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The Polygamous Sex
by Esther Vilar (1976)

 

This is a book about love. About what love is, what it can be, and what women have made of it.

 

Contents
  1. Are there two kinds of love between a man and a woman?

  2. Love and Power

  3. The Father Syndrome

    1. WHAT CAUSES THE FATHER SYNDROME?
    2. ADOPTION AND INCEST
    3. WHY MALE POLYGAMY?
    4. SIMULTANEOUS POLYGAMY
    5. SUCCESSIVE POLYGAMY
    6. SPORADIC POLYGAMY
    7. SYMBOLIC POLYGAMY
    8. ONLY MEN ARE PRUDES
  4. Love between man and woman is monogamous, jealous and faithful

 

3.   The Father Syndrome

 

3.1    WHAT CAUSES THE FATHER SYNDROME?

Woman does seem like a patented invention for the fulfillment of male dreams. At first glance, anyway, she certainly seems made for the satisfaction of two out of three basic drives: sex and breeding. But this impression is deceptive. The wish to protect someone is by nature so radically different from sexual desire that it is extremely difficult to both simultaneously for the same person for any length of time. The protector needs to give. The lover needs to take. Giving and taking are opposites.

And yet, men will keep trying, with the persistence of a Sisyphus, to satisfy these two contradictory urges upon one and the same person. Full of the best intentions that are doomed to fail from the outset, and man will believe his inevitable failure to be his own fault. After a while he begins to blame his partner. Frequently he starts all over again, with a new partner. The result is bound to be the same.

This game usually goes on until his sex drive begins to weaken and the nurturing instinct gradually gains the upper hand. Between the ages of fifty and sixty he becomes resigned to playing only the role of the father, with only occasional dreams of a woman to love. He either finds the woman with whom he hopes to grow old — he calls her 'the right girl', 'the life partner' or, if he already has a family from which he has strayed, he returns to its bosom for good and 'settles down'. Now at last, he says to himself, he is master of his own fate and of his women as well. But in fact he has merely lost much of his own interest in sex.

This schizophrenic situation, arising from the fact that women usually offer themselves to men in a dual role, and that men usually go along with this, is responsible for an endless chain of misunderstandings between the sexes. The effect upon male sexual morality is catastrophic. Here is the root cause of those sexual perversions and taboos — the incest, polygamy, (prurience) prudery — here united under the one heading: the father syndrome.

In some men, all of these symptoms appear together, other exhibit them in sequence, still others only show one symptom, the rest remaining latent. No man is immune except those who are not interested in women, i.e., men with a weak sex drive, old men, homosexuals. Let us consider each major symptom separately.

 

3.2    ADOPTION AND INCEST

Men who are strongly motivated in their choice of a partner by their nurturing instinct, and turn to predominately childlike women who are considerably younger, less intelligent, smaller and weaker than they —; necessarily have to satisfy their sex instinct with their protégé. To have sex with someone you regard as your child is incest.

Not that they are aware of it as incest. It is not easy to realize that a man is drawn to a woman by his nurturing instinct — the sex factor is what catches the eye. But all those altruistic feelings he has for her, like wanting to take care of her, defend her, work for her, fight for her, these are the feelings of a father for his child, not really those of a lover for his woman.

By the time a man 'adopts' a woman he can hardly differentiate between the erotic and paternal strands of mixed motives involved. With luck, he has had some experience with the erotic feelings; the paternal, protective emotions are something new. When he feels this new way for a woman for the first time and compares it with his earlier attitudes, he is struck by the difference: he had no desire to sacrifice himself to his earlier loves. It must be proof positive that this, at long last, is real love, the great love for which he has been waiting all his life. Here is the 'woman to marry' in contrast to others whom he comes to think of as 'good in bed'. It is only later on, when he has become a father in fact, that he can identify what he felt for his bride as being similar to what he now feels for his child. For the first time he is in a position to judge what proportion of his original interest in her was, strictly speaking, paternal rather than sexual.

A man with a child-wife knows that something is not quite as it should be, but he can't quite put his finger on it. He somehow feels though he has no right to perform the act of love with her, as though it were an imposition he ought to spare her. Still, he finds himself doing this 'improper' thing to her, but always with a guilty conscience! He also can't shake off the feeling that she is somehow doing him a big favor every time she puts up with it, and that he can never do enough, soon enough, to show his appreciation.

