By the time Germaine Greer’s book The Female Eunuch was published in the United States in the spring of 1971, women’s lib had been blowin’ in the wind for several years, but nearly everything that had been written was either humorless or tedious or both. What Greer brought to the battlefield was raunchy good humor and high spirits as well as common sense and intelligence. Men and women were in chains, she said, and with a fondness for four-letter words and an exuberant hoot at sexual pleasure (she’d been there), she launched a crusade against marriage, the family, housewives, group sex, dull sex, Playboy centerfolds, Norman Mailer, Vogue, romantic fiction, Holiday Inns, the girdle and Irving Berlin. The book was mind-blowing but, beyond that, was the woman herself. She was brainy and funny and furious, and she popped up on talk shows, magazine covers, at a peace march in Washington, in the nightspots of London. The impression she gave was that of a woman having a grand time being alive without any of the traditionally acceptable credentials. She was too tall—6′ 1″—already 35 and decidedly randy. She was a woman with a Ph.D. in literature who had taught Jacobean tragedy but who was more noted for motorcycles, miniskirts and articles in Suck, an underground newspaper. Why not? she asked. She didn’t come all the way from Australia and a miserable childhood for nothing. For several years she taught, dipped into the London world of television, rock stars, marriage (briefly), underground papers. When her agent suggested she write about the failure of female emancipation, she shouted, “Who the hell says we were ever emancipated in the first place?” and wrote the book. Interviewed by Playboy (for its January 1972 issue) at her farmhouse hideaway in Cortona, Italy, she turned out to be as outrageous and refreshing as her book, prettier than her TV image and, said our interviewer, a superb cook.
PLAYBOY: Why did you call your book The Female Eunuch?
GREER: The term eunuch was used by Eldridge Cleaver to describe blacks. It occurred to me that women were in a somewhat similar position. Blacks bad been emancipated from slavery but never given any kind of meaningful freedom, while women were given the vote but denied sexual freedom. In the final analysis, women aren’t really free until their libidos are recognized as separate entities. Some of the suffragettes understood this. They could see the connection between the vote, political power, independence and being able to express their sexuality according to their own experience, instead of in reference to a demand by somebody else. But they were regarded as crazy and were virtually crucified. Thinking about them, I suddenly realized, Christ, we’ve been castrated, and that’s what it’s all about. You see, it’s all very well to let a bullock out into the field when you’ve already cut his balls off, because you know he’s not going to do anything. That’s exactly what happened to women.
PLAYBOY: You’re physically imposing, bright, well educated and enormously successful. Nobody would describe you as an emasculated woman. Yet you’ve called yourself a female eunuch. Why?
GREER: Because it’s useless to think of liberating oneself in a vacuum. You can’t liberate yourself by yourself. Women can become free only insofar as circumstances allow them to. It’s a slow business and involves constant compromise. Indeed, neither of the sexes is truly liberated at this time.
PLAYBOY: What will make them free?
GREER: Only true equality, which is best understood in terms of Plato’s concept of love. You see, it’s impossible for superiors and inferiors to love, since the superior can only condescend and the inferior can only admire. Whereas what you really want is recognition between two equals, which means that they don’t need to exploit each other. They simply rejoice in each other’s presence, because what they see is a reflection of themselves in the other. The brotherhood of man would work only if this were the case—if we became more impressed by our similarities than by our differences.
PLAYBOY: How does this apply to women?
GREER: Women have a deficient sense of self-value and, therefore, cannot love. They cannot accept themselves. They need evidence of value, which they can get only through some man’s attachment to them. As an example, take a 50-year-old husband who’s going through that sort of male crisis of declining potency and approaching retirement and all the other hard things that can happen to men. He has an affair with a 20-year-old girl that really makes him think he can rule the world, that he’s not all finished and he’s still got what it takes. It might be mostly a fantasy affair, but whatever it is, I know of no wife who could stand it, even though her husband may be obviously much better for it. She’d rather have him gray and miserable and confused, as long as he is hers, since she values her life only through her relationship with him and therefore cannot stand the implied rejection.
PLAYBOY: There’s not much of the Platonic concept of love in society today. Do you think there’s any prospect of our moving toward love between equals?
GREER: I don’t know, but without it we’ll never survive. The true revolutionary, Che Guevara said, is motivated by great feelings of love. That may not have been true in the past, but I think it may be beginning to happen today. Take those American kids who went to Vietnam with the peace treaty to be signed by the Vietnamese students. They really worked hard. They used the kind of energy and the kind of imagination one would suppose more properly directed to a personal relationship. But the odd thing is that the relationship with humanity on that level becomes personal.
There’s the old jive about the revolutionary being one who loves humanity but treats human beings badly in the name of humanity. So he treats his mother like shit, and he tramps on his women, and soon. But I don’t think this is true anymore. There is really developing a kind of group eroticism. It’s a result of individuals’ stepping out of the restrictions of sexual roles and trying to become sexually polymorphous and unpossessive; they’re attempting to be accepting of all kinds of differences in people and to be able to see in them the lineaments of the beloved self. The outward expression of this is the group grope. The ultimate form of this great hippie ritual would he a never-ending copulation involving hundreds of people participating without shame or fear. This has never happened, of course, and it’s not likely to. I’ve seen things like the beginnings of it, though, and it’s extraordinary. But, I must say, it can be as awful as it is beautiful. When I was in Amsterdam as a judge at the Wet Dream Film Festival, I was invited to an orgy. It turned out to be a Playboy-type orgy.
PLAYBOY: It must have been some other company’s orgy. We don’t merchandise them.
GREER: Says you. It was in this really beautiful apartment. Oh, my God, I can see it now, just like the Playboy gatefolds, with all that stained wood and rose-pink lighting and heavy drapes and full cocktail cabinets and bearskin rugs, and—sure enough—the door was opened by the host, naked, with a drink in his hand. He said, with wit characteristic of your Party Jokes page, “Come in and take your clothes off.” There were two other men and two girls. The girls were blonde and long-legged and lovely. They had taken their clothes off already, and you could see that they’d never had any children, which is one of the essential characteristics of your Playmate: No signs of actual use of the body have ever interposed themselves, not so much as a callus. I was with a really nice boy, and we sort of obediently climbed out of our clothes, because we were supposed to be in favor of that kind of liberated behavior. It was so awful I can’t tell you. There was one man too many all the time, and he kept pattering about, peering at everybody else and trying to get in somewhere. When he put his hand on my bloke’s behind, the poor boy completely lost his erection.
PLAYBOY: Where did you pick up these weird fantasies about Playboy?
GREER: I know what a Playboy pad looks like, and I know what a Playmate looks like, too; so they’re hardly fantasies. For one thing, your girls are so excessively young. What does this do to the man who looks at them? His wife’s legs have been ruined by childbearing, or her bum sags. Thanks to your youthful image of female sexuality, he’s not expected to f*ck his seamy old wife anymore. No one blames him for not doing it.
PLAYBOY: Surely you don’t believe that any mature man confuses his wife or girlfriend with a Playmate—or with an attractive movie star, for that matter—or that his fantasies about any of these beautiful women impinge on his actual sex life. Don’t you think it’s true that most mature men know what they have to offer on the sociosexual market—whether it be looks, position, intelligence, charm, wealth or any combination thereof—and that they know pretty much what they can expect in return? If a man is Mr. Perfection, he’ll expect to make it with Miss Perfection. But if he’s not, he probably won’t, and his fantasies are likely to be harmless.
GREER: You’ve got to be crazy! Men don’t know anything about their own value on the market, as you put it. If they do, then why are repulsive, scrawny, halfwitted little men coming up to every woman on the street and whispering, “I’ll bet you’d like a f*ck”?
PLAYBOY: Maybe they’re sick.
GREER: No, they’re not—it’s normal. You don’t know about it because you’re a man and no one is going to do it to you. In any case, it’s not just the centerfold I disapprove of. It’s all the other images of women in Playboy. Why, you even ran a shoe advertisement that showed an Indian squaw stroking some dude’s damn shoes! And those Playboy parties are so awful. All those bleary faces and those haggard men and those pumped-up women in their see-through dresses, with everyone’s nipples poking out, and those fixed, glittering, maniacal smiles on all the girls’ faces. And I don’t like the Vargas cartoon. Or the Femlin on your Party Jokes page. Or the jokes themselves—not to mention the cartoons. They all give the illusion that 50-year-old men are entitled to f*ck 15-year-old girls—especially if they’re given diamond bracelets—while 50-year-old women are too repulsive to be seen with. And I don’t like the breast fetishism that I see in Playboy. There’s no connection between the breasts you show and satisfactory sexual activity. And you display your girls as if they were a commodity. Sex ought not to be that. It ought to be a means of communication between people. It’s not something you can buy for whatever an issue of Playboy costs.
PLAYBOY: At first you condemned the fact that our Playmates are young. Then you seemed to be arguing that their figures are too good. Now, when you bring up the commodity argument, you appear to be joining those critics who think we shouldn’t publish nude pictures of any girls, young or old, beautiful or ugly.
