Harris O’Malley explains that the appeal of the Red Pill ethos is simple; it’s all about taking someone who feels they have little power and convincing them that they have the only way to get power.
You may have noticed over the years that I cover a lot of topics that don’t seem to fit squarely in this blog’s mission statement of helping nerds date better. One of the reasons why I write about feminist issues or bad behavior within the geek community is because, frankly, getting better at dating is a holistic system. As I’m fond of saying, dating success is 80% attitude and 20% skill, and a lot of that attitude involves both issues of masculinity and also understanding and empathizing with women. The people who do best with women are the ones who not only understand them but, critically, don’t view them as opponents, enemies or inferiors. Much of what we assume to be the accepted wisdom regarding relationships is based around intellectual fallacies and cultural assumptions with no actual fact behind them. In fact, many of these cultural biases end up coloring the study of relationships and human sexuality, letting confirmation bias and naturalistic fallacies distort scientific inquiry.
I mention all of this because one of the things I’m always pushing against are the toxic philosophies that so often masquerade as dating advice. The Pick-Up community, for example, can be of use to men wanting to do better at dating, in theory… but so much of pick-up is based around mistaken ideas regarding gender roles and female sexuality that it’s difficult to sort the gold from the toxic, rape-y dross.
Of course, there are a lot of people who don’t feel this way. They feel that women have somehow gained an unfair advantage in the world, making it virtually impossible for a heterosexual, cisgendered white man to get a break. They see relationships as a fight for dominance and sex as a god-given right that’s being kept from them by women because REASONS.
One of the more vocal subsets of this particular philosophy is known as The Red Pill.
Before I get too much further into this, allow me to share the email that prompted all of this:
Doc, can you help?
My brother’s gotten caught up in the Red Pill Philosophy. It’s a mindset that shows up a lot in the nether regions of the internet that’s basically a mix of PUA and Men Going Their Own Way, but with a lot more violent misogyny. Some their “dating” advice is basically descriptions of abusive relationships. They claim to not hate women and focus on self improvement, but believe men must establish control/dominance over the women in their lives in order to “get sex”, and that women are intellectually/morally inferior to men. Many people recognize that this mindset is very dangerous, but all criticism from women and feminist men only makes fun of their more extreme points rather than offering an alternative to men and boys that are frustrated.
I ask because I want something to offer men my age and younger when they say acting “alpha” is their only way to get the relationship they want. The issue affects me personally.
My parents have a feminist marriage, since my mother is the breadwinner, however my parents are not happy together. Their marriage is sexless. Part of this is a fundamental lack of compatibility (they didn’t want to get married but did because of unexpected pregnancy), but it is also because our father allows my mother abuse and manipulate him. My father has many positive traits: he is intelligent, hardworking, and caring, but he is socially awkward does not stand up for himself. He is what red pillers call “beta” and earlier generations of men called “pussy whipped.” My siblings and I grew up in this dysfunctional household without a solid model for how men (or women) act in healthy relationships. My brother, who also had a long time crush on a female friend that was not reciprocated, “took the red pill” two years ago. He eventually got a girlfriend (not his crush) which “proved” red pill worked.
In some ways red pill did make him more attractive. He started exercising, eating better, improving his style and hygiene, expanding his social circle, and actually asking girls out. However, he became a massive asshole in the process. He believed wholeheartedly in the “alpha fux/beta bux” model” where men who are “beta” will only ever be hated and used by women, a model which our parents seem to fit. He believed that all women are the same, that women are only good for sex and babies, that all women are too emotional/unreliable to vote, lead, or work. He regularly insulted and talked down to his female friends, and touched them in ways that make them uncomfortable. He also gaslighted my mother and threatened her with a physical attack when he didn’t get what he wanted, since he believed she hated men and was out to get him. One of the popular red pill themes is that men should be dominant over the women in their lives, and sex and sexual acts are the metric of dominance therefore worth as a man. My brother’s girlfriend was a shy, socially awkward girl. She didn’t want to have sex, partly because of her youth and and insecurity, and partly because he was pushing for it too hard. To “break” her he would ignore and insult her in public, spread rumors about her, and use the more coercive PUA tactics.
