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Until about 3 weeks ago, I didn’t know what The Red Pill was. I was vaguely aware that it was a Reddit forum, but that was the extent of my knowledge; based on the name, I assumed it was some sort of conspiracy-theorist subreddit. You know, the kind of place where amiable, like-minded folks can come together to talk rationally about the Illuminati, whether or not Obama is a secret lizard person, and the Bilderberg Group. Your standard Reddit fare, I suppose.

As it turns out, The Red Pill is in essence a subreddit for Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs for short). Of course, the discerning folks who frequent The Red Pill would likely take offense to that description, especially considering its negative connotation in our lexicon, but let’s just call it what it is. The subreddit was founded on the idea that men have become increasingly marginalized by “feminist culture” and thus need to reclaim their rightful role as the dominant class of the human species. To put it charitably, it is a place for men to band together and offer support and guidance in their shared journey toward self-improvement. To put it less charitably, it’s a safe haven and sounding board for men who don’t understand women, don’t want to understand women, and are unable to navigate social interactions between men and women without all that pesky “equality” gumming up the works, and would welcome a return to the interactions and gender norms of the 1950s.

The MRA movement has two separate arms. One arm continually rallies against the “pussification” (or “betafication,” but we’ll get into that in a bit) of America, citing feminism and single mothers as the reason why men no longer act like men. The complaint about single mothers unfolds thus: Single mothers are women who men have deemed unfit for a relationship or marriage. As a result, their male offspring are raised in an environment with no strong male authority figures, and therefore are doomed to see the woman’s perspective when it comes to dating and social interactions with the opposite sex. The feminism argument, riddled with logical fallacies though it is, seems to be that the advent of feminism has posed a threat to the privilege that was once their birthright; that is, by having to treat women equally, men aren’t as free to be men (or some caricature of masculinity) today as they were before. Which is a bit like someone bemoaning the abolition of slavery for their inability to find free labor.

The other arm of the MRA movement hinges on the idea that women are basically Sims made flesh: unable to perform even the most basic tasks without a strong (or “alpha”) male to guide them, inordinately fascinated by material goods, and loyal only to the man with the highest “sexual market value.” Oh, you’d like to learn more about the concept of sexual market value? Of course you would:

The sexual market value [SMV] of a man is primarily determined by his income, status, physical fitness and personality. All alpha males have high SMV. A beta can also achieve high SMV by learning game.

What is the difference between alpha and beta males, you ask? Alpha males are the guys who walk into a room and know, just know, that every guy in there wants to be them, and every woman in the joint wants to be with them. They don’t take shit from anyone, and they’re quick to establish their alpha-ness in social settings, either by force of will or, if necessary, physical dominance. Beta males, on the other hand, are weak and ineffectual, seeking to understand who a woman is as a person (gross) and wanting to get a woman’s approval before doing something that involves that woman (ew what dude). If you want to put it in more realistic terms, alpha males are assholes who think the fucking world ought to revolve around them because they carefully groom their stubble and own a leather jacket. Beta males are men who exhibit such deplorable characteristics as respect, kindness and a desire to be in a relationship that’s a partnership.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the roles of alpha and beta males doesn’t actually exist among humans. The “science” behind this concept is about as valid as that of phrenology, and it’s been debunked many times over by evolutionary psychologists and other people who aren’t complete goddamn morons. As Dr. Nerdlove notes in his column:

[T]his is an intellectual fallacy, an attempt to use nature and evolution as a way to justify the way one wants things to be. The idea breaks down as soon as you take the most cursory look at actual evolution. Yes, chimpanzees – our genetic near-relatives – have an alpha caste who enforce sexual restrictions through violence…but we’re not chimps. We are much much closer to bonobos – a primate species who doesn’t have an alpha/beta social structure. Bonobos – inasmuch as they have a social hierarchy – are matriarchal, with relative status determined by age rather than muscle and violence. Sex amongst bonobos is a free-for-all; males and females have equal access to one another and participate in sex regularly with both troop members and apes from other social groups. Females will have sex with almost any of the other males – barring actual incest – and vice versa.

