Art, Literature, recent, Sex

“Unsex Me Here’ and Other Bad Ideas

“Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.” This, one of Lady Macbeth’s most famous lines, is cited by Elizabeth Winkler in her recent Atlantic essay, “Was Shakespeare a Woman?,” as a thrilling instance of a woman’s resistance to femininity. Winkler then goes on to compare Lady Macbeth’s anger to women’s #MeToo “fury.” “This woman,” Winkler says of Lady Macbeth, woke her out of her “adolescent stupor” by “rebelling magnificently and malevolently against her submissive status.”

Of course, what Lady Macbeth is actually about to do is help her husband murder an innocent man, the king, in cold blood while he sleeps under her own roof. Unless one aligns female empowerment with sociopathic behavior, this isn’t really a triumphant moment for women’s liberation. Nor would any reading of the text other than a willfully perverse one count her as one of Shakespeare’s admirable characters. When she celebrates Lady Macbeth as one of Shakespeare’s heroines simply because Lady M has the desire to do something horrific, there is indeed something adolescent about Winkler’s attitude.

In the many responses to Winkler’s article, scholars have rightly countered that it was in fact (surprise!) William Shakespeare who wrote William Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and that The Atlantic has compromised its journalistic integrity by publishing a new (and groundless) spin on a snobbish nineteenth century conspiracy theory. The responses to Winkler’s piece address serious gaps in her research and provide historical context that discredits her most basic assertions, and the question of Shakespeare’s authorship has been corrected (again) by competent scholars.

But what I find more troubling is the assumption that forms the foundation of Winkler’s thesis: the belief that men don’t really like women, at least not enough to think and write about them with understanding and empathy; not enough to see the value in female friendships and feminine bonds of love and fidelity; and certainly not enough to find strong, tough, funny, clever women believable, admirable, and desirable. When I consider the men I know, male friends and relatives, colleagues, fathers of my children’s classmates, Winkler’s failure to entertain the notion that a man could have written the compelling female characters that populate Shakespeare’s plays is more than merely baffling, it is an insult to men, both past and present.

I have written elsewhere about how contemporary feminism needs the idea of an oppressive patriarchy in order to define women as victims of oppression, and as such it seeks to attach to men a primal stain of (toxic) masculinity so that third-wave feminism is righteously justified in all its complaints against them. Fighting “The Patriarchy” is feminism’s raison d’etre, and without this enemy the cause itself is in jeopardy (see Feminism’s Dependency Trap in Quillette). It seems as though Winkler’s take on Shakespeare is yet another iteration of feminism’s belief that men have a blind spot for women’s humanity. The irony of the current feminist orthodoxy, however, is that it is women who fail to see men’s position clearly. A further —and funnier—irony, if one has a palate for the absurd and the tragic, is that most men, for their part, are usually so chivalrous, so solicitous of women as people, that they sympathize with women’s crusade against them, and by and large assent to women’s complaints. They must really like us!

Winkler completed an MA in English Literature in 2013, at the same time that I was working on my doctorate on Shakespeare, which makes the two of us grad school contemporaries. I understand well the myopic feminist perspective of English departments, of how students are often trained to read specifically for attitudes of unfairness towards women in order to confirm the narrative of women’s victimization. I also understand how the “male gaze,” men’s sexualization of women, is treated punitively, as a dirtiness within men that can cause them to dehumanize women and which can lead to cruelty. And of course this is sometimes tragically true.

But what troubles me is that women commonly fail to appreciate the internal struggle men have with their sexual instincts, and instead condemn them for having these instincts at all. In other words, consciousness raising feminism rightly asserts that men shouldn’t treat women like objects for their use, but it does so while being unconscious of men’s humanity, and as a consequence, both minimizes and punishes the male sexual instinct that causes men to see women sexually in spite of men’s civilizing efforts not to.

What contemporary feminism fails to adequately grapple with is nature itself, and as a result, feminist attitudes towards men, and particularly towards male sexuality, are compassionless and punitive (not to mention humourless—and human sexuality is so often very funny!). With a blind spot for men’s experiences, consciousness raising feminist attitudes towards male sexual energy are unlikely to inspire mutual respect, and instead work to engender resentment, anxiety, and unhappiness.

As I grow older, I’m becoming increasingly aware of and sympathetic to the internal struggle between powerful sexual instincts and self-possession that most men contend with every day. Many women have an active libido, but in my experience the vast majority of women think about sex much less than men do. Women: imagine what it would be like to think about sex a lot, then quadruple what you’ve just imagined, and now you’re in the ballpark of the average man. It would be exhausting, I can only imagine, to constantly have to assert one’s own self-restraint over an appetite that gnaws at one’s imagination from moment to moment. But to be made to feel somehow polluted for the appetite itself, the appetite that men most usually successfully control and deny would be almost intolerable.

An obvious oversight in Winkler’s grad school approach to understanding Shakespeare is that while she is correct to assert that Shakespeare wrote female characters with whom he clearly empathises, she might have at least once considered that he also does the same with men. In what follows, I want to look briefly at one of Shakespeare’s most reprehensible male characters, the magistrate Angelo from Measure for Measure. I want to think about him carefully, not merely to look at how he uses his power to mistreat women in Weinstein-esque fashion (although he does indeed do this), and not simply to condemn him for his misogynistic sexual anger (although his behavior is very wrong). But, rather, to try to understand his internal struggle with his own lack of self-sovereignty, the crisis that his desire elicits: the sudden, inescapable, and unwanted pressure that his sexual nature exerts over his better judgement which overturns his self-autonomy and will.

Of Angelo, other characters remark that he “scarce confesses / That his blood flows, or that his appetite / Is more to bread than stone,” and until he lays eyes on Isabella, Angelo would have agreed with this assessment of him. But when he sees her, Angelo becomes the quintessential #MeToo perpetrator. He uses his political position to coerce Isabella, a young novice one day away from taking her vows as a nun, into having sex with him. If she doesn’t, he will use his power to behead her brother: capital punishment for the crime of having premarital sex. Angelo is a compassionless magistrate, a sexual predator, and a hypocrite all rolled into one. There is nothing admirable about him, except for his unflattering self-honesty, and his total lack of self-delusion.

In contemporary expressions of male predatory sexuality told from the perspective of women, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, now a popular television show, men are viewed as powerful, threatening, and in a real sense empty of humanity, a kind of monolith of authority. Shakespeare’s Angelo is very different in that when his sexual appetite is awakened, he realizes that he is in fact almost entirely powerless. He doesn’t want to want her, and is confused and overwhelmed by how his sense of identity and autonomy have been absolutely overturned by this woman, who intended to do nothing of the sort. It is in part his astonishment at his own sexual desires, and in part his disgust with these desires, that make him so fascinating.

“What’s this? What’s this?” he asks himself as soon as Isabella takes her leave after pleading with him to have mercy on her brother’s life, “Is it her fault or mine? / The tempter or the tempted who sins most, ha? / Not she, nor doth she tempt; but it is I.” In this moment Angelo encounters for the first time his own sexual nature that he would really and truly prefer to be without. Unacknowledged in himself previously, Angelo judges harshly others’ sexual desires (that is why he has arrested and condemned to death Isabella’s brother). In some ways, he is the #MeToo movement’s goal: to have an impartial bureaucratic system of rules rather than any actual humans arbitrate the morality that governs sexual behavior. His lack of humanity is what might make his authority fair, if it weren’t so brutal. And it is his encounter with his own messy humanity that causes him to realize that the self he has constructed, the chosen identity he wanted for himself, has collided with a nature about which he can do little to change. We are, all of us, in some ways, not at home in our bodies.

I am obviously not endorsing Angelo’s course of action. He is the slimy villain of this play, there is no doubt about that. And I am obviously not excusing any man’s sexual coercion of a woman. These are serious criminal and immoral acts. It isn’t at all Angelo’s submission to his desires that I find instructive here, but rather the internal self-abasement he feels at having them in the first place, a self-abasement that is transformed into self-disgust because he suddenly realizes how little control he has over his lust. “Blood, thou art blood,” he says. “I have begun, / And now I give my sensual race the rein.”

Again, and I feel like I need to keep repeating this here lest I be misunderstood and used to excuse sexual aggression, Angelo does not have control over his nature, but he does over his behaviour, and it is his refusal to find himself up for the task of contending with his nature that makes him a villain. What feminism doesn’t understand, and probably doesn’t want to understand because it might create compassion for male sexuality, is the internal struggle of men against their own appetites. Men must possess and exert a strong and powerful will, not over women to pressure them into unwanted sex, but over themselves so that they don’t. The male will, what Simone de Beauvoir called transcendence over immanence, might be a very real quality because from adolescence onwards men must be well practiced in it.

I once asked an uncommonly honest male friend to describe how he felt when he looked at a beautiful image of a nude woman. Keep in mind that this is a decent man: a supportive husband and friend to his wife, and a tender father to his two daughters. His response was this: “Precisely because they are so high, one wants to bring them low. Male sexuality is basically a form of slave morality, in which women are the oppressors. They make us weak. Only in the moment of surrender and penetration is this reversed, and redeemed. This is the deep mystery—why men are so enslaved to women, so keen to please them.” His response was politically incorrect, borderline indecent, sexually subversive, and, I think, entirely accurate.

When Angelo encounters his own sexual nature after meeting with the beautiful novice Isabella—a character so pure and so unassailable that she is called “enskied and sainted” by another male character in the play—he says this: “Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary / And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!” “Raze the sanctuary,” Angelo says. It is precisely because Isabella is so high, so enskied, that he wants to bring her low.

You might be asking, “Ok, men have powerful sexual desires that their masculine assertiveness must work to control. What now?” I am asking myself this same question, and of course there is no easy answer. The history of civilization is, in many respects, our struggle with the intractable problem of human sexuality: the conflict of our Nature and our Reason. Some cultures have taken the tack that it’s better to try and eliminate men’s oppressive sexual nature by hiding their oppressors, and so we can see the burka, for instance, as an attempt to minimize the constant gnawing pressure of male sexual instincts, with greater or lesser success. In the West, other codes have been adopted. Christianity’s influence, the ideas of self-sacrifice, service, and human dignity, have mixed with barbaric European warrior cultures, which resulted in the codes of chivalry. This approach to our sexuality has worked, not perfectly, but pretty well, actually, all things considered. Yet now the ground of Western civilization is shifting, not from influences outside us, but from within, and the assumptions of chivalrous attitudes are the very things being taken to task. What’s next? Women’s revenge? (I’ve read Hamlet—revenge seems like a bad idea.) An unsexing of the selves? (I’ve read Macbeth; this one seems like a bad idea, too.)

Shakespeare’s genius should no longer surprise us. We’ve had his works for 400 years, and we know how brilliant they are. And yet I am still taken aback by the man’s insight into human behaviour. The play, as I’ve said, is titled Measure for Measure, which is a line Shakespeare has taken from the Bible: “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” Christ says, “For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Measure for measure; tit for tat. It is true that due to men’s insecurity, self-loathing, and fragile egos, they have often put the blame for their own sexual desires onto women, because they have not understood themselves and weren’t courageous and strong enough to contend with their own urges. It is because of the behavior of these failed men that women now feel justified in judging men harshly for their sexual nature and instincts. But neither of these camps have been successful in resolving the discord between the sexes because they have been judging each other by the same compassionless standards that ignore or condemn our nature, writ large. Angelo fails so miserably to control himself because he failed to treat with respect his own weakness in the face of sexual temptation: “Ever till now,” he admits, “When men were fond, I smiled and wondered how.”

Just as Angelo fails to respect his own sexual nature until it overpowers him, the near-nun Isabella also fails to contend with her nature as a woman. She is disgusted with her feminine sexual nature, it seems, which is why she desires to enter into the strictest order of nuns in the first place. Isabella’s relationship to her own sexuality is complex, but at bottom what she lacks is the strength and willpower needed to confront and handle her sexual power over men. She doesn’t know what to do with her sex appeal. Like Angelo, what she has been unwilling to face is her own nature. Since she isn’t up for the task, she seeks to retreat absolutely from the challenge: become a nun of the strictest order. Without men to desire her, in herself she becomes sexless. In Isabella we are faced with the flip-side to Lady Macbeth’s “unsex me here,” which is, in that play, too, a rejection and denial of nature, not, as Winkler wants to believe, of woman’s submissive social status. By vilifying the male sexual desire for women, consciousness-raising feminism seeks to relieve women of the burden of confronting the part of their own sexual nature that comes into being as a response to male desire.

What Shakespeare does is to define the terms of our options, and the terms are measure for measure. We can either attempt to understand each other honestly, or we can persist in mutual incomprehension, fear, and anxiety. How we see each other will be how we are in turn seen. Angelo cannot face his own nature, and neither can Isabella; they are in fact two sexual cripples who lack the fortitude to contend with themselves, and become as a result compassionless, rigid, and destructive, albeit in different ways.

If contemporary feminist orthodoxy insists that masculine sexual energy is, in itself, “toxic” and must thus be written out of social discourse, women will not have to contend with their own powerful sexual nature as the inspiration and location for the masculine imagination. But women’s condemnation of men’s sexuality will not inspire women to understand themselves sexually, nor is it likely to help men understand women. No woman should lose her sense of agency and self-integrity, but is it really such a horror to accept that we’re not entirely autonomous creatures, that we’re, in fact, meant to understand ourselves not merely as individuals, but relationally? The failure to contend with our natures because it is easier to retreat into our own self-willed dream of autonomy seems less like moral progress, and more like a lonely lack of courage.

So what is the answer to the intractable battle of the sexes? Hopefully it will continue to be a somewhat awkward answer, one that we will have to fumble through together. But if we do not treat our natures with honesty and understanding, with affection, humour, and generosity, then I am unconvinced that we will become less resentful, more just, or in any way happy about our human bodies.


Marilyn Simon is a Shakespeare scholar and university instructor. She is currently working on a book on Shakespeare, Eros, and Female Agency.

Featured Image: Isabella and Angelo in Measure for Measure by Stephen Reid, 1909 (wikicommons)

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  1. Dee says

    This has been a very illuminating article on the subject. Thank you!

  2. Michael Gallagher says

    Loved the article. I am curious about this phrase, “Angelo does not have control over his nature, but he does over his behaviour, and it is his refusal to find himself up for the task of contending with his nature that makes him a villain” I was expecting to read….”his refusal to find himself up for the task of contending with his BEHAVIOR (rather than nature) that makes him a villain” ?? My thoughts were that his behavior is a choice, but his nature is woven into the fabric of his being. Therefore he would castigate himself for not choosing to behave better and yet acknowledge his nature as something out of his control. Your thoughts? (if you choose not to reply, its Ok…:) still love your analysis and the article.

    • Marilyn says

      My thinking here was that one contends with nature, and the result of that inner wrestle will become one’s behaviour. If Angelo pitted himself against his instincts and found himself up for the challenge, his behaviour would have been very different. We all have to contend with nature; our behaviours are the result of how well we do this.
      Glad you enjoyed the piece!

  3. According to a number of studies, popular female oriented erotica and films, etc, one of women’s number one fantasies is to be dominated by males. Males are taught to respect and defend women at all times. Women dress provocatively, to attract someone who they see as worthy. This, we are told is liberating. But men are chastised when we look, even if it was reflexive. A woman wears tight jeans with rhinestones and sparkles on the back pocket. Men evolved as hunters, we are a very sight oriented sex. If we involuntarily look we are perverts. If we are submissive we are less likely to find a mate.
    Of course, as a male, I will be accused of misogyny for pointing this out. Women like to be noticed, men like to admire women. But if you are not desirable as a mate, women will become offended if you notice them.
    The rules are ever shifting. And they differ by culture, even within the US. So is it assertive men that women desire? History, sociology, anthropology and psychology suggests this is the case. Feminist, however, tell us this isn’t the case. And throw in our Puritan roots, our Protestant view of sexuality that dominates the Anglosphere.
    We are told the Victorian’s view of proper female attire was the result of an oppressive patriarchy, but women were usually the ones to enforce these norms.
    Free love, the hookup culture (which arguably never really existed), female sexual empowerment were seen as liberating for women. Today, however, young women (and men) are having less sex then previous generations. More young women state they are not interested in sex.
    We are assured by some that the burqa is actually liberating for women, even when forced upon women. The burqa makes the strictest of Victorian fashion look downright risque.
    Women are told that every male they meet is a potential rapists. That they are in danger from all males. False statistics, such as the infamous 1 out of 4 university women will be sexually assaulted, are thrown around and widely believed. This, even after they have been disproven. Add to this the #believeher or #believeeverywoman and rape culture/crisis tropes and the ever expanding definition of what is considered sexual assault and harassment and even Roger Chillingworth would shudder at the state of relations between the sexes today. Even he would cry foul at how twisted and strict relationships have become. Men fear to be labeled falsely, while young women are constantly being told that they are at risk from all men.

    • @Jeffrey “But if you are not desirable as a mate, women will become offended if you notice them.”