One of the popular themes in red pill is the idea that men who want sex should “just go for it”. This is different from sexually escalating: the idea is that women secretly want a man to force them to have sex (because rape fantasies, evo psych, it demonstrates “alphaness”, other bullshit). Eventually my brother decided to “just go for it” with his girlfriend at a party. She had to fight him off and leave the party to get away. Needless to say they are no longer together. I had a long conversation with him after that (I’m probably the one woman he still respects). He recognizes that he tried to rape a girl and that that was wrong, but he doesn’t understand how to have healthy relationships with women without the red pill. While I can give him some help, I have no dating experience, and I’m not a man who has faced and overcome difficulties with women.
Do you have any advice for him and all the other young guys who grew up with only porn and red pill for role models?
So let’s get into this a little, shall we?
“Take The Red Pill, And I’ll Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes.”
Before we get too deep into this, we should start by defining some terms.
The Red Pill is, for all intents and purposes, what happens when the pick-up community decides that it hates women. The name derives from the scene in the Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the choice: he can take the red pill and wake up from The Matrix and live in the real world, or he can take the blue pill and forget ever knowing that the Matrix is an illusion.
Where the Wachowskis intended the scene to be a metaphor for the Buddha receiving enlightenment and no longer being bound by worldly concerns, to the Red Pill philosophy, it means “the recognition and awareness of the way that feminism, feminists and their white-knight enablers affect society.” It’s a neat rhetorical trick – trying to claim both the identity of a persecuted minority (cisgendered, hetero men) while also proclaiming themselves inherently superior to the “blue-pillers”, white knights and “betas” because they see the truth: that they’re supposed to treat women like shit.
The Red Pill philosophy is heavily influenced by the Neil Strauss’s The Game and the Mystery Method school of pick-up; scroll through the field reports on the Red Pill subreddit and you’ll find it festooned with PUA jargon like “DHV” (demonstration of higher value”), AMOG (“alpha male of group”) and shit tests. Much of the Red Pill concept of “game” is focused on emotional manipulation and coercion. One of the key tenets of the Red Pill philosophy is that women are instinctively hypergamous – that they only date men of “superior” status and are quite literally incapable of loving men unconditionally – and thus men must be as “alpha” as possible at all times. Of course, because women are also incapable of logic and reason and only respond to emotions, it’s only fair for men to play upon their psyches in order to get their way. One of the most popular ways of doing this is known as “dread” game – deliberately making your girlfriend fear your dumping her or breaking up with her. Various ways of inducing “dread” include:
- Not answering her calls for a week
- Hitting on her friends (in a plausibly deniable way)
- Flirt with other women in front of her
- Running extremely hot and cold – being incredibly romantic one day and incredibly distant for three days after
If this sounds suspiciously like “emotional abuse”… well, that’s because it is. Much of the Red Pill philosophy is about regaining the upper hand because women somehow unfairly control the sexual marketplace. Interestingly though, only some women can control it as, in the Red Pill philosophy, women are only of worth from the ages of 16 to 25; afterwards they hit “The Wall”. From the Red Pill subreddit:
The point in a woman’s life where her ego and self-assessed view of her sexual market value exceed her actual sexual market value; the beginning of the decline. Usually occurs as a wake-up shock to women when they realize that their power over men was temporary and that their looks are fading. This usually results with first denial and then a sudden change in priority towards looking for a husband. Even after hitting the wall, many women will squander a few more precious years testing her SMV with alphas to double-check, hoping her perceived decline was a fluke, this will make her even more bitter when she finally has to settle for a worse-beta than she could’ve gotten before because of squandering her youth.
