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Female Masochism and the Enforced Restriction of Choice

  • Elizabeth A. Waites

Abstract

It is not recorded that Adam beat his wife; on the question of her subjugation to him, however, the Bible is explicit. It is also clear in the biblical account that this subjection, rather than being a consequence of Eve’s natural inferiorty, was an imposed punishment. Eve, the first human being who chose to disobey authority, was brought low; from the day she disobeyed, her right to choose was severely restricted. Historically, the story of the Fall has prvided both a model and a rationale for the subjugation and scapegoating of women in Western culture. Until modern times, it was unnecessary to postulate that women are inherently masochistic in order to explain their suffering. The explanation that they are inherently bad sufficed. “Bad” furthermore seems to have been closely associated with the activity and aggression of women. Far from assuming that females are basically passive or that they naturally turn their aggression inward, our ancestors were careful to provide real and often insurmountable restraints. Although Westerners did not go so far as the Chinese who permanently restricted female locomotion by means of footbinding, the corsets and chastity belts they devised illustrate the degree of physical restraint that was acceptable. And West met East in the sanction accorded wife-beating as a form of physical and psychological control. The right of chastisement, as it was called, was recognized by law as well as custom not only in England, but in the United States as late as the 19th century (Eisenberg and Micklow, 1974). Even subsequent to technical repudiation of the legal right, wife-beating has continued to be tolerated by professionals and public alike to the extent that laws expressly forbidding it have been and continue to be inconsistently enforced.

Keywords

Abuse Woman Abusive Behavior Economic Deprivation Social Approval Abuse Spouse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Visage Press Inc. 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Waites

There are no affiliations available

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