I am developing a (magical) first-millenium CE alternate history based on an extension of historically matriarchal societies, and am trying to decide how this would affect the stereotypical male personality. To obtain the desired cultural shift, I have applied a few magic-based tech changes, specifically:

  • The drug of forgetfulness, nepenthe, is available in the wild, and it disproportionately affects the male brain. A brain lacking information will grab onto whatever it is given, so a person influenced by nepenthe will likely believe whatever he is told. This is a short-term effect.

  • Use of nepenthe for personal gain is culturally discouraged (and illegal in most places), but it still happens on occasion -- much as date-rape drugs are still used in our society today.

  • Culturally, this led over time to men begin perceived as "fragile", "easily manipulated" and "not to be trusted with important decisions". Education may be limited to women as a result (Compare: US attitudes towards women before the 19th Amendment and in higher education before Title IX).

  • Nepenthe has been weaponized, for defense against brigands or enemy armies. This changes the way the military is structured. It also provides opportunity for unscrupulous people to manipulate or even kidnap young men. Native nepenthe must be eaten to have its effect; weaponized nepenthe is a gas.

  • In response to this risk, golems were developed to handle some tasks for rich women who don't want to put their sons at risk. Among the poor, however, manpower is still measured in man-power (e.g., no significant biological differences in musculature for people).

  • A man grows up in his mother's house and is expected to help raise his sisters' sons. As occurred in certain matriarchal cultures of our past, a woman may invite a man she likes to share her bed, but marriage per se is not a thing -- his sister expects him to return to her house afterwards. Since women control the property and wealth, a man is essentially "orphaned" if he has no female relatives.

  • The upper-class philosophy of "protect your sons" has grown into a broader idea that women are responsible to protect men from harm -- effectively, a reverse-chivalry attitude. This idea is particularly strong within families, but some women may hold it more broadly.

  • There is some other magic present in the world, primarily related to augury, agriculture, and medicine. It is expensive and may require blood or other complex chemistry to accomplish. As a result, while famine, war, plague, and pestilence may still be as common as they were in our history, it is the matriarchy (government) that is expected to keep those things at bay.

In this context, I am trying to understand how this inverted power structure would affect human behavior. Specifically:

  1. In our world, women are often perceived as talking more than men -- both in a positive (social) manner and in a negative (gossipy) one. In this revised world, would men in this culture be increasingly quiet compared to women ("your voice is unnecessary"), or would they become more social and talkative as their ability to influence society in other ways decreased?

  2. In this alternate society, women hold both the financial and sexual controls. Put in that position, what (apart from words) would a man do to attract a woman's care and attention? Would the stereotypical "male ego" be completely destroyed by this level of financial dependency?


  • In this world, magic is intended as technology. It has been around long enough to affect culture, but not evolution. You can safely assume that biological sex differences are still present, though they may have a differing impact on society for the reasons described above.
  • Magic is not cheap in this world, and is therefore limited to government or the wealthy. At the same time, culture is often established by the rich, so opinions would not necessarily match reality.
  • I've done a lot of reading about real-world matriarchal societies, but this is not intended to be a direct analogue to any of them. For this question, I'm trying to understand the psychology of power -- how much is nature, and how much is nurture.
  • As with the prior item, the magic/chemistry that leads to the manipulation of men is not intended to say anything about the real world. It is intended create a situation where a son or brother left alone might be drugged and kidnapped by unscrupulous persons. This would understandably make the women who care about them want to protect them (think: maternal instinct). It would also lead to unfortunate consequences when people decided their sons couldn't take care of themselves.
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    $\begingroup$ Implicit in your option #1 is the idea that authority/power makes people less talkative, which may not necessarily be true. Do you maybe have any specific real-world historical patriarchal societies you'd like to mirror? It might help make the answer less opinion-based. $\endgroup$
    – Dog
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ This question is too broad, for a this narrow explanation. The degree of freedom is too big. This is not realistic biologically. To make this biologically realistic, there would be huge differences, thus having even greater impact on society and the male psychology. Are you looking for what kind of an answers? You could have an unrealistic setting, but then there is no reason to expect a realistic answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ You're not looking at real life matriarchal societies properly. Matriarchal societies function quite a bit differently, and men do not have such a great disparity in how their minds work. Authority and ownership may rest in the women, but it is enforced by the men. Most importantly this actually just applies to the elite echelon of women. Rather than all women. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ Matriarchy is not the inverse of patriarchy. Your premise is faulty, misleading and wrong. $\endgroup$
    – M.Mat
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Due to availability of certain chemical substances that disproportionately affect the male brain, men are perceived as "easily manipulated" and "not to be trusted with important decisions". Do you mean that men are, in actual fact, more likely than women to be subject to (chemically-facilitated) manipulation and bad decision-making? Is there any defense against that? $\endgroup$
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:22

11 Answers 11


If males still tend to be stronger than women, you won't quite the a mirror of the historical patriarchy. Women are merchants, men are porters and caravan guards. Women are architects, men are masons and bricklayers. Women are weavers, men are herdsmen.

