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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Should women "surrender"?
Women striving to be the equal of men is the root of all unhappiness and the disintegration of marriages, according to a controversial book.
In The Surrendered Wife, American author Laura Doyle, promotes the philosophy that women are happiest when they obey their husbands at all times.
She says that women should submit to sex whenever their husbands wish, and should not demand satisfaction for themselves. They should also forgive indiscretions away from home.
Doyle is part of a backlash against feminism that began in the early 1990s. But women are now working in record numbers and are more independent than ever.
Is this a realistic lifestyle choice for women? Would you consider changing your way of life for your man?
Laura Doyle joined us for a live forum on Thursday and answered a selection of you questions.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I personally don't think I could be attracted to a woman who had no ambition for herself. I'd much rather have a wife who was my equal than my slave.
How boring it would be! Three quarters of my wife's conversation with her friends revolves around how wrong and silly all the husbands are, on a distressingly frequent basis. What would they have to talk about if they "submitted"? Of course, they could come half way by talking a little more about politics and discussing history, etc, while peppering their conversation a little bit less with juicy examples of what a jerk I am. Nahh, forget it... I'm happy with the way things are (although a bit more "submission" when I ask her to run down to the store to pick me up some more beer might be pleasant, but I'm willing to bet incredibly large amounts of money that it won't happen).
Suzanne McMillan, Japan (UK)
Making peace at home does not happen by ignoring conflict, but by resolving it. Ms Doyle is suggesting the former, I believe. She forgets that marriage is a partnership. And here's an idea for her: regarding sex, most men nowadays are willing to help their female partner enjoy it. This only makes sense if the men hope to "get any".
I believe that women should obey and do what they are told. Get women out of the work force and back into the home - then maybe there will be less violence at the schools because there will be a parent at home to teach these little children right from wrong. Besides, there will be more jobs for us guys!
I am told by my wife that neither men nor women really totally surrender themselves to their partners. And if she says so, who am I to argue?
Agha Ata, USA
If men want obedience, they should get a dog!
I come from the "surrendered husband" school. I have discovered my life is so much easier if I simply waste my time going to fabric shops, agreeing with my wife's choice of curtain material and then paying for it. Also, I find that by accepting all blame and responsibility for anything that might go wrong whether it's around the home, while driving, at work or on the news, I avoid so many stressful arguments. In addition I find that by not bothering to have sex I don't get abused for being some weird sex-crazed deviant. "Surrendered wife"? - Ha! Makes a change.
Jesmond Grech, Malta
Here in Saudi Arabia, a significant proportion of the population believe that a woman's role is to serve a man. They claim it is an equal role to the man's, and claim that they have a better standard of living than women in the west who have to work. However, one rarely hears women in this country voicing that opinion. Most women here long for their freedom and the right to make their own choices independent of husbands, fathers and brothers. Men's domination of women is simply another form of abuse, and has no place in a modern civilised society.
I hope that "submissive" wives are not being confused with "housewives". My wife looks after our five children full time and gives them all the love and support they need. If anyone dare suggest that she is lazy or weak because she is at home, they will have a fight on their hands. I work for my family, not for myself, which sadly many selfish people seem to do these days - both male and female.
The roles have switched. The men are the wives now and the women are the husbands. The women are going to work, managing the money, cooking the meals, raising the kids - I mean, we all have 2 full time jobs while the guys go to work and come home and sit on their fat asses all night. Then they want sex after all that.
If a woman marries a man, surely that is an indication of mutual commitment to love and fidelity. It must be wrong, therefore, to talk as though a woman were 'imprisoned' by marriage - it's a voluntary thing. But, similarly, if a man really loves his wife, it should be his responsibility to see that she is reasonably happy, whatever that entails.
I'm sorry, but having been a victim of a sexual assault I can never agree with the 'philosophy' of total submission to a man. I am in a long-term relationship and planning to get married, and my husband-to-be finds the idea of submission to either partner offensive, in fact he finds the idea, as I do, of total submission to any other person offensive. I was brought up in a very open-minded Christian atmosphere, being the daughter of not only a Priest, but a female one. I was taught that Love is based on MUTUAL respect, trust and compassion. I find Ms Doyle's views archaic and dangerous. I thank God for my upbringing, most sincerely.
