His and Hers
A guide to personal conquest
by Derek Ellis
Professor of Biology University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada
I am writing a review and criticism of this book because it is simply so amazing on multiple different levels. It is a stunning book. A book like I thought I’d never see.
Let me explain. I wrote a book which I can’t do anything with, because the content is so controversial and damaging to me. For a number of years I’ve had to deal with living in this, without any much stimulation from the world of reality.
I often look in book shops for books that give some indication of the author knowing something of reality. Usually I am disappointed in this, but that’s not all that surprising given that the place in which we operate is a mythspace necessarily disconnected from the real world.
Let me get this straight; Subordinate Sex was, and is an absolute failure as a commercial prospect. You will scarcely find a more rare and unloved volume. From what I can discern on the web there was only ever the first edition in hardback published in 1983. Even that seems uncited and unreviewed, basically making no impact on the world whatsoever, save it being an obscure volume on the shelves of a few scattered bookshops. There are so few of these books in the world, that if even a fraction of the people who read this review went out to get hold of a copy, that would totally exhaust the world’s total (second hand) supply.
So why should you care about that? Some book that effectively has been shunned by the world?
You should care because it is one of the very few texts that lie outside the end of science. People don’t want to know about, not because they believe it’s false, but because they can see it might be true. If it was true it would be a big problem for the world because they would have to see reality in a whole new way, and that’s massively threatening for them.
Make no mistake, Subordinate Sex is right up there with Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, The decent of Man, The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris and Wilson’s Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. In other words it’s important as an anthropological sense as an investigation of humankind as those prior volumes.
Unlike those volumes however it is virtually unknown.
Look at the following headline from the BBC archive:
1967: The Naked Ape steps out Zoologist Dr Desmond Morris has stunned the world by writing about humans in the same way scientists describe animals.
If that ‘stunned the world’ why was this book ‘shunned by the world’. There are reasons as we will see.
Most interesting for me, this book is a crack in the armor of the mythspace, that all embracing explanation that everyone seems to want to believe. It’s not so much a crack because of what it says, no that can be dealt with – I’ll be doing a bit of that myself. No it is an anomaly because it was placed in front of people and they chose to ignore it, which is a miniature social horror. Just as it would be if I went round with a gun shooting people and they chose to ignore that.
People ignored it and there are reasons why. They have nothing to do with truth. People don’t want truth. They want to cover up the truth. We have this thing ‘Anthropological truth’ which is a byproduct of science. Science itself we love because it is a tool which gives us power. Anthropological truth can give us power too, but in this case it undermines the very root of the power structure itself so then it must be ignored, not argued against and rejected, but outright ignored.
As for me, I am alone. The reason for this is that there is scarcely a single person in the world who seems to understand a single thing outside the mythspace. This gives me a dilemma. I am alone, and yet if I show people things I give them an advantage over me. Furthermore discussion of the matter often depends on personal experience which when revealed causes me to run the risk of greater isolation and alienation from people.
With this book – I love it. I don’t have to exploit my own personal experiences, I can just point to this book and that can take my shame, my guilt, my indecision about how to live in this thing whatever you call it.
That is a very great relief to me.
I’ve been thinking for weeks how I’m going to approach this piece of writing that I know I must do. …The simple madness of it.
What I’m saying is that there was this manuscript that a publisher accepted from a reputable, previously published university biologist. They decided to print that manuscript as a hard cover book, presumably promoting it through all the usual channels. They said that it was “the first new theory of human sexuality since Freud” Then it “fell stillborn from the press” as Nietzsche once said of one one of his books.
Years later I come along, a nobody, and I tell you that this is a really interesting book that you should get really excited about. What the fuck?
OK enough blabber. The publishers dust cover jacket is entitled “SUBORDINATE SEX” with the subtitle “A GUIDE TO PERSONAL CONQUEST” and then in fancy script “Dr Derek Ellis” The main picture is of a naked man and woman identifiable by gender, but not individually behind an opaque glass shower screen, with two towels on a railing infront of them. On these towels is embroidered “His” and “Hers” respectively. “His and Hers” is actually the subtitle to the book whereas “ A guide to personal conquest” is only present on the dust cover, reflecting presumably the publishers justifiable nervousness about the commercial prospects of a book entitled, as it is “Subordinate Sex”.
The only impression you get when first viewing the cover, is that it is some sort of seventies sex manual with only the ‘personal conquest’ thing possibly slightly detracting from that.
Upon opening the book we find the publishers description:
Subordinate Sex outlines the new way to personal development and dynamic achievement for the future and explains how you can gain sexual rewards by amicably deferring and subordinating yourself to those whom you desire and who wish to dominate you.
Actually that’s not exactly what the book’s about, (It’s all rewards and not just sexual) but it’s near enough, and if it was just saying that then it would simply be a unisex version of controversial book The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle (although predating it by about twenty years) i.e. ‘the surrendered person’.
There’s more to it than that though, as I presume that The Surrendered Wife is a purely social, rather than biological account.
The next part of the inside dust cover continues:
Dr Derek Ellis, Professor of biology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, divides people into three groups: Subordinates, Dominants and Super-Subordinates. He asserts that most men and women are mid ranking Subordinates put down by condescending Dominants. But this need not be the case… [he] claims that success in your personal and working life comes not from emulating the Dominants, but from developing a strategy all of your own. He shows how by using your individual talents, opportunities and achievements to your own advantage you can infact become Super-Subordinates and thereby enjoy the pleasures of the Dominants.
Actually he divides people into even more groups than that, but the important point is the way in which people are divided up as having these traits in their inherent natures as opposed to simply acting to the situation. For instance I could divide people up between people whose favorite colour is red and those whose favorite colour is blue, but that wouldn’t necessarily say anything significant or essential about them as people. One of Ellis’s most important theories is that it’s not just that we act in a certain way but we are a certain way. This leaves the question of what happens if you try to act more dominant or are thrust into a dominant role. This is answered by referring to such a person as a “CON-DOM” in the case of someone trying to be dominant but not pulling it off and a Ritual DOM in the case of a person who is put into a position of authority. You will notice that one of the most annoying and grating things about the book is the use of “DOM” or “SUB” in capitals, like something really bizarre is being shouted out at you.
So there is an uncomfortable, porn like feeling about reading the book. It’s hardly the kind of thing you want to read on the bus – a book with “Subordinate Sex” emblazoned on it. Which is ironic, since there practically no description of what we might immediately imagine “Subordinate Sex” to be, contained anywhere within the book.
An Evolutionary Prescription
There are many evolutionary psychology books and many that make ethical prescriptions. Only Subordinate Sex makes prescriptions based on our animal natures rather than social myth. Here a crucial departure takes place – advice on how to be a good animal. In many ways this is obvious, but it is also extremely unusual.
I’m going to leave it here for today. I’ll be back soon with some more scans from the book and more analysis.
Please leave any comments. I want to find out what you think.
Oh and do you know what the best thing is?
The book has been redone and published for the internet age!
May I present Sex, Food and Rank by Derek Ellis: