Top Stories

A Lady’s Duty to Submit—Then And Now

In 1956, my Grandma Claire gave birth to the first of her five children and soon after divorced the father, an Australian who turned out to be a drunk and besotted loser. Her father was so embarrassed by the divorce that he banned her from the family home. Claire refused to submit and shortly after being disowned, she moved west. Her second child was born to her (and my grandfather) in 1959, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver.

This time, she was not married at all. And the nuns in attendance were so disgusted to see an unwed mother that they refused to give her a pillow during labour. She never legally married my grandfather, an Irish-Catholic-altar-boy-turned-atheist, and once again put the shame behind her. She lived her life uncowed by the stigma and shame that divorced women faced in that time.

As far as I know, she was never bitter. Instead, the misogynistic bigotry of the Catholic Church was a source of amusement, and she regularly mocked the church. I’ve seen photos of her waiting at the arrivals department of Vancouver Airport to greet my grandfather while dressed as a stern Catholic nun. She could find humour in just about anything. Once, when I was a teen, she nearly choked laughing at a Marilyn Manson lyric I shared with her about “surviving abortion.” She didn’t suffer fools. She built a life for herself rooted in left-wing politics, trade unionism, and—though I never heard her call herself a “feminist” per se—second-wave feminism.

I was born 52 years after Grandma Claire, and I benefited greatly from the changes women of her generation fought for and achieved. Growing up, there were no nuns to scold me about my sexuality, and the idea of being disowned for divorce was unthinkable. When I was a young teen, Claire bought me a book on female puberty and sexual education that was suffused with the Pacific Northwest Riot Grrrl feminism of the time. I recall experiencing a mix of embarrassment and gratitude. I wasn’t quite sure why she got it for me, but of course see it now as a gift rooted in love and born out of her own experience.

Unfortunately, I didn’t save it. But five years ago, I got another one of Claire’s books. She had this one in her possession for over 60 years: 10 Lessons in Sex Technique, a 1948 publication edited by Toronto physicians L. Pellman and R.W. Hatch. I inherited the worn and crumpled copy after she died.

Why would she keep this book for over six decades? Perhaps it’s for the same reason she dressed up as a nun: The thing represents every piece of misogynistic bullshit that she stood against. My guess is that it appealed to her dark sense of humour; whenever I read its yellowed pages, I hear her laugh clink around in my head.

On sex before marriage, Pellman and Hatch were just as scornful as nuns: “Promiscuity of any sort is never advisable. Besides the dangers to the self-respect and emotional balance of the girl who surrenders her virginity, or the boy who visits prostitutes, there is the terrible danger of infection with one of the venereal diseases.” Those who marry after pregnancy, a “scandal” as they called it, might find the resultant marriage is “only a dreary and distasteful duty.”

Page after page, the book does not disappoint. “As a wise man once said, marriage should not begin with a rape. In other words, the husband must win his bride, captivate her emotions, rouse her to the pitch where the urge to submission will overcome all her fears and inhibitions, and then carry out the act with the minimum of pain and shock.” A few of the volume’s 10 lessons cover the basics of sexual education, including sections on anatomy, and how pregnancy occurs. Other lessons conjure images of poodle skirts and drive-in movie theatres. But perhaps most memorable of all is the bonus “eleventh lesson.” It’s about female inferiority and sexual submission, male dominance, and a man’s (apparently) barely-controllable sexual drive. The words are prescriptive, not descriptive. They enforce the worst stereotypes about men and women:

The young wife must be warned again that the sexual act is a mutual relationship; both partners should take a full part, the wife throwing aside her previous modesty and inhibitions, and meeting her husband’s aggressive advances with a willing and active submission.

“Men have been designed by nature to be the wooer and aggressor; women to be the receptive, surrendering partner,” the authors further explained. A husband should, therefore, “realize that his bride has been taught all her life to resist the sexual embraces of men, to maintain her chastity at all costs,” while the wife “should undertake active cooperation and response to his advances.”