In days of yore, when women still married as virgins, and difference in age between bride and groom was also usually far more pronounced than it is nowadays, the link between marital adoption and incest was especially evident: the bridegroom had to violate his ward right after the ceremony. Thanks to the new sex morality, men can at least make a more gradual transition. Marriage, formerly the legal pre-requisite for incest, is becoming more and more a form of restitution.

As a father in spite of himself, the man has no choice but to break through the incest barrier between himself and his child-wife. It helps a little that she is only a pseudo-child with whom he commits legally sanctioned pseudo-incest only. But all that manipulation of basic instincts cannot fail to have damaging consequences. We learn from the psychoanalysts to what degree men have begun to shake off the inhibition against incest and to enjoy real incest at least in their day-dreams: fathers, we are told, indulge in sexual fantasies about their growing daughters every day of the week. The same therapists, ever on the alert against all kinds of complexes, in these cases are not all inclined to liberate men from such fantasies. Their only worry here is to ward off any guilt feelings that might develop, so they never tire of assuring the 'patient' how very normal it all is.

And it is normal. The statistics about actual incest — sex relations between blood kin of the first and second degree — confirm this: father-daughter incest leads all the rest by a wide margin. A recent study under Swedish government auspices, covering all case in Sweden over a twenty-year period, finds that 60% of incestuous relation occur between father and daughter, 20% between brother and sister, and only 1% between mother and son. The residual 19% include relations between men and their nieces and granddaughters.

A man who concentrates his sex and breeding instincts on the same woman, and has consequently attached himself to a markedly infantile specimen, is virtually courting a schizophrenic breakdown. He is likely to swing constantly from adoring his chosen mate to cursing her, raping her, falling at her feet, beating her, then offering to die for her. She will wonder at his eccentricity, but it cannot be otherwise. Since the two instincts involved are basically incompatible, a man who keeps trying to combine them is bound to fall from one extreme to the other.

Common sense will eventually drive a man to seek an escape from such an incestuous bond, landing him in either polygamy or prudery. The less sensible continue to live in incest. The dangerous lure of forbidden fruit and its pleasures become a permanent ingredient of their sex lives. What began as making a virtue out of necessity ends as an addiction and an established perversion. Once a man is sexually fixated on Lolita, he is likely to find the idea of sanctioned sex with a grown woman boring. A man driven by a particularly strong paternal instinct to marry an especially infantile woman is likely to find such an adjustment extremely hard to make. He is likely to be the same man who asks for under age girls in a house of assignation, even at an advanced age. What he has come to relish most of all about the activity is the violation of the taboo.

 

3.3    WHY MALE POLYGAMY?

The husband with the child-wife will eventually need to extricate himself from his schizogenic situation and as a result abandon monogamy for polygamy. He will divide his love between the wife as his protégé, and another woman as sex object — to give to the one, take from the other; protect the one, challenge the other; spare the one, but not the other, the burden of his physical demands.

Male polygamy arises from the fact that men need women to satisfy both their nurturing instinct and their reproductive instinct. This suggests that they can love more than one woman at a time: in reality, however, they love only one as a woman — the other as their child. Women are unlikely to suffer from such confusion, since they satisfy their two disparate instincts with two clearly demarcated classes of persons: they have their children to nurture, their men for sex. And so women are considered monogamous by nature, while men are polygamous. A man, they say, needs many women; a woman can be content with one man for life. Most men are not aware for the underlying reason for their 'instability'. Since they have sex with their protégé and with their sex partner — though far more frequently with the latter — they assume that having more than one woman is in the nature of male sexuality as such.

The signal for the beginning of the man's polygamous phase in the conventional adoptive marriage is the birth of the first child. At this point even the most fatherly of men will find that his nurturing instinct is fulfilled — and the relatively unfulfilled sex drive begins to clamor for attention. One fine day his longing for unadulterated — or is it uninfantilized — sex becomes so powerful that he dismisses his scruples (of course he has scruples, since he has no wish to 'hurt' his protégé) and takes a mistress. He now turns from the 'woman to marry' to the one who is 'good in bed'.

This step is usually made all the easier for him by his wife who, after the birth of her child, no longer feels compelled to play her role of sex partner with any more than minimal involvement. To do so is an effort for her because even a woman with a normal sex drive seldom sees a desirable lover in the man she has chosen for his usefulness as a provider. Many women even feel a positive revulsion against having sex with their father-substitute (see the Swedish statistics above). They play the role of sex partner as long as it serves as bait, to trap the man into adopting them and siring children with them. Once this has been achieved, they increasingly stress their role as protégés, the easiest role to play and the line of least resistance. After this point, such a woman will revert to the role of sex partner only in an emergency; when a rival appears who threatens to take away her provider, for example. A mother no longer needs even to play the role of protégé — her children will do it for her, more convincingly than she ever could. Their father will go on protecting her in any case, because she is needed by their children. 'Of course I love my wife and my children,' says the paterfamilias, as though it were the same kind of 'love'. Yet for him, it is the same love.