What is this woman's value system? Give up your humanity and you'll be happy? What exactly about that situation would make me happy? I would ask. And what sort of happiness would that be, anyway? One could also be perpetually happy by stuffing oneself with Prozac, for example, but would that be commendable? (I'm assuming here that Doyle would say 'no', but I might be wrong!) The stimuli provoked by direct exposure to life, to the immense possibilities of thought, of feelings, the struggle to learn, all those things make for a fuller life. I don't see how obeying your husband can be compatible with this.
Hasn't she heard about the Women's Movement? This kind of backward thinking is helping to set back women to a Victorian era. Bring back Hillary Clinton. All is forgiven!!
Being married is being in a PARTNERSHIP. Both my husband and I are fiercely independent people with very separate interests. He cooks during the week (because he's home first); I cook special meals at the weekend. I do the decorating; he digs the garden. I would never tell him not to do something, because he would never knowingly do anything to upset me and it's the same the other way around. My husband works with an all female staff and I am in a male-dominated industry. So what! Our two children (girl 20 [away at college], boy 6) both pull their weight in the house and their sex is irrelevant. Any relationship is like a puzzle - the pieces have to fit together. Women will never be the same as men - why should they be? PS: We're a blissfully happy family and proud of it!!!
Having watched the television programme last night and seen Mrs Doyle and heard what she and some of her "students" had to say I have to say she not only has a point, but seems to me genuinely concerned about helping couples have a happy marriage. Is this such a terrible thing? Also the first point she emphasised was that she deliberately chose the word surrender and NOT (as so many people here claim) the word submit as this would imply dominance which is not where she is coming from.
The main objective seemed to me to be helping women to be themselves whilst allowing their husbands to do the same, in other words be happy and leave each other alone, sounds good to me.
I come from a cultural background where Doyle would fit in perfectly. If she had to go through half of what my grandmothers went through I doubt she would have written such a book.
I thank God that I live in a country where women have rights and so many more opportunities, how can a women be happy being man's slave?
So yet another American comes up with yet another gender-dividing, headline-grabbing view to sell something. If my mother had surrendered as Doyle (and my father) wanted her to, we'd have been destitute growing up when he took early retirement - and that was thirty years ago.
The start of the feminist movement was the fact that women were seen as objects, to be treated as men saw fit. A lot of men were good, a lot more were terrible. We should all be given the choice to do what we want and live our lives the best way. That means that some fathers are better "mothers" than some mothers and some mothers are better for their children and husbands if they go out to work. No family is ever going to function properly if there is not equality and mutual respect. And just imagine the kind of brats that would be the result of a family culture where one parent has to be dominated by the other.
I can see what Laura Doyle is trying to say - basically, life is easier if you just do what you're told. This doesn't just apply to women, but to ordinary people the world over. We are always being told by governments and heads of business to keep quiet, "don't rock the boat", don't go on strike, do as your told it's for your own good. Anyone who comes out with the sort of ideas Laura Doyle has, doesn't believe in personal freedom full stop.
Doyle should remember that in the 18th Century women weren't even allowed to read lest they start having ideas, let alone write, so she should remember that if it wasn't for men and women fighting for equal rights, she wouldn't be writing her book in the first place. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you (i.e. using democracy to undermine it!)
The "Doyle relationship" sounds like conscription i.e. something you hope you never have to do. I'm sorry, but I'm a hopeless romantic, I think people get married because they love one another i.e. it's a contract the "law" will never fully quantify.
Dawn, having heard your side of the story ... I'd like to hear your husband's side.
Writing such absurd things in a book is a great way to ensure high sales, as
media organisations (such as the BBC) obviously think that their ratings
will be improved by talking about it.
Di Stewart, USA
Why not? People go for every other sad fad that comes along!
Making woman equal to man means removing her from her pedestal!
Only to their partners! No not really, to surrender implies you are in a battle and losing. From my experience women in Europe and the USA are starting to win and about time too. But, from over 25 years working in the Middle East I can't see a time in the near future that women will even get the chance to fight let alone surrender! What a boring existence to have a wife without a will of her own and rights to go with it - I support you all the way.
There is a flaw in Laura Doyle's premise - i.e. what if the husband or man is a cretin or crypto-fascist? Should the poor (and dumb) woman - she's gotta be if she hitched up with such a man - put up with this crock of horse manure?
