The Proposal. John Pettie, R.A. (1839-1893). Oil On Canvas, 1869.

“Romantic Love” by Lester F. Ward (1903)

The following essay is from the book Pure Sociology, by Lester F. Ward. Written over a century ago, the author makes a case for where and when romantic love (a.k.a. gynocentrism) arose. —PW

Romantic Love

It is the psycho-physiological progress going on in all races that have undergone repeated and compound social assimilation, that has laid the foundation for the appearance (in the most advanced races) of a derivative form of natural love which is known as romantic love. It is a comparatively modern product, and is not universal among highly assimilated races. In fact, I am convinced that it is practically confined to what is generally understood as the Aryan race, or, at most, to the so-called Europeans, whether actually in Europe or whether in Australia, America, India, or any other part of the globe. Further, it did not appear in a perceptible form even in that ethnic stock until some time during the Middle Ages. Although I have held this opinion much longer, I first expressed it in 1896.1 It is curious that since that time two books have appeared devoted in whole or in part to sustaining this view.2 There is certainly no sign of the derivative sentiment among savages. Monteiro, speaking of the polygamous peoples of Western Africa, says: –

The negro knows not love, affection, or jealousy. … In all the long years I have been in Africa I have never seen a negro manifest the least tenderness for or to a negress. … I have never seen a negro put his arm round a woman’s waist, or give or receive any caress whatever that would indicate the slightest loving regard or affection on either side. They have no words or expressions in their language indicative of affection or love.3

Lichtenstein4 says of the Koossas: “To the feeling of a chaste tender passion, founded on reciprocal esteem, and an union of heart and sentiment, they seem entire strangers.“ Eyre reports the same general condition of things among the natives of Australia,5 and it would not be difficult to find statements to the same effect relative to savage and barbaric races in all countries where they have been made the subject of critical study. Certainly all the romances of such races that have been written do but reflect the sentiments of their writers, and are worthless from any scientific point of view. This is probably also the case for stories whose plot is laid in Asia, even in India, and the Chinese and Japanese seem to have none of the romantic ideas of the West; otherwise female virtue would not be a relative term, as it is in those countries. This much will probably be admitted by all who understand what I mean by romantic love.

The point of dispute is therefore apparently narrowed down to the question whether the Ancient Greeks and Romans had developed this sentiment. I would maintain the negative of this question. If I have read my Homer, Æschylus, Virgil, and Horace to any purpose they do not reveal the existence in Ancient Greece and Rome of the sentiment of romantic love. If it be said that they contain the rudiments of it and foreshadow it to some extent I shall not dispute this, but natural love everywhere does this, and that is therefore not the question. The only place where one finds clear indications of the sentiment is in such books as “Quo Vadis,” which cannot free themselves from such anachronisms. I would therefore adhere to the statement made in 1896, when I said, “Brilliant as were the intellectual achievements of the Greeks and Romans, and refined as were many of their moral and esthetic perceptions, nothing in their literature conclusively proves that love with them meant more than the natural demands of the sexual instinct under the control of strong character and high intelligence. The romantic element of man’s nature had not yet been developed.”

The Greeks, of course, distinguished several kinds of love, and by different words (έρως, άγάπη, Φιλία), but only one of these is sexual at all. For έρως they often used ‘AΦροδίτη. They also expressed certain degrees and qualities in these by adjectives, e.g., πάνδημος. Some modern writers place the adjective ούράνιος over against πάνδημος, as indicating that they recognized a sublimated, heavenly, or spiritual form of sexual love, but I have not found this in classic Greek. Neither do I find any other to the Latin Venus vulgivaga. But whether such softened expressions are really to be found in classic Greek and Latin authors or not, the fact that they are so rare sufficiently indicates that the conceptions they convey could not have been current in the Greek and Roman mind, and must have been confined to a few rare natures. Romantic love is therefore not only confined to the historic races, those mentioned in Chapter III as representing the accumulated energies of all the past and the highest human achievement, but it is limited to the last nine or ten centuries of the history of those races.