GREER: I’m simply against showing girls as if they were pork chops. Why should women’s bodies be this sort of physical fetish? Why can’t their bodies just be an extension of their personalities, the way a man supposes his body is? No, I’m not against nudity, and I will pay dues to Playboy when it runs a man in the gatefold. You can even keep the Playmate.
PLAYBOY: As a matter of fact, we do on occasion run pictures of nude men. As for putting them in featured spots such as the centerfold, ours is a men’s magazine and we assume that our readers aren’t terribly interested in looking at nude males. Even if Playboy were a general magazine with a large female circulation, we doubt that pictures of naked men would be a major attraction, since women don’t generally turn on to graphic images of sex.
GREER: I know that as well as you do—that women are not voyeurs—but women are not the clients for prostitutes, either—male or female. And this disparity has to be understood. Women do not regard men as a commodity they may have if they pay for it—even to look at.
PLAYBOY: From what direction are you casting stones? As a contributing editor of an underground sex paper called Suck, you must have noticed that, among other things, it contains pictures of young children locked in sexual embrace, women copulating with machines, homosexuals penetrating each other while wearing Nazi uniforms and references to people being forced to eat and drink human waste. Do you find these images less offensive than the Playmate?
GREER; I don’t approve of the sadomasochistic stuff that appears in Suck, and an editorial statement by me was run in a recent issue about that very thing. I said, essentially, that the editors don’t approve of censorship, that it’s our principal enemy. But that’s why we carry things that make us sick. Because contemporary sexuality is sick, because people are twisted and impotent and incapable of straightforward sexual expression. Insofar as we’re dedicated to writing a paper about sex actualities, this sort of thing is going to have to appear in it. But we don’t endorse it, and we reserve the right to vomit. That’s where it’s at. The minute we start to apply censorship, we’re just in the same bag as everybody else.
PLAYBOY: You may not endorse the pictures published in Suck, but, except for an occasional disclaimer, the magazine doesn’t condemn them, either. Moreover, using judgment and taste about what you print in your own magazine is hardly tantamount to censorship. Censorship is what happens when you are told what you can and cannot publish.
GREER: No, it is not. One censors oneself all the time. Freud calls it self-censorship. You just censor out what you don’t find acceptable. And none of us has got the Holy Ghost on his side. We don’t own the truth about sexuality. We’re just as confused as anybody else. And there is some virtue in finding out that you turn on to a Nazi uniform. You’ve got to discover at some point just what kind of shit you are.
PLAYBOY: But isn’t that essentially what you criticize about us—that we perpetuate fantasy-ridden fetishes?
GREER: No, it’s not the same, because anybody who’s turned on by the pictures in Suck is a bit strange; they’re such terrible photographs.
PLAYBOY: We agree on that. Perhaps we can move on to some other areas of agreement if we conclude our conversation about Playboy.
GREER: But it’s important for me to talk about Playboy, because I’m going to get shit for giving you an interview in the first place. It’s got to be very clear with what kind of cynicism I do it.
PLAYBOY: Why did you grant the interview? Other feminists won’t come this close even to insult us.
GREER: I’m not sure why I did, but basically I guess it’s because you seem to be trying to go in a decent direction. Although I disapprove of the entire subliminal message in Playboy, I suppose your editorial matter is more liberal than that of other large-circulation magazines. And I probably feel that some people will read this interview and drop some of their more ridiculous notions about the women’s movement. I really think that the basis of every political movement is people. And you have to have some faith in people, even people like your readers who pay money to drool over pink Playmates. If you don’t have confidence that these people will understand you when you say something clearly enough and will begin to see how your statements reflect on their own lives, then you’ve got no reason to be a revolutionary. I suppose I’m really being arrogant, thinking that what I’m about will come across, even if there should be a pinup interleaved thickly between every 500 words of discourse.
PLAYBOY: What are you about? Do you carry the banner for any particular feminist organization?
GREER: No, I don’t belong to anything. My role is simply to preach to the unconverted. I’m the one who talks to Playboy.
PLAYBOY: Given the job of public education you feel has to be done, why have the majority of feminists—unlike yourself—refused to talk not only with Playboy but with almost any representative of the media?
GREER: Most women aren’t as articulate or as brazen as I am. If I get pissed on by the press, I can piss right back. I’ve been well educated, and I can take care of myself. As you know, most members of the movement don’t speak alone anywhere. They’re always in a group, which they do to protect themselves. But it looks bad—something they don’t understand—from the point of view of the media. It looks like a little gang of people bolstering each other’s egos.
PLAYBOY: Aren’t you violating the movement’s rule against the cult of personality by allowing yourself to become such a popular public figure?
GREER: I’m against the cult of personality, too, but I think we have to use whatever weapons we’ve got. And I’ve always been a personality. There’s nothing new about that.
PLAYBOY: A great deal of your popularity is with men, which led an American feminist to tell us that you can’t be all good if so many pigs like you. What’s your response?
GREER: I don’t give a f*ck. Pigs may like honey, but that doesn’t stop it from being sweet.
PLAYBOY: Apparently it’s not only your sweetness that arouses the ire of your American sisters. There are still grumblings about your put-down of NOW—the National Organization of Women—when you were in the U.S. What prompted those remarks?
GREER: My feelings about the policies of NOW are no secret. I wrote about them in my book. But the grumblings you mentioned may have been the aftereffect of some comments I made at a NOW party on—where else?—Park Avenue. First, let me say that I’d never been to expensive, radical-chic parties to raise funds. I felt like I was in the f*cking Kennedy clan. I expected everybody there to burst out in pearls and raw-silk suits, volunteering to give $100-a-head parties to launch a presidential campaign. And, sure enough, that’s what they’re going to do next: The women’s movement is trying for 50-percent representation in the next federal election!
But that’s not what I talked about at the party. What I said was that all their interest in job opportunities for highly qualified women is basically counterproductive. What will happen is that providing jobs for these women will create a squeeze at the bottom. Those who suffer most will be workingmen who, under the present system, have enormous family responsibilities and who will be pushed out of work. That, unfortunately, will be the result of abolishing discrimination against females. You see, women are a reserve work force, and it’s quite right for us to protest the fact that that’s what we are. But if we simply fight for increased job opportunities without thinking of what it means in terms of the whole economic structure, then we’re paving the way for a bloody confrontation between women and the poor. And we must have the poor on our side. In other words, for our own purposes, we must be part of the general pressure for revolution in a capitalist society. We can’t just be yet another privileged group applying pressure for our personal interests. That just isn’t good enough. But I’m sorry to say that this is pretty much what we’re doing at the moment. Another thing that got me put down at that party was my statement that a very significant factor in the American women’s movement is its predominantly middle-class makeup; there is too wide a breach between NOW and poor women. There was an angry outcry, and the women said, “No, no, we communicate with the poor.” I replied, “Yes, I’m sure you do, but for it to work properly, those poor women have to be on an equal basis with middle-class women in the movement; they have to be officeholders, even though they’ve never put any money into it, because they haven’t got any money.”
PLAYBOY: Do you oppose the movement’s efforts toward job equality until women establish better relations with the poor?
GREER: I didn’t say I oppose the job-opportunity program. I simply think the ultimate policy is shortsighted as long as the status quo remains. At the same time, the process is practical and the effort is educational. It’s precisely in confronting the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that women learn how the government works. In fact, all reformist political activities are consciousness-raising techniques that will teach women how to become politically adept. The changes they may or may not effect aren’t really significant, because a middle-class, authoritarian government endorses its own power by getting more educated middle-class women into positions of prominence. You’ll find governments all over what they call the free world—ha-ha—quite anxious to bring in legislation abolishing sexual discrimination. It doesn’t cost them anything, and it looks lovely on the books.
PLAYBOY: Then, in spite of your disagreement with the U.S. movement’s tactics, you’re optimistic about its prospects.
GREER: I certainly am. Women are not stupid, and once they begin to use their brains, they begin to see the connection between one idea and the next, so that even though they’re pissing around with presidential candidates, they’re smart enough to realize that this isn’t going to achieve anything. They’ll also find out just what standing for office in a democratic country means, which is that it doesn’t matter how much money they have, they haven’t got enough. It will cost them all they’ve got just to get beaten! I think this educational process is making the ideology of the movement more and more anarchist all the time.
PLAYBOY: Would you offer any advice that, if followed, might hasten the radicalization of the movement?
GREER: I don’t advise people what to do. It’s a waste of time. Anyhow, one of the worst results of women’s oppression is their propensity for taking advice. They’re figuring it all out for themselves, and they’re being radicalized one way or another, but it’s a slow, difficult process to go from having been apolitical for your entire life to becoming a committed revolutionary.
PLAYBOY: Presumably, the difficulty is compounded by the fact that women live—as you’ve said—“in the house of the enemy.” We found that phrase a little surprising, because you appear to be holding men responsible for the problems women have, whereas many of your other statements tend to put the blame on society, without singling out either sex.
GREER: When I talk about the house of the enemy, I don’t refer only to the husband. Women also live with their children, their families, the door-to-door salesmen, the daily newspapers with their drawings of fantasy women wearing fancy clothes and pictures of men making the news. That’s what I mean about living in the house of the enemy. It’s quite different with blacks. They live with their own people, and they have their own way of talking. They panhandle you and me—it’s “Yes, ma’am, no ma’am” and all that crap. But when they’re at home, they speak a language you and I have never heard.
