'The Manipulated Man' (1971), is a book written by Esther Vilar, of which the primary theme is opposition to traditional monogamous marriage, which the author argues is mostly detrimental to men. The author does not argue for a return to traditional marriage, but rather a future where men and women are on equal footing in responsibilities and expectations of each other.
The author argues that women learn from an early age learn how to make men responsible for everything potentially unpleasant in their life. At the same time making sure that men don't expect anything more than sex in return (if they are lucky). Esther refers to this exchange as more exploitative on the part of women than the worst robber barons.
The book reads more like a sensational polemic than a serious effort. There are lots of instances of lazy thinking, and generalizations so sweeping they are almost comical. This lack of nuance could be explained by the rhetorical nature of the work. However, the primary thrust of the book is basically correct. The core themes and ideas presented in the book could be seen as having anticipated the MGTOW movement.
The primary idea of the book is that marriage is an institution that primarily favors women. Vilar portrays women's relationships with men as parasitical in nature, with the sole cause of this dynamic being what Vilar sees by men's naive and idealistic view of women, but that conversely women are only capable of viewing men in an instrumental and callous fashion. The author portrays women are being mostly uninterested in men except as potential providers, claiming that they primarily prefer the company of women, but not necessarily in a Sapphic/lesbian fashion. She extols the achievements and accomplishments of men in comparison with the meager accomplishments of women, claiming that men's dependence on what could be called female 'validation' is a serious impediment to their (men's) true potential.
Vilar portrays men as hapless dupes who have been brainwashed from an early age to 'pedastalize' and worship women, while she portrays women as empty, prosaic, venal and stupid creatures, often using the kind polemical misogynistic language that these days one would typically only find on some particularly 'edgy' Manosphere forums (e.g "It is quite incredible that men, whose desire for knowledge knows no bounds in every other field, are really totally blind to these facts, that they are incapable of seeing women as they really are: with nothing else to offer but a vagina, two breasts and some punch cards programmed with idle, stereotyped chatter; that they are nothing more than conglomerations of matter, lumps of stuffed human skin pretending to be thinking human beings".)
Vilar then outlines the methods that women use to manipulate men, comparing the methods used by women to 'break men in', to the methods Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov used to condition his dogs. Namely that women utilize men's fragile self-esteem and dependence on women's approval to manipulate them to behave in the manner they want through positive reinforcement (praise ,sex) or appealing to his ego and desire to be seen as more capable and intelligent then women, by engaging in strategic self-abasement. She depicts religion as yet another tool women use to manipulate men, portraying religion as basically proxy worship of women by men, and claims that women's interest in religious worship is solely pragmatic in nature, that will be cast off when she no longer needs it to enforce male subservience.
Vilar turns to childbirth and motherhood as another example of women's manipulation of men. She states that despite women's frequent exaggeration of the pain and suffering the act of childbirth entails, for most women (due to modern anesthesia) the experience is no more painful then a visit to the dentist, and that it is in any case a small price to pay for receiving a life-long sinecure.
The author then depicts women as being largely uninterested in financial or professional success, instead lazily preferring to date the male success stories in these areas, and thereby allowing her already meagre faculties to further decline through disuse.
Vilar then gives a brief history of the second wave of Feminism, depicting it as a cynical move by women to further exploit men and receive more privileges on their behalf, by presenting themselves as the mere hapless victims of male oppression, and appealing to male guilt and ego. She claims that the main second-wave feminist writers produced nothing novel; that their arguments and ideas were the work of clever men who had been the prior subjects of female manipulation (Marx, Freud, Ibsen.) She notes that despite feminist claims of male hostility towards women, the male opposition to this movement was minimal, and that the movement only really prevailed because of male weakness. She states that therefore, true 'liberation' of women would require them to abdicate the numerous privileges they have been afforded by men.
Vilar concludes the book by stating that 'love' is a concept women use to justify their exploitation and enslavement of men. She lambasts men for what she views as their eternally servile attitude in regards to women, and what she sees as men's pitiable dependency in regards to women. She states that due to women's insatiable nature, the more men suffer and toil to ensure an easier life for women, and the more freedoms, privileges, and honors men bestow upon them, the more demanding and ungracious the women will act in return.
Finally, she remarks that due to men's dependency, it falls to women to upturn this master-slave dynamic. However, because of women's callous nature and lack of any real incentive to do so, she concludes by stating that the situation will only grow worse.
The book met a very hostile reception from most of her fellow feminists. In a televised debate with (then) prominent German feminist Alice Schwarzer, Vilar was dubbed a Fascist and compared to Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher.
The author also claimed to have been the recipient of death threats because of the book. Stating: "So I hadn't imagined broadly enough the isolation I would find myself in after writing this book. Nor had I envisaged the consequences which it would have for subsequent writing and even for my private life - violent threats have not ceased to this date."
- By the age of twelve at the latest, most women have decided to become prostitutes. Or to put it another way, they have chosen a future for themselves that consists of choosing a man and letting him to do all the work.
- A man who would cry only if a real catastrophe occurred (perhaps the death of his wife) must assume that when his wife breaks into floods of tears because of cancelled holiday plans, for example, her emotions are equally strong, but for a lesser cause. He even thinks himself loutish and callous because he cannot share her grief. What an advantage a man would have if only he realized the cold, clear thoughts running through a woman's head while her eyes are brimming with tears.
- As a result of 'love', man is able to hide his cowardly self-deception behind a smoke screen of sentiment. He is able to make himself believe that his senseless enslavement to woman and her hostages is more than an act of honor, it has a higher purpose. He is entirely happy in his role as a slave and has arrived at the goal he has so long desired. Since woman gains nothing but one advantage after another from the situation as it stands today, things will never change.