If males "make themselves useful" by using their muscle, that will influence their social status and the appearance of desirable males. A "good" male trusts his wife and butts heads whenever she says so. That means standing up to other men and other women, it wouldn't do if they were easily cowed. Of course bringing the trash out or hauling crates into the attic are much more common than confrontations, but also less memorable.

Follow-Up: Yes, I ignored the golems. I had subconsciously assumed that magic would be scarce enough that there won't be a golem in every house. If a bunch of men go look at my biceps and obey, a golem constable will show them the error of their way. If you need somebody to chop wood at a farm, a man would be more cost-effective.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting conclusions despite the fact that it ignores the golems. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ exactly, because a golem is overkill for taking out trash or hauling crates into attic, can you image all the mess it would create? :D $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I had intended the golems to be rare, as the magic in question would be expensive. The magical items I selected were purely intended to block the "look at my biceps and obey" situation that historically occurred when a cultured society was overrun by a more violent one. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ New research: among the Bakuba of central Africa, it is the men who do the weaving. But yes, division of labor is key to this question, I think. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think you miss the main point of the patriarch. In the real world, men didn't grow dominant because they were stronger or were considered smarter but because they were (and had to be) more ambitioned. Only then they established themselves as superior. Apart from this and different mating strategies that force men to reach and impress women, men's natural social behavior is more suited to build efficient, dominant structures and work together for a common goal. Forgiving hierarchy and mandatory commands are male concepts and women aren't as disposable as men regarding population conservation. $\endgroup$
    – hajef
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 13:56

This is a case where the problem is still insufficiently bounded. Social structures are incredibly complex and varied. Consider the role of women in American society vs the role of women under theocracies that give them no rights at all. Men in your world would likely see a similarly large gamut of possibilities.

In fact, they might even see things we don't see in human culture. What you describe is not all that far from how beehives operate. You may find that your males turn into drones! This extreme points out one major challenge with your questions: if you're going to the point of inventing entire new brain chemistries and adding magic, concepts like "male ego" turn into really whatever you want them to be. You've made so many changes that something small like that is easily adjusted to fit your story.

The one thing you can rely on is waste-not-want-not. Evolutionary processes hate to see resources go to waste. If there's no particularly strong value to a male at all, then they will likely find themselves given extremely small resources to work with. All males may be put on starvation rations simply because there's no reason not to. Or perhaps they will be killed at birth. Waste not want not. On the other hand, if males do actually get a chance, that means they have some value to the society. It's your job as an worldbuilder to try to figure out what that value would be in your specific society.

Pay attention to your magic system. "Due to the availability of female-controlled magics (e.g golems), the benefits of male physical strength are less useful..." suggests your magic is very powerful in how it will shape society. If your female magic is too strong, it will simply be a waste of time to raise a male. I suggest exploring the weaknesses in your magic system, whatever they might be, and seeing whether a male might be able to scratch out a living operating inside those weak regions.

In all, societal structures are very complicated systems with few right or wrong answers. However, one tool you can always rely on is efficiency -- there will always be a sense of efficiency built into the deepest traits of society (such as gender relations). Each culture's sense is different. We may not appreciate the efficiency of that of another culture, but it's there. If you build up that sense of efficiency to meld correctly with the rest of your world, you'll have a reasonable society to share with your readers.

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    $\begingroup$ If your female magic is too strong, it will simply be a waste of time to raise a male. => A quick note that nowhere is it stated that females may reproduce by themselves, hence it would seem that men have at least one critical role in the society. I could imagine them being "traded" for favors, much in the way noble women were promised in marriage not so long ago in our world. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM - I think a key consideration here has to be that the effort required from a male for successful insemination, pregnancy and delivery of a baby is minimal. In a truly Matriarchal society is highly likely that males would be reduced to trophy objects. A female can easily milk a male for reproductive purposes. In real world history that is not true of females. Eggs are finite and pregnancy is complicated and requires significant biological investment by a female hence females are prized. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Venture2099: Ah... but you are ignoring genes. A bull can be milked easily, and yet prized bulls insemination are sought after because it has good genes and people want good calves. I'd expect a similar effect here. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Venture2099 Milking males? Enjoyment brought on from sex is a thing for women, living in a matriarchy or not. And an attractive male would still also be an attractive male. If I lived in such a matriarchy (and if I had the necessary wealth) I certainly wouldn't say no to having a few guys hanging out around the house. Whether they do something or not is irrelevant, they're pieces of art in of themselves. In addition even if a women did want to reproduce without having sex, I assure you no women would ever diminish herself by milking a male with her own noble hands! He can milk himself! $\endgroup$
    – AngelPray
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. to elaborate on what "a similar effect" would mean, you can also look at how bulls are treated historically - a small portion are kept as bulls for insemination and the rest are either gelded if needed for labor or slaughtered at a young age. Who would want to raise and feed a male that's not particularly attractive? $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:16

These real world examples should give you some considerations

  1. MOSUO

The Mosuo live with extended family in large households; at the head of each is a matriarch. Lineage is traced through the female side of the family, and property is passed down along the same matriline. Mosuo women typically handle business decisions and men handle politics. Children are raised in the mother's households and take her name.

The Mosuo have what's called “walking marriages." There is no institution of marriage; rather, women choose their partners by literally walking to the man’s home and the couples never live together. Since children always remains in the mother’s care, sometimes the father plays little role in the upbringing. In some cases, the father's identity is not even known. Instead, the male’s childrearing responsibilities remain in his own matrilineal household.


At four million people, the Minangkabau of West Sumatra, Indonesia, (pictured above, during a harvest season celebratino) are the largest known matrilineal society today. In addition to tribal law requiring all clan property to be held and bequeathed from mother to daughter, the Minangkabau firmly believe the mother to be the most important person in society.

In Minangkabau society, women usually rule the domestic realm while the men take the political and spiritual leadership roles. However, both genders feel the separation of powers keeps them on an equal footing. Upon marriage, every woman acquires her own sleeping quarters. The husband may sleep with her, but must leave early in the morning to have breakfast at his mother’s home. At age 10, boys leave their mother’s home to stay in men's quarters and learn practical skills and religious teachings. While the clan chief is always male, women select the chief and can remove him from office should they feel he failed to fulfill his duties.

  1. AKAN

The Akan people are a majority in Ghana, where they predominantly reside. The Akan social organization is fundamentally built around the matriclan, wherein one's identity, inheritance, wealth, and politics are all determined. All matriclan founders are female, but men traditionally hold leadership positions within the society. These inherited roles, however, are passed down matrilineally—meaning through a man's mothers and sisters (and their children). Often, the man is expected to not only support his own family, but those of his female relatives.


The Bribri are a small indigenous group of just over 13,000 people living on a reserve in the Talamanca canton in the Limón province of Costa Rica. Like many other matrilineal societies, the Bribri are organized into clans. Each clan is made up of extended family, and the clan is determined through the mother/females. Women are the only ones who traditionally can inherit land. Women are also endowed with the right to prep the cacao used in sacred Bribri rituals.

  1. GARO

Much like their Khasi neighbors in the North-East Indian state of Meghalaya, the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Garos pass property and political succession from mother to daughter—typically, he youngest daughter inherits her mother's property. Much like the Akan, however, the societiy is matrilineal but not matriarchal: the men govern the society and manage property.

Oftentimes, the youngest daughter's marriage is arranged for her. But for non-inheriting daughters, the process can be much more complex. In Garo tradition, the groom-to-be is expected to run away from a proposal of marriage, requiring the bride-to-be's family to "capture" him and return him to his potential bride's villiage. This back-and-forth is repeated until the bride either gives up, or the groom accepts her proposal (often after she has made many promises to serve and obey him). Once married, the husband lives in his wife’s house. Should it not work out, the union is dissolved without social stigma, as marriage is not a binding contract.


The Nagovisi live in South Bougainville, an island west of New Guinea. Anthropologist Jill Nash reported Nagovisi society was divided into two matrilineal moieties, which are then divided into matriclans. Nagovisi women are involved in leadership and ceremonies, but take the most pride in working the land entitled to them. Nash observed that when it comes to marriage, the Nagovisi woman held gardening and shared sexuality at equal importance. Marriage is not institutionalized. If a couple is seen together, sleeps together, and the man assists the woman in her garden, for all intents and purposes they are considered married.


  • Men would likely become trophy objects based on appearance
  • Some limit upon male aggression and testosterone would need introduced
  • Sexual subjugation would be a staple of life (see: Tease&Denial or Femdom)
  • I agree with others above; feral men would exist, become antagonists
  • Male involvement in child-rearing would be reduced
  • Male necessity for pregnancy would be drastically reduced and possibly automated through the use of sperm collection and delivery, sale
  • Child-bearing men of superior genes would be highly valued and possibly traded, sold
  • Male without valid child bearing sperm would be outcast from society
  • A male who is unable to find a wife would likely suffer lower economic status and less influence (like females in Victorian England)
  • War would be reduced as matriarchal societies seek consensus and community across larger groups
  • Female attitudes to sexuality would be drastically different (See the work of Nancy Friday)

Amazonian Women

You might also be interested in this article.

Starting with Friedrich Engels, Bachofen inspired generations of Marxist and feminist theorists to write wistfully of a pre-patriarchal age when the evils of class, property and war were unknown. As Engels memorably put it: “The overthrow of mother-right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children.”

There was, however, one major problem with the Bachofen-inspired theory of matriarchy: There was not a shred of physical evidence to support it.


The trail of the Amazons nearly went cold after Herodotus. Until, that is, the early 1990s when a joint U.S.-Russian team of archaeologists made an extraordinary discovery while excavating 2,000-year-old burial mounds—known as kurgans—outside Pokrovka, a remote Russian outpost in the southern Ural Steppes near the Kazakhstan border. There, they found over 150 graves belonging to the Sauromatians and their descendants, the Sarmatians. Among the burials of “ordinary women,” the researchers uncovered evidence of women who were anything but ordinary. There were graves of warrior women who had been buried with their weapons. One young female, bowlegged from constant riding, lay with an iron dagger on her left side and a quiver containing 40 bronze-tipped arrows on her right. The skeleton of another female still had a bent arrowhead embedded in the cavity. Nor was it merely the presence of wounds and daggers that amazed the archaeologists. On average, the weapon-bearing females measured 5 feet 6 inches, making them preternaturally tall for their time.

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    $\begingroup$ // , It seems, based on these examples, that what we're really talking about, here, isn't Matriarchy, but dissolution of the family unit, with women raising children. This somewhat resembles the matriarchies that have arisen in poorer classes in the US, in which women raise children of indeterminate parentage, while men "run the streets." $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ I approve of the examples provided; it's thought provoking and evidenced, though would suggest a few more links/references to these tribes, as the article cited mentions each only briefly without further reading, and the source is not exactly Scientific American or the like. The subject matter seems to deserve a little more context. $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Continuing the idea of RL examples: as seen from a distance, Denmark and Sweden are moving in a direction which would have been considered quite matriarchal in the 19th century, yet this does not seem to cause any psychological problems to Danish and Swedish men; most civilized countries have moved a lot towards matriarchy from was the norm in the 16th century, yet men are still all right and we can still read and fully understand 16th century literature and history. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Matriarchy has never been the norm. Very little anthropological evidence suggests that and overwhelming evidence points to the norm being patriarchy. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ In what way is the world currently a matriarchy? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 18:17

In question number one you would end up with two groups of males:

  • The first would be "family" males who would like you say be quiet. Seen not heard would be a good term here but waiting to do anything they could to be perceived as beneficial. The women would exert an extreme amount of control by either recommending or not recommending their brothers to their women friends as mates to produce children. Men who had too many male children or disappointed their sisters in other ways might even be shunned — which brings up the other group of men.
  • Feral or maybe wild men: If they have no family they are not going to remain with civilized society and they are going to gang together. They will be violent, cruel to both civilized men and women. Not only that but you might want to consider the saying only the strong survive. In this case though only the smartest survive so these groups of me will end up being somewhat smarter than the average civilized male. Capture a few females and it could cause all sorts of havoc in your nicely planned society (he, he, he). Don't know what your projected audience is but for the younger ones you might not want to even consider going there though.

As for the second question, men would be very careful about unwarranted attention just as women are in male dominated society. Without protection it could cause some very difficult situations so men would be dependent on female relatives for protection. Ego is something we all have, damaged or not. Since female power is dangerous you would have males picking on lesser males and something else interesting.
A lot of males would secretly harbor resentment, and while occasionally lessor males would be targetted, the primary targets would be golems because they are a symbol of female power. Sabotaging and destroying those golems would be something the pissed–off males could occasionally not be able to resist.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for thinking of violence against golems. how did i miss this? $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 1:17

Another answer after OP's clarification.

I still can't bring myself to believe that without biology change you would achieve your cultural shift. But let's hand-wave this and assume that a society like that exists and think how it would have came to be like that and see where it leads us (because it is fun). In meantime I hope it will provide the answer to OP's questions or at least some useful thoughts or ideas.

So I assume next things:

  1. nepenthe - is a relatively easy-obtainable plant, which is not normally edible so the biological evolution of humans took place the same way as in our world, then relatively recently it was discovered that it has OP's effect on human males.

  2. nepenthe's effect lasts for no longer than a couple of weeks until it dissolves from body, then the victim can remember everything or almost everything that has happened to him.

  3. you can relatively easy make a liquid extract of nepenthe plant in order to add to victim's food (so you don't have to add the raw plant itself) but it requires significant knowledge and equipment to make gas (so you still can make a weaponized form in military facility but not in your garage equivalent)

  4. magic can be used by both genders, but doesn't allow to be immune to nepenthe's effects. Also men can control golems and be a magic user in general (but may not have access to magic items, knowledge etc)

So a country Kramain was founded in year 300 CE which is the same as a country in year 300 CE would have been in our world. In year 367 CE a relatively common plant was discovered to have an interesting effect on males only. It was called nepenthe. Since then the cultural shift has started to form in Kramain. Men who controlled everything has started doing strange things like giving away cattle for free, doing work for free, killing their entire families and doing strange things in general.

It has quickly become apparent that men can no longer do business and make any serious decisions, at first women in their households have been given the obligation to be present at all important decision making times to verify sanity of men. Soon it happened so that all of the business had to be conducted between women to exclude fraud and other issues related to the drugged men. After some time it led to a situation that women has become household masters and got the real economic power. Which in turn let to cultural shift to matriarchy (in whatever meaning you put in it). Along this shift some other things has become more apparent - more women were needed as only women could have been trusted with dealing with mistress' children, especially females. So the cast/order of guardians was born, these women had to be childless and serve to the mistress, protect her from manipulated household males and other enemies. On the other side man started to avoid accepting food from outsiders and especially share meals with women. It has become customary to carry a box with a lock when traveling to keep the food which was prepared by household members or by the man himself. This box had to be locked at all times and key had to be kept very securely. A lot of outside household interactions of men had to be made with a presence of women to protect from drugging effects. After some time cultural norms were adopted which would discourage or prohibit usage of nepenthe.

