Monday, June 22, 2009

Chivalry is Not Dead

Many people in our culture often give women the impression that the way to get a man to contribute more to a relationship, to motivate him to meet a woman’s needs and wants, is by figuring out what men want and giving it to them. Hogwash.

Put them to work. Give them a list of duties to accomplish that will free up your time if they want to continue taking it up. Assign them challenging tasks that would really excite you to see them carry out, and tell them what they can do that will really impress you and make you want them over other men. Decide on rules of conduct for them that will make you comfortable when they are around you, and determine the consequences, both bad and good, for breaking or keeping these rules. Then carry them out accordingly. Why do you think men are so devoted and dedicated to their workplace?

For a relationship to last and keep both partners interested it is important to put the woman’s happiness first before the man’s, because in romance and sex men are easily pleased compared to women; and if she’s happy, he’s happy.

Nevertheless, many people consider it to be a sign of weakness of will for a man to defer to what a woman wants of him, or what she values as right, on a regular basis. In a culture where male dominance is considered the norm, male reverence and submission to women is difficult to confess the existence of, usually resulting in people going into a panic whenever they are forced to confront it.

Yet, the men of our culture publicly show reverence and submission all the time. They show reverence for and unquestioning submission to rituals of national unity, fraternal rights of passage, military superiors, and athletic coaches. They show emotional abandon and devotion towards sports teams, sports cars, and successful male role models. In plain sight, men who our society recognizes as masculine are submissive with certain people, and in certain contexts. They know that public submission and deference to others doesn't make them weak-willed, because society recognizes the ability of men to be submissive in certain relationships while remaining competitive and assertive in others. As long as their submission is aimed at men and male traditional values, no one has a problem with it.

So, the controversy surrounding the concept of male submissiveness is not over men having a submissive side, but rather over what men choose to ascribe sacredness to and recognize the power of.

When men in our culture choose to apply their submissive adoration towards other men, they also choose to channel their physical competitiveness and self assertion elsewhere- and guess where that might be. Current male social leaders and media directors still discourage men from offering their submission to female role models, female authority figures, or any symbol of collective female values, fearing that to do so would eliminate the one area of life where men still have opportunity to express their aggressive and competitive natures without immediate danger to themselves –their relationships with women. They prefer to use social interaction with women as an outlet for their physical prowess and pioneering independence by attacking women and defying women's desires. Tackling a female associate to the floor doesn’t require much discipline or risk of physical injury, nor imagination for that matter, and it doesn’t endanger a man's popularity with other guys; yet it gives them the appearance of being competitive and triumphant in the eyes of other men.
I suppose you could say such men are “dick-whipped”.

Believe it or not, there was a time in history when venerating and deferring to a woman was seen as a sign of heterosexuality. Yes, it’s true. Back then, men consciously chose to meet their need for submission, their need for a leader and a source of inspiration, by deferring to women and worshiping female values. Out of loyalty, they devoted their physical strengths and hormone-derived valor to protecting the interests of women and applied their desire to compete to male troublemakers or alternate suitors. Prestigious men were expected to serve and entertain women, which was considered a sign of strength of will. To not serve women in this way eliminated a man’s common ground with other men, came across as undisciplined, and made him generally unpopular. In fact, public submission to women was one of men’s most favorite hobbies and gave them opportunity for all kinds of creative play and adventure. This cultural movement was chivalry, practiced across Europe and England from the 11th century to the 13th century. The men who bound themselves to live by its code did so to join a brotherhood of knights who worked to protect their society.

These men were not afraid of risk or hard work. After choosing the profession, a man went through a long and arduous right of passage before being tested and approved to serve as a knight. His right of passage involved: seven years of working as a servant for a knight’s household, another seven years serving the prestigious woman of his choice by carrying out duties for her designed to test and refine his character, being ordained a knight in an elaborate ritual, fasting for twenty-four hours, staying up all night in a church watching his new uniform, and undergoing a religious confession and communion, all before being allowed to swear loyalty to the code of chivalry.1

It seems the code of chivalry was so attractive to these hardened men of war because it gave men an honorable social role and a meaningful guide to measure their own manliness by. The principles of the code were the love of adventure, carrying out service as guards or soldiers with noble virtues, protecting the safety and honor of all women, showing loyal devotion and deference to one chosen noblewoman, and carrying their services out with self-sacrificing generosity and courage. This often took the form of practical protection of women from physical attack, which led to the practice of a noblewoman selecting a favored knight to escort her to her carriage; the role of escort eventually allowed opportunity for a knight to express his devotion to protecting a noblewoman by deferring to her wishes, as trivial or challenging and risky as they might be. This included defending women’s honor by protecting them from insult, as well as simply entertaining them with creative praise or performing athletic challenges.2

The movement was believed to be a reaction against the barbaric violence and corrupt excesses that were the customs of battle for warriors under the direction of feudal lords; the notion of chivalry developed among knights as they began to pursue a more just and noble purpose for their social role. In contrast to past self-centered values, chivalric knights identified their purpose as adventurously protecting women, upholding traditionally female virtues, and worshiping the inspirational power of femininity.3 They worshiped femininity in spirit and in action.

