Typos p. 237: rentiere [= rentière]; p. 238: in goal [= in gaol]; p. 238: subordinaton [= subordination]; p. 239: EYsenck [= Eysenck]; p. 239: genitical [= genetical]
The alimony racket
Anthony M. Ludovici
The International Journal of Sexology 6, 195253, pp. 236239
- p. 236 -
Let us try to form a picture of what is happening.
The gravamen of Dr. Wilner's charge is, roughly speaking, that the marriage laws and their application by the judiciary in his country, together contrive to make a racket of marriage for an increasing army of women. They place in the hands of the less scrupulous of the "fair sex" the means whereby they can secure a life income without any of the responsibilities, duties, services, or normal physiological functions and other ties associated from the beginning of time with wives and mothers.
As an extreme case may best illustrate the nature of the scandal, we will try to imagine the relationship created by the woman who, being a gold-digger pure and simple, aspires only to achieve economic independence when she succeeds in luring a man as far as the altar or the Registrar of marriages.
She is young, ambitions, lazy, pleasure-loving, possibly passionless and frivolous. Having wearied of the strenuosity of self-support, and anxious only to have an easy time for the rest of her days, she shrewdly inspects the various males of her circle. She may see none that stirs her or touches her heart, none that is very attractive. But this does not bother her; for even if such she did see she would not necessarily set her cap at him. Her quest concerns something quite different. She is not thinking of happiness in marriage, or of a desirable father for her children, but only of how to secure ultimate freedom and economic independence without being perpetually tied to a pipe-smoker and all that this means in darning, cooking, washing, ironing, and mending not to mention the unmentionable chores of the conjugal bed. Her quest therefore concerns the kind of meek, docile and possibly dense nincompoop, at once comfortably situated and securely established, not too alert or penetrating, congenitally gullible and credulous, who fulfils the following four essential conditions: He must be easily
(1) subjugated by flattery,
(2) seduced by sex-appeal and proud of the slightest attention from the female sex,
(3) baffled by cunning greater than his own,
(4) sufficiently ill-informed and generally idiotic to imagine her the scheming female in question a desirable life-mate.
Having found a male answering to this specification and our civilization teems with such masculine morons she immediately turns on full steam to wheedle and win him. And when under the persevering puffs of her factitious ardour the embers of his heart at last begin to glow and he implores her at all costs to devise some means of relieving his tumescence, she responds with two words which are her ultimatum: THE ALTAR.
At the steps of the altar, then, the first more or less difficult stage of the swindle is concluded. The rest is more simple; for now the transformation act may be stealthily prepared. She already holds all the necessary drop-scenes, stage props and elaborate decor in readiness, and, as soon as she dare, they are placed in position and she opens her new role as marriage-breaker.
Quarrels are deliberately picked. Grievances are trumped up. Meals are irregularly served and worse than in-
* Alimony: The American Tragedy (Vantage Press Inc., New York. Demy 8vo. pp. 305, Price, 3.50 dollars).
Meanwhile "hubby", feeling singularly isolated on the boards of his own home, and conscious of chilling draughts coming from the wings, wonders what can have happened. Is all this the common, ordinary routine of married life? Is it the inevitable sequel to finding a legitimate means of detumescence? Or is he just unlucky?
As he does not know and could never guess that not for one moment of her life has she ever cared a rap for him; as he does not suspect and could never imagine that she married him only on the strength of her secret resolve to be rid of him at the earliest possible moment so as to become a rentiere at his expense, her unaccountable storms of bad temper, her tempestuous tears, her paroxysms of rage aye, even the sympathisers she recruits in the bosom of her family are an impenetrable mystery to him. What could he had done or said, or left undone and unsaid? Should he not have complained when her lap-dog tore one of his slippers to shreds or when his own mother was given cold tea and stale sandwiches?
Driven to despair, and persisting in the illusion that he might perhaps make his wife see reason if only he could be alone with her for half an hour, he meekly asks her whether his sister- or mother-in-law might not be asked to go home for a bit.
Deprive her, his tender spouse, of her last protection?
Banish her own flesh and blood from her hearth?
Slam the door on her natural, her God-sent supporters?
What villainy, what brutal design was he contemplating?
She watches him closely. If only he could be provoked enough to tap her, to push her against the sideboard, or to squeeze her arm before a witness! Her game would be won.
From this moment, his ultimate appearance before a magistrate, or a High Court judge, as a husband with whom married life is but a protracted agony, is only a matter of time, and, as a rule, the wife reduces the interval to the minimum compatible with probability.
