logrado para los hombres. Y los hombres pagan el precio por los sindicatos; los contribuyentes pagan el precio por el feminismo. El feminismo y el gobierno pronto se convertirán en sindicatos pagados para las mujeres. Los partidos políticos se han convertido en dos padres en una batalla por la custodia, cada uno compitiendo por el amor de su hija al prometerle hacer más cosas por ella. ¿Qué tan destructivo es esto para las mujeres? Hemos restringido a los humanos de darle comida “gratis” a los delfines y osos porque sabemos que semejante alimentación los haría dependientes y los llevaría a su extinción. Pero cuando se trata de nuestra propia especia, tenemos dificultad al ver la conexión entre gentileza al corto plazo y crueldad al largo plazo: le damos dinero a las mujeres para que tengan más niños, haciéndolas más dependientes con cada niño y las desinsentivamos para que desarrollen las herramientas para que se mantengan solas. La verdadera discriminación contra las mujeres es “comida gratis”.

Irónicamente, cuando los partidos políticos o padres compiten por el amor de las mujeres al competir por darles cariño, el resultado no es gratitud sino que se crean con derecho a más. Y el resultado no va a ser gratitud, porque el partido político, al igual que el padre necesitado se vuelve inconscientemente dependiente de mantener a la mujer dependiente. Lo cual convierte a la mujer en “el otro” – la persona al a cual le dan, no participación igualitaria. En el proceso, falla en hacer el trabajo de cada padre y cada partido político – criar a un adulto y no mantener a una niña.

Pero aquí está el problema. Cuando una niña que se cree con derecho a privilegios tiene la mayoría de los votos, el problema ya no es si hay un patriarcado o un matriarcado – tenemos un victimarcado. Y las mujeres-como-niñas quienes genuinamente se sienten como víctimas porque nunca aprenden a obtener todo por sí mismas aprenden a esperar que se los den. Bueno, ella aprende a obtenerlo por ella misma al decir “es el derecho de una mujer” – pero ella no siente la maestría que se genera de una vida de hacer las cosas por sí sola. E incluso cuando una cuota incluye a ella en el proceso de tomar una decisión, ella sigue estando enojada con el “gobierno dominado por hombres” porque ella siente que la condescendencia de haberle dado “igualdad” y la contradicción de que le dieron igualdad. Ella es todavía “el otro”. Entonces, con la mayoría de los votos, ella está controlando el sistema y al mismo tiempo está enojada con el sistema”. [The Myth of Male Power]

¿Necesitamos todavía más evidencia de “qué le pasó a la caballerosidad”? No sólo tenemos políticos quienes se han apoderado de la satisfacción caballerosa de las damas, parece ser que la izquierda y también la derecha política están compitiendo por el privilegio de servirlas. Esto lo puedo entender…¿ de qué otra forma los elijen?


John Stuart Mill, un campeón del feminismo, motivó a cambiar la responsabilidad de la caballerosidad de las manos de cada hombre hacia las manos del marco legislativo del gobierno, argumentando que la caballerosidad no es siempre confiable y que debe dar cabida a algo más confiable, protección forzada por el estado y benevolencia hacia las mujeres. Él escribe:

“Desde la combinación de dos tipos de influencia moral ejercida por mujeres, nació el espíritu de la caballerosidad: la peculiaridad que está apuntada a los más estándares de características de guerra con la cultivación de unas virtudes totalmente diferentes – las de gentileza, generosidad y abnegación motivada por uno mismo hacia las clases no militares e indefensas generalmente, y en especial sumisión y adoración dirigida hacia las mujeres: quienes fueron distinguidas de las otras clases indefensas por las altas recompensas las cuales tenían en su poder voluntariamente para ungir en aquellos quienes se han esforzado para ganar sus favores, en lugar de exhortar su impotencia…

Los fundamentos de esta vida moral en los tiempos modernos debe ser la justicia y la prudencia; el respeto a los derechos de todos y la habilidad de cada uno para cuidar de si mismo. La caballerosidad se fue sin registros legales para todas las formas del mal en la cual reinó sin castigo a través de la sociedad; sólo incentivó a unos cuantos a tomar la preferencia a lo malo, al dirigirlo le dio los instrumentos de alabanza y admiración. pero la dependencia real de la moralidad siempre debe estar en las sanciones penales – su poder para disuadir del mal. La seguridad de la sociedad no puede descansar solamente en rendir honor a lo bueno, un motivo comparativamente débil en todos, salvo unos cuantos y en los cuales muchos no operan en los absoluto. [J. S. Mill: The Subjection of Women – 1869]

Ernest B Bax confirma que el comportamiento caballeroso de la izquierda y la derecha política eran en realidad, por sugerencia de Mill, muy encaminadas para el año 1907:

“Todos los partidos, todo tipo de condiciones de políticos, desde los que están a la moda y son conservadores occidentales, los filántropos hasta los clubes radicales de hombres trabajadores, parecen (o parecían hasta hace poco) que se han convertido en una conclusión unánime en un punto – para engañar que el sexo femenino está sufriendo bajo el peso de la opresión masculina.” [Essays: New & Old (1907), pp.108-119]

El feminismo recibe su fuerza de la caballerosidad, pero en lugar de solicitar caballerocidad de los hombres en la forma tradicional e interpersonal ha aprendido a obtenerla únicamente del gobierno – al mantener al gobierno secuestrado gracias a la sufragistas ganando el voto para las mujeres ginocéntricas.

En lugar de los hombres cediendo sus asientos en los buses, el gobierno ahora provee asientos en asambleas legislativas y en mesas de directorio vía cuotas. En lugar de los hombres abriendo puertas de carros para las mujeres, el gobierno le abre las puertas a las mujeres en las universidades y en los trabajos a través de la acción afirmativa. En lugar de que los hombres sean los únicos protectores de las mujeres en cuanto a violencia, el gobierno ahora las protege con un ejército de policías quienes reciben entrenamiento especial para servir a las acusaciones de las mujeres (o incluso y por sobre crímenes serios). En lugar de que los hombres provean los gastos para el día a día, el gobierno ahora provee beneficios sociales y compensaciones por la “brecha salarial”. Etc…. el gobierno es el esposo substituto.