In 2020, it’s easy to laugh off Pellman and Hatch’s words as anachronistic. And until recently, that’s what I was inclined to do. But by an odd twist, this “eleventh lesson” from the 1940s has snuck back into the mainstream, albeit through the back door of progressive politics. I’ve seen it happen, experienced some of the consequences personally, and witnessed the negative impact on numerous families I’ve encountered in my professional role as a nurse.

* * *

I moved in with an older male when I was a teenager. I don’t carry fond memories of our time together. The first time I left him, age 20, I moved into a dank one-bedroom basement across town. I was happy to be gone, finally, dark and depressing as my new basement dwelling was. On the first night, the woman who owned the home was visited by her boyfriend. The walls were thin, making it easy for me to hear him beat her; he then roamed around the yard, posturing and growling unintelligible words. I dialed my ex, unsure who else to call in the middle of the night, afraid to be alone (afraid, even, to call the police) and unsure if the landlady’s boyfriend had a key to the basement unit. My ex came over. I hadn’t unpacked anything and didn’t have any furniture, not even a bed. I had been trying to sleep on the floor that night. When my ex arrived, I told him I didn’t want to reconcile, I was just afraid of being alone and would have to figure things out in the morning.

I don’t believe I slept that night. I remember being cold, nauseous, afraid, and horribly sad. I didn’t want to go back to his house—the one I’d finally left. He lied down on the floor beside me, moved close. My nausea rose when I realized he had an erection and wanted me to be aware of it. I felt debased, but moved back to his house the next day.

The second—and last—time I left was a couple of months later. I began to see that I could no longer degrade myself by staying. Several weeks after my first attempt at leaving, he casually mentioned that it was “okay” for the time being if I wasn’t ready to have sex, but that I would have to be ready at some point in the near future. I mumbled agreement, knowing that I would never touch him again. When I told him I was leaving, he said he always found my supposed stubbornness an indication that I might be a lesbian.

What would Pellman and Hatch say about this? “The young wife must be warned again that the sexual act is a mutual relationship… Her bodily movements, her return of his caresses, even her requests for a particular kind of caress from him—all of these are expected by the average lover, and bitter disappointment ensues when he does not receive them.”

Growing up, I didn’t need Pellman and Hatch to understand that many women are still expected to submit to males, and that some males want us to believe that they are helplessly driven by sexual urges that we females must indulge. The eleventh lesson was never stated outright. But it was always implied.

As second-wave feminism receded and today’s third wave crests, we are quick to congratulate ourselves for the work we’ve done to dismantle gender and “smash” sex stereotypes. We talk about women’s sexual liberation. We (rightly) celebrate laws against marital rape, and the movement to bring sexual predators to account, fraught though it may be. Things are better. But there are blind spots, and not just where you might normally expect to find them.

In Western countries, the same regressive sex stereotypes peddled by Pellman and Hatch have regained liberal respectability thanks to our newfound obsession with gender—in particular, with the idea of a soul-like “gender identity” that overrides sex. Girls and women who eschew stereotypically feminine appearances or hobbies are encouraged to come out as non-binary or trans. The only “real” females, now, as in 1948, paint their nails and play with dolls. And naturally, men—“progressive” men, especially—have discovered they can leverage this trend to lord their sexuality over women.

When author J.K. Rowling recently tweeted in support of a woman who shares my view that sexual biology is real and important, legions of self-identified females told the famous author to suck their “lady dicks.” It seemed a more vulgar, but also more concise, restatement of Pellman and Hatch’s advice that women “undertake active cooperation” to male desires, sexual or otherwise, with “no unnecessary difficulty put in the way.” Numerous outlets reported on Rowling’s alleged “transphobia,” while ignoring the misogyny perpetrated against her. It is fine to tell a woman to shut up and submit, apparently, so long as you get your pronouns right.

