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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.


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

  2. Love and Power

  3. The Father Syndrome

  4. Love between man and woman is monogamous, jealous and faithful

  5. Public fathers, public children

  6. Man as the victim of his polygamy


5.   Public fathers — public children



The Western world is an unofficial matriarchy in which men play the role of patriarchs — without this game, the matriarchy would be impossible. But the game must remain a game. If it were suddenly to turn into reality, that would be the end of female power. To make sure that this can never happen, women use the mass media: they train journalists to build up a false public image of woman by illegitimate means. Their job is to indoctrinate men, to the effect that women are weak and in need of male protection; also, that true love for a woman must be altruistic in nature.

A true patriarch would be a man who

  1. acts as the provider for others and
  2. feels that this gives him the right to order them how to conduct their lives.

While women find 'a' desirable, they have no use for 'b'. However, 'a' would not work without 'b': the one who earns the money likes to determine how it will be spent, otherwise it gives him no satisfaction. So, in order to go on with 'a', a man must also believe that he also retains 'b'.

In other words, to keep a man at work and economically useful, he must believe that he is the boss. He must be made to believe that in exchange for the money he brings in, he has reduced her to performing menial labor for him, and is exploiting her sexually.

In the private sphere, this deception is hard to maintain: every husband knows that his wife, ensconced in her automated household, is anything but a slave. In the average household it is the wife who makes virtually all the financial decisions. According to the statistics, women decide on most purchases by themselves, except in the case of consumer that require some technically knowledgeable judgment, such as cars, household machines, etc., where the decisions are made jointly with the husband. The woman alone makes virtually all the social decisions: she determines the number of children with the help of contraceptives, she presides over their education since she is the one who is home, she usually chooses the friends and relatives whom the couple see socially. Sexual exploitation is hardly involved: the average frequency of coitus after ten years of marriage in the United States, according to Kinsey, is about twice a week. Even for a frigid woman — and with any other kind, it cannot be regarded as exploitation — this cannot be considered too great a strain.

The deception of men as to the role they play is more easily achieved, therefore, by influencing public opinion. While every man knows that he himself is not exploiting anyone, and that he personally is not raping his wife, he can be made to suppose that perhaps other men do. Hearing it daily on radio and television, not to mention the papers, will convince him eventually. When the better educated men keep on explaining to the simpler folk that even normal sexual intercourse must be interpreted as a rape of the female partner, and that the monotonous chores in a fully automated household, the day-long company of children and women friends, the eternal waiting for the husband's homecoming in the evening, all add up to the subtlest form of human enslavement the world has ever seen, they will learn to see themselves also as the kind of brutes who prevent their women from 'realizing their identity'. A man's daily struggle for his adoptive family thus acquires a new, sinister look.

Public fathers are men who systematically misinform their own kind about women, to safeguard the status of women as protégés. They are journalists writing for the daily newspapers and magazines, devoted to 'women's problems,' radio and television producers of special features on the 'oppression' of women, film makers on the same subject, women's 'emancipation' of whatever kind, macho writers who turn out novels or autobiographies documenting their sexual 'abuse' of their innocent female playmates, etc.

All of these public fathers have one thing in common: their conduct is not prompted by low motives. Some are forced to slant their material in this way. Others begin by deceiving themselves into believing what they say, and there are others still who really believe it. We therefore differentiate as follows:

  1. involuntary public fathers
  2. voluntary public fathers
  3. brainwashed public fathers



There are the journalists who are forced by their publishers or producers to slant their copy a certain way, to misstate the case, to lie. A journalist who does not wish to jeopardize his job — a journalist with a family, usually — must write what his boss expects him to write. It would seem, then, that the freedom of the press is freedom only for the publishers — but basically, it is not even that. A publisher who wants to sell his product must obey the imperatives of the market, i.e., he will commission and publish only what readers will buy. Freedom of the press ultimately boils down to the consumer's freedom to read his own opinions in the papers. For all the reasons given, women as well as men are interested in reading that women are oppressed in a male-dominated society. A journalist will hardly ever have an opportunity to publish anything to the contrary. In a capitalistic society it is not the mass media which manipulate opinion, but mass opinion which manipulates the media.