      This is still confined mostly to Anglo countries, where this particularly vicious, puritanical and teenish brand of feminism has been festering male-female relationships for decades.

      • I can completely believe that. The current feminist movement seems fairly Puritanical or Victorian in its current regards to sex.

        • @Jeffrey, I am curious as to your views on catcalling.

          • It’s uncouth and harkens to our more primal instincts. But it’s also a cultural thing. Some cultures endorse and promote that type of behavior, so it’s complicated.

          • Jungle Jane says

            In the neighborhood where I live (can’t say it’s mine,) girls give back what they get. They turn to the catcalling and wag their tails. Or they blow it off with a wave. It’s cultural and, as our current Anglo culture blows, we’re doomed if men can’t flirt or ask women out. Why not train girls to deal with it or play along? THAT’S EMPOWERING.

        • Photondancer says

          It’s been ‘current’ for 30 years. Rene Denfeld’s “The new Victorians” was published in 1995. I don’t know what underlies the deep trepidation, even fear, so many faux feminists feel about sex but it seems to have become self-perpetuating.

          • It may be, but in 1995 I seem to remember it was more in Vogue for women to embrace the sexualism, to celebrate their sexual energy. My original post was meant to point out the completely disjointed reality that permeates modern views on sexual relations. Then again, if you saw the erotica of the Victorian era, and how the Victorian era itself was a pushback against the more hedonistic enlightenment, especially on the Continent, then maybe it does make some sense.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Jeffrey C

      Actually Jeffrey, from my time writing erotic fiction under a nom de plume, I can tell you that the submission fantasy is as prevalent amongst men as it is amongst women. Both men and women demonstrate a 4 to 1 preference for submission over domination, although in the active community one can only assume that the ratios are more balanced, because those with a predilection for dominance are more likely to be assertive and outgoing enough to want to ‘act out’ their fantasies. I think this says a lot about Western guilt over deviation from the norm, historically speaking, as well as the desire to abdicate responsibility for one’s own pleasure.

      In particular high-powered types have a tendency towards the need for submission, although this might be class-based in it’s origins. Generally, many Asian cultures seem to get far less hung up about such matters.

      • I never stated men can’t also be into sub6, though research suggest fewer men than women are into it.

        • Irene Isaac says

          Most of these movies and books can be looked at differently depending on who is reading them (men or women). What the female finds erotic in the book will be very different from what the man assumes she finds erotic. Most erotic books for women, from a woman’s perspective, are less about the sex (bondage or not), and more about a powerful man (rich, strong, courageous) lusting after ONE female OVER EVERY OTHER FEMALE he can have. So basic concept of every womens erotica is a high status man lusting after just one women, who drives him bonkers, over the many others he can have. So the types of sex talked about or portrayed have very little to do with why the books sell. Women like to be desired (not just for their body) but as a unique creature more interesting than any other woman around. Again, this is fantasy as real life this never happens. Rich powerful men usually have many many affairs. But can’t say women don’t dream of that guy who can have it all but wants only her

  4. Morgan Foster says

    Elizabeth Winkler writes in the Atlantic:

    “How did the man born in Stratford acquire the wide-ranging knowledge on display in the plays—of the Elizabethan court, as well as of multiple languages, the law, astronomy, music, the military, and foreign lands, especially northern Italian cities?”

    But she does not explain how Emilia Bassano was in any way better trained than Shakespeare in “the law, astronomy, music, the military, and foreign lands, especially northern Italian cities.” Not to mention skill in multiple languages and the acquaintance of those (besides Bassano) who attended the Elizabethan court.

    That would have helped make her case.

  5. Ray Andrews says

    I like the idea that S took a decade off and went to sea. Visiting Italy for sure, and maybe having endured a shipwreck.

    “it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”

    Only a sailor could or would write that. Only a navigator can even understand the metaphor let alone make poetry with it.

    • Jonny Sclerotic says

      Only a sailor or a brilliant writer could have written it. I’m also attracted to the idea of Shakespeare at sea. It’s possible – but not necessary to explain the Sonnet.

      Imagine if the screenplay for The Martian was being discussed in 500 years time and a similar authorship dispute unfolded. If the scholars debating the issue only had access to limited information regarding writer Andy Weir (such as the fact he didn’t graduate university and never went to space), one can easily imagine a sci fi Oxfordian denying the authorship of the man from Davis: ‘Only an astronaut could write that.’

      Shakespeare was a magpie. Even if he didn’t spend time as a seafarer, he could easily have acquainted himself with nautical nomenclature, immersed himself in dockyard communities, or perhaps even lifted directly from documents written by experienced seamen. Shakespeare conspiracists make the mistake of equating absence of proof with proof of absence. There’s so little evidence about his life beyond domestic business records that the literal minded assume there was no other life. The class-bound snobs that deny Shakespeare as the true author of his works cannot reckon with concepts like autodidactism, human empathy, curiosity about ordinary people, and good old fashioned hands-dirty research.

      Just because anti-Stratfordians wouldn’t deign to hang out with sailors, or empathize with women, or read books of their own volition, they assume nobody else would.

      Apologies if this was the point you were making Ray. I just felt moved to expand/refute (delete as applicable!)

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Jonny Sclerotic

        “he could easily have acquainted himself with nautical nomenclature, immersed himself in dockyard communities”

        Yabut he also seems to have immersed himself in northern Italian culture, English court politics, the classics … Of course what you say could be true, but sheesh. It seems to me that the navigation metaphor shows something deeper than you’d get hanging around on the docks, it’s not ‘learnable’ you have to have something like that in your guts. You know, read the expositions of that sonnet anywhere and they all get that line wrong — they think they get it, but they aren’t sailors or astronomers so they do get it wrong. I get it because I know celestial navigation and I’d not make the metaphor or understand it otherwise.

        “There’s so little evidence about his life beyond domestic business records that the literal minded assume there was no other life.”

        Yet what we do know shows us a semi-literate, greedy wool merchant who owned no books and couldn’t remember how to spell his own name.

        “I just felt moved to expand/refute (delete as applicable!)”

        No problemo. Me, I’m 50:50. Either way it’s just incredible. I like hearing both sides of the case made without rancor. We have no really strong ghost writer candidate, all have some fatal flaw, but the wool merchant? Maybe but that also seems astonishing. Maybe the real answer is some hybrid: yes there was a playwright named WS but the wool merchant was another dude, or the real WS did accept a few manuscripts from some other guy, on strictest confidence since no noble could risk being seen as a mere literary genius (funny but they say that’s the way it was). And they say the Elizabethans loved playing identity games and puzzles and ciphers and mysteries.

        But then there’s Johnson’s dedication …

        • Jonny Sclerotic says

          “I like hearing both sides of the case made without rancor.”

          Couldn’t agree more. The stakes are pretty low. No need for certain scholars and luvvies to get their codpieces in a twist. This game is all a bit of fun. The point about laying puzzles and ciphers reminds me of The Beatles deliberately trying to confuse the more obsessive fanboys who pored over every syllable for deeper meaning.

          Thanks for your insight into the man’s – or woman’s! – apparent sailing expertise. We know some of Shakespeare’s errors (the non-existent Bohemian coastline, for instance) were lifted from other people’s work, work that survives today to prove it. It seems quite likely that those things he got right were also plagiarized, or reinterpreted, from works that haven’t survived (which after all is the vast majority of written material of the time). We also know that Tudor theatre was a collaborative process (the sanctified, deified, lone writer-genius was centuries away) so it’s possible a fellow actor shared their experiences at sea, which WS spun into lyrical gold.

          As a musician, I am similarly moved by his poetry on my subject:

          “Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.”

          Teasing questions abound. Is a pipe considered ‘easy’ to play only because high-born Hamlet thought so? Or because he knows Guildenstern cannot play? Fretted instruments were very new during Shakespeare’s time – was he an avid musician who travelled to Spain to get the latest in lute technology? “Though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me” sounds like a quip only a musician could make. Y

          What about Orsino’s famous lines from Twelfth Night? They still put me on the edge of welling up. The man – or woman – who penned that verse manages to nail music, love, and food in fifteen lines of verse.

          Thank god the work towers above the crackpot theories and identarian squabbles where it can’t be touched.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Jonny Sclerotic

            It only gets more fantastic.

            “Though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me” sounds like a quip only a musician could make.”

            Yes. Same argument exactly. Is there anything he didn’t know? As you say, the errors seem almost more instructive tho. But even there, is he perhaps playing with us? Maybe he knows perfectly well that Bohemia has no coast and he’s just having some fun. We don’t take AMSND literally after all. Explaining Shakespeare is like explaining life — there is no rational explanation, but here we are and here are the plays so …

          • Klaus C. says

            “Fretted instruments were very new during Shakespeare’s time”

            No. By the late 16th century the lute had been commonplace in Europe for centuries. And there had been many other early fretted instruments, such as the citole and gittern as well as fretted fiddles, which by Shakespeare’s time had evolved into forms such as the cittern and viols.

  6. Anjjj says

    Oh goody, more hysteria to fuel ‘the battle’.
    Just who is condemning men’s sexual nature? Twitter is not real life nor is the attitude of a few hardliners.
    Metoo as understood by the general female populous ie the real world is an expression of joint frustration at continued harassment & abuse by men in positions of power. The end. It is not a blanket condemnation of all men & all things male.
    Obscure minority conclusions of ‘toxic masculinity’ & such can hardly be taken as a serious reflection of what the movement is or how it is perceived to women in general.
    What irks me most about these elite battles in academia on both sides is how very little interest or responsibility they show in the women or men they purport to defend by fuelling imaginary fires.
    Right, it’s all our fault, if only if women showed more empathy we wouldn’t be harassed as much? Let the poor bugger cop a feel, he know’s no better?
    Let’s coddle & infantalize men more shall we?
    Let’s make men feel hunted, fearful & victimised?
    How about with societal pressure attitudes civilise?
    How about encouragement of responsibility rather than victim hood?
    How about we just start seeing things as they are rather than twisting every god damned little thing into something it’s not to justify the existence of egg heads…

    • I don’t see anyone saying men should be allowed to col a feel, or saying “because he knows no better” nor do I see anyone saying if you empathize with men they will harass less. In fact, what is being said is that most men do not harass and do not abuse women. That men and women deserve equal respect, and tarring all men because of a few bad seeds is wrong. And men are hardly infantalized or coddled in today’s society. So I am not certain if you are asking those questions in irony, or if you really believe them. If it is the latter do you really feel men need to feel fearful (and how do fearful animals react)? Are you implying men are not civilized? Or that society allows uncivilized behavior? If the former then I apologize for the misunderstanding.

      • Anjjj says

        Hey Jeffrey,
        I’m referring to Marilyn’s take in the piece & the impact such fear mongeing has caused.
        Do I believe some men are in need of a kick up the bum into modernity?
        Certainly. I simply see metoo as a symptom of a malady to all not just women that we need to do better.
        Like all causes some overreach of the movement isn’t a licence to discredit it.
        Like all serious concerns, hysterical defensiveness doesn’t help.

        • As a father of two sons and a daughter, I fear far more for my sons in this society then my daughter. And my wife feels the same way (more so). Rather you want to believe it or not, this a justified fear. The Kafkaesque show trials that have become fairly common place on American Universities are not overblown fears nor just “some” overreach. They are actually causing people real harm. Remember it was the government, using Title IX laws, that produced this outcome. This isn’t hysterical defensiveness, it is an Orwellian overstep that promises to make life worse for both sexes. When I was in the service, we had twice yearly sexual harassment trainings, and more than once we were told that as males, even if we were innocent, the mere accusations was enough to destroy our careers. That even if it wasn’t our intent, that the females perception was more important and that the females word matter more then the males. This was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Most male servicemembers (that served since 1995) I’ve spoken with (I belong to multiple veteran groups) relate similar stories. What the author describes is not an abstract but actually is taking place, often at the behest of the government.

          • Anjj says

            “As a father of two sons and a daughter, I fear far more for my sons in this society then my daughter.”
            Wow, says it all. Only a male’s suffering matters?
            Funny how those who bemoan metoo most don’t see their responsibility for it’s existence. “It’s not me” they cry. But abusers rely on enablers. You made your metoo bed & the fanatics that exploit it.
            As far as your implication that employers & universities overwhelmingly side with women & openly discriminate against men, show me the evidence.
            When it comes convenience, say corruption in capitalism it’s “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. Why can’t you do the same with metoo? Because it’s not overwhelmingly males suffering?
            Cry me a river…

          • Did I say only male suffering matters? You’ve pretty much just proved the authors point. My point about worrying about my sons more is about the idea that women are fairly protected anymore by the law, men however are legally persecuted simply for being men.
            You talk about understanding each individual then go on a completely fabricated straw man exercise. As for proof, Google the recent Purdue lawsuit where the courts found that is was likely Purdue did discriminate against men in Title IX sexual harassment trials. Also, refer to the USC who expelled a male kicker for abusing his Girlfriend,who denies the abuse and is also suing the school because they prosecuted despite her telling them it was false and she didn’t want them to proceed. As for the workplace I gave you some examples from my own career. I could also bring up the fact that as the only male nurse I lodged a complaint against a female nurse who kept giving me unsolicited back rubs. I was told it was no big deal but I had best be careful or I could find myself in trouble for sexual harassment if I didn’t drop it.

          • NashTiger says

            Couldn’t be more dense if zhe tried. Are you capable of looking at what is written and addressing that, rather than the straw caricature of what you wish you could debate?

            Talk about hysterical defensiveness

          • Anjjj says

            @Jeffrey c
            “Women are fairly protected by law” more than men.
            Let me tell you a little story that just happened.
            I too have a teenage son with a good friend that was accused of sexual assault. There was not enough evidence & he was found not guilty. I don’t believe he was either but only he & the young lady know the real truth. As I’m sure you understand it’s much harder to prove guilt in he said she said situations So in fact the law is of more assistance to males in these cases of sexual misconduct.
            Your experience whilst perhaps true does not qualify as data on a broad scale.

          • Women are fairly protected by law” more than men. Are you arguing with the voices in your head? Because I never said that last part? I also was speaking about the Universities disciplinary procedures. And your anecdote proves nothing. The judicial system is supposed to find you innocent if there lacks evidence. This isn’t protecting men, it is treating men fairly, the same way we are supposed to treat everyone. Are you suggesting that the idea of innocent until proven guilty is sexist? Are we supposed to give the female’s testifying more weight then the males, when there is not corroborating evidence? Because that mind set is exactly why we fear for our sons. Because you seem to be implying that granting males long established juris prudents should be done away with. It is the states job to prove their case, no one is required to prove their innocence.

        • max says

          Men need a kick up the bum into modernity?? Men created modernity.

        • Defenstrator says

          It has nothing to do with modernity. Unethical people with power use it to get what they want. There is nothing that is going to change that impulse. We can only punish people for giving in to it. It’s a gender equal problem.

    • And on another note, most the women I know, which I admit is purely anecdotal, do see the feminist movement and the MeToo movement in the very way you dismiss.

      • Anjjj says

        @Jeffrey ‘women I know’.
        Elites & head cases that were such before metoo don’t count.

          • Anjjj says

            In this context “head cases” = ‘man hater’s’ who were such long before metoo came along.

          • Anj says

            Don’t look now Geary but you are single handedly showing these poor excuses for masculinity how it’s done.
            Two words. ‘Can do’.
            No defensive belly aching. No tit for tat. Just see the problem as is, take charge, roll up your sleeves & get at it.
            By making a simple good faith effort you melt suspicion & resentments to make actual progress. Trust unites.
            Your parents must be proud.
            True, amazing polygraph tech advancements. Funny i was only recently watching Pamela Meyers on youtube discussing this.

        • Morgan Foster says


          “As far as your implication that employers & universities overwhelmingly side with women & openly discriminate against men, show me the evidence.”

          The evidence of one’s own eyes.

        • Ray Andrews says


          In a world that has tolerated Bill Cosby, Harvey W, R Kelly and Jeff E, I can quite understand why #metoo exists. But is the toleration, even encouragement, of false accusation the cure? You are a good example of the vengeance driven female who really does seem to hate all men and see every one of them as collectively guilty. I can understand #metoo but I oppose #beliveallwimin — they really do want to abolish men’s right to a defense. To be charged is to be guilty. What’s your take on that?

          • Anjjj says

            Oh Ray, relax, I’m on your side. As iv’e already indicated #metoo via #belieive is an unacceptable over reach.
            But here’s the thing, it’s an over reach that apologists created. Ignoring injustice creates vigilantism. This is your Frankenstein. Create a landscape unfairness & expect un fair play.
            But on the ‘bright side’ at least now you know how it feels to be vulnerable with no protections. Welcome to our world.
            And what’s the reaction? “But look at moi”, we have it much worse historically”
            Yeah, that’ll help…

          • IIC says

            #metoo and its viral mutations have become a glorious cycle of outrage, serving none but the chattering classes of social media and their empires of clicks, virtue signalling ever onward into the void. Entropy wins eventually.