Todo esto complementa la presión del feminismo a la izquierda y la derecha hacia un liderazgo caballeroso. La única diferencia entre los dos lados de la política es que la izquierda es más psicópata en su entrega de las reglas caballerosas – y la derecha es más heroica en su entrega de la caballerosidad. El mismo ginocentrismo, pero caballero diferente.






Firmando el Consejo de la Casa Blanca para Mujeres y Niñas

La caballerosidad ginocéntrica fue una idea desequilibrada desde el principio. Los hombres ahora se están alejando de esa costumbre, y podemos añorar por la época en la cual ambos lados de la política hagan lo mismo. Tal vez cuando el creciente ejercito de herbívoros genere un colapso en los ingresos entonces ellas verán la luz. Hasta entonces, no les demos un pase a las feministas en su declaración de que ellas no quieren caballerosidad… ellas simplemente encontraron una nueva fuente.


Línea de Tiempo de la Cultura Ginocéntrica

La siguiente línea de tiempo ilustra detalladamente el nacimiento de la cultura ginocéntrica junto con los eventos históricos significativos que aseguraron su supervivencia. Antes del año 1200 d.C., simplemente no existía una cultura ginocéntrica ampliamente extendida, a pesar de la evidencia que existe de actos y eventos ginocéntricos aislados. Fue tan sólo hasta la Edad Media que el ginocentrismo desarrolló una complejidad cultural y se volvió una norma cultural ubicua y duradera.


1102 d.C.: El meme del Ginocentrismo es introducido por primera vez

Guillermo IX, Duque de Aquitania, el señor feudal más poderoso de Francia, escribió los primeros poemas de trovador y es ampliamente considerado como el primer trovador. Separándose de la tradición de luchar guerras en nombre del hombre, del rey, de Dios y del país, se dice que Guillermo tenía la imagen de su señora pintada en su escudo, a quien él llamaba midons (mi Señor) diciendo que “era su deseo llevarla en batalla, así como ella lo había cargado a él en la cama.” (1)

1168 – 1198 d.C.: El meme del Ginocentrismo se elabora, recibe patrocinio imperial

El meme del ginocentrismo se populariza aún más y recibe patrocinio de la nieta de Guillermo, la Reina Eleonor de Aquitania, y de la hija de ésta, Marie (2). En la corte de Eleonor, en Poitiers, ella y Marie terminaron el trabajo de adornar el código militar cristiano de caballería con un código de amantes románticos; con ello pusieron a la mujer en el centro de la vida cortesana, y al amor en el trono de Dios mismo – y al hacerlo, cambiaron la cara de la caballería para siempre. Los eventos claves son:

– 1170 d.C.: Eleonor y Marie establecieron las Cortes de Amor formales, presididas por ellas mismas y un jurado de 60 mujeres de la nobleza, quienes investigaban y pasaban sentencias en disputas de amor de acuerdo al nuevo código que gobernaba las relaciones entre géneros.

– 1180 d.C.: Marie encomienda a Chrétien de Troyes para que éste escriba Lancelot, El Caballero de la Carreta, una historia de amor sobre Lancelot y Guinevere en la que se elaboraba la naturaleza de la caballerosidad ginocéntrica. Chrétien de Troyes abandonó este proyecto antes de completarlo porque se oponía a la aprobación implícita que recibía la relación adúltera entre Lancelot Y Guinevere que Marie le había mandado escribir. Pero la aprobación de la leyenda era irresistible – poetas posteriores completaron la historia en representación de Chrétien, quien también escribió otros romances famosos, incluyendo Eric y Enide.

– 1188 d.C.: Marie ordena a su capellán Andreas Capellanus escribir El Arte del Amor Cortesano. Esta guía de los códigos caballerescos de amor romántico es un documento que podría pasar como contemporáneo en casi todos los aspectos, excepto por las conjeturas y estructuras de clase anticuadas. Muchos de los consejos en el “libro de texto” de Andreas venían evidentemente de las mujeres que habían mandado realizar el escrito (3).

1180 – 1380 d.C.: La cultura ginocéntrica se expande por Europa

En doscientos años, la cultura ginocéntrica salió de Francia para instituirse en todas las principales cortes de Europa, y de ahí llegó a capturar la imaginación de hombres, mujeres y niños de todas las clases sociales. De acuerdo a Jennifer Wollock (4), la continua popularidad de las historias de amor caballerescas también se confirma por los contenidos de las bibliotecas de mujeres de la Edad Media tardía, literatura que tenía un substancial público femenino, incluyendo a las madres que les leían a sus hijas. Aparte del creciente acceso a la literatura, los valores de la cultura ginocéntrica se difundieron a través de la interacción diaria entre la gente en la que creaban, compartían y/o intercambiaban la información y las ideas.

1386 d.C.: Se forma el concepto Ginocéntrico de “caballero”

Acuñado en los años de 1200, la expresión “Hombre Gentil [Gentil man en inglés]” pronto se volvió sinónimo de caballería. De acuerdo al Diccionario Oxford la palabra gentleman llegó a referirse a “un hombre con instintos caballerescos y buenos sentimientos” en 1386. Por lo tanto, gentleman implica un comportamiento caballeresco y sirve a su vez como su sinónimo; un significado que perdura hasta nuestros días.