Spiritually, they venerated what they considered to be female values by emulating them. The values of honor, courtesy, hospitality to the poor and oppressed, deference to others, unselfish love, endurance of suffering, loyalty, chastity, and faith in God- these were all seen as the virtues of the Virgin Mary, which they valued as noble and sought to experience personally for their own edification of purpose.4

In action, they protected women from physical danger and social insult while also putting their newfound female virtues to use by honoring and pleasing women with their masculine strengths. Knights saw the truest and purist expression of heterosexual love as a man’s worshipful longing for a woman in response to her powers of sensual appeal and savvy, channeling their passion for her into honor and praise for lack of a sexual outlet. For this reason, knights from this period of time courted their chosen mistress while practicing chastity.5

One historian says,
“Thus, the lady leaves her isolation and becomes an inspiration; the relationship between the sexes tends to acquire a teaching dimension, above all else for the man, the sentiment of feminine gentleness and the joy of serving the lady disciplining and gentling his warrior roughness and ferocity.” 6

There are still men who connect with this archetype of masculinity and relate to its way of building relationships with women. Though they do not have the advantage of an organized brotherhood or a universal code of demonstration to be recognized as such by women, they do tend to have certain features in common and their behavior takes on a similar pattern.

They make their woman their first social priority. They like to run errands and take care of chores for a woman, cook dinner for her, and attend to her in public. They like to listen to a woman without interrupting her, take an interest in what she thinks without arguing with her, and show a great interest in her work with the admiration and support of a devoted fan. They see the merit in doing things her way at home and in the relationship. They remember what she likes and do it often. They let her set the pace for sexual activity, and once invited they attend to her needs and interests first; they are intensely sexually loyal. They don’t take their sexual cues from porn films. They do not ejaculate prematurely.

They might open doors for women, but it is not out of an effort to confine women’s labor or public role. On the contrary, these men prefer to play the role of assistant to women who are professionally successful and highly independent -women who have their own sense of direction and are not afraid to apply it to men. And yet, at the same time, they will confidently compete with other men, even aggressively, and assert themselves in their profession or hobbies. Again, male selective submissive allegiance to a woman is hard for some to conceive of, but it is much the same thing as a sports fan’s intense admiration for a highly skilled and talented professional athlete. Women may tend to take their strengths as women for granted, but these men don’t.*

Contrary to popular belief, there are a good number of men out there with this disposition, though they are not always obvious to women because they aren’t the ones causing a public commotion in a desperate attempt to get female attention. They’d rather pay attention, and then appeal to her personal interests to earn her attention from her. Perhaps the best way for a woman to find them is to develop a healthy interest in what she wants and use an online profile to let men know exactly what that is so that discerning men will find her. This tends to weed out the self-absorbed ones.

The more clearly women perceive how masculinity and male submissive allegiance to women are not only compatible but also interdependent, the higher women’s standards for men’s attitude and behavior will rise, and the men who want the adventure of a real relationship will meet the challenge. Setting low standards to help a self-centered man get the swing of things in the adult world is a waste of time. Men are not stupid. Men are quite capable; if they aren’t taking direction, the issue is one of willingness.

But there’s no need to contend with an unwilling man. Men that are chivalry-oriented are already motivated, getting a sense of adventure and importance from performing a service for a woman. They are willing to work for a woman’s love and happiness because they don’t take women for granted. All they need is direction.

And why should women doubt it? Women’s physical sensuality and intellectual power exerts a force over men that disarms them of their competitiveness and inspires them to serve instead. It has inspired men to do all kinds of spectacular things in the effort to be as noticeable and interesting for women as women are for them. Women’s power of sensual allure has inspired whole fleets of warriors to rein in the barbaric carelessness and wasteful excesses that were the custom of their position in society and to conform their way of life to a strict ethical code of behavior. All without having to give sex to any of them.

* For a great example of the chivalrous man, and this combination of competitiveness with female adoration, watch The Widow of St. Pierre, with Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. Also read Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

1 (Sidney, pp.260-261), (Elvins, pp.2-8, 59-61)
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid., (Westerson, 2007)
4 (Elvins, pp.2-8, 59-61)
5 (Westerfield, 2007), (Elvins, pp.2-8, 59-61)
6 (Elvins, pp.7-8, quoting Giuseppe Salvioli from ‘Cavalleria’, II Digesto Italiano, Florence, 1912)

Elvins, M. T. (2006). Gospel Chivalry: Franciscan Romanticism. Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing.

Sidney, Low, Sir.(1973). Dictionary of English History. New York: Cassell.

