Witch Hunts: Historical and Contemporary

The persecution of alleged witches in the medieval and early modern period in Europe and colonial North America has attracted substantial attention, and been the subject of several sensationalized depictions, not least in horror literature and cinema.

The victims of witch-hunts were not always women. Women were sometimes even underrepresented among those victimized. Moreover, once we include other ‘spiritual offences’ such as heresy, apostasy and blasphemy, there is little doubt that males actually represented the overwhelming majority of those persecuted under laws of religious intolerance in medieval and early modern Europe.

Thankfully, however, the burning of witches is a practice that has long previously been consigned to history, at least in the civilized West. Indeed, the last person executed for practicing witchcraft in Europe is said to have been a Swiss woman executed in 1782, over two centuries ago, while the last such execution in North America seems to have occurred almost a century earlier still in 1692.

Nevertheless, the early modern witch hysteria remains something a cause célèbre for contemporary feminists. Even today, some several centuries after the last witch executions occurred, the witch-trials seemingly represent for some feminists both key evidence for, and the quintessential exemplar of, the oppression of women in the West.

On reflection, this is little surprise.

After all, clear cases of unfair discrimination against females, or of female disadvantage, are now all but unknown in the contemporary West, not least because those few (and usually, on closer inspection, rather ambiguous) cases of discrimination against females which were once widespread, have now long previously been done away with, abandoned, or at least declared unlawful, invariably at the behest of feminists themselves. The feminists are, in this sense, victims of their own political successes.

As a result, feminists have been forced, almost of necessity, to look to the distant past in order to furnish themselves with unambiguous examples of discrimination against women.

On closer inspection, however, these unambiguous examples of discrimination against women, even those from the distant past, turn out to be, on closer inspection, rather less unambiguous than the feminist portrayal of them would suggest.

This then brings us to the witch hysteria.

The Scale of the ‘Witch Hysteria

The first thing that must be said regarding the persecution of witches in medieval and early modern Europe and colonial North America is that the whole scale of the phenomenon has been vastly exaggerated – not least by feminists themselves.

Thus, author Lois Martin credits “women’s rights campaigner Matilda Joslyn Gage” as having “first plucked the wildly inaccurate figure of nine million executions out of thin air and created one of the biggest historical misconceptions still in circulation today”.[1]

Yet, like many made-up feminist statistics, this wholly discredited figure remains widely cited to this day, especially among  neo-pagans, feminists and other idiots.

In reality, however, the most creditable recent estimates put the number of killings at less than a hundredth of this figure.

For example, in their text, Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, authors Alan Charles Kors, Edward Peters report that, throughout the entire early modern period, most recent scholarship rarely allows more than a total of 50,000 victims over the entire period.[2]

Interestingly, despite the continued interest of Anglo-American feminists on this topic, witch-trials, and executions, were especially rare in most of the English-speaking world, probably because of the general prohibition on the use of torture in England, though they were relatively much more common in Scotland than in  England.

In short, the outbreaks of witchcraft hysteria which briefly engulfed East Anglia during the English Civil War and colonial Massachusetts during the late-seventeenth century remain infamous to the day in large part precisely because they were so exceptional even then.

Men Persecuting Women?

For feminists, the witch hysteria represents the paradigmatic exemplar of the oppression of women by men.

However, there are two reasons that this analysis cannot withstand scrutiny – namely:

  1. The accusers were not all men; and
  2. The victims were not all women.

In relation to the first point, historian Martin Van Creveld reports, not only were “female rulers… as apt to persecute witches as were male ones”, but “women participated in witch-hunts at least as much as men did” and “most maleficia were directed by women at women”.[3]

This has led Steve Moxon to conclude that “the root of the centuries-long hysteria over the ‘witch’ was the classic phenomenon of ‘female relational aggression’”.[4]

However, this leads us to the second reason that witch-hunts cannot be regarded as a manifestation of the oppression of women, namely that, contrary to both Moxon’s implication and, indeed, to widespread popular perception, the victims of witch-hunts were not always women.

Indeed, sometimes women were even underrepresented among those victimized.

Thus, van Creveld reports, “in the British Isles, men comprised 59 percent of those accused”, while in areas of Switzerland, the figures were as high as eighty percent.[5] Meanwhile, in Italy, clerics seem to have been at greatest risk of being accused of witchcraft, while in Germany prominent men were especially vulnerable,[6] while, from 1500 to 1650, young men were at greatest risk.[7]

Similarly, the current version of the Wikipedia entry for ‘Witch trials in the early modern period’ reports:

In various instances, it was men rather than women who constituted the majority of the accused. For instance, in Iceland 92% of the accused were men, and in Estonia 60% of the accused victims were male, mainly middle-aged or elderly married peasants, and known healers or sorcerers. In the witch trials of Moscow, Russia, two-thirds of those accused were male.”[8]

The same is also said to have been true in France.[9]

Indeed, overall, Martin van Creveld reports, “before 1350, nearly three times as many men as women were tried for witchcraft” and “for Europe as a whole, between 1300 and 1499 the number of accused men is said to have nearly equalled that of accused women”.[10]

Religious Persecution in Context: Heresy, Apostasy, Blasphemy

However, all these figures are potentially misleading, and moreover overestimate the extent of female victimization, for one key reason – namely, they consider allegations of witchcraft wholly in isolation from other forms of religious persecution.

Yet allegations of witchcraft were by no means the only form of religious persecution in evidence during this period of European history, a period which included two Inquisitions, the suppression of various heresies and the respective persecutions of Protestants by Catholics and Catholics by Protestants and of Jews by both Catholics and Protestants in various European countries time and time again.