It began to manifest itself some time in the eleventh century of the Christian era, and was closely connected with the origin of chivalry under the feudal system. Guizot has given us perhaps the best presentation of that institution,6 and from this it is easy to see how the conditions favored its development. In the first place the constant and prolonged absenteeism of the lords and knights, often with most of their retainers, from the castle left the women practically in charge of affairs and conferred upon them a power and dignity never before possessed. In the second place the separation of most of the men for such long periods, coupled with the sense of honor that their knighthood and military career gave rise to, caused them to assume the rôle of applicants for the favor of the women, which they could not always immediately attain as when women were forcibly seized by any one that chanced to find them. These conditions produced a mutual sense on the part of both sexes of the need of each other, coupled with prolonged deprivation on the part of both of that satisfaction. The men, thus seeking the women, naturally became chivalrous toward them. The solitary life of women of high rank made them somewhat a prey to the lusts of men of low degree, and the knights assumed the rôle of protecting them from all dangers. Moral and Christian sentiments also played a part, and we find among the provisions of the oath that every chevalier must make the following solemn vows:

● To maintain the just rights of the weak, as of widows, orphans, and young women.
● If called upon to conduct a lady or a girl to any place, to wait upon her, to protect her,
and to save her from all danger and every offense, or perish in the attempt.
● Never to do violence to ladies or young women, even though won by their arms, without
their will and consent.

 
Such an oath, made a universal point of honor, any breach of which would be an everlasting disgrace, and be punished severely by the order of knighthood to which they belonged, could not fail to produce a powerful civilizing effect upon the semi-barbaric men of that age. The whole proceeding must have also given to women a far greater independence and higher standing than they had ever before enjoyed since the days of gynæcocracy in the protosocial stage. Out of this condition of things there arose a special class of poets who wrote lyrics wholly different from the erotic songs of antiquity that go by that name. These poets were called troubadours, and some of them wandered from place to place singing the praises of the great court ladies, and still further inflaming the new passion, which was relatively pure, and contented itself with an association of men with women while conserving the honor and virtue of the latter. This, of course, was a passing phase and somewhat local, being mainly confined to southern France and parts of Spain. It degenerated, as did the whole institution of chivalry, and by the end of the thirteenth century nothing was left of either but the ridiculous nonsense that Cervantes found surviving into his time, and which he so happily portrayed in Don Quixote. But chivalry had left its impress upon the world, and while Condorcet and Comte exaggerated certain aspects of it, no one has pointed out its greatest service in grafting romantic love upon natural love, which until then had been supreme.

But it would be easy to ascribe too great a rôle, even here, to chivalry. The truth is not all told until chivalry is understood as an effect as well as a cause. Whatever may be said of the Middle Ages as tending to suppress the natural flow of intellectual activities, there can be no doubt that they were highly favorable to the development of emotional life. The intense religious fervor that burned in its cloisters for so many centuries served to create centers of feeling, and to increase the sensibility of all those nerve plexuses that constitute the true organs of emotion. Whatever may be the physiological changes necessary to intensify the inner feelings, corresponding to the multiplication and diversification of the neurons of the brain by which the intellect is perfected, such changes went on, until the men and women of the eleventh century found themselves endowed with far higher moral organizations than those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They had been all this time using their emotional faculties as they never had been used before, and the Lamarckian principle of increase through use is as true of those faculties as it is of external muscles and organs. It is true of the brain, too, and when educationalists wake up to this truth the only solid basis for scientific education will have been discovered. But without a preparation in this latent growth of the emotional faculties neither chivalry nor romantic love could have made its appearance. The crusades, contemporary to a great extent with chivalry, and due also to the surplus emotion, taking here a religious course, became also a joint cause in the development not only of romantic love but also of many other lofty attributes, both ethical and intellectual. They failed to save the holy city, but they gained a far greater victory than that would have been in rationalizing, moralizing, and socializing Europe. Any one who thinks they were a failure has only to read Guizot’s masterly summing up of their influence.7

Romantic love was due primarily to the greater equality and independence of woman. She reacquired to some extent her long-lost power of selection, and began to apply to men certain tests of fitness. Romantic love therefore marks the first step toward the resumption by woman of her natural scepter which she yielded to the superior physical force of man at the beginning of the androcratic period. It involves a certain degree of female selection or gyneclexis, and no longer permitted man to seize but compelled him to sue. But it went much farther than this. It did not complete a cycle and restore female selection as it exists in the animal world. It also did away with the pure male selection that prevailed throughout the androcratic régime. The great physiological superiority of the new régime cannot be too strongly emphasized. Its value to the race is incalculable. Female selection, or gyneclexis, as we saw, created a fantastic and extravagant male efflorescence. Male selection, or andreclexis, produced a female etiolation, diminutive stature, beauty without utility. Both these unnatural effects were due to lack of mutuality. Romantic love is mutual. The selection is done simultaneously by man and woman. It may be called ampheclexis. Its most striking characteristic consists in the phenomenon called “falling in love.“ It is not commonly supposed that this so-called “tender passion“ is capable of cold scientific analysis. It is treated as something trivial, and any allusion to it creates a smile. Yet libraries are filled with books devoted exclusively to it, and these are as eagerly devoured by philosophers and sages as by schoolgirls.