In January, I agreed to report on the court appearance of Jessica Yaniv, the now infamous “trans activist” who’d taken legal action against a number of aestheticians at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, on grounds that they’d declined to wax Yaniv’s testicles. Yaniv was subsequently charged with two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon, after brandishing a Taser on YouTube. During a recess in court proceedings relating to these charges, I entered the women’s washroom in the court building, took a few steps inside and saw Yaniv standing at the sink.

I had previously seen a video of Yaniv allegedly assaulting a reporter by repeatedly hitting him over the head with a cane. I saw another video of Yaniv inside a women’s washroom, apparently spraying pepper spray at the mirror while warning viewers, in a garbled voice, not to “fuck with me.” Yaniv is nearly a foot taller than me and weighs at least twice as much. I felt afraid. Yet of course, I would have to be the one to leave. This was in the women’s bathroom, remember.

I immediately fled. But a few minutes later, while still seated on a bench outside the court, I was approached by four sheriffs. One of them said I’d been accused of taking photographs of Yaniv inside the bathroom. He asked me if I knew “what a serious allegation” this was. Yaniv stood behind the sheriffs, demanding my arrest. I told the sheriff that Yaniv’s bizarre allegations were absolutely untrue. I opened the image feed on my phone and showed that I had not taken any pictures. The sheriffs left, as did Yaniv. But days later, Yaniv posted fabrications about the encounter on Twitter.

Twitter postings by J. Yaniv (@trustednerd) about the author (@preta_6)

I called the police but got no response. I tried to obtain a protection order, or at least file a complaint about being targeted with a false accusation. The responding officer said it didn’t sound like I was being harassed. So I filed a civil claim for defamation. Yaniv filed a response to my claim, and in it alleged that prosecutors were proceeding with charges of sexual assault against me.

A police officer then contacted me, informing me that I was a suspect in a voyeurism case, and that I’d need to come to the police station to provide a statement. I told him that he’d need merely review courthouse tapes to see I was inside the bathroom for only a second. He made a flippant comment to the effect of, “If you come in to make a statement, I won’t arrest you.” My lawyers—whom I consulted immediately after the call—advised me not to go to the police station, as the officers were possibly employing a tactic whereby they’d make an arrest before the weekend, thereby forcing the suspect to wait in jail until Monday to see a judge.

I was terrified of the police separating me from my breastfeeding baby, and couldn’t sleep for several nights after the phone call. It was the same feeling I’d experienced, under very different circumstances, all those years ago on that concrete floor, with a boyfriend whom I’d tried to leave.

But there’s a difference. When I did leave that boyfriend, it was seen as an act of courage—the sort of thing lauded in today’s feminist circles. But when it came to Yaniv, many progressives now will gladly take the side of a biological male who likes to take selfies in women’s bathrooms and demand that underpaid immigrant aestheticians handle a scrotum. Based on social-media screeds that denounced me as a “transphobe,” friends abandoned me. At a public event, I had a crowd of hundreds chant “Save the baby from the TERF” at me and my infant son. And of course, I’ve been regularly attacked online. As I write this, a Twitter notifications dinged with a message from a flamboyant autogynephile who insists that the fight to maintain sex-segregated safe spaces for women and girls amounts to “naked phallophobia.” The term would meet approval from Pellman and Hatch, no doubt. Hey, maybe it’s a sign of lesbianism, just like my ex said.

There are countless women in the world whose lives are more difficult than mine. I think of my Grandma Claire, whose own father shunned her. I imagine her cursing under her breath at the Grace Hospital nuns as she left, proudly, with her new infant. Like her, I’ll carry on.

I also can’t help but wonder what she would have made of today’s sex-education doctrines, which sometimes seem even more deranged and regressive than what she’d endured in the early Cold War. Would she be able to laugh at a Vice article on how to perform “cunnilingus” on a penis?

Here’s hoping I will one day be able to laugh with my own granddaughters over the absurdity of it all, while teaching them how the women who came before them refused to submit.