Men still were used for manual labor and for military service. All under supervision of women. They started to feel oppressed but that was a natural order of things. Marriage in the form we know it dissolved from top of the society to bottom. While richest women would pick their lovers to stay with them for some time either to be a toy or to produce offspring they didn't posses any material rights in household. For poor people it was a bit different and was more resembling marriage but women had the right to 'let' the man go as they seen necessary. This made men even more dependent on women. Wealthier men were educated in craft and basic sciences and women were also getting business, political and military education. Men were taught to obey women.

On the outside men has become more silent and obedient, they didn't talk back to women, they were told to not speak on important matters. In order to get a good place for their sons (basically to let them stay by marriage women for longer, where they were financial responsibility of those marriage women), rich women started to train them in music, dances, poetry, painting etc. On the inside evolutionary aggressiveness and male traits were still present, although somewhat suppressed it had still to get a way to let the steam out which was usually done by bullying weaker men.

At some point a way to create magic golems was discovered and rich women has started to keep these along with female guards from guardian cast to protect themselves from dangers. In year 534 when everything was already under control of women in a local war which was fought under command of female general Luise and has consisted of 500 untrained man foot soldiers and 100 women cavalry, the enemy has used nepenthe in gas form. While the cavalry was away from foot soldiers, foot soldiers were brainwashed to attack their allies after being gassed and told the 'truth' about the sides of this war. General Luise was herself tortured and killed by foot soldiers which then went into slavery with smiles on their faces, and only a handful of cavalry survived and fled to tell the story. After major defeat the way the war was fought changed. To each squad of 10 men there was a woman political attendant attached to quickly refresh men's memory in case of gas attack. In order to keep those women safe to each 5 attendant there was a female golem user attached. It was done to make sure that in harsh conditions of war men would not attack their attendants.

The increased usage and demand for golems put more stain on the economy. Lower classes have been pressed into more poverty and more work. Men started being treated as commodity, more men were sold into other household because of inability to feed them. They became more aggressive because of bad treatment but this was easily suppressed by militia with golems.

In year 943 new threat to Kramain has arised, as men became more and more discriminated but still being quite good in crafts and physical power some of them started to run away from Kramain and form man bandit groups. At first these groups were easy to deal with, but after some time they have started to join forces around a man named Dilak who founded a new religious cult. In this cult women were proclaimed tools of evil, which should be slaves and used only for making more soldiers in order to liberate all the other men. Eating unchecked food was a sin, drugging fellow man was a sin punishable by death, even possessing of nepenthe was a deadly sin. The Dilak cult has started to raid remote villages sacking them and taking or killing men and taking all women into slavery. Them being very agile and small it was hard to fight them off and using gas was expensive and relatively ineffective. Whenever zealots of the cult were seeing or smelling nepenthe gas they would kill themselves, they would never attack in large numbers or directly. They would try to destroy all facilities to produce nepenthe gas and what was more worrisome, the Dilak cult has started to silently spread inside city walls. Followers of the cult started to sabotage work of the cities making them easier to attack.

It was rumored that Dilak is a third son of Dilla, aristocrat in the second largest city of Kramain. As he was the youngest among his siblings, he was raised spoiled by his mother who even gave him a military education which was unheard of at that time. After he started to express some strange thoughts and spoke up at his mothers party, he lost his prospects of getting an invitation to any major house in the country. Eventually even his mother lost interest in him and he was downgraded to do manual labor at his mothers household, he fled. There is no historical record of any of this since records for men were usually not kept as they couldn't inherit.

In year 996 a large scale application of nepenthe was used on men in Kram, the capital of Kramain, to get information on Dilak cult followers withing the city. While it was a great success and more than two thousand believers were uncovered (~1.5% of male population), this has caused a great uproar in masses. It was estimated that in 1015 there was already around twenty thousand believers in Kram, which was around 20% of male population of the city. As number of believers grew, the magic items flow to Dilak cult increased dramatically. Economy started to suffer because of sabotages. The number of female by male victims of assaults has increased dramatically. The cult had invented masks which would delay and decrease the nepenthe gas effect. The Dilak cult has become a major military force and it was estimated that more than 200 thousand women were enslaved by them across the country.

In year 1137 a successful assassination attempt on the queen Lanua, by Dilak cult zealots, marked the end of Kramain as a country.

Well, to be honest, after typing this, I realized that it is not really a direct answer to the OP's question but it was quite fun to write.

I would say, that in my version of OP's universe men would psychologically behave almost as in our world. The main reason for this is that I really doubt that because of nepenthe drug they would be perceived as fragile. Not trustworthy - yes, fragile - no. So I don't think they would feel physically defenseless.

Since men would be used in manual labor and I think they would retain craft/intellectual/hunt jobs also, so they would still have their ego. I don't think that even in our world in older times women didn't have ego because of financial dependency on men. It was just focused on other things like being pretty (which is of course an effect of dependency). Probably men would have ego in terms of who is the best craftsman or hunter.

