Wednesday, 30 May 2007

The Neo-Victorian Relationship -- Follow-up

This blog is a sort of follow-up to the previous one on the Neo-Victorian relationship. I feel that I went out on a limb with that one, so I thank everyone who commented and contacted me with their support.

The excerpts below are taken from Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's 1968 book, The Men in Your Life, her follow-up to, A Guide to Elegance. The front cover advertises the book as, "Timeless Advice and Wisdom on Managing The Opposite Sex." The entries copied apply to what I wrote in the previous blog regarding the trials and tribulations of manhood.

Aside from the Old World charm of her prose, I find her advice opens a world of relationships that I wish to be a part. A world where women accept their man for all of his virtues and vices with compassion and seek to manage him rather than punish him, use him, betray him, or abandon him. Genevieve Antoine Dariaux manages to be both sophisticated and yet in-touch with the realities of life and human nature. This places her beyond the pattern of cruelty I see repeated in modern relationships where it seems that you must be heartless in order to survive so that you may get them before they get you.
Needless to say, I highly recommend her books for developing Neo-Victorian Ladies, and even for the Gentlemen, because it outlines the aspirations and responsibilities of both. At the end of the day, we choose who we are and with whom we choose to have relationships. By making the right choices, Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's civilized and beautiful world is one that we can all be a part.

In recent times it hasn't been easy to 'be a man' in the traditional sense, since it required an attractive mixture of authority, virility, a sense of duty and justice, tenderness at home and firmness at the office; and he also had to give an impression of strength, to be the provider for his family, to have the courage to fight for an idea and to die for his country. In compensation for all these obligations - or perhaps because of them - men ruled over their wives and their wives obeyed them — or at least pretended to, since women at that time had to obtain by charm and ruse what they later obtained by legislation.

After centuries of uncontested superiority men eventually accorded almost equal rights to women and during the past fifty years they have grown accustomed to seeing women perform the same activities as they. All this was still quite tolerable and they were reasonably well adjusted to the change. They dried the dishes and sometimes gave the baby his bottle, but the family income was twice as large as before, and even if they were sick there was generally no longer a prospect of certain penury. Men retained a semblance of authority and they were still the masters in bed.

Then the Pill was invented, and women experienced true independence for the first time. Moreover, having acquired new techniques (mostly from books), they now challenge men to prove their virility, and there is an immense gulf for modern men between the position of imposing their law, like our grandfathers, and of receiving orders, like our sons. Modern women insist that men provide them with sexual satisfaction, scorning those who fail in this endeavor. They demand equal rights, but they still want a priority card when they are pregnant. In other words, what they demand is even more than equality; it is privilege plus protection.

So what is the meaning of being a man' to modern women? How can a man be a master and an equal at the same time? How can he be the sole provider as well as forty-nine-per-cent partner? How can he be a conquering lover and a piece-work laborer?

We shall finally demand so much that unhappy men may one day disappear from the face of the earth, like other creatures in whom women have taken too great an interest - such as Somali leopards and birds of paradise.

The first step of every civilized society is to transform the males into husbands. The word still enjoys considerable prestige and is pronounced -with a capital H by almost all women.

Before entering into the state of bliss called matrimony, the future husband must win the object of his affections by means of his attractive appearance, his seductive phrases or his bank account — but preferably by all three. However after the honeymoon is over, the husband must begin to think seriously about his material situation, because after having thought only of coming home to go to bed together, his wife begins to notice that life goes on outside the bedroom too, that it is amusing to take part in the fun, but that love requires a more substantial diet than fresh -water in order to thrive. Little by little the husband must therefore add to his preceding roles of troubadour, teacher and indefatigable lover those of banker and social leader. It is no longer sufficient for him to charm his wife alone, for she wants to feel envied by all the other women. Since he is also supposed to be her Defender and Protector by the grace of Nature and the Justice of the Peace, he is advised to enrol at a night school in order to learn how to remove a splinter, to repair an electric light, to stop up a leak, to put out a fire and to settle disputes with tradesmen — in other words, to be a doctor, electrician, plumber, fireman and lawyer.

Then he will become a father, and in this role he will be expected to display tenderness, firmness and seriousness, at the same time remaining happy, carefree, full of imagination and fun.

