Esther Vilar

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Esther Vilar (1977)

Esther Vilar (born Esther Margareta Katzen; September 16, 1935 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an Argentine-German writer. She trained and practised as a medical doctor before establishing herself as an author. She is best known for her 1971 book The Manipulated Man and its various follow-ups, which argue that, contrary to common feminist and women's rights rhetoric, women in industrialized cultures are not oppressed, but rather exploit a well-established system of manipulating men.


Vilar's parents were German-Jewish emigrants. They separated when she was 3 years old.

She studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, and in 1960 went to West Germany on scholarship to continue her studies in psychology and sociology. She worked as a doctor in a Bavarian hospital for a year, and has also worked as a translator, saleswoman, assembly-line worker in a thermometer factory, shoe model, and secretary.

In 1961 Esther married the German author Klaus Wagn.[1] The marriage ended in divorce after two years but they had a son, Martin, in 1964. Concerning the divorce she stated: "I didn't break up with the man, just with marriage as an institution".[2]


The Manipulated Man (1971)[edit]

Main article: The Manipulated Man

One of Vilar's most popular books is titled The Manipulated Man, which she called part of a study on "man's delight in nonfreedom".[3] In it, she claims that women are not oppressed by men, but rather control men in a relationship that is to their advantage but which most men are not aware of.

Some of the strategies described in her book are:

  • Luring men with sex, which she referred to as the "periodic use of a woman's vagina," and other seduction strategies
  • Controlling men by the judicious use of praise, sex, and emotional blackmail once they have been lured
  • Masking her real intentions and motives in the guise of romantic love

The Manipulated Man was quite popular at the time of its release, in part due to the considerable press coverage it received.[4]

Vilar appeared on The Tonight Show on February 21, 1973, to discuss the book. In 1975 she was invited to a televised debate[5] by WDR with Alice Schwarzer, who became known as the representative of the women's movement at that time. The debate was controversial, in particular due to its high aggressiveness, and at some point Schwarzer claimed Vilar was:[6] "Not only sexist, but fascist", also comparing her book with the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.[7]

According to the author, she received death threats over the book:

So I hadn't imagined broadly enough the isolation I would find myself in after writing this book. Nor had I envisaged the consequences which it would have for subsequent writing and even for my private life - violent threats have not ceased to this date.[8]


Her play Speer (1998) is a work of fictional biography about the German architect, Albert Speer, and has been staged in Berlin and London, directed by and starring Klaus Maria Brandauer. She has also written many other books and plays, but most have not been translated into English.

Selected works[edit]

  • The Manipulated Man. Pinter & Martin. 1998. ISBN 0-9530964-2-4. 
  • Der Dressierte Mann [The Manipulated Man] (in German). Tritonpers. 1971. ISBN 90-6057-032-4. 
  • Het polygame geslacht [The polygamous sex] (in German). De Centaur. 1975. ISBN 90-6057-023-5. 
  • The Polygamous Sex: A man's right to the other woman. W. H. Allen. 1976. ISBN 0-491-01737-5. 
  • Het einde van de dressuur (in German). De Centaur. 1977. ISBN 90-6057-224-6. 
  • Alt (in German). Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1980. ISBN 3-7766-1089-1. 
  • Oud (in German). De Centaur. 1980. ISBN 90-6057-168-1. 
  • El discurso inaugural de la papisa americana [The inaugural address of the American papess] (in Spanish). Lectorum. 1982. ISBN 84-02-09008-7. 
  • Speer. Play (in German) (Transit). 1998. ISBN 3-88747-128-8. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wünsch dir was (in German) Der Spiegel, December 27, 1971. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  2. ^ Author Esther Vilar Lashes Out At Women Star-Banner, June 14, 1972. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  3. ^ Author Esther Vilar Lashes Out At Women Star-Banner, June 14, 1972. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. ^ E. Vilar, "Der dressierte Mann", radio-interview (in German) ARD, November 7, 1971. Retrieved in December 19, 2011.
  5. ^ Excerpts from the debate can be seen in the documentary about Alice Schwarzer, available in the "Deutschland - Lenker und Gestalter" series of 12 DVDs released in Germany, and in a recent Schwarzer interview aired in September 27, 2011, and available in the ARD website. The full-42 minute debate can be obtained directly from WDR in DVD here.
  6. ^ Im Clinch (in German) Der Spiegel, February 10, 1975. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Frau gegen Frau (in German) Die Zeit, June 16, 2005. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  8. ^ Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man, revised edition, August 1998

External links[edit]