Westerson, Jeri. (2007, November 12). Getting Medieval: The Code of Chivalry and Courtly Love. Posted to


Anonymous said...

I agree. I used to feel a sense of shame being a man because I was taught in school at a young age (and from friend's moms) that not only are women better than us, but that the main thing messing up the world and holding women back is men.

When I grew older I saw that men can serve a purpose to women and need not be shamed. Women like you help create a new purpose and place for masculinity. Serving women is something that makes men useful and good for women again. Without that there is no purpose for masculinity, and it is just destructive. We need women to use us.


john said...

Once again, thank you, Ms. Christina for your thoughtfully written and highly astute essay. I think all men who know their place is in service to women should be required to not only read this latest posting but your entire blog as well.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Christina,

Once again I stand in awe of your wisdom. Many years ago I conceived of starting my own such fraternity of men with the specific purpose of promoting matriarchy using the very "masculine" principles of chivalry. Frankly, I haven't acted on it because I simply can't seem to find enough men interested enough in the concept to make it a reality but I'm still working on some ideas.

I recall an incident in an honors English course I took in my freshman year. The professor, a British fellow, decided to hold class outside on a nice day that happened to be very windy. Next to me at the table sat a young lady who, for convenience sake, I'll say was a very leftist styled feminist (of the sort that would regard a man holding a door open for her to be "infantilizing"); next to her was her, again for convenience, spineless boyfriend too afraid of her wrath to take a dirty look or correction in an attempt to serve her needs as he viewed them. The wind picked up and some of her papers flew across the lawn. She sat still. I looked at her; it didn't appear she was going to get up to get them. I looked to the boyfriend and he looked literally scared and confused. With a slight look of aggravation toward the boyfriend and every other male at the table, I got up from my chair and chased down every one of her papers. When I returned them, to my own surprise, she thanked me and the professor commented, "I guess chivalry is NOT dead." To which I replied, "I'm not so sure of that;" looking pretty disgusted that I was the only male to get up and chase a dozen or so papers flying in several different directions. That comment elicited an agreeing smirk on the part of the young lady and I'm sure cost the boyfriend a bit of a tongue lashing after class.

She and I never had the opportunity to discuss the matter in more detail, but I have discussed the issue with many other women over the years; those for and against "chivalry." From my observations there's something of a dichotomy in society that I know I'm not explaining fully but will attempt to anyway as concisely as I can.

I see basically more conservative type patriarchal males who practice their form of "chivalry" sometimes intentionally and sometimes unwittingly in such a way as to leave the impression that women DEPEND on men to do these things for them. This is the attitude, as I see it, that many feminists resent and rightly despise. These men typically don't care how their actions are viewed by women as it has nothing to do with that anyway - it's just another way of expressing their dominance.

Then you have men heavily influenced by radical feminism who are so afraid of the consequences of insulting a woman that they are almost paralyzed without explicit instructions from them. These men at least have the good sense to have concern for women's feelings but lack the (pardon my french) balls to be of much help to them.

In society today, frankly, we as men and women aren't sure where to go with the proper interaction between men and women and this is where your blog sheds light on the subject and has actually been my position for as long as I can remember. In my example, I took a risk that this young lady might be insulted by my actions, but felt strongly enough that if anyone is going to suffer indignity chasing down those papers it should be a MAN (and I'm sure it was entertaining watching me chase them too). If she had reacted adversely, I was willing and able to take whatever she "threw at me" while respectfully assuring her that I meant no disrespect, but quite the opposite..............

Anonymous said...

..........The interesting thing I've discovered is that it's very rare that I have to justify that sort of behavior to women. It's as if they have a sixth sense that tells them whether a man is being respectful in such acts or not. Not surprisingly, I find that most women I have the opportunity to discuss this matter with understand my point of view whereas most men I discuss it with remain skeptical or oblivious. Frankly, I'm close to giving up on them entirely and joining the ranks of the radical feminist man-haters. LOL. I mean, OK, I may not be able to articulate this well in the space of a blog comment, but my actions speak for themselves: They elicit positive responses from women, which is supposedly what men want. To the point, as a nurse aide I was frequently the ONLY male that the most reserved women would allow to attend to their needs (something that caused quite a bit of confusion and aggravation to gay male coworkers who wrongly believe that they are somehow inherently more in tune with women, but that's a subject for another time).

Mostly I find that men dismiss such results as a product of my "good looks, youth" or some other absurd superficial quality that they presumably lack. Thankfully, they typically don't give me the "pussy-whipped" argument because that could cost them a few teeth and me the aggravation of possible criminal and civil consequences.

Still, the bottom line is that I'm not having very much success getting through to men on this issue and don't have much optimism that I ever will. It's tough enough to deal with the average typical male in society, but I've found a brick wall even among self-defined "submissive" men. To be blunt, I find that their submissive desires are almost entirely selfish self-gratification in the form of having their fantasies fulfilled - it doesn't even matter what woman "uses" them - what matters is their being "used."