While we’re equidistant, genetically speaking, from chimpanzees and bonobos, we bear far more in common with the hypersexual bonobos – in both behavior and anatomy – than we do with chimps, never mind gorillas […] in fact, humans and bonobos are the only land mammals that have sex strictly for pleasure.

Even more telling is the difference in our brains. Humans and bonobos have receptor sites in our brains for the hormone oxytocin, which encourages social bonding and feelings of affection and is produced during orgasm. Chimpanzees lack these receptors.

To be fair, there are social groupings among humans, but the alpha/beta binary is complete bullshit- human social structures are far more complex than just those two roles. By trying to put every man in either an “alpha” or “beta” column, MRAs use the same reductive logic that conspiracy theorists use: they boil things down to overly simplistic groupings or outcomes, thereby forcing people to pick just one side with no wiggle room; either you believe that George W. Bush did 9/11, or you’re just a sheep who will believe anything they’re told. The entire bedrock of The Red Pill is nothing more than bullshit “science” whose only purpose is to lend credence to theories that otherwise wouldn’t make any sense.

But I digress.

Now we know how sexual market value is determined among men. And if that’s the case, then the sexual market value of women should be calculated using the same formula, right? NOPE BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE EQUALITY WHAT ARE YOU STUPID:

The SMV of a woman is solely determined by her physical beauty and age. To further clarify, the following does NOT increase a woman’s SMV:

Education: Since education does not increase sexual satisfaction of her male partner, education does not increase SMV.

Career/Status: Since career or work place status does not increase sexual satisfaction of her male partner, career/status does not increase SMV.

Sexual Experience: While being sexually experienced may increase the physical pleasure of her male partner, being sexually inexperienced actually increase satisfaction. In particular, most men consider having sex with virgins a highly prized achievement. It is not unusual for girls to auction their virginity to the highest bidder.

The idea that the only thing a woman brings to the table in a relationship is a pretty face (and a killer rack, natch) would be laughable if it weren’t so goddamn disgusting. And speaking of disgusting…”[M]ost men consider having sex with virgins a highly-prized achievement.” IN WHAT FUCKING WORLD?! The only people who think having sex with a virgin is a worthwhile endeavor are MRAs and Osama bin Laden. Congratulations MRAs, you did 9/11.

Not content to let that sentence in all its wretched glory end the entry, the author doubles down: “It is not unusual for girls to auction their virginity to the highest bidder.” First of all, yes it is, especially in Western culture. (And in Eastern culture, the women who take part in such auctions are certainly not doing it of their own volition.) I can think of maybe two instances where that’s happened in recent years, and both times, the collective response was “Ugh.” Second, even if the author meant it in the metaphorical sense, that’s a fucking disgusting way to characterize the sexual relationships of women. It’s a damning glimpse into the way an MRA thinks sexual relationships should work: The women who do sleep with them should be doing it for the first time, and when they do, it’s only because they’ve been alpha’d into submission.

As I mentioned before, some people who frequent The Red Pill will huff that they’re not MRAs, and that MRAs are just whiny beta males. (This gem of a piece explains it quite nicely.) And sure, I bet there are quite a few guys who don’t consider themselves MRAs, which means they’re just straight-up misogynistic assholes; a nice consolation prize, if you can get it. By the same token, some MRAs will insist that they’re not redpillers, since they’re not focused on dating and relationships. I could dive into all that here, but frankly, the difference between these two groups of shit-sacks is one of degree, not of kind, so I won’t bother.

