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Do females in the Western world display clinical levels of masochism? Has chivalry morphed into a thinly veiled expression of masochism? Is female masochism the true basis of gynocentric culture? Most would agree that chivalry today appears to overlap with clinical masochism – which is perhaps why it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the chivalric woman and those disparagingly referred to as white dames or manginas.

According to the following excerpt from her 1936 essay Female Masochism and Culture, psychoanalyst Arnold Herman Kamiat fingers masochism as a very real problem among women. With modern academic researchers unable to get past the traditionalist mythology of men as masochistic and women as sadistic, and reluctant to look at the concept of female masochism, we will take Kamiat’s essay as a first examination of the topic and a prefiguration of contemporary gynocentrism theory. – PW


The masochism that has hitherto occupied the attention of psychologists is individual masochism. This is the masochism of particular individuals in their subordinate relation, fancied or real, to particular members of the opposite sex.

But there appears to be a social masochism. This involves the subordinate relation, fancied or real, of a number of individuals of the same sex (taken collectively) to a number of individuals of the opposite sex (taken collectively). Social masochism has, strangely enough, received little or no attention.

This essay is, in part, an attempt to establish the reality of this kind of masochism. The masochistic aspiration often takes the form of a vision of an ideal society — ideal from a masochistic viewpoint of course. This is significant for the interpretation of such myths and religious cults as have already been referred to, and the structure of certain primitive and contemporary societies.

It is an interesting speculation whether any of the gynarchies and god-cults were conceived, brought into being, and sustained by masochistic women — or sadistic men. The Egyptian gynocracy is said to have been established by a woman — Queen Sesostris. Was she a masochist?

Frazer attributes the primitive gynarchies to the perception of the importance of man for the continuance of life. But did not androcratic societies have this same perception? Then why were they not gynarchic? At any rate, whatever may have been the origin of gynocracy, the latter must have operated as a breeder of masochism. If female masochism was not the cause of gynarchy, it may very well have been a consequence thereof.

A gynarchy is probably a large-scale producer of female masochism. Once generated, the latter will in its turn serve to sustain the gynarchy (as male masochism probably bred by androcracy serves to maintain the latter). Certain it is that gynarchies have in fact exhibited phenomena calculated to enter into full accord with the aspirations of female masochists. Some of these phenomena have been recorded by the Vaertings in their book, The Dominant Sex.

This book, like practically all writings on sex conflicts and sex dominance, takes no account whatsoever of the fact and the psychology of sado-masochism — an index of that strange inability so many writers on social topics reveal to give due attention to psychological factors. But the book does contain a store of valuable information, and some of the phenomena it describes certainly lend themselves to interpretation via the masochistic hypothesis.

The marital relation lends itself to masochistic uses under any scheme of social organization, including an androcratic one. No one knows how often a dominant husband is really the creation and the instrument of a masochistic wife — it is not at all unlikely that such is often the case. On the other hand, the wish being ‘mother to the thought,’ a masochistic woman will often ascribe a dominant position to her or someone else’s husband, lover or mistress, when the true position is really one of equipollence or subordination. Rumor, gossip and report are often species of phantasy.


It has been seen that in the ancient world individual masochistic phantasies became generalized into socially shared ideas. They entered into, and became part of the mythos of a race or nation. The mythologies of the ancient world have in large part gone, but masochism has persisted, and masochism must have its mythos, social as well as individual.

Krafft-Ebing and other writers on the subject stress the individual mythos. It is contended here that masochists also have their socially shared mythology. The world today is not without its stock of socially shared masochistic myths — phantasies held by female masochists everywhere, and by those who come under their influence. Indeed, the mythology in question has become a source of revenue, and with all educational agencies utilized by the myth-peddlers, the myths are becoming the property of both masochists and non-masochists, women and men.

The myths masquerade as philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology, educational theory, and schemes of social reform. Their most common characteristics are an imaginary magnification of masculine power, a correlative imaginary depreciation of feminine power, an imaginative depiction of man as the savior of womankind (Goethe’s “The Man-Soul leadeth us upward and on;” see also E. A. Robinson’s Merlin and Auguste Comtesse’s System of Positive Polity), and an aspiration toward some kind of gynarchic social order or way of life.

At times the phantasies take on a distinctly paranoid character, with men being envisaged as designing, conspiring, invincible Vivians, Circes and Delilahs. All this mythopoesis issues in certain familiar pictures of “reality,” “life,” and “love.” In these pictures an omnipotent manhood carries on all kinds of transactions with a powerless womanhood.

The phraseology is familiar — man is the seat of power; the source of life; the conserver of life; the keeper of all ideals, all wisdom, all morality, all practicality, all culture; he is the fount and origin of all that is good; he is the one great constructive force; his practically infallible instincts and intuitions facilitate an instant grasp of the greatest truths of life, truths that women laboriously strive to attain, truths some of which are utterly beyond feminine ken; man’s function is to govern, woman’s but to obey; he is anyhow the ruler, androcracy being but a delusion; he is the center of the home and its ruler; outside of the home his power is equally great, women of importance being merely the instruments of their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, mistresses, private secretaries, office assistants, or wise and inspiring masculine friends; the greatest revolution of all time is at hand: men will soon take matters in hand and transform life in all its departments; and so on, and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

It is not asserted that all this is manufactured solely by female masochists. Plenty of it flows out of masculine minds, and a good deal out of female minds that are either neurotic, or ignorant, or adolescent, or afflicted with a particularly morbid form of gyneolatry. There is a tendency, present in its most virulent form in neurotics of both sexes, toward the imaginative magnification of the power of the opposite sex. The idea of masculine, or feminine power, becomes emotionally charged. It thereupon looms larger and larger in consciousness until all perspective is lost and a rational comparative evaluation of the relative power and influence of the sexes becomes well-nigh impossible.

A reporter who must have been something of a psychoanalyst, while interviewing a female prophet of the “coming” masculine revolution, inquired of her concerning her childhood relation to his father. In answer, the prophet, who has turned her gynophilia into a source of income, described his father as exercising an unusual dominance over her as a child.

Masochism may enter into the makeup of a certain type of female, often of mystic temperament, with an adolescent notion of men as in some sense divine, exuding love and possessed of infallible intuitions, revealing “truths” greater and more profound than any mediated by mere science and philosophy, and who can solve all her problems for woman, if she will only submit to his rule. This kind of female, for all her babble about the gynarchic future, in reality lives in the past, the gynarchic past. It is the gynarchy she wants to restore, albeit in a refined form.

Gynocracy of one sort or another has had and still has its pseudo – philosophical and pseudo-scientific defenders. Perhaps the best known of these is Auguste Comtesse, whose brief in the fourth chapter of her System of Positive Polity is one of the most curious and adolescent pieces of writing in the history of philosophy. The names of some living women would be in place here. The reader, if she will keep a sharp lookout on books, newspapers, magazines, and lecture announcements, can supply these names herself.

See also: Female Masochism and Gynocentrism in Victorian men’s literature