This semantic confusion sooner or later drives the man who has adopted a wife to polygamy — in the sense of having more than one woman in his life at the same — as not only the best, but the only available expedient. Not that all men are polygamous even in this limited sense. Too many simply cannot afford it. A man never gets anything for nothing in this world. To satisfy his sexual needs through polygamy, he has to be in a position to provide for more than one woman. The prevalence of polygamy anywhere always implies an unequal distribution of wealth. It accurately reflects one kind of social injustice. The number of women a man can have is linked to his income: the bigger the income, the more women he has. Where there is a Hugh Hefner, who has them by the thousand, at the top of the ladder, there are large numbers of men who cannot even afford one woman, at the bottom.

Where there is economic equality, as presumably in the socialist countries, there is less chance for polygamy. But even in the democratic West, where every man can support at least one woman — the population being equally divided between men and women — the kept mistress remains the privilege of the bosses. Conditions favor polygamy in the Western developing countries, with their strongly demarcated social classes. In Latin America, for example, bigamy is practically an institution. The affluent Mexican has his 'casa grande' for his wife and children and his 'casa chica' for his concubine, as long as he can provide for both. Rich men are only more polygamous because they are richer than the poor, who are less polygamous only because they are poor.

We distinguish the following forms of polygamy: simultaneous, successive, sporadic, and symbolic. The rich can afford the first two; sporadic and symbolic polygamy must serve the lesser fry.

 

3.4    SIMULTANEOUS POLYGAMY

Simultaneous polygamy is the real thing: a man has several women at a time and intends to keep them all. Successive polygamy involves a time element: a man has more than one woman, but intends or expects to get rid of one or the other. Sporadic polygamy is the occasional, irregular indulgence in having more than one woman at a time, and symbolic polygamy is the satisfaction of sexual needs without a sex partner. A man with a good income is likely to choose one of the first two varieties, hardly ever one of the last two.

In the case of the simultaneously polygamous man — who has a wife and a mistress — the completed distinction between protégé and sex object is most clearly evident. The protector stays with his protégé, becoming if anything even more solicitous than before, though once he has entered his polygamous phase their sex life begins to be a sham. A man who has found a new sex partner probably would prefer to cease having relations with his protégé altogether. But feeling protective towards her as he does, and anxious not to hurt her feelings, he does have sex with her occasionally. At such times he tends to be rather businesslike about it, because at this point he is emotionally and instinctually preoccupied with his sex partner, with whom he goes in for all of the refinements. However, despite having to play a hypocritical role at home, fearful of being found out, and despite the greater financial strain, among other heightened pressures, the 'bigamist' fulfilling his two major drives with two separate partners feels more relaxed and content than he felt during his monogamous phase. In this newly found serenity he sees proof of the polygamous nature of all men.

It is certainly odd that at this point, instead of acknowledging his new love at least to himself, he continues to regard his feelings for his wife, the adoptee, as love. His feelings for his mistress he calls 'infatuation', or 'a passing obsession', seeing his relationship with her, the real woman in his life, as something unworthy, perhaps even contemptible. She has appealed to his 'lower instincts' and 'hooked' him. If his wife raises the question and he can't lie his way out of it, he assures her that it is nothing, that this 'thing' he has for the other woman is 'only sex' after all, and has nothing to do with love — that there is nothing, in short, for her to be worried about.

The explanation for all this is quite simple: for a man, the distinction between protégé and sex partner is quite arbitrary. 'The other woman' naturally came into his life primarily as a sex partner, because as such she had the greatest chances, his nurturing instincts being fully satisfied by the adopted wife and their brood. But basically she is also a woman, like the rest: partly protégé, partly sex object, partly child, partly vamp, ready to wear whichever mask has the highest market value. Often enough she even bears a striking resemblance to the wife; many men tend to be attracted to the same type over and over again.

And since the new woman is also likely to be not only more beautiful but also younger and less intelligent than the wife, she can easily become a trap for the man; she may at any time transform herself from a sex partner into a new protégé. Instead of the sexpot of his dreams, the simultaneously polygamous man is apt to find himself burdened with just another responsibility. He is likely to found a new family with his new protégé, breed more offspring, and if he goes on to find a third sex partner, end up in an even worse dilemma than before. His sex drive, the motivating force in all this, remains still more or less frustrated, while his legal wife, the original protégé, has more of a grievance against him than ever.

