Magritte, The Lovers    

The Science of Sex

The Induction of Neurosis

Role of Signals

Excerpts from Section 12 of

The Tyranny of Ambiguity

INTEGRITY AND ROLE OF SIGNALS. Now the open door is a signal of trust, the playing of loud music a signal of enjoyment. Both of these signals have alternative explanations: that is the nature of signals. The door may have been left open accidentally, or the thief may have just left, or the music may be being played to annoy or for another reason, for example to drown out other noises. I think however that if a large sample were taken of these two signals, the proportion of invalid cases would be small, say 10% or less. It interests me greatly, indeed it is utterly fundamental to these investigations, that in a society where women had the opportunity to fulfil whatever roles they wished, they chose to rely on signalling to exert their influence. This, I contend, is because it is not so much influence that signals engender, as control. Signals are not directly influential but directly manipulative.

When a door is left ajar on a communal corridor in a students’ or nurses’ residence say, the open door signifies that the person inside is receptive to visits and conversation. Certainly the door would not be open if there was a suspicion that another resident might enter wielding a chainsaw.

If the door to this house is left open, people will generally stand at the door and ring the bell, or they will walk in and shout. Only if they are on very familiar terms will they ring the bell and sit in the kitchen, or climb the stairs to the workshop without waiting for a response. Even if the door is wide open they will normally enter timidly or not at all.

The normal, well-adjusted adult human response on encountering such signals is to leave the signal intact; to preserve the integrity of the signal. However females’ instinctive motivation is to increase their control. They appear to do this, to apply their influence, by increasing the level of male neurosis by weakening the integrity of signals. Signals are an elemental mechanism by which females shift humankind’s neurotic load directly onto the shoulders of males.

The conclusion is that the desire to preserve the integrity of signals, and thus minimize neurotic tension, is not a normal, well-adjusted human response but rather a normal, well-adjusted male response.

ACUTE NEUROSIS: SAYING THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU MEAN. What form a neurotic relationship would take is unclear. Perhaps in acute neurosis an individual does not just signal the opposite of what they mean, but says the opposite of what they meant as well.2

EMOTIONAL DISPLACEMENT. Another effect was noticed of needing to express animosity or anger, and such emotions would be expressed to the first person one met with whom transactions on an emotional level occurred.

SOCIETAL NEUROSIS. One factor which contributed to the collective neurosis was the fact that people in Amsterdam were living very close to each other. Most people were very densely packed into multiple-occupation dwellings and in close proximity, and often in full view of each other. Many complained of thin walls and having to listen to the sounds of their neighbours. Holland has the highest population density in Europe and Amsterdam must be the most densely populated city in Holland. One effect of this was that it was often virtually impossible to talk to someone on their own.

AMBIGUITY OF INTENTION. In Amsterdam there seemed to be a social rule that you did not speak to someone unless you had a clearly defined objective in mind. It is possible that this rule directly originated from the increased influence and status of females here. I had induced visible confusion and, I believe, overt neurotic symptoms in a number of females I had spoken to for no other reason than to be friendly. The females really did not like it and appeared to signal confusion and disorder, although I find the display somewhat difficult to describe. In one instance where I had a small degree of sexual attraction to the female the effect was compounded, in another there was an accusation that I was interfering. It was as if the females could not cope with any more ambiguity: specifically, they appeared to be incapable of coping with an approach from a male whose intentions were unclear. The neurosis induced in the female by an ambiguous male approach, just being friendly in these cases, would be a further impediment to sex if any possibility of it existed, since it severely impeded normal human interaction. Notwithstanding, the females appeared to absolutely thrive in the neurotic environment which they had created in Amsterdam, and particularly the neurotic state they had engendered among males.4

DOMINANCE BY DIVERGENCE. VALUE OF DIFFERENCE. A number of species exist in which sex can be present or absent. There are some snail varieties for example which are hermaphrodite or sexed according to circumstance. If two separate populations exist, one sexed and one not, and the two are put into competition, the one in which sex takes place will always dominate and overcome the hermaphrodite population. Sex is a stronger evolutionary strategy and will always prevail. A uniform population will inevitably possess some point of vulnerability which sooner or later will be overcome by a naturally occurring variation in a sexed population. I call this Dominance by Divergence, that of all the variations which can take place by the permutations of sex, some will be stronger or better at something and will ultimately overcome the Achilles heel which is inevitable in a hermaphrodite and more homogeneous population. Nothing is impregnable and sooner or later, by the chances of sex alone, something will overcome it.

It is known that in certain measurable respects males vary more than females. Was this, I wondered, the way that patriarchy was maintained in the long term, if not by physical force, then in evolutionary terms? I wondered whether I was a factor in this equation: I was demonstrating something by being exceptional – trying to find a way against the norm. I considered that the squat scene had value by accommodating difference, thus acting as a contrast to normal systems, and it was possible to learn from such difference.

I also remembered some of my earlier days when I came close to being run down several times by passing fast cars, especially taxis, as I crossed the busy Raadhuisstraat on my way home. Then I had the feeling sometimes of being one of a dying breed. Many of the squats in central Amsterdam were being evicted and the numbers of my kind were dwindling. I had the sense sometimes almost of being an endangered species facing extinction, especially after a near-miss with a taxi as I crossed the road late at night.

Although my inability to speak Dutch was a disadvantage in some respects, in other ways it was advantageous. With the enhanced detachment provided by language and cultural differences I was following scientific method and concentrating not on what people said they did, but on what they actually did, which is often something different altogether.


2. It is almost certainly true that saying the opposite of what you mean is a symptom of acute neurosis. Furthermore habitual neurosis is a likely origin of obfuscation.

3. (Edited, web version is abridged.)

4. I established subsequently that females were capable of rejecting an approach simply because it was ambiguous, and this was another means by which they were removing Ambiguity of Intention from males.

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