Another thing I remembered is, that AFAIK in our world in year ~1000 CE there was not that many marriages for love. In most cases parents would pick up pair for their children, so mothers would pickup marriage(or mating) partners for their daughters, and they would probably look on health, family tree and benefits for household from man, basically the same stuff which was done for son's in terms of wives in our world.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree, this post didn't address my question until the split, but I found it an interesting read nonetheless. Regarding fragile, I was thinking a mental or emotional tone to the word. Even in 1960's Star Trek we find Uhura described in such terms. :-( Your thoughts regarding craftsmen are interesting; he makes the product, and she sells it, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @papidave well, I have a male bias here, but for me fragile even in mental or psychological sense is coming from actually being physically weaker and other issues coming from it and thus developing this feeling. I can't see why men would become fragile if they have physical power to defend themselves against average woman. Another thing which just came to my mind now, is that it is possible that men develop some kind of fatalistic approach to life to deal with stress. Something like 'I can be drugged any time so why bother thinking about that, it is not my fault anyway'. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea. Men can become fatalistic and would be treated as children (cannot take any responsibility for their actions and should be supervised) because of that. This seems to me more plausible than them being fragile and kind of 'reverse-womanized'. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ I think we're actually talking about the same thing. Culture seems to work in a strange loop: first we develop a practice, then come up with interpretations of the facts to justify its ongoing existence. I guess that implies men will socialize as they do today, but that these same behaviors will be given different interpretations by society at large. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ After considering for a while, this answer has persuaded me to take the answer I selected. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 0:28

The best answer is to look at current societies which are female led and extrapolate from there.

So, if you know anything about your sex/gender models, then currently, you'll be aware that, for reasons that aren't scientifically clear yet, what we think of as sex tends to be divided into two different parts in our brains.

On one hand, there is the social gender component, which seems to create individuals which are gender-variant. These are individuals that show many of the characteristics of acting out the opposite gender, but are unquestionably of their sex.

The other component is the sex part, and this is what creates trans people (people who want to change their physical sex to match their internal sex).

Both of these are independent of each other (and also of sexual orientation), so you do get trans people who change sex yet will act out the opposite gender role, while gender-variant people may be trans (but won't necessarily be). Likewise, social gender expression is what gives us butch dykes and camp gay males, but the general impression that you have to be gay if you're gender-variant is wrong.

With that in mind, the question you're really asking is "what happens to men in the gender-variant community?" because all cultures and societies have small numbers of gender-variant people (and with the awesomeness of the internet, they can seek each other out and build their own spaces on the net). However, you would have to correct for the fact that such cultures are basically subcultures of the main non gender-variant norm.

As a summary, broadly, male people still remain interested in physical things while female people go with emotional and social things (this seems to be a sex-based characteristic). However, competitiveness vs cooperation seems to be a more social gender-based one, so politics would be done by women, who would handle things by inclusion and exclusion of social networks (in other words, you get excluded from things that matter and if you really mess up, you get completely excluded, which can kill you). Women would also do trade, as they'd be more temperamentally suited to it than men (again, ties in with social gender rather than sex, I think). Men tend to be kinder and more decent people, though possessing a bit of naivety too, so would probably do more of the family stuff and later-stage child-raising, as well as more empathetic careers (though, in the modern world, lots do IT, because it's a support thing involving physical stuff).

Rather than the traditional physical violence in non gender-variant communities, you'd get women being emotionally abusive to their menfolk (and each other), so the usual rules of dating apply, just men would be looking for someone who isn't a completely horrible person to date while men are looking to get powerful leaders in their communities.

  • $\begingroup$ This response is thought-provoking for me, but I'm concerned it may be tied too closely to this century. Today, you can get a job and be financially independent whatever your expressed gender. This was not always so. That said, if you can provide a reference for the competitiveness vs. cooperation distinction, I'm interested. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ @papidave Well, it's not really a thing for this century. As far as I can tell, people with differing characteristics would have been around as long as humans have existed, though I think that in the very distant past, such people would have either been killed or ended up as priest/priestess figures. For example, trans stuff exists in hijiras of India and the Gallos of the classical world. $\endgroup$
    – aphenine
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ @papidave I'm kinda embarrassed by the cooperation/competition dichotomy, because it's true, but only if I'm trying to find a simple way to generalise a complicated field. OK, so, Whipping Girl by Julia Serrano is the transsexual take on "we need to explain this, but we also need to do that without disproving everyone else who's gone before". In terms of academic stuff in psychology, I know that gender identity clinics in both the UK (Charring Cross in particular) and the Netherlands group publish papers on their models and statistical data, so you should be able to find stuff by them. $\endgroup$
    – aphenine
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @papidave Serrano is a feminist text that's still relevant but been superseded by asexual and non-binary stuff (her models can be adapted for them, but they don't differentiate people who are both or neither). Whether anyone's written anything better, I don't know. Hope this helps. $\endgroup$
    – aphenine
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:32

Would men in this culture be increasingly quiet ("your voice is unnecessary"), or would they become more social and talkative as their ability to influence society in other ways decreases, while women become less talkative in their authoritative role?