          • “But on the ‘bright side’ at least now you know how it feels to be vulnerable with no protections. Welcome to our world.”
            Read this quote and ask yourself if this squares with the ideals of a truly liberal society? You would be surprised that many women state they never feel vulnerable and despise this mindset. Yet, you seem to blithely dismiss them and seem to want to blame men “Ignoring injustice creates vigilantism. This is your Frankenstein. Create a landscape unfairness & expect un fair play.” This quote seems like you seem perfectly happy to state that men created this unfair system. Although, it should be pointed out that many of the social norms and sexual roles were most strongly enforced by women. And that men are it a monolithic sex, solely focused on keeping women barefoot and pregnant. As to your assertion that there is a landscape of unfairness, please elaborate. Unfairness how? Multiple people have posted about the disparity in dangerous occupations, health funding, prison sentencing, college and grad school admissions, divorce and family court rulings etc. But you seem to want to ignore these to support your supposition that women are oppressed.

          • Anjjj says

            @Jeffrey C
            The unfairness i’m referring to is the continued harassment & abuse of women by those in a more powerful positions because they can.
            That’s not to say men don’t suffer more unfairly elsewhere. Does everything have to be a competition with you guys? One can have concern for multiple problems at once. Cancer doesn’t make heart disease irrelevant.
            My example doesn’t infer I don’t support due process. It simply illustrates that its easier to prove something didn’t happen than did in these cases & as such you have more support under the law. That’s not wrong because there’s no better way but it is an imbalance where guilty parties often face no consequences. Also under #metoo as we have seen by the recent Geoffrey Rush case one can seek recourse.
            Women you know “say they never feel vulnerable”. Perhaps they wrap themselves in cotton wool & never put themselves in a position of vulnerability or they’ve never experienced first hand the boss or a co worker making an ultimatum that they can’t afford to refuse. Maybe they were lucky enough to have a supportive upbringing that gave the confidence & or financial support to to take the moral high ground.
            You need to get out more Jeffrey & mingle the little people, or would that smash what you want to believe?
            “Social norms created & enforced by women”?
            Why do you think modern arab women who can choose not wear a veil still do Guber?

          • Anjj, you make a lot of assumptions about the women in my life and my own remoteness. Do you know my background or how much “I’ve gotten out”? For someone who claims to be inclusive, your language sure sounds exclusive. It isn’t a competition, though it feels like you are trying to make it one.

          • As for women in the Middle East, they actually are oppressed, and I would certainly agree with that. But I was speaking about the western world (and I believe I mentioned the burqa above and how restricting it is). As for labeling me a goober, does that make you feel superior?

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Ray, Anjjj and Jeffrey C

            Great comments and kudos for being able to talk rationally on the subject. Have there been historic wrongs committed against women? Certainly. Have innocent men been falsely accused on afar more frequent basis than the media admits? Without a doubt, best estimates put the level of false or unfounded accusations between 8% and 40%- with the true figure probably at least 20%. But that still leaves a majority of women with no real recourse in most cases, given the rules of evidence and the fact that reasonable doubt inherently favours the accused.

            What is troubling though is that media articles like Slate’s ‘Crying Rape’ and Christina Hoff Summers ‘Factual Feminist’ are very much in the minority. The British press and media did eventually report on the ‘Failure to Disclose’ scandal, in which the Crown Prosecution Service failed to turn over texts that exonerated 49 innocent men in a timely fashion, but one presumes that this was mainly because it was simply too juicy a story to miss. And, of course, everywhere the point was made that these 49 cases were a only tiny proportion of total UK rape or sexual assault accusations, despite the fact that they were likely only the tip of the iceberg.

            Personally, I am at the stage where I think it’s worth looking at lie detector tests as an investigative and voluntary tool. The technology has moved on. An experienced and well-trained interviewer, can now perform an accurate read around 90% of the time, and the test will only ever shift one column, from false or true to inconclusive. This isn’t perfect, but it should be noted that the test results would never be used in court. The guilty could still decline the case, without jeopardising their rights and the innocent could only benefit. There is already an Appeals team in use in the UK, that uses lie detectors to cull claims of innocence made by convicted inmates down to those worthy of investigation.

            But the true benefit of such a process, would be in preserving and repairing our social systems, and the integrity of the law that arises from them. Abhorrent male behaviour would decline as the men who disproportionately commit the lions share of such crimes, realise that they can no longer hide amongst the innocent or unproven- that police resources can and will be brought to bear on them. False accusations would all but disappear, as the borderline sociopaths who engage in false accusation, realise that any man they accuse can refute their claim with a simple test.

            There would still be the problem of erotomania, those delusional enough to assault on the basis of perceived reciprocity of desire. But my suspicion is that it would be like dredging the waters, in that it would reveal a large proportion of men and women who are simply ignorant of the law in the countries they live in. Men operating on some archaic principle of coercive consent, that was just as odious when it was more commonplace. Women misinformed by their friends and professors into accepting incredibly broad definitions of coercion, when applied to the issue of consent.

            Above all, does begging your girlfriend for sex blur the line of consent, and does threatening to leave her if she doesn’t ‘put out’ constitute coercion, if she subsequently consents? In many ways, our culture may be running ahead of what our laws actually say, and many men may in future fall afoul of the law, because they either weren’t aware of new legislation, or weren’t aware of new interpretations of existing legislation.

            P.S. I am particularly interested in articles on UK law, in relation to consent and coercion, as Google seems to be singularly unforthcoming when it comes to the actual law. Plus, all the UK government websites on consent and coercion want to use tracking cookies- which, scarily, has never happened before when I have been looking the law up in the past, in other areas…

          • Stephanie says

            “But on the ‘bright side’ at least now you know how it feels to be vulnerable with no protections.”

            Anjjj, you’re just advocating for collective punishment of all men, and clearly enjoying it too. Just because extremely wealthy and powerful men got away with horrible things doesn’t mean that university students should get railroaded by Title IX offices, that fathers lose their kids over the mere accusation of rape or domestic violence, or that your career can end over unsubstantiated accusations.

          • Anj says

            Stephanie, cherry picking out of context doesn’t do your credibility any favours as does your chronic ‘siding with the boys’ rather than a balanced approach.

            See fellas, no partisan bs here. A girl needs a kick up the bum, no problem . Mind you, this one won’t go so quietly so we could be in for a long brutal night. Such is my commitment to community service…

    • northernobserver says

      Anjj. Your bitter sexe partisanship says all we need to know. To hell with you and those who think like you. We can neither mate you, work with or converse with you. You sexe hatred towards us knows no bounds and cannot be sated. We have no choice we will build a new world without you with the women that will have us and be loyal.

      • Anjjj says

        Geezus north, what happened to you?
        The Mrs serve up chips & egg instead of steak on Thursday?

        • @Anjjj, your tone is more suitable to some reddit threads or nasty Twitter threads. I’m not sure why you’re writing here–your snarky, strawman-laden, mean-spiritedness won’t convince anyone here. I read Quillette because of the reason-based arguments and its commitment to free speech. I enjoy many of the comments, and especially value those that argue points I hadn’t considered.

          What I don’t value is immature, adolescent, arrogant, empty bloviating. I realize this tone is all the rage in certain segments of the Twitterverse and in academia. But that’s why I left academia and that’s why I read threads like these. If you want to convince people, being an ass doesn’t work.

          • Anjjj says

            Poor d, when ya got nothin’ play man not ball?
            You left academia or it left you?
            No worries pearl clutcher, i’ll try & mind my ‘tone’ next time lest you use it to justify silencing uncomfortable truths…

  7. DJM says

    Thanks for an erudite, thoughtful and well-argued essay. One of the best I’ve read here.

    • Ray Andrews says


      I can’t decide if your a shrieking man hater or a reasonable person.

      “Ignoring injustice creates vigilantism.”


      “This is your Frankenstein.”

      No. Why am I guilty because most of the guilty share my gender? Ah but wait: R. Kelly is black and I’m white so am I absolved of sharing in his guilt? That might be cultural appropriation. You instinctively draw the battle line as between men and women whereas I suggest the battle line is between decency and indecency. I’m a very old fashioned guy and had it been up to me Bill C. would have been hung by the neck until he was dead, and Harvey W. would have been publicly whipped. Hanging for Kelly and life at hard labor for Jeff.

      “at least now you know how it feels to be vulnerable with no protections”

      Men are in that situation far more often than women, the only exception is these sexual matters and even that is now changing with #believe (and thanks for agreeing that that’s a step too far).

      “And what’s the reaction? ”

      Agree, and that’s why nobody should behave like that. The radfems want revenge but revenge does not heal wounds. I put it to you that every injustice is just what it is — no injustice ever cures some other injustice. We need reasonable women to weigh in on this, come on over to my side. As a Patriarch I can tell you that nothing is more precious to me than my girls and my ladies, if they are harmed then society is broken. All working cultures come down to one simple dictum: “Women and children first.”

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Jeffrey C

          Pardon. Yes the pedo. Like Cosby it went on for decades and they played catch-and-release with him too. His private plane the ‘Lolita Express’ to one and all. Yano there’s no getting around the fact that ‘we’ permitted these guys to get away with it, but I wonder how it would have gone down in my dad’s day. He reported that in his time, anyone who got too fresh with a woman would be slapped across the face by her, and if he dared to respond in any way, any man at hand would deck him. Anyone suspected of diddling the kiddies would have been picked up by the lapels and advised in clear terms not to try that and if he did he might find his appendages missing shortly and with extreme prejudice.

          • @Ray,
            Yes, men were expected to behave a certain way and women were willing to stand up for themselves. And if that didn’t set well, other men would make sure the guy understood the lesson.

      • Anjjj says

        I’m on your side already but you are not until you take responsibility for your part of #metoo & #believe. We all have too. We all have culpability here men & women. This shouldn’t be at the extreme level it is in this day & age & we can’t just blame the perpetrators & wash our hands.
        Women must be given the support to say no at any cost to them otherwise they won’t.
        Men need to concede sexual assault & harassment is serious valid concern & not dismiss it as a competitive hardship for starters.
        Look at you all fighting so hard to invalidate a cry for help. Your’e just as culpable as the perpetrators.
        “Precious” my arse…

        • Ray Andrews says


          “until you take responsibility for your part of #metoo & #believe. We all have too.”

          That’s harsh but fair. I didn’t design this culture, but I am part of it. Not forgetting that culture is passed on by women, males have tended to man the switches. Sure. It is an outrage that Cosby or Epstein were not nipped in the bud. I may not be responsible for it happening but I’m responsible for what we do about it. Ok, point made.

          “Men need to concede sexual assault & harassment is serious valid concern”

          Of course it is. Always has been. But has the dismantling of masculinity helped with that problem or made it worse? I say that ‘real men’ — ‘toxic’ men to the radfems — knew their duty to women.

          “Precious” my arse…

          Perhaps you were never valued that way, which is too bad but I can assure you that if someone interfered with one of my women, or any other lady for that matter, in my presence, then someone would end up on the floor. Learned that from my dad. Have you ever been treated like a lady, by a gentleman? If not, I hope you experience it one day.

          • I was always taught to say “yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ to open the door for women (and the elderly and children, actually for just about anyone), to always offer to pay, to respect women but also to be strong, compassionate but stoic. This is part of the culture I was raised in, western US, grew up among Scandinavian-Qmericans, German-Americans and the Indian tribes of the intermountain west (Mainly Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Pend O’Reille and Nez Perce). It isn’t that we saw women as inferior, in fact I was raised to respect and honor strong independent women (my mother was one, a high school drop out, who stuck by my Dad’s side when he lost his job at the mines and we lost everything, including my Dad’s father, within a year). Despite dropping out of High School she finished her degree, went back to college and earned her associate degree. My Grandmother was abused by her parents, had her first husband did, leaving her with three children. She put herself through teaching school, and raised her three kids by herself until she met and married by grandfather. They had my mother 11 years after all their other kids, but they raised all the kids as one family. Until the near her death she was active in her church, ran the retirement community’s newsletter and then the nursing home newsletter. She kept track of all 27 grandkids, 100+, great grandkids and numerous great great grandkids (and before her death even a few great great grandkids) birthdays, marriages, births, divorces and even a few deaths (her oldest died of hypothermia the same year my Dad’s father passed). In fact, not a single one of my aunt’s is what I would describe as submissive. They are all strong and independent. We were raised with the ethos of the pioneering families, because we weren’t far removed from them.

          • Anj says

            I agree hardline ‘feminists’ are unhelpful. But their numbers, impact & views amongst the general populous is negligible as is most extremism. It’s another ‘terrorist’ fear mongering G up mostly designed to exploit fear. You are jumping at shadows. You are giving them more power than they have & promoting their destructive views. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy if you keep it up.
            Of course if I agreed with you unconditionally I would have been “valued”? Please.
            You want to hang on to your ‘masculinity’?
            Then take it on the chin. Your only emasculating yourselves with all this bellyaching.
            Challenge yourselves, take a risk, adventure & take action. Get on the offensive instead of this defensiveness. It’s what you guys excel at that we don’t & need. What a gift you squander. All the great achievements of man weren’t built on snivelling tit for tat.

      • Can we mention that western cultures have generally viewed men as expendable and women as worthy of protection? And there is a certainly a biological reason that men are more expendable from a survival of the species view. It takes far fewer men to further the population then it does women.

        • Ray Andrews says


          “But their numbers, impact & views amongst the general populous is negligible as is most extremism.”

          Powerful post.

          “All the great achievements of man weren’t built on snivelling tit for tat.”


          “It’s a self fulfilling prophecy if you keep it up.”

          Check. Some problems are only problems because folks make them problems. Maybe it’s as simple as that, but the impact of the harpies is not negligible, it is becoming pandemic. Our whining and sniveling only empowering them? Damn.

          Checkmate. Well played.

          • Anj says

            Well Ray, you’re a man amongst men at least in this neck of the woods.
            Took a few gnarly sharp shots & spun them into pure gold. Grace & openness is a rare commodity these days. Onya mate, nice work! No insecurity here. You’re as clean as a whistle.
            Pleasure doing business.

  8. Cornfed says

    If contemporary feminist orthodoxy insists that masculine sexual energy is, in itself, “toxic” and must thus be written out of social discourse, women will not have to contend with their own powerful sexual nature as the inspiration and location for the masculine imagination.

    Peculiarly phrased, though I think it gets to the nut of it. Women will not have to “contend” with their powerful sexual nature? It is their greatest source of power over men, their great equalizer. Training men to lose their love and lust is also training them to see women (as such) as irrelevant. Thus, I think by promoting abandonment of traditional sex roles, feminists get it exactly backwards. This does not empower women, it DISempowers them.

    • “I think that gets to the nut of it”. Do you mean “nub”? That is one of the best puns ever! Intentional or not.

      • Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

        “The crux of the biscuit ”

        Interpret as you will.

    • JamieM says

      Precisely this. Folks will dismiss it, but you’re right on the money.

    • northernobserver says

      A perceptive comment and one that is becoming more evident in the social phenomena we see in our daily lives.

  9. Klaus C. says

    “It would be exhausting, I can only imagine, to constantly have to assert one’s own self-restraint over an appetite that gnaws at one’s imagination from moment to moment.”

    I can only imagine that too, and I’m a man. I think you’ll find that for many men, it’s really not that debilitating. Apart from anything else, masturbation provides a cheap, convenient and effective safety valve.

    “The history of civilization is, in many respects, our struggle with the intractable problem of human sexuality: the conflict of our Nature and our Reason.”

    Sexuality certainly causes a lot of problems, and it’s possible that people of the future, equipped with the means to modify human nature by gene technology, may decide to dispense with it altogether.

    But while we still have to deal with it, the #MeToo phenomenon seems a necessary corrective to the legacy of the “sexual revolution”, in which sex tended to be portrayed as entirely worthy and wholesome, in an overstated corrective to previous prudish attitudes.

    This resulted in a new era of “sexual freedom” that benefited women to some extent, but also left them vulnerable to many more unwanted advances, with fewer resources to resist them. “Women’s empowerment” is a noble idea but in practice, many women were and are still stuck in lower-status roles in a male-dominated world.

    We need to accept that there’s a prominent dark side to sexuality, which shouldn’t surprise us as we inherited it from a very long line of much more primitive animals, and “our version” wasn’t custom-designed for a more cognitively sophisticated and ethically demanding species.

    • BrainFireBob says

      Corrective or vengeful? How is correction happening? Seems more like spite and punishment than an effort at correction.

      The most egregious face of MeToo is Weinstein, and my personal opinion squares with LaPaglia’s: If you traded sex for a role and he delivered, it’s prostitution.

      If he forced himself on you, it was rape.

      Don’t have too much sympathy for the former, to be honest- and yes he deserves personal punishment for the latter, and the victims deserve reparation and justice- but to simply blackball his company and its yes, many fine pictures is stupid. Hurts more than Harvey, hurts the grips, the directors, the actors- and not all these people had the ability to know about what he was doing.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Terrific. A Harvey Weinstein defender. It’s really too much to condemn a repeat abuser without reaching for some ridiculous justification for his sexual predation?