As historian Martin Van Creveld explains

The problem of witchcraft did not stand on its own. Rather it formed part of a much larger complex of ‘spiritual’ offences that included heresy, apostasy and blasphemy, among others. All were considered to be crimes against God and religion, and all deserved to be punished as harshly as witchcraft. Consequently, witchcraft comprised only a small fraction of the cases brought before the Inquisition. In Venice, the figure amounted to just 20 percent, and the vast majority of those received very light sentences”.[11]

Yet, van Creveld explains, “most of those charged with other spiritual offences were men”.[12] Thus, once other forms of spiritual offence are factored in, including heresyapostasy and blasphemy, there is little doubt that males actually represented the overwhelming majority of those persecuted under laws of religious intolerance in medieval and early modern Europe.

Indeed, van Creveld reports that “women accounted for only 10 percent of all those executed during the period in question”.[13]

Were the ‘Witches’ Guilty?

It might be objected that those who were accused of, say, heretical beliefs, while it was surely wrong to execute them, were at least, in many cases, genuinely guilty of holding what were, at that time, regarded as heretical religious viewpoints. They were therefore guilty of the offence of which they were charged, even if the offence in question ought not to have been a criminal offence in the first place.

In contrast, the accusations made against witches – e.g. sexual relations with the devil, flying on broomsticks, casting spells that caused victims to drop dead or be afflicted with physical symptoms of disease – are obviously preposterous.

However, this leads to the most paradoxical conclusion of my research on this topic – namely that not all the women (and men) accused of witchcraft were necessarily wholly innocent of the charge.

After all, many victims of witch trials seem to have been employed and made a living as traditional healers, wise women or cunning folk, being employed by the local community for such purposes as casting spells, combating the spells cast by others, healing the sick etc., a job which rendered them vulnerable to witchcraft allegations, the risk of which seemingly represented an occupational hazard that went with the work.

Given that they provided such services, they must have been either:

  1. Charlatans, deliberately exploiting and profiting by exploiting the gullibility, ignorance and superstition of those who employed their services; or
  2. Themselves, like their customers and accusers, genuinely convinced of the efficacy of their spells and of the reality of the supernatural forces they were regarded as capable of invoking.

In either case, they were, in some sense, not entirely innocent.

If such people were charlatans, they were, of course, guilty of fraud, or of obtaining property by deception, in exploiting the superstitions of those who employed their services for their own financial benefit.

If, on the other hand, they were, like those who employed their services, genuinely convinced of the efficacy of their spells, potions and incantations, then they clearly had the exact same malevolent intent (i.e. mens rea, an essential component for most forms of criminal liability) as if these spells and incantation did indeed have the effect which the ‘witches’ themselves believed they had.

We might then say then that they were guilty of an ‘inchoate offence’ of, if you like, ‘attempted witchcraft’.

If this seems implausible to modern readers, remember that, at this time in history, society at large apparently believed in the reality of the supernatural powers which witches were accused of invoking, including both those who used the services of so-called ‘cunning folk’, and often paid to do so, and, of course, those who persecuted, tortured, extracted bizarre confessions from and executed the alleged ‘witches’ for supposedly invoking such forces.

Is it then any greater stretch of the imagination to believe that the accused ‘witches’ themselves sometimes also genuinely believed in the reality of their occult powers and sought to use them for nefarious ends, or that many accused witches may even have secretly self-identified as witches?

Another Case of Discrimination Against Men in the Criminal Justice System?

We have seen then that the phenomenon of medieval and early modern witch hunting cannot be viewed as a manifestation of the oppression of women by men.

On the contrary, not only did many women participate wholeheartedly in the persecutions, but many of those persecuted were actually male, and, moreover, once other forms of religious persecution are factored in (heresy, apostasy etc.), males represented the overwhelmingly majority of those who were victims of unjust religious persecution.

On reflection, this is little surprise.

After all, to this day, it is men who represent the overwhelming majority of those who come before the courts and are sentenced to a range of criminal penalties and, moreover, women who receive more lenient treatment by the courts when they do find themselves in this situation.

A huge number of studies have found that female defendants are sentenced more leniently than male offenders, even after controlling for such factors as the severity of their offence as well as the extent of their prior criminal record.[14]

For example, in the most recent and rigorous such study of which I am aware, Sonja Starr found that, even after controlling for prior criminal history, convicted women are only half as likely to receive custodial sentences (i.e. jail time) as men convicted of the same offences, and, even when they are sentenced to incarceration, receive, on average, 60% shorter sentences.[15]

Men are also more likely to be executed than women guilty of offences of comparable severity.[16]

Thus, if men are treated more harshly and unfairly than women before the criminal courts, and the family courts,[17] to this day, it is little surprise that the same was true also before the ecclesiastical courts, lynch mobs and Inquisitions of ages past.

In short, women are always treated better than men, especially by men themselves, for the simple reason that men are naturally protective and chivalrous towards women.

This then perhaps explains the continued feminist fixation on witch-hunts that occurred many centuries ago. As historian Martin Van Creveld explains:

The witch-hunting episode… is perhaps the only time in history when more women than men were charged with a serious crime and executed for it.[18]

Contemporary Witch-Hunts in the ‘Developing’ World

I began this post by observing that, bereft of genuine examples of unfair discrimination against women in contemporary western societies, feminists have been forced, of necessity, to look to the distant past in order to furnish themselves with unambiguous examples of discrimination against women, examples which, as we have seen, turn out, on closer inspection, to be rather less unambiguous than the feminists themselves suppose and suggest.

