I took a nose dive into the world of the subreddit “Manosphere”, here’s what I found...
Let’s set the scene: You’re up way too late, laying in bed with your laptop on your chest. Your nose is six inches from the screen. Netflix got boring and you ate too many Mega Stuf Oreos. You’re scrolling catatonically through your various feeds, switching back and forth between them until it becomes clear that there is nothing worth looking at and you are forced to give up, close your eyes, and quietly panic about your inability to fall asleep.
In the utter hopelessness that is re-opening your laptop after flailing around in bed for an hour, you turn yourself over to the dark side of the internet in the form of MRA subreddit /r/TheRedPill, for a laugh or a scare or what could blossom into a fascination similar to the one you have with extreme fast food experiences and those videos where they shoot things at girls’ asses in slow motion.
If you’ve never experienced TheRedPill, the sidebar description calls it a “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” If it sounds like the classic pick-up artist line with a culty personal development twist, that’s because it basically is. The goal of this particular forum is not so much simply to get laid as it is to gain a sense of personal power in one’s relationships with women, or, perhaps less generously, to be protected from the indignity of vulnerability and potential heartbreak via strategic deployment of traditional gender roles toward relationships based primarily on male sexual satisfaction.
There are plenty of other blogs and subreddits in what they call the “Manosphere,” linked to in the sidebar, possessing different degrees of anti-feminist and/or anti-women vitriol. There’s a list of must-read articles, theoretical foundations, and requirements for posting on the sub. There’s even a /r/RedPillWomen, a /r/RedPillParenting, and an entire sub where men can /r/thankTRP for transforming them from shivery betas to strong, self-assured Men.
The Manosphere is an insular and well-developed online community with its own rituals and language, much of which has trickled down from the pickup artist scene of the early millennium. HB1-10 (Hot Babe + rank), incel (involuntary celibate) and ASD (anti-slut defense) are all present in TheRedPill’s glossary, alongside new terms more apt to describe what they call “relationship game,” such as comfort or shit tests, which are tests that a woman performs in order to judge her male partner’s beta-ness, and Monk Mode, a period of withdrawal from distractions and time-wasting activities in order to improve body and mind and, therefore, social or sexual market value. Lifting is often central to Monk Mode, as well as things like learning a language, learning to cook, reading non-fiction books and sometimes meditating. Celibacy is not considered necessary for Monk Mode; the defining post on the blog Illimitable Men notes the presence of sex (not necessarily partnered) on the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The variation in points of view between different blogs and subreddits in the Manosphere may be attributed, and often is, to what is called the five stages of swallowing the red pill, which are exactly the same as the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. What is eventually accepted is the central tenet of red pill ideology: that all women are like that (frequently shortened to AWALT). That is, female instinct drives women to seek out alpha males – this instinct is known in the Manosphere as hypergamy – and that men need to adjust their expectations in order to account for this. Interestingly, in the end there is ideally no value judgment placed on hypergamy or any other sexual strategy. The goal is to accept that this is just the way women are, and that it is no better or worse, morally speaking, than male sexual instinct.
Moralizing of any kind is not welcome in the Manosphere – this is one of the traits that could potentially separate it from a regressive gender traditionalism, marking it instead as a distinctly contemporary space. Machiavellianism is considered one part of the Dark Triad, a set of three personality traits which are said to constitute an effective short-term sexual strategy, the other two being narcissism and psychopathy. In one sidebar-linked Red Pill Theory post, titled “Sexual Strategy is Amoral,” subreddit moderator redpillschool lays out a basic argument against a universal morality, then goes on to apply this principle to sexual strategy:
“Here’s where things get a bit hairy. If my mating strategy is to dismiss a maximum number of potential mates (hypergamy), and I tell people that certain mating strategies are immoral, then I can get other people to agree to it. But what happens if this framework isn’t built on a contract that benefits all who participate? What if you signed a contract that said you will pay me $40/month, but I will provide nothing in return?”
The contract he is referring to, of course, is the one that says it’s immoral to exploit what you know about a person’s psychology in order to get laid. Rape, he writes, is a “poor decision” because it violates the contract of personal freedom, but the idea is that women create scarcity of sex among men through hypergamy, thus making it only fair that men do what they have to do to access that sex. He then concludes that there is no conceivable social contract that will benefit both genders.
One wonders if the ladies of TRP’s pastel-pink sister sub, /r/RedPillWomen, would agree with that last statement. They seem to follow a very pragmatic “what’s good for the gander is good for the goose” line of thinking, describing themselves as espousing an “anti-feminist, non-feminist, traditionalist and/or evolutionary psychology perspective.” The posts are generally full of good-natured platitudes, fairly standard relationship advice, some discussion of relationship dynamics and, of course, cleaning tips, beauty advice, and recipes. When asking for advice about a specific relationship problem, women are asked to answer a series of questions that includes “are you making a mountain out of a mole-hill?” and “how is your bedroom life?” or risk their post being deleted by the moderators.
Still, RedPillWomen is one of the more innocuous-seeming subs. RedPillParenting even more so. It’s pretty much just dads being really proud of their well-behaved daughters and passing judgment on the sassy toddlers of inferior men. One of the most fascinating things about TRP is how normal it can seem, how reasonable the advice. Like when a young woman, 8 months pregnant, writes in to RPW to ask how she can remain patient while her darling husband sleeps all day rather than looking for a job, they don’t tell her to turn her frown upside-down, they tell her to get the fuck out of there. And when some guy brags on TRP about emotionally bludgeoning his girlfriend (with boxing metaphors, no less!) for the crime of being Facebook friends with an ex, the elders chime in to correct him, not because emotional abuse and manipulation aren’t healthy approaches to relationship, but because “what she learned is to hide and lie.” Because in this world, that’s what straight white men need in order to behave decently: a direct, personal consequence.
The only thing that is truly necessary to understanding the red pill can be seen everywhere else in late capitalism, too: the goal is to turn existence into a game that can be won, where winning means never experiencing boredom, or insecurity, or pain, as long as you’re the person making the rules. That’s why, even though the core ideology seems so ridiculous, it can be so normal in its expressions: because it is normal, we just don’t like to admit it. This is gender. In a sense, they’re absolutely right.