PLAYBOY: You seem to be repudiating the woman-as-n*gger analogy, which is so widely employed by feminists and to which you yourself alluded when you discussed Cleaver’s use of the word eunuchs to describe blacks.
GREER: The Cleaver comparison is more literary than real. In fact, I do reject the analogy, because our oppression is much more sinister than that of black people. At least they have a sense of unity. They have a sign by which they know one another. They also have a culture that they have developed that is very powerful and has possibly even been strengthened by their oppression. There’s no unity among women. They’re the most disparate crowd, even though their situation is pretty much the same. It’s difficult for them to become united because, as I said, they live in the house of the enemy. Even if women go to a consciousness-raising group once a week, they still identify with another group—the family—and that’s much more strongly buttressed and much more cohesive than the group to which they belong politically. When you get down to culture, the entire analogy falls apart, because women have no culture of their own. Theirs is a pale reflection of masculine culture. It’s mostly a parody.
PLAYBOY: Does this dependence of women on men account for the hatred you’ve said exists between the sexes?
GREER: I didn’t say it that way. I said women have very little idea of how much men hate them.
PLAYBOY: Isn’t the hostility mutual?
GREER: The real sort of sexual hostility is masculine. Women have lots of sexual hatred, but it emerges in petty and destructive behavior at a different level. They just have much less confidence in their way of expressing hatred, yet much less ability to control it, too. So it just keeps leaking out all the time, in destructive acts, petty acts of ego erosion and belittlement. But it’s nothing like masculine hostility. Let’s face it, rape is a male crime.
PLAYBOY: We gather that you’re not limiting rape, as the law generally does, to forcible intercourse.
GREER: Right. I think rape is any coercion of a woman for sexual purposes. If a man takes you out on a motorway and stops the car and says, “Now you can walk or f*ck,” and you f*ck, then you’ve been raped. He wanted to use your hole and he did it—his way. He didn’t care whether you wanted him. That’s rape, even though it’s not so classified by law.
PLAYBOY: Do you favor the tough penalties we now have for rape?
GREER: Absolutely not. I regard imprisonment as an inappropriate punishment for any crime you can name. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t deter, it doesn’t cure, it doesn’t rehabilitate, it does nothing. It costs a lot of money and it shows no returns whatever. In any case, the common attitude toward rape is absurd. First, it’s a very frequently committed crime. Second, it’s not a terribly serious crime, but it’s irritating that a woman can get redress only with great difficulty. Third, when you consider how common rape is and how minor it is compared with, let’s say, murder, it’s ridiculous that the very few people who actually get caught suffer so desperately and for so long. And in the case of a poor man who belongs to a despised minority, he is likely to be charged with a capital crime; a privileged citizen finds it very easy to get the charge thrown out.
PLAYBOY: Do you think a woman who’s been raped would have such compassion for her attacker?
GREER: I am a woman who has been raped. My men friends were more bitter than I was. Actually, from the woman’s point of view, it’s better to forget about the rape than to go through the necessary rigamarole to bring the rapist to justice. She actually has to have sperm in her hole to prove her case, and she has to have corroborative testimony. But how many rapes are committed in the presence of witnesses? And there’s no limit to the charges that the defense may bring in order to discredit a raped woman’s testimony. She can be utterly vilified in court, as if she were the perpetrator of the crime.
PLAYBOY: What do you suggest in place of the present penal system regarding rape?
GREER: I’m interested in certain programs that provide for psychoanalysis of the rapist. Beyond that, all specific sexual legislation should be abolished.
PLAYBOY: Even laws designed to protect women from being raped?
GREER: Well, I don’t know. A lot of women would disapprove of that, but some radical women’s groups think that all sexual legislation should be abolished and that there ought to be a rationalization of the laws with regard to sexual assault.
PLAYBOY: Would you elaborate?
GREER: It’s a matter of redefining the crimes. I mean, if someone sticks a broom handle up a woman’s c*nt, she has been sexually assaulted, but she hasn’t been raped, according to some versions of the law. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good deal more offensive to have a broom handle up me than a c0ck. In other words, it should be possible to isolate the violence in a sexual assault and bring action against that.
PLAYBOY: If rape is a characteristic expression of male hostility, then abstention might be considered a female one. Accordingly, some segments of women’s lib have expressed their anger toward men by avoiding any sexual contact with them—even to the extent, in some cases, of opting for lesbianism. Do you approve?
GREER: I do my best to understand, and I start with the assumption that the institution of heterosex stinks. And either a person tries to change it from within—by playing the rules her own way—or she gets out of it altogether. She makes love in some completely different way to completely different people with completely different sets of claims on her. That, I think, is the rationale for much of the lesbianism in the movement.
The fact is, of course, that homosexuality quite often follows a neurotic pattern. It’s not automatically a spontaneous and generous love relationship just because it happens between people of the same gender. Sometimes it follows a sort of transferred heterosexual pattern, with one of the partners dominating and exploiting the other—although that’s not as common among lesbians as its detractors like to pretend. I think, in the end, lesbianism will probably be the only way to persuade men that they’ve got to offer a different deal.
PLAYBOY: Is that a personal conviction?
GREER: Not in the sense that I practice it. The lesbian way doesn’t turn me on sexually; so, politically, it would be a major dishonesty for me to follow it. But I don’t think it’s something to sneer at, by any means. And one of the reasons men are frightened by this female separatism is that they have to be able to think that c0ck is important.
PLAYBOY: Most women seem to think it’s important—including, presumably, you. In your book you reject the notion of some feminists that penile insertion is irrelevant to sexual pleasure, pointing out that it’s “nicer to have a clitoral orgasm with a full c*nt than with an empty one.”
GREER: Do you think a c0ck is the only thing I can put in my c*nt? Do you think it’s the biggest or the pleasantest or the smoothest or the nicest thing I can put in my c*nt? You do!
PLAYBOY: A thousand pardons. You have written, however, about the psychosexual satisfaction of making love with a man; so one presumes you’d rather have a c0ck with a man attached to it than a banana or something else big and pleasant and smooth and nice.
GREER: It’s the psychosexual satisfaction of having another person that’s important. All right, I will concede that in my case I generally prefer that person to be a man. But what I’m trying to point out to you is that a man’s c0ck is much more important to him than it is to a woman. A man whose c0ck is soft is not useless, but he thinks he is. He becomes desperate with images of his own uselessness because he has never got the message that a stiff c0ck is not all that necessary. Of course, if he could get that message, he’d have an erection, anyway. There’s so much foolish anxiety about erections and premature ejaculation and all the rest of it. You can use anything while making love. You can make love without even touching each other. It depends entirely on what the communication ratio is between you.
PLAYBOY: Do you think love is an important component in that ratio?
GREER: I’ve never understood anybody who could separate love and sex. And yet people do. I don’t think most people necking in cars and swapping fraternity pins are in love at all. On the other hand, you can sometimes love a man better in a one-night stand, because you haven’t got to the point where you actually want anything from him. You can’t exploit him. All you can do is respond to him as simply and straightforwardly as possible, knowing he’s going to be gone the next day. So it’s all unconditional tenderness.
PLAYBOY: Do you love everybody you make it with?
GREER: If I don’t, I don’t make it. If a man does something shitty, something cruel or fascist or ignorant or whatever, then all his sex appeal falls away from him. He suddenly just doesn’t have anything anymore.
PLAYBOY: It’s been reported that you were assigned by Ink, an underground newspaper, to ball Norman Mailer. Was that motivated by love?
GREER: First of all, I don’t do what newspapers ask me to do—even underground newspapers—unless I want to. Second, all the underground papers were rooting for me to f*ck Norman Mailer and reveal to the world just what it is that endears him to no one.
PLAYBOY: Then, your motivation was hostile.
GREER: My motivation for what? If I had done it, it would have been out of affection for Norman, but that doesn’t obviate the possibility of Norman’s blowing it. And I think Norman is probably a pretty bad f*ck, just judging by the way he writes about it. Anyhow, there wasn’t a chance. I didn’t like him enough, and I didn’t dislike him enough; there wasn’t enough excitement. It is possible to be perversely excited by someone. I don’t mean that you f*ck him for hatred, but you don’t really approve of him. I suppose, also, I didn’t really respect him enough. I respect an illiterate cabdriver better than a genius who’s selling himself short, which is what Norman’s doing. Just messing himself up. When I saw him, he seemed to be in a rather confused and embattled state of mind, and I just didn’t feel like intruding on it. So I sort of withdrew. Maybe it’ll happen ten years from now.
PLAYBOY: Do you fall in and out of love a lot?
GREER: I think I gave up falling in love when I was about 19. Since then I’ve allowed myself to he misled into it again, and when that happens, I become absolutely abject, utterly unscrupulous, totally dishonest, and I can do nothing about it. From being an interesting and independent woman, I just become a complete pain.
PLAYBOY: Are you ever accused of promiscuity?