However, this begs the question: Is the phenomenon of witch-hunting wholly confined to history, or does it continue, in any sense, in the contemporary world?

The answer is an unambiguous ‘Yes’.

In the first place, witch-hunts, in the literal sense, continue in the so-called ‘developing world’. Again, here the victims seem to be of both sexes. For example, Gendercide Watch reports that in Kenya the witch-hunts appear predominantly to target males, while, similarly, a trend of predominantly male victimization may also be evident in West Africa, where a bizarre wave of accusations of ‘penis-snatching’ has come to light, whereas in Tanzania and Zimbabwe the gender of the victims may be more even.

In short, in the contemporary ‘developing world’, as in early modern and medieval Europe, both sexes could become victim to witchcraft allegations.

Metaphoric ‘Witch-Hunts’ in the ‘Developed’ World

What then of the ostensibly civilized and secular so-called ‘developed world’, where religious superstition and bigotry is, supposedly, meant to be a thing of the past?

Here, while witch-hunts in the literal sense may, thankfully, now be a thing of the distant past, ‘witch-hunts’ in the metaphoric sense remain very much a contemporary phenomenon.

Of course, perhaps the most notorious twentieth century metaphoric ‘witch-hunts’ were the McCarthyist Second Red Scare, when individuals were accused, and denied employment on the basis of, allegations of communist sympathies. The analogy between the two forms of oppression was, of course, made explicit by Arthur Miller‘s famous play ‘The Crucible’.

However, undoubtedly the greatest ‘witch-hunts’ of the twentieth centuries were not conducted in the name of rooting out or persecuting communists, but rather in the name of communism itself, such as the Stalinist purges and the Chinese ‘Cultural Revolution’.

These were not only conducted on a far greater scale than the McCarthy hearings, but also the consequences for victims were far greater, the latter often losing, not only their jobs and perhaps reputations, but also often their very lives.

For example, Wikipedia reports that According to the declassified Soviet archives, during 1937 and 1938, the NKVD detained 1,548,366 persons, of whom 681,692 were shot – an average of 1,000 executions a day, but that Several experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete, or unreliable.

Similarly, the Wikipedia entry on the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in Maoist China reports that Estimates of the death toll, including civilians and Red Guards, vary greatly… [and] range upwards to several millions, with some reputable estimates putting the death toll as high as five to ten million.

The victims also seem to have been overwhelmingly disproportionately male.

For example, Robert Conquest, in perhaps the most celebrated and authoritative work on the Stalinist purges, points to census data showing an exceptionally imbalanced sex-ratios (even taking into account war deaths) in the population at large in certain age groups as evidencing the gendered impact of the purges.[19]

Thus, Conquest concludes:

Many women died as a result of… the purges. But… the great bulk of the victims was certainly male.[20]

Drawing on this and other data, the website Gendercide Watch tentatively estimates that, of the almost ten million Soviet citizens who perished in the purges, 98% were male.

Metaphoric ‘Witch-Hunts’ in the Contemporary West

Narrowing our focus yet further, what then of the contemporary West?

Witch-hunts’ certainly occurred – indeed, occurred on a greater and bloodier scale than ever – in the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc during the twentieth century, did they also occur in the Eastern bloc’s Cold War era competitors, namely the capitalist liberal democracies of Europe, North America, Australia New Zealand etc. (i.e. states populated primarily by the descendants of white Europeans)?

Of course, as already alluded to, the most familiar example of twentieth century metaphoric ‘witch-hunting’ occurred in that most western of countries, namely the USA, in the form of the Second Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings.

Yet, ironically, it is often the self-same individuals who complain loudest about the alleged persecution of communists in the McCarthy era who are themselves engaged in analogous forms of persecution in the present day, namely the left and self-styled ‘liberals’.

Many journalists, public figures, political commentators, activists, scientists, academics and ordinary people have faced ‘blacklisting’ in recent years, and often faced censure and the sack, or been obliged to issue grovelling and embarrassing apologies, as a result of voicing politically incorrect opinions with respect to such issues such as race differences, gender differences, intelligence, underage sexual activity and Jewish influence in the media and over American foreign policy.

Thus, as I have written elsewhere:

While commentators, documentary filmmakers and other professional damned fools never tire of condemning, without fear of reprisals, a form of McCarthyist witch-hunt (i.e. anti-communism) that died away over half a century ago, few dare challenge the Modern McCarthyism that operates right here in our midst, namely political correctness.

Indeed, conservative author David Horowitz asserts, the era of the progressive witch-hunt has been far worse in its consequences to individuals and freedom of expression than was the McCarthy era, and that unlike the McCarthy era witch-hunt, which lasted only a few years, the one enforced by left-wing ‘progressives’ is now entering its third decade and shows no signs of abating.[21]

Indeed, far from McCarthyist witch-hunting representing a relic of the past, recent developments in social media have been accused of facilitating the process and apparently made recreational witch-hunting and public shaming a popular pastime for many social media users that can be engaged in from the safety and comfort of your own living room with the aid of a laptop or smartphone.

Feminist ‘Witch-Hunts’

Feminists themselves have, of course, been at the forefront of this modern McCarthyism.

In short, it seems feminists have all too readily moved from whinging about witch-hunts in ages long past, to leading witch-hunts all of their very own, torch and pitchfork proudly in hand.

In short, at the same time as they complain loudly and incessantly about witch-hunts that ceased several centuries ago, feminists have begun leading witch-hunts all of their very own.

Admittedly, nobody yet has been burnt at the stake.

