Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Previous Section   363. How each Sex has its Prejudice about Love   Next Section

How each Sex has its Prejudice about Love.

Notwithstanding all the concessions which I am inclined to make to the monogamic prejudice, I will never admit that we should speak of equal rights in the love of man and woman: there are no such equal rights.  The reason is that man and woman understand something different by the term love, and it belongs to the conditions of love in both sexes that the one sex does not presuppose the same feeling, the same conception of "love" in the other sex.  What woman understands by love is clear enough: complete surrender (not merely devotion) of soul and body, without any motive, without any reservation, rather with shame and terror at the thought of a devotion restricted by clauses or associated with conditions.  In this absence of conditions her love is precisely a faith: woman has no other.  Man, when he loves a woman, wants precisely this love from her; he is consequently, as regards himself, furthest re moved from the prerequisites of feminine love; granted, however, that there should also be men to whom on their side the demand for complete devotion is not unfamiliar, well, they are really not men.  A man who loves like a woman becomes thereby a slave; a woman, however, who loves like a woman becomes thereby a more perfect woman.  The passion of woman in its unconditional renunciation of its own rights presupposes in fact that there does not exist on the other side an equal pathos, an equal desire for renunciation: for if both renounced themselves out of love, there would result well, I don t know what, perhaps a horror vacui?  Woman wants to be taken and accepted as a possession, she wishes to be merged in the conceptions of "possession" and "possessed"; consequently she wants one who takes, who does not offer and give himself away, but who reversely is rather to be made richer in "himself" by the increase of power, happiness and faith which the woman herself gives to him.  Woman gives herself, man takes her.  I do not think one will get over this natural contrast by any social contract, or with the very best will to do justice, however desirable it may be to avoid bringing the severe, frightful, enigmatical, and unmoral elements of this antagonism constantly before our eyes.  For love, regarded as complete, great, and full, is nature, and as nature, is to all eternity something "unmoral”.  Fidelity is accordingly included in woman s love, it follows from the definition thereof; with man fidelity may readily result in consequence of his love, perhaps as gratitude or idiosyncrasy of taste, and so-called elective affinity, but it does not belong to the essence of his love and indeed so little, that one might almost be entitled to speak of a natural opposition between love and fidelity in man, whose love is just a desire to possess, and not a renunciation and giving away; the desire to possess, however, comes to an end every time with the possession.  As a matter of fact it is the more subtle and jealous thirst for possession in a man (who is rarely and tardily convinced of having this "possession"), which makes his love continue; in that case it is even possible that his love may increase after the surrender, he does not readily own that a woman has nothing more to "surrender" to him.  
 

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