1400 d.C.: El comienzo de la Querelle des Femmes

La Querelle des Femmes o la “controversia femenina” técnicamente tuvo su comienzo en 1230 d.C. con la publicación del Romance de la Rosa. Sin embargo, fue la autora francoitaliana Cristina de Pizán quien en 1400 d.C. llevó la discusión prevalente sobre las mujeres a un debate que continúa resonando en la ideología feminista de hoy en día (aunque algunos autores afirman, de manera poco convincente, que la querelle llegó a su fin en los años de 1700). El tema básico de esta controversia de siglos giraba, y continúa haciéndolo, alrededor de la defensa de los derechos, del poder y del estatus de las mujeres.

Siglo 21: El Ginocentrismo continua

La cultura del ginocentrismo, que ya cumple 800 años, continúa gracias a la ayuda de los tradicionalistas, ansiosos de preservar las costumbres, las maneras, los tabúes, las expectativas y las instituciones ginocéntricas, con las cuales tienen tanta familiaridad; y también con la ayuda de feministas que continúan encontrando nuevas y a menudo novedosas maneras de incrementar el poder de las mujeres con la ayuda de la caballerosidad. El movimiento feminista moderno ha rechazado algunas costumbres caballerescas tales como abrirle la puerta del carro a una mujer, o cederle el puesto en el bus; sin embargo, continúan apoyándose en “el espíritu de la caballerosidad” para obtener nuevos privilegios para las mujeres: abrir la puerta de los carros se transformó en abrir la puerta en universidades o empleos a través de la discriminación positiva; y ceder el asiento en buses se transformó en ceder los asientos en juntas directivas y en partidos políticos a través de cuotas. A pesar de las diversas metas, el ginocentrismo contemporáneo sigue siendo un proyecto para mantener e incrementar el poder de las mujeres con la ayuda de la caballerosidad.


[1] Maurice Keen, Chivalry, Yale University Press, 1984. [Nota: 1102 d.C. es la fecha atribuida a la escritura de los primeros poemas de Guillermo].

[2] Las fechas 1168 – 1198 cubren el periodo que empieza con la época de Eleonor y Marie en Poitiers hasta la fecha de la muerte de Marie en 1198.

[3] Jeremy Catto, Chivalry: The Path of Love, Harper Collins, 1994.

[4] Jennifer G. Wollock, Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love, Praeger, 2011.

The Normalisation Of Gynocentrism

By Peter Ryan


Civilisation is based on the capacity of human beings to control and manage their instinctual and emotional responses and behave in an intelligent manner. The degree to which that capacity is eroded by lack of self-awareness, lack of cultural wisdom, lack of discipline, fatherlessness and superresponses to superstimuli, is the degree to which civilisation will decline, regress and then implode.

This ancient understanding that natural impulses can be destructive when taken to extremes, was known thousands of years ago. As discussed in Paul Elam and Peter Wright’s article, “Slaying the dragon”,1 this understanding was a major foundational element of many religions and is addressed in cultural mythology, such as the seven deadly sins of Christianity and the story of Odysseus resisting the Sirens call. This ancient wisdom was recognised as key not just to the well-being of individuals, but also to the survival of civilisations over history.

It is important to note that fathers have played a major role in teaching children to postpone gratification and regulate their instinctual and emotional impulses, as we have seen from Dr. Warren Farrell’s research2into the boy crisis. Unsurprisingly and predictably, fatherlessness has been one of the main factors driving the decline of Western civilisation.

There is a distinction between pathological behaviour and instinct. Just because a behaviour is driven by instinct, does not then make the behaviour healthy or biologically optimal to Darwinian fitness. Overeating is driven by instinct and can kill you before you reproduce (and even prevent you from finding a mate in the first place). There is also a distinction between gynocentrism and human instincts. Gynocentrism is not itself an instinct but rather a product of human instinct, emotional impulses and cultural conditioning. Gynocentrism is a set of complex and pathological behaviours that arise from a superresponse to superstimuli associated with sex, neoteny, the parental brain and pair bonding. See the article, “Chasing the dragon”3 for more information.

Many animals and especially human beings, have a capacity to regulate and control their behavioural responses to instinctual and emotional impulses that come from the lower areas of the brain. We have a well developed prefrontal cortex and other areas of the cerebral cortex, that have been shown in neuroscientific research4 to keep our behavioural responses to instincts in check. Whilst we may have no control over feeling our primal urges, we do have control over whether we decide to act on them and base decisions on them. We may experience anger, fear and sexual attraction, but we can control whether or not we act on our instincts and impulses. It is a scientific fact we have the capacity to control our behaviour and override our instinctual impulses. It is also the reason why we have a legal system: we recognise people have self-control over their decisions and actions.

People go on hunger strikes and die from it, despite having a hunger instinct and survival instinct. There are numerous other examples of people overriding their survival instinct. Extreme sports, stunts from escape artists and countless acts of bravery in war being such examples. There are numerous examples of people overriding their sexual instincts too. There are heterosexual men that remain celibate their entire lives in the clergy on purpose. There are even in this hypersexualised culture, sizeable communities of people that still practice sexual abstinence before marriage. We have enormous control over our behaviour. People do not see attractive people and then jump their bones and immediately have sex with them in public (we call that rape by the way, which is a crime)!

We have self-control and it is considerable in its power. It is worth considering that in the context of gynocentrism and the underlying superresponse to superstimuli. Whilst the superresponse leading to gynocentrism may indeed be strong, so is our ability to regulate our own behaviour. In fact our ability to control our own behaviour, can be that extreme it can actually kill us. It is also the case that through self-discipline, training and neuroplasticity, we can actually strengthen our neurological capacity to regulate our behaviour even further. Fathers play a key role in developing that neurological capacity in children, through teaching them to postpone gratification. We certainly have the capability to overcome gynocentrism.