GREER: Sure, but so what? Promiscuity’s an absolutely artificial concept, and it’s been developed as an expression of the prejudice against women’s free sexual activity. I’ve yet to hear people registering anything like the same amount of disgust at male behavior. It’s assumed, you see, that the man chooses his sexual object, whereas when a woman f*cks a lot of people, it’s because she’s unable to say no. Well, insofar as this is the case, then it would be a problem. I suppose you could call it nymphomania. It certainly would be if there were some kind of compulsion involved. But insofar as a woman likes to f*ck a lot and chooses relatively numerous partners, promiscuity’s a meaningless idea.
Of course,. I must add that women get promiscuized—to coin a word—by the way men behave. I mean, a woman sometimes f*cks without discrimination just to get out of a situation. She thinks, “Oh, my God, I really don’t want to f*ck this man, but if I sit here and argue for the next six hours, trying to talk this turd out of it, I’ll be a rag tomorrow.” So she says, “I want to go to bed; I’m tired. But if you’re f*cking going to insist, if you’re going to keep me here all night, then I’ll lie down on the floor with my legs apart and think of something else and you can f*ck me, you stupid swine. Then I’ll be able to go to sleep.” Men just don’t seem to realize that if you don’t want to f*ck, you shouldn’t, and if you think you might want to f*ck a man one of these days, you don’t f*ck him tonight. But men think that by wearing a woman down, they’re going to get what they want, and then they wonder why the sex is so bad.
PLAYBOY: The male’s ability to turn on at a moment’s notice—and at the slightest provocation—is one of those sexual differences that really seem to bother women. Do you think the slower female response is something women are born with, or is it simply retarded by social repression?
GREER: I think it’s obvious that female response has been retarded. But if you want to talk about being bothered, there’s nothing more bothersome than being a woman in a situation where a man believes he has to work to make you come. He’s trying to make a good impression, and he wants you to like him; so he tills your vineyard for hours on end. You might just as well be doing something else, because the real sexual excitement comes from a sense of urgency, not from the efforts of a guy who’s trying to remember what some sex manual told him about turning women on. Sometimes, you know, a four-hour f*ck can be a big drag and a five-minute f*ck can be marvelous.
PLAYBOY: Some men are perhaps reluctant to let themselves ejaculate quickly because the sex-manual culture labels this premature.
GREER: Let it be premature, then. There are times when you can tell that the man is doing the multiplication tables to avoid coming. He might as well not be doing anything, because it’s taken the meaning out of the whole bloody thing. So many guys apologize abjectly for coming too fast. But who says it was too fast? It may have been beautiful. Then there are the guys who go on and on and on and don’t come at all. They’ve said the multiplication tables so often that they can no longer have an ejaculation. That’s not my concept of ecstasy.
PLAYBOY: What is?
GREER: It’s like being stoned. Your whole body is awake to love and beauty, as the kids would say. Everything speaks to you of the kind of rhythm of love and rebirth and life that’s going on all the time. That’s what ecstasy really is. It’s the combination of what we call the erotic with what Freud called the oceanic impulse—a sort of identification with a huge, cosmic order of things. It doesn’t happen when people go around twiddling knobs and trying to give you titillating sensations in the extremities of your body. All the sex in the manuals is localized genitality, and you just isolate it more and more when you play the push-button game. I think the sex manuals that teach marriage partners how to develop a kind of characteristic play in order to satisfy each other with no sweat and strain are absolutely counterrevolutionary and deeply arid.
PLAYBOY: We assume you’re not against sex advice itself, just bad sex advice, since you’ve done some writing on the subject yourself.
GREER: I wrote a piece for Suck about the advantages of the female-superior position, just pointing out some of its obvious advantages from the woman’s point of view. Generally, she’s lighter than the man, and she has much more freedom of movement, much more control over her own muscular responses, if she’s on top. Strangely enough, a lot of women don’t like to do it, according to guys I’ve talked to. Well, they’re really holding out on their own sexuality. And a lot of men don’t like it because they think they’re losing control of the situation. But it seems to me that the men who are really nice would want to know what it’s like to be out of control. They like it to happen to the woman; they want her to groan and flutter her eyelids and all that. Well, it can happen to the man as well, and it’s nice for both parties.
PLAYBOY: Do you prefer the female-superior position to all others?
GREER: No, it just strikes me that there should be reasonable variations. There are all sorts of positions that involve a great deal of mobility on the part of both partners. The missionary position is about the least interesting, because it’s the least communicative. You don’t even look at the person you’re f*cking in the missionary position. It can be a bloody bore.
PLAYBOY: What other counsel do you have for men on how not to be boring lovers?
GREER: To tell you the truth, I think every man should be f*cked up the arse as a prelude to f*cking women, so that he’ll know what it’s like to be the receiver. Otherwise, he’ll forever go about thinking that he’s doling out joy unlimited to every woman he f*cks.
PLAYBOY: Thank you for the suggestion. Let’s change subjects.
GREER: You ol’ hetero, you.
PLAYBOY: The fact that such things as we’ve been talking about can be discussed in a national publication, combined with reported changes in various kinds of sexual behavior, is considered an indication of an ongoing sexual revolution. Do you agree that we’re in the midst of such a revolution?
GREER: No, just call it a fashion.
PLAYBOY: Will things change back to the way they were?
GREER: It depends. If it’s tits you’re not allowed to show this year, it’s ankles you’re not allowed to show the next. It’s like skirt lengths. Modesty is a curious anthropological phenomenon, because it relates to parts of the body that achieve their significance only by being covered. And I think sexuality is pretty much like that. Permissiveness, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t really exist. It didn’t really happen. It’s generally agreed there’s nothing much wrong with f*cking, at least in theory. But it hasn’t been agreed that there are a lot of things right with it, that it’s something people really ought to be doing. Even though 16-year-old girls have been given the key to the door, they haven’t actually been told to bring their blokes home to bed. It’s now permissible to do a lot of talking about it and see a lot of pictures about it. It’s permissible to have a great many sexual fantasies, but we still haven’t endowed sexual activity with positive value.
PLAYBOY: Does there have to be a sexual revolution in order for there to be a female revolution?
GREER: Absolutely. We just won’t have one without the other. There will be no wholesale acceptance of women on an equal basis until sexual activity has escaped its neurotic concomitants, until the sort of ambivalence men feel about their own sexual activity has been resolved, so that they don’t consider what they f*ck degraded. As long as we’re at odds with our bodies, as long as excreta is regarded as filthy and semen as unpleasant and c*nt as having a nasty smell, and so on, men will be at odds with women, because society in its imagery has made the woman fundamentally a body.
PLAYBOY: In this regard, you’ve been quoted as saying you were going to campaign against the companies that market vaginal deodorants. Any success?
GREER: I wouldn’t call it a campaign, but there has been a spontaneous reaction against those awful commodities. I’ll tell you why. In the first place, vaginal odor isn’t really a problem. I don’t see people lying around overcome by vaginal fumes. And I don’t think deodorants would be the way to cope with such a problem if it existed. If a woman doesn’t pay the proper attention to her sexual apparatus and she thinks she’s going to make everything “nice” by squirting herself with a chemical suspended in an aerosol solution, she’s wrong. It doesn’t mask the smell at all, any more than going into a smelly room and squirting aerosol masks the smell. It just makes it more oppressive than ever. So, if a woman has a vaginal odor, she has it because there are certain excretions in the vagina that cause it. It would be simpler to wash once or twice a day. But the main point is this: Vaginal deodorants are sold as an adjunct to f*cking, with the implication that you don’t sleep with your teddy bear anymore, you’re a big girl and you f*ck now; so you’re going to need a vaginal deodorant. The fact of the matter is, however, that if you use a vaginal deodorant before you f*ck, you’ll get undue irritation—which, as you perhaps can imagine, must really be an all-fire c*nt. So the manufacturers have backed off a bit and admitted, well, perhaps you shouldn’t use it just before intercourse. When should you use it, then? Certainly not before you go to the office, because nobody’s been lurking around saying, “God, that girl’s c*nt smells terrible.” It’s all bullshit. The whole thing is a way of making women buy yet another commodity, and it’s connected with self-doubt and low self-esteem.
PLAYBOY: You seemed to express some of that self-doubt—or at least squeamishness—yourself when you commented in your book that you still feel certain inhibitions about getting head. Why?
GREER: Some of it does arise from a feeling that my c*nt can’t possibly be all that pleasant. I could pretend not to have the fear, but most women have it; so it’s just as well to recognize it. Men have been taught to glorify their sexual apparatus and we’ve been taught to despise ours, to pretend it’s not there. But that’s not the only hang-up about getting head. I mean, there’s a kind of man who dives down there because he thinks it’s the thing to do, even though you hardly know him. You’re sort of miles away and you don’t even see him, and there he is, ferreting around down there. And then there’s always the suspicion that many a man isn’t really into it and he’s doing it because he thinks he’s supposed to. Well, that’s just a drag, because I’m really not that difficult, and nobody has to go to all that trouble—I mean, unless the guy really digs it. And there are such guys. Some lucky girls might even be married to them.
PLAYBOY: Haven’t you said that girls who are married aren’t very lucky? In fact, you’ve been quoted as advocating that women leave their husbands.