But even if men wanted to read the truth about their condition, women would still be the decisive factor. Though both men and women read, women are in addition the big consumers. Since women do most of the buying, most advertising campaigns are aimed directly or indirectly at them. Since most Western papers are financed largely through advertising, they cannot risk displeasing women by their editorial content; the day on which they do so, they would hear from their advertisers in no uncertain terms. Men would not stand a chance, even if they wanted to publish independent opinions about women, of being published in any medium addressing both sexes, as the great majority do.

The same is true of television, financed as it is in most Western countries by advertisers, promoters, publicity aimed at consumers. Here too the editorial content must pass female censorship. It is not pre-censored, of course, but subject to a censorship which functions on the principle that the producer is done for if the product does not sell. The producer is therefore motivated to avoid catastrophe by censoring himself.

It isn't as if one can't risk it, once in a while, to tell women a home truth; now and then to portray them a little more realistically than usual, perhaps. To do so may in fact stimulate sales temporarily, by stirring up controversy — but in the end, women must win. For every article that is critical of women there have to be hundreds that idealize them, just to keep the balance.

That men do not want to face the reality of their situation, the role they play, is made evident by those media that address themselves chiefly to men. A current women's magazine such as Cosmopolitan can take a chance on ridiculing patriarchal pretensions, because its readers are all women, who know quite well what they have made of men. Men's magazines are created by fathers for fathers: Time, Newsweek, L'express, Der Spiegel, have no choice but to present men as the brutal oppressors of the female sex. What would be the sense of their subscribers' economic struggles if those for whom they are struggling are not in need of their protection? What would happen if they were told that they are in reality the most enslaved sector of society? The publishers of men's magazines and women are on the same side of the fence. Even if they all knew who oppresses whom, they would take good care to keep the truth from being printed in their publications.



It can be dangerous for a man to be intelligent beyond a certain degree. The man of average intelligence tends to focus on one aspect of a situation at a time, which enables him to come to a decision and in general 'master' his life with relative ease. But most situations have more than one aspect, and the highly intelligent person sees all the possibilities at once, is torn between alternative views, solutions, consequences — in short, above average intelligence leads to indecisiveness and existential anxiety.* The intellectual longs for one thing above all others: someone to tell him what to do. He is always searching for protection and can never find it anywhere. Whom can he accept as his protector? Certainly not someone less intelligent than himself, and he is not likely to meet someone more intelligent when needed.

[*Vilar is not a good judge of what the highly intelligent person is, so her limited perception contributes to the 'mass media' manipulations of man.]

Just as the 'lack of femininity' — some deficiency in the specifically female sex characteristics — often simulates the development of a normal intelligence in a woman, so 'unmanliness' — some deficiency in the specifically male characteristics — may lead to excessive intelligence in a man. It cannot be overlooked that a great percentage of the so-called intellectual men do not appear too robust physically. The inability to beat up a classmate has probably produced more great thinkers than an interest in the mysteries of the universe; we withdraw automatically to a field of action where we can find the confirmation denied to us elsewhere. Since, for example, adolescents who wear glasses are also frequently great readers, many people believe that reading is bad for one's eyesight. In reality these people become readers because of their weak eyesight; they compensate for a constitutional deficiency by adopting a new scale of values.

Intellectual men have two possibilities: they can either admit their existential anxiety, or hide it behind a show of bravo. Very few choose the first alternative. A woman may show fear, should show it, even; a man may not. Since a timid man is not looking for a protégé but for someone who will adopt him — a mother, in fact — his task is doubly hard. A mother would have to be his intellectual superior, and physically his polar opposite: he is hardly likely to find a woman who can fulfill both conditions. Such a 'mother' may appear, but only as a fringe benefit of success. Once an intellectual has achieved recognition as a writer, film director, composer, or the like, by presenting other intellectuals with a sufficiently impressive version of his existential anxiety and so enabling them to identify with him, he has an excellent chance of finding a woman who will 'take care of him'. At this point he is free to show his anxiety; it even enhances his image. In his works, women are always the strong and powerful beings who have men unconditionally at their mercy. Male artists always relate to women either by worshipping or denouncing them, either as Ingmar Bergman or Norman Mailer — they hardly ever find themselves on a level of equality.