The literal interpretation of free will might be an illusion, but self-control does exist and we have parts of the brain dedicated to exercising self-control. The fact that neurological process of self-control may in part lie beyond our conscious awareness, does not negate the fact we can and do regulate our behaviour and suppress our instincts and emotional impulses very often. It is what makes Homo sapiens, “sapien” or wise. Our ability to postpone gratification of our instincts and impulses and control when, where and even if we choose to satisfy them, is one of the major traits responsible for allowing our species to do what no other animal on this planet has done- create civilisation.

The assumption (which is precisely what it is), that gynocentrism is some insurmountable and hardwired instinct and behaviour we are slaves to, is complete and utter nonsense. That is not to say gynocentrism is not difficult to overcome or that it is not a powerful force within society. But it is not an omnipotent force either. It does not matter how many times it is said, there will still be some people that will call you a denier of biology if you dare to make the claim gynocentrism is not an immutable part of human behaviour. All of human behaviour is biological in part. Not just gynocentrism. Stating that gynocentrism is biological, certainly does not then automatically mean that it is immutable and insurmountable.

Gynocentrism is a pathological set of behaviours driven by instincts and emotional impulses, just like overeating and obesity is driven by the hunger instinct. It does not automatically follow that the instincts and emotional processes that are involved in gynocentrism, will invariably and always produce gynocentrism. Just like it does not always follow that the hunger instinct will lead to overeating and obesity, or that the sexual instinct will lead to rape.

Gynocentrism is merely one of many manifestations of the sexual instinct, desire to pair bond, our emotional response to neoteny and our parental brain. The same general emotional response to neoteny drives millions of people daily to dog videos on YouTube. The same parental brain is active when raising children. The reason why gynocentrism is so common in society, is because unlike obesity and other addictive and pathological behaviours like smoking, we do not shame people for it or discourage it or teach people about the harms it will cause. People understand the risks of overeating, obesity and smoking and people are discouraged from doing it by wider society (with the exception of the fat acceptance people). People go to jail if they indiscriminately act on their sexual instincts.

We normalise gynocentrism and actually encourage it. Imagine if we normalised and encouraged smoking again? Gynocentrism is common because we normalise it in the culture. The culture at large reinforces and conditions us from a very early age, to train our instincts and emotional responses to produce gynocentric behaviour. Contrary to the opinion of some armchair evolutionary biologists, gynocentrism does not enhance the capacity of the species to perpetuate itself. Exhibiting indiscriminate deference to addressing the needs and wants of women and girls above everything else (the definition of gynocentrism), actually causes the complete opposite. It leads to extinction.

It is not really hard to imagine how lopsided and imbalanced priorities could lead to dysfunctional and suboptimal outcomes in a complex system like society. The only reason why gynocentrism has not yet caused mass calamity, is because gynocentrism like obesity was kept at bay for most of human history from getting too big of a problem. Thanks to the imperative and focus we had to maintain on our survival as a community and as individuals and the limited means of communication over most of history, conditions simply did not permit gynocentrism to grow to a point where it threatened the survival of society. Only fairly recently over the last few centuries and particularly over the last 50 years, has that changed and these changes have allowed gynocentrism to mushroom.

Once survival became less of an issue and safety, prosperity, nutrition and human health improved by many orders of magnitude and society became mechanised and women gained control over their fertility, the constraints on gynocentrism growing beyond a certain threshold were removed and societal focus began to shift more and more from survival to a gynocentric lens.

Combined with these changes were communication technologies that allowed superstimuli to have an unprecedented mass effect on the population. The printing press, television, computers, smartphones, the internet and so forth, have allowed superstimuli to have much greater effects on conditioning human behaviour and the psychological development of children than ever before. Marketing in particular has made multibillion dollar industries out of exploiting superstimuli.

As a result of these changes, gynocentrism has rapidly grown over the last few centuries and particularly the last 50 years. We now have runaway gynocentrism. Eventually like a runaway train approaching a cliff, runaway gynocentrism will destroy civilisation if society does not find the brakes in time. We have in my estimation about 20 years before we reach that cliff and society runs off the rails into the abyss. It is now a race against the clock to wake as many people up from their hypnotic daze as we can.

We can see right now the fertility rates plummeting in every developed nation, thanks to constantly pandering to the needs and wants of women and girls. Social scientists are calling it the “demographic winter”.5 Pandering to the princess culture and female entitlement mentality (as Australian columnist Miranda Devine calls it),6 does not produce offspring.

Societies that succumb to runaway gynocentrism die out. Of course there are also long term consequences building from decades of neglect of boys needs in the education system and the epidemic of fatherlessness, that will threaten the social cohesion and economic prosperity of a number of developed nations in the coming decades. Not only will gynocentric societies shrink and then die out, they will descend into poverty, crime and civil unrest before they disappear.

Gynocentrism is widespread because we consider it to be normal and the culture reinforces it as a good thing. Imagine how much more common obesity or gambling addiction would be if the culture normalised and encouraged overeating and gambling? Imagine how much more common overeating and obesity and gambling and gambling addiction would be if you were encouraged to overeat and gamble from birth? Why do we consider gynocentrism to be normal? There are ten reasons or causes for this:

The Influence Of Women

Part of the reason gynocentrism is normal, is because it is encouraged by women. A casino does not want to discourage you from gambling your life savings. Women generally speaking, do not want to discourage men from getting married despite being fully aware of the biased divorce and family court process. There is no incentive for women to discourage men from gynocentrism and every incentive to do the complete opposite – and they do.

The difference between gynocentrism and the casino example, is that women constitute half of society and also raise you from birth and casino’s do not. The food industry as powerful as they are, are not half of the population and are not your mother. When you consider the role of women in men’s lives as mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends and the fact women generally are part of the most important and intimate relationships men have in their lives, it is not difficult to see how gynocentrism can be spread and become normalised in society if women promote it.