Amy Eileen Hamm lives in New Westminster, BC. Follow her on Twitter at @preta_6.

Featured Image: Graphical illustration appearing on Page 52 of the 1948 Canadian publication “10 Lessons in Sex Technique,” by L. Pellman and R.W. Hatch.


  1. If only this woman would read Theodore Dalrymple and see the abject suffering and social coarsening that her kind’s rejection of respectability has caused. The funny thing of course is that these lefty fools are now instituting a far worse puritan rule of the saints where wrongthink of any kind can result in loss of livelihood and reputation.

    Also I really wish people would look up the meaning of the word ‘‘misogynist’’ before throwing it around mistakenly as a synonym for ‘‘sexist.’’

  2. Archaic documents like the “Lady’s Duty To Submit” are comical from a modern perspective, but at least they made some sense. Having children so the human race would continue was a good and noble thing, having two parents to raise and support them was logical, and monogamy reduced the instances of jealous rage, murder, and abandonment.

    Transgenderism on the other hand, makes no sense at all. Individuals like that Yaniv fellow are a drain on society, a cancerous infection promoted by Marxists, that has no known benefit for anyone.

  3. The segues between grandmother, self and trannies seem a bit forced, but the theme of the article is simplicity itself.

    “Men are evil shits.”

  4. The author comes across as a sanctimoneous self righteous sexist biggot.

    She calls a man she has just left and asks for his help, she feels scared and wants comforting and he helps her even going so far as sleeping on a concrete floor. Is he grateful, no - he has the affrontry to get an erection. This is used as a symbol and exemplar of how men and society oppress and degrade women.
    What I see is a cynical self serving exploitation of claims of potential victimhood used to get suppport and assistance far beyond what could be reasonably expected to which she reciprocated to by demonising the poor man she exploited.

    She and Yaniv are very similar protraying themselves as actual or potential victims to get what they want and ruthlessly exploiting societies desire to protect and support victims, while denigrating and despising those who provide help.

  5. As a religionist who does not belong to the Catholic Church, could you point that a little more appropriately? I have never had a pedophile priest, ours are allowed to get married, even the gay ones, so there’s no need to diddle anybody.

    And as far as religion dying, it hasn’t. People just worship Progressive policies and intersectionality. Good luck with that.

    After all, the religious impulse is one of the things that allowed us to override our small tribes and foster trust across larger multi-tribal groups. It’s an essential part of our brains in our society and doesn’t go away terribly easily. So don’t be so arrogant and assume that you have relegated religion to the Dustbin of History. Just ask yourself, in what ways are you being religious today?

  6. I read this article and wound up with discombobulated thoughts. The first thought I had is why did grandma choose a drunken loser to marry in the first place? Because he was “besotted?” Or was it due to the baby being unplanned and conceived prior to the marriage? Sounds like both she and you had a broken picker. I get it. I had one for a time too. So did my mother and just about every other female I’ve known.

    I suppose those details aren’t important. I don’t know.

    In 1958 my mom gave birth to the first of her five children, and soon, in fact quite soon after giving birth handed the child over to the state for adoption… from there I could write how I feel about men, feminism, marriage, the church, shame and then the whole transgender debate.

    We’ve swung from overbearing shame to total shamelessness and people exploiting this. Not men, not women, not transgender individuals - PEOPLE.

    That is all I have to say on it. My brain feels foggy today.

  7. What a profound lack of agency this author expects of women.

    Grandma Claire made terrible decisions, and the author saints her for it. Then the author finds herself “scared” because she doesn’t like the choices of men she could shack up with. Why not, I don’t know, provide for yourself, or respect your parents enough to be welcome in their home?

  8. It’s fascinating really! All Radfem writers have this bizarre characteristic of simultaneously being a perpetual victim and a perpetual bad-ass. It’s Twilight Zone stuff to read.