GREER: I’ve been misquoted. What I’ve said is that if a woman feels she cannot live with her husband anymore, then her children ought not to constitute a reason for staying with him. Her misery will only be the misery of the children, because they pick it up loud and clear.
PLAYBOY: Even if you haven’t advocated mass walkouts, you’ve certainly put down the institution of marriage. For what reasons?
GREER: The word institution has something to do with it. The moment you institutionalize a relationship, you completely change its character. Instead of being involved in a situation where you’re always relating to each other as warmly and spontaneously as possible, you begin to assume that you’re being held together by something external, and you might as well start taking things for granted. Consequently, you lose the delicacy of response to each other’s requirements. You don’t have to worry. Everything’s taken care of.
All that’s made even worse by the existence of a contract, an instrument that, I assure you, would not hold up in a court of law for any agreement except marriage. What you do when you sign this contract is write yourself into a great body of law about which you know nothing until something goes wrong. The law involves things like property held in common, property held separately, the entitlement of a wife to a portion of her husband’s earnings, the entitlement of a wife to spend a proportion of what she gets for housekeeping on something else, etc. And none of that is in the contract. You know nothing about it until you go to court, and then you get told, for example, that you’re not entitled to anything if you don’t keep house according to your husband’s satisfaction, depending on where you are and what kind of attitude the judge takes. It’s all secrecy and bullshit and confusion. And it’s to the disadvantage of the woman, mainly because she has so much less opportunity for independent income.
PLAYBOY: The disadvantages of marriage notwithstanding, wouldn’t you agree that it’s the best system so far devised for raising children?
GREER: On the contrary, it’s the worst possible system. I’m passionately opposed to the nuclear family, with its mom and dad and their 2.4 children. I think it’s the most neurotic life-style ever developed. There’s just no space between the mother and the children. And the husband, on the other hand, is an extraneous element in the household who usually just exacerbates the tension that already exists between the mother and the children. The nuclear family’s just too small, too introspective and incestuous a unit. But our socioeconomic situation makes it necessary, because it requires a family that’s mobile, that can be uprooted at will. And this means that the relationship of the nuclear family to its community becomes extremely superficial. Consequently, there is no way for the kids to ever learn social responsibility.
PLAYBOY: Perhaps, but the family itself becomes extremely close-knit. Do you consider that a disadvantage?
GREER: Unquestionably. What really develops is an extraordinary relationship of tyranny by the child over the mother. She is ever at his disposal, and this is the sine qua non for the development of the kind of person we call normal—which is possessive, security-seeking, and so on.
PLAYBOY: Would a child raised in an orphanage—to take an extreme case in the other direction—have it any better?
GREER: No, because there you’ve got, say, 20 children turning on to one woman, one who’s obliged to be just and to apportion her relationship to them according to some kind of equity. Moreover, she doesn’t have the parental sanction of physical proximity. She’s like a schoolteacher who’s not allowed to touch the kids; that’s regarded as corruption. So the kids never learn tenderness or physical caress or the language of love. They remain difficult of access as people. But it’s not because they’re being looked after by someone other than their blood mother; it’s because they’ve got only a 40th of any person at all, when, in fact, each of them should have three or four or five or six or seven people with whom to identify and from whom to choose a role. I don’t mean a mother and a father, necessarily. My idea of the perfect orphanage would be one in which 20 children had 50 parents, so that no one was ever left sobbing his heart out in a cupboard because there was no one to hear what was worrying him. On the other hand, as I said, it’s equally wrong that a child should have an adult completely at his own disposal.
Another thing I hate about the nuclear family is the crowding that goes with it. Consider what it’s like when you’ve got 50 apartments—50 little boxes—one on top of the other, in a housing project, with everybody riding up and down in the lift, encapsulated like monkeys going to the moon. Everyone walks into his tiny house, cooks the same meal, duplicates the same labor. It’s really uneconomical and isn’t working very well. The sad thing is that people don’t like each other well enough to live any other way. But that’s both a cause and an effect of the nuclear family. It’s antisocial; it protects itself against invasion.
PLAYBOY: What alternatives would you suggest?
GREER: I think we ought to try to enlarge our households somehow. It might be through group marriage, though not necessarily. Preferably, it should be through some sort of group cohabitation. That way, you’d live with your friends, and there would be people around who were not concerned in the sexual battle and who could referee when things got bad and when the children were exhausted and bullied by the tension.
PLAYBOY: Have you lived in a commune?
GREER: No, but I think they are the shape of the future, even though they have enormous problems. It’s such an unlikely and extraordinary event for a commune to survive in the present social and political setup that one can only regard it as testimony to the greatness of the human spirit. Nothing is in its favor, absolutely nothing—the attitude of neighbors, the attitude of the law and even the difficulties the people inside the commune have with one another. My kind of commune would be with very old and tried friends. People shouldn’t join together just for the purpose of cohabiting; it gets a bit too compulsive, like being in a barracks.
PLAYBOY: You envision in The Female Eunuch a household setup similar to what you just described. A review of your book, by Naomi Lowinsky in the magazine Organ, had this to say about your vision: “My critique of Germaine is a loving one. She has had no children; so it is understandable that all she can offer is a pretty utopian plan for a country nursery, with parents free to come and go. A lovely conceit but little comfort for those of us who are trying to be free and joyous for ourselves and for our children who exist with us now in the cities, amidst money hassles and no free child care.” Did you intend for your communal dream to be taken seriously by mothers?
GREER: Well, first of all, the whole point about having children is that there is no need for them. The world is in no great need of my child. Some people might say, “Well, a woman with your IQ should have a baby, because it will be genetically advantageous.” I happen to think that’s crap. And I hope that when we find out more about genetics, it will be so seen, because I don’t think there’s all that much inherent difference between one human being and the next. There is no need for me to bring yet another neurotic, unhappy little child into the world who is likely to have to go and fight some crummy war like the one in Vietnam. Until we’ve stopped that sort of thing, we have no right to procreate. For women who already have children, I realize there’s a problem, which I have never set out to solve with my communal vision. I said it was a dream. It’s a kind of erotic thing to have a baby, and I would quite like to do it.
But, you know, contrary to a great deal of popular belief, having an abortion is not the serious and responsible thing having a baby is. Yet these broody women keep having babies all the time. And then they say, “What do we do now? We have no free day-care centers.” As long as there are no free day-care centers, it’s just as well not to behave as if they were there—for the children’s sake, at least.
PLAYBOY: Are you in favor of an accelerated day-care program financed by the government?
GREER: I have a number of feelings about that. First, in what we call democracy, which is hardly democracy in any real sense at all, the government expects to control whatever it finances. And if you don’t want the control, you have got to say no to the money. Now, I’m already opposed to the amount of unlimited influence the state has on our children, just as I’m opposed to the way in which education is being reduced to a sort of monolithic structure, inculcating a universal quasi literacy. And I don’t approve of giving the state an additional opportunity to fill our children’s heads with notions of authority and faith, and so on.
Nevertheless, it’s obvious that some form of day care is necessary. But I think the difference is the difference between cooperative activity and bureaucratic activity. Given the state structure as we know it, we will get bureaucratic day care, which is full of laws and regulations, and if your child happens to throw sand at another child, he will be sent home, declared antisocial and made to feel a complete misfit. He’ll end up a raging idiot by the time he’s eight. On the other hand, if women are allowed the right to cooperate and to set up day-care centers that they run themselves, under their own auspices, with their own notions of hygiene, and so forth, then this would be much better. What I would really like to see is the distinction between school and home obliterated.
PLAYBOY: American feminists have been clamoring for day-care centers so that mothers can be released for work. Doesn’t the cooperative system, by requiring part-time participation of each mother, effectively prevent that?
GREER: Working in the day-care center is itself employment. It is not intended that the center be as barren of adults as the orphanage we just talked about. However, the women’s movement seems to assume that the labor market is expanding, that there are more and more jobs. But, as I already said, there simply is no room for a sudden influx of women workers.
PLAYBOY: You’ve expressed a rather grim view of marriage and the family. Is it possible that your own unhappy experiences with both might have prejudiced your ideas?
GREER: No, I think my family is pretty normal. My parents didn’t get on very well, but I don’t know very many parents whose relationships are a source of inspiration and enlightenment. That’s mainly because of the bullshit; you know, they tell you how to behave and they behave totally without dignity or respect for each other. But my views of marriage and the family are either right or wrong. I obviously cannot put them down by saying they’re a subjective reaction to the way I grew up. I’m not so dumb that I can’t think beyond a particular personal situation into a general one. Like many other wartime marriages, my parents’ marriage had a lot of things against it—so many that it would really be irresponsible of me to make a rule out of it.
When my father returned from the war in 1944, my mother and I went to meet him, and I remember her going up and down the platform unable to find him—that is, to recognize him—because, as it turned out, my father had aged so. He’d been in Malta all during its siege, and the famine had caused his gums to shrink and his upper teeth to fall out. He was obviously heartbroken. The war had really disgusted him. I don’t think he ever recovered. He’s been on sedation ever since. Well, he just withdrew from us, withdrew, withdrew. All he wanted was a quiet life. He spoke quite often of his death as well. Well, you simply can’t leave a returned serviceman, even though he is a total stranger to you. At the same time, I don’t imagine my father had the guts to leave us. So it wasn’t easy. But my mother had problems long before my father volunteered for the service, because very soon after they’d been married, they found they couldn’t get on. They might have made a go of it, though, if it hadn’t been for the war.