[…]

In the early days and in the upper classes the demands of woman may have been somewhat trivial. Man must do something heroic, must prove his worthiness by acts of prowess, and such acts may even be opposed to true progress. But they at least develop manhood, courage, honor, and under the code of chivalry they must have a moral element, must defend the right, protect the weak, avenge dishonor, and uphold virtue. But in the lower ranks even then, and everywhere since the fall of the feudal system, woman demanded support and the comforts of life, luxuries where possible, and more and more leisure and accomplishment. To-day she demands a home, social position, ease, and economic freedom. More and more, too, she requires of men that they possess industry, thrift, virtue, honesty, and intelligence. Man must work for all this, and this struggle for excellence, as woman understands that quality, is an extraordinary stimulus, and leads to all forms of achievement.

But man also selects. Romantic love is mutual. Woman has as much to lose as man if it results in failure. And man sets ideals before woman. She must be worthy of him and she gently and to understand is most grateful to him. Thus she develops herself in the direction of his ideals and both are elevated. She may also to some extent transform the environment, if it be no more than the inner circle of the family. The combined effect, even in an individual case, is considerable, and when we remember that in any given community, town, city, state, or country, the majority of men and women pass at least once, sometimes twice or several times, through the phase of life known as being in love, waiting and working for the longed-for day when they are to possess each other, struggling to prepare themselves for each other and for that happy event, we can readily believe that such a stimulus must work great social results. The history of the world is full of great examples, but the volume of achievement thus wrought is made up of thousands, nay, millions of small increments in all lands and all shades and grades of life, building ever higher and broader the coral reef of civilization.

 

REFERENCES

[1] International Journal of Ethics, Vol. VI, July, 1896, p. 453. [click thumbnail]
WARD
[2] “Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Women in Greek Poetry,” by E. F. M. Benecke, London, 1896. “Primitive Love and Love Stories,” by Henry T. Finck, New York, 1899.
[3] “Angola and the River Congo,” by Joachim John Monteiro. In two volumes. London, 1875, Vol. I, pp. 242-243.
[4] “Travels in Southern Africa,” in the years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, by Henry Lichtenstein, English translation, Dublin, 1812, p. 261.
[5] Journals, etc., Vol. II, p. 321.
[6] “Histoire de la Civilisation en France depuis la chute de I’Empire Romain,” par M. Guizot, 3e éd., Vol. III, Paris, 1840, Sixième Leçon, pp. 351-382.
[7] “Histoire générale de Ia Civilisation en Europe depuis la chute de I’Empire Romain,” par M. Guizot, 4e éd., Paris, 1840, Huitième Leçon, pp. 231-257.

About Peter Wright

Peter Wright has been a MHRA for 30 years, a Man Going His Own Way for more than 10 years, and is the creator and publisher of gynocentrism.com

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  • ReyekoMRA

    What he describes as romantic love isn’t what I think when I hear the term.
    He describes mutual selection leading to mutual elevation. I’ve been born and raised in a world where a man ‘selecting’ a woman is called misogyny. Any attempt to have a woman act in any way contrary to her own selfish whims is oppressing her. Thus romantic love becomes not mutual selection but Russian roulette wherein the achievements that women selected men for in the past are simply given to women by the power of the state if she so pleases. Mutual selection can still happen and surely does however the insertion of the ideology of feminism and the power of the state working in accordance with that ideology has led to a norm in which women hold almost all power over sexual matters and we are on the verge of being entirely brought back to female selection or gynclexis.

    • Peter Wright

      Mutual selection can still happen and surely does however the insertion
      of the ideology of feminism and the power of the state working in
      accordance with that ideology has led to a norm in which women hold
      almost all power over sexual matters and we are on the verge of being
      entirely brought back to female selection or gynclexis.