Perhaps you could give me some valuable guidance on the matter. I very much want to get through to them, but haven't been particularly successful to date.

With the deepest regards,


Anonymous said...

I will be bookmarking this page - an amazingly concise, clear (and disarmingly sensitive) description of male submission.

Thank you.

52 Faces said...

Wow. After giving up on the word "feminism" after college (I was a Women's Studies major! :P) I've never had a good way to describe my feelings towards gender roles, my instincts, my practices, and my beliefs.

What a fantastically interesting read. It brings quite a bit of illumination and you've helped me be at peace with aspects of my personality and very core, even.

This is definitely food for though and I'll be pondering over this and sharing it with my best friend.

SaharahEve said...

Men I've come to know thrive on accomplishing goals. They also thrive on Female approval. Once a man finds himself inspired by a Woman who acknowledges his strengths and hones in on same, there's nothing he won't do for Her. :-)


(ps. I enjoy reading your well-articulated and educational writings, Ms. Black and have added you to my site's "Friends" page.)

Keep up the good work and happy New Year to you. :)

Blanche Black said...

Thank you, SaharahEve. Nothing speaks more convincingly than first-hand experience, and I appreciate you sharing yours. Great to hear from you.

choreboy said...

I just saw Monster's Ball with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton and I'm knocked out by the dense symbolism of gender and the almost mythic quality of the story of a man turning from the violence and pain of Father-worship to the peace and fulfillment of serving the Mother. The means by which the character frees himself is exactly the kind of chivalry described here.

Although attacked by some because of assumed racial implications of the love affair, I saw the whole movie as the story of the gradual "detoxification" through chivalry of a man enmeshed in patriarchy. From this perspective the racism and later interracial love were both expressions of the character's evolving relationship away from patriarchal values toward a more "feminine" world view.

In a key moment, the hero Hank, must choose between his father, a vicious racist, and a black woman whom he loves. Symbollically smashing the Father idol, he promptly delivers his pitiful dad to a nursing home.

Hank's devotion to the Mother (Halle Berry as a widow and bereaved mom) is most beautifully shown near the end of the film. In bed, Hank seeks and gets Leticia’s permission to “touch her.” He then slides down until his head disappears off camera below her hips. We watch Leticia’s face and upper body as she experiences a beautiful and strong orgasm from whatever Hank is doing off camera.

“Did you feel that?” he asks Leticia afterward in a dazed and joyful way, as if his experience of her orgasm was so powerful that it felt like his own.

“Yeah, I did.” Leticia tells him with charming understatement.

(Spoiler Alert!) While this selfless worshipper is out buying his lady ice cream, she discovers that he is, in fact, one of the prison guards present at her late husband's execution.

Now the notion that a woman could forgive this offense is no doubt farfetched. But in the conext of his movie, in which a man tries to earn forgiveness and inner peace by selfless service and sacrifice to a Lady, Leticia's decision not only to forgive, but to accept Hank's offering of care and love, is a very hopeful ending.

I'd recommend fans of this site check out Monster's Ball and let us know if you see it as a tale of chivalry, too.

Crystal L Whitfield said...

This is a wonderful article and I'm going to share it with others.

Crystal L Whitfield said...

Where can I get more wonderful articles about this?

Anonymous said...

Hi Blanche Black. l think to this society lack real gentleman's who really respect, adore and cherish women(ladies).l think chivalry is needed in nowadays society.About male frequent ejaculation read flr101, very useful blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi,how women can help men to be chivalrious and treat them with more respect.What chivalrious acts men can do for ladies? Thanks you for good post.Steve1

Blanche Black said...

I have seen chivalry take many forms. The men I have dated have come up with their own way of acknowledging female superiority. But the common element to all truly chivalrous acts is that they must involve a genuine sacrifice of pleasure, comfort, or need, on the part of the male, and they must contribute to the pleasure, comfort, or need of the female.

Offering to carry a woman's groceries up/down the stairs, or a female friend's bag for her, are common acts of chivalry that are usually appreciated. If you see a woman struggling with something, that is usually an indication that they could use some help. Or you could do what a friend of mine does and hire yourself out for free to single mothers in need of help with chores around the house. It will take time to get people to trust you, but with perseverance and some willing volunteer clients, you can find a lot of women to serve. Then just ask them what they need done.

Ms. Black

Anonymous said...

Do you expect man to be chivalrous with you,what chivalrous acts do you like man does for ladies.l think real gentleman wants to serve and please his woman, in this way he reveals his serving and giving nature.This is a good way to show his love,respect,cherish and devoution to his beloved woman.Men like to please and pamper women, chivalry is a good way to demonstrate that.Steve1