Most intellectuals admittedly seem to prefer the Norman Mailer image to that of the abject worshipper. For fear of exposing their anxiety, they imitate the kind of man they wish they were. Since few of them are good actors, the majority naturally tend to overdo it. Where large groups of intellectuals are involved, the show of machismo may come to be grotesque in its exaggeration. Anyone who walks by chance into a newspaper's editorial office, nowadays, or into a television studio or an advertising agency — the kind of place, in short, where a number of hypersensitives are likely to be found gathered together — is apt to wonder whether he isn't on a freighter somewhere. The men he encounters in the air-conditioned, carpeted offices all look as though they expect to be ordered any minute to shovel coal, hoist crates, or lower anchors. In their worn leather jackets, cheap cord pants, beards and beardlets, pipes and pipelets, they look like seamen, truck drivers, or construction workers — anything but men whose greatest exertion consists of holding a pencil between their fingers.

It is a case of overcompensation — men who imitate men and overdo it. They do everything the image of the aggressive male calls for, but since there is no genuine necessity behind it, they have no sense of proportion. Only because it is the masculine thing to do, they will torture themselves by drinking hard liquor, ruin their health by smoking home-made cigarettes, spend their Saturday afternoon watching football from the sidelines, whistle after blondes, squeeze themselves into uncomfortable sports car bucket seats or fast motorbikes.

The same men who are normally against spilling blood, fanatically oppose speed limits in driving. Men who live in the fear of death more than anyone — they are the only ones with enough imagination to foresee it — assure themselves an early demise from lung cancer by chain-smoking. Men who normally feel shy with women and tend to express themselves with care — they are 'insecure', 'frustrated', 'progressive', and even know what this means — discuss women among themselves in the most vulgar terms (women are 'cunts' or 'birds' to be 'laid' and 'fucked'). And while the model they try to copy, the 'rough working stiff', dresses for dinner out on Sunday, his imitators make a point of wearing his clothes at the weekend. They attend their intellectual occasions — concerts, theatres, art exhibits — predominantly in artificially faded blue jeans: the image of the aggressive male must be upheld at all costs.

Only those areas where they cannot live up to their models will intellectuals turn their superior intelligence to account as an excuse, to make their weaknesses appear as another kind of strength. An intellectual will admit freely that he can't 'hit a nail on the head', 'is helpless where money is concerned', 'hasn't the vaguest idea how a car works', and has to call in a friend to change a fuse.

To know how to deal with such matters would be a sign of intellectual primitivism, and while he is a real guy, he is not necessarily a primitive. Just as a woman is not expected to cope because of her femininity, an intellectual need not be skilled in practical matters because he is good at something else.

That those who overcompensate on the grounds of their ability to think abstractly tend to work precisely where women need them most — in the press and publishing, radio and television, mental health institutes, opinion research and advertising — and that they tend to focus on 'the problems of women' is naturally of invaluable help to women. Unlike the worshippers of women, they do not put women on a pedestal. Here too they are driven to overcompensate — here above all, which they like so much to concern themselves with 'the female question'. Instead, they exalt themselves as men, believe in the power of men as such, and say to women: 'You poor creatures, don't you see how you are mistreated and exploited by men?' They can't help it. The best disguise for the overcompensator's anxiety and weakness is to be as vocal as possible about the weakness and helplessness of those to whom, in reality, he turns for protection. The average man feels 'strong' enough in his own right. The intellectual has to invent someone weaker than himself so that he can feel strong enough.

Intellectual men are therefore the natural allies of women in the defense of their status as protégés. Here the interests of the male and the female coincide as nowhere else: women need their image as 'the weaker sex', as intellectuals need their image as 'the stronger sex'. The journalist who daily writes copy for his paper about the cruel oppression of women by men — without himself being one of the oppressors — comes as close as possible to the female ideal of good journalism. The television producer whose offerings express indignation about the mistreatment of women as 'sex objects' and recommends that his fellow men practice the virtues of altruistic love in their dealings with women — self-sacrifice, selflessness, tolerance — is making the best kind of television features, according to the female yardstick.

