Elsewhere in Patriarchy . . . Mistresses!

By: hawkgrrrl
June 14, 2011

What do mistresses have to do with patriarchy?  Well, clearly the church is against mistresses (unless you count polygamy, wink* wink*), but elsewhere in patriarchy, mistresses are all the rage.  This is the first of a series of posts on other patriarchal cultures.  Since the Mormon church claims (unironically) to be a patriarchy, let’s see who’s on the pillow next to us, also claiming that term.  Based on our low tolerance for mistresses, this is one area where I don’t think we are (currently) very patriarchal, certainly nowhere as sexist and demeaning to women as other patriarchal societies.

Let’s start by defining patriarchy.  According to merriam-webster the term is used broadly to mean “control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.”  Wikipedia adds:  Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.  Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.

So, for purposes here, I will identify the link between patriarchy and the proliferation of mistresses in 4 sub-cultures:  DSK and the French, road warriors (male business travelers), politicians, and China.

DSK and the French

Everyone has watched with a mix of revulsion and – no wait, just revulsion - the arrest of DSK, CEO of IMF who forced a housekeeper to provide oral sex as part of the turndown service (apparently turndowns are passe in France – yes, that was a double entendre).  The alleged rapist claims that one-way oral sex with a complete stranger he was able to physically dominate was consensual (meaning perhaps that she said no, but he said yes enough for both of them).  Apparently the incident is now available in an online game format for hours of family fun!  Maybe the French are right, we Americans are too uptight about forcible sex with strangers.  After all, even DSK’s (third and currentwife Anne Sinclaire was proud of her hot rabbit’s ability to seduce, although her comments read like Roberto Benigni’s oscar acceptance speech.

In France’s defense, one economist guy did speak up against DSK’s proclivities, sort of:  “I fear that this man has a problem that, perhaps, made him unfit to lead an institution where women work under his command.”  Uhm, ya think?  Of course, nothing was done about his “problem” and DSK continued to be quite comfortable commanding women to do things in positions under him.

Is France a patriarchy?  Maybe, maybe not.  While there are women in positions of power, women have also been culturally conditioned to adopt a very male-friendly sexual culture (not that there’s anything wrong with being sex-positive), accepting affairs as the natural byproduct of marrying a successful man (or hot rabbit).  France may talk all consensual about so-called mutual seduction, menages a trois, and so forth, but when push comes to shove, France was not only incapable of stopping DSK, but is still largely incapable of seeing that what he did was a problem (the economist who pointed it out was ignored).  The tendency is still to shout down the repressed American prudes, not to defend women from the sexual advances of powerful men.

Is France DSK’s second victim?  You betcha.  And I’m pretty sure that turns him on.

Road Warriors

Aside from the loathesome DSK, a very non-descript survey was done indicating that some business men think of having affairs when they travel on business (14%) , and some extremely self-confident if totally immoral and misguided individuals call for room service and wait naked on the bed, hoping someone will throw them one.  Ew.  (I hasten to add, these are not politicians.  We already know they have the morals of hyenas.  These are people more or less like you and me, expecting sexual favors along with their reuben & fries).

The real message of these incidents is that apparently to some business travelers, “hotel worker” is synonymous with “free prostitute.”  As a woman who travels frequently on business, I’m skeptical that many men traveling on business are this horn doggity, but I have certainly observed a few aspiring DSKs.  They tend to be in their 50s or 60s and they order too many drinks in first class; generally, they are the only ones who don’t notice that they are creepy old men.  What they do when they finally get to their hotel rooms is anyone’s guess.  I shudder to think.


Speaking of politicians . . . Arnold’s love child also made the news recently, another case of a man in a position of power having sex with a woman subordinate to him.  Clearly this is not uncommon in politicians, although it’s always more unsavory when they preach family values (Newt Gingrich, cough, cough), have a wife who is dying of cancer (even if they are boyishly handsome), have difficulty recalling the meaning of the word “is,” leave pubic hairs on soda cans (worst pickup line ever!), or send lewd pictures of themselves out via Twitter then claim they didn’t (“Tee hee.  I really DID. Oh wait, now I’ll pretend to be sad I lied.”)  Why do politicians think this is a perk of the job?  I have to think it’s the inflated sense of ego associated with being voted into office combined with ready access to subordinate females (such as interns) who are idealistic and star-struck by their political heroes.  Gag.