A man with two women is therefore most concerned with avoiding such complications, and to keep himself and his protégé from being harmed by the new sex partner. Following the example of other polygamists, he therefore begins by brainwashing himself: so as never to be tempted to give his new love the status she deserves, he will do his best to either deny his true feelings for her, or minimize them, or even demonize them. His overpowering need to be close to her, to touch her and be touched by her, to take possession of her body, he will interpret to himself and others as something low, common, primitive, cheap, second-rate — in short, as 'mere sex'.

Paralleling this denigration of the sex object is his idealization of the protégé. The nurturing instinct — which really has nothing to do with the bond between man and woman, but is applicable to one's brood, to the aged and the sick — is elevated and transmogrified into something it can never be: 'true love' between man and woman. 'The mother of his children' — the adopted daughter-wife — is seen as everything 'pure', 'meaningful', 'worthy' in his life, and his mistress as the exact opposite.

His experiences with his sex partner become public property: he is always ready to regale his friends with these; whether or not they want to hear, he will tell them how and how often he did it with her. His sex relations with his protégé, the legal adoptee, if any, are taboo. If he should hear another man discussing his protégé as a sex partner, besmirching her 'reputation' as he calls it — by this time he has reached the point of regarding sex as something dirty — he instantly calls that man to account. It is not so long ago since men fought duels because of gossip about their wives — wives with whom they slept only out of a sense of duty — and improbable as it may sound, they sometimes even lost their lives in the process.

The adoptee, who profits from this mystification and is at bottom responsible for it, meanwhile remains quite untouched by all this. She herself is never tempted to confuse sexuality with nurture. If her husband's infidelity leads her to take a lover, it will not occur to her to call it anything but love. Since it is a rare woman who sees a protégé in a man — only sick or intellectual men occasionally enjoy their partner's motherly protection — women are not as a rule tempted to mistake their own nurturing instinct for sexual love, or to regard their love as a sign of degeneracy. As far as a woman is concerned, love is the satisfaction of her sex drive and vice versa. She does not need to minimize it, she can call sex 'love' with a clear conscience, and need not speak of 'mere sex' — though she will naturally keep this a secret from the men; officially, she also regards only altruistic love as the real thing.

 

3.5    SUCCESSIVE POLYGAMY

The successively polygamous man is one who feels overburdened by having more than one woman at a time and looks forward to shedding one of them — usually the older one — at the first opportunity. While the true polygamist is always touching all bases, the successivist tends to alternate between polygamy and monogamy, in a rhythm depending on how much he can afford to spend on women.

According to which is the more dominant, a man's nurturing instinct or his sex drive, successivists fall into two main categories:

  1. Men always on the lookout for a new protégé — the father type
  2. Men always on the lookout for a new sex partner — the bachelor type

Of the two, the father type appears to be in the majority. Such men value their nurturing function above everything, and look for partners with the most childlike appearance. Since most women can preserve a childlike appearance only to the age of twenty-five or thirty at best, these men have to find a new partner every ten years or so. How many 'children' they can adopt in time is in direct proportion to their wealth and status. Self-made men, the newly rich, tend to be drawn to 'healthy looking' children, to the type of the country girl with rosy cheeks. Men born into the upper class, like aesthetes, often prefer the pale, bony, 'sickly' mannequin type. But they must all, in their different ways, have a helpless look: the protégé must appear to be in need of a strong man's protection. The moment there is the slightest suspicion that the creature can take care of herself, the automatism of the nurturing instinct fails. Once the adopted wife begins, after some years, to look like an adult, this kind of man will have to find a substitute for her. The time of the search for a suitable successor is the polygamous phase in the life of this man, when he is in a state corresponding to pregnancy.

Inasmuch as child impersonation is woman's best paid profession, the 'father' — provided he is sufficiently well-heeled — seldom has too far to look for a new charge. Once he has found a new 'child' and has made sure that she 'needs' him, he gives his grown 'daughter' a dowry, usually the home they shared plus alimony until he remarries (in progressive countries, they call this job-training assistance) and devotes himself entirely to the new offspring. The 'newborn' will be taken out for an airing not in a baby carriage but more likely in a Lincoln or Mercedes, of course, and will be shown off not to the neighbors but to the proud father's colleagues and friends. But the scenario is much the same. Though no one will ask him if she has learned to say dada yet or how her first teeth are coming along, they will all tell him how adorable she is, as he parades her with paternal pride. His pet certainly is sweet, he will say, but she is also quite stubborn when she wants something, and she can get rather wild (in bed) at times, too!