How ironic that it is precisely the kind of men most in need of protection who make a point of telling women how helpless they are without male protection, and that the most sexually neutral of men insist on the sexual exploitation of women by men. But since this is being done in the interests of all concerned — including the other men — no one is likely to look into the matter. Women who do not wish to be protected — and they are the only kind who could possibly object — are too rare to count.



There are men who do not merely say that women are oppressed by men, but really believe it. These are public fathers because of their intellectual incapacity — men who are incapable of interpreting the simplest facts in a coherent fashion.

This incapacity does not necessarily affect all of their thought processes, but only one aspect or another of their intelligence. Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, August Bebel, and Sigmund Freud were intelligent men, but they failed unequivocally in their ability to analyze the relationship between the sexes (see THE WEAKER SEX HOLDS ALL THE ACES). The simple explanation for this is that men brought up by women — and who is not brought up by a woman? — cannot be in a position to think about women objectively. Modern psychology is based on the assumption that most of a person's values are formed in the earliest years of life by the person in charge of the child — the mother, that is. All of the great male proponents of women's rights have been the products of solid middle-class families, their mothers were protégés of the first rank, naturally given to defending their favored status with the well-known brainwashing techniques. These men saw very little of the real family slave, their father, because his slave labors in support of his family kept him away from home.

It is also possible, of course, that the revolutionary thinkers mentioned above were skilled demagogues who invented the fairy tale about the oppressed status of womankind for political reasons. In view of their intellectual achievements in other respects, this might be a plausible explanation. But one would then have to except Sigmund Freud: if he knew what nonsense he was writing about women, the chances are that he was an 'overcompensator'.

In fairness to the historic proponents of women's rights, we must admit that a case can be made for woman's oppressed status before she had the right to vote, and before the true nature of human instincts was understood as it is today. But when an individual like John Kenneth Gailbrath, a Harvard professor, announces in 1973 that woman in the United States is man's 'crypto-servant', and publishes such statements as 'Menially employed servants were only available to a minority of the pre-industrial population; the servant-wife is available, democratically, to almost all the entire present male population,' there are only two possible explanations: either he does not want to see the facts, or else he is incapable of seeing the facts (either he pretends to be a fool, or else he is a fool). He is, in any case, overlooking at least the following facts applying to most of the Western industrial states, which is presumably where he finds his audience:

  1. Men do military service; women do not
  2. Men are sent into battle; women are not
  3. Men are pensioned later in life than women (even though their shorter life expectancy should entitle them to being pensioned earlier)
  4. Men have virtually no say as regards their own reproduction (women have the pill and abortion, not men, who must, or can, have only those children their women are willing to have)
  5. Men support women; women never or only temporarily support men
  6. Men work all their lives; women hold jobs temporarily or not at all
  7. Even though men work for a lifetime and women only temporarily or not at all, men are on the whole poorer than women (in the United States women own 61% of all private property)
  8. Men have their children 'on loan', while women get to keep theirs (since men must work all their lives while women are free to choose, men are automatically deprived of custody of their children in cases of separation or divorce, on the grounds that they have to work!)

This list of disadvantages for men could be continued at will. A journalist who insists in the face of this evidence that woman is the slave of man — and actually believes it — is unfit for his vocation: he is incapable of logical thought.



What is an indictment without the witnesses for the prosecution? When the public fathers want to make a case for themselves as the oppressors of women, they need women to confirm it — where there is no complaint, there is no crime. The women who provide these pseudo-confirmations are the public children. As the self-appointed spokespersons for their entire sex, they give the men their assurances that women indeed feel enslaved, mistreated, exploited, misunderstood and humiliated. For this purpose they either deliberately give false evidence, dramatize a particular situation, or cite individual tragic cases as typical. The proponents of women's rights, both male and female, behave like children playing 'funeral' together: they dig a hole, kill a lizard, lower the 'body' into the 'grave' and then sob loudly together over it.

