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This post is for adults only.

It is also not recommended for those of a sensitive nature.

What follows is the beginning of a historical study into the treatment of children and women from ancient times until the 20th century.

Lloyd deMause (pronouced ‘de-Moss’) is an American social thinker who specialises in psychohistory — uncovering the whys and wherefores of our behaviour over millenia.

De Mause leaves no society or civilisation unturned in his book, The Origins of War in Child Abuse. Although it focusses on children, you will also read men’s thoughts on women.

Be prepared for a shock.

I shall go into deMause’s ‘psychohistory’ — as he calls it — in another post. For now, here is a set of historical quotes and citations from the beginning of recorded history on men’s relationship with women and children.

I shall be censoring as appropriate for my audience and excluding the worst descriptions.  Emphases are mine. Chapter sources are given at the end.

Ancient Egypt

“The family in Egypt was matriarchal. The most important person in the family was not the father, but the mother. The Egyptian wife was called the ‘Ruler of the House.’” (Evelyn Reed, Woman’s Evolution: From Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family. New York: Pathfinder, 1974, p. 438)

When babies cried a lot because they were starving, they were given beer, wine, liquor or even opium to quiet them; as one Egyptian papyrus tells parents about opium for infants: “It acts at once!”111

In many areas of the world, beginning in early Egypt and continuing to modern European nations, the head was painfully molded to reshape it by putting another board on the forehead so as to squash the head into the angle formed by the boards.115 ( E. J. Dingwall, Artificial Cranial Deformation. London: J. Bale & Sons, 1931; Armando R. Favazza, Bodies Under Siege. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996, p. 62.)

The Ancient Western World

Xenophon reports that the women and children were “separated from the men’s quarters by a bolted door” 3 where the men “dined and entertained male guests,” especially the young boys they used in sexual intercourse in preference to their wives.

Herodotus could admit that “a boy is not seen by his father before he is five years old, but lives with the women.”4

Herodotus tells how during wars soldiers “no sooner got possession of a town than they chose out all the best favored boys and made them eunuchs,” this simply repeated the regular castration and then anal raping of little boys in their own societies.150

Often first-born babies were routinely sacrificed to the avenging goddess. Hippocrates said that Greeks often experienced “convulsions, fears, terrors and delusions” and physicians were expected to treat the possessions and hallucinations of their dissociated personalities.14

Often women would become so possessed by their Killer Mother alters that, as Euripides describes them during Dionysian rituals, “Breasts swollen with milk, new mothers clawed calves to pieces with bare hands, snatched children from their homes” and killed them.18

Hilarion to his wife: “If it is a boy let it live; if it is a girl, cast it out.”19

Poseidippos stated, “Even a rich man always exposes a daughter.”

Children playing in dung heaps, rivers and cess trenches would find hundreds of dead babies, “a prey for birds, food for wild beasts to rend” (Euripides).24

Quintilian said, “To put one’s own children to death is at times the noblest of deeds.”30

Martialis: “How pitiful, to be the owner of thirty girls and thirty boys and have only one [male member].”46

Petronius depicts men raping a seven-year-old girl, with women happily clapping in a long line around the bed.48

“It was not uncommon, since Greek girls married very early, for them to play with their dolls up to the time of their marriage.”56 (Philip E. Slater, The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, p. 24.)

Plutarch said boys should be taught about being raped to “put up with it; not as a pleasure, but as a duty.”62

Plutarch and others wrote essays on what was the best kind of person a father should give his son over for raping.

Plutarch wrote: “Genuine love has no connections whatsoever with the women’s quarters.”85

Plutarch reports that “if a woman left the house in daylight she had to be chaperoned” to avoid rape.103

Homer’s word for “wife” damar, means “broken into submission.”

Ovid wrote in his Art of Love: “Love is a kind of war”

Ovid describes how children were often terrorized by saying they would at night be eaten by witches, strigae.122

Hipponax put it, “There are only two happy days in man’s life with a woman: The day he marries her and the day he buries her.”97

Men say they split their relationship with women into three parts: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure, slave concubines for the daily care of our bodies, and wives for the bearing of legitimate children.”100 (Sue Blundell, Women in Ancient Greece, p. 268)

Solon passed a law decreeing that “a man should consort with his wife not less than three times a month—not for pleasure surely, but as cities renew their agreements from time to time.102

Women rarely learned to read, since “He who teaches letters to his wife is giving poison to a snake.”106 (Jack Holland, Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2006, p. 21)

Juvenal’s plays portray the fears of all men in early states, concluding that “A wife is a tyrant…Cruelty is natural to women: they torment their husbands, whip the housekeeper, and enjoy having slaves flogged almost to death…their sexual lusts are disgusting.”107

Tacitus said, “At birth our children are handed over to some silly little Greek serving girl—but more often they were sent out and not seen for years.”108

Philo wrote: “It is right that parents should rebuke their children, beat them, disgrace them and imprison them…If they still rebel, the law permits that they even be punished with death.”117

Seneca described the public floggings of children in Sparta, where it was considered patriotic to beat children to death in public squares.