My roommate follows The Red Pill; in fact, that’s how I learned what The Red Pill was. My girlfriend and I met him at a bar one night for drinks, and over the course of the conversation, he mentioned it. When he went to the bathroom, my girlfriend turned to me with a look of shock and disgust: “He reads The fucking Red Pill.” (This didn’t have the intended effect, because my response was basically “¯\_(ツ)_/¯.” And then she explained it.) When he got back from the bathroom, he decided to expand on some of his beliefs; in the interest of not knowing I live with a fucking creep, I wish he hadn’t. To wit:

  • “If a woman has slept with more than three guys, she’s just a used-up whore.”
  • “I should be able to have sex with as many bitches as I want.”
  • “If I spend my time paying attention to some girl, then she knows I want sex and she should give it to me.”
  • “Donald Trump seems like a great leader.”

Since that enlightening discussion, I started doing some research, and surprise: a lot of the things he’s said are cribbed directly from The Red Pill. For example, a few days later he casually floated the idea that women (and only women) are hypergamous; that is, women select their mate based on their status, and only if that status is above that of their own. As a logical argument, it doesn’t really hold a lot of water; after all, nobody wants to feel like they settled for someone. The site (and therefore my roommate) also talks a lot about “status,” which you may recognize from that awful shit I posted above. In short, status is a tangible measure of one’s worth, such as it is: the job you hold, how much money you have, your body fat ratio, etc. The theory holds that the more of these things you have (none of which, you’ll note, have anything to do with who you are as a person), the more women will be attracted to you.

The Red Pill is bad enough in a vacuum, but it’s far from the only meeting place for these lost souls. One of the other market disruptors in the online, be-a-piece-of-shit space is Men Going Their Own Way (or MGTOW), which sounds like a poor imitation of a Fleetwood Mac song you’d find on the soundtrack to “Wild Hogs” but is actually all about the self-actualization of men. This site takes the whole “Women: Who needs ’em?” ethos to extremes- most of the posts are less about “getting” women and more about cutting women out of one’s life entirely. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that the people who follow this site seem to actively despise women. Some of it is really more sad than anything:

If I was asked by a young guy what is the #1 advice tip for men.

DO NOT CHASE PUSSY… IT WILL HAVE YOU WITH A TYPICAL LIFE, DEBTS, ISSUES, TIME POVERTY AND SO ON.

You do NOT need a woman… you need to be free of them.

Good luck man.

I’m off to fire up youjizz… pull out the fleshlight pink lady enjoy a shot and a nice porn..then take a nap and get up and code my website until I drop …around 3am.

Going for greatness… NO PUSSY MEATHOLE ZONE.

I acquired a nice one and a new upgraded fleshlight is on the way.

I also saved about $1,200 this month again by not spending a fucking dime on strippers or women.

(Something tells me that a guy who calls vaginas “meatholes” wasn’t exactly swimming in female attention before he made this decision. Also, dude, you can make a website on Squarespace in like one afternoon.)

The occasional harmless (at least to women) Fleshlight owner notwithstanding, there is a definite subset of users on that site that seem to think that women are not only uninterested in them, they are actively trying to ruin their lives. Almost all of the stories/forum posts – which I read so you don’t have to; you’re fucking welcome – are centered around one woman who hurt the poster’s feelings. Rather than just saying “Oh shit, looks like I got a dud,” they somehow reach the conclusion that because this one woman did something shitty, every woman must therefore be perpetually scheming up ways to do something shitty. Of the remaining posts that aren’t about one specific woman, I’d say about 90% are written by guys who have never had success in the dating world (probably because they jack off into a fake vagina stuffed into a flashlight tube, but what do I know) and have decided that women don’t like them because they don’t have enough money/status/looks/etc. It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out that they’re rejecting women before the women have a chance to reject them. And you know what? I wouldn’t necessarily object to the idea that it’s more fulfilling to focus on having the best life experience possible without constantly being caught up in the wringer of failed relationships. In a vacuum, that’s a pretty good idea! But don’t pretend like you’re better (and better off) without women in your life; if you were that happy, you wouldn’t be talking about women all the time. Basically, The Red Pill is the first stop for guys who aren’t having any luck with women. MGTOW is where they end up after they realize even The Red Pill can’t help them.