Neither; their personalities would be the same. Men are neither talkative nor silent due to patriarchy/matriarchy/egalitarian societies - it's a personality thing. Some people are introverts, some people are extroverts, and some people are ambiverts. All genders included.

Since women hold both the financial and sexual controls in this society, what would a man do to attract a woman's care and attention? Would the stereotypical "male ego" be completely destroyed by this level of financial dependency?

Look at very successful women today with many resources and ask, how do men try to attract these women - and is there anything special about how they do so? I am a boy and I am friends with a lot of boys and none of us do. If we're attracted to a girl, we'll ask her out.

Sexual control? Unless masturbation doesn't exist in your fantasy, I'm not sure how women or men can ever have sexual control (and societies that always try always fail). If women can use their magic to stop it, that's one thing, but even that seems absurd because if women have super powers, why would they even care if men masturbate? Unless you're aiming for a comedy, it becomes hard to imagine this.

If You're Aiming For Closer To Reality

Since women have magical powers in your fantasy, I don't see why they would want or need men. They could reproduce with their magic powers; so .... If I was reading your book, this would be a question that would stop me from probably reading further - nothing in your description answers this elephant in the book.

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    $\begingroup$ There is certainly wide variation in personality in any society, but my research has shown that many women feel intimidated to speak up and disagree with men, even in today's relatively-balanced society. I am trying to understand what that would look like if we gender-flipped the power structures that led to that intimidation. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ re: dating -- asking out a wealthy woman is no big deal because men are still expected to take the initiative in dating. Would that expectation remain if men were defined as "chattel", and could not own property? It depends on how much of men's assertiveness is hormonal, I think, and don't have the data to decide. $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 15:22
  1. Would men in this culture be increasingly quiet ("your voice is unnecessary"), or would they become more social and talkative as their ability to influence society in other ways decreases, while women become less talkative in their authoritative role?

Not sure how much male psychology is influenced by the proposed pharmaceuticals... Currently, males establish a form of hierarchy among themselves. Would this change? The lower types are more likely to become passive-aggressive, exhibit their frustration in petty ways. Men would not be quiet, so much as the "poor decision making" would mean they would be emotionally less contained in a male way. Look up the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum on poor behavior as an example, or consider what happens in a rowdy bar full of drunk men. I assume what you are suggesting is some form of the reversal of the Victorian attitude, that "women were too emotional to be trusted to lead"? I suspect your society will have males who are more like rowdy children, leave too many of them unsupervised and all hell will break loose.

How about female psychology? The trope is that men are more cooperative, hunter-gatherers evolved to cooperate in the big hunt, while women are more individualistic, vicious and competitive among themselves (mean girls? The female is the deadliest of the species?)

As for LGBT - that all depends on attitudes. Is someone "different" persecuted, mildly tolerated with amusement, or allowed to act their self-perceived role? Where would lesbians fit in this? One presumes the "Bull Dykes" would come to rule, exhibiting the added aggressiveness/assertiveness associated with men to end up dominating leadership roles, while avoiding the deleterious effects of whatever drug is messing up male psychology. Oh, and they would also not be burdened with children to look after.

  1. Since women hold both the financial and sexual controls in this society, what would a man do to attract a woman's care and attention? Would the stereotypical "male ego" be completely destroyed by this level of financial dependency?

Are we suggesting a significant change in sexual behavior? Both sexes preen to look attractive for the other. In many typical societies, men ask/chase and women try to look pretty and wait to be asked. If the roles at reversed, men will be the ones parading themselves in social settings trying to look attractive.

But what about the "ladder theory" that men are attracted to good breeding stock, women are attracted to social status? So men go for young and healthy (hence trophy wives). Women go for large wallet and big pe.. pe... pectorals, ie. the Alpha male. OTOH, as Helen Gurley Brown remarked, "men will schtupp mud", ie. are a lot less picky in who they mate with.

All this is evolutionary - A man who spread his seed around will likely have more offspring; a woman wants a mate who will provide and protect for her and their children. If you're bored one day, find a copy of Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee for more of this topic. How does your proposed society handle this?

Remember, too, the female as housewife role evolution-wise is due to the need to breast-feed and tend to children for a year or so. Only women can work as wet-nurses. (What did people do to bottle feed before rubber nipples?) This could be a major distraction to women doing other work. Would they mainly be desk jobs? You can't be the sailors on the trading ship and be hauling around 2 or 3 kids at the same time. Also, the birth rate was much higher due to high childhood mortality from disease - maybe half the children died before the age of 5; so women might have a baby to care for every other year from their late teens to early 30's. Think about your demographics and how that is handled.

How well do golems work? They can do grunt work, but are they stymied by complex tasks? Could you run a sailing ship using golems as the physical labour? How about a caravan? Could they defend the caravan against an attack by feral men, or would smarts allow the men to beat the golem every time in 1st-century combat, by applying a little brainpower?