When women constitute the voting majority and control the majority of consumer spending, it is not hard to see how gynocentrism can become mainstream in the economy and in politics. That is especially true when women exercise an in-group bias, which research studies7 report is the case. On top of those realities is the fact men can and do white knight for female attention and approval. The enforcement of women’s desires on the rest of society, through female control over legions of male simps, politicians and corporations, cannot be overlooked in normalising gynocentrism in the culture.

The Change In Family Structure

The change in family structure over the last fifty years, has also played a major role in the normalisation of gynocentrism. We learn the gynocentric social mode of behaviour to a significant degree from our childhood upbringing in the household. When boys and girls are raised to adopt and expect male chivalry, then it is likely that behaviour will be exhibited by them when they get older. When boys and girls are raised with the message it is never okay to hit a woman, but never told the message it is never okay to hit a man, they internalise that double standard.

Over the last fifty years there has been dramatic changes in family structure. Many children are now being raised in fatherless homes from birth, or have been alienated from their fathers through divorce and family court. The lack of an adult male influence in the home combined with a lack of men in the education system, exacerbates gynocentric double standards being internalised in children and future generations. We also know the important role fathers play in teaching boys and girls to regulate their emotional and instinctual impulses, through teaching them to postpone gratification. We are now starting to see the impact of fathers being removed from the family, in the declining social behaviour of wider society.

We now have groups of young people and political movements fuelled entirely on emotional impulse and the abandonment of reason and evidence (SJW’s, university campus feminists, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the women’s marches etc being examples). We are living in a post factual world, where what feels good is more important than what is true. This is what happens in a fatherless society and it will eventually lead to societal collapse as it gets worse.

The Prosperity Of Modern Civilisation

A subtle reason for why we consider gynocentrism to be normal, is because the prosperity of modern civilisation cushions society from the consequences of it in the short term. Our current debt based monetary system and welfare state, combined with major advances in technology, allows society to pass on the costs of ignoring major social problems onto future generations. It takes years, decades and in some cases centuries, before the severe and long-lasting consequences

of gynocentrism hit individuals and society. So society does not learn very easily to do draw a link between gynocentric behaviour and the consequences of such behaviour.

You do not immediately feel the consequences of divorce and family court when you marry a female psychopath. Economies do not feel the burden straight away of large numbers of unemployed men arising from decades of inaction on addressing the boy crisis in education. Societies do not feel the consequences of fatherlessness straight away either or the long-term consequences of social witch-hunts like metoo#. Universities do not immediately feel the financial consequences of lawsuits against them from men falsely accused of rape, resulting from university policies enacted from the Dear Colleague letter.

Virtue Signalling

Gynocentrism is also normalised because on the surface it appears to be good behaviour, feels good and is therefore encouraged by the culture. However when considered with more thoughtful and detailed examination, it can be seen that this is not the case. White knighting appears to be a noble act on the surface, but not when we look into the details of what is going on. Human beings are prone to surface thinking, simple heuristic thinking and emotional bias. Marketing is so successful because it takes full advantage of these biases and cognitive shortcuts human perception employs to make sense of the world (see the elaboration likelihood model8 for more info and check out the central versus peripheral route to persuasion). What may look and feel good and righteous on the surface, is not always the case.

The Proliferation Of Gynocentric Superstimuli And Mass Communication

Of course it is also predictable that gynocentrism will be normalised when our environment is swamped with superstimuli, that trains our brains through conditioning over many years to operate in a gynocentric mode. This consistent exposure has long term effects on the brain through neuroplasticity.

When gynocentric superstimuli is all you are exposed to every waking hour from birth until death and there is so much social pressure on you to conform to gynocentric social norms, it is predictable gynocentrism will be normalised in the society in question. We have a plethora of laws against broadcasting violent ads, shows and movies and against promoting gambling and yet nothing like that for gynocentrism. When you combine gynocentric superstimuli with modern communication in the form of the internet, television, computers and smartphones, you have the perfect delivery system to condition society and normalise gynocentric behaviour.

The Gynocentric Mainstream Media

Following on from the previous section, the mainstream media plays a key role in normalising gynocentrism. The gynocentric vomit coming out daily from major news outlets is constant. We have articles titled, “Why Can’t We Hate Men?”9 from the Washington Post and “The End Of Men”10 from the Atlantic. Imagine for a moment if we substituted men with Jews in such articles. Such material would not look out of place in Nazi propaganda. Men are being dehumanised by the media and the media are spreading outrageous bigotry that would never be tolerated if the sexes were reversed.

The media has shown time and time again, they are pushing a gynocentric and female supremacist narrative onto society. They have ceased being news outlets and now essentially spread feminist and gynocentric man hating propaganda. The media does shape the attitudes and beliefs of society and also shapes politics and propaganda does work as we have seen from numerous examples throughout history.

We are fortunate now to have alternative media finally rising up against this hatred of men, to challenge it directly. AVFM is one example of this. However the mainstream media has had a multidecade headstart on the alternative media to shape society and still has considerable influence, despite their falling subscriptions and viewers.


There is a reductionist bent in society to not look at the bigger picture. We often fail to see the connection between things and how things are interrelated in society. There is a tendency to assign responsibility or consequence to one thing, person or cause. This feeds not just into normalising gynocentrism, but into letting other problems in society grow too. Society is a system and systems theory would help enormously in understanding and correctly dealing with societal problems, particularly social problems.

Taking a holistic and systems approach to understanding the world, can be far more effective than perceiving the world solely through a reductionist lens. Take school shootings for example. We could prevent such tragedies from occurring if we bothered take a wholistic systems based perspective on the problem. Instead of blaming it all on toxic masculinity, how about we look at fatherlessness and mental health. As society becomes more and more connected, taking a wholistic systems based approach to addressing social problems is going to be more and more relevant.

When we examine the behaviour of men and women in society, it is often solely discussed and framed along gynocentric lines by the media and by the culture. We look at men’s behaviour toward women in isolation from women. We do not even consider women are agents in society and we fail to see how the behaviour of men and women toward the opposite sex, feedback on each other. The feminist narrative on domestic violence is one such example of this.