The folks at The Red Pill, MGTOW and the hundreds of sites like it that have cropped up in recent years would have men believe that women are nothing more than an accessory in a relationship; arm candy, if you will, to do with what you please. They stress the idea that women should automatically flock to a man, and if they don’t, it’s because he’s beta and hasn’t embraced the alpha lifestyle. Some websites advocate that to be a “true alpha,” you should spend as little money on dates as possible, unless a woman has already had sex with you, in which case you can feel free to open that wallet a little further. (But if she’s already had sex with you, that would mean she’s just a used-up whore, so I guess you wouldn’t go on a date with her, maybe? It’s all very confusing.)

Ironically enough, the confusion imparted upon the reader is the one thing these sites inadvertently get right about dating: it’s not supposed to be easy. Techniques that work for other people in the dating world might not work for you, and if they’re unnatural to you, they’re going to attract people you don’t want to date anyway. Show me a person who claims to have figured out the secret to relationships, and I’ll show you a person who’s never been in a relationship worth a shit. That’s the point of dating: You date around and meet interesting new people; over time, you gain a clearer sense of what you want (and don’t want) from a relationship, and with a little luck, you find someone who fills out your checklist. The people who think dating is a contest that can be won by following such nebulous advice as “get in shape,” “up your status,” and “don’t be too nice” are the people who don’t deserve to have relationships.

At best, the concept of alpha and beta males leads some impressionable types to believe that they can just bull their way through any interaction with the opposite sex, and women will be so thrilled to have a “take-charge” man in their life that they’ll gladly hop on for the ride. If that were the extent of it, this mindset would be more amusing than anything else, since most women would just say “No go away” and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, guys as a whole don’t have the best track record of responding well to rejection, and when you combine that rejection with the artificial sense of superiority bestowed on MRAs by sites like The Red Pill, the reactions have the potential to become much more dangerous. If someone spends weeks/months/years telling themselves that they’re superior to any woman solely because they have a penis and that they have the status to get any woman they want, then they go out to a bar and the very first woman they talk to is like “Oh gross no thanks,” how do you think they’re going to react? If you’re lucky, they’re just going to shit-talk you on the internet later, but it can get a whole lot worse really quickly. The Red Pill suggests having a “menacing…disagreeable and dangerous vibe” when you approach a woman. And given that so many of the guys who turn to sites like this still don’t fully understand how to have normal human interactions, how many do you think are just going to turn up the “menacing” factor a few notches to try and win a woman’s affection?

On its face, I can see why some guys join The Red Pill, and I can also see how easy it is for them to get wrapped up in the bullshit the site peddles under the guise of “self-improvement”: they haven’t had success with women in the past, so they check out The Red Pill, hoping to find tips on how they can improve their success rate in the dating world. And in some cases, they do find those tips; a lot of the higher-level ideas (Be confident! Go to the gym! Find hobbies that interest you!) are perfectly harmless, if not overwhelmingly specific. Unfortunately, the majority of the time, the useful information is presented through the prism of whatever deep-seated emotional baggage the poster has about women and dating. Suddenly, some sad-sack weirdo’s theory about dating and women is in play; if it jibes with the overall theme of the forum, it’ll get recirculated around until it becomes gospel, an immutable law of dating. (A perfect example can be found here.)

Which leads me to my biggest problem with these sites.

If I were so inclined (and hated myself), I could read these sites and know which tips are useful and which ones are pointless and/or potentially harmful, because I have enough experience in the dating world and in human interactions in general to parse out the bullshit. But the average Red Pill/MGTOW reader doesn’t have the emotional maturity or the social acumen to figure out the nuances of the dating world on his own- that’s why he feels compelled to seek out external advice from strangers on the internet. That kind of guy reads “have a menacing vibe” and thinks “Oh okay, if she says she’s not interested, I’ll smash a beer bottle on the ground next to her and call her a whore.” That kind of guy reads “feel unconstrained to take/demand what you want” and thinks “Got it- if she says she doesn’t want to have sex, I’ll just take it from her because that’s what alpha males do and that’s what she really wants anyway.”