When he reaches the age of fifty it will be most appreciated if he has managed to acquire many honours and a large fortune. He will preferably indulge only in golf — a sport in which it is hoped that he will have a respectably small handicap and will win a maximum of silver trophies. His wife will have become accustomed to his periods of silence, which she will fill (in the best of cases) with the more entertaining presence of the children and of friends of their own generation.

Finally, he is requested not to die too soon, and not too late either, but just at the right moment — in order to leave behind the charming memory of a Perfect Husband.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Neo-Victorian Relationship

Sometimes when I discover something new I feel like a bit of a fool. I realise that not only has it been in front of me for years, there is also the fact that numerous people have been pointing right at it. My only excuse is that I lacked the eyes to see it or the mind to comprehend it.

What I have discovered is the culmination of years of evidence that I have chosen to ignore all of my life. The pursuit of Truth sometimes involves herding sacred cows into the abattoir, as I must do here. This is difficult, for what I am writing feels blasphemous to me. That pain in your chest that says you should not be saying what you are saying even though there is no rational explanation for why you must not aside from the fact that society says you must not. I'm using the word blasphemy not because I intend to speak against God, rather against concepts that have been ingrained within my psyche as being righteous, but are no more than politically correct social values.

Before I dive-in, I would like to expound on the idea of Neo-Victorianism. Primarily, it is a movement in aesthetics, however today I realised that it can be an ideology as well, no different than say identifying a person as a liberal hippie or a religious fundamentalist in that it represent an entire lifestyle and socio-political worldview. I have used the term Romantic and I shall continue to do so, but Neo-Victorian has a particular ring, don't you think?

For my purposes, I define Neo-Victorianism as a modernisation of Victorian values, sentiments, and codes of conduct to coincide within a modern context. Let's admit it, there are some Victorian practices that these days would be just wrong. In some issues, humanity has made progress however in many others too much has been lost. The pendulum needs to swing back, but not all the way.

Some of the Victorian notions that define the Neo-Victorian ideology would be Humanism, Capitalism, love of technological advancement, opportunism, and an emphasis on Rules, such as manners and social roles, obligations and responsibilities, including those pertaining to gender roles. It is this last point that I wish to address in this blog.

I am often accused in my writing of burying my point, so perhaps it is best for me to commit this act of blasphemy and just spit it out. Men and Women need to know their place with the man as the master and the woman as his object of pleasure. I can almost feel the stoning beginning. Please allow me to state my case before casting that first stone.

Over the course of the Twentieth Century the gender roles have changed immensely with women having more freedom and power than ever before. I was raised by a strong mother. My father was not necessarily weak however he was not what I would call a dominant lord of the manor sort (though I am told that he was when he first married my mother). To my young eyes my mother always seemed the stronger of the two, but in retrospect as an adult I see him as the one who silently kept her rational. Likewise, my two older sisters were strong personalities while I was the younger often picked-on brother.

As an adult, I do not believe that I was ever taught to be a Man and I have come to find that I am not the only American male of my generation with a similar problem. We have been raised by and dominated by women and have no idea what we are suppose to do as Men. I think perhaps that this accounts for the vast number of dominatrixes in the BDSM scene and the scarcity of male doms to satisfy eager female submissives. Men are becoming increasingly subservient to and emotionally needy towards Women and there are many Women in the world that long for a Man.

Coinneach Odhar, famously known as the Brahan Seer, made a prediction in the Seventeenth Century that Scotland would one day be ruled by "shorn-haired hags and the men would play". Many interpret this as pertaining to the feminist movement. Whether valid as a prophecy or not, we find that as female social power has expanded into male territory, men find that that they have no purpose and so they play. If responsibility is taken as one of the defining factors of adulthood, then we may rightful call them a generation of boys in the bodies of men leaving women to support them just like their mommy did. Certainly this is not the future envisioned by the Women's Movement.

I began researching this because I have recently learned something new about myself. Remember my story of the eagle at the cock fight? If not, it was in a blog entitled Remembering. An eagle must be an eagle and accept his existence as an eagle and the power and responsibility that goes with it. By denying my nature I found myself being accepted as an eagle by society even when I myself did not. People expected me to be an eagle and fulfil those eagle duties, but I denied the responsibility and never really learned how to be an effective eagle. This is even worse when you live in a society that attaches morality to behaving like a rooster and you want to be perceived as a moral person.