The less affluent, middle-class variation of the 'father' and successive polygamist is likely to be a man who has put aside some savings in his twenty to thirty years of working for a living. This little capital is not uncommonly invested in a secondary adoption, know to folklore as his 'new-found youth'. Taking the man's bank balance and the age of his wife into account, it should be possible to predict with some accuracy just when this natural wonder is likely to blossom.

Neither the rich nor the middle-class father type is primarily concerned with sex. Unlike the true, or simultaneously, polygamous male, the successivist trades in his old wife for a new one to satisfy his nurturing instinct rather more than his sex drive. His wife has outgrown, not her sexual capacity, but her 'childhood'. Hence it is a case of divorce and remarriage as a rule — precisely what the simultanist tries to avoid. On the other hand, the successivist is under no compulsion to downgrade the new woman in his life. On the contrary, she is always the only great love of his life; it is her predecessor who is deprecated. Since the new partner is primarily a protégé, he seeks to protect her in the most comprehensive way possible: by legal adoption, via marriage. In contrast to the bachelor type, the father type does not fear impotence. His message is not 'See, I can still satisfy a much younger woman', but rather 'See, I am still a man to whom this young innocent thing can entrust herself; she knows I can take care of her'. The father type knows from experience that he is likely to get only more or less frigid women — any other kind is unlikely to ally herself with a man old enough to be her father or even her grandfather.

But aren't women who trade on their role as protégé aware that they are living with a time bomb? Since sooner or later the man is likely to want to trade them in for a new model. The answer is that it is a risk worth taking, because however it may turn out, their role is more profitable than that of the straight sex partner. The man who marries a younger woman is almost automatically providing for his older wife, as a condition for his freedom to move on to greener pastures. Men are forced by their own self-made laws to support every one of their former wives in the style to which they have become accustomed. If no other man comes along to take a former wife off his hands — though one often does, since the man-woman ration in the population is usually one-to-one — the first husband will have to go on providing for her for the rest of her life. Only women who really valued their husbands as lovers can feel hurt by the separation. The typical adoptee hardly suffers at all; she has always seen her husband as a father, and a child doesn't care whether a father provides for one or ten, as long as she gets her share. Of course an only child enjoys a better standard of living than one of several in the same family; but if it can't be helped, she can adjust to getting a smaller share of the take. Once the financial problem is settled, the adoptee releases the 'father' and sometimes even sets out in quest of a new man.

The bachelor type — the successive polygamist who is sexually motivated — is a relatively rare species. He is a man who is really looking for a woman, but always finds a child instead. Since he doesn't want to give up sex, he does take on the 'child' as sex partner, but usually not for long. He is likely to find her too simple-minded, not as a child, but as a woman. Since he wants no child to begin with and therefore does not readily offer to 'adopt' her, the separation is usually not long in coming, often enough initiated by the pseudo-child, once she knows that marriage is unlikely.

The bachelor type is not altogether lacking in the nurturing instinct, but rather than women he tends to choose the more genuinely helpless to protect. He is likely to be an idealist fighting for a cause, for justice or freedom, on behalf of the disadvantaged, the underdog or the like. Or else his profession as a doctor, social worker, politician, enables him to act out his altruistic impulses enough to fulfill this need. He is therefore relatively immune, compared with most men, to the lures of women who offer themselves for adoption.

 

3.6    SPORADIC POLYGAMY

This is all the poor man can afford: unlike the rich, he can satisfy his sex drive only occasionally, with:

  1. women he cannot have on a fixed basis (promiscuity)
  2. women anyone can have (prostitution)

Women he cannot have are the wives of other men. These are normally sexed women who have chosen security with a man they do not really desire physically so that they have to satisfy their sexual needs outside their adoptive arrangement. Frequently they are women not yet attached elsewhere, but still out for adoption. While waiting for 'the right man' to come along, they may become the sex partner of 'another girl's' father. Since such women generally grant their favors gratis — because they really are interested in sex, though not as much in security — the offer must be accepted with alacrity: for most men, the supply of free sex is limited, the demand enormous. Only a rich man can be choosey about whom to take to bed. If he is rich enough, a man can even outbid a 'father' already in possession of a woman who is, technically, no longer available. The moneyless man will take what he can get, when it is offered — he knows full well that the opportunity may not come so soon again. Although this is mere promiscuity, the 'little man' prefers to regard what he does because his choices are limited, such as satisfying his sex drive with the first available partner, as 'adventurous'. Snatching at occasional gratification with a woman he can't afford, since he is already supporting a wife on his inadequate means, he calls having an 'affair', with all the connotations of Casanova tomcatting over the lead roofs of Venice.