PLAYBOY: You’ve been married yourself. How did that relationship fare?
GREER: I got married about three years ago to a man who I thought knew what he was doing, on account of it was his second time. You know, experience and all that. Actually, it turns out, experience is the worst teacher. I was immensely flattered that he asked me to marry him. I kept thinking, “How extraordinary—this man has decided he wants me around for the rest of his life!” It has never occurred to me that marriage is anything but permanent. I don’t understand the now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t style of marriage. But it shouldn’t involve you in eye-to- eye confrontation all the time. I mean, you can be married and be on opposite sides of the earth, but you’re still married. You can have lovers, but you’re still married. It’s a bit like having siblings; you can’t lose a brother or a sister. They are always there.
Well, I got it completely wrong. Before we were married, he agreed I could go on working at the university. But once the papers were signed, it was, “Now you’re just going to knuckle down; don’t give me any more of that jazz. Now you’re going to be a wife.” So after three weekends—we didn’t even live together all the time—I said, “I’m off. Let’s have no drama, because I’m not in love with you or anything unhappy like that, and let’s have no weeping or sobbing or gnashing of teeth. It was just a mistake, and I’m sorry, What did you pay for the license?” But the funny thing is that I still consider myself married to him.
PLAYBOY: You were never divorced?
GREER: Well, he asked me for a divorce just before I went to America to promote my book. But he insisted on paying for it, and as long as he comes on with those masculine gestures, I’ll resist him. We even thought at one stage of asking for an annulment on the grounds of nonconsummation. But I thought the judge would take one look at me and one look at him and start laughing. He’s such a big, sexy guy—very handsome, very dishy. He’s capable of busting his shirt straight down the back just by scratching his nose.
PLAYBOY: If you found a guy, now or in the future, who could give you the kind of marriage you originally thought you would have had the first time, would you get married again?
GREER: Nah. I’ll stick with the one I’ve got, though I don’t know where he is or even what country he’s in.
PLAYBOY: Some American husbands and wives, also disenchanted by one-to-one matrimony, claim that mate swapping provides an escape valve. Do you think there’s anything to that?
GREER: All I know about wife swapping is what I read in books. I think it’s really like permitted incest. In a community where there’s enforced togetherness, where the corporations buy up the land and sell it back to their executives, where everyone’s under tacit supervision, where your wife’s been looked over and the kids have been looked over and you’ve taken your little psychometric test that tells the boss whether you’d rather be a cook or a forester, so he can really determine whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert—well, in this kind of community, by the time you’ve been processed by the American machine, you’re a white rat. And all your mates are pretty much the same. So wife swapping is a bit like the shared sin of drunkenness. What I mean by that is, in America, drunkenness is a sort of social imperative, which means that no one can squeal on anyone else, because everyone gets sloshed, and you all enjoy a special sort of anarchic behavior that your superiors are prepared to overlook. So wife swapping is like a form of incest in which nobody’s more guilty than anybody else. You make sure that everybody’s got the same; no one can say that the other sinned. I think it’s probably awful.
PLAYBOY: Swapping sometimes manifests itself in group sex—which you mentioned approvingly before. Do you think it might have any value in that form?
GREER: No. It only amounts to husbands’ and wives’ gingering up a fairly lifeless sexual relationship by incorporating tits of a different shape and a few new c0cks and stuff like that. I think it also probably relates to a kind of sexual uniformity. Undoubtedly, they all do the same things to one another. Group scenes are fine, but there’s no reason they should be composed of husbands and wives.
PLAYBOY: What about total strangers?
GREER: That’s the other extreme, and it’s equally unnecessary. I’m not interested in what happens to people who advertise in the papers for personnel for an orgy. I mean, they’re crazy.
PLAYBOY: Would you be uptight about walking into an orgy with people you didn’t know?
GREER: Yes. I’m bored to tears watching people I don’t know f*ck. The thing about really successful group sex is that all the people in the group have to desire one another and have to really feel tender and involved with one another. That’s a very rare situation.
PLAYBOY: It might be possible, in fact, only in the kind of group-cohabitation setup you mentioned a while ago. Wouldn’t devoting so much of one’s life to a group, by the way, tend to vitiate individuality just as the American nuclear family and corporate setups do?
GREER: In a way, yes. In any cooperative venture, there must be a surrender of some individualism, although it’s not like the uniform mentality I was putting down vis-à-vis wife swapping.
PLAYBOY: But how can you reconcile your own highly developed individualism with a desire to be part of a group?
GREER: We’ve all paid a very high price for individualism, and the fact is, I don’t really value mine at all.
PLAYBOY: Yet your whole life seems to belie what you’re saying.
GREER: That’s my problem. I’m an individualist, but I’m not proud of my individualism. I should add, however, that in a truly cooperative group, where everyone contributes what he has to contribute, there isn’t such a great loss of individuality as you might imagine. It depends on your concepts of human interrelationships. If they relate to property—in other words, to people owning other people, and so forth—then you really can’t see what cooperation is. Cooperation is working together in a way that brings out the best in all, which is why I believe that clever students do not lose by helping slow ones. When I was at school, I could have helped other people do well and still have done well myself. The competitive impulse is what prevented me from doing that, apart from school discipline. You see, it’s individualism that leads you to suppose that the knowledge you’ve discovered belongs to you. That’s mad, because facts are not the property of anybody.
It’s the difference between anarchism and fascism. In a fascist group, for example, uniformity is imposed by the dogma of the group, not necessarily by the leader, since the group, to all appearances, may be collective. “Everyone will wear black, everyone will march this way and be beautifully uniformed, and everyone will admire us for our precision marching and will blow up the electric power station on the 24th of March, because everybody who’s on our side is blowing up electric power stations on that day.” In a cooperative group under anarchism, on the other hand, no activity would be undertaken without the unanimous agreement of the group, which has been invited to consider the alternatives.
PLAYBOY: Wouldn’t the requirement of unanimity immobilize the group?
GREER: It slows it down, more often. That’s why anarchists have always been defeated by fascists. Fascism makes for a more efficient military organization.
PLAYBOY: Are you in favor of political as well as interpersonal anarchy?
GREER: I favor a communist form of state structure.
PLAYBOY: How do you reconcile your belief in self-government with your belief in a form of government that is presently as authoritarian as fascism?
GREER: If you’re referring to Russia, it’s not a communist state. A true communist system is one in which the vital means of production are in the possession of the people, so that the profits from the industry go to those who work in it, not to those who own it. That’s certainly not true of Russia, where the state owns industry and the profits go to the state. It’s a little truer of China, I think, but I’m not sure how much. True communism is, of course, anarchic. It involves the direct participation of workers in their own fate, instead of their doing as they’re told.
PLAYBOY: What’s been the experience with female equality in Communist countries?
GREER: It’s bad. The sexual revolution was betrayed in Russia. Women fought to liberate Cuba, and as soon as the battle was over, Castro told them to put their guns down like good girls and go back to looking after the children, even though the children seem to have got on all right during the liberation. In China, women are better off than they were before; both sexes dress the same in a sort of unisex regime. And Mao doesn’t go around giving prizes for motherhood, as they did in post-Stalinist Russia.
PLAYBOY: Do you envision the transformation of our present society into an anarchocommunist system without violence?
GREER: Yes, but it isn’t going to happen very quickly. It’s a terribly long process, and we haven’t even got very far with an analysis of what must change and how. One thing is certain: Society cannot remain the same, because nothing does. Seeing that change is a foregone conclusion, what we’ve got to do is try to influence the changes that will come about so that they’re useful.
PLAYBOY: What role will women play in this process?
GREER: I don’t know, but the important thing is that it won’t he accomplished without women. If anything happens without the women, it will just be yet another postponement, yet another sort of authoritarianism and injustice under which we will groan.
PLAYBOY: What would happen if women themselves were to take over the leadership of the world? You seem to say in your book that this would lead to less competitiveness and less aggression. Is that correct?
PLAYBOY: But isn’t that conclusion based on the assumption that softness is an inherent female quality? Isn’t it more reasonable to assume that if women took over, they’d become just as competitive and aggressive as men?
GREER: If women took over in a male context, of course they would become like men. Indeed, they generally have to outdo men at their own game in order to be accepted at all. But my assumption is that symmetrically, with our contouring of the female into a submissive and helpless and fairly useless being, there’s been a contouring of man into something aggressive and destructive and conquistadory. So if women were to take over, they would unbalance this polarity. If aggressiveness didn’t pay off for men, they’d stop being aggressive, and aggressiveness pays off for men only as long as it aids them in their relationship with passive, masochistic females. I would hope that the reintegration of the sexes meant that we weren’t very good at going to the moon anymore but we’d become bloody good at looking after people dying of cholera and things like that.
PLAYBOY: Do you think that most of the different qualities men and women have are conditioned rather than inborn?