In Athens, over 800 portrayals have survived of Greek heroes stabbing and clubbing Amazons to death.”134

If a young woman should simply speak to someone who was not approved by her father, that was enough of a sin for Constantine, the first Christian emperor, to decree a penalty of “death by having molten lead poured down her throat.”15

Ancient India

[T]he Mahabharata says, “Let the man of thirty years wed a ten-year-old wife, or let the man of twenty-one get one seven years old.”57

All kinds of rationalizations were given early marriage, as when Indian mothers married off their daughters at age seven because otherwise “the men of the family” might rape her “if she was left home alone for an hour.”59 (Lloyd deMause, “The Universality of Incest,” p. 136, 142-5.)

one Indian proverb has it, “For a girl to be a virgin at ten years old, she must have neither brothers nor cousins nor father.”60

Early Doctors of the Church

Tertullian told Romans, “Although you are forbidden by the laws to slay new-born infants, it so happens that no laws are evaded with more impunity.”26

Women, said Tertullian, were “irrational, more prone to lust than men, and at every turn waiting to seduce men,” so husbands had to beat them all the time to keep them from sinning.5

Everyone agreed girls should be fed less than boys; as Jerome put it, ‘Let her meals always leave her hungry.’”3

John Chrysostom maintained, “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.”8

John Chrysostom tells believers to “constantly think on death, speak of it all the time, visit tombs and attend to dying people, because nothing is so edifying as watching impious people die.”185

Augustine put it, “If the infant is left to do what he wants, there is no crime it will not plunge into.”11

The Aztecs

“The trinity of war, sacrifice and cannibalism made up a combined religious service…the Aztec state existed solely to produce sacrificial victims.”148 (Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Fifth Sun: Aztec Gods, Aztec World. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979, p. 195)

Aztec armies would even fight “Flower Wars” where they would split into smaller groups and kill their own fellow soldiers in order to feed the goddess.154

Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Teaching girls in schools was not allowed, Aelred said (1170), because the teacher might be tempted to show them affection.

Peter Damian said in the 11th century that sex with boys in monasteries usually “rages like a bloodthirsty beast,” yet only the boys and not the priests were punished.158

When their children returned from the wet-nurse, mothers in the Renaissance followed the prescriptions of friars like Dominici [St Dominic] to avoid “hugging and kissing them” so they won’t be “sensual,” and instead “scare them with a dozen bogies [bogeymen],” to make them more fearful.26

Giraldus Cambrensis relates that the English sold great numbers of their children to the Irish as slaves as late as the 12th century.80

[Bernard] of Siena said fathers regularly “pimped” their own sons for money, and mothers colluded in the sexual use of their boys, giving them a separate bedroom on the ground floor so rapists could more easily use him sexually.137

[Bernard] of Siena could still complain about fathers who “make pimps” of their own sons, saying boys were so likely to be raped in the streets that “a boy can’t even pass nearby without having a sodomite on his tail” and urging mothers to “send your girls out instead…This is less evil.”153

As Henry Suso [Heinrich Seuse] put it: “Suffering quells my anger [and] makes me no part of the world.”175

Medieval clerics themselves said most Christians suffered from acedia, “a disgust of the heart, an enormous loathing of yourself, your soul is torn to pieces, sad and embittered.”166 Doctors during the medieval period said that most of their emotionally ill patients were either “melancholic” or “manic.”167

Even by the 16th century, a priest admitted that “the latrines resound with the cries of children who have been plunged into them.”50

Jean Bodin spoke of “the husband’s power over the wife as the source and origin of every human society.”67

The Reformers

Luther may have been one of the first fathers to spend time with and to teach his children, but because his mother had thrashed him “until his blood flowed” he also beat his own children, and his teaching goal was mainly to show them from the Bible how sinful their every act was.47

Luther claimed his wife Kate only existed as a housewife and mother, saying, “Take women from their housewifery and they are good for nothing.”48

John Calvin decreed: “Those children who violate parental authority are monsters. Therefore the Lord commands all those who are disobedient to their parents to be put to death.”14

Colonial America

If the parents’ regular beating of their children still did not result in obedience, the child should be “put to death [if they] curse or smite their father or mother,” according for instance to a 1646 Massachusetts law.93

Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists

One [mother] is praised by Locke because she was “forced to whip her little daughter at first coming home from Nurse, eight times successively…before she could master her Stubbornness.“66

Rousseau, who became famous for saying that mothers should nurse their children, sent all five of his own children to foundling homes. He also declared that “woman is made specially to please man and to be subjugated.”19

Talleyrand wasn’t that unusual in stating that he “had never slept under the same roof with his father and mother.”22

Most parents agreed with the French musician and mathematician Vandermonde in 1756 who admitted, “One blushes to think of loving one’s children.”29