Women anyone can have are those who don't give it away, but neither are they priced out of the market. The amount of compensation a woman commands for her sexual services stands in indirect ratio to the number of men to whom she is available. Sexuality is one of the few aspects of our lives where class barriers still exist, even in the welfare state: which sex partners a rich man can get depends strictly on his income. Women with exclusive contracts — 'one-man' women — are the most expensive, because termination of the contract automatically entails severance pay plus a life pension. Exclusive use without a contract, as with a mistress, is expensive only for the duration of the affair — the absence of a contract secures the man against having to pay compensation at the end. Sex with call girls — women who accommodate one or two partners a day — is considerably easier on the purse of the usually upper middle class client. The more clients a girls takes on, the lower the price, hence the poorer the man who has to pay it. The 'house' whore with five clients a day is the sex object of the successful commission salesman: the whore who picks up ten men a day with her car services the middle ranks of office worker; the streetwalker who takes on up to thirty tricks a day is the working man's sex object. Total sexual frustration is generally the lot of the unemployed only.

Sex with prostitutes is undoubtedly the 'best buy' in the sex market, but it also happens to be the most remote from genuine sexuality. Men who resort to prostitutes appease their desire for adult love by quasi-mechanical means. That they are embracing a live body in the process has little more than symbolic value. Sexuality, the most uncompromising form of interhuman communication, is here reduced to its crudest expression: a series of involuntary muscular contractions produced by a few minutes of friction. The woman who helps a man, by whatever technique, to achieve this spasm is little better than any piece of hollow tubing with which he might achieve the same result mechanically.

In any case, brothel sex is cheap and spares the protégé at home. One of the functions of the prostitute is to relieve the adoptee of part or all of her more onerous sexual duties. To frequent a brothel is therefore seldom regarded as a sign of moral degeneracy in a man: on the contrary, it is proof positive of his unconditional devotion to his adoptee. Even if his secret is discovered, nothing much can happen: the wife's rival is 'only' a prostitute — by existing standards she hardly rates as a woman. 'Real' women are those who threaten another woman's adoptive status. In this regard the prostitute is totally harmless. A man who wanted to divorce his adoptee to marry a prostitute would be quite a sensation.

Basically, therefore, only men consider prostitution immoral. The idea that they are capable of simply taking a woman — a creature entitled to their protection in the highest degree, as they have been indoctrinated to believe — in exchange for a little cash and nothing more is painfully embarrassing to them. Only the knowledge that other men are using the same woman in the same way — which is why it is so cheap — makes it all somewhat more bearable. Women do not look down on female prostitution. Apart from the feminists — women who judge their own sex by male standards — women in general do regard their own sex as particularly in need of protection. It is only for reasons of hygiene that they would prefer their adoptive fathers to settle for symbolic polygamy, i.e., substitute a subscription to Playboy or Penthouse for their periodic visit to the call-house.

 

3.7    SYMBOLIC POLYGAMY

Sporadic and symbolic polygamy are the only kinds the average man can afford, as we have said. Which of these a man chooses is not so much a question of money — both are about equally expensive — as a matter of temperament. Extroverts will tend towards sporadic polygamy, introverts to symbolic polygamy. It is bound to cost a man a certain effort to approach a total stranger in the street and ask outright for the greatest intimacy two human beings can share. The introvert is too sensitive to approach a prostitute and tends to prefer some substitute. There are, of course affluent introverts too, but since they do not have to exert themselves to get sex partners — quite the contrary — they do not need to be satisfied with symbolic sex, despite their personal sensitivity. Only rich men who have no use for live partners — old men, or the sexually maladjusted — take any interest in the same symbols as their underprivileged brethren.

People differ in what most stimulates their imagination: some are excited by pictures, some by words, others prefer a combination of both. Each 'market' is accordingly supplied by one variety of sex substitute or the other: for the visually oriented there are the pornographic films and pictures which must be sufficiently explicit without the need for any accompanying text or commentary. For men who are more easily aroused by words — usually intellectuals — there is pornographic literature. And for those who prefer to enjoy both, there are 'men's magazines'.