    They “feel unsafe” at all times, but posture themselves as bastions of bravery. They preach and scold as if they’re the only adults in the room, but are the first to tattle-tale and ask for protection when anybody stands up to them. They simultaneously demand that society be less sexually repressed (go Grandma!) and more sexually buttoned-up (an erection? Ew!). They hate conservative sexual strictures, while also hating progressive sexual freedom. They demand that women be treated equally, while also demanding that women be treated preferentially. They mock and bully men online, yet cry misogyny when men return fire. It’s all so mind-boggling. I pray my daughters avoid this movement like the plague.

    I once joked with a friend that the only thing a radical feminist hates more than a man, is a happy conservative woman.

  9. Please teach your daughters not to say stupid, self-aggrandizing things like this, from the author:

    “When I did leave that boyfriend, it was seen as an act of courage …”

    Breaking up with a boyfriend is not an act of courage.

    Running into a burning building to save a child is an act of courage.

  10. Dang, I really wanted to like the author. Such a tangle with an aggrieved and aggressive tranny is not something anyone deserves, and I sympathize with the very real abuse that’s been visited on her as a result.

    But really, let’s walk through her personal story:

    1. She leaves the boyfriend, then summons him for OT guard duty the very same night (whatever happened to screening your calls?); we are warned, ominously it seems to me, that he was…“older.” Hm. Red flag, careful readers.

    2. She is witness to what she believes to be an assault and battery of a woman by an unbalanced and violent man. The woman may be upstairs lying in a pool of blood, as the assailant staggers around the yard. What’s Amy’s move? She decides not to call the police because she is afraid for…HER OWN safety (surprise!) at the hands of the Mounties (huh?!?) [In fairness, some of this is the fault of the editor. That plot point just kind of made sense to you at the time, Quillette?]

    3. The spurned boyfriend rushes over, takes up his post at her side. Amy is safe. But wait, we haven’t seen the last assault of the night: he proceeds to “nauseate” (the word amazes and delights me) her with his erection. [Edit: I stand corrected. Drs. Pellman and Hatch said that this is a not at all uncommon reaction among young brides, cf. “carry out the act with minimum pain and shock”]

    Ms. Hamm sounds a lot like a progressive who’s been mugged by reality. That’s no joke, and I admire her refusal to comply with “trans ideology” or “gender theory,” or whatever. But it’s not hard to see the core of PC entitlement and white-bread crybullying that remains. The adversary is not individual trannies taking their frustrations out on pretty young white women, though that’s certainly one manifestation of it. The adversary is the whole edifice, the cancerous ideology that is metastasizing its way into our culture.

    Between sneering at the old-fashioned sex book, then getting the vapors over an intimate partner’s erection…raising the fist of the Strong Independent Woman, then cowering in the basement with her inflamed champion to let the next girl get her ass beat…it just seems that this girl is in a tizzy of her own making.

  11. I had a male feminist friend once (note “once”) His mother, whom he very much looked up to, was apparently a radical activist for atheism, abortion, and all things progressive. He pulled out a newspaper with a photo of her on the front page. I could tell he was extremely proud of the photo of his mother screaming in a nuns face. In the photo he saw his mother standing up to authority. I however saw an unhinged woman bearing her teeth with spittle and venom spewing from her howling mouth. I’m sure his mother was horrible. Reading about Grandma Claire I feel the same way.

    Dear Author, you should of course keep your grandmother in your heart but it may be time to acknowledge that the attitudes she had about sex and relationships set you up for some of the miseries you experienced in life. It’s like inter generational alcoholism.

  12. I totally agree with you. Men are in a double-bind because of this. Women feel no obligation at all to men, yet at the same time blame them when things go wrong. It’s a thankless one-way street. I’m also convinced that the outrage and cancellation culture we’re finding ourselves in is due to female ascendancy within our institutions. Women are forever seeking to control the words and behavior of men hence the numerous policies and laws now arising to keep them safe - not just from violence (which I of course agree with), but also from any form of expression with which they disagree.