        Moral relativists got nothing on you guys. You’ll defend any piece-of-shit to avoid any form of moral of ideological compromise.

        • Was he defending Weinstein or pointing out that females have their own agency? He did condemn Weisntein’s rapes but pointed out that females who traded sex for roles are at least partially culpable for their choices. I know nuance is difficult for you to understand, but try.

  10. It’s sad to see some women take the lesson that any man who isn’t soft is vile. Sad for the men, of course, but arguably more so for the women. Good luck experiencing the full spectrum of sex with that attitude. What humans desire are contradictions. We want it ALL. We want the passive partner and the aggressor. We want the emotional mate and the hard, tough, and stoic mate. We want all of these things, whether or not we’ll admit to them all in mixed company. The challenge of being a good partner, emotionally or sexually, is knowing when they want you to hold their hand and when they want you to pin it to the headboard. This is hard to do, but if you can pull it off, the rewards to the relationship are greater than even Shakespeare could describe.

    • Ray Andrews says


      The reason that women are so much more likely than men to turn into miserable, neurotic shriekers is that men understand and come to terms with their dilemma: they seek the most desirable of women, who will be easy enough for them to obtain, but who will be as chaste as Mother Theresa when it comes to every other male. Women want tough, virile men who will give them strong sons, who can protect them in a difficult situation and who are likely to earn lots of money for them to spend, but who can be treated like a servant at home. But men at least know what they want, whereas the modern feminist cannot admit what she wants and so she goes crazy.

      Girls, think back to the sex-goddesses of the golden age of Hollywood. A Lana Turner or a Marilyn Monroe knows that she rules the world and she knows what she wants (and it isn’t to be a professor of mathematics). If she is what we used to call a lady, she rules with justice and class, if she is not, she is constantly selling her cake, but trying to keep it at the same time.

      “A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”

      Lana Turner.

      Oh, just to state the obvious, if a woman really, actually does want to be a professor of mathematics and she has the qualifications, that’s wonderful. Like Hypatia, she might not be able to find a room big enough for all the men who want to attend her lectures.

      • Aristodemus says

        Beautiful women rule the world. Always have, always will. Might as well complain about the weather.

  11. Daniel Hochberg says

    This was a great piece, saying a lot that needed to be said. And it is nice to read something that doesn’t condemn men as little better than beasts for a change. A few quick responses-

    a) yeah, we really like women, and by no means just because of the physical, though that is hard to separate out. Women are great to have around.

    b) thanks for pointing out that we already are controlling our desires. Pretty much, anyway.

    c) most men hate crimes against women of a sexual nature-groping, coerced sex or rape. When I read of a woman being raped I feel her shame and humiliation, and would gladly utterly destroy her abuser.

    d) women should dress more modestly, and it is interesting that feminists do not bring this up. It is not that I am not interested, but I am too interested and it reduces the likelihood I can relate to them as a person.

    A great article, an actual contribution instead of repetition of the same stuff everyone else has said a thousand times. I really enjoy a lot of what I find on Quillette.

    • Anjjj says

      Why should “don’t read a book by it’s cover’ not apply to women?
      Hiding behind a biological excuses when it suits much? Clearly we’ve mastered self control when we want to for much more difficult challenges.
      Perhaps the real truth is you enjoy the idea “she’s asking for it” too much. Maybe its not biology after all but that the insecure need to fancy themselves if none else will…

      • Morgan Foster says


        “Perhaps the real truth is you enjoy the idea “she’s asking for it” too much.”

        Daniel neither said, nor implied, any such thing.

        • NashTiger says

          Hard to find a more dishonest debater anywhere here, including Bruce’s Jap Tower

      • Ray Andrews says


        The thing is tho that sometimes she IS asking for it. A woman who advertises that she is advertising may find that folks notice the product. Sorry girls, but your little black dress does mean yes after all. But the radfem, spoiled, self indulgent child that she is, throws a tantrum at the very idea that she has responsibilities as well are rites. Too bad but you can’t have it both ways at the same time and if you play with fire you will get burned.

        • Anjjj says

          Ray, true sometimes we are asking for it. But it’s invitation only…

          • But you are offended when the wrong male responds (not talking physical assault) by looking or making a comment? How do we know if we are invited unless we ask?

          • Ray Andrews says


            Yes, and being able to tell which is which is often very difficult and it used to be one of the most important lessons a lad had to learn, which is which. Women often give mixed signals. Sometimes ‘no’ means ‘you’re not showing nearly enough interest’. Nuts, every last self-valuing woman wants to be shown that she is special. Women want to be pursued. Admit it. So, society has developed something of a code of conduct to make this problem somewhat more tractable. Wimin think that they can ignore every rule and there will be no consequences. They are mistaken. But a lady knows how to behave and she is honored for it. To be a gentleman is to learn how to treat a lady like a lady.

          • Anj says

            How do you know?
            If there’s any doubt, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”…

          • Anj says

            Every woman might want to be pursued but not by every man. The point is even if one’s clothing is designed to evoke interest that isn’t an open invitation for all but a particular target.
            Sorry, we’re just not that into everyone.

          • Don’t call us we’ll call you doesn’t necessarily work. Many women prefer men to make the first move. So, if a guy asks that is harassment? Or just if the guy is “icky”? You do realize your complete hypocrisy here don’t you? You are basically stating you should have all the power because if we are in doubt we have to wait for the female to make the first move? Why? And why wouldn’t that be just as harassing, for the woman to make the first move, as a male making the first move?
            It is all about your sex having complete dominion it almost seems like.

          • Anjjj says

            Jeffrey C
            Also, it might be interesting for you guys to contemplate Gad Saad’s (evolutionary psychologist) perspective on successful mating. He has suggested that successful women still prefer for their dates to pick up the tab as a symbol of commitment to sacrifice.
            Perhaps a little more generosity of spirit might help…

          • Not sure by what you mean by a little more generosity of spirit. I would argue that is a two way street. Take someone who is neurdiverse, like myself, a high functioning Autistic. Or someone with depression or anxiety disorder. For them to work up the nerve to approach a female takes a lot of work. But they could innocently misread the signals. Now, if the automatic assumption is that men are pigs, or that they should be able to understand is simply unrealistic. How about a polite no thank you, rather than become upset that they “aren’t the intended target”? Compassion and empathy are a two way street. Contrary to popular belief men are often afraid of women and rejection. When they put themselves out there, they deserve as much politeness as women, don’t they?

          • Photondancer says


            “successful women still prefer for their dates to pick up the tab as a symbol of commitment to sacrifice.”

            Rot. This is just the usual stinginess and exploitation that rich people commonly display. It’s how people get rich in the first place, by not spending money. She might have sex with him after he’s paid for it but she won’t respect him. He’s a mug.

        • BrainFireBob says

          Generational thing.

          I’ve noticed that the “she was asking for it” “defense” is raised by 40+ something men regarding college aged women. Typically very intellectually incapable men.

          When they were young, that is how a whore dressed.

          Not slut shaming. Clothing selection is a social broadcast of values, social rank, sexual receptiveness and orientation, etc. Culturally, before 3rd wave, there was a much greater societal focus on being deliberate about selections.

          Society passed these stupid men. They don’t realize that what they see as a sex-ready whore or slut is a nice upper middle class girl wearing high end expensive brand yoga pants and who didn’t want socially embarrassing panty lines.

          No excusing of behavior, but younger girls should know that the oldest guys at the bar/club will be getting that signal, not a fashionable one, because this change was too fast

          • Are the men really intellectually incapable? Remember during the 1980s and 1990s women were being celebrated for the so called “hook up” culture (which may have been more media creation then reality). Cosmo and other popular female magazines gave tips to women on how to dress sexy for that guilt free hookup. It had nothing to do with prostitution. It was about women’s liberation. It was empowering we were told. Women wanted sex as much as men, or so we were assured. Women did dress this way, generally in an attempt to attract male attention. Watch any show or movie from the era. Rachel and Monica and Phoebe talking openly about how long it’s been since they’ve had sex, and planning on hooking up for a quick pleasure. Women were told to flaunt their bodies, to flirt openly, to be as free sexually as males. We in generation X came of age in this mentality. Watch any John Hughes movie, or Kevin Smith movie. Watch Empire Records, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Pie, Dazed and Confused etc. And don’t forget our parents were the generation of free love. Hustler and Playboy were mainstreamed, Larry Flint and Hugh Hefner were celebrated by both men and women. Britney Spears in her Catholic school girl outfit, the Spice Girls, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Live, Madonna etc. You’re right it is a generational thing. But it isn’t that men are incapable or stupid, it’s that society has changed, and many older single men (probably recently single if they’re in their 40s) learned a social norm that is no longer acceptable (at least by some). The rules have changed, but for those recently single older men, they are just getting into a game that they no longer recognize. It would be like taking Johny Unitas from 1969 and dropping him into today’s NFL and expecting him to play. Or Mean Joe Green. The game they were used to evolved and, well the fundamentals may be the same, the tempo, rules and tactics have all changed.

          • Photondancer says


            Thank you. An astute observation. Men really need to get over the idea that everything a woman does is aimed at them. And yoga pants are comfortable. Heaven forbid a woman dress comfortably!

            I also wish the ‘women should dress modestly ‘ crowd would define that. The Victorian age is legendary for its sexual prudery yet the women wore very tight clothes, with necklines down to here in the evening.

        • It’s frustrating that other women seem to think sexy clothes should only mean what they want them to mean.

          Here’s some reasons that I’ve heard that women to want to wear sexy clothes for, minus the BS excuses:

          A) attracting people in general

          B) outshining other sexy people, but not meant for particularly attracting anyone sexually

          C) a particular person

          D) attracting only the right type of person; unbeknownst to any observers

          The problem is that B, C, and D can’t work. “A” is what happens in reality (if the woman will be in public), no matter what the woman wearing the sexy clothes wants.

          You’re sexy for everyone, for whatever reasons the other person will only guess. If the clothing is particularly revealing, it would suggest a certain amount of comfort showing that much skin, therefore people would naturally get other ideas about who you are as a person from the clothes you wear. Call it unfair if you like, but it isn’t untrue.

          All that sexiness still means you may have to deal with people you’re not interested in dating or having sex with. Be ready to say the dreaded “no” in a way that isn’t cruel (NO laughing), and take self-defence courses to stave off wannabe criminals, and you should be fine. A confident or highly observant woman is less likely to be attacked, whereas a skulking coward with slumped shoulders and a victim complex probably looks like easy pickings.

          I just wish other women would be more honest with themselves about who they’re attracting with sexy clothes and why.

          • Anj says

            Hello CG
            Ahhh roll on wishful thinking. Tell us again what we want & think.
            Yes it must sooo ‘frustrating’ when women won’t do as their told so yeah let ’em hang…
            Breathtaking resilience mate! Been shown the door one time too many?
            Inside tip, bitterness & prejudice is not a turn on…

          • Anjj did you miss that CG said other women, implying she is a woman. The poster was stating that women should be respectful enough to politely say no thank you, rather than becoming offended when the wrong guy approaches them. Why is that such a bad thing? If the guy respects her and leaves, who is harmed?

          • Also, aren’t you the one who just said men should wait to be called, that if we should know if we are the intended targets and to pick up the cues? So you are basically saying men should do as they are told, aren’t you? To live by your unwritten rules? How about mutual compassion? How about understanding that when a guy approaches you, he is also nervous and opening himself up to rejections, rather than assuming he is wrong for approaching you? You still haven’t explained why a polite no thank you is to much. Do you Invision a world as one giant Sadie Hawkins dance, were the guys have to wait for the female to make the first move? Or can a guy make the first move as long as he is willing to except no for an answer? Maybe even allow that he may ask again at a later date if he feels things have changed?

      • northernobserver says

        @anjj – You are utterly despicable and morally depraved. Stop projecting your failing on every stranger you meet you sick twisted creature.

        • BrainFireBob says


          “Particular target exclusivity” does not apply to behavior in the public domain. You can’t speed in front of a cop and defend it with “You weren’t supposed to be the one looking, I was showing off for the car going 5 under.. “

        • Ray Andrews says

          @ northernobserver

          She seems to vacillate between decent points and boilerplate bitchy feminist. I’m going to try to encourage the former.

      • Anj says

        So it’s all about the “power’ hey? Bad news pal, nature/biology has all the power. It decides yay or nay. Take your grievences up with the big guy.
        Seriously, you can’t pick up any other cues? Try not going in cold maybe. Not saying some women aren’t unreasonable but let’s not exaggerate. Perhaps you don’t want to read the cues or take the time.
        It can’t always be ‘everybody else’ in any dilemma. Progress starts with introspection!

        • Actually, it perfectly can be that some people have reasons they can’t read the cues. Many on the spectrum suffer from this affliction. How very neurotypical of you! See, I can use my identity to to pay the victim.
          And once again you completely misrepresented anything I said. When did I say it was all about thebpower.? Can you debate me without misrepresenting what I have said? Because you haven’t yet done so. But you have twisted my words to imply I am some misogynist bent on repressing women. You seen to lack compassion for anyone who is socially awkward or outside the norm. You expect others to be able to comprehend your intentions, no matter how subtle.

          • @Anjj, @Jeffrey C

            I’m also on the autism spectrum and bisexual; frankly too terrified to approach a woman ever again, despite being a woman too.

            These social issues don’t just affect men. Does that change any of your perspectives on ASD-afflicted bisexual or lesbian women? We feel tempted to approach other women, too. Should we not bother if we are sometimes or often unable to read social cues when trying to date? Would it feel even more uncomfortable to say “no”… or maybe there would suddenly be no problem?

          • @CG, I think the best answer is to not expect the worst of people and try to be polite. It would be nice if people could grasp that we are trying our best. But when the rules aren’t clearly defined, their is a good chance we will make a mistake because we simply don’t always pick up the cues. No matter how hard we try.

  12. Simon says

    Excellent article. Anatomic sexual education and deconstruction of gender stereotypes are devoid of interest if they are not rooted in an accute emotional education. There are more insights about gender relationships, more complexes, more pathodological sexual configurations in literature than there is psychoanalysis or any gender study program. Europeans should reconnect with this type of literature – chivalry, preciosity, romantic novels, novels of self-examination – that made the path of their civilization of the mores so singular.

  13. The thing about feminism is that it is constructed out of a big lie, that men work together to disadvantage women. The opposite is of course true and anyone who looks at the world with eyes even half open sees this very clearly.

    Women are supported and advantaged in every aspect of life.We see this at the micro level in our daily interactions and we see it at the macro level when we look at almost any area:
    – Education: girls do better than boys but receive preferential treatment
    – Health: Women live longe than men and far more money is spent on their health
    – Violence: We have measures against VAWG but men and boys are victims more often
    – Media: criticism of men, toxic masculinity etc abound where is the matching criticism of women as women?
    – Law: Women are massively advantaged in the sentences given and the proportion served not to mention the notorious biases in family law.

    I am amused by the implicit sexism in the idea female Shakespeare can write perceptively about men and women but a male shakespeare would be incapable of writing in such a way about women. The overt sexisim is typically feminist.

    It is 40 years since I last read Macbeth but the idea that Lady Macbeth is a feminist hero is also amusing. She clearly is a villain and if viewed simplistically the play would surely be criticised as misogynistic with the witches as the representation of evil, and Lady Macbeth as the inspiration and instigator of Macbeth’s misdeeds. In reality of course Shakespeare makes it clear whatever the influences and temptations that lead up to them every one is responsible for their own actions.

    • Anjjj says

      The point is that ‘masculine energy’ made autonomy easier. She used it for evil & got what was coming but that’s not to say it was a flawed idea just because intentions were unethical.

  14. Andras Kovacs says

    That’s some rich food for thought; thank you (& Quillette) for it.

  15. Steve Bowden says

    Wow, this was a great article. I hope some of this nuanced writing works its way into the mainstream.

  16. Geary Johansen says

    I have to say that modern academic’s view of Shakespeare relies far too heavily on the mechanism of character to understand his message. Now, of course, every writer aspires to create fully-fleshed characters of depth, but it is important to remember that character is often subsidiary, or at least slave to, plot and narrative in accomplishing the broader thematic goals of the piece (so much so that many writers complain that their characters refuse to do what the writer has in mind for them, in the modern context). So, knowing what we know about the Elizabethan Hierarchy and the Elizabethan garden as an imposition of order on nature and chaos, we have to view any Man or Woman ruled by their passion in the Elizabethan world as a deeply dangerous and inherently villainous agent of disorder.

    ‘Thou nature are my goddess’ wasn’t just a statement in the Elizabethan context, it was a manifesto that advocated the overthrow of the systems, which the Elizabethans relied upon to create security and comfort in a dangerous world. Most citizens would have toiled for less than two dollars a day in fields, little more than slaves in most instances. Indeed, one could escape serfdom if one absconded to London for the period of a year, without apprehension, becoming a free man once the year had elapsed. Even then a trip to the theatre would have been a luxury, accompanied by cheap wine or ale and probably preceded by a trip to the Bear Baiting pits. And of course, Shakespeare knew which side his bread was buttered on, many of his plays could be relied on to draw a crowd, because of his reputation for high body counts.

    Yet despite all this, his poetry remains some of the most beautiful ever constructed in the English language. His characters, far from being cardboard cutouts, come to life even through the fog of time and a vastly different cultural landscape. He would have studied Aristotle, Oedipus Rex and the Greek Tragedies- so understood implicitly that character is supposed to reveal greater, more universal truths- but nonetheless he created many of his villains as essentially human, using them as a sympathetic tool to unveil jealousies and ambitions that we should all guard against. He drew heavily on Tyndale for his language and idioms, whilst simultaneously using his plays to discuss contemporary politics and culture. Indeed, his representation of Richard III, was a not so thinly veiled critique of a leading figure of the day, who could have only inspired fear in a considerable segment of the populace, very risque given the society of the time.

    The person who probably most embodies Shakespeare in the modern age in Aaron Sorkin. He too understands that dialogue is artifice, meant to accomplish narrative and thematic goals. His characters are real, whist still fully understanding that their role is to illuminate broader truths in our society and culture. You may not like his politics, but you have to admire his work. And he’s not in the business of creating straw men, for his heroes to demolish- the liberals might win in the end, but not without revealing their adversaries to have honour and integrity. The true test of his play ‘A Few Good Men’ should be whether a conservative can walk out of theatre feeling as though their position on the military have been articulated. It’s something our culture, our media and our politics desperately needs more of- writers and journalists actually engaging with their political opponents from the position of honest dialogue, meant to understand the other side.

    Great article, by the way. A very insightful look at how many academics of today, attempt to twist great works to support whatever contemporary cultural nonsense they are peddling. The fact that in many instances they are robbing art and literature, not only of their context, but also their beauty, never seems to occur to them. Next thing you know, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will be a work perpetuating ‘Rape Culture’.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Geary Johansen

      “Next thing you know, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will be a work perpetuating ‘Rape Culture’.”

      It used to be a play performed by high school drama students. I don’t know if it is permitted anymore.

    • E. Olson says

      Another excellent comment Geary – thanks.

      • Geary Johansen says

        @ E. Olson

        Cheers mate. Much appreciated.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Wait…so you just jumped from Shakespeare to Aaron Sorkin? That’s the scope of your brilliant literary insight? In 500 years, you’ve found one writer that stands out? I know this is just a cheesy website, but if you submitted something like that in even a high school English class you’d get laughed at.

      And you’ve got to be absolutely fucking kidding with that “engaging..political opponents” bullshit. On Quillette? Home to all leftists are Hitler and a million right-wing talking points? No, knock off the self-righteous bullshit. You don’t want engagement. You want your fragile sensibilities to be flattered and all your prejudices confirmed. Jesus, you only think two writers in the last half-millennium knew how to address a broad audience.

      • Geary Johansen says

        @ Nakatomi

        Spoken like someone who only ever been taught to look at literature through the postmodern lens. But I will grant you that you are least right in one thing- most teachers have only ever been taught to look at literature in terms of which power group the writer represents, and the ways in which this plays out with character and plot- which is presumably why the standards of both teaching and journalism have declined so precipitously in recent decades.

        Before postmodernism destroyed the serious study of literature, we were taught to look at the surrounding history of the time, the culture and ideas that drove great works- so that beyond the veil of structure, plot and narrative, we might glimpse what larger meaning the writer might be trying to infer. This presumably is why the postmodern novel, whist often technically and stylistically surpassing it’s forbears, regularly seems a dwarf amongst giants in the message it imparts.

        I chose Sorkin, because he was the most obvious playwright that sprang to mind. But I could have just as easily mentioned Kazou Ishiguro, he too understands that character is subordinate to larger narrative and thematic goals, capturing the history and prevailing social winds of a period- whilst still being able to draft complex three-dimensional characters. But of course, given your so obvious worldview, the fact that he was born in Japan and depicts characters outside his ethnic background, might be somewhat inconvenient to the proposition that writers should never stray beyond the borders of their ‘lived experience’, given the subtlety and nuance with which he conveys the follies of the English Upper Classes in ‘The Remains of the Day’.

        As to the the number of conservatives who comment on this website, I’ll grant that their are a significant number of them. But I’ve voted Lib Dem my entire life, and fall very much in the centre with my political views. The fact that you so obviously misconstrue my political bias, says more about your own, than mine. Here’s a hint if you believe in socialism, rather than a larger social safety net, or think that the West is an oppressive white patriarchy, then you are so far left, you are on the lunatic fringe.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Ah, Lib Dem voter. That makes sense. But the Lib Dems are right wing as they don’t really favour massive State intervention in the economy so much as targeted relief to disadvantaged. Lib Dems are Tories without a sense of humour.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Peter from Oz

            Lol. Don’t really agree with them on unilateral disarmament either. But both Labour and the Tories seem to cede too much control to the ideologues at the wings of their parties. With Jeremy Corbyn, the wing had pretty much taken over.

      • Diana Ayala says

        Nakatomi, wouldn’t it be best for your mental heath of you went to another website?

  17. Morgan Foster says

    From the article: “The responses to Winkler’s piece address serious gaps in her research and provide historical context that discredits her most basic assertions …”

    We also learn from this that not a single editor working at The Atlantic was competent enough in English literature to have questioned Winkler’s piece when it was first submitted.

  18. Brian says

    Agree with the premise. It is behavior that is a crime not biology. Embrace the latter healthily and guard against the former.

  19. Farris says

    What happens to the dynamic when men no longer need to repress sexual tendencies because of the sexbots?
    Will being with a sexbot be the equivalent of cheating or just exotic masturbation?

    • Ray Andrews says


      The radfems will say it demeans wimin and forbid such things. Their real motive of course being that they don’t want to loose their power over men. But dildos will continue to be permitted and no, they do not ‘reduce men to their body parts’ just in case you were going to mention that.

      • Farris says

        Wasn’t going to mention that Ray. Male body parts don’t seem to cross my mind all to often. I don’t disagree with your conclusion that there will be attempts at prohibition. However I would point out there will be male sexbots that will call back, want to cuddle and never go fishing or golfing with buddies.

        • Prohibition seems to be almost guaranteed. Look at Feminists war against sex workers. They claim to be saving them, but a number of articles I have read by legal prostitutes and other sex workers describe persecution because they, the sex workers, refused to be viewed as victims. The dominant view seems to be prostitutes have no agency but are all unwilling victims of evil male sexuality. Porn actresses (who are paid far more then male porn actors, to such a degree many straight male actors do bi or gay porn because that is were the pay is) are also portrayed as victims and shamed. One was bullied until she committed suicide because she didn’t want to perform with actors who had performed bi, gay or TG scenes. The my body my choice thing seems only to apply to the idea of abortion.

        • Ray Andrews says


          My niece Dolly-Darlin’ is a member of a fundamentalist patriarchal sect. So, she knows she’s a woman and a few years ago she married her a fine young man of the same sect, who, being a young patriarch, feels free to go out and hang (literally) with his buddies at the climbing gym. What’s interesting is that his main climbing buddy is his mother in law. Oppression brings tears to our eyes.

          • Farris says


            Yep couples and families find all kind of ways to make it work; traditional, non traditional or variations on either theme. Dinner may be provided as follows: she kills and he cleans it.
            Hanging with the mother in law, that kid must have a high tolerance for pain.

          • Ray Andrews says


            “that kid must have a high tolerance for pain”

            Hey buddy that’s my sister, and I taught her how to climb. 😉

          • Farris says


            No insult intended towards your sister, I have no doubt she’s a helluva gal. I have to admire anyone who hauls herself upward with nothing but strength and determination. My mother in law was a sweet lady and I was lucky to have her. However, mother in laws can sometimes require a lot of patience, exempting your sister of course.

    • Azathoth says

      Humanity will, most likely, never get to the ‘sexbot’ phase–at least not in the way you’re envisioning it.

      Instead, the pendulum, already trembling at the top of it’s arc, will swing back.

      In today’s world we forget such basic truths as ‘women do not have rights’.

      Now that sounds strange and harsh, but please, have patience.

      The plethora of rights showered upon women in the West exist only for women in the West. In the rest of the world, despite admirable advances in verbiage, women still occupy a ..different… place than men.

      Because all the Western women’s rights are protected by the wills of men.

      Men in the West created female equality in much the same way that we are now expected to accept that a person of one gender who says that they are another gender, or no gender is the new normal.

      Everything about women’s equality depends on men’s indulgence.

      And the moment enough men say ‘no’ is the moment those rights go away.

      Now, I don’t think the pendulum would ever swing that far back, but it needs to be remembered that this is true.

      Too many young women do not understand that they are pampered pets–and not any kind of threat whatsoever, and they are behaving as if they have some alternative.

      • I don’t think that society can avoid the sex robot phase. We are already seeing it in traditionally male dominated societies such as the Japanese. And many socially awkward men are finding some release from Real Dolls and other substitutes. The technology is only improving, and if we ever bridge the uncanny valley, (I believe it is more when then if) there will be little to stop it. But I do believe some will. Some people believe it is the right to dictate their morals onto others.

        • Peter from Oz says

          ”the uncanny valley”
          Is that euphemism for lady parts?

          • It is a well researched phenomena from robotics and computer graphics, that the closer a human replicate looks real the more people are “creeped” out by them.

  20. E. Olson says

    They say that good writers write about things they know, and the question his interesting essay raises is whether men and women know each other well enough to write good characters of the opposite sex. Generally speaking, the successful hunter knows his prey better than the prey knows the hunter, which would suggest that man’s pursuit of women would lead them to know the women better than women know men, which may be one reason most of the world’s greatest writers have been men.

    Another reason that may explain the inability of many women (particularly feminists) to understand men is that such understanding would make it more difficult to blame all female problems on men. The first rule of training combat troops is to dehumanize the enemy, because if you know the soldier on the other side is someone’s beloved son or father who is much more likely to be a scared child than a true believing Commie/Nazi/infidel warrior, it is much more difficult to make the kill shot. Thus feminists who would actually attempt to understand men, might find it difficult to blame everything on the men who do 90+% of all dirty/dangerous jobs, are much more likely to commit suicide, abuse drugs, or be homeless, make up only about 40% of university students, pay most of the taxes and receive small shares of welfare, and are almost certainly going to be the gender that saves them from assault, flood, fire or malfunctioning car or computer.

    Of course understanding men shouldn’t be very difficult, and mothers used to have talks with their daughters about not giving the milk away for free, and doing their wifely duties of staying pretty, saying yes to sex even when they didn’t feel like it, and making their way to a man’s heart through his stomach, but I expect such talks are now considered out-of-date relics of patriarchy, which may be another reason that women don’t understand men and therefore can’t write good male characters.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Yikes. That first paragraph is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Maybe a very indulgent high-school English teacher would tolerate that sort of idiocy, but probably not. You’d be asked to explain your thoughts, which would obviously be a disaster for you because your thoughts are dumb as hell. And if the teacher were a woman? Well, I guess that would just confirm your insane thesis that a guy like you just can’t be understood.

      Please, tell me you’re 14 years old. That’s the only possible excuse for this level of stupidity.

      • E. Olson says

        NP – thank you once again for your deep and original insights that add so much to the discussion here. The depth of your thinking is truly amazing, and in all honesty you are just in a whole different league than most of the rest of us here so we won’t blame you at all if you stop slumming and move on to a more appropriate venue for your valuable contributions. Happy trails to you.

  21. Hestia says

    Beautiful article. Thank you! Hope Ms. Winkler gets to read it.

  22. “Precisely because they are so high, one wants to bring them low. Male sexuality is basically a form of slave morality, in which women are the oppressors. They make us weak. Only in the moment of surrender and penetration is this reversed, and redeemed. This is the deep mystery—why men are so enslaved to women, so keen to please them.”

    This sounds an awful lot like he looks at the sexual penetration of women as inherently degrading to them in some way. Penetrating women “lowers” them and makes them “weak”? I have no issue with dominance and submission in sex when agreed upon by both parties, but if it’s true that men look at every sexual penetration of women as something that lowers women as sexual human beings, well, there go my plans for tonight.

    • BrainFireBob says

      Be closer to say that it brings them to earth. Male sexuality is closer to religious veneration pre-coitus: Woman is a saint, “so high above me, so lovely.”

      Penetrative sex “earthifies” them- they become a person that poops, farts, burps, gets dirty. Since males inherently are taught to view themselves and their drives as filthy, the necessary psychological mechanism must be that one “dirties” a girl when “sexing” her- grubby hands on the altar and so forth.

      Plus, there is a surprising hind-brain ownership element at the moment of climax that one assumes is precursor to paternal bonding- ie, it feels very “claiming” in that instant.

      When my wife and I are intimate, she is my bride, my beloved, my sweet dove- and in that precise moment, my woman. It’s quite shocking to find in oneself, as I said I think it’s a reptile-brain element toward “owning” pregnancy when it happens. Lot of men have impregnating fantasies, this is probably why.

      • IIC says

        Funny, I always thought impreg fantasies originated from Alien.

    • Chris Steele says

      Second what Bob said. But what resonated with me when I read that sentence was that a woman allows herself to be vulnerable at that moment. She takes a chance on the male. Lets down her guard. That is very emotional for a male, because for most of us, most women are very, very guarded towards us most of the time.

      Second also on the impregnation fantasy. This is half of why they say sex feels better without a condom (it does). Ejaculating into her satisfies a deeply primal instinct, it’s like literally the main purpose of existing (at the least the first part of that purpose, the second part is to then bond and care for that woman and child).

    • Jesse says


      For some people—men and women alike—degradation is arousing. For many, it’s not. That said, I am very skeptical of the notion that sexual desires, ideas, fetishes, etc. can be compartmentalized. To me, it screams “hardcore feminist who likes to be dominated and degraded in bed and experiences severe cognitive dissonance as a result”—but that’s just based on my personal experience.

    • Only Me says

      That bit did strike me as ridiculous as well, as somebody angry at his wife and who wanted to teach them a lesson by sexually degrading them in some way. I never look at women and think “I need to take you down by having sex with you,” personally.

  23. Robin says

    Thanks so much for writing your essay Ms. Simon! I truly enjoyed it. I’ve been reading Shakespeare for years and now you have uncovered yet another deeper layer for me. His genius is timeless.

    I look forward to reading your book when it is published.

  24. BrainFireBob says

    Women control societies. It’s hardwired. Maybe it’s the nature of childhood and conception of the “self” and “other”, but women control society.

    Society revolves around female approval and disapproval. Men arrange themselves in hierarchies for female attention, competing in whatever avenue desirable females indicate will catch their attention. Men can interact on a one-on-one basis, with long history, without hierarchy by carefully managing an illusion of parity; one man confesses a failure, the other man responds with a comparable “hierarchy lowering” failure- there’s lots of literature on this in communication styles. Men need women- or an activity, which typically is fascinatingly feminized- to get together socially. (ie, men can raise a barn or work on a car together, and “she” is a “beautiful” machine, etc.). Generally speaking, if there are multiple men and one woman in a conversation, the men form a semi-circle, don’t look at each other, and all address their comments to the woman in the group. She is acting, functionally, in a role as adjudicator or status.

    Women perforce close ranks and enforce conformity on each other to maintain this control- women need to be in public agreement in thought and action in order for all males to respond to the group. A girl breaking ranks is persona non grata because she provides an alternative to some males, threatening overall control. Or, it’s not men that make you feel slutshamed, it’s other women and ultimately your mother and teenage friends that instilled that sense of shame. Men either aesthetically approve or don’t, but the men that do aesthetically approve can ignore the mass of the group to focus attention on you, which is a liminal threat to group control, leading to shame as an exercise to get you back into line. Also, an obvious alpha female has the same issue- men will focus on her assessments of hierarchy performance- so female excellence must be decently hidden publicly around other females- not because men make them do so.

    To sum: Women control society, low-ranked women are subject to a minimum of deference from even high ranked men, something enforced by both genders. Fundamentally, this is about access to sex- women get to choose who breeds. It’s why approach is a male burden, frequently done via the bringing of gifts or symbolic gifts- such as libations or flowers or candy.

    Sidebar caveat: If you have real power, you don’t need to exercise it. You see harems of women because it takes that kind of extreme limitation and control for a male to actually have power over women sexually, not because women are so weak. I rather think the same about abusive men- they beat their wives because their wives are in a position of social dominance and they want to reverse it. I tend to think this mentality drives a lot of rape- it’s typically undesirable males who are leveraging what they do have.

    So yes, feminists have it backwards. They already have the social power. What they lacked, when the movement started, was monetary power and independence if they didn’t want to participate in the sexual power dynamics game, a reason that explains why many lesbians were prominent in the early movement. They wouldn’t welcome male attention. Very reasonable, they wanted an alternative option to conforming to the social idea of the good woman and making men dance to their tune. Independence, admirable. Their dialogue and way of approaching achieving it was incorrect.