Steve from the US had a point: Ms. Doyle could well be on a money-making mission riding a trend. Maybe we shouldn't take her so seriously, more seriously than any other fad. Let's try to get used to idea that ideas can be sold as well as products and we don't have to buy all the fad products - or ideas!
I think that a wife should 'surrender' to their husband but only if the husband is also prepared to 'surrender' to his wife. By this I mean that both the husband and the wife should put each other's well being and welfare before their own. This does not mean a wife being 'subservient' to a domineering, drunken and violent husband. It means two people, who genuinely love each other, putting each other before themselves. How can a relationship fail if it is run on these principles? How can it succeed if it isn't? The underlying problem, for relationships in our [so-called liberated and enlightened] society, is not the issue of whether women should 'surrender' to their husbands; it is that, in our culture of sexual freedom and one night stands, people end up being hitched to someone who doesn't truly love them.
It is obvious from reading the postings here that no-one understands the concept of a D/s (Dominant / submissive) lifestyle. Surely any relationship that works for that couple is right for them. The idea of a D/s relationship is taking the author's ideas to their ultimate end, but what is wrong with that! There are many hundreds of thousands of people who lead this type of lifestyle very happily. Perhaps some of the people that are posting here should (a) be a little more tolerant of others and (b) find out about the D/s lifestyle before rubbishing it.
Seeing Thai women suffering every day, beaten from their husbands, struggling to feed their families, never having time for themselves I believe it is a very decadent thinking to obey their ignorant, violent, silly uneducated husbands. This lady is not married, right? What is she doing if she is married to fulfil her husband? If you live in luxury, then it's very easy to play this game.
I don't think women should be throwing in the towel to their partners as this will demoralise them, and also give the us, which are the male species of the human race, an excuse to put women down.
We have never given women the chance they deserve, even though I do agree that a women is good at things that a man isn't and vice-versa.
The remark where women should obey they husbands at all times should be considered not as a way of suppressing women, but a way in which both men and women listen to each other, and have a closer bond.
Women are the female sex, right? Femininity is attractive, right? Brusque, aggressive, masculine "me first" women leave men cold whatever they pretend to the contrary. That's all that Laura Doyle is really pointing out. It is not that women should become like men but that men should become more like virtuous women. That is kind, humble, loyal, sensitive, thoughtful, compassionate, caring, generous and giving.
If women are equal to men, what are men equal to?
This statement alone shows that equality can never be achieved amongst the sexes, but society can falsely believe that it does.
Kim Harvey, UK
We must remember that human beings are a diverse bunch. I believe there are naturally "submissive" people who may, very well, be happier in a relationship where someone else makes all the decisions but I don't see any evidence that a disproportionate number of them are women.
It just goes to show that some people will engage in all kinds of moral and intellectual contortions, rather than grow up and be a responsible adult. If you submit completely to your husband, then nothing that goes wrong is your fault, is it?
I know there are still women like this, I know plenty of them. But I also know that these are the weak, lazy few. The vast majority of women today could never submit to that role - and thank God. I personally, and I think I speak for most men, would not want a woman like that, I could never respect her. The only men that want a woman like that, and unfortunately they still exist as well, are the weak, insecure men who see their wife as their property rather than an equal partner. The old traditional marriage is outmoded now, it is in its death-throes, humanity is evolving beyond that into more equal partnerships, but there will still be those lagging behind and living in the old world.
The key to personal happiness lies deep within all of us. No one can write a book about finding it any more than they can tell you how the unlock vaults in the Bank of England. You can of course pray on people's insecurity and make a few quid in the process though. Nice work bird, now make us a bacon buttie!
It just so happens (according to a well informed radio DJ) that Mrs Doyle is getting a divorce! I suppose she is only "surrendering" to the wishes of her beloved husband one LAST TIME!
Come on! My Mother and my Mother-in-law were both dominant. Give us males a chance, we die for you in wars and in the UK, you Ladies get the State Pension at 60 and we don't. Stop whinging please. BR> Bob Newcombe, England
I think this latest work reflects a strengthening of the conservative political and social movements in the US, especially in light of last November's elections. The author, like others, have tried this tack before and have quickly faded from the limelight.
I believe most men want a partner, not an automaton.
I'm not even going to contemplate how this would affect a woman's psychology, but men,
do you enjoy being subservient to your boss?