So, the prudish Americans should apparently not break our arms patting ourselves on the back in the DSK scandal. 

Is politics a patriarchy?  The percentages show it is male-dominated at the most powerful levels, and clearly many men are enjoying the privileges of rank.  Just for kicks I googled female political sex scandals, and guess what?  They are about as rare as hen’s teeth.  To add insult to injury, here are some of the pet theories why:  power makes women less attractive but men more attractive (guys, is that true?  because I think I’m pretty attractive . . .), there are more men than women in politics so they are disproportionately represented in scandals (fair enough, but I think the percentages are still off), it’s harder for women to successfully juggle both a career and an affair (cuz these men are doing such a fabulous job multi-tasking), women are too emotional for affairs (not so in France!), and women are better at not getting caught (obviously impossible to prove).


I’ve been saving the best for last.  Apparently, in China it’s such a status symbol for a successful man to have a mistress (to show people he can afford multiple women, silly) that a cottage industry has emerged in Chinese universities.  Female college students are advertising their annual salary as a mistress:  from $3,000 for a low end ernai (which literally means “second breast“) up to $26,000 for an ernai from a high class University.  China’s solution?  Educate the women.  (Perhaps China missed the fact that these are college girls – imagine how much an ernai with a PhD might fetch!).  However, the attitude among Chinese girls is:  “”I’d rather cry in the back seat of a BMW than smile on a back of a bike.”  A horrifying sentiment that sounds like something you might overhear in a battered women’s shelter.  This wave of mistresses signals a return to China’s patriarchal values (and compares to its polygamous past).

So what makes powerful men think they can do whatever they want to women who are clearly lacking in power?  Uhm, power.  Duh.  When male power is unchecked (usual definition of patriarchy), men behave badly and women become mistresses.  Author Erica Jong pointed out why women usually don’t get caught in these scandals:

The assumption that these men make is that their power will protect them. Women know they won’t be protected and that they’ll be exposed. And it has to do with how much power men have in society and how little women have. So they don’t take these risks, which to men like DSK don’t even seem like risks. They feel they will be protected by the establishment because they sit atop the establishment.

Which brings us back to Mormons.  Are Mormons really patriarchal?  Maybe we are patriarchal in the way we are Christian.  We claim it (I don’t personally claim it, but the church does), but the word means something different to us than to others who use it (however, in this case, I think the others have it right, but with Christianity I’d switch that around).  Male dominated?  Check.  Females essentially have no voice in decision-making power?  Double check.  But, male tendencies are very much in check when compared to other patriarchies, thanks to the gospel, monogamous fidelity, and positive peer pressure.  Do Mormon men (and women) ever cheat?  Sure.  They are only human.  But cheating is neither rewarded nor condoned by the church.

What do you think?  Is the church becoming significantly less patriarchal over time?  Are mistresses a byproduct of patriarchy (a perk of being a man in power)?  Do you view early Mormon polygamy as our equivalent?  Discuss.

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32 Responses to Elsewhere in Patriarchy . . . Mistresses!

  1. Justin on June 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Are Mormons really patriarchal?

    The Church’s current policy is to acknowledge in word — but not in deed – that the family is the central unit of the gospel and that the priesthood holder in the home is the central priesthood leader, with the Church priesthood holders being appendage leaders [in other words, secondary as compared to a woman’s husband.] This is, however, just lip-service, to keep the male population semi-content.

    The priesthood cannot organize itself along egalitarian, tribal lines unless partriarchy/androcracy is both recognized and established. In the Church, we have neither patriarchy nor androcracy. What we have is an androcratic oligarchy. That is – rulership by a few men, i.e. the men with the “keys.” These few men rule over both other men and over women. Patriarchy assumes that all men rule, and acknowledges the father-right. So, true patriarchy does not exist in the Church.

    As long as women hold the view that the husband is not a wife’s priesthood or church leader, then power will continue to be centered in the men with “the keys” at the top of the hierarchy and tribal authority will remain inactive. The brethren of the Church know this and so do everything possible [in deed, not in words] to keep that power centered on them and the tribal authorities dormant.