    What they appear to have done is misinterpret, to be brief, “what their mothers told them”- “Now dear, if you show off how good you are at math, you’ll never find a man”- Ergo, men don’t like them being good at math. Nope, it’s other girls who will make them a social pariah, and any male interested in attempting to mate with one of those other girls will follow suit. It’s not the men who are doing it or threatened by it.

    It reminds one strikingly of PCU and the campus womynist whose mind was blown: “Wait, so if you’re nice to them, they do things for you?”

    Women, men were never your enemy. Other women were. Men follow their male leaders socially in the absence of female presence.

    Again, my vague tinfoil hat conspiracy about the left not really caring about women but wanting them to have children later kicks in: If you party around and have a number of abortions when young, you put off having kids possibly permanently (There is a common bit between the sexes that most emphatically do not want too sexually promiscuous a long-term partner) but if you do have kids, and it’s a son, you’ll learn how wrong feminism was about male nature (Specifically, what is and isn’t nature) and stop robotically voting left. They don’t want that. More abortions and wild sex for everybody because it sets you free because reasons!

    Most men that can be promiscuous are because it’s like a gene-coded cookie jar- you leap at the opportunities since fundamentally you don’t have access.

    • Andras Kovacs says

      An excellent comment: points to the social importance of intrasex competition between human females.

    • BrainFireBob says

      Adding a bit more:

      I rather think this is why American men are seen as so aggressive by Europeans. Since America is a melting pot, and since hierarchal standing is determined by locally available females in an immediate sense, to be crude about it, the Italians girls would rank you one way but the French girls a different way, so the hierarchy was never settled and peace is never made with it- there’s a constant flux of hierarchies in effect leading to American men having to constantly scrabble for their standing all the time; no-one is safe unless they are out-of-the-water beyond everyone obviously in same manner. Mono-cultural or dominantly mono-cultural norms don’t see this kind of phenomenon.

      • Also, let’s not forget that society also imposes strict standards on men. Men are supposed to be stoic, strong, protective, even jealous. But then we are told these roles make us bad. Did we choose those roles? Did men choose those roles or were those roles imposed upon us by female preference? The argument for the latter is strong and fairly well documented. Throw into it that maleness is at least partially hardwired. That certain attributes were developed as a result of Evolution.

        • Robert Franklin says

          Jeffrey C. – It’s sexual selection. Women chose with whom to mate and, understandably chose those males highest in the male hierarchy they could. Those males were the ones most capable of defending the group’s territory, defending females and children and providing resources. Whatever men are today, it was due to women’s choices.

        • Robin says


          Did men choose those roles or were those roles imposed upon us by female preference?

          Briffault’s law maintains that “the female, not the male, determines all the conditions of the animal family. Where the female can derive no benefit from association with the male, no such association takes place.” … It is women who give thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any advances or proposals from men.

          It’s the women who decides whether the association takes place, not the male. Chivalry was created by a women for women. (Eleanor of Aquitaine and the myth of courtly love). As soon as enough women didn’t want it, it was morphed into ‘male oppression’, and almost overnight it disappeared. Gender roles are flexible but it depends on what women want, not men. Anecdotally it was my wife who said it best… (I had been living on my own and used to doing things myself for quite some time). “Honey, where I need your help the most is outside the house”.

          I suspect if women were suddenly attracted to male tears the evening bar scenes would be turned into a comic opera of men wailing and bawling their eyes out… The nightclub areas would sound like the howling of werewolves in some C grade horror flick! Women decide what is attractive in men and it’s men who must bend the knee and kiss the ring finger.

          With a caveat… there is a category of most desirable men for whom the situation is reversed. They are however a minority.

          • Exactly, evolution dictates what genes get passed on. Women would instinctively choose the genes they feel are the fittest. Additionally, since humans are predominantly monogamous, women would choose the best provider. Thus, we have selected for dominant males. And males have been conditioned to be seen as strong and dominant. Now suddenly, a few women decided that this isn’t ideal, and they are surprised that men have had some difficulties adjusting. Especially, as it still appears, despite their protest to the contrary, women are still attracted to the strong, dominating male. There is plenty of evidence that suggests these are still the most sought after male types. Males with broad shoulders, at least 5’10” or so, narrow hips, in a leadership or traditionally male dominated industry (I.e. soldiers, cowboys, fireman, policeman, lumberjack, fisherman etc) still tend to be the ideal male for the majority of females according to numerous studies.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Briffault’s law is a load of toss.

    • Robin says


      “Most men that can be promiscuous are because it’s like a gene-coded cookie jar- you leap at the opportunities since fundamentally you don’t have access.”

      If the 80/20 pareto is true then the views of 80% of the men towards women will be entirely different than the 20% of the men. It also means that the view of 80% of the women will be formed by their association with only 20% of the men. Needless to say that latter group of highly desired men have the luxury of treating women like a commodity. The vast majority of men do not.

      With current trends I see the lines hardening. Two ships sailing past each other in the night…

      • Brain says

        Yeah, I figured what I posted was long enough.

        I’d dispute, though, that the view of 80% of women is shaped by their association with 20% of men, and instead argue that their view is shaped by their assumed view of that 20% of men- who aren’t necessarily cads and don’t realize they’re invalidating the very power structure I addressed above by not responding with devotion to women deigning to have sex with them; thereby attacking the agency of the women who have so deigned- to them, it’s another Saturday and life is good.

    • An excellent analysis, but most women already know this (although not as well articulated). Don’t mistake the cacophony of stupidity you hear from academics and other Wokes, with actual views of real women.

      • Even more so, it seems fairly common among “woke” people to make fun of “incels”. So not only do the detest the “jerks”t also ridicule those who are less successful then the “jerks”. At the same time they imply the incels would also be jerks if given the chance.

      • BrainFireBob says

        Young women, in my experience, frequently don’t- it’s not until they have a few years of reality.

        This angers me, d- they’re making choices and hurting themselves and other people out of ignorance, and I don’t think it should be tolerated as youth being young. Allowing 19 year old women to have abortions without counseling is hurting 30 year old women starting families- who finally realize the magnitude of what they did (not saying their choice would change, mind, but that they were enabled deliberately making it in ignorance).

    • Photondancer says


      Don’t agree with this one. Men will reject a woman who, say, scores high marks at school or university without first checking to see if the other women are rejecting her.

      And don’t forget that genetics have shown women like to be promiscuous too.

      • I haven’t seen much evidence that men reject women for getting high marks at school. In fact, I’ve seen white the opposite. But experiences differ. I tend to find women who are “clueless” as trial and so do many of my closest friends. Maybe some men may be threatened by smart women, but I’ve rarely met one.

      • BrainFireBob says

        We can have a sub discussion on what’s “normative” in the literal sense- ie, what’s the most common or dominant mechanism, and whether rules are fast and loose.

        More specifically, the research I am familiar with is that there is a gene coding that tends to lead to promiscuous women, but that it’s not the more than a significant minority of the gene pool (most women don’t have it, although a fair number do, and that does complicate the overall picture).

        Human behavior gets sticky because people mistake not being typical for being abnormal. No one is completely typical of their gender, ethnic group, age group, etc. One of the oddities of intersectionality is that it began with a rejection of individualism in favor of traits being more reflective of sub groups, and then has defined narrower and narrower sub groups until one can easily see it approaching individualism again.

        Regarding men rejecting a woman with higher marks: My experience as a man and speaking to other men is the opposite- that men might assume a woman who is much smarter won’t be interested in them, but that there’s not a lack of interest, just resignation regarding being “good enough.” To me, that’s different. Have you seen this, or just assumed that men are rejecting smart women? Not to sound sexist, but in conversations with women I’ve tended to find that men who are intimidated to approach and intelligent woman, the intelligent woman just assumes rejection.

  25. I had planned on earning my PhD in English literature back in 1984. I qualified for a top school and loved the work. But, in my senior year, when I started to do my research for my undergraduate honors thesis on Joyce, it became obvious what sort of world I’d enter. Even then – 1984 – the nasty petty meaningless backstabbing seemed fairly universal, blatant even in the essays I read; different schools of thought sneered at others in the most juvenile way.

    But what perhaps bothered me more was the depraved, narcissistic way literature was studied. That year, I’d enrolled in a grad class on Shakespeare, and I remember, as we read a passage from one of his plays out loud – about to break it down – I exclaimed, “Wow that is so beautiful!” All 10 heads at the seminar table turned to me in either shock or hostile disapproval, as though I’d said, “Fuck” or something. Appreciating the beauty or balance or truth or even the structure of a piece was verboten. That was because the PhDs wouldn’t then be front and center. Increasingly, they searched for ways to make themselves far, far more important to world civilization than a mere genius poet or writer. It was mind numbingly stupid and boring. I resent groupthink to begin with, so I ran, and have never looked back.

    So it doesn’t surprise me at all to see what is politely called “3rd wave feminism” creep so far into literary ‘theory.’ How important and noble these ‘scholars’ believe themselves to be! Just as with any narcissist, what matters is the centrality of the narcissist. So they can be careless about just who Shakespeare was. Shakespeare Shmakespeare, man, woman, whatever. What really matters is Dr. Jane Doe’s newest book on Shakespeare’s misogyny in Twelfth Night!

    The author is incisive but unfortunately has been in this world for so long she really imagines most women are like the women she encountered there. So she generalizes, as here: “But what troubles me is that women commonly fail to appreciate the internal struggle men have with their sexual instincts…”

    Actually, women do not “commonly” fail to appreciate men’s internal struggles. Indeed, I would say any woman who has lived life, raised male children, and not stuck her head up the ivory tower’s bottom, knows men have a strong sex drive on average. The problem with being in this academic world of upside down narcissism, is that you begin to imagine it is reflecting something in the actual world. It is not. It is reflecting itself, and all the little puppets it sends out to echo the narcissist’s siren song. Unfortunately, these narcissists are very nasty, and are really good with social media and its echo chamber, mainstream media. So it seems as though they have a whole lot more power and represent a whole lot more people than they really do.

    As a side note, I have noticed men – at work, socially, even on talk shows – becoming more and more careful in their choice of words, stammering and apologizing in advance for a potential thoughtcrime against women. What bothers me even more than the fact that men now feel a need to do this, is that they seem to really believe that most women are crazy 3rd wave feminists who buy the whole shebang, and that we are all ready to spring at the merest whiff of their supposed toxicity. It makes me really sad. I’ve said, a few times, “Oh it’s fine. I don’t believe in all that.” But it doesn’t matter, and I don’t blame them. It’s just all quite sad to me and I hope we recover out of this mass derangement soon.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Your graduate experience is interesting. I went through something similar. On the other hand, do you really expect scholars to continue reading and rereading literature in exactly the same ways over time? I hope not. How many thousand identical books on Shakespeare would you be interested in reading? Your complaint always seemed silly and naive to me, as though theory should stand still and scholarship should stop pursuing new interpretations. Would anybody make the same argument about law school? Business school? Science? Obviously not. And you’re surprised that scholars have egos and personalities? Name me a profession that isn’t filled with self-centered assholes, especially at the highest levels. I, on the other hand, can’t say I’ve ever been distracted by the personalities of my Lit. professors. Maybe it was just you?

      And yes, literary theory and scholarship has become a bit of a joke. Some of the identify politics and convoluted applications clearly signal the decline of the field that started right around the time you were an undergraduate (unless you’re writing about being an HS student, which would severely cripple your credibility and be really weird.)

      • NP,

        The problem with endlessly re-interpreting the same literature is that after a certain point you have to start making shit up for the sake of novelty. Do we really still need research-level Shakespeare departments after 500 years of study? The interested student already has more than enough material to last them multiple lifetimes. There were other great writers whose lives and work are worth researching and interpreting.

  26. OWG says

    People, men or women, who write such articles are simply indulging in self-promotion to get the attention that they probably can’t get any other way. Shame on the Atlantic and other publishers who keep enabling this behavior that worsens divisions in US culture.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Worsens division? Really? On Quillette, you can seriously complain about that? Division is the drug that keeps Quillette in business.

      I guess Quillette readers think the world must revolve around them and everybody else is obligated to completely agree with them. That’s really the only explanation that makes any sense at this point.

  27. Morgan Foster says

    @ d

    “As a side note, I have noticed men – at work, socially, even on talk shows – becoming more and more careful in their choice of words, stammering and apologizing in advance for a potential thoughtcrime against women.”

    When I was a very young child, my mother would say to me, as I went off to play: “Don’t talk to strange girls.”

    It was a time when small children were allowed to go off and play unsupervised, nevertheless the advice is as good today as it was then.

    “Don’t talk to strange women.”

    • I can empathize with this. I am 43 and just recently diagnosed with high functioning autism. My whole life was I’ve dreaded saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It hampered my social life, and yet I still got in trouble, often with no idea what I’d done wrong. In fact, my very nervousness seemed often to be the cause. I had one ex-girlfriend who told me the reason we didn’t work out was because I never took the initiative, and she got tired of me being so docile. I had another woman accuse me of staring at her chest, when I wasn’t even aware of her (I’d often space out if nothing was going on). This wasn’t completely under my control, in fact when I apologized and tried to explain, it only made things worse. I recently had an old high school crush of mine ask me why I never followed up on asking her out, it was because I was so unsure of if she wanted me to or not. I will say in my defense she loves to flirt with me whenever another girl showed interest and then give me the cold shoulder when we were alone. I rarely ever approached women in the bar, and the few times I did didn’t end up very well. To me, the lack of rules and boundaries was to much. What few relationships I had before I met my wife (a blind date my friend arranged) were generally short lived and to often focused solely on the physical. In fact, the woman I lost my virginity too had to basically come out and tell me that she wanted sex, because I wasn’t sure what she had meant by asking me to spend a four day pass with her (we were stationed together in Texas). She dumped me soon after and wrote me a bad check for some money she owed me just before she transferred to another duty station. I’m sure some like Anjj above will imply this was completely my fault, but, I always tried to be a nice guy. I was always worried that I was pushing to hard (only to find out I often wasn’t pushing hard enough), that I was looking when I shouldn’t be (this still worries me, because I consciously try to avoid looking, wish I have been told is creepy in itself).

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Jeffrey C: I’m 43 too 🙂 What was it about your wife that she managed to see past your autism?

        • I wasn’t diagnosed as a kid, and I am high functioning (spent 10 years in the army, worked as a nurse and then went and got a M.S. in Animal science). So, I guess it was just seen as my own little quirks, some people learned to look past them, while others haven’t. The ones who haven’t have been the larger part of society though.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Jeffrey C

        Thanks for your reply, and I can certainly empathize with much of what you said. I can assure you – if you have not worked this out already – that there are many women who write bad checks. And quite a few of them will leverage a personal loan with sex.

        I was particularly amused by your anecdote about staring – completely unaware – in the direction of a woman’s breasts. I’ve done that, while lost in other thoughts. Also when a woman has – thoughtlessly, perhaps – pinned a name badge directly above her left nipple and then glared at me when she looked up from the counter to see me trying to read it. (I am a compulsive reader. I read everything that appears before my eyes.) But where else is she going to put the badge? Nobody wins in the breast-staring game.

        My comment about not talking to strange women might benefit from a little expansion. Obviously, there are some women walking around who are mentally ill. Sometimes severely so, while attempting to control things with medication. Therefore, “strange”. You met them in college and in the service. (It wasn’t you, it was them!)

        But also strange in the literal sense, in that these are women who are not really known to you. Even at work. For a man in your situation, talking to them about personal or non-business related things is going to be fraught with danger. It’s not just a question of you not understanding them. They aren’t going to understand you.

        And they don’t want to understand you. By all means, let them be offended by you avoiding them. Half of all the fools in the world are women and you shouldn’t feel the need to win the approval of a fool.

        You’re very fortunate to have found a woman who appreciates you for who and what you are. Don’t ever let her go, if you can avoid it.

      • This is similar to my own life: always afraid of doing something wrong, diagnosed late with ASD at 37. When I was younger, the games women played were stupid, so I ignored the girls in high school, while also thinking a lot of them were pretty. Boys and men were a lot easier to understand: straight up with their words and fewer wore masks to hide their real selves. Couldn’t always tell who was being genuine in general, though, it was/is very difficult.

        Also made some very hurtful mistakes in my romantic/sexual relationships. Not understanding when I was being cruel, unwilling to understand the guy’s/girl’s POV or emotions, or giving people the “silent treatment” in the middle of disagreements because I was either confused or too caught up in my own ego to bend. Hurt more people than I’d care to admit.

        That all said, I relate to what you say about “looking”. I find it hard to avoid looking when someone attractive is nearby, or even look by accident when staring into space. Probably end up staring sometimes without even realizing it, I’m literally stunned by how attractive some people are… but I never mean to make anyone uncomfortable, as hard as others may find it to believe. 🙁

        Best we can do is admit when we made a mistake and keep trying to interact with people. If we eventually learn to laugh at our own mistakes, or at least own up to them with a sheepish smile, others might not take it as seriously either. 🙂

        The looking is a tough one, though. What’s the proper thing to do when you’re “caught”, whether looking on purpose or not? Seriously asking.

