William S. Burroughs was a great American intellectual, novelist, poet and essayist, considered to be “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century”. He is something of a cult figure, having had eighteen books published, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays, excluding the books in which his interviews and letters appeared. He also recorded with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.
Burroughs held a strong belief that women were superfluous and should be eliminated. He wrote seriously on this issue, which I will address in a moment. But in case you are under the impression he was being ironic by promoting this grand plan of his, it’s worth pointing out that he “eliminated” his own wife with a gun, getting away with it, unpunished, on the grounds that her murder was “a sex game gone wrong.”
No charges were pressed and after a few days he was released from police custody.
Umpteen intellectuals backed his political opinions. They were not at all horrified by his stance on eliminating women and wholeheartedly supported his writing, so we can only assume that they were in favour of it. J. G. Ballard declared Burroughs to be “the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War. Norman Mailer called him “the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius.” This should come as no surprise: Mailer was also in the habit of eliminating females, or attempting to, as exemplified by the stabbing of his own wife.
Before analyzing the motivation behind Burroughs’ master plan, I feel it is important to offer some context, because I happen to believe that without it all information is arbitrary and meaningless.
At risk of labouring the Radfem point, I’m going to reaffirm the fact that women rarely harm men, never rape them, and on the rare occasion a woman does kill a man it is usually in self-defense. Aside from the dangers posed by other men ( i.e themselves, their own sex class), men live a carefree existence. They have the luxury of living in a world in which they are not preyed upon by women.
Women, meanwhile, try their best to try to get on with their lives. But it is difficult. Though they wish men no harm, sadly this sentiment is not reciprocated. Statistics show that men, in every country in the world, are a grave danger to women. Two women are murdered by their spouse every week in the UK alone. A woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds in the U.S., and three women are killed every day by possessive lovers and abusive husbands. The psychological ramifications are great. Women are are acutely aware of the fact that they are prey, and (whether they realize it or not) this effects many of the decisions they make in their daily lives.
In espousing femicide, Burroughs is simply exposing and echoing the (age-old) desire of the male sex to destroy females. Nothing new there.
It is also worth examining the extraordinary fact that even though women are being annihilated by men daily, they still love them. We simply cannot escape the fact that women love men. They love their lovers, their husbands, their sons, their work colleagues. They respect and admire them. They enjoy men’s company. They seek to spend time with them. They aim to please them by adorning themselves. Most of all, women desire a deep connection with men, or one man: to love and be loved in return. This is the sum of how women (in their innocence and goodness) feel towards men as a group. We know this because every year women marry men, even though other economic paths besides prostitution have now opened up to them. Loving men seems to be part of the female condition, or at least part of women’s feminine conditioning.
Back to Burroughs. He found women’s existence problematic, and decided the solution was for them to be eliminated. Their crime? Female sexuality. Women’s insistence on blurring the boundaries between sex and love was an evolutionary mishap which had to be overcome for the good of the species. Quoted from Anti-Climax by Sheila Jeffreys:
“Burroughs explains the problem of the existence of women thus:
“In the words of one of the great misogynists, plain Mr Jones, in Conrad’s Victory, ‘Women are a perfect curse.’ I think they were a basic mistake, and the whole dualistic universe evolved from this error.”
Women were unregenerately anti-sexual by their very nature and poisoned society with their baleful influence, particularly in those societies he saw as matriarchal such as America. They were, he decided, responsible for the control of consciousness through suppression of eroticism and the supremacy of the family. Women were not just responsible for making the world anti-sex by inventing love and thus making men’s lives miserable, they were even responsible for racism!
“The whole Southern worship of women and white supremacy is still the policy of America. It’s a matriarchal, white-supremist country. There seems to be a very definite link between matriarchy and white supremacy.” (Jeffreys, Anti-Climax, pp. 75)
His ramblings prove that he, like so many men, believed women knew nothing about sex and that this was some sort of fault in their genetic makeup, a line of thinking which perhaps stemmed from his erroneous patriarchal assumption that women are the add-ons of the species and while males are the original human prototypes. (Science proves the opposite is true)
Women’s backwardness was apparently responsible for much misery in society, and this could be remedied by strictly controlling the amount of females born. He had a cruel prescription for those who were allowed to exist: they were not to be granted any involvement with their babies (I say it is cruel, because women have a tendency to love their babies).
“Burroughs had plans to ensure that boy children never had contact with women because ‘boys who have never had contact with a woman would be quite a different animal’ and would therefore never be contaminated into thinking that sex could be anything other than what he intended. This was to be achieved by the cloning of boys from cells in men’s intestines to produce ‘identical twins of people [i.e men] gifted with exceptional talent or beauty. All these themes appear frequently in Burroughs’ books. The Naked Lunch is full of diatribes against matriarchy, which is held responsible for creating hostility to homosexuality. The Wild Boys (1972) presents a Burroughs fantasy which, in an interview in May 1972, he is prepared to call both a desirable scenario and a prediction. In this fantasy boys are parthenogenetically created via anal intercourse, and grow up uncontaminated by women, to live in violent gangs, dedicated to killing each other in different ways. The Soft Machine (1968) proposed the separation of the sexes in childrearing and education until women became unecessary.”
And yet here, unwittingly, Burroughs reveals the true root of his misogyny. Of all misogyny, in fact. It is not women’s insistence on blurring the boundaries between love and sex that is the root of his rancour, as he claims. His true motivation is more ancient. It is the phenomenon women recognize instantly when misogynistic men speak and write. It is connected to women’s life-giving capacities, the age-old blight crippling the male psychological make-up: it is of course, womb envy.