Indeed, sociologist Steven Goldberg, himself a prominent dissident vis a vis the feminist orthodoxy, has been quoted as observing:

“[These days] all one has to lose by unpopular arguments is contact with people one would not be terribly attracted to anyway”.[22]

However, Goldberg underestimates, not only the psychological consequences of social ostracism, but also the magnitude of the persecution to which some feminists will resort.

True, no one, as yet, has been burnt at the stake. However, but many individuals have been the victims of violent threats and intimidation, physical assaults, and, as in the McCarthy Era, lost their jobs.

For example, Erin Pizzey discovered to her cost that her impeccable credentials as the founder of the world’s first refuge/shelter for so-called ‘battered women’ did not protect her from a campaign of violent intimidation involving murder and bomb threats and ultimately culminating in the shooting of her pet dog on Christmas Day when she made the candid admission that many of the women who entered her shelter were as prone to violence as the men from whom they were ostensibly escaping.[23]

Meanwhile, a similar fate befell academic researcher Suzanne Steinmetz for publishing some of the first hard data conclusively confirming Pizzey’s anecdotal observations,[24] namely that women are as liable to perpetrate acts of ‘domestic violence’ against their male intimate partners as men are against their female intimate partners, a finding now confirmed by literally hundreds of studies,[25] such that it has been described as “one of the most emphatic in all of social science”.[26]

Steinmetz, like Pizzey, was the victim of death and bomb threats and of attempts to disrupt her speaking engagements with terrorist threats.[27]

Meanwhile, another prominent female critic of mainstream feminism, Camille Paglia, reports that she receives so many death threats, her answering machine announces that she doesn’t personally open packages sent to her.[28]

Meanwhile, author and journalist Neil Lyndon reports that he was hounded out of his job as a journalist, physically threatened for authoring a series of articles and a book critical of feminism.[29]

As in the age of ‘Modern McCarthism’, other individuals have lost their jobs, including Harvard President Lawrence Summers and, most recently, Google employee James Damore, both for suggesting that innate differences in personality, preferences and cognitive ability might have something to do with women’s underrepresentation in certain specialized and technical fields, an imminently defensible position compatible with much biological evidence.

Concluding Thoughts

In short, it seems feminists have all too readily moved from whinging about witch-hunts in ages long past, to leading witch-hunts all of their very own, torch and pitchfork proudly in hand.

In conclusion, then, I would suggest that feminists concerned with the plight of the victims of witch-hunts ought perhaps to turn their attention away from the distant past and to look a little closer to home in order to find victims worthy of their sympathy.


[1] Martin L A History of Witchcraft (Oldcastle Books, 2009): p123.

[2] Kors, AC & Peters, E Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History (University of Pennsylvania Press; 2nd edition, 2001): p17.

[3] Van Creveld, M The Privileged Sex (DLVC Enterprises, 2013): p11.

[4] Moxon The Woman Racket (Imprint Academic 2008): p92

[5] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p14.

[6] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p10.

[7] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p14.

[8] This quotation is taken directly from the current version of the Wikipedia page on Witch Trials in the early modern period. The main source cited by the Wikipedia article is Scarre and Callow’s Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Europe (second edition) (Basingstoke: Palgrave 2001), which I have not consulted directly.

[9] This claim is made by Kors & Peters in Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History. However, the authors also inaccurately claim that France was “the one exception” in Europe which “shows more males than females executed” (p17). However, as we have seen from a preponderance of other reliable sources, this claim is not true.

[10] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p13.

[11] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p13.

[12] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p13.

[13] Van Creveld, The Privileged Sex: p13.

[14] Hedderman & Hough (1994) Does the Criminal Justice System Treat Men and Women Differently Home Office, UK; Daly K, Bordt, RL (1995) Sex effects and sentencing: An analysis of the statistical literature Justice Quarterly 12(1); ; Shapiro, A (2000) Unequal Before the Law: Men, Women and the Death Penalty American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 8(2): 427-470; Spohn, C  and Beichner, D (2000) Is Preferential Treatment of Female Offenders a Thing of the Past? A Multisite Study of Gender, Race, and ImprisonmentCriminal Justice Policy Review, 11(2): 149-184; Mustard DB (2001) Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal CourtsSocial Science Research Network XLIV: 285-314; Streib VL (2001) Sentencing Women to Death Criminal Justice Magazine 16(1); Streib V (2002) Gendering the Death Penalty: Countering Sex Bias in a Masculine Sanctuary, 63 Ohio State Law Journal 433; Jeffries, S, Fletcher, GJO & Newbol, G (2003) Pathways to Sex-Based Differentiation in Criminal Court Sentencing Criminology 41(2): 329–354; Curry, TR, Lee G and Rodriguez, SF (2004) Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing OutcomesCrime & Delinquency 50(3): 319-343; Rodriguez, SF, Curry, TR, & Lee G (2006) Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property, and Drug Offenses? Social Science Quarterly 87(2): 318; Streib V (2006) Rare and Inconsistent: The Death Penalty for Women, 33 Fordham Urban Law Journal 609; Blackwell BS, Holleran D & Finn MA (2008) The Impact of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines on Sex Differences in Sentencing Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 24(4): 399-418; Embry R & Lyons P (2012) Sex-Based Sentencing: Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex OffendersFeminist Criminology 7(2):146–162; Starr, SB, Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal CasesUniversity of Michigan Law and Economics Research Paper, No. 12-018 (August 29, 2012).

[15] Starr, SB, Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal CasesUniversity of Michigan Law and Economics Research Paper, No. 12-018 (August 29, 2012).