The question arises, where to hold the funeral? Children who seek to attract their parents' attention to their woes will howl where they are likely to be heard: as close to home as possible. Women intent upon convincing men of the horrendousness of their fate will bury their 'dead lizards' where they can be assured of the necessary publicity: in the big cities, preferably New York, USA. That this happens to be the least likely place for the message, because it is precisely where U.S. women are leading most free and most comfortable lives, will hardly stop the tears from flowing.

Public children put on their act in the vicinity of public fathers, the great majority — and especially the most influential of whom — are found in New York City. New York is where the most quoted (and copied) publications in the world appear: The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek. The views of America's public fathers necessarily determine those of their colleagues all over the world: when U.S. journalists state that men enslave women, Europeans, South Americans, Australians, will hardly contradict them. After all, it is in the interests of all concerned to think so: the private 'fathers' in their own countries want to read the same thing that the North Americans are reading.

That the umbrella organization of the American women's rights movement, N.O.W. (National Organization for Women), has a membership of forty thousand or so is no proof that it has a sensible cause. When the American cartoonist Alan Abel exhorted his fellow countrymen to put trousers on their domestic pets, so that the animal's nakedness would cease to offend people's delicate sensibilities, the hoax also brought him a following of forty thousand who took it seriously. In a country of more than two hundred million inhabitants there is nothing too eccentric to attract a following of partisans. That the myth of the underprivileged woman had to find most of its champions in the very spot where women are better off than anywhere else in the world is only to be expected; where women are so well off, both men and women must make the greatest effort to disguise this inconvenient truth, in the interests of their favorite myth: disadvantaged womanhood.

That N.O.W. enjoys more publicity than any other group of comparable size — who in Europe remembers even hearing about Alan Abel's prudish campaign? — reflects the need of men and women outside the organization to keep hearing precisely such views about the situation of women over and over again. This is confirmed by the fact that no matter what women come up with in their propaganda, no matter how clumsy, absurd, or tasteless it is, it will be served up to the public in the morning papers. It will either have been written by the women themselves — many of them are journalists who have a firm foothold as reporters on the 'woman question' in all the major American publications — or else it will appear as conscientiously quoted by a public father. The message then takes off from there for its predictable trip all around the world: whether the women's rightniks are for or against Kissinger, Marilyn Monroe, long pants, short pants, vaginal sprays, lesbianism or sexual abstinence, is all earnestly chewed over in the European press. Who could be so chauvinistic as to suppress in his paper any news of these brave women and their struggles for liberation?

'Why are these women doing it?' one might ask. What do female journalists and writers have to gain from making the members of their sex out to be so many welfare cases? What is the percentage in playing the role of the victim at all costs? Do women really profit so much — apart from the material gains — from the guilty conscience of men?

Ms., for example, are doing such good business that they can afford to print expensive color photos on glossy stock of their oppressed and liberated heroines. The fairy tale about man's female slave is beating the Brothers Grimm at their own game.

Compared with other branches of journalism, the woman's lib specialty has the advantage of being quite undemanding. To denounce female slavery as a witness for the prosecution requires no courage (since no one opposes this view of the matter, there are no enemies to brave), no style (form is secondary, as long as you write heatedly enough about the oppression of your own sex), no expert knowledge (the possession of a vagina is sufficient qualification), nor ideas (which are always furnished by men).

The idea of women as the oppressed sex was, we repeat, a man's idea. It derives not from Beauvoir, Friedan, Millet, and Greer (how can women be expected to come up with the idea that they are oppressed?), but from Marx, Engels, Bebel, and Freud. The intellectual women merely provide the necessary 'dead lizards' for the ritual wake. In doing so, they use the following methods:

  1. factual reportage
  2. inside dope
  3. truncated statistics

The factual report usually presents a woman's own story of what is often enough a genuinely tragic fate. This individual instance is then publicized as a typical experience, representative for large numbers of women.