  • $\begingroup$ Baby bottles before rubber nipples $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Your concerns about how to feed infants are legitimate, and I'm working to resolve that already. Fortunately, it's outside the scope of this question. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 15:27

Perhaps a better way to consider the dating/hookup dynamic- how did lower class men connect with upper class women in The Good Old Days? Answer - unless thrown together by circumstance or initiated by the woman, they didn't. People knew their place, and the overall consequences of a peasant pestering an upper class woman were all too clear - up to and including arrest, whippings, and physical attacks by her "protectors". No reason to think men would act outside their social roles in your world.


papidave (OP) has to really provide more details on how exactly men can be drugged/magically manipulated. In my opinion this would greatly influence the society.

Further is based on the premise that biology, except from manipulation is the same as ours.

If easily magically manipulated (even only by the rich, because magic is expensive)

Then I assume that it can be done by women only. Which in turn means that any woman can to some extent control male (ranging from full mind control to ability to immobilise). This can have interesting societal impact, like female status in society to be decided by means of who can win control of a man/larger number men by their magic.

If that is the case then I have to agree with others who can't see the reason why men would be needed as free human beings. The only reason to have them is for reproduction.

Which in turn would probably boil down to the situation as we have with cattle. Men of the 'best' (whatever it means in your world, but usually physical beauty and health) qualities would be kept in semi-animal state and used for reproduction only.

The other side of the spectrum of possible scenarios: is that they are still fully human but are slaves, those women who are wealthier would train their slaves to be smart and to know how to keep an interesting educated conversation, but still being a slave or circus animal.

The quantity of men then would greatly depend on environmental situation as you only need one man to impregnate multiple women:

  • enough food in all times - lots of male slaves (keep all male babies)
  • not enough or other problems - only small amount is kept for stable reproduction (dispose of weak, sick, disabled and so on)


  1. Influence on women: wouldn't matter, no influence
  2. Attract care and attention:
    • be healthy and pretty, produce a lot of healthy offsprings
    • be somehow fun to keep around (ranging from be smart and obedient to be a circus freak)

If magically manipulated but magic is prohibitively expensive to enable full scale control

you would get 'civilised' countries with semi-enslaved man and societies of 'barbaric' man who would capture/breed magically weak women and keep them locked/separated for reproduction. These societies/clans would have their own culture built on 'religious' prohibition of man-manipulation (unfortunately don't have more time to fantasise into this direction).


  1. Influence on women:

    • know women psychology etc
    • be a strong barbarian, overpower weak women, take them as your slaves
  2. Attract care and attention:

    • be healthy, pretty
    • be smart, strong and obedient, know some craft
    • be a strong barbarian, overpower weak women, take them as your slaves

If easily controlled by some drug (let's use wine for the sake of example) and magic expensive

You would probably get something close to our world now. Assuming that average female in our world is weaker than average male, she can be relatively easy kidnapped/drugged so in some cases she needs protection by male but not in all. For your world it would be reversed - there would be places and times when men should be accompanied by woman/en. The men would be forbidden to drink wine or be in places where they can be easily tricked to drink it. But in general I would say you can pick any specific time in our history and reverse women and men roles.

It would probably gravitate with passing of time to more rights given to men (basically as it happened with women in ours)


  1. Influence on women: be a smooth talker, know women psychology etc
  2. Attract care and attention:
    • be pretty
    • be smart
    • strong
    • know some craft

So yeah, I would love to give it more thought if OP can give us more details on how precisely men are controlled/manipulated.

  • $\begingroup$ Done -- see my revised question, above. I am trying to limit the magical scope to the minimum required to invert societal power structures, but even that one change seems to have substantial downstream effects. I think I have a pretty good handle on the effects of nepenthe on society at large, but am still caught in a dilemma regarding its effect on men's interactions: would they be more extroverted, or more introverted? $\endgroup$
    – papidave
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @papidave well, it would definitely leave a mark on behaviour but I would say that extroverted/introverted is a bad quantifier. I mean this depends on individual characteristics and upbringing. If you mean social interactions - I believe anyone with lower social rank would be quite and demonstratively obedient to those of higher rank, and in turn more aggressive to those who are even lower than them. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 21:55
  1. I think they would become even more quiet, because it's in their nature, but because they would not have the chance or the privilege to always speak their mind, the aggression that they now express in words would manifest in other ways. Maybe they would rebel very often, or pick fights with each other, because men are more aggressive naturally. And some of them would just practice a skill to gain the favor of women and thus gain some power.

  2. I think apart from words, they would just work really hard at whatever job they have and that would be the measure of their value, in their eyes and the eyes of society. Also, you need to determine what the women would reward as desirable behavior, and what they would punish, that is also going to be a determining factor.

    Like in our past, the women were rewarded for being good housewives, raising children, being gentle and sweet and prudes when it comes to sex, and punished for being too interested in sex, having too many partners or wanting to be independent. It's not OK, of course, but it kind of corresponds with the fact that naturally women have a lower libido then men. In your world, if women will punish the men for something that is in their nature to do, the society is going to become tyrannical and oppressive, if it's just encouraging their natural tendencies, it's not going to be that bad.

    Depends what you need for the story.


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