[16] Shapiro, A (2000) Unequal Before the Law: Men, Women and the Death Penalty American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 8(2): 427-470; Streib VL (2001) Sentencing Women to Death Criminal Justice Magazine 16(1); Streib V (2002) Gendering the Death Penalty: Countering Sex Bias in a Masculine Sanctuary, 63 Ohio State Law Journal 433; Streib V (2006) Rare and Inconsistent: The Death Penalty for Women, 33 Fordham Urban Law Journal 609.

[17] In The Second Sexism, David Benatar reports “in the United States, fathers gain sole custody of children in about 10% of cases and women in nearly three-quarters” and “in cases of conflicting requests for physical custody, mothers requests for custody were granted twice as often as fathers”, while “in 90% of cases where there was an uncontested request for maternal physical custody of the children the mother was awarded this custody”, whereas this was granted “in only 75% of cases in which there was an uncontested request for paternal physical custody” (p50). Although the Supreme Court declared in 1979 that discrimination against men in custody disputes was unconstitutional, the courts and legislatures easily evaded this proscription by favouring instead the so-called ‘primary caregiver’ (The Privileged Sex: p177), a clear case of indirect discrimination, given that ‘primary caregivers’ are overwhelmingly female.

[18] Van Creveld The Privileged Sex: p152.

[19] Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1968): pp711-12; quoted in Case Study: Stalin’s Purges at GenocideWatch.org.

[20] Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties: p711; quoted in Case Study: Stalin’s Purges at GenocideWatch.org.

[21] Horowitz, The Era of Progressive Witch-Hunts, from Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey (Spence Publishing, 2003).

[22] Goldberg, Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences (Humanity Books, 2003): p222.

[23] Pizzey, E (1999) Who’s Failing the FamilyThe Scotsman (30 March).

[24] Steinmetz, SK. (1977-8) Battered Husband Syndrome Victimology 2: 499.

[25] For a regularly updated database of such studies, see Fiebert, M References examining assaults by women on their spouses or male partners: an annotated bibliography (an earlier version was published in Sexuality and Culture (2010) 14 (1), 49-91); see also Archer, J (2000) ‘Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: a meta-analytic review’ Psychological Bulletin 126(5):651-80; and James, TB Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren’t Supposed to Know (Aventine Press, 2003).

[26] Quotation from The Woman Racket at p145

[27] Quotation from The Woman Racket at p145; see preceding notes for reviews of the studies confirming this claim.

[28] Farrell, W Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say (Penguin 2000): p217; relevant exert available here.

[29] Lyndon, N (2000) Return of the Heretic Sunday Times.

The Misogyny Myth

Misogyny is a myth. It does not exist.

Like certain other words or phrases (e.g. ‘Santa Claus’, ‘dragon’, ‘god’, ‘unicorn’, ‘male dominated society’, ‘patriarchal society’ – but not, incidentally, rape culture), it refers to an entirely imaginary phenomenon.

But, unlike with some of these other words, people do not seem to realise the word ‘misogyny’ refers to a wholly imaginary phenomenon. Therefore, the word ‘misogyny’ is, I contend, like certain other words and concepts (e.g. ‘patriarchal society’, ‘affirmative action’, ‘comparative worth’) best banished from the English language altogether.

Men in General Do Not Hate Women

Misogyny refers, ostensibly at least, to the supposed hatred of women.

That is, to repeat, hatred. Not a mere tendency to patronise, or a superior condescending attitude, or a tendency to stereotype – but outright hatred.

Yet men do not hate women.

Indeed, far from hating women, most men spend a large part of their lives doing everything they can to attract women, spend copious monies courting women, and sometimes attempt to mould their entire personalities simply so as to win the favour and approval of women. They then, as often as not, spend the remainder of their lives doing everything they can to provide for and financially support their wife and children.

Neither can men’s love for women be dismissed merely as reflecting the ulterior motive of sexual conquest. On the contrary, men are chivalrous and protective even towards women whom they have no chance of ever copulating with and are expected to open doors for ‘little old ladies’ just as much as for pert-breasted nineteen-year-olds, perhaps more so.

Thus, studies find that men are more likely to stop and help women on the street or in public than they are to help men in equivalent circumstances (as are women).[1]

Indeed, even psychological studies in the laboratory find that men as well as women associate positive attributes with women as a group more readily and to a greater degree than they associate positive attributes with men as a group.[2] Indeed, this finding, known as the ‘women are wonderful effect, is so consistent, widespread and robust that it even has a Wikipedia page of its own.

In addition, men are less likely to behave violently towards women than they are towards men in similar circumstances. For example, in laboratory experiments, male subjects are less willing to inflict electric shocks towards female subjects, even in circumstances where they show no compunctions towards doing so towards male subjects.[3]

Finally, men as well as women perceive violent acts committed by men and against women as more serious and culpable in nature than acts of violence committed by women against men.[4]

This perception is reflected in the fact that the (predominantly male) judiciary, on average, not only sentences male offenders more severely than female offenders guilty of equivalent crimes,[5] but also sentences violent offenders of either sex more severely when they victimize females than when they victimize males,[6] with male offenders who victimize females treated most severely of all victim-offender dyads and female offenders who victimize males treated most leniently.[7]

It is also reflected in the fact that mainstream media, activists, and politicians from across the political spectrum focus on the perceived issue of ‘violence against women’, rather than, say, ‘violence against people’ or even ‘violence against men’,[8] despite the fact that it is, in fact, men, not women, who are overwhelmingly overrepresented among the victims of violent crime,[9] as well as among the casualties in warfare[10] and genocide.[11]

In short, men’s problem is not that they hate women, but rather that they love women all too much, a love which renders them vulnerable to exploitation on an unimaginable scale and which most women are all too eager to exploit to the fullest.