There is by now a whole category of women's publications offering to men inside glimpse of what it is like to be a woman, how women feel in certain situations, etc.. Germaine Greer, for example, has enlightened readers of Playboy who might otherwise not have known that for a woman every sex act is a form of rape. Gloria Steinem has told the readers of Der Spiegel that there are so few women doctors because 'as a woman' one finds it hard to imagine a woman as a doctor. Ellen Frankfort (Vaginal Politics, New York, 1972) explains why there are so few female surgeons: 'as a woman' one tends to avoid this specialty because men have warned women that the surgeon's work, involving standing on one's feet for hours, leads to varicose veins, which cuts down on sexual attractiveness. For a good overall illustration of what it feels like to be a woman, day by day, the ladies resort to comparisons with ethnic minorities: women in the United States say that they are treated much as American Blacks are in their country, and this has been gladly seconded by the women of the other Western countries who say they feel like U.S. Blacks, too ('We are the niggers of the nation').

While the factual report and the insider's revelations allow for some dramatizing, the method involving truncated statistics takes a cool, scientific stance. It consists in citing the first part of an investigation or inquiry, and then conveniently forgetting to quote the rest.

In complaining about the low percentage of females politicians in office, no mention is accorded the fact that women, representing a majority of 51-52% of the vote, could nominate and elect any female politician they wanted to nominate and elect.

In making honorable mention of the high percentage of women holding down jobs, nothing is said about the fact that only half of the cited figures involve full-time work, that only a small percentage of women are 'lifers' — to borrow a term from prison jargon — (it is the large and constant turnover in the female labor force that keeps the statistics looking so good), and that in any case the female work career is not comparable to that of the male, because women practically never support a husband and children.

In decrying the double burden borne by working mothers, no reference is made to statistics that prove that the working father spends as much time on secondary tasks such as the usual citizen's struggles with the bureaucracy, income tax, household repairs, car tending, gardening, baby sitting, and so on, as his working wife.

In accusing male sexist society of denying equal wages to women for equal work, the fact that wage scales are determined by collective bargaining between employers and labor force unions, and that only a fraction of the female labor force joins unions, not to mention active participation, is conveniently overlooked.

In pointing out that women do the menial work — as charwomen, toilet attendants — a discreet silence passes over the fact that all the really unpleasant jobs are done by men: they are the miners, garbage collectors, street cleaners, sewer workers, gravediggers, morticians, butchers, police surgeons, proctologists, pathologists, specialists for skin diseases and V.D..

Men are held to be responsible for the laws against abortion ('My belly is my business!'). But what about the statistical fact that more men than women favor the legalization of abortion, which is blocked by the conservative parties, where women make up the majority of voters?

Men are reproached for having invented the pill for women, but there is a conspiracy of silence about the fact that the international pharmaceutical companies have pouring sums of money into a pill for men, unsuccessfully so far, a thousand times as large as those needed for the invention of the women's pill. Not to mention the fact that with the pill, women have made men totally dependent on them. The fact that more women than men undergo psychoanalysis is flaunted as proof that women are more given to despair, but the fact that in most Western countries men commit suicide twice as often as women, and that in most cases it is the men who fit the enormous bills for these confessionals, is not given any prominence.

The public children have no wish to eliminate the 'father'. On the contrary, by making the man responsible for all their troubles, they reassert his status as father. They are asking, not for autonomy, but for an anti-authoritarian upbringing — the girls are tired of playing with dolls; they want to play cops and robbers, fireman, and Indian Chief, just like the boys.

Women are branded as cretins by their own sex, for it makes a difference whether one says they won't have it otherwise, or they can't do otherwise.

If we say that women do not want it any other way, we are putting them on a level with the rich: their stupidity is a consequence of living in luxury, their lifestyle is their own choice, their renunciation of high office and status is evidence that they are above such ambitions. To change their fate, they would only have to want a change; it all depends on themselves.

If we say that women cannot have it any other way, we are branding them as born idiots. If women, after decades of having the vote, being in the majority, enjoying affluent living, open education and choice of career, still cannot get ahead despite much intense effort, there can be no explanation for it other than congenital mental inferiority. Such people cannot change their own fate but are dependent upon the pity and sympathy of others: dependent on male altruism.

However, we can hardly assume that the champions of women's rights realize what is that they are trying to do to women. They are children, though only public children. Children — public as well as private — are not held responsible.




Chapter 6




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