    So, we are taught that patriarchy actually exists in the Church [which it doesn’t], causing the women look at the androcratic oligarchy that we have and call it “patriarchy” [which it isn’t]. They rightly don’t like the “patriarchy” that they see [because it is an androcratic oligarchy] and cannot conceive of a solution that involves forming a true patriarchy – allowing all the men to share the male power and authority b/c they see this as being worse than just having a few men with centralized power..

    However, for true equality, matriarchy must exist along with patriarchy – and gynocracy must exist along with androcracy. There must be a balance of power, and power must be shared – never concentrated in the hands of a few.

    Matriarchy and gynocracy are tribal functions, and typically don’t exist outside of one. Therefore, the tribe must be established. But what has power to establish the tribe? Patriarchy does, but it doesn’t currently exist among the members. Mormon women have the means [in their husbands] to the end they seek [equality] – but to get there they must acknowledge the patriarchy and work to establish the tribe along its matriarchal and patriarchal lines.

    If they seek any other way, then it is simply a switching of hats [meaning they seek for a gynocratic oligarchy] – and it will not be true reform.

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  2. Justin on June 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Just looking at the first shades of meaning that the word “mistress” carries — I’d wager that if anything, we could use more mistresses:

    A woman having control or authority.


    The female head of a family, household, or other establishment; a woman holding such a position in conjunction with a male counterpart.


    A woman, goddess, or thing personified as female, which has control over a person or is regarded as a protecting or guiding influence.


    A woman who has the power to control, use, or dispose of something at will.


    A woman loved and courted by a man; a female sweetheart.

    It wasn’t until I got to the seventh variation of the word “mistress” that I found:

    A woman other than his wife with whom a man has a long-lasting sexual relationship.

    But I don’t see LDS polygamy fitting this definition because it is our doctrine that plural spouses are to be received by a covenant of marriage.

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  3. Jeff Spector on June 14, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    very nice post. I suppose it is easy to say if the world view of patriarchy is to be a total boor and a slimmy gut, I’d rather not have any part of that.

    Aside from forcible, unwanted advances by men in power, there are Women who are clearly attracted to money and power just as men are attracted to beautiful women. Maybe, its social conditioning, but its real.

    It appears where women have an issue is as teachers seducing underage boys. We’ve had a rash of it in the past few years. Don’t know why.

    Given the situations you’ve mentioned it it is hard to compare the Church situation with it.

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  4. Howard on June 14, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    When male power is unchecked (usual definition of patriarchy), men behave badly and women become mistresses. While this certainly occurs male power does not need to unchecked for men to take mistresses and for women to desire to be mistresses speaking from experience power and money are female aphrodisiacs independent of unchecked power high status males are very desirable to some women independent of gold digging. Many of these relationships are deeply loving and offer that which is otherwise emotionally or sexually missing in marriage or unavailable to singles.

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  5. Will on June 14, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Speaking of women, Michelle Bauchman did well in the debate last night. She is too attractive to be elected, but did a great job.

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  6. hawkgrrrl on June 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Will – there’s speculation of a Romney / Bachmann ticket. That would add tea party cred to Romney and would be a very savvy move. Personally I don’t like populists, so I’m not a big Bachmann fan, but I don’t object to a populist veep.

    As to the mistress question – studies do show that women are more attracted by financial success because of the evolutionary need for a gestating female to have a provider to care for her while she is pregnant. However, being a mistress is a tenuous proposition financially, so evolution isn’t helping women in that case. Yet studies also show that women are more attracted to a married men (which reinforces to women that the man is attractive because some other woman thought so), although men are biologically more turned off by a married woman (because they don’t want to compete for a mate).

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  7. Marie on June 14, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Women are attracted to men with power because they don’t have power and by attaching themselves to a powerful man, through marriage or as a mistress, they feel like they can have a tiny bit of power as well. It doesn’t make it ok, just understandable.

    I think this translates to the church on some levels. I saw a survey a while back where men were more willing to say they were uncomfortable with institutional sexism within the church. As a woman, to complain about the unbalance makes you an outsider, taking away even more power. You are better off in the short term to talk about how wonderful it is that your husband/father/leader has the priesthood to bless your life and find ways to lift them up in that power than complain that you yourself are powerless.