Do Any Men Hate Women?

Yet, despite this overwhelming evidence, the word ‘misogyny’, not only remains in our everyday vocabulary, but seems to be invoked and employed ever more frequently over recent decades. Indeed, in coverage the recent Trump presidential campaign, the concept seemed to be invoked on a literally daily, if not hourly, basis.

Yet clearly Trump does not hate women. On the contrary, he has been foolish enough to marry several of them, and, in the process, been deprived of substantial proportions of his fortunes in the ensuing marriages and divorce settlements.

This then begs the question: Do any men truly hate women?

To answer this question, I must first acknowledge that, in saying that misogyny is a myth, I cannot, of course, rule out the possibility that some man, somewhere in the world, or at some time in history, has indeed hated women.

To do so would be obviously impossible. After all, the world is a big place, human history is a long time, and it is notoriously difficult to prove a negative in such cases, since, as a famous aphorism has it, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’.

However, such a man, if he exists, or ever has done, would clearly be highly abnormal.

Indeed, even such highly abnormal and exceptional males as serial killers and repeat rapists rarely, if ever, seem to qualify as true ‘misogynists’.

With regard to rapists, contrary to the prevailing feminist orthodoxy, I subscribe to the unfashionable common-sense theory that the vast majority of rapists are motivated primarily by sexual desire, rather than by hatred, a desire for dominance or to perpetuate patriarchy or other such doubtful postulated motivations proposed by feminists but unlikely, by themselves, to stimulate the sort of erection necessary for most forms of rape.

Meanwhile, serial killers, seem to have a variety of motivations for their crimes, ranging from perverted sexual desire to an equally perverse craving for infamy. However, I have yet to read an account of a single serial killer, even among those who targeted women exclusively and indiscriminately, who seemed to be motivated by a generalized hatred for women as a whole.

So, in conclusion, the genuinely woman-hating man may well exist somewhere in the world or at some time in history, just as Yeti, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster may be hiding somewhere in the Himalayas, North America or the Loch Ness. However, I have yet to be presented with convincing evidence that he is anything other than a figment of the fertile feminist imagination.

Chauvinism’ ≠ Misogyny

My conclusion is therefore restricted to the following: Men in general do not hate women and neither do significant numbers of men. This includes, incidentally, men who are ‘sexist’ and ‘chauvinistic’, in the feminist senses of these much overused words.

Of course, men are sometimes patronising and condescending towards women, and sometimes seem to believe that women are inferior to males.

However, neither of these attitudes amounts to a hatred to women.

To explain why, let us look at the analogy of people’s attitudes to children.

After all, adults (both men and women) are surely similarly patronising and condescending towards children. Moreover, they surely both hold the belief that children are, in general, inferior to adults in various ways, both mental and physical, as indeed they are.

However, this would surely not lead us to the conclusion that adults therefore hate children. On the contrary, adults are usually especially affectionate and protective towards children. Moreover, they are generally more forgiving of children, when the latter misbehave, than they would be of similar behaviour on the part of an adult.

Indeed, part of the reason why adults are so protective of, and forgiving towards, children is precisely because the latter are perceived as weaker and hence inferior. This is why we believe that they are in need of special protections, and deserving of greater tolerance and forgiveness.

The same is true, I contend, of the privileges and protections afforded women.

I therefore contend that the traditional attitude of men towards women is directly analogous to that of adults towards children.

Indeed, since women are, like children, smaller than men, have, again like children, higher pitched voices than men and even have more neotenous (i.e. childlike) facial features, I suspect that, due to these superficial similarities, men may, at some psychological level, conscious or not, perceive women as more childlike, and hence more deserving of protection, than are men.[12] Moreover, since women remain primarily responsible for the care of children, especially young children, they are often seen in the company of one another, which may further contribute to men’s tendency to class women and children together.

Therefore, whereas feminists have sought to viewed ‘male supremacism’ as analogous to ‘racial supremacism’, the two cases are fundamentally different, and the better analogy is with the attitude of adults towards children (‘age supremacism’ or ‘adult supremacism’, if you like). Whereas ideologies of ‘racial supremacism’ have typically been used to justify the oppression and enslavement of the group deemed inferior, notions of the inferiority of women and children have been used to justify according the latter with special privileges and protections on account of, or in order to compensate for, their perceived weakness and inferiority.

So, yes, men do indeed often regard women as inferior to men – just as they regard adults as superior to children. However, far from being used to justify the oppression of women, male supremacism is used, in fact, to justify according special privileges and protections to women precisely on account of their perceived weaknesses.

Thus, on this ‘male supremacist’ view, because men are stronger and braver (i.e. superior), only men are conscripted into the armed forces in wartime; while women, being weaker and less able to protect and provide for themselves (i.e. inferior), must be protected, provisioned and provided for by their husbands.

On this view, being biologically inferior looks like quite a good deal!

The Best of Both Worlds

However, this analogy between society’s treatment of children and of women can only be taken so far.

In some respects, women are indeed treated like children. In other circumstances, however, they have loudly demanded, and promptly received, the rights formerly reserved for adult males, albeit without assuming any of the accompanying responsibilities and duties that traditionally went alongside these rights.

For example, in many respects, women retain the protections accorded children, but denied to men when the latter reach maturity, for the entirety of their lives. For example, on board the Titanic and Birkenhead and elsewhere, it was not just children, but women and children who were allowed on board the lifeboats first.