I am an eagle. I am a Romantic. I am a Neo-Victorian man. As such, the women drawn to me expect me to behave as a Neo-Victorian gentleman. They expect me to live-up to my innate natural inclinations as a dominant rather than a submissive in the relationship. When I look back over my past relationships, I see countless examples of my partner expecting me to dominate her, but I refused out of a false sense of morality. I tried to be good rather than be right, or perhaps this was due to a fear of failing to make the right choice for the both of us to I passed the buck and did whatever she wanted just to play it safe and keep her sweet.

To remedy this and catch-up on the education I missed in eagle school, I have been researching the Master/Slave relationship in BDSM, the Victorian gender roles and marriage obligations, and Leadership skills. All are very similar.

In fact, I now see how blatantly obvious the film My Fair Lady depicts the psychological Master/Slave relationship. It explains why many female submissive I have known love Professor Higgins and perhaps even why I admired him as a minor role model in my youth. Notice in the end where Higgins and Eliza have their argument and she storms off declaring that she will never see him again. Higgins is hurt, but carries on. Then while musing over Eliza's recorded voice, she returns for no apparent reason and Higgins coolly demands his slippers. She rejects Freddy, the male submissive "in love" with her, and obediently returns to her master like the "good girl" she is. How could I have missed this all of these years?

In reading the essays on the site I saw strong parallels between the Master/Slave relationship and the Victorian marriage. Feminists often forget that the majority women accepted and were happy in their roles in Victorian society and even lashed-out against women who wanted change. They will say that these women did not know any better and simply accepted the world as created by men, but I am not so sure. Of course I am not against the right of women to vote, hold office, have careers and be paid equal to men, and to choose their own lives. However, should they choose to be Neo-Victorian women, then that is their choice too and should be allowed to follow that path without stigma. Likewise, such women deserve to be on the arm of a Neo-Victorian gentleman.

There is a field of psychology called Evolutionary Psychology that theorises that certain aspects of human behaviour are the result of evolutionary processes. Much as this is seen in the differences between the genders in the male and female brains. As conscious beings, humans have the power to deny these basic programs. Much of the gender roles found in Victorian society are in keeping with our evolutionary programming, whereas many of the demands of modern relationships tend to run counter to them. This has caused confusion for many people and some have moved towards Master/Slave relationships in an attempt to compensate. There is an interesting article on this subject at

Another stumbling block in the past has been my view of Freedom, one of my key values. I seek to defend my own and I encourage others to do the same. I hold to the adage that no one has claim to my life and I hold claim to no other's. However, I never considered that someone might choose to give their life to another for their personal benefit. If the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness, then is it better to be a happy servant or independent and miserable?

Towards the beginning of my last relationship, my girlfriend was having trouble with her landlords due to non-payment of rent. They demanded £100 a month from her after she moved-out. I stepped in, took over negotiations on her behalf, and told them that they would receive £20 and they took it. Weeks later, I met her parents and they told me what she should be doing with her life. I countered them and told them what I thought she should be doing, which was far more in keeping with who she was than their suggestion had been. In both of these situations I thought that I was over-stepping my bounds. Who am I to tell her how to conduct her affairs? I apologised to her at the time for my presumption, but now I see that I did the right thing as a Neo-Victorian gentleman looking after the best interests of his partner.

In a Neo-Victorian relationship, the man is the master. The woman sacrifices her freedom in exchange for protection, physical and emotional comfort, direction, and security. In exchange, it is her pleasure to please him. The traditionally female arts of decorating, fashion, and cooking are all about pleasing another, and in this case the master is the recipient. This is not a one-sided deal where the man alone reaps the benefits. He has his responsibilities as a good partner just as she has hers. The relationship is not parasitic but symbiotic.

Furthermore, the woman chooses her master. Body language experts have found that in a bar or club situation women give conscious or unconscious signals to a man permitting him to approach her. Should a man hit on a woman when she has not signalled him he has a 90% chance of failure. Women in this context tend to be drawn to confident and powerful men. She might even shoot down his advances initially to test his persistence and strength. She wants a good, strong man. Unfortunately, these days men are either good (weak) or strong (assholes). Should the couple make a connection, she has a choice to proceed, continue and either possibly end the relationship or perhaps accept his future proposal of marriage. Should marriage be the outcome, she still has the power to leave him without the old of stigma associated with divorce.

Nonetheless, a woman must choose her master wisely. It is not unlike a job interview. She must know what she requires of a man, what she wants for her future happiness, and "hire" the man best suited to that purpose. Here is an interesting link to an article on Victorian rejection letters. It gives a good picture of what women demanded of their men.

So when I say that man is the master he is so because of her choice to make him so. She chooses to submit to him. Therefore, I no longer see my respect of my partner's freedom as a valid moral choice on my part. Rather I see it as a rejection of my role as the master and failing in my responsibilities.

So what then makes a good master? I believe that the couple are partners, but not equal partners. What sets the leader apart is his vision for the group and his ability to co-ordinate the group's resources to achieve those goals. This does not mean that the leader is necessarily the most talented, intelligent, or even experienced, but he has to manage those abilities within the group. In the army, it is said that the mark of a good lieutenant fresh out of Sandhurst or WestPoint is not to arrive and start acting the know-it-all boss, rather he should ask the First Sergeant what to do next. The superior rank is not always right simply by virtue of their status and training, but he does have the final word.

I believe that only a foolish man would act without taking his partners thoughts, knowledge, desires, and experience into consideration, however the final decision is his and she should stand by that decision whether she agrees or not and whether it proves to be the right one or not. He must make his decisions based upon the best interests of the group and stand by those decisions. She must recognise this and support him emotionally whether he succeeds or fails to achieve that goal. Her saying, "I told you so" and "you should have listened to me" only erodes his confidence and his ability to lead effectively. She is only damaging herself in the long run by damaging him. He is well within his rights to punish her for such behaviour.

Yes, punishment. I feel so uncomfortable with this concept, but that is why I have failed in the past. I was too good. I did not punish. Prior to the Twentieth Century women went from being daughters to being wives. They moved from the protect/provide relationship under the father to one under the husband. In essence, the husband assumes the paternal role in her life. In that role, the husband had to correct behaviours that he believed to be detrimental to the goal of mutual happiness. Often this means correcting a woman's self-destructive behaviour. Women are very much aware this need and will say that they are looking for a man who "won't put up with their shit". A good master through a system of consistent reward and punishment creates for the woman a secure boundary in which to exist and brings order to her life.

As a Master, I was very good at caring for the women I called my own. I was able to understand them and anticipate their needs before they knew them themselves, and provide protection and guidance. I owe this to my paternal streak. It has been said of me that if I ever had a daughter that I would spoil her rotten and I would be wrapped around her finger. This is what happened with my ex's. I never disciplined them when I should have. In the end, they became spoiled, unruly, and rebellious. Very naughty indeed.

The Neo-Victorian woman takes pleasure is pleasing her man. I was raised by my mother to "not be useless". In other words, I was cooking and cleaning from a very young age and I am more than capable of taking care of myself. Based on her example, I have sought to please my partner, but I felt uncomfortable being pleased by her. In fact, in two of my major relationships the girl couldn't even cook so the duties fell to me.

This reminds me of my old church in Oregon. Every year there was a foot washing service around Easter in remembrance of Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Christ and our call to service as Christians. People were happy to wash the feet of others, but uncomfortable having someone wash their feet. It is the discomfort at being served and pleased by another.

I can think of two examples where a girl sought to please me in the relationship, but I was so unfamiliar with this that I did not know what to do. It was all new to me. In both cases I was asked what gave me pleasure, but I had no idea. I was put into the position of Master, but I had no vision, which as I mentioned above is on of the defining characteristics of a leader. As a result, she had no idea what to do and eventually gave up. I then dropped back into my programming and sought to please her. Over the course of the relationship the roles reversed and I ceased to be the Master she wanted and became the unhappy submissive that I did not want to be, became emotionally dependent, and she lost all respect for me. Needless to say, the relationships ended soon after the power frame shifted.

People are things that we use to achieve our purposes. This statement goes completely contrary to the Objectivist morality to which I have always subscribed. But people are a form of power. By power I mean something we use to achieve our purposes such as our skills, money, or physical attributes to name a few. If your purpose is to feel good about yourself and ease your guilt at being successful, then find a beggar and give him money. You are using his plight to your ends. The fact that it may also serve him is secondary. Suppose you have a friend that fills a particular role in your life as comfort and support. You are using him to that purpose regardless of the fact that you also comfort and support him. However, suppose this friend consistently abuses the friendship and it costs you. Odds are that he will no longer be your friend because the cost is greater than the reward. He is no longer of use.

People are a means to an end. That is a fact of reality. The real moral question is whether that relationship is parasitic or symbiotic. The parasitic relationship is one-sided in which one person uses another, but does not give anything of value in return. This is the nature of evil. The symbiotic relationship is one of mutual benefit. Yes, you are using this person, but in exchange they are using you. This is done through mutual choice and not physical or emotional force. This is beneficial and therefore good.

So when I look at the world around me I label the things in reality according to how they serve my purposes. My computer is not merely a machine; it is how I communicate with world and store information for my work and entertainment. How I label a thing, and by thing I mean that which is not me, determines how I use it, judge its worth, and how I feel about it. As a man, how do I label women?

Should I view women as the source of my self-esteem and worth? Should I see them as necessary companions and partners in achieving my life goals? In both cases I say no. My source of self-esteem and worth is my work. What I have accomplished that merits pride. Likewise, if my success is totally dependent on another person as a partner, then my existence ceases to be my own.

My highest value is my existence, in this context I refer to my soul, my psycho-emotional programming, my Sense of Life. I must sustain it, nurture it, and develop it. From my soul come my actions. This is my second highest value. I must have purpose, vision, and direction to achieve the goals that my soul requires from life. Thirdly comes pleasure. What do I need to enjoy life. It is under this category where women perform an important function. They give me beauty, delight, and pleasure. Like Mazlow's hierarchy of needs, if I do not sustain my soul and purpose as primary, then I cannot support my tertiary need for a relationship.

Soon after this discovery, and soon after the original posting of this blog, I was once more reminded that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. While browsing The Kama Sutra, I discovered the ancient Hindus established a similar hierarchy in the form of Dharma, Artha, and Kama, which Sir Richard Burton translated for his fellow Victorians as equating to Virtue, Wealth, and Love. We might say that Virtue pertains to the internal self, Wealth to the external self, and Love to the pleasure of personal relationships.

No blog of mine would be complete without a Tombstone reference. I once admired the relationship between Wyatt Earp and Josephine. I thought she was strong and independent and stood by his side for the rest of his life as an equal. I realise now that what I saw there was the emotional security I once craved. Contrast that relationship with Doc Holliday and Kate. When Doc is ill and his physician advises him to cut Kate from his life, she responds by saying, "I'm a good woman to you Doc. Don't I always take care of you? Nobody cares for you like me. I'm a good woman." Kate is a strong and confident woman, but she is still the submissive to her master, Doc. Her defence of her role in his life is based upon her pleasing him. She, like Eliza Doolittle, uses the "good girl" reference in the form of "good woman". In the film, Wyatt is with Doc when he dies, but historically it was Kate. I also find it interesting in the film that Doc tells Wyatt to "grab that spirited actress and make her your own". Again we see Doc in the master role encouraging Wyatt along that path. Now I see that it is not Josie that I want, but Kate.

Last week I was dishing-out relationship advice. I told my friend to decide who she was and what she wanted in life and then imagine the kind of man who would suit those purposes. Similarly, she could decide the kind of man she wanted and become the woman suitable for such a man. I have chosen to take my own advice.

The right woman for me is the woman who can give me pleasure. Now, my idea of pleasure is not another man's. Only by knowing what pleases me can I know whether a woman can fulfil that function. I am moved by beauty, grace, charm, and stimulating conversation. I see myself with an exclusive geisha or courtesan type well versed in all the feminine arts both aesthetic, intellectual, and sexual. You may feel that I ask too much. I have had such a treasure once before and I lost it because I was not the consistent Master I should have been to my developing Neo-Victorian lady. She planted the seeds that have blossomed in the form of the ideas expressed in this blog, and for that I am ever grateful to her.