If this makes you scratch your head and wonder how a woman can control men through access to sex when she has such a limited window to work, then you’re not alone. The Red Pill philosophy isn’t big on internal consistency. After all, Red Pill-ers want to fuck the hottest women, yet these women are also the ones who are, in their words, “on the cock carousel”; so they want to fuck hot women and then turn around and shame the same women for fucking them. Women manipulate men, but men should apply dread game to get laid. They decry women for spinning multiple plates – RP jargon for “keeping men on the hook” – while also insisting that only betas settle down and alphas have harems. Women are manipulative and Machiavellian, forever plotting to fuck alphas and use betas but are also incapable of logic or rational thinking and instead rely on the “rationalization hamster” in order to settle cognitive dissonance.
Far be it from me to suggest that perhaps said Red Pillers have their own issues with cognitive dissonance, but hey, if the exercise wheel fits…
“♬ In Just Seven Days, I Can Make You A Man ♪”
The appeal of the Red Pill ethos is simple; it’s all about taking someone who feels they have little power and convincing them that they have the only way to get power.
Let’s be honest: dating can be scary. You’re deliberately making yourself vulnerable to another person. When you get rejected, it can feel as though you are being judged on your entire existence. Many men, especially those who are socially inexperienced or just plain awkward, see each rejection as unfair or unnecessarily cruel; they believe that they should be given a chance to prove their desirability. Others feel that the universe has stacked the deck against them; only certain men are able to get women and this is inherently not fair.
In the Red Pill world, it’s true: only certain men get laid: alpha males, According to the Red Pill philosophy, 20% of the men fuck 80% of the women. Don’t worry about the fact that this is mathematically impossible, it feels true and that’s the important part. So when someone is feeling like he’s been cheated by life, that it’s unfair that other people have an easier time getting dates or getting laid, the Red Pill ethos is there to validate those feelings. “You’re right,” says the Red Pill community, “It is unfair. You’re being denied something that is rightfully yours. You should take it back!”
It’s a classic recruitment technique, one used by hate groups for centuries: prey on someone’s insecurities and fears. Tell them that they’ve been wronged and then tell them “this is how you get to be strong.” Give them an enemy and tell them “this is why things are so bad for you. They’ve hurt you. They’ve wronged you. Don’t you want power over them?” They offer secret knowledge, helping you “wake up to see the real world”, unlike all those blue pill manginas. By being a Red Pill man, you’re proving yourself superior to others. You know things that other people don’t. You’re special. Not like those other people. The world of the Red Pill is one of “us vs. them”. An alpha fucks, a beta bucks, bro. Other guys are manginas, average frustrated chumps (because you’re not average or a chump, bro) or “white knights” – poor, deluded men who think that being nice to women will get them laid. Not like you, Red Pill devotee; you know the truth.
To someone who’s always felt like they lack control or who has low self-esteem, being told “no, you’re a god among insects” is intoxicating. You were weak, but now you’re strong. You’ve been given the secret of being Alpha – now you can be one of the guys who gets the women instead of the guy getting used. They’ll back it up with pseudo-science and evo-psych that sounds legit – after all, it’s confirming what you already believe. Don’t worry that “alpha” and “beta” doesn’t actually exist in nature; that’s just white knights trying to Nice Guy their way to pussy. Don’t worry that all you’re doing is masking insecurities instead of actually addressing your issues. Do alpha male shit, get pussy, bro!
But the Red Pill philosophy does more than offer the illusion of strength. It offers you an enemy to get revenge on.
“ANTI-SEX JUSTIFIES MY HATE!”
The dark side1 of the Red Pill is that it’s not about being a better man; it’s about hating on women. If you look at the statement of principles on /r/TheRedPill, you may notice something: there’s nothing in there about men. It’s all about how awful women are, not about how to be a better man; you get 19 bullet points about how women are the villain before you get to whinging about how much it sucks to be male in this world. Moreover, when you go through the Red Pill subreddit, you’ll find plenty on why women are awful, why you should never date American women, how women are cheating men out of their wealth, why women are shit and where a woman’s true value lies. You’ll see lay reports explaining why the best thing you can do is make a woman fear for the state of your relationship.