      Agree, the choices belonging to romantic love are now controlled/enforced by the state. But perhaps they always were – think of alimony, breach of promise, failure to consumate, and all the older laws that oversaw romantic relationships.

      So i’d say the author’s claim of ampheclexis is questionable at best….. I’m inclined to agree that relationships for the last 800 years lean partly toward gynclexis, even if some rudimentary form of ampheclexis accompanies it.

      What the author does gets right is that romantic love emerges in Europe in the middle ages, and generally speaking didn’t exist anywhere else before that.

      It’s also interesting to look at what’s happened in the century since the author wrote that article – romantic love (aka gynocentrism) has spread into any remaining areas where id didn’t previously exist such as Japan, China, India, Africa and other places – it is ubiquitous now.

  • TPH

    Romantic love tends to have different meanings based on the context and expereince of the individual. What I see currently is that romantic love tends to be rather chivalrous and materialistic in the sense that it’s the value and worth a man brings to the table in exchange for affections and possibly love. Mutual selection is becoming more of a rarity as men and women thrash about in the continuing re-definition of their respective roles in society.

    What bothers me is that our collective society tends to brand boys and men as saps when they do something romantic, say bring a girl flowers, or take her on a romantic date. Increasingly these events wind up on Youtube or a blog where the target of their affection rages and belittles the boys or mens attempt at romance. It’s a real buzz kill for romance. How many of you younger guys have asked a girl out on a date only to be confronted with one or more of the girl’s girlfriends expecting you to pay the tab for drinks and/or dinner?

    As an example, my older son took his love interest to a very romantic 7 course dinner at a 5 star resteraunt. Later that evening after the date his love interest called him among other things “a cheap and a lame date” on her supposedly secure blog. All that vilification because he refused to order and pay for a $550 bottle of Château Margaux to go with dinner. Somehow the contents of the secured blog was emailed to him anonymously, he ended the relationship soon afterwards. His attempt at romance was relegated to what he would buy, what he would provide to his date.

    • mike gibbs

      Any women who expects dinner to be paid for her is a whore. Just ask Marc Rudov.

      (According to Marc Rudov, author of The Man’s No-Nonsense Guide to Women (ISBN: 0974501719) plenty of men and women are still suffering from indigestion over who picks up the dinner check. He’s done plenty of radio and TV shows around the world on this topic, and he labels as prostitutes, right on the air, all females who feel entitled to be wined & dined).

      If both people have a job. And BOTH people have their individule bills to pay. Who in their right mind ever said that it is the ‘obligation’ for men to pay for everything, everytime??? Is this pushed by women? Of course it is and what a sweet deal they get!

      What, exactly, does the man get out of that deal, besides getting shafted?
      My current girlfriend tried to pull that shit on me (the man pays for everything, everytime) and I instantly told her it would be a deal breaker. She changed her tune because she knew I was serious. We make the same amount of money and have the same amount of bills. I don’t understand how women can be so self serving but what’s worse, why men give in to this extortion???
      I don’t, and never will.

      • TPH

        One word: Poontang.

  • pinetree

    I believe it was Oprah (of all people) who said romantic love is a mental illness. That is why one ‘falls’ in love. I have to agree with her. Romantic love distorts reality and one is able to see the imperfections of the one they fall in love with. The above article eloquently states:

    • Peter Wright

      There’s actually a great book agreeing with your idea. It mentions how fucked up people become when doing romantic love, and he also mentions its origin in the middle ages:

      http://www.franktallis.com/images/LoveSick.gif

    • tdp

      Romantic love is all about wonga, mullah, money. Romantic love means dudes spending stoooooopid amount of money on enslavement …. sorry…. engagement rings. Obscene amounts of money spent on St. Vagentine…. sorry…… Valentine day. Guys take on near bankruptcy levels of debt to buy his…… sorry….. her house.

      Seriously, there is no romance without finance.

  • pinetree

    I cannot agree with the title of the book. I think a clear distinction is important here. Love is not a mental illness — but Romantic love is certainly a mental illness. Natural love – meaning love that is based on reality is what is healthy and needs to be strived for.

  • DukeLax

    As Dr Farrel says….young boys are conditioned to seek love outside of themselves, instead of being conditioned to love themselves for who they are.