Likewise, during wartime, women retain for their whole lifetimes the protected status of children. Thus, adult men alone are eligible for the draft from age eighteen onwards. However, the targeting of so-called ‘innocent women and children’ remains the quintessential ‘war-crime’.

Yet this did not prevent women from demanding the vote, a demand promptly and readily acceded to, in both Britain and America, ironically, in the immediate aftermath of the First World War.

However, as military historian Martin Van Creveld observes:

In the Western world since the French Revolution the right to vote was often a direct consequence of, or at any rate went together with, conscription. But women were able to obtain the former without being subjected to the latter; for them to be put on an equal footing with men would have meant an end to their greatest privilege”.[13]

Thus, as women metaphorically ‘fought’ for the right to vote, men literally fought, and often died, in the trenches of the Somme, Ypres, Gallipoli and Verdun.

Likewise, nowadays, women, even married women, famously have the right to work in any career they choose and earn money in their own right.[14] However, they have not given up on their claim to maintenance from their husbands should they choose not to work, a choice denied, of course, to their husbands.

In short, women now have the best of both worlds – the protections and privileges of children, the rights of adult men with none of the responsibilities, plus a freedom all of their very own.

Thus, the clarion call of feminist agitation has ever been ‘Equality, Equality, Equality – But Only When It Suits Us!’

Is Misandry a Myth Too?

What then of misogyny’s evil twin sister and anti-male equivalent – ‘misandry’. This word, referring to the hatred of men, is far less well-known, and less widely invoked than its female equivalent. It has, however, recently been somewhat popularised among self-styled ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ and others sympathetic to their views.

However, is the emotion to which it refers any more real or prevalent than that referred to by the word ‘misogyny’?

Certainly among the fringe of so-called ‘radical feminists’ the phenomenon of hating males seems to be rampant, if not universal, at least if one takes them at their word. Moreover, a less visceral, but no less obvious, misandry seems to pervade the writings and statements of feminists in general, even the ostensible ‘moderate feminists’ among their ranks.

Thus, in feminist literature, men are routinely blamed for warfare, rape, violent crime, pollution and environmental damage. Yet rarely if ever are they given credit for producing science, technology, roads, bridges, sewage systems, modern medicine and all the essentials of civilization. Neither is it acknowledged that, if men are indeed, primarily responsible for war and violent crime, they also have the misfortune of being its primary victims.

Yet, for all their bluster and self-conscious pseudo-iconoclastic radicalism, I cannot bring myself to believe that women in general, or even feminists, truly hate men. It is, I suspect, all something of an act. Rather like an adolescent temper tantrum calculated to extort a greater amount of pocket-money.

Women do not hate men – because women cannot afford to hate men. Because women remain, at the end of the day, almost wholly dependent on men for both their comfort and indeed their very survival.

Women live in houses and apartment blocks built exclusively by men. They depend on clean water systems built and maintained almost exclusively by men, on sewage systems likewise built and maintained almost exclusively by men, and on technologies invented almost exclusively by men.

In short, as Fred Reed put it, “Without men, civilization would last… until the oil needs changing”.

Add to this the fact that most married women, or women with dependent children (and many other women besides), are, in one way or another, financially supported by men, whether by their husbands, ex-husbands or simply by the (predominantly male) taxpayer via the welfare system, and it soon becomes clear that women simply cannot afford to hate men, let alone do without them. On the contrary, they must continue appealing to men’s misguided chivalry, by playing the role of the ‘oppressed woman’, or ‘damsel in distress’.

Just as a slave-master cannot afford to hate his slaves, because he is dependent on them for their work and his livelihood, and a parasite cannot afford to hate its host, because, without its host, it too would perish, so, for all their moronic misandrist bluster, women simply cannot afford to truly hate men because, at the end of the day, there are dependent on men for their comfort, their prosperity, and their very survival. They simply know of no other way to live.



[1] Eagly, AH. & Crowley, M (1986) Gender and Helping Behavior. A Meta-Analytic Review of the Social Psychological LiteraturePsychological Bulletin 100(3):283-308

[2] Eagly, AH & Mladinic, A (1989). Gender Stereotypes and Attitudes Toward Women and Men Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 15: 543–58; Eagly, AH, Mladinic, A, & Otto, S (1991). Are women evaluated more favorably than men? An analysis of attitudes, beliefs and emotions Psychology of Women Quarterly. 15 (2): 203–16; Rudman, LA & Goodwin, SA. (2004). Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: Why do women like women more than they like men? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 87 (4): 494–509.

[3] See studies cited in Felson, RB 2000 The Normative Protection of Women from Violence Sociological Forum 15(1): 91-116

[4] Arias, I., & Johnson, P. (1989). Evaluations of Physical Aggression Among Intimate DyadsJournal of Interpersonal Violence, 4, 298−307; Harris, M.B. (1991) Effects of Sex of Aggressor, Sex of Target, and Relationship on Evaluations of Physical Aggression Journal of Interpersonal Violence 6(2): 174–186; Greenblat, C. S. (1983). ‘A hit is a hit is a hit. Or is it? Approval and tolerance of the use of physical force by spouses’. In D. Finkelhor, R. J. Gelles, G. T. Hotaling, & M. A. Straus (Eds.), The dark side of families (pp. 235-260). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage; Feather NT (1996) Domestic Violence, Gender and Perceptions of Justice Sex Roles 35(7): 507-519; Felson RB (2009) When a man hits a woman: Moral evaluations and reporting violence to police Aggressive Behavior 35(6): 477-488.