GREER: I think they’re substantially conditioned, but I can’t really say. We just don’t know what the genuine innate sexual differences are, because we’ve obscured them by cultural sexual differences. There may, indeed, be some biological disparities, but I don’t know that they’re very pronounced. I mean, do you think you’d be better off being attacked by a lion than a lioness? Or vice versa? In any case, what small differences may exist don’t justify the great degree of sexual discrimination we see in our ordinary lives.
PLAYBOY: Would you like to see men and women play pretty much the same roles in society?
GREER: One of the troubles with the world as it exists now is that the number of differences has been decreased. Uniformity is the desideratum. What one would hope for is a world in which there were myriad differences. But these would be individual differences rather than deep differences between groups that are pacing out the same kinds of steps according to their sex or class. People would be genuinely developing different psychic possibilities and living in endlessly variable ways. The whole point about abolishing the sexual polarity is not to make the world less interesting but to make it more interesting. I’m sure you’ve noticed here in Italy the kind of behavior you can expect from the average boy. It’s so predictable. It’s excruciatingly boring and an absolutely off- turning mechanism. I can practically chant to them what their next gamut is going to be. That’s the price of sexual polarity. They can act only in one way. Their parts have been written for them by history. What we’re trying to do is free human inventiveness to a new kind of interplay between the sexes where the rules have not been written by some humorless priest.
PLAYBOY: Even if there weren’t unalterable rules for the sexes in your world, would there at least be flexible guidelines?
GREER: What for? Without guidelines I could pursue you. I could climb in your bedroom window in the middle of the night. How do you know you wouldn’t like it?
PLAYBOY: If a woman answers, climb down.
PLAYBOY: The point is that we’ve had centuries of experience with men behaving one way, women another. Even if it’s undesirable, how is all this going to be deconditioned?
GREER: We’re not going to eliminate sex roles by fiat. It’s going to he a very gradual process, and it’s going to be connected with socioeconomic processes that destroy the functions of the sex roles.
PLAYBOY: Once the roles have merged, don’t you think there might be a reduction in sexual turn-on?
GREER: I imagine—at least, I hope—that if it happens the right way, there will be a bigger sexual turn-on. In a bureaucratic state, where sex roles are formally abolished by a ruling minority, there would be a turnoff because the people wouldn’t know how to cope with it. Women are suddenly allowed to be cosmonauts and lift drivers and manual laborers and all the rest of it. But that represents a new kind of oppression, because the women themselves have never yearned for it or expected it, and they don’t find any new way of expressing themselves in it. In short, it’s another case of still obeying the rules.
The authoritarian personality is always sexually confused, and the sexually liberated person, I think, is antiauthoritarian. So, unless we develop some kind of cooperative life-style, and not a bureaucratic one in which we’re told we have to fill out forms every time we want to crack a fart, unless we make sure that we can create real freedom, then the abolition of sex roles will certainly he a turnoff : From what I gather, that’s what’s been happening in Sweden. It’s otherwise hard to explain why so many Swedish girls come to Italy for summer sex. I think it’s because women have become competitive with men without any corresponding increase in real freedom. They’ve been emancipated by law, which is a contradiction in terms.
PLAYBOY: What about the failure of female equality in other supposedly liberated cultures and subcultures—such as, for example, the rock culture, with its groupies and its male elitism among musicians?
GREER: Rock ’n’ roll—at least in England—is more or less working-class and is generally characterized by working-class sexual mores. The people in it are very sentimental, they’re very into monogamy, and they treat their casual sex partners very badly. But, then, you know, their casual sex partners are very often pretty contemptible. These girls are very much into celebrity f*cking, apart from being somewhat stupid and greedy. It’s very desolating to be f*cking some chick and realize she’s thinking, “Wait till I tell my girlfriends this is a superstar’s sperm. You want to smell it?” The women’s movement has got uptight about the bad things in rock ’n’ roll, but it’s useless to try to alter behavior—or censor the art form itself. A lot of rock-’n’-roll music puts down women, but this will change only when the women change. What surprises me is that there’s any other kind of rock-’n’-roll music about women. And there’s plenty. There are songs like “I just want to hold ya, I don’t wanna hold you down.”
PLAYBOY: In a Life story about you, you were quoted as saying that you spent 14 years as a groupie. Is that true?
GREER: Not really. I have been involved with musicians since I was 18, but to think of me as a groupie in the popular sense of the word is typical of people’s inability to understand distinctions or subtleties. I mean, they think that groupies are little girls who hang around the stage door and scream. And then climb in transoms and ventilators and have ten minutes in a toilet with a musician. Well, that’s not what groupies are.
PLAYBOY: What do you think they are?
GREER: The real groupies are women who simply associate with the musicians. They happen to be very free sexually and are quite capable of putting up with the lonely and peripatetic lives of musicians without making permanent claims. Many of them come to the pop concerts as the band’s guests. They know all the gossip and all the other musicians. They dig the scene in spite of the fact that pop musicians are very often not great f*ckers, and there are tons of reasons why they shouldn’t be. Apart from being bewildered and lonely, the musicians very often have a bad drug habit of some sort. A lot of the women are older than the musicians. But it got all screwed up because the popular press grabbed the idea and ran bullshit about it. You know the type of story I mean: “I was knocked up by a musician and had an abortion in the back of a Rolls-Royce, and no girl should be degraded the way I was.” Groupies are not degraded by their sexual behavior any more than Greek courtesans were. Some of them f*ck everybody. Some of them don’t f*ck at all. Some of them f*ck people all at once, and others f*ck people one by one. Still others refuse to f*ck anybody and just give head.
PLAYBOY: None of this helps us understand why you call yourself a groupie, in any sense of the word.
GREER: Well, I get very impatient with musicians who treat groupies badly. That’s one reason I let them call me a groupie, because they’re always saying what a different sort of woman I am and how people have to respect me and everything. And I say, “Well, f*ck you, Charley. If you’re prepared to ball them, you should respect them. Don’t screw them up and then put them down.” I really can’t stand it when some tuppenny-ha’penny pop star, whose music isn’t worth a pinch of shit, says something snotty to the music papers about the female flotsam and jetsam that he’s been involved with.
PLAYBOY: A while ago you mentioned drug problems among the musicians. What drugs were you alluding to?
GREER: Among others, the amphetamines and heroin. But, of course, the problems aren’t peculiar to musicians. I mean, America is a chemical civilization. If you want to be happy, you’re supposed to take something. You know, people are primed for heroin. They’re made vulnerable to it by this whole notion of chemical happiness that is promulgated everywhere. And now that the authorities are trying to start a campaign to turn people off heroin, they’re powerless to reverse the mechanism. So all the big posters of people mainlining that are put in the subway in New York and that are designed to propagandize against drug use are just a turn-on.
PLAYBOY: A kind of chemical pornography?
GREER: Exactly. And heroin is the perfect commodity. Because once you’ve persuaded your customer to buy it the first time, you’re sure of increasing sales the rest of his natural life. It won’t even kill him, if he’s careful. Needless to say, I’m opposed to amphetamines, barbiturates and heroin. But I’m opposed to the notion of chemical happiness in any form. I’m also opposed to codeine and aspirin.
PLAYBOY: What about LSD?
GREER: I don’t disapprove of LSD when used in a certain way. But I do have a few students who use too much of it, and the results are really a bit scary.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about pot?
GREER: I think it’s pretty good. It’s a relaxing sort of drug. It helps people cool out a hit and see what the connections are between things they were too uptight to see before. It’s produced a new kind of mind, I think. People are much more introspective than formerly. In an uncritical sort of way, they’re actually observing patterns of behavior without a desire to classify them with all the old household psychology terms. I think if marijuana could replace cigarettes and liquor, we’d he doing everybody a service.
PLAYBOY: Contrary to what you’re saying now, haven’t you gone on record against the legalization of pot?
GREER: Yes, but my position doesn’t contradict what I just said. I’ve pointed out that, at the present time, marijuana is the people’s traffic. When it’s legalized, it will he taken away from the people, and a situation will develop in which its production and marketing are controlled by the same firms that now sell cigarettes. I’ve even heard that names like Acapulco Gold and Panama Red have been copyrighted by the cigarette firms and that they’ve already designed the marketing for marijuana and they’re just waiting for the signal to go. And, of course, governments will tax it to death. It’ll be as degraded as tobacco is in cigarettes, so that the marijuana just won’t be the same thing. Now we smoke fresh marijuana or hashish, and we know how to distinguish good from bad. So I say to the kids, “Do you really want to pay even more than you pay now? And do you want to know that smoking marijuana is financing nuclear armaments and wars in Vietnam and all that crap?”
PLAYBOY: But don’t you agree that whatever disadvantages legalization may introduce, it would at least eliminate jail sentences for users?
GREER: I don’t want them to legalize marijuana, I just want them to ignore it. I mean, they didn’t outlaw boiled eggs and then legalize them, did they? They just let you eat them. You know, it’s like this silly society to talk about legalizing things that we all simply ought to be able to take for granted. Abortion’s another example.
PLAYBOY: I)o you have any particular thoughts about abortion, beyond being against the laws restricting it?