As Kant declared, wars are needed because “prolonged peace favors effeminacy.”40

[Giacomo] Leopardi said his mother “experienced a deep happiness when she saw the death of one of her infants approaching.”3

Patriarchal fathers considered their children from their earliest years as theirs to beat, as with this British father:

“A gentleman was playing with his child of a year old, who began to cry. He ordered silence; the child did not obey; the father then began to whip it, but this terrified the child and increased its cries. The father thought the child would be ruined unless it was made to yield, and renewed his chastisement with increased severity. On undressing it, a pin was discovered sticking into its back.”36

(Albertine Adrienne Necker, Progressive Education, Commencing with the Infant. Boston: W. D. Ticknor, 1835, p. 180)

Doctors well into the nineteenth century thought having sexual intercourse with three-year-old girls was a good idea because it was “instructive to familiarize them with carnal matters…”91

The belief that “one could cure venereal disease” by means of sexual intercourse with children”96 was of course one of the main underlying motivations for the frequency of paternal abuse, in addition to the need of fathers to prove their masculinity.

Non-conformist Christians

[A]s John Wesley put it, “Never, on any account, give a child anything that it cries for…If you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying.”91

20th century parents

When in 1908 incest was finally made a criminal offense in England, it was considered a minor felony, rarely prosecuted.83

Even when a British study in 1991 found 45 percent of girls and 30 percent of boys admitting to remembering having been sexually abused as children (the actual rates being much higher due to underreporting and repression), British doctors surveyed at that time said they thought the sexual abuse rate was probably “less than one percent.”78

Sexual abuse of little children is still routine in the rest of the world, starting with Asian maternal masturbation of little children from India to Japan.80

[Prior to the Great War] Germans feared women would “take over men” and “oversexed wives would threaten her husband’s life with her insatiable erotic demands.’52 Females were depicted in art and cinema as vampires devouring helpless men.53 “On the eve of the 20th century, the image of the New Woman was widespread…university-educated and sexually independent, she engendered intense hostility and fear as she seemed to challenge male supremacy and turn the world upside down.”54

The origin of [John F] Kennedy’s need to prove his masculinity was his early child abuse. His mother had battered him as a child with coat hangers and belts, his father smashed his childrens’ heads against walls, so that his resulting fears of impotence made him fill the White House during evenings with sexual partners to demonstrate how hyper-masculine he was.101

Lyndon Johnson had an alcoholic father who whipped him with a razor strap and an abandoning, overcontrolling, disrespectful mother who sometimes “walked around the house pretending I was dead.”110 His mother was described as “tough, stern, unyielding, obstinate, domineering.”111 He kept running away from home because he felt “smothered … oscillating between grandiosity and gloom and always questioning his worth.”112 Like Kennedy, he had to have many sexual affairs to prove his masculinity.113

John McCain described his parents as beating him so hard that he often passed out as he held his breath during the beatings. He reports they punished him for holding his breath and passing out by filling the bathtub with ice cold water and throwing him in while unconscious, fully clothed.129  He says “this went on for some time until I was finally ‘cured.’ Whenever I worked myself into a tiny rage, my mother shouted to my father, ‘Get the water!’ Moments later I would find myself thrashing, wide-eyed and gasping for breath, in a tub of icy-cold water.”130

The advance in the Soviet Union from abandonment of children in street gangs and “round-the-clock boarding schools” to actual family care of children began to take place in the 1970s,128 resulting in a switch in parenting from traditional “hardening” childrearing like that experienced by Joseph Stalin—who was “kicked and tried to be killed”—to that of Gorbachev—who was treated with respect and was remembered as being “very joyful” as a child.129

Tony Blair recently admitted on television that he hit his one-year-old baby “to discipline him,” explaining that “I had to hit him, because he could not talk.”37

A recent survey of 652 Palestinian undergraduates asking if they recalled sexual abuse showed 18.6 percent said they had been used sexually by a family member, 36. 2 percent by a relative and 45.6 percent by a stranger.147 … In many Islamic areas 90 percent of the women surveyed say they have genitally mutilated all of their daughters.151

For further reading:

Chapter 8: Infanticide, Child Rape and War in Early States (quotes and footnotes for Ancient Egypt, Ancient Western World, first Tertullian quote in Early Doctors of the Church and The Aztecs)

Chapter 9: Bipolar Christianity: How Torturing “Sinful” Children Produced Holy Wars (quotes and footnotes for Constantine in Ancient Western World, Early Doctors of the Church, Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Reformers, Colonial America, Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists for the Locke quote, Non-conformist Christians)

Chapter 10: Patriarchal Families and National Wars (quotes and footnotes for The Reformers’ Luther quotes, Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for the Jean Bodin quote, Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists for citations other than Locke’s, 20th Century Parents)

Chapter 11: Global Wars to Restore US Masculinity (quotes for 20th Century Parents — footnote sources are brief, as they are included in de Mause’s books listed at the end)

Tomorrow: More on the global history of the abuse of children and women

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