You aren’t going to see anything about, say, how to be a better father. Nothing about being a pillar of your community. Nothing about addressing issues like the rape crisis in the military, the demonization of African-American men or the demasculinization of Indian and Southeast Asian men. Just reasons why women are bitches and why The Red Pill is the Light, The Truth and the Way.
And there’s a reason for that. As long as you have an enemy, you have someone to hate. As long as you have an enemy, you have someone to blame. And as long as you have someone to blame, you have a justification for hurting them. And let’s be honest: when you’re bitter about the fact that women don’t like you, there’s a part of you that relishes the idea of making them pay for it. Most of us recognize that impulse for what it is: a little dark whim born out of anger that quickly passes. But part of the appeal of the Red Pill is that it stokes that anger. It encourages you to feel it, to indulge in it. Women are inferior to you – why do you let them treat you like shit? It’s ok to abuse her; secretly, she really likes it. It’s ok to take what you want – you’re a man, you’re an alpha and this is what alphas do.
Of course, when you take that logic to its natural ends, you end up with people laughing over date rape accusations and advocating for domestic abuse as a relationship maintenance technique and why it’s ok to smack a woman around.
Waking Up From The Illusion
There comes a point in everyone’s life where they have to stop and take stock. And sometimes that picture isn’t pretty. The Red Pill ethos is seductive because it plays on a person’s desire to be special, to be told that he’s uniquely special. It validates both his victimhood and his anger. It casts the world as your enemy – a world of hypergamous, emotional sluts, jealous AFCs and pitiful manginas, all of whom are conspiring to bring you down because they resent you just that much. Admitting that you’re wrong, that you’ve been tricked, is hard… even more so when you have to acknowledge just how much damage you’ve done to others.
SadSister, I don’t envy your position. Your brother is in a bad place right now and it’s led him to do some frankly horrible things. It’s going to take a lot to make him realize just how fucked up his behavior has been.
Part of what helps is to look around, to really look and recognize how he’s been fooled. The Red Pill ethos is predicated on misdirection; as long as the person is distracted, they never notice the flaws in the logic. Once you stop and actually examine it, it crumbles like a sandcastle at high tide. When you strip away the gaslighting and the abuse, Red Pill tacticsjust don’t work. It’s Dumbo’s magic feather, if that feather kept whispering in your ear that all women were whores. What did he do that really worked? He started eating right, dressing better, working out, making new friends and actually asking women out. Everything else in the Red Pill philosophy led to his abusing every woman in his life and chasing them all away.
That alone should be reason to pause and re-examine his life. The problem isn’t that he can’t relate to women without the Red Pill, it’s that he can’t relate to them with it. Obviously, I think that one of the best things he could do is to start reading through my site for advice on finding and maintaing healthy relationships. But I also think he needs to do more.
He needs is to find positive relationship role-models in his life – people in happy, equitable relationships, not ones predicated on abuse and manipulation. It will also help to direct him tomore positive masculine role-models, ones who help him see what true masculinity is like instead of the toxic stew that he’s been mired in. Personally, I think he could do far worse than to look at someone like Henry Rollins. He should also read books about healthy masculinity like Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood and even Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser, which helps break down why so much of the techniques the Red Pill advocate are so abusive from a woman’s perspective. Blogs like Yes Means Yes can help him learn to see what a positive, affirmative model of sex can look like.
And more than anything else: I think he needs to talk to a counselor. He’s got some vey deep scars in his psyche, and it’s going to take time and effort to heal them. And with luck, that counselor can also help him find ways to make amends for what he’s done.
Good luck, SadSister. Good luck to both of you.
Originally appeared at Paging Dr. NerdLove
Lead photo: Flickr/linspiration01