Separation allowance or alimony, according to whether she demands merely a separate existence, or divorce, is then usually granted without demur by a legal luminary always inclined (owing to the middle-aged man's chronic state of sex-starvation in our society) to believe her story and seriously to doubt her husband's, however well attested. And, if tears and sex-appeal can add their mite to her counsel's advocacy, she usually contrives to give both a very free rein.
At all events, when she leaves the court, surrounded by indignant relatives, she feels that, without excessive labour or drudgery, she has secured economic independence for life, and behind the handkerchief supposed to conceal her martyred features, a smile of ineffable triumph wrinkles her cheek.
She may have a child or two from her discarded partner. But besides merely increasing her weekly dole, they, in any case, depend on the length of time she was prepared to wait before engineering the separation. If she was able to endure two or three years with him in order to obtain a more substantial dole from the courts, she would suffer the ordeal and bear him a child or two. For she knows only too well that in our romantic and ignorant society, the mere performance of the function of parturition, however normally, constitutes her a heroine in the minds of her fellows.
Now the above is by no means an exaggerated description of what too often occurs in these cases. Although it is admittedly a bad case, it might well serve as a blue print, so to speak, for all adult female behaviour in our society, when indolence, greed and the love of pleasure, are compounded of unscrupulousness, defective passion, cupidity and villainy. And as in both America and Great Britain the existing laws make such behaviour practicable and profitable, it is not surprising that they lead to gross abuse and to the economic enslavement and misery of hundreds of thousands of men men whose worst crimes are a tendency to mistake a state of tumescence for one of discriminating affection, a readiness to assume that the lure of the sex-object must necessarily imply the latter's high merits, and the simplicity which precludes the alertness and sound judgment which might protect them from an elaborate hoax.
If for but one moment they were able to gaze calmly and objectively on the woman they propose to marry, they might be spared their cruel fate. Even if, before
But, relying wholly on their unaided judgment, clouded by powerful physiological processes, when the person to be selected has a far more important bearing on the course of their lives, they embark on a partnership rigidly controlled by the laws of their country, without attempting to apply any test whatsoever to ascertain the loyalty, passion, powers of devotion and self-abnegation, of the woman they propose to marry.
Have they then any right to be both astonished and indignant when subsequently they find they are condemned to providing a dole to a woman who has never been even decent to them, and to terms of imprisonment if they dare to suspend their payments?
Dr. Wilner characterizes this state of affairs, whereby usually on the plea of "cruelty", countless husbands are now economically enslaved, as The American Tragedy; but although, owing to the tradition of excessive female privilege inseparable from a land originally colonized by a preponderatingly male population, the abuses and suffering the system occasions may be unduly severe in the U.S.A., it does not follow that in Great Britain, where similar laws prevail, the hardships of married men are so very much less painful.
Moreover, it is not necessarily where separation (with allowances), or divorce (with alimony) occurs that the worst hardships are to be sought. For, as Dr. Wilner points out, the very threat of legal proceedings which may terminate in either of these two penalties for the male, places in the hands of tyrannical, domineering and bad-tempered viragos, a weapon which their husbands, however resolute and strong-willed they may be, simply dare not ignore.
"This legal system", says Dr. Wilner, "has placed the husband in such complete subjection to the wife that not only are his material happiness and tranquillity dependent upon her emotional whims, but he generally cannot enforce any of his legal rights."
When writing his book, the Author tells us that 33 per cent. of all marriages in the U.S.A. ended in divorce. In 1945 out of 1,618,331, there were 502,000 divorces. As an instance of how the prospect of alimony acts as an inducement to women to seek divorce by hook or by crook, the Author declares that prior to 1935, when alimony was not granted in actions for annulment, these were very rare in the State of New York. But in 1945, after ten years of the granting of alimony in such actions, these soared to 4,902; and during the same period annulment suits rose to forty per hundred divorces.
Nor is the guilt of the wife necessarily a bar to her obtaining alimony; for, in New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa and many other States, her guilt does not deprive her of this means of extorting an income from her former husband. Dr. Wilner mentions many instances where the victimized husbands have languished in goal owing to their failure to meet the exorbitant demands made on their incomes by separation allowances or alimony, and he concludes bitterly: "the average female does not marry for love, but for the best financial catch her sex lure can attract." He maintains that the law not only promotes such behaviour, but at present is also acting as a selecting process endowing with superior survival value those women who are unscrupulous enough to cash in on the marriage ceremony.