That words and pictures support each other in the men's magazines has greatly profited their publishers: when Hugh Hefner started his Playboy magazine in the United States some years ago, the censors could not find much to oppose — neither the pictures nor the accompanying texts were flagrantly pornographic; the effect lay in the combination of the two, and was hard to pin down. The magazine became enormously and increasingly successful, and despite its many imitators, Playboy is still one of the best-selling sex substitutes for shy men. It is not so much the quality of the sex partners depicted — they are considerably less stimulating than those of rival magazines — but the sophistry of its sales pitch. Hefner understands his introverts: he publishes double-spread ads promoting the magazine as a present, a gift subscription, from her to him. Since very few women read Playboy — it's a men's magazine — this ad is aimed not at women but at men. 'What this?' they are supposed to think, 'women subscribe to Playboy for their men? Then there's certainly nothing wrong with my reading it.' High-quality short stories, interviews, and cartoons, which make up the editorial content, make the alibi watertight, even though most of these are ignored by the average buyer. Hefner has broken the oldest female monopoly: he is the first man to profit from the frustration of middle-class family men by successfully commercializing what was once the exclusive preserve of women. Since, as a man, he knows the needs of his own sex better, he can also satisfy them better than women can, in this form. With an empire whose estimated worth was at one time two hundred million dollars, he is already history's most successful male madame.

Symbolic sex objects — women who don't really exist — can of course only excite the polygamous introvert, without satisfying him. The only way out for him is self-gratification (masturbation) or else using his protégé for the purpose. With the help of his sex substitute he can perhaps stimulate himself into forgetting his mission as her protector and fantasize his pseudo-child into the role of seductress. With a little imagination, he can pretend he is holding in his arms, not his actual adoptee, but the girl from the centerfold.

 

3.8    ONLY MEN ARE PRUDES

The chief characteristics of the father syndrome are incest, polygamy, and prudery. Quite a number of men are incestuous, polygamous and prudish at the same time. Male incestuous behavior and polygamy have been dealt with in the preceding pages. We now to the third characteristic of the father syndrome: male prudishness.

A person is a prude when he denies his sex drive. It follows from this definition that only men can be prudes: women consciously inhibit their sex drive beginning as early as puberty, in the interests of their sexual power politics (see THE POWER OF THE COLDER PARTNER). When they oppose sex, they are not denying any hidden desires — their desires have been so well stifled that they have nothing left to deny. Only a handful of adult women are in the position to be prudes. Prudery is a male attitude.

But not all men who behave prudishly are real prudes. We must distinguish between

  1. pretended prudery (the prudishness of the 'managers')
  2. genuine prudery (the prudishness of the 'fathers')

Pretended prudishness is exhibited by those men who are under orders — not necessarily consciously — to conduct themselves and life in the interests of the female power block. Those who have power will naturally do whatever they please, and leave undone what does not please them: whatever is no fun. At the very top of the list of things which are no fun are the humiliations of working for a living. These are accordingly left to the people lacking the power to lead their lives as they please. Leaving aside the kind of career competition which is fun — the best example is the successful career woman who doesn't really have to work because her husband earns enough for the family, and those among the rich who go to the office everyday because they like it (the male counterpart to the 'emancipated' woman), work for the most part is done by men who have no alternative.

Women are to the world what stockholders are to corporations: although they understand nothing of what is involved, and although they themselves do nothing for the corporation, everything that is done is being done in their interest. Buildings are built to suit their requirements, laws are designed to protect them, capital is invested for their benefit, consumer goods are made to their tastes. Men — the lawmakers — send themselves off to war, by law, leaving the women safe at home. Men — the stockbrokers — increase capital in such a way that women are already the chief stockholders in several great industrial countries. Men — the clergymen — force their own sex into chastity, fidelity and monogamy.

Just as the stockholders are asked, at the annual meeting, 'Shall we go on like this?', and they reply, 'Oh yes, go on, but see to it that profits keep increasing', married men also pause from time to time to ask: 'How are we doing, shall we continue like this?', and the wives say, 'Sure, keep it up, but try to do better in the future.' What the men are to go on doing, and how, in which area of endeavor they should exert themselves a bit more, the women don't really need to know. The apparatus is so perfect that they need neither know about its flaws nor need they be able to judge the qualifications of those who must do the job — the men can attend to discovering the weaknesses of the system, promoting the most efficient of them to the top positions, and keep the wheels turning.