Domestic violence is often reciprocal in nature11 and yet we do not hear on the reciprocal nature of domestic violence. When we hear about men’s violence toward women only, its causes are framed along the lines of power and control by the feminist Duluth model. No other cause or factor is apparently at play in contributing to men’s violence. The role of alcohol, substance abuse, poverty, mental illness and abuse during childhood, is all overlooked and ignored.

When society fosters a reductionist perspective on looking at the world and does not consider a wholistic or systems perspective, it encourages gynocentrism to grow and spread. Gynocentrism is by its nature reductionist. Having a one-dimensional perspective of relating everything solely to how they impact women and girls, is much easier to spread and normalise in a society that is highly politically polarised and has a general reductionist mindset to looking at the world that is encouraged by ideologues in the media and academia.

Even in biology and the sciences, we can see how reductionism holds back progress in understanding the natural world. Systems biology12 is a rapidly developing interdisciplinary field at the forefront of life science research, that aims to go beyond a reductionist perspective, correct this limitation in scientific knowledge and develop a more accurate wholistic systems understanding of biology.

Biology is complex and is composed of multiple systems at multiple levels, from cell signalling pathways all the way up to entire ecosystems. When we examine what is required for evolutionary success and for genes to be successfully passed on from one generation to the next, it is not as simple as saying it is all about reproductive success. Reproduction is essential, but so is survival. An organism must survive to reproduce and its offspring must survive to successfully mate, otherwise it would be as if the offspring were never produced in the first place.

Reproducing once may not be sufficient either and an organism may need to survive long enough to mate multiple times, to ensure they produce enough offspring that survive to sexual maturity and pass on the genes. An organism must develop a strategy in investing energy, resources and time in survival versus reproduction, that is optimised to their environment and biology, to guarantee evolutionary success.

Evolutionary success is far more complex than simply just reproducing. If that were not the case and reproduction was really all that mattered, then the only life that would have evolved on Earth would have been asexual microbial life. There are selective advantages for species that reproduce more slowly, but have a more complex biology that can better adapt to, tolerate, manipulate and extract resources from the local environment. These selective advantages are partly what gave rise to the proliferation of multicellular life.13

Think for a moment about the thousands of lineages that have continued their existence today, because of the civilisation and technological advances men have created and been responsible for. Think of the billions of people alive today because of the intrinsic value men have provided to society. There are entire lineages that would have been extinguished long ago and billions of people that would not have been born, without the intrinsic value men have provided in creating the advanced civilisation we enjoy and modern technology.

Simply reproducing, especially for a slowly reproducing species like Humans, is simply not enough to ensure evolutionary success. That is why men have been sexually and naturally selected, to develop traits to enable them to provide, protect, discover, explore, invent, build, maintain, repair and fight for society. It is not as simple as saying one man can reproduce with ten women, therefore men are disposable. Biology is far more complex than that.

Notice no one seems to consider how one man can change the world and lead to an extra couple of hundred million people existing and passing on their genes. Think of the impact a handful of men in society have had on civilisation over the last two centuries and by extension the evolutionary success of the species. Think of how many less people there would be without electricity, machinery, antibiotics, modern medicine and modern agriculture that men were mostly responsible for. How many family genetic lineages have continued existing because of these technological advances by men and have avoided termination as a result?

Successfully passing on the genes is not solely about sexual intercourse. Biology is more complex than that. Many other things have to occur before and after sexual intercourse, to ensure genes are passed on successfully. The value men bring to the survival of the community and to society is unique. Despite what feminists claim, women really cannot do everything a man can do or just as well (Women are not inferior. Men and women just have different strengths.).

Men remain the majority of our leading scientists, thinkers, inventors, political and business thinkers etc, despite all of the feminist social engineering to artificially lift women up. Human adult males are also not immediately replaceable either, especially talented and gifted men. It takes roughly 18 years before they reach physical maturity (25 years if we are talking about the brain) and a great deal of parental investment compared to other animals.

Our failure to recognise that treating men as disposable is to treat civilisation as disposable, will eventually lead to the implosion of civilisation. Even if we consider men as machines, we all recognise what happens when you do not look after your car and do not change the oil. Either we unlearn the cultural belief men are disposable, or we can watch society start falling apart. Adopting a wholistic systems perspective and going beyond a simple reductionist mode of thinking, would help us unlearn the erroneous cultural belief men are disposable.

Gynocentric Authority, Institutions And Herd Mentality

Much of the influence in what shapes social behaviour comes from the top of society and from authorities like the government and institutions like university. Gynocentrism has been normalised in part because we have practiced it for centuries and our key institutions, leaders, celebrities and elite practice it, endorse it and impose it on the rest of us. We even enshrine gynocentrism into law.

There have been a number of psychological studies since WW2 showing how easily people blindly follow authority and rules (the infamous Zimbardo Stanford prison experiment14 being one such example) and how powerful institutional environments and rules are in shaping group and individual behaviour (that partly explains a lot about how Nazism came to power and how millions of people were exterminated without anyone speaking out against it).

The power of the herd mentality of human beings to follow authority and a minority of individuals, cannot be understated. Many people simply do not think for themselves and this reality allows a minority of people like feminists, to easily control large groups of people once they hold positions of authority in institutions and government.

Slavery was considered normal for centuries by our leaders, authorities and institutions and was widespread, as was barbaric punishment and torture. Only in the last two hundred years or so and after wars and huge political movements and massive legal reform, have slavery and inhumane punishment been mostly abolished and outlawed. People had the same arguments about slavery being natural and inevitable in the past, as people do today about gynocentrism.

Just like back then, the arguments today about gynocentrism being inevitable do not have substance when you examine them more closely. This is the naturalistic fallacy in action. The fact gynocentrism has natural or biological underpinnings, does not then mean it is morally acceptable, desirable, inevitable or a healthy expression of human behaviour.