GREER: The question of abortion is very complicated. When it comes to late-term abortions, I don’t really think they’re any great shakes. They’re bad for the women and they’re bad for the nurses or midwives who have to take out the child who’s almost viable and put it in a rubbish tin. On the other hand, very few women voluntarily have a late-term abortion. They would like an early-term abortion, but they just don’t get it. They get grilled and examined and pushed around and bullied and confused for so long that they’re six months gone before a decision is made. Certainly, I think birth control is preferable to abortion just from a personal point of view.
PLAYBOY: Rut you wouldn’t have any objections to an abortion pill, if such a safe and effective chemical could be developed, would you?
GREER: Not at all. In fact, I’m very interested in work being done in America and in Africa on prostaglandins. Something like this drug will one day be used to remove a fertilized egg before it’s properly implanted in the vagina. Instead of dosing yourself frantically all the time in order to prevent a pregnancy, you’ll only use a medication in order to deal with a state of affairs that already exists. Instead of being constantly medicated, you may be medicated only three or four times a year. It seems to me that that’s preferable to what exists now, with the pill interfering continually with our endocrine balance. One of the results, as many men can tell you, is loss of sexual interest for a lot of women. That’s apart from the fact that it causes them to retain water in their system and to be heavy-breasted and fat, with swollen ankles and depressed in many cases. There are plenty of reasons the pill shouldn’t be allowed to reign supreme as the answer to controlling population.
PLAYBOY: A currently fashionable method for population control is voluntary sterilization—particularly vasectomy. But you criticize this operation in your book. Why?
GREER: A great many women in the movement think that it’s time the men bore the responsibility, but I don’t find that the responsibility for my own childbearing is in any way distinct from my claim for control over my own body. And if I’m to rely on some man’s goodness in being sterilized, then I’ve lost control of my body and he’s got control of it. It also means that he can demand my fidelity, because lie’s sterilized. I can f*ck him without problems, but I can’t f*ck anybody else without some form of contraception. Apart from anything else, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a man’s sterilized. I’m the one who’s going to have the kid; so I’d like to know what the situation is without having to trust his scout’s honor.
But my strongest reservation concerns the fact that in many cases the male is irreversibly sterilized. He’s become a kind of f*ck machine, and there’s no way in which he can reassess his position. I tell you, I wouldn’t sterilize myself. Apart from everything else, biology is a sort of emergency mechanism. We’re designed so that if society does something really stupid, then whoever of us is left alive has got a reasonable chance of repopulating the earth.
PLAYBOY: The population issue is part of the larger effort to save the environment. Do you think this issue deserves all the attention the press has given it?
GREER: Indeed it does. I come from a country that is half-destroyed by erosion, and so do you. The desert proportion in the United States has increased enormously, through insufficient conservation, overintensive cultivation and destruction of the natural flora.
PLAYBOY: You’ve been quoted as criticizing the U.S. not only for its ecological excesses but also for its cultural excesses. Do you think of yourself as anti-American?
GREER: No. I’m anticapitalism. That means I find things to grieve over in nearly every country. But I was horrified at the ugliness of America when I spent time there promoting my book. It was something I hadn’t expected. Of course, your country deliberately showed me its asshole. I mean, she made no attempt to woo me with anything beautiful. All I saw was airports and motorways, so that America for me is a ribbon of macadam dancing in the heat. And then there were the motel twin beds. I was always given twin beds. I never understood what the hell l was supposed to do with the other f*cking bed, because if two of you walked in, you’d be given two rooms with twin beds.
And, frankly, I expected more affluence. I didn’t expect this feeling among people that they never have quite enough money. I’ve never seen men work so hard nor so unhappily. I had the feeling that there was no security. There were men older than my father getting up at 5:00 a.m. to make sure that I got to an early-morning television show. They were literally chewing their lips to see that I wouldn’t say anything that would f*ck up their relationship with the station and that I’d be nice. At the same time, some of them would try to bully me, until I got nasty and said, “Now, look, don’t come on with that shit. Just cut it out or I’m f*ckin’ off. I don’t have to stay here. I don’t have to sell to your bookstore that you’ve been buttering up for the last 25 years. Just cool it. If I tell you I want to eat, 1 want to eat. I’ve been doing this for weeks, and I’m hungry and I’m tired and I know what I need. So feed me and don’t give me no shit about how you’ve got to be such and such a place at such and such a time.”
PLAYBOY: How did you like the food?
GREER: It was horrible. I had a steak in Washington, I).C., that I’ll never forget; it was one of the most deeply traumatic experiences of my life, because out came this great shelf of steak, and it quivered on the plate. It was charbroiled or some bullshit infrared mode of cooking, and I put my knife into it and the knife sank through it as if it were butter, and yet it wasn’t fat! It was all meat. I remembered there was some kind of chemical that you’re not allowed to put in meat anywhere in the world but in America. Whatever it was, that steak tasted like a block of mucus.
PLAYBOY: What’s the worst memory of your tour?
GREER: San Francisco, where I had 13 appointments in one day. That may have prejudiced me, but my memory of that city is that it looks like a shark’s mouth, because they’ve built it up too much and destroyed all the natural contour of the coastline. I went to Berkeley, and the kids were so uptight, so destructive of each other, it was really frightening. Oh, I feel so sorry that it’s all gone wrong. The American dream really has turned into a nightmare, and most people who realize this in some dim way are terrified of changing it. They’d rather die than admit failure. They’d rather kill their children than have their children tell them to change.
PLAYBOY: Would you go to the United States for another promotion tour?
GREER: I might do selected events, but I don’t think I’m going to sign another copy of a book in a bookstore for the rest of my life. It’s the most pathetically dishonest procedure. It really used to do my head in, because people would buy the book just for the autograph. Sometimes they were buying it for a Mother’s Day present, and I’d think about this poor mom wondering, “Why have they given me this?” The customer would say, “Is it a novel?” and I’d say, “Well, you don’t have to believe what it says.”
PLAYBOY: The Female Eunuch was your first book. Do you enjoy writing?
GREER: I have to write. It’s a hit like shitting. It’s quite nice. Especially if you do it nicely. You know, if a nice, well-formed piece emerges. But if it’s coming in dribs and drabs or not coming at all, or being forced out, if you’re missing the rhythm somewhere, it’s no pleasure at all. And yet sometimes there’s an enormous pressure to do it. And not much pleasure when it’s finished.
PLAYBOY: We understand you have another book in the works.
GREER: Yes, I’m writing a book on the female artistic impulse and what happens to it. It’s probably going to be called The Problem of Waste.
PLAYBOY: What else does the future hold for you—and for the women’s liberation movement ?
GREER: The movement will simply get bigger, that’s all. I don’t know when things are going to start to happen. The astounding thing is that in the space of about three years the movement has got so huge. How else do you explain things like Kate Millet’s book becoming a best seller? It’s not a very readable book. It’s not a book you buy for fun, or even for curiosity, because it’s pretty easy to figure out what it’s about. But the buying of that book is a positive act of support, I think the same goes for The Female Eunuch, which I don’t think is really all that good, either. It’s very uneven. Admittedly, McGraw-Hill has sold it pretty well, but, even so, I would never have thought it would be a best seller in the U.S. So maybe I’m the wrong person to ask about the future. I just don’t know.
It may be that an enormous disappointment is in store for the movement, that a lot of people, say, involved in the equal-rights- amendment business, all that tokenism, are going to be so disgusted by the small difference their considerable efforts have made that there’ll he ten years or so of confusion. What did the suffragettes think when they won the vote? They probably thought the whole world was going to change. Well, it didn’t. Revolutionary movements give in to disappointment and bitterness when they discover that Rome was not even destroyed in a day. I expect all that ebb and flow of revolution, all that waste and confusion, and I expect the fragmentation of the women’s movement, which is becoming a serious problem. As it is, its members hardly ever provide a united front even when one is strategically called for. I don’t expect that to get appreciably better until women have got used to the hypocrisies of politics. They’ve got to learn that you just don’t wash your dirty linen in public. If you disapprove of Germaine Greer’s actions, for example, which quite a few feminists do, you don’t write to a pig newspaper and put her down, because it makes things too easy for the pigs. You write to her and put her down. Women are going to take a long time to figure out things like that.
Political education is a dreary process, however, and if you try to short-circuit it, you betray your whole scene. Because once you say, “Oh, well, we’ll never get these people educated, we’ll just tell them what to do,” then you spend all your time consolidating your own power, like Macbeth, who seized it unjustly.
As for my own future, my life’s work is to make the feminist position more and more comprehensible to more and more people. As I told you, my role is to preach to the unconverted, rather than sitting about cozily developing the line with people who already agree with it. I’m much more interested in the truly anarchist part of the movement, and this involves increasing its grass-roots support as much as possible. That includes people who have been ill educated, because I think everybody in our society is ill educated in one way or another. It means exposing myself to the worst kinds of prejudice and antagonism and doing my best to discredit them. I happen to be better at that than I would be at attempting to organize the women’s movement from inside. I’m just trying to make sure there is a women’s movement. Let somebody else organize it. I don’t have any talent in that direction. But I won’t submit to being abused because I don’t do it. The women who abuse me for not doing it should be doing it themselves. So there you are.
Playboy, January 1972 issue