E. Belfort Bax November 1912

Cant, Cowardice and Cruelty.

Source: New Age, 21 November 1912, p. 69;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Sir, – The excellent remarks in THE NEW AGE’s “Notes of the Week” for November 7, in conjunction with a former series of Notes on the “White Slave” humbug, ought to be re-published as a pamphlet and scattered broadcast throughout the land as a wholesome corrective to the slavery of public opinion and Press to that organised hypocrisy called the “Nonconformist Conscience.” It has been made only too clear lately how the latter has become the safe refuge of the bestial lust and cruelty which lurks beneath the veneer of civilised man, e.g., bishops and M.P. ‘s.

The whole agitation is unquestionably also a move in the anti-man crusade of modern Feminism. Men can be arrested on suspicion of being procurers or souteneurs, and are liable as such to torture and heavy terms of imprisonment, while procuresses (much more numerous than procureurs) are to be let off, on the ground of their belonging to the privileged sex, with practical immunity. In short we have before us nothing less than a savage sex-war being waged against man on behalf of a certain section of women. While reading the accounts in the papers of the sickening exhibition of the bête humaine on the part of Colonel Lockwood, Mr. Crooks, and other “honourable” Members, I could not help thinking how refreshing it would be if while they were engaged in the, to them (as they were not ashamed to boast), congenial task of torturing their helpless victim, some unregenerate who had gained access to the scene with a concealed revolver should cut short their operations by a well-directed shot in the region of the lungs and heart.

Though I am proud to consider myself a sentimentalist, I wear my sentiment like Ophelia wore her “rue,” to wit, “with a difference.” To my thinking the man who can deliberately inflict a horrible torture upon a fellow-creature who is helpless for self-defence, be it man or woman, saint or souteneur, is a coward, a cur, and a cad. The best I can hope for the honourable gentlemen who distinguished themselves in the House on the occasion in question is that the temptation to pander to Feminism and prudish-prurient cant, led them to do injustice to their true selves.

Of course, the very expression “White Slavery” is itself indicative of the lying humbug of which the whole movement for which it stands, consists. Where you have slavery there must be coercion into being or continuing a slave, and how can there be any coercion of the procurer’s “victim” when the whole force of law, police, and public opinion is against the procurer and in favour of the “victim’ and when that “victim” has only to raise the faintest cry or to lift a little finger to bring down upon her “enslaver” a “multitude that no man can number” of amateur detectives, male and female, hysterically eager to hand him over to the tormentors appointed by law. In the case of the souteneur, morally indefensible though his conduct may be, his “grue” hands him over the earnings she has made in her trade just as willingly as the moneyed bourgeois hands over the profits he has made in his trade, whatever it may be, to the mistress of his choice. There are many foul things in this capitalist society of ours of which the institution of souteneur is only one and by no means the most radical or important, either by reason of its extent or even of its effects.

The real nature of the objects of the promoters of this “White Slave” Bill is shown alike by their savage eagerness to torture men guilty of breach of its provisions, and the shuddering horror with which they greet any proposal to apply the lash to the backs of women when guilty of precisely the same offences. It may be also, as has been suggested, that a touch of Xénophobism enters in to add a spice to the vindictive brutality of our patriotic parliamentary heroes who pose as the champions of virtue. The majority of souteneurs, it is alleged, whether rightly or wrongly I do not know, are foreigners.