Social women are naturally submissive to men,

Social Contract theories are those that include voluntary
agreement among individuals in the state so that society is benefitted as
whole, thus avoiding the social chaos that would occur in a state of nature
(the absence of any political authority). 
According to social contract theory, “morality consists in the set of
rules governing behaviour, that rational people would accept, on the condition
that others accept them as well” (Rachels, 2002, The Elements of Moral
Philosophy, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 4th edition).  Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau are all
social-contract theorists who Pateman has gone on to criticise.

 

Pateman essentially argues that Social Contract
is inherently sexist and based on patriarchal assumptions.  Social Contract theory assumes that
individuals are ‘born free’ (Rousseau) and equal to one another, however,
Pateman notes that Locke and Rousseau assume that the ‘free and equal’ parties
to the social contract are men, and women are simply assumed to be naturally
subservient to men.  Rousseau accepted the
patriarchal assertion that women were naturally subordinate to men, as he
believed women are incapable of achieving the same level of rationality as men.  It is because of this lack of rationality and
autonomy that Rousseau argues women are unable to participate in politics (the
public sphere).  This could largely be seen before the 21st century, where
women were unable to own property in their own name, and as a whole, treated as
the property of men (namely their fathers or husbands).   Rousseau goes as far to view women as a
disorder that brings harm to men and the state due to their domestic
nature.  In the Social Contract, he
argues individuals should live according to the general will and dismiss any
personal interests that conflict with the public interest.  Thus, he held the firm belief that women must
be domesticated.

 

Locke argues women are naturally submissive to men, as husbands
have authority over their wives through her consent, but Pateman argues that
this cannot be meaningful consent, since it is simply assumed to be
automatic.  Pateman argues that Social
Contract theories make a distinction between the political and private
‘sphere’.  The private sphere includes
family life and is an area that the state cannot intrude on.  This may be seen as beneficial, but Pateman
views it in a negative light, as no concerns are raised over inequality or
discrepancies within households.  According
to Pateman, a double standard exists, as women’s inferior status to men is not
seen as requiring consent, as it is neither political, nor a question of
justice.  Pateman therefore argues that
the social contract is ultimately underpinned by a ‘sexual contract’, a set of
assumptions that involve subordination of women to men.   Pateman ultimately argues that women only
interact with the state indirectly through the dominant male within their
home.  Thus, when Locke claims that all
individuals in the state should be equal, women are not included in this, as
they are unable to operate in the public sphere.

 

Pateman goes on to criticise the Social Contract, by arguing
that any genuine sexual differences between men and women had been taken and manipulated
to create narrow gender roles, which in turn restrict women to domestic tasks,
such as childcare and cooking, leaving them to operate in the private sphere
only.  This ensured that within
households, the only person able to interact in the public sphere is the man; a
situation referred to as ‘private patriarchy’. 
Pateman claimed that this private patriarchy follows through into the
public sphere.  Thus, Pateman argues the
Social Contract does not simply give the state legal rights, but it also
preserves the dominance of men over women, who are not in fact parties to the
Social Contract, but merely the subjects of it (as their consent is simply
assumed).

 

Interestingly, Pateman does not simply criticise the Social
Contract due to sexism and its patriarchal assumptions alone, but she explores
the ‘sexist roots’ of political institutions that have created the Social
Contract.  She argues that the liberal
democratic state holds contradictory beliefs about women’s consent.  For example, a woman’s consent is equal to a
man’s, so a man having sex with a woman is only permissible is she consents,
nonetheless, a woman’s consent barely matters at all (in practice).  Pateman supports this claim by referring to
rape law as a “parody of justice” (Bienen, Mistakes, Philosophy and Public
Affairs 7, 1978).  This is because
‘consent’ of the victim is either interpreted from a Hobbesian perspective,
where submission is identified with consent, or simply because consent is
ignored.  Pateman points out that most
rape cases go unreported, and this is due to the fact that a women are likely
to experience difficulty in convincing people that she did not consent to
having sex, unless physical injury is present to show that she resisted.

 

Pateman’s
arguments against Social Contract theories delve deep into patriarchal and
sexist assumptions, many of which are still remnant today.  Pateman is correct in that women are
generally disregarded within Social Contract theories; they are treated as
subjects as opposed to parties of the contract. 
When women are, however, acknowledged, they are viewed as lacking
rationality (Rousseau) or simply reduced to acting as reproductive machines.  Pateman is also correct in that when Social
Contract theories speak of human nature, this is generally