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.
She still feels her views on gender issues to be underrepresented in popular culture, but has let it go, preferring not to repeat herself, and focusing her non-fiction efforts on the no less controversial topic of religion. The underlying topic in all her writing is freedom versus imprisonment. Specifically, the desire in all of us to delegate personal responsibilities.
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. 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".
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". 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.
Vilar appeared on The Tonight Show on February 21, 1973, to discuss the book. In 1975 she was invited to a televised debate by WDR with Alice Schwarzer, who became known as the representative of the women's movement at that time. The debate was controversial, with Schwarzer claiming Vilar was: "Not only sexist, but fascist", comparing her book with the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, and Vilar opining that it can't be that hard work for a woman to "spread her legs for her husband once or twice a week."
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.
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.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.
Book collecting original series of 3: Der dressierte Mann [The Manipulated Man], Das polygame Geschlecht [The polygamous sex], Das Ende der Dressur (The End of the Manipulation; third part never translated into English). dtv Verlag 1998. ISBN 978-3-423-36134-7
The Polygamous Sex: A man's right to the other woman. W. H. Allen. 1976. ISBN 0-491-01737-5.
Alt (in German). Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1980. ISBN 3-7766-1089-1.
Oud (in Dutch). 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.