[5] Daly K, Bordt, RL (1995) Sex effects and sentencing: An analysis of the statistical literature Justice Quarterly 12(1); Spohn, C  and Beichner, D (2000) Is Preferential Treatment of Female Offenders a Thing of the Past? A Multisite Study of Gender, Race, and ImprisonmentCriminal Justice Policy Review, 11(2): 149-184; Shapiro, A (2000) Unequal Before the Law: Men, Women and the Death Penalty American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 8(2): 427-470; Mustard DB (2001) Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal CourtsSocial Science Research Network XLIV:285-314; Streib VL (2001) ‘Sentencing Women to Death‘ Criminal Justice Magazine 16(1); Streib V (2006) Rare and Inconsistent: The Death Penalty for Women, 33 Fordham Urban Law Journal 609; Streib V (2002) Gendering the Death Penalty: Countering Sex Bias in a Masculine Sanctuary, 63 Ohio State Law Journal 433; Curry, TR, Lee G and Rodriguez, SF (2004) Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing OutcomesCrime & Delinquency 50(3): 319-343; Rodriguez, SF, Curry, TR, & Lee G (2006) Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property,and Drug Offenses? Social Science Quarterly 87(2): 318; Blackwell BS, Holleran D & Finn MA (2008) The Impact of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines on Sex Differences in Sentencing Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 24(4): 399-418; Embry R & Lyons P (2012) Sex-Based Sentencing: Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex OffendersFeminist Criminology 7(2):146–162;   Starr, SB, (2012) Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases. University of Michigan Law and Economics Research Paper, No. 12-018 (August 29, 2012).

[6] Beaulieu & Messner, Race, Gender, and Outcomes in First Degree Murder Cases Justice Quarterly (1999) 3(1): 47-68; Curry, Lee & Rodriguez  Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing OutcomesCrime & Delinquency, (2004) 50(3):319-343; Williams & Holcomb, The Interactive Effects of Victim Race and Gender on Death Sentence Disparity Findings (2004) Homicide Studies 8(4):350-376; Curry, The conditional effects of victim and offender ethnicity and victim gender on sentences for non-capital cases Punishment & Society (2010) 12(4):438-462.

[7] Curry, Lee & Rodriguez  Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing OutcomesCrime & Delinquency, (2004) 50(3):319-343.

[8] If you doubt this focus, then just try searching for the phrases “violence against women”, “violence against men” and “violence against people” in pretty much any search engine, library database, media/newspaper/magazine archive on the internet and compare number of ‘hits’ you get.

[9] In the US, men are almost twice as likely to report being the victim of violent crime and the more violent the crime, the more likely men are to be the victim (Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren’t Supposed to Know at p11). Likewise, in the UK, men are about three times as likely to be victims of violent crime [see The Retreat of Reason (reviewed here): p49]. In their comprehensive global survey of the correlates of crime, criminologists Anthony Walsh and Lee Ellis report that “except for rape, where essentially all victims are female [sic], males have substantially higher victimization rates than do females” and “even with rapes included in calculating an overall victimization rate, males run a considerably greater risk of being victimized by violent crime than do females” (Criminology: A Global Perspective: p128). Indeed, some evidence even suggests that, at least in the USA, men may even be overrepresented among rape victims – largely due to the epidemic levels of rape in the US’s overwhelmingly male prison population. However, given the high level of underreporting (and false reporting) of violent crime (especially rape), the most reliable data is likely to be for homicide, which is least likely to be either undetected or falsely reported. In the UK in 2010-11, over two thirds (68%) of homicide victims were male, according to government statistics (Osborne, S. (2012) ‘Homicide’ in K. Smith et al (eds), Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2008/09: supplementary volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2010/11 Home Office Statistical Bulletin 01/10: at p19). ). Similarly, in the USA, between 1980 and 2008, men were three times as likely to be the victim of homicide as were women (Cooper A & Smith EL (2011) Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2011, NCJ 236018: at p3). Internationally, according to a comprehensive worldwide epidemiological survey in the mid-90s, men represented 78% of violent deaths, excluding those resulting from war (see Murray, C.J.L. and Lopez, A.D. 1996. The global burden of disease: A comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from diseases, injuries and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020. Cambridge, Harvard University Press; Murray, C.J.L. and Lopez, A.D. 1996. Global health statistics: a compendium of incidence, prevalence and mortality estimates for over 200 conditions. Cambridge: Harvard University Press: as cited by Joshua Goldstein in War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa: p400).

[10] According to data cited by Joshua Goldstein, adult men represent 58% of fatalities from war across the world – despite the fact that, once children are factored in, men represent a small minority of the population as a whole (War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa: p400).

[11] Adam Jones (2000) ‘Gendercide and Genocide’ Journal of Genocide Research 2:2:185-211.

[12] This was certainly true of Schopenhauer, who described women as big children all their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who is a man in the strict sense of the word (On Women, 1851). While this observation is often attributed to Schopenhauer’s alleged ‘misogyny’, the great pessimist may, in fact, have grasped one of the key reasons why, far from hating women, men are actually naturally protective and chivalrous towards them.

[13] Van Creveld, M (2002) Men Women and War: Do Women Belong in the Front Line? (reviewed here): at p210.

[14] In fact, the notion that women formerly ‘lacked property rights’, as is commonly asserted, represents a misunderstanding of the legal doctrine of so-called coverture, whereby the legal personalities of man and wife were subsumed after marriage. In fact, this principle only ever applied to married women, not women in general. Moreover, on balance, married women benefited from this legal fiction, since it meant husbands were legally liable for debts and fines incurred by their wives and sometimes even punished for crimes committed by their wives. In addition, women were, of course, legally obliged to provide for their wives.