        • No idea what to do when caught.
          Also, I am terrible when I know I’ve done something wrong but they won’t tell me. I will never guess.

        • CG, do you believe there is any validity to the idea that autism is a form of hypermasculanity of the brain? Also, just out of curiosity, how many other on the spectrum do you know who describe themselves as other than strictly heterosexual. I would place myself as bi-situational. I doubt I could ever have a meaningful relationship with a guy, but have sought physical pleasure with guys when I was single. And still actively fantasize about it. Which leads to a sense of guilt, especially after I’m down masturbating to a gay or bi porn.

  28. Hmmm says

    @Ray Andrews — I appreciate what you’re saying about Shakespeare’s impressive understanding of diverse fields. But the passage from the sonnet about love as a fixed star: Am I missing something? He’s talking about navigating by the North Star and determining one’s latitude by its height, correct? If so, I’m not sure that was such an obscure piece of knowledge that he’d need to have been a sailor to use it.

    • Morgan Foster says


      He talked to sailors. He seemed interested in their lives. Sailors talked to him.

    • Ray Andrews says


      No, he first refers to Polaris as ‘ever fixed’ which it is, thus when you ‘take the height’ of Polaris it’s worth IS known (your latitude). But navigation involves other stars as well, and they are not ever fixed, their altitude varies. When you take the height of such a star, you must know which star it is before it has any worth to you navigation. If you believe you are looking at Polaris and you are mistaken, you are liable to end up on the rocks. The worth of the star is unknown although its height be taken until you know which star it is. Other stars move higher than Polaris, but then decline even as the ‘highest’ love might not endure, thus don’t measure your love by its height, but by its constancy. So the subtlety is that S is saying that we need to be careful which star we’re looking at and its height is no help. On the contrary, identify the star first, then take its height and then you know something. So true love is not known by it’s height either.

      Didn’t say that very well.

  29. Chris Steele says

    Brilliant essay. Very honest and insightful. Courageous in your willingness to challenge certain dogmas in currency. At some points in the latter paragraphs, I was reminded of a novel that moved me, “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf”, by Victor Pelevnin. Challenging and at times disturbing, he elucidates the themes of the tragedy/comedy that is the sexual relationship between men and women.

    Bravo. I shall seek out your future essays.

  30. David says

    When I first read this article I found it to be insightful, refreshing, and useful—perhaps brilliant. It’s been a day since I read it and I haven’t stopped thinking about it (I mean the article, not sex, but yes also sex).

    At first, I felt something quite positive. Yes, there is a sort of honor and a sense of inner strength to be found in keeping the animal nature in check. Yes, I am struggling against my nature, and it is a good thing that I am. I am good. I’ve spent decades embracing my nature and bringing it to heel. I have been doing things right. Consciousness-raising feminists just don’t understand how complex and noble I am.

    But, hidden within this framework is a startling affirmation of the sorts of criticisms that consciousness-raising feminists make of men: we are all just one lapse in self-control away from doing—or being—something terrible.

    Until I dissected those sorts of thoughts, I had never realized the self-abasement you describe, the shame that could come from noticing myself slip into feelings of desire for a woman, or the feeling of subjugation that could come from noticing the keenness to please. With these realizations came indignation and disgust.

    As this past day stretched on, I found myself wanting less and less to want women—not because the struggle exhausted me (it doesn’t), not because the surge of instinct is unpleasant (it certainly isn’t), but because I cannot turn my nature off and, for the first time, it offends me.

    I think this article succeeded where consciousness-raising feminism has failed time and time again to accomplish its goal: I feel disgust towards my own sexuality. I’ll keep it, but I don’t like it as much as I used to.

    • Marilyn says

      I don’t usually respond in the comments section — let other voices have their say and their fun with my piece, but reading your response just now prompted me to write back. I understand this feeling you describe, but as a women, it is for me perhaps better described as shame rather than disgust. I think these feelings are a useful part of who we are, but don’t think — at least I don’t want to think — that they diminish our joy in being human.
      There is a character in this same play; her name is Julietta; she is pregnant outside of wedlock. Her sexuality is written on her swelling body, and she is unable to hide herself from it, or make excuses for herself. What she says about her state is this: “I take the shame with joy.”
      Yes, we are often horrible. It is true. And often we should feel shame or self-disgust (which is arguably a sign of decency). But I hope there is still room for a large dose of joy! — it heartens me that Shakespeare thought there could be, too, even in the muck of it all.

      Thanks for reading the piece, and for your thoughtful and honest response.

    • BrainFireBob says

      Yeah, that sense of shame is what motivates many misogynists, I think. Can’t have an honest discussion about it generally because of how feminism has shaped the conversation, and has shaped it backwards- women hold the cards sexually and socially, and in many areas legally due to societal protections.

      It’s why nasty women who are aware of this and use it maliciously are a significant concern for men who are tuned in to it- yes, they’re a dramatically tiny minority, but the damage they can cause is so outsized they’re like the bubonic plague of head colds.

      It’s also why I think there’s a push from the left to stop having families early at all costs- encourage free and plentiful abortion availability, push women that anything other than having a career is foolishness, that men are just out to get them, etc.- once a woman raises a son, she can’t help but be aware that male emotional life is about managed restraint and disciplined focusing of feelings into things. For men, I’d argue that’s what your positive male role model teaches you by example- how to harness your drives. “I notice you noticing the neighbor girl suddenly. Boy, it’s time you learned how to chop wood and change motor oil.”

  31. David,

    I would counter that most men are “one lapse in self control” away from doing something rude, or, at worst, committing minor sexual assault. A young man with a particularly strong sex drive may give an unwanted kiss, or say something crass, but the reaction that follows will usually have an effect like a bucket of ice-water to the face. It takes more than a momentary lapse for him to nevertheless persist in his sexual advance. And most men are not on the verge of succumbing to the kind of sustained suspension of conscience required for, e.g., rape.

  32. A Prendergast says

    Fantastic article, one of the best I’ve read on Quillette. A neat and cogent explanation of the fundamental problem of 4th wave feminism (maybe since 2nd wave, actually) and its misguided ignorance of male sexual impulse and attempt to self-control, which modern feminists consider negligible. Marilyn’s article is important at least as a counter to the extreme, fringe thinking that has become almost normalised in mainstream publications, whatever the motives of such media.

    One hopes that modern feminists will complicate themselves so much and end up fighting amongst other identity-obsessives that their poisonous thinking will fade away. Anti-discrimination is the great standard for both sexes, onwards from that we go.

  33. charlescrawford says

    “I once asked an uncommonly honest male friend to describe how he felt when he looked at a beautiful image of a nude woman: “Precisely because they are so high, one wants to bring them low. Male sexuality is basically a form of slave morality, in which women are the oppressors. They make us weak. Only in the moment of surrender and penetration is this reversed, and redeemed. This is the deep mystery—why men are so enslaved to women, so keen to please them.”

    His response was politically incorrect, borderline indecent, sexually subversive, and, I think, entirely accurate.”

    It’s also how 99.99% of men would not answer that question. Trust me on this. Otherwise a super article.

    • Morgan Foster says


      Agreed. The author’s friend sounds like a pompous and an affected jerk.

  34. Pingback: (Quillette) Marilyn Simon–“Unsex Me Here’ and Other Bad Ideas | TitusOneNine

  35. Kauf Buch says

    Elizabeth Winkler – as do most “Third Wave Feminists – sounds like a caricature of a feminist:
    I wonder if she ever posited: “BUT: did Shakespeare identify as a woman?!”
    Leftist academia HAS rotted SO far…well, at least they make for good jokes.

  36. Lightning Rose says

    Nearly all social norms have a basis in economic survival:

    (1) Until the mid-20th century, family formation via sexual submission of the female was required in order to provide her and her children’s material needs, via the male “breadwinner.” Put another way, in a world where brute strength, endurance, and daily availability were the working norm, few women could make a living on their own. Laundress, prostitute, some kinds of piecework exceptions.

    (2) With the advent of industry and technology, fewer tasks were brute strength dependent and women could do them equally to men. Even children worked in factories, and it slowly became possible for women to be able to support themselves outside a marriage.

    (3) The Pill severed the sex act from its natural conclusion, pregnancy. Along with that came the radical “feminist” idea that female sexual needs, wants, and behaviors would therefore now become identical to male; that sex would be severed from any trappings of family formation, commitment or childrearing unless that was the option chosen. By the 70’s this had morphed to where the traditional default “No!” to women having sex outside a committed relationship had (supposedly, per “thought leaders” in magazines, etc.) become “Yes!” One’s economic equation no longer depended on one’s value in the sexual marketplace, so that status became irrelevant.

    (4) With the “hookup” culture it became apparent that no one was being satisfied; men seeking connection and stability went away lonely, and women found out that “zipless” context-free did nothing much to enhance their lives. Everyone went away empty. The biological clock doth tick, there’s a certain window if one wants a family, and single motherhood is a difficult choice which brings severe economic consequences unless one is wealthy. It’s also well documented that men thrive much better in the context of a family than a live lived “stag.”

    (5) The rising Gen Z seems so far to be a great deal more conservative sexually than their Millennial, Gen X or Boomer predecessors; could it be they’ve figured out that in a land of ubiquitous porn and instant bodily gratification where “anything goes,” meaning and context actually MATTERS?

    As for The Atlantic, baed on their articles lately I think they now compose it in a cuckoo’s nest.

  37. MoreTemperate says

    Thank you for this article, which as an erstwhile Eng. Lit. graduate I very much enjoyed and which made some valuable points.
    I was reminded of the Sanguinetti incident in 2011 that had the effect of alienating me from feminism for good: Sanguinetti, a police officer in Toronto, suggested to a group of students that they “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. Although he was simply repeating what most parents tell their daughters – “If you dress like a hooker, you are more likely to be propositioned” – so enlightened are the times we live in that he was immediately accused of being a “rape apologist” and sent off for re-education, while the “outraged” students began energetically organizing Slut Walks. Not once did it occur to them that they might actually have been able to learn something from Sanguinetti – for example about what it’s like to be a man and the conundrum men face when women send mixed signals. But that would have required a readiness to talk to him – and other men – in good faith and with a presumption of decency, neither of which is forthcoming in contemporary discourse.

    • Morgan Foster says


      “… the conundrum men face when women send mixed signals …”

      These mixed signals are an exercise in power for the sheer joy of wielding it.

      “Look at my breasts!” “How dare you look at my breasts!”

      It’s fun.

  38. Lightning Rose says

    All this intellectualizing is attempting to rationalize our way out of the bonds of animal biology. Men’s arousal, as MoreTemperate recognizes, is visual, and female display has historically been purposeful to elicit that attention. Today’s cognitive dissonance is for women to knowingly signal sexual availability via display, then claim to be misunderstood when the intended attention arrives.
    In less “enlightened” times, this was called a “Cock Tease,” as obnoxious as it sounds!

    • Anj says

      @Lightning Rose
      “Sexual Availability” or more sexual potency?
      The only cognitive dissonance here is of ones own denial of defeat.
      To dismiss culture, fashion, embracing one’s own sexuality, competition amongst females, women’s preference for the ‘status male’ of the day not not mention men’s ability to adapt to social standards & norms seems a little too doth protest to muchy….
      At what point do we not signal “sexual availability”? Dungarees? Niqab? Nursing home?

      • What you could try is to be understanding. That sometimes you will attract men who you are not attracted to. Why this is so hard for you to accept is beyond me. You admit you dress a certain way to attract your desired male, but become upset if you attract an undesirable male? How does a guy know?
        A guy asking you out, or for a dance, or to buy you a drink should not be offensive, unless you have told them no and they won’t take a hint.

        • Anj says

          I’m not saying that some women can’t be insensitive or unreasonable. All I’m saying is let’s not pretend reasonable men can’t know the line.

          • Anj says

            Hallelujah & bravo!
            And how easy was that?
            These egg heads have a lot of explaining to do…

          • Is the snark really necessary? The point I made was the same one I’ve been making for the last couple of days. It requires understanding and acceptance by both sides. Sometimes a man may make the wrong remark or take an involuntary glance. This doesn’t make them evil, it makes them human we need to do a better job of understanding and forgiving everyone rather than take part in the victim Olympics. And we need to end the persecution of men by some in authority (such as at some universities). Yes, we can combat sexual assault and harassment, but not with injustice.

        • Anj says

          Also, the context of this discussion is #metoo ie sexual harassment & assault not general male to female contact. Are you suggesting ‘they are asking for it’?

          • No, you have made it about me to. We were discussing it in the grander scheme of the sexes and modern feminism. And, no modern men do not know where the line is because it is so illy defined. Especially as the definition of sexual assault and harassment keeps changing (into even unwanted looks or advances, i.e. asking for a girl’s number can now be considered sexual harassment). And yes, I am not being hyperbolic, men have actually been fired, expelled from school and blacklisted for similar incidents. Hell, men who had permission, and witnesses stating they had permission, have successfully been expelled for rape or fired from successful careers. No pretending you know where the line is is the fantasy. Most women are not men hating feminist, but you can’t always tell if the one you approach might be. I remember a woman one time, who I held the door open for (I was in uniform, it was after work) who threatened to turn me in for sexual harassment to my commander, she claimed I held the door open for her just to look at her ass and because I was a mouth breathing, neanderthal pig (if I remember her words correctly).

          • Anj says

            Well given much of Marilyn’s piece referred to ‘Angelo’ & ‘toxic masculinity’ I don’t think the context was general day to day communications.
            But in any case I get that you’ve had the rough end of the stick & I don’t deny that exists. But it can be the environment your in that makes the difference. I just don’t believe it to be a consensus.
            From my view on the street today’s youth aren’t exactly crying rape at every overture in fact they are much more openly predatory & certainly don’t have a problem with shame. I don’t notice them hating on men’s masculinity either just the opposite in fact. My daughter was having a cry the other day that the boys at her uni weren’t attractive because they lacked confidence & weren’t ‘masculine enough’.
            That being said, point taken how unappreciative women are of the self control men need. It’s a struggle I get it. Perhaps we have too high expectations?
            Maybe also appreciation should be forth coming from men that we believe in you…

          • @Anj,

            Definitely appreciation should be a two way street. The fear isn’t of most women so much as the ones you described above as the nutcases (I believe was the word, I could be wrong I didn’t scroll back to check). And the problem is you often don’t realize who they are until it may be to late. Let’s honor both sexes and not blame one or the other. Also, let men be men (not stating allow harassment or assault to go unchallenged) but realize that most men are decent and that a simple advance is not the same as harassment. Even a mistaken kiss could just be an honest misreading of a situation. Let’s empower women enough to feel comfortable talking about what they want and empower men enough to feel comfortable being masculine. Being masculine isn’t the problem, it’s when you do cross the line from being masculine to being aggressive (without encouragement, I mean some women want aggressive males but only if it is consensual, I doubt I worded that correctly to get my point across) that it becomes a problem. It is interesting as men are more afraid of being seen as to masculine that many young women are voicing your daughters complaints. Equality doesn’t require either side to capitulate, as if it is some zero sum battle. We can lift each other up without lowering the other sex. Not that I am saying that is what you want, or not.

          • Not to high of expectations but possibly neither sex understands (which I think is the normal human state) exactly what the expectations are. This is my overall thesis. Let’s celebrate our sexuality without turning it into a battle and let’s celebrate each sexes uniqueness and treat each other as partners. It does seem that those males who claim to be the strongest proponents of women seem to have the biggest problem with crossing the line. But this could just be a perception. I consider myself a strong supporter of everyone’s right to justice and liberty. I also tend to think we can control some of our nature but not totally erase it. And it’s a bad idea to try and completely erase it. Human relations are tough enough, do we need to make them any more complicated? Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt while also being willing to protect ourselves. That is one of the reasons I’ve taught my daughter and wife to shoot (my job takes me on the road a lot) so I make sure my wife has her pistol and the dogs their if they’re needed. And not just to prevent sexual assault but for her protection, because realistically what is a 120 lb, 5’2″ female supposed to do against a 200 lbs 6′ tall male?

          • Robin says

            “My daughter was having a cry the other day that the boys at her uni weren’t attractive because they lacked confidence & weren’t ‘masculine enough’.”


            Perhaps your daughter isn’t feminine enough…

        • Anj says

          No snark mate. I’m agreeing with you. Great comment. Nail on head.
          That’s all. It was meant for your comment further below.

      • Lightning Rose says

        Not wearing one’s underwear on the outside might be a start.

  39. jksundry says

    “Winkler completed an MA in English Literature in 2013, at the same time that I was working on my doctorate on Shakespeare, which makes the two of us grad school contemporaries.”

    Winkler has an MA in English Literature from Stanford, which like many English departments in the US does not have an MA program, meaning that she was admitted into a doctoral program like the author, one that she either did not or could not finish, after which she was awarded an MA.

