husbands pandering to wives more likely to become cuckolds

Under gender-inequality in parental knowledge, men typically exhibit gender-distinctive concern about being cuckolded. Among the early-thirteenth-century proverbial sayings of Freidank are these:

No man has so faithful a lover
that he doesn’t fear that she may go astray.

The man who has a lover is hardly ever free
from worry that she might be unfaithful.

{ Sô stæte friundin nieman hât,
er vürhte doch ir missetât.

Swer liep hât, der wirt selten vrî
vor sorgen, daz ez unstæte sî. }[1]

Like women, men can be unfaithful to a lover. But a man cannot dupe a woman into believing that she’s the mother of a child when she actually isn’t. Women who love men should understand men’s difficult gender position and act with compassion. They should also support and promote modern DNA paternity testing. The folk wisdom of Freidank has an apt modern complement in Soviet wisdom: “trust, but verify {Доверяй, но проверяй}.”

Even in the relatively enlightened medieval period, some men responded foolishly to women’s gender privilege in parental knowledge. Just as men’s groveling self-abasement in courtly love typically doesn’t arouse women sexually, pandering materially to a wife isn’t a propitious way for a husband to lessen his risk of being cuckolded. The late-twelfth-century German poet Spervogel explained:

He who asks the wolf to dine
is asking for a cause to whine.
No wise man ever overloads his trawler.
This is my wisdom. I am the scholar.
A husband who spends his every thaler
to buy rich clothes throughout the year
will soon have mighty cause to fear.
Her arrogance will grow and grow
till he gets a bastard quid pro quo.

{ Swer den wolf ze hirten nimt,
der vât sîn schaden.
ein wîser man der sol sîn schif niht überladen.
daz ich iu sage, daz ist wâr:
swer sînem wîbe dur daz jâr
volget und er ir richiu kleit  
über réhte mâze koufet,
dâ mac ein hôchvart von geschehen,  
daz sîm ein stiefkint toufet. }[2]

A wife might reason that if her husband is willing to spend all his money on buying rich clothes for her, he wouldn’t mind spending a lot of money on raising another man’s child.

minnesinger Spervogel in the medieval Codex Manesse

Medieval literature frankly described the pathetic stupidity of cuckolds. In our more repressive age, discussing men being cuckolded tends to be repressed harshly through calling such discussion “anti-feminism.” Who would want to be called an anti-feminist, a literal enemy of the colossal gynocentric state? Such persons risk bodily liquidation, or at least imprisonment. Anti-feminists are wildly imprudent. Today wise persons merely read medieval literature, learn what they are otherwise not permitted to learn, and act knowingly.

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[1] Carmina Burana, Add. 17, vv. 49-50, 53-4, Middle High German text and English translation from Traill (2018). This text comes from Freidank’s early thirteenth-century collection of short proverbial sayings written in Middle High German verse and called Discernment {Bescheidenheit}.

[2] Spervogel, Middle High German text from Lachmann & Haupt (1875 / 1959) VI.I.XVI via Bibliotheca Augustana, English translation from Wilhelm (1990) p. 205. The Latin phrase quid pro quo means “what for what,” or less literally, “this for that” / “a favor for a favor.” Spervogel’s poem is within the Spruch genre of Middle High German verse.

[image] Minnesinger Spervogel, whose name means sparrow, displays a pole of sparrows to queen and king. Illustration for Spervogel in folio 415v of the Codex Manesse, made between 1305 and 1315. Manuscript preserved as UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848. Thanks to University of Hiedelberg and Wikimedia Commons.


Lachmann, Karl, and Moriz Haupt, eds. 1875. Des Minnesangs Fruhling. Leipzig: S. Hirzel.

Traill, David A. 2018, ed. and trans. Carmina Burana. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 48-49. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Wilhelm, James J., ed. 1990. Lyrics of the Middle Ages: An Anthology. New York: Garland Publishing.

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