A thesis has made the rounds recently in the feminist blogosphere and the gynocentric media over the last few months in conjunction with #MeToo slacktivism. It’s based on a statement made by Margaret Atwood during a lecture in 1982:
“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. … “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.1
Naturally, this is absolute bullshit.
Women have always been sexually aroused by the male capacity for violence.
During the Roman Empire, women purchased the sweat of gladiators, the lethal entertainers and celebrities of that period, for use as an aphrodisiac.2 Some Roman women, not content with the secondhand bodily fluids from trained killers, preferred to use more direct methods of collection by bribing guards of the gladiator camps for entrance and a sweaty evening with the day’s winner.3 The second century poet Juvenal’s sixth satire, the story of Eppia, the senator’s wife, who ran off with the gladiator Sergius, who Juvenal described as having “sundry deformities in his face: a scar caused by the helmet, a huge wen upon his nose, a nasty humour always trickling from his eye. But then he was a gladiator! It is this that transforms these fellows into Hyacinths!”4
The female arousal for male violence continues into the present, despite male violence being far more controlled than in Roman Empire, particularly with the fascination of women with men who do violence on behalf of the state, otherwise known as ‘men in uniform.’ During the reign of King George III, this affinity for state-sponsored killers was referred to as the ‘scarlet fever’ a reference to the red coats issued to infantrymen in the royal army. The 19th century English journalist, Henry Mayhew noted that to serving women of that period:
“A red coat is all powerful with this class, who prefer a soldier to a servant, or any other description of man they come in contact with.”5
One hundred years later, during the First World War, the disease of ‘scarlet fever’ transmogrified itself into ‘khaki fever’ though the symptoms remained the same: a mania for violent men in uniforms. Contemporary essayist Catherine Hartley noted that:
“war turned men into heroes, while women thought the war was going to be so fine they could do anything to help; they wanted their share, each one to have a stake for herself, and the easiest way to gain this was the ownership of a soldier-lover. It prevented the feeling of ‘being left out.’”6
A report of three studies prepared by Hannes Rusch, Joost Leunissen, and Mark van Vugt stated that Medal of Honor recipients tended to sire more children than regular veterans. There is also evidence that women find men more sexually attractive if they are war heroes (i.e. the most successful killers).7 The female lust for government-sponsored killers is not always so patriotic. In France, there are estimated to be 200,000 ‘war children’ whose fathers were German occupation soldiers World War II, accounting for nearly a quarter of all of the children sired by soldiers of the Wehrmacht in German-occupied Europe.8 Women fall easily into the arms of conquering men, even before the war is lost.
Women’s attraction to the dangerous man is exclusive not to those whose violence is approved by the government. Plenty of blood and ink has been spilled on the female infatuation with ‘bad boys.’ Men on death row and famous serial killers have no trouble acquiring female attention, despite committing heinous crimes against female victims.9 Further down the food chain are the ‘good girls’ who become molls for their ‘bad boy’ boyfriends. These women may come from middle-class backgrounds. At best, they associate with violent criminals, knowing what they are. In other situations, they facilitate their boyfriends’ criminal activities, hiding their boyfriends’ weapons and contraband, or actively participating in crimes themselves. Teenage girls view these criminals as exciting and prestigious and protective of them.10
Women seek to control men they perceive to be beneath them with scorn; they seek to control men they perceive to be above them with sex. Women view men with a demonstrable capacity for effective violence as above them, or at least, having a capability they lack. So they seek to acquire a man who either is violent, or willing to do violence on their behalf. A woman claiming a fear of men is asking for permission to treat men with scorn, to which a man should respond that the feelings of women are their own business and not the business of men.
1. Atwood, Margaret. Second Words: Selected Critical Prose 1960-1982
2. Burns, Jasper. Great Women of Imperial Rome: Mothers and Wives of the Caesars.
3. The Guardian. Crowe got it wrong: gladiators were the film stars of Rome. Feb 9, 2003. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/feb/09/highereducation.artsandhumanities
4. Juvenal. Satire VI (Translated by G.G. Ramsay, 1918). http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/juvenal_satires_06.htm
5. Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor: Volume IV.
6. Hartley, Catherine Gasquoine. Women’s Wild Oats: Essays on the Re-fixing of Moral Standards.
7. Rusch, Hannes. Historical and experimental evidence for war heroism. http://www.ehbonline.org/article/S1090-5138(15)00023-9/fulltext
8. Cody, Edward. World War II babies fathered by German soldiers in occupied Europe . http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2009120904274.html
9. Mina, Denise. Why are women drawn to men behind bars? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jan/13/gender.uk
10. Greenwood, Chris. Middle-class girlfriends ‘prized by gang members’. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/middle-class-girlfriends-prized-by-gang-members-1909374.html