    An MA in English from Stanford is an admirable achievement; admittance to the doctoral program there is very competitive. However, Winkler almost certainly would have been unable to defend a doctoral dissertation advocating Bassano’s authorship of “Shakespeare’s” plays in the manner that she does, if that was in fact her proposed topic.

    • A study based upon self reporting, with a preconceived outcome (the authors admitted they wanted to prove the theory rather than look at it objectively) is dubious at best. Also, what they describe, especially a glancing once over, or witnessing another women receiving what they perceive as a similar action is also problematic. And I doubt you would find many men who also are not conscious about their looks , especially in the company of women. The authors also play up the study as finally providing evidence, any science journal I ever submitted to would automatically reject such grandiose language. Scientist don’t prove anything, we test hypothesis and analyze the results. We then interpret the results and either reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis. There are also several other problems with this methodology. The authors instructed the women to record feelings, when exposed to a situation and constantly prompted them to record their feelings (in response to a series of questions designed by the researchers). This biases any spontaneous reactions, as the test subjects will be hyper-vigilant for these situations, undoubtedly changing the test subjects perceptions and reactions. And, answering preordained questions (how unbiased the questions care could also be problematicl)o, the small sample size, 286 in only two cities (and probably university students which has also been pointed out is problematic since they tend to attract students of certain preconceived mindsets) and the lack of control, also makes it difficult to compare, how often do women feel self conscious of their appearance without being exposed to these situations? Is an app and association the best measuring device? What social situations were involved? Did we adjust for age, race, religious affiliation, relationship status (and yes because hormones do effect all of our emotions, both male and female) there menstrual cycle?
      “But importantly, we’ve shown these everyday objectifying experiences are not as innocuous as they may seem. ” I cannot believe a supposed serious scientist wrote this sentence. This a judgement call, not a valid scientific result

    • Rodeo Drive says

      Add to this the caustic manner in which women size each other up, and we REALLY have a problem. (What’s with her hair? The color’s all wrong! Who does she think she is wearing pants that tight? Her face looks like someone ran her over with a tractor…)

      The women’s restroom at every high school is the greatest threat to self esteem imaginable!

  40. Very clear and interesting, thank you. And one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, or half-favorite, rather, since in my opinion the end is so unequal to the beginning. I never read anything about the “making of” the play, but I always had the feeling a weak comedy ending was grafted onto a strong tragedy argument, for some reason.

    If I remember correctly, later in the play, Angelo is found to have entertained a mistress, whom he marries in the end, which is totally inconsistent with his character, as you have so clearly exposed it here. Even if the constrast is not devoid of comic value. What happened ?

    • Marilyn says

      @Blair PDG
      Oh man! What a great question. Her name is Marianna. She isn’t a mistress, but a former fiancé. (Something went wrong with her dowry, and the relationship came to an abrupt end.). And she’s still a virgin. — still a virgin until she switches places with Isabella and comes to Angelo’s bed in the dark. He thinks it’s Isabella the nun and that he’s getting what he wants. But really it’s she who’s getting what she wants.
      Marianna has been languishing in love with slimy Angelo for years. She is love-obsessed with the proud man who won’t even give her a a second thought or a second glance.
      There’s something in that, I think. Shakespeare really DOES get women. (And men.)
      Thanks for asking — glad you liked the piece.

  41. Leon says

    Why is everyone pretending the metoo movement was a injustice against women? All these women who came forward where terrible actresses who earned Oscars and played in high budget movies produced by Weinstein and his friends. It appears that these women were exchanging sexual service for a ticket to Hollywood. This isn’t sexual harassment, this is called prostitution. I respect women who told Weinstein to go fuck himself and never had a career in Hollywood. I have zero respect for women who had sex with him for roles and cried harassment 20 years later because they were too old for him. All these women posed many times all smiles next to Weinstein for photos years after alleged harassment. Most women are liars and will twist anything to suit their agenda. The metoo movement is a prime example. These women aren’t victims they are actually predators. Everyone knew that Weinstein can turn a random girl who can’t act into an Oscar winner in the blink of an eye. There was a ton of young girls who will literally chase him at parties. Just look at the pictures of Weinstein parties, women are looking at him like the second coming of Jesus, there are sparkles in their eyes. This is the state of modern women.

  42. Leon says

    “My daughter was having a cry the other day that the boys at her uni weren’t attractive because they lacked confidence & weren’t ‘masculine enough’.”
    It’s the rsult of 30 years of feminist male bashing. These boys have been raised in an environment where they’ve been told that masculinity is toxic, being a male is wrong and they need to adopt feminine postures, be vulnerable etc.. Meanwhile girls are told that what men do , women can do better, that the male is the enemy. And you’re wondering why your daughter don’t find these guys attractive? Feminism created insecure and feminine boys who don’t know where they fit in this gynocentric society. Yet you brush it off as women being not appreciative at the self control men need. Your daughter is complaining about the damage your cursed generation has done to boys and you refuse to aknowledge it because feminism is a radical ideology that is incapable of any introspection.

    • Anj says


      Don’t blame it on the sunshine
      Don’t blame it on the moonlight
      Don’t blame it on the good times
      Blame it on the feminazi’s
      I just can’t I just can’t I just can’t control my fear…

      Listen to yourself Leon & you’ll know who killed masculinity.
      ‘Can do’ or belly aching?
      What have you done for your sons lately?

  43. Jeremy says

    Thought-provoking piece and, anecdotally, I’m inclined to agree with your observations (which, as presented here, are themselves anecdotal) that in general men have a higher libido and tend to have sex on their mind more. I have a strong hunch that this is true. But is there reputable empirical psychology (perhaps even a strong consensus among empirical psychologists) that backs these points up? If so, could someone link me to them?


  44. Jacqueline says

    So, a man’s base nature it wildly sexual and can only be controlled through the greatest of willpower, according to you. Yet, also according to you, women, other men, and non-binary people who work under the premise that the sexual indiscretions of men are actually the result of cultural norms (i.e. toxic masculinity) are the ones who do a disservice to the humanity of men? I would say painting all men with a (scientifically unfounded) brush of barely-controlled sexual predator is what dehumanizes them. If it is in fact the case that only the most tightly stretched threads of self-control are keeping men from becoming rapists and sexual harassers and monsters who use their social capital to manipulate and blackmail the people they desire into sex, I think women, other men, and non-binary people are perfectly justified in being afraid of these men.

    Furthermore, once again, you have painted women as sexuality wielding nymphs intended for the gaze of men. Not all women are interested in the desire of a man. Not all women are desired by men, yet they still develop sexual identities. Not all women have sexual identities that cause them to desire anyone sexually or to want to be desired by anyone sexually. Women’s sexuality does not revolve around the sexuality of men. A man’s sexual desire is not a woman’s problem, and at no point should a woman have to consider how their existence impacts the sexuality of men, ESPECIALLY if that woman is not interested in men or is they person who said man has identified as a woman is not, in fact, a woman. The nature of humanity is in relationship, yes, but those relationships do not need to be, nor are they on average, sexual. Relationships with men that are built around an understanding that it is only through grace (for which a desired woman, other man, or non-binary person should be sympathetic and thankful) that a desired person has not been assaulted, raped, harassed, or blackmailed are not worth having. Relationships that are deferential to the sexuality of a man are not worth having. Relationships that need to be covered in sexual rules and legalities simply because the people in them have different genitalia (or perhaps the same genitalia and different gender presentations) and one party cannot be trusted to act like a decent person BECAUSE of their genitalia, are not worth having. Why? Simply because none of those relationships bear any sign of respect between two human beings based who they are as people.

    But just in case, I have drafted a formal apology to all of my male friends for not being fully considerate of their quadrupled sexual needs and for not being fully aware of my immense sexual power over them (despite not being sexually attracted to any of them, and none of them being sexually attracted to me), and it seems to have gone over well, at least in the comedic sense. I look forward to our relationships being stronger than ever now that I have acknowledged them for who they truly are.

    • Miranda says

      It’s fairly narcissistic to assume that since your male friends don’t find you, personally, sexually desirable (after reading your comment, it’s not hard to tell why), that they find no women sexy, and therefore do not contend with their nature (which is well founded in evolutionary biology, in addition to basically all of human civilization).
      So, yes, take yourself out of the apology, and draft it again. And attempt to behave with understanding rather than sour-grape outrage.

    • Robin says


      Quite a rant! You sound kind of butthurt actually. Your pissed off that your male friends have not directed their ‘uncontrollable urges’ toward you lack both desire and opportunity to exercise your feminine wiles on them. You seem to have missed the plot in the original article which was a reubuttle to an Atlantic article written by Ms. Winkler that also missed the plot about a play by Shakespeare.

      Frankly, it’s kind of a comic opera! Your choice of moniker too was perfect! (Whether it is your real name or not). You reminded me of another Jackie… Ever watch the move ‘Risky Business’ with a young Tom Cruise starring in it? The scene where he orders the hooker and he opens the door…?

      “Hi Joel, I’m Jackie”

      And it’s a big black dude in a dress… It’s a comic scene where suspense, reality and expectation collide in a funny way. I’m imagining right now that that is you!

      You cannot understand the subtleties of Shakespeare, his male and female characters because as you admit, you have no interest in it. That being said, instead of complaining here, why don’t you impress us with a play of your own where all the characters are trans, non-binary, etc., and us ‘normies’ are at best supporting cast or nasty villains? Take Shakespeare to the next level and expose our terrible natures to ourselves! Cast yourself as the heroine you imagine yourself to be!

      I’m sure Quillette will publish it. If Julie Bindel can publish here that sets the bar pretty low.

      • Anj says


        Poor Robin sees rejection as the source of frustration every where but where it is in his mirror.
        Why don’t you impress us with a play of your own say like “Ground Hog Day” where you wake up every day, act like twat towards women, get the door slammed in your face over & over & then blame them.
        Oh, but you just did.
        You understand the “subtleties” of Shakespeare?
        You’d be flat out on the plot of The Bachelor.

        • Robin says


          Your daughter comes to you crying saying that men aren’t masculine enough and you say “yes dear, that is exactly true, I couldn’t have said it better myself”.

          Well that was you! That was mommy talking. Years of your butthurt poured into your daughter has made her just as insufferable as yourself. She can walk around campus now being arrogant, condescending and belittling towards the male students and then she can come home crying to mommy because she can’t get a date… and of course it’s someone else’s fault. “Men aren’t masculine enough”…let me guess… it’s what you said about your ex husband too… her father.

          Well congratulations I suppose! She can spend the rest of her life alone, bitter and angry.

          Just like mom!

    • Morgan Foster says


      “I have drafted a formal apology to all of my male friends for not being fully considerate of their quadrupled sexual needs and for not being fully aware of my immense sexual power over them (despite not being sexually attracted to any of them, and none of them being sexually attracted to me) …”

      No apology is necessary. I feel blessed to have never known you.

  45. James says

    What I have been reading and youtube videos is that an important aspect is the politics behind feminism. The far left or communists are instrumentalising feminist literature critique and feminism for its own project of seizing power by transforming America into a communist state. One of the signs of this is how feminists do not criticism Islamist abuse of women, sharia law and the patriarchal oppression of women. Women in the West have it far better than when they are under sharia law in Muslim-sharia countries or in sharia-dominated ghettos in the West. If they really objected to patriarchy, they would be on the forefront of opposing sharia and Islamism. They would not put on hijabs to solidarize with women oppressed by Westerners who do not want them to have free choice of costume, they would burn hijabs. They would try to form alliances with political organizations fighting to maintain democracy, freedom of expression and women’s rights und the constitution and in Christian and Jewish thinking. Instead they work with the enemies of the West under the excuse of opposing patriarchy. Interpretation of Shakespeare to show whether Shakespeare was a sexist or an anti-Semite is of course interesting, but not the key issue in understanding our times is how to defend our way of life and civilization. The fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Under sharia, all the rights of women are less than those of men. Men have a right to beat their wives or to rape women on the street who are not wearing head coverings. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man. A woman is automatically guilty of provoking rape if she is not wearing a niqab, burka or at least a hijab. If she is married she is guilty of adultery when raped. Where is the feminist outrage about this? Are there any classic authors in Arabic comparable to Shakespeare? If there are the feminist critics are not so interested in drawing conclusions from it about men in sharia. .

  46. Ralph says

    @ James ‘Interpretation of Shakespeare to show whether Shakespeare was a sexist or an anti-Semite is of course interesting, but not the key issue in understanding our times is how to defend our way of life and civilization.´

    Oh man you couldn’t be more wrong. The absolute and fundamental reason we now have a generation wanting to establish communism as the dominant ideology in the west is because they are:

    a) totally oblivious to history (the communists have infiltrated the education system from nursery to university) and the communism seeks to obliterate history from the masses to establish a ‘new era’.

    b) totally ignorant when it comes to the arts (again, communism does not accept art as true art ask questions the communists do not want people to think about) and only propaganda is allowed, which is why all these activists (read communists) want to silence dissenting voices.

    The young generation is one that has been fed with communist propaganda, natural science, and market liberalism, and that been refused to take part of the world of the Humanities, which is where humans true nature and imagination may be found.

  47. Itzik Basman says

    Great essay.

    A keeper.

    I think I only disagree with this:

    …Male sexuality is basically a form of slave morality, in which women are the oppressors. They make us weak. Only in the moment of surrender and penetration is this reversed, and redeemed. This is the deep mystery—why men are so enslaved to women, so keen to please them.” His response was politically incorrect, borderline indecent, sexually subversive, and, I think, entirely accurate…

    This over characterizes, over dramatizes and over indicts male sexuality. Lusting after a woman is not enslavement in any sense unless we’re powerless against our urges, which most of us are not. They’re urges after all, not Internal whips and chains. And in acting on that desire, that lust, like in flirting, trying to pick up a woman up, all of which most of us can try to do or not do as we happen to choose, we’re the opposite of enslaved: we’re simply taking a shot. And should we, as we say, “get lucky,” we’re hardly redeeming our enslavement or bringing women low—save physically in the act itself, and often, we in this literal sense bring ourselves lower—we’re rather mutually with our partner both enjoying the, what to say, the organic fulfillment of our urges, urges that are relatively strong in women too.

    All this talk of enslavement and redeeming and reversing it in sex, in tearing women down to some low state is way over the top.

    So, in contrast to Ms Simon, whose scintillating essay I love, I judge her friend’s account of male sexuality politically irrelevant, indecently silly in being histrionic, subversive only of common sense and reasonableness, and, I think, generally inaccurate.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @ Itzik Basman

      Indeed. And unless Ms. Simon’s friend would like to respond with a Quillette article of his own to fully explain himself, I will consider him a dick.

  48. scott says

    Not a bad article, but you have missed something utterly fundamental about Measure for Measure. Angelo asks that a trial be made of himself before he be given the powers. It can be argued that he KNOWS that his ‘blood doth flow.’ Furthermore, it can be argued that he did actually break it off with Mariana because she was too loose with her morals- depending on how you see that song. Finally, it can be argued that the Duke knows that Angelo will be corrupted, and has set him up to make him fall. But for what reason? Could it be that he wanted simply to reunite Mariana with Angelo; or perhaps his goal was to TAKE Isabella. So with a few small changes of emphasis, Angelo can go from being utterly reprehensible, to being an all to human man who has been framed. How will you judge? With the judgement you make, so shall you be judged.

  49. George says

    Marilyn, your excellent essay has inspired many comments; so I’m not sure no men other than Itzik have disagreed with the response of the “decent,” “supportive husband and friend to his wife, and a tender father to his two daughters” you use in your missive to highlight men’s instinctive sexual reaction to a beautiful image of a nude woman.

    Your friend’s response was, “’Precisely because they (women) are so high, one wants to bring them low. Male sexuality is basically a form of slave morality, in which women are the oppressors. They make us weak. Only in the moment of surrender and penetration is this reversed, and redeemed. This is the deep mystery—why men are so enslaved to women, so keen to please them.’” His response was politically incorrect, borderline indecent, sexually subversive, and, I think, entirely accurate.”

    You will be happy to know it was not accurate. Not entirely, and not primarily. In my experience, of now several decades, I can say his response was, though perhaps accurate for him, if he was really being honest, not authentic for the vast majority of men. When we were in our teens and twenties, we probably didn’t connect our response to feminine physical beauty consciously the way we have later, but both then and later, our sexual response to a woman, nude or fully clothed, is inextricably connected to companionship and children. Song lines, like “It’s in his kiss” and “Something in the way she moves, Moves me like no other lover,” spring to mind. Mutuality, rather than dominance, is the driving motivation. Both men and women try to please each other. Partnership, friendship, and certainly exclusive sexual love are sought–not a one-sided “conquering” of a woman on a pedestal who keeps a man “oppressed”. A man persuades himself of that owing to a lack in his ego, and his ability to speak, and confuses his libido. A guy will continue to assess female attractiveness, throughout his life. Women will continue to be attractive. Civilization is both native and learned. And if a guy just needs to relieve his prostate, he knows how to do that, without help. So, something is missing, and it is not a woman brought low.

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