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  8. Justin on June 14, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    although men are biologically more turned off by a married woman (because they don’t want to compete for a mate).


    Can you cite where you got this idea from?

    The research I’ve found shows that men are more aroused by a polyandrous setting than a monogamous or polygynous one.

    Images and videos showing one woman with multiple males are far more popular on the Internet and in commercial pornography than those depicting one male with multiple females.

    Researchers looked at the titles being sold on a large pornographic video distributor’s website — and it listed over 900 videos in the “multi-men per woman” genre, but only 27 with multi-women per man.

    If men are hard-wired for either monogamy or polygyny — then what would explain the males in our species being sexually excited by scenes of groups of men ejaculating with one or two women?

    Different experimental evidence likewise backs this up — finding that men viewing pornographic material suggestive of sperm competition [i.e. two men with one woman] ejaculate a higher percentage of motile sperm than men viewing explicit images of only three women.

    Also, there is the fetish of a husband watching his wife with another man — etc.

    Sex at Dawn discusses a variety of societies in which women assist and inspire teams of workers/hunters by making themselves sexually available to them. Drawing a parallel with cheerleaders and the homoerotic competitive games like American football.

    Why this desire for sperm competition if men are biologically more turned off by competing for a mate with a polyandrous woman?

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  9. FireTag on June 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    One example that might indicate that power would play the same way among males and females if women had access to power are the female high school teachers who have sex with young male students (15-18) over whom THEY have power.

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  10. Howard on June 14, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I suspect it is a mistake to extrapolate male porn choices into lifestyle choices or programing. Porn enables fantasy and engages fetishes that harken back to early childhood sexual paired associations a male polyandrous porn choice may simply be unresolved anger in the form of female degradation or unresolved Oedipus complex.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on June 14, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Justin – this was from a program that aired on Discovery Channel last year called the Science of Sex. They showed several different studies (recreated tests that were done as well) to illustrate how sexual attraction has evolved.

    Are women in the church attracted to power? I don’t think many are hot for the bishop or SP (certainly not the Q12 or GAs). OTOH, loss of status when one’s husband leaves the church may contribute to wives wanting to end their marriages. It doesn’t sound very noble, but I imagine it figures in for some.

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  12. Naismith on June 14, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    “It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination. Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.”

    The thing is, these secular definitions don’t work too well in an LDS context. Power flows through men, that is true. But they can only use it “over” their wife and children like holding an umbrella over them to protect them. They use priesthood power to serve others, not gain advantage for themselves. Hell, they can’t even bless themselves if they are sick.

    Husbands and wives are to be equal partners in LDS marriages. Wives are not subservient.

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  13. Will on June 14, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    But when it comes right down to it, women still hold all the power as illustrated:


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  14. hawkgrrrl on June 14, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Naismith – “these secular definitions don’t work too well in an LDS context.” That’s partly my point. Why are we using terms that don’t fit us and that in fact make us look bad? I suggest it’s because we used to be patriarchal (as defined), but we aren’t now. There is no such thing as a non-secular definition. “LDS” is not a separate language. We’re using words that have definitions. Either we are using the right words or we are not.

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  15. Naismith on June 14, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    “We’re using words that have definitions. Either we are using the right words or we are not.”

    There is also the chance that “right words” are not what they seem at first glance. It could well be that the original meaning, back in the time of Abraham, was as the church uses it, so they don’t see a need to change the usage.

    I mean, how many words are we supposed to abandon because someone wants them to mean something else? One of my favorite books growing up was, “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, published in 1942. Now, of course, “gay” would not mean the same thing. But that doesn’t make the trendy definition “right.”

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  16. Martin on June 14, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    hawkgrrrl, I liked your post, but it seems to me that just because the church places hard limits on patriarchal power doesn’t mean it isn’t still a patriarchy. And yes, although I wouldn’t equate the church’s polygamy to mistress-taking, it very clearly established a patriarchal order.

    Also, patriarchy only means men have power, not they they have all power or specifically sexual power. The Catholic church is also a patriarchy, but not only are their priests denied mistresses, but wives as well.

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  17. Bishop Rick on June 14, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    My mistress always tells me what to do.
    Go figure.