The only requirement, as far as the women are concerned, is that the candidate respect the female protégé status, because it is on this status that a woman's power depends. This respect he proves by his flawless private life: a man who wants to get to the top, i.e., as representative of the female power block, must first of all adopt a woman and beget a number of protégés with her. There must be no divorce, infidelity, or any other sexual 'missteps' in his past, obviously. If he does not fulfill these requirements, women will vote for him no matter how ideally qualified he is for the job according to the experts. The experts know that, and do not even bother to propose such a candidate for office.

Men who seek high positions in the management of the female empire, like heads of state, cabinet ministers, clergymen of rank, generals, judges, bank directors, must live before and during their incumbency in a manner corresponding to the feminine ideal. They may not leave their unloved wives — everyone knows the wives of men in high position, dragged along up the ladder for a lifetime, visible reminders of the 'sins' of the great man's youth — nor keep mistresses openly, nor desire love objects of their own gender, etc. In short, managers must either be prudish or pretend to be, otherwise they cannot stay on top. On public occasions they must pay homage to the great devotion they feel for their families; condemn sexual licentiousness; avow their inability to understand homosexuality, and the like. One careless statement, one illicit kiss, one secret rendezvous discovered and their career is finished.

Genuine prudishness — the prudery of the fathers — is harder to spot than the simulated kind, because it tends to be represented as the opposite of what it really is: as proof of man's sexual libertism. The reason for this is that a man who regards women a primarily protégé — a father type — consequently regards the act of love as the rape of a weaker person. When he indulges, he feels guilty, which leads to lengthy confessions. Here we distinguish between direct and indirect confessions: the first takes place in the so-called man-to-man conversation, the second is represented by locker-room jokes. Both are forms of prudery.

There are no statistics on how much time the average man spends hashing over sex with his cronies, but chances are it is more time than he spends on sex itself. But why should a grown man, unless he is a homosexual, discuss sex with another man? Normally, the sex act is a fit subject for conversation only between two sex partners. That men nevertheless preferably and persistently talk with other men about their sexual experiences can be explained only by damned-up guilt feelings, the bad conscience they have about their sexual intercourse with women.

The connection between sex and guilt is unmistakably revealed in the indirect confession: the 'dirty' joke. For the man who regards sex with women as forbidden fruit, which he cannot give up, the hero of a locker-room story must be a man doing the impermissible. The typical blue story accordingly always revolves around the sex act, and one of the persons involved is likely to be either an inexperienced child, a lecherous gynecologist, a nun or clergyman. Since the joke is primarily a confession rather than a funny story with universal appeal, it seldom means much to outsiders. The man who leads off with a smutty story is merely offering a pretext for starting off the group therapy session, though the scene is a local bar or men's club rather than a psychiatrist's office. The roar of laughter that follows each offering is the laughter of relief, that of men joined in lightening their conscience.

Another reflection of male prudery is the lingering preference for what used to be, not so long ago, a prerequisite: virginity in the bride. It is found most often where simulated prudery — that of the clergy, in this case — goes hand in hand with the real thing. The man who wants to marry a virgin is clearly expressing a low opinion of sexuality. He subjects women to a simple test: if they go to bed with him they are no good; they are only good women if they refuse to go to bed with him. Only a good woman, i.e., one who has proved that she does not desire him sexually, is eligible to win him as a provider for the rest of her life.

Since a person who has abstained from sex to the age of twenty-three can never shake off the resulting inhibitions, the man who marries a virgin usually gets exactly what he secretly wanted: a frigid sex partner. He will soon flip back into simultaneous or sporadic polygamy, to satisfy his sexual needs as he did before marriage, with a 'bad' woman. The 'good' mother becomes the mother of his children, an asexual creature whom he goes on protecting with a good conscience. That women are forced into sexual abstinence by a male-dominated society is a widespread misunderstanding: a woman who intends to provide for herself is in no way forced to remain a virgin but is free to take all the lovers she wants or can get.

These forms of prudery are hardly ever found among women; the prudish women one encounters are the exception, not the rule. The average woman does not talk about her sexual experiences, seldom tells smutty stories, and never raises the question of her intended husband's virginity. Since hardly any man plays the role of the child, hardly any woman has occasion to feel that she is committing a reprehensible act in sleeping with a man. So women have no guilt feelings on that score, and no need to confess. On the contrary: for the many women who can't enjoy the sex act (the percentage of women in the United States who have trouble attaining orgasm is estimated by some to be as high as 75%, for example) it is an act of pure charity, of self-sacrifice, something they may be justly proud of.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 


 

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