None of us are completely "free". We
all have to serve someone or
something to find fulfilment. We also
like some decisions taken for us -
otherwise we are lost in swathes of
options, the strain becomes intolerable
and we have no-one to blame but
ourselves. Laura Doyle wants to serve
her partner and leave the choosing to
him. Good for her. But not necessarily
good for everyone else.
I think equality has been more than
Lets stop with how things should be
and get on with the complicated
things in life - like paying the bills etc.
I am going to buy this book for my wife, I will let you know in a few days whether or not she read it or made me eat it.
My partner and I strongly disagree
with the opinions stressed by
Ms. Doyle. In fact in our household
the roles have been reversed to a
large extent whereby I have taken
on the traditional 'woman's' role.
My partner is the stronger element
in our relationship and I would not
consider myself the stereotypical
male. I would challenge any opinion
of male domination.
Kate Lovegrove, UK
I think what is great about feminism is that women finally realised that they were individuals and that their life doesn't necessarily have to revolve around men, whether single or married. I think the view that women should submit to men, would totally go against my grain - if it suits some, fine - better them than me
Women should not surrender, any more than men should have to put up with nagging wives.
I thought it was all about team work and mutual respect.
This woman is very intelligent! She has everyone in a tizzy about a book that doesn't tell us anything that we haven't all heard before and will probably sell more copies of her book than any feminist book will this year!
If my wife would obey me at all times be sure I would leave her very soon to look for a more interesting character creating and living her own life!
This suggestion is outrageous! How far back into the past does she want us to go? These absurd principles date back to the days when women didn't even have the right to vote and think for themselves, basic human rights which I presume even she must support. To use American vernacular, she should "get real!"
Sue Alexander, Indonesia
Every couple is different to every other. To proscribe roles for people regardless of personality type is ignorant and pointless. The book has absolutely nothing to say to people who wouldn't already be following what it recommends.
This book and the comments of Paul Taylor, UK and John Carter, UK are based on a false premise. The false premise is that until the 60s or 70s women were completely servile and did not work outside the home. Many feminists also seem to have this point of view. Read the history books. Read about all the great women who have lived. Women have fought in wars. Women have ruled countries.
The truth is that women have been contributing economically to their families for thousands of years. Women have more often than not been the authority in the household (the elderly matriarch is still common in many so-called male dominated cultures). Women have had to be self sufficient and make the decisions when husbands died, went to war, travelled long distances on business, worked long hours often seven days a week. The human race would not have survived so long if half of the world's population was so weak and dependent.
All Ms Doyle is doing is trying to go back to a time that never existed except in physically abusive, impoverished households. And remember, the countries where women are the most submissive and obedient are the poorest countries in the world.
I would love to be with a strong man who could provide me with a comfortable lifestyle, be trusted to pay the bills and make all the major decisions but unfortunately I have never found one. However when I am in a relationship I have found that the more I do to keep my partner happy, the less he respects me.
What planet is this "woman" living on. Has she no self-respect at all! Submitting to sex whenever your husband wants it? Ok, each to their own yeah, but surely if you are in a relationship it's to do with respect for each others wants, needs and desires and wanting to make "each other" feel good, not yielding to your partner's every whim. She is entitled to her opinion. She obviously feels the women are incapable of doing a job just as well as a man, and that our place is in the kitchen or the bedroom. We are looking for respect and something to give us a self-esteem boost, because so many women have been conditioned into thinking that we can't do this, we can't do that. We should stay in the kitchen where we belong. Times are changing. Role with it.
Compromise is a great thing, unfortunately in a marriage it is not what seems to be the same as the description in the dictionary! When a wife wants to do something the men can only watch, but when a men wants to do something the wife has to give the final decision. That is what feminism in this age has really become. Control! Women are getting their revenge for all the years that they were second class. This is not right because the men that are living today are the ones that have given you the rights that you deserve!
No, we should'nt return to those bad old days. What does concern me though is that men no longer know how to be a man. Constantly having to question whether what we do and what we feel is politically correct etc. Marriage should be an equal partnership and bond. Feminism - I don't know, at the end of the day women can get what they want if they really want it!
Amy Kellam, U.K
Maybe Mrs. Doyle should stop writing books, get back to cooking dinner, and spare us this garbage!
Women used to stay at home and devote their lives to building a good secure home base from which to launch good, strong, mentally healthy and secure children. I think that women have thrown away their "true" power by going out to work. You don't have to be at the front line to make a difference in the war. As for being his sex slave, I suggest Laura Doyle most likely has a sexual fantasy she is living out!
Paul Taylor, UK
If a black author wrote a book suggesting that race-relations would be improved by all African Americans enlisting themselves as slaves, that book would never be published by a major publisher. This book should be regarded in the same manner.
Psychologically this philosophy makes good sense. The whole act of sexual intercourse in many cases involves the woman surrendering to the man. Its nature, and when we go against it we're unhappy. It's not politically correct, but stop and think, men are stronger, women are weaker, whatever they say they'd rather be with a man who they can surrender to. It's psychological fact.
As far as I can see, feminism gave women the opportunity to choose. If Laura Doyle wants to be a voluntary sex-slave, that's her choice. I hope she is happy. Personally, I could never do that, and I don't think my partner would want me to either. If it weren't for feminism, I would not have so much freedom to do all the things I want.
Where's the fun in argument if I win all the time. If I want to marry a mannequin, I'll go to Macy's.
I believe in women's equality but women surrendering
to men is perhaps the weirdest idea I have heard from
the western world
Men and women, both have to work together to protect the family structure. If one takes on an extra burden than strain will develop in the relationship. Unfortunately, over the last few decades women have taken over extra "outside" work and still kept on the "home" work (primary responsibility of family care). The husband or wife should not be subservient to the other, they should understand each others needs (be they physical or emotional) and divide the responsibility fairly.
Is this the next generation of Stepford wives rearing it's head?
What an insult to suggest that men would be happy in this situation. Although there are no doubt bullying or insecure individuals male and female who would like their partners to be their slaves rather than an equal partner, ignoring differences in needs, aspirations and expectations in a relationship is not the way to treat the person whose life they have chosen to share with you.
I'm glad my wife doesn't follow this philosophy - there are occasions when she's right and I'm wrong! Besides which, she has her own goals which are just as valid as mine - the point of marriage is a union based on sharing, not domineering.
So Laura Doyle thinks women are second class citizens, well Mrs Doyle I think you've been brainwashed, wake up and smell the coffee, and as for your books burn them!!
Jason Ward, UK
This Mormon-sounding philosophy is completely silly and totally unworkable in practice. It does sound good in theory, but then I would never be with anyone who would be so weak-willed to bow down to a philosophy like this.
What a load of rubbish! Women are equal to men and should not pander to their wishes. Only through compromise and respect can a relationship survive healthily. I would never give up my freedom for a man. If a man wanted me to, then I would know I was with the wrong man.
I think this "wife surrendering" is a lot of rubbish! It is certainly not realistic. Women have the right to be independent!
Even if it were true that women were happier submitting to men (and I strongly doubt it) is such happiness worth the price? The happiness that comes from letting another person rule your life and take all decisions on your behalf is no more than lazy complacency. A poor relationship might be 'saved' by one side surrendering to the other, but it can not be transformed into a good and healthy relationship unless points of conflict are addressed and resolved.
Speaking as a husband-to-be, I find the suggestion repellent.
I have never heard such a load of absolute rubbish! No woman in her right mind is going to be brow-beaten in this way. A woman has a mind of her own, she makes her own choices, and should not be forced into anything by any man.
Julian Hayward, UK
The problem with equality is that the apparent confusion between the terms "equal" and "identical". The basic fact is that men and women are different, and trying to pretend otherwise is lunacy. The "traditional" family model worked just fine for hundreds of years, and now we've decided to tinker with it in the name of "liberation". The term "housewife" is largely regarded as derogatory, despite the fact that some women prefer this lifestyle. I'm not sure I would go as far as "surrender" in my description of the ideal, but it's time we grasped the concept that people have different contributions to make, and the fact that they are different does not automatically mean one is more worthy than the other.
There will undoubtedly be a swathe of respondents up in arms over this heresy. Surely the most important thing, though, is the happiness of the person concerned. If some women prefer such an arrangement, then so be it, and never mind the meddling wannabe-dictators who complain!
What man would want to be with a submissive woman in this day and age? What woman would want to live that way? I cannot even imagine how Doyle managed to conjure up this theory.
Bradley Cotier, England
Americans will write any sort of old tripe to make a buck. What a load of rubbish this is - it insults the intelligence of all people - men and women alike.
27 Mar 01 | Arts
Taming the shrew, US-style
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