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  18. anon on June 14, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Justin – I’m no expert, but I would get it is because men view sex as something they do “to” women. If the action has multiple men they get to fantasize about a lot of action that excites them. If it is reversed, the action of what the man is doing is less not more.
    It’s not black and white, but women are more likely to view sex as something that is done to them (willingly we’ll assume) but that is what the action is. I can’t say how much of this is socialized (women my age never initiated kissing during dating for instance) or how much of this is biological or psychological due to the physical nature of sex being invasive to a woman’s body.

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  19. Will on June 15, 2011 at 6:12 AM


    Great observations.

    I would add, however, with the exception of that dirtbag that raped the maid, the women cited are using sex as power. For example, the Chinese men that take these women as mistresses don’t do it because the women are good conversationalists, they do it for sex; and these women are trading sex for money. Likewise, the home wreckers (women in these political scandals) were willing participants. They used sex to get power or to be with the powerful.

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  20. hawkgrrrl on June 15, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Will – that’s a fair point. But the case of China especially points out a downfall of patriarchy – even an educated woman in China will obtain more power through being a “kept woman” than directly through her higher education. The more educated she is, the higher her wages as a mistress. That’s a pretty screwed up system.

    Likewise, it’s been pointed out that being a wife can be seen as trading sex for money: http://www.theonion.com/articles/housewife-charged-in-sexforsecurity-scam,948/

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  21. Will on June 15, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    “Likewise, it’s been pointed out that being a wife can be seen as trading sex for money:”

    It is thinking like that which leads to the stereotypes of feminists — femi-nazis. Or, the adage unattractive women make up the feminist population as it is there only way to gain power.

    If that is how the woman feels, then get the hell out. For sure, the last person I would want a relationship with.

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  22. chanson on June 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    I completely agree with your revulsion and with your criticism of most French officials’ response to it. France is liberal (and even Feminist) in many ways, but obviously is very far from being a place where feminism has won the day.

    That said, I have a bit of issue with attributing the actions and attitudes of [some of?] the government to the whole country (including my husband and my children).

    I have to deal with this same sort of country-wide generalization as an American in Europe, where people complain that America captures foreign nationals on foreign soil and tortures them in secret prisons without charging them with any offense. In either country I do my best to speak up about the stuff I don’t agree with, and so do many others.

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  23. Will on June 15, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    It is amazing how one sided this women’s right issue is – it should be women’s rights as long as she’s liberal. Now, 17 negative posts to my accolades to Michelle Bachman.

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  24. SteveS on June 15, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Will, I think the reaction against your comment is based on the “too attractive to win” line, which reduces Bachmann’s validity to that of a pageant contestant. It has nothing to do with how conservative or liberal she or anyone else is.

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  25. Will on June 15, 2011 at 2:57 PM


    Ah, fair enough. However, I stick by my statement. Perhaps it is my personal experience, but very attractive women like Michelle are not taken serious by some men, and some women respond out of jealously.

    Years ago I ran an IT business (we also had abou 20 data entry people) and I hired an extremely attractive programmer. She was by far (by a mile) better than any other programmer I had. Most of the guys didn’t take her serious and some of the female staff threw all sorts of stones her way — she is stuck up, a ditz and all sorts of other false allegations. She finally quit. I begged her to stay and even offer to fire those involved. I the hired a less talented lady to take her place. She was average looking and far less considerate. Interestingly all the problems and back biting went away.

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  26. Dan on June 15, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Michelle Bachman is too extreme to be elected. It has absolutely nothing to do with beauty.

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  27. hawkgrrrl on June 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I’m surprised that there were dislikes for the Onion article link I made – either people didn’t read the link (which is pretty funny, IMO), or people don’t have a sense of humor about the financial aspect of marriages. I doubt the dislikers were defending China’s screwed up system.

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  28. Will on June 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM


    Maybe you are just a sexist, hater like me. :)

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  29. Justin on June 15, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I’ve never been able to figure out the “like/dislike” criteria — except that Jon dislikes Dan and Dan dislikes Jon on any post written by Jeff.

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  30. Dan on June 15, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    I “like” comments that are good, and “dislike” comments that are bad. Jon and Will almost always write bad comments, thus I “dislike” them. Most assuredly I will have at least four “dislikes” for this comment here.

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