The education system out of all of the institutions, plays a key role in normalising gynocentrism. Many boys and girls in school can now go through most of their education from kindergarten to postgraduate education, with few male teachers. The influence of feminist ideology is now present at the primary or elementary level and has been present at the university level for years.

The education system has now essentially become a system of feminist indoctrination and gynocentrism. This sort of environment does have impacts on the behaviour of children and the adults they will become. Like the changes in family structure, the feminisaton of the education system has played a major role in spreading and promoting gynocentrism in society.

Former KGB agent and defector Uri Bezmenov, warned in an interview more than 30 years ago,15 about the feminist and marxist takeover of our institutions and the ideological subversion of Western democracy. He made some very eerie predictions that help explain today’s society. Controlling the education system is key. He discusses the four stages of the takeover of society by the far left in the interview (demoralisation, destabilisation, crisis and normalisation).

He explains the first stage which is called demoralisation. This involves indoctrinating multiple generations of students in far left ideology in the education system. From there these people infect the government, academia, corporations and our institutions and then spread far left ideology within these organisations. He explains how the brainwashing occurring in the education system, corrupts people’s perception to the point where they cannot make logical sense of information. After years of indoctrination, their thinking is bounded within an ideological framework and they cannot see beyond that framework.

Sound familiar? It should. Uri was explaining what modern Western society would become 30 years ago. Think of all the revelations that have come out on the working environments of employees in the tech sector and in academia and the disruptive and violent protests on university campuses.

Gynocentric Superorganisms

Related to the previous reason behind why gynocentrism is normalised, is the influence of superorganisms on society and how they have succumbed to gynocentrism. MRA blogger Angry Harry, did an excellent series looking at the impact of superorganisms on human behaviour and how powerful they are in shaping it (See Angry Harry’s MRA corner on AVFM and check out the 4 part series titled, “Those Who Rules Over Us”).16

Superorganisms in the social context can be thought of as entities comprised of thousands, sometimes millions and even billions of individuals, that appear to mimic the properties of a living organism and wield enormous influence on society. Religions, governments, corporations, institutions and cities are examples of superorganisms. People in this context can be considered cells of these superorganisms. If we look at human civilisation as a superorganism, the slogan “feminism is cancer” is quite fitting.

Gynocentrism can be thought of in the context of superorganisms, as the underlying germ of a disease of the superorganism. It infects healthy human cells of the superorganism and then spreads throughout the superorganism. Eventually the superorganism succumbs to gynocentrism and then infects other superorganisms. Feminism could be considered a vector of the gynocentric germ that helps it spread, like how a mosquito is a vector of Malaria.

Superorganisms as Angry Harry explained, have enormous influence over our society and the individual behaviour of people. Corporations, governments, religion and institutions shape the way of life for billions of people. Gynocentrism has infested many of these superorganisms and turned them into gynocentric zombies. These infected entities can and have inflicted terrible damage on society.

Think of the impact feminist infested universities have had on society. Think of the impact the gynocentric legal system has had on the nuclear family, fathers and the lives of men. Think of the impact the feminised education system has had on the boy crisis in education. Think of the impact the gynocentric bias of the tech sector has had on the information that the public is exposed to and their censorship and filtering of alternative non-gynocentric viewpoints.

Learned Helplessness And The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Of Gynocentrism

Men and boys in today’s society to a substantial degree, are exhibiting signs of learned helplessness. Many men and boys have essentially been conditioned to accept that gynocentrism is normal and inescapable. Once men and boys internalise that dangerous false belief, they accept their own marginalisation and disposability every day and in doing so enable gynocentrism to have almost complete dominance over society. Learned helplessness has been linked to depression17 and is no doubt a major factor driving the epidemic of male suicide. Learned helplessness fuels a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If men and boys believe there is no other way to live, then gynocentrism becomes inevitable and this fate then reinforces the belief that gave rise to it. Beliefs can be very destructive things when they go unquestioned, despite leading to highly destructive outcomes.

Men going their own way (MGTOW) is a pathway out of gynocentrism for men. It involves unlearning pathological gynocentric beliefs and daring to believe there is another way to live. Whilst it may not be easy to go against the social current of society, it is possible and once the rewards of going your own way become clear, it becomes easier and easier and easier to go your own way. We are social creatures and part of overcoming learned helplessness for men involves abandoning concern for social ostracism, particularly from women and learning how to identify and manage the risks that a predatory gynocentric society presents, so you can live life in your own way and avoid entrapment and attack.

Men and boys are punished for performing and exhibiting their natural masculine nature and at the same time ridiculed for failing to perform and demonstrate a masculine nature. At the same time that men are told they must live up to the hypergamous expectations of women to earn more money than their female counterparts in order to be worthy of a relationship with women, they are cast as privileged oppressors and blamed for the gender pay gap if they do earn more money than women.

Men are told they are losers if they do not perform and then are told they are privileged oppressors when they do perform. Women will write articles about “where are all the good men” and then write other articles about the gender wage gap and how we need female quotas in upper management and corporate boards because of male privilege. It is a double bind. Men have no escape from social ostracism if they follow external societal pressures and succumb to herd mentality and social pressure to conform. Such men must accept the message from society they are inferior, violent, privileged and evil oppressors.

MGTOW is the healthy alternative. MGTOW involves finding your own way in life, independent of what the culture or society or women expects of you or what they think of you. MGTOW is the only way out for men from the gynocentric prison society has been turned into. To borrow a line from the Shawshank Redemption you either, “get busy living or get busy dying”.

The biases in human perception, thinking and behaviour discussed, combined with the changes in family structure, the proliferation of superstimuli with mass communication and the influence of gynocentric institutions, media and authority figures, keep the silent killer that is gynocentrism from being detected and addressed by civilisation and by individuals.