Needless to say, our Author has much to say on the sentimentality of judges confronted by the kind of woman whose villainy is compounded of histrionic gifts, and points out that this subordinaton to unconscious sexual impulses in the occupants of the judicial bench leads to extremes even as monstrous as the granting of an unwritten carte blanche to all women to murder their husbands if they choose, without the slightest risk of being executed for it. Truth to tell, the issue of many recent charges of husband murder, even in England, rather lend the colour of justification to Dr. Wilner's apparently extravagant claim.
Now the consequences of this state of affairs apart from the misery and bondage it inflicts on multitudes of men, are, according to Dr. Wilner various and inevitable.
For instance, he claims that large numbers of more cautious and circumspect among the male population, are now being so much deterred by the terrible risks of marriage with a harridan, that a veritable gamophobia is spreading over the U.S.A., with the result that there are now in his country "5,000,000 women under thirty who will never marry," and this despite the fact that eligible men are in the majority. An in-
Secondly, Dr. Wilner believes that the female dominance promoted by the above state of affairs, results in the wreck of home life and thus ultimately to the multiplication of juvenile and other delinquents. For we know how often criminality reveals a history of disordered homes and of parents either separated or divorced.
Dr. Wilner, however, goes a little too far when he declares that outside and environmental influences are paramount in shaping the criminal character and disposition; and when he asserts that "No individual at birth is inclined towards delinquency, nor does heredity ordain that he or she must inevitably become a criminal," he ranges himself among the very sentimentalists and sob-stuff-mongers he otherwise so rightly condemns. For we know from the most strictly objective and most recent scientific findings on personality and character, that, on the contrary, heredity plays a most important part in forming not only the potential poet but also the potential pimp, not only the future film-star, but also the future forger.
Dr. P. Popenoe has concluded from a review of all the data on heredity and environment that "we must ascribe to heredity a more important role in the production of crime than has hitherto been the case."
Dr. H. G. EYsenck, in the Scientific Study of Personality (1952, Chap. V) concurs, and quotes investigators such as J. Lange, F. Stumpf, H. King, and C. A. Borg, who have shown that identical twins are more concordant in their criminality than are paternal twins even when complete separation has taken place.
In his Hundred Years of Biology, moreover, Dr. Ben Dawes observes that "feeblemindedness, criminal tendencies, deaf-mutism and other undesirable qualities are inherited in various strata of human society." And he adds: "We have to admit that there is some genitical basis for some undesirable human qualities which cannot always be corrected by medical or moral science, or by favourable conditions of nurture." (Chap. VIII).
We need not burden this article with further evidence against Dr. Wilner's contention. We know enough to be able to dismiss it as unfounded, and, seeing that the belief in the original goodness of Man and in wickedness as always being due to bad environment, has wrought more havoc in this world than perhaps any other piece of sophistry, and that its advocates from Rousseau to Karl Marx, who ascribe all the evils of society to its institutions and not to the men who run them, have all been slap-dash thinkers, generally ill-informed and anti-social, the hour has surely struck at last when we should for ever drop this dangerous illusion.
The fact that Dr. Wilner still appears to cherish it does not, however, in the least weaken his case against alimony. On the contrary, seeing that the laws against which his book inveighs, are as he shows tending to multiply a criminal type of woman; the very fact that the unpleasant qualities of this type are now known to be largely hereditary, rather strengthens his pleadings.
Besides, Dr. Wilner thoroughly appreciates the fact that the laws now regulating alimony and separation allowances, are in any case racially catastrophic, and in his ninth chapter, by tracing the connexion between triumphant Feminism and these laws, he shows how the selection now operating for survival must be favouring the least desirable type of adult.
In Chapter X the Author deals with the remedies he would apply to recover sanity in this department of American life, whilst in his final chapter he appeals to the right-minded among his readers to strive by word and by deed and by supporting only those candidates for the legislature who pledge themselves to institute immediate reforms in the marriage laws, in order to put an end to the gold-digging and blackmailing racket which the holy bonds of matrimony have become.
The book is to be highly recommended. Even among women readers it should command wide attention; whilst all men, both in the U.S.A. and in Great Britain should do their utmost to secure it a large public. For it is not merely a polemical treatise on an important problem; it contains an enormous amount of information, both about American ways of life and legal practice and about all the essential features of the sex relation.