Like conspiracy theorists, MRAs have an almost-pathological need to place everything in a binary context; after all, it’s easier to believe that Sandy Hook was the work of a shadowy government whose aim is to take away our guns than it is to accept that sometimes, horrible shit just happens. In the same vein, it’s easier to believe that women reject you because they’re innately selfish individuals and you don’t (yet) meet a specific set of criteria than it is to accept that you’ve been rejected and try your luck with someone else.

That people will look to less-than-reputable sources for concrete answers to ethereal questions is a natural byproduct of the internet. Even if those answers don’t necessarily hold water, those asking the questions are more inclined to accept them as fact; the internet provides a veneer of authority for those who wish to claim it. And the reason MRAs believe they need sites like The Red Pill is the same reason why conspiracy theorists like to hang out in their corners of the web: they’re frustrated, they’re confused, and they’re looking for answers. At its heart, the concept of “red pill vs. blue pill” carries the same meaning among both groups: those who take the blue pill are the sheep, the beta males, those who are afraid to leave the hollow comforts of the world that has been constructed for them. Only the bravest souls would take the red pill so that they may experience true enlightenment and awakening. Their need to find concrete reasons for everything that happens in their lives, no matter how Quixotic that quest may be, leads them to a group of like-minded people in the hopes that someone will help them unearth the truth. If someone believes that the moon landing was faked, they can find enough “evidence” on the internet not to necessarily disprove the moon landing, but to at least support their belief that there was definitely something going on. And if a guy is unsuccessful in dating, he can seek out The Red Pill or MGTOW and receive enough anecdotal evidence to support his (and the sites’) theory that it’s not his fault he’s single; it’s the womenThe irony of both groups is that so many people are willing to go to great lengths and make vast intellectual leaps to ensure they don’t have to think as much about the subtle and nuanced way the world works. When everything is in its neat little box, order is restored.

What’s most interesting about MRAs is how malleable their views on women appear to be. When people first join sites like The Red Pill, they’re doing it because they genuinely want to find a partner, someone with whom they’d be comfortable spending the remainder of their lives. It’s a move borne of desperation and loneliness, and I have sympathy (and, to some degree, respect) for guys who are so tired of being alone that they’re willing to turn to any outside source for help. They’re looking for a crucial element of the human experience that has thus far eluded them, and there’s no shame in that.

But sites like The Red Pill have perverted the field of dating advice: they prey on their users’ desperation, promising those in need of guidance that by listening to and applying their tactics, they’ll find everything they’re looking for in a relationship. The only problem is, the veterans of The Red Pill aren’t able to do that, because they no longer view women as individuals. To them, women are commodities, objects to be obtained and presented as evidence of one’s status, then discarded when they’ve fulfilled their intended purpose. With so much of their time spent immersed in this world, dating becomes less a search for happiness and more a quest to improve their self-worth. In the process, these individuals withdraw further into their insular community, spending more time talking about interacting with women than actually, you know, interacting with women. And when they leave their cocoon and apply the advice of strangers on the internet in a real-world setting, the results are predictably disastrous. It’s confirmation bias in its purest form. So they retreat back to the familiar comfort of their old friends to trash the women who weren’t interested, secure in the knowledge that their brothers-in-arms will be there to lift their spirits. Oddly enough, they’re receiving the emotional support they once sought from a relationship, just in a different form. And in spite of The Red Pill’s purported aim, it seems you never hear of guys applying these tips and ending up in a happy, emotionally healthy relationship where both parties are mutually respectful of one another.

Because as much as it claims to be, The Red Pill isn’t about empowerment.

It’s a security blanket, a way for lonely people to lash out at the world around them for injustices real or imagined, but with the safety of a mob and the anonymity of the internet. Women are merely the road on which these men tread on their journey to recover their misplaced self-esteem; to those at The Red Pill, a delusional man’s self-image must be built on the backs of women. And the men who would do that aren’t men at all.