To fight this, we need to develop greater self-awareness in society and awareness of what gynocentrism is and the harms it can and does cause. We need organised resistance to gynocentrism to emerge at the individual level of men going their own way and at the collective level of a well-funded and well organised men’s movement to tackle institutional and legalised gynocentrism. Either we address gynocentrism, or the harsh forces of natural selection will remove gynocentric behaviour from the human evolutionary lineage, or worse put the entire human race into the fossil record. For the superorganisms of society, they will have to either rid themselves of gynocentrism or look forward to bankruptcy or collapse. For the individual man, you either overcome gynocentrism or you suffer for it and in some cases lose everything, including your life.

It is our choice, we can either do this the easy way or the hard way individually, and as a society. It takes discipline to recondition ourselves out of bad habits and develop the self-awareness to recognise and stop bad behaviours. It does not happen overnight. Websites like AVFM, men’s discussion and support groups and male friendly life coaches and mental health professionals, can help with that process.

MGTOW helps in a big way in overcoming gynocentrism. MGTOW or men going their own way, is grounded on the fundamental principle of self-control. You cannot go your own way without it! MGTOW and its continued growth is direct proof it is possible for men to overcome years of gynocentric programming, instinctual and emotional impulses and take the red pill.

But like I said nothing happens overnight. That goes for individual change and also for societal change. Just because change is slow, does not mean change is impossible or will not eventually lead to profound shifts in people’s lives and the way society functions. Every journey begins with a single first step. It is time men broke free of their psychological bondage and dared to recognise and accept their true intrinsic value, in the face of a gynocentric society that would prefer they did not.

It is not just biology at play when we are talking about gynocentrism. Social, political, institutional, economic, informational and cultural factors, are also involved in normalising the social pathology we call gynocentrism. We are indeed living in the matrix of gynocentrism. Most people are still asleep in the matrix. We need to stop normalising gynocentrism by addressing the ten causes responsible for its normalisation discussed earlier. MGTOW and a well funded and organised men’s movement, would go a long way to achieving that objective.

We are at a critical period in human civilisation where we need to move beyond outmoded gynocentric ways of thinking and behaving if we expect civilisation to survive. Technology cannot be uninvented and we cannot return to a traditionalist path. Simply ending feminism will not be sufficient to advance society either. Gynocentrism has now become an unsustainable problem for society.

Tens of thousands of years ago when we humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer existence to primitive civilisation, the dynamics between the sexes changed. Now we face a similar challenge to change those dynamics again, as a result of rapid technological change over the last two centuries. Dr. Warren Farrell has in the past described the need for a gender transition movement, to recognise and address this reality.

The Kardashev scale18 lays out the stage of technological advancement of civilisations. Human civilisation is currently undergoing a transition from a type 0 civilisation, to a type 1 civilisation in which we control all of the energy available on the planet and coming from the parent star (currently we can only make use of a fraction of the energy available). Technologies of a type 1 civilisation include: nuclear fusion and renewable energy on a large scale, the capacity to produce large quantities of antimatter etc. Some of these technologies we have obtained, some we are on the cusp of and other technology is quite a while away.

In several decades if everything goes right, we may have a permanent, sizeable and self-sustaining settlement on Mars. All of this civilisational advancement, requires a society that remains socially stable, free, safe, educated and prosperous enough to permit the required technological progress to occur and to ensure the technology is not used to destroy ourselves.

The relationship between men and women forms the backbone of the family and the family forms the backbone of society. Gynocentrism is now threatening to destroy the backbone of the family and of society. We need to wake up, otherwise the future for humanity is looking bleak. External threats like nuclear weapons appear to be well recognised. The same does not seem to apply for gynocentrism and the scale of the threat it poses for the continued existence of human civilisation. This needs to change.


[1] Slaying The Dragon. Peter Wright & Paul Elam, A Voice For Men (2018).

[2] The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. Dr. Warren Farrell & Dr. John Gray (2018)

[3] Chasing The Dragon. Peter Wright & Paul Elam, A Voice For Men (2016).

[4] Self-Control And The Human Brain: The Neuroscience Of Impulse Control. Elana Glowatz, Medical Daily (2017)

[5] Demographic Winter – the decline of the human family (Full Movie) Rick Stout. Acuity Productions. YouTube (Accessed 2018)

[6] Women believe they live in the age of entitlement. Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph (2012)

[7] Gender Differences in Automatic In-Group Bias: Why Do Women Like Women More Than Men Like Men? Rudman, Laurie A.,Goodwin, Stephanie A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 87(4), Oct 2004, 494-509

[8] Elaboration likelihood model. Wikipedia (Accessed 2018)

[9] Why Can’t We Hate Men? Suzanna Danuta Walters, The Washington Post (2018)

[10] The End of Men. Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic (2010)

[11] Partner Abuse State Of Knowledge Project (PASK) FACTS AND STATISTICS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AT-A-GLANCE (Accessed 2018)

[12] Systems Biology. Wikipedia (Accessed 2018)

[13] How did life become Multicellular?-Mysteries of Life #2. Ben G Thomas. YouTube (Accessed 2018).

[14] Stanford Prison Experiment. Wikipedia (Accessed 2018)

[15] Uri Bezmenov: Deception Was My Job (Complete) G. Edward Griffin. American Media. All West Video. The Reality Zone. YouTube (Accessed 2018)

[16] Angry Harry’s MRA Corner (Accessed 2018)

[17] Learned Helplessness: Seligman’s Theory of Depression (+ Cure). Positive Psychology Program (2018)

[18] Kardashev scale. Wikipedia (Accessed 2018)
Peter Ryan, also called TheAntigynocentrist, is a man going his own way who dares to believe men are not disposable and challenges the gynocentric zeitgeist. Peter’s blog is

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 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.


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.


[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)