    Milton hit this precisely on the head in Paradise Lost.

    Eve’s complaint to Adam after he reluctantly lets her go off by herself (and subsequently gets tempted by Satan to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree):

    ‘Being as I am, why didst thou, the head,
    Command me absolutely not to go,
    Going into such danger, as thou saidst?
    Too facile, then, thou didst not much gainsay;
    Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss.
    Hadst thou been firm and fixed in they dissent,
    Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me.’


    'And am I now upbraided as the cause
    Of they transgressing? Not severe,
    It seems, in thy restraint: what could I more?
    I warned thee, I admonished thee, foretold
    The danger, and the lurking enemy
    That lay in wait; beyond this had been force;

    Milton was definitely on to something there.

  13. I’ve been mocked for teaching my daughters prudence - especially in establishing relationships. Unfortunately, radical progressive feminism (in my opinion a twisting of what feminism should really be) seems to eschew any sort of caution - or even common sense - when establishing relationships with men. The end result in many cases is a bitter, drawn-out battle with misplaced, misguided expectations.

    Read C.S. Lewis’ “Men without Chests” for an excellent primer on why our postmodern values can’t seem to produce virtuous men. Hint: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

  14. My third cousin’s dermatologist’s neighbor’s grandson’s half brother married this girl who professed to love him. After marriage she, isolated him from his friends,berated him constantly, froze him out and only cared about him earning money, which she couldn’t spend fast enough. He had been given a book about how men should be providers and heard the same message in church. He climbed the corporate ladder and became quite the success because working was preferable to being at home. One day she cleaned out the bank accounts and ran off with her personal trainer. He died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.

    Boo-hoo there are drunks, louts and abusers in this world. That is why there are prisons and jails. Avoid marrying or procreating with them. I honestly feel sorry for women who do but to take these cases and claim they are indicative men and society is as accurate as saying my story above is indicative of all women and matriarchy.

    Women were instrumental in the U.S. in taming the prairie and winning the west. Anyone who says different doesn’t know history. Anecdotal family stories…My great grandmother was a sharecropper who would stand up to a bear. She considered herself the family fisherman, woman person. (I don’t know use the ending that won’t require a fainting couch). Her husband came home with this really big large mouth bass he had caught down at the pond. The family marveled and awed at the fish. I can still hear the screen door banging as my great grandmother left the house. She stayed down at the pond until she caught a larger bass. My grandmother was widowed and raised my mother during WWII. My mother put my dad through college and grad school. Once I was big enough to look after myself and my sister she said it was her turn and my dad happily agreed. My wife was at the top of her law school class and was a well respected attorney who raised two children with some help. My sister is a top computer programmer who co-authored a book on artificial intelligence. My aunt, a former state beauty queen, is the acknowledged matriarch of the family. I’m not intimately familiar with these perpetually victimized women. However I find objectionable when modern day women fail to notice the determination, grit and toughness of their predecessors. Hard luck stories were the exception not the rule.

  15. I think the author’s criticism of the harm done by restrictive gender roles is perfectly reasonable, as is her pointing at religion as playing a role in enforcing these gender roles. She is also on point that the current transgender debate is conflating sex and gender and as a result is putting women in danger. I would point out, though, that despite her avowed hatred of gender roles, she doesn’t seem able to shake her own gendered expectations of men - She portrays her ex-boyfriend as a jerk for expecting that if he’s providing for her financially (according to the traditional boyfriend role), then he expects her to be his girlfriend. She feels that he should have been happy to provide for her and expect nothing in return (and admits to misleading him about her intentions so that she could continue to enjoy the financial benefits of living with him). Sure, it would have been an act of kindness for him to give her charity, but he is under no moral obligation to agree to such a one-sided deal. Her sense of entitlement to his financial support, despite them not being in a relationship anymore, suggests that, while she disapproves of gender roles for women, she is strongly in favour of gender roles for men.

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

260 more replies