One of the stranger things about online culture to arise from Internet 2.0, or the internet after the hegemony of social media, is the rise of various “masculinity” circles and gurus. Some important influencers, including Mike Cernovich and Jordan Peterson, have built their initial followings speaking about “masculinity” to an audience of primarily Gen X to Millennial men.
This phenomenon is a bit of an oddity, historically, since the essays and talks tend to revolve not around philosophical and spiritual questions about the nature of man and his energies, but of what masculinity means on a personal, actionable level. That is to say, it’s instructive in a practical sense, as in trying to figure out how one ought to act to be a man rather than a search for higher meaning.
The age range of the audience is no small coincidence. Men born after 1970 experienced a profound shift in culture that isolated them from the traditional means of understanding their own sex. We (for I include myself in this cohort) grew up without men. The movie Fight Club points this out: we are a generation of men raised by women.
Lots of us come from broken homes. In most cases, it was the father who became absent and the mother who kept custody of the children.
We spent all day in the bonds of public education, where our actions and attitudes were continually controlled by women, the vast majority of teachers, especially at the elementary school level.
We got shoved into daycares run by women.
And just as importantly, those institutions which dominated all our time were full of girls who, like us, had reduced influence from adult males.
That’s the missing side of the breakdown of “masculinity” in modern times: the corresponding breakdown in femininity and the lack of understanding in women themselves of the opposite sex of men.
Male and Female are the two forms of the human being. Their modes of action match their physical modes in contrast and complement to each other. A boy without a father is missing his model of manhood, but so is his sister. Not only that, but both of them are missing how these two forms of humanity interact with one another. The boy does not know how he ought to act toward women or how a woman should treat a man; the girl does not know how a woman ought to act toward a man now how she ought to be treated by one.
Without a mother and a father present and together in the lives of the children, the understanding of the marital relationship as well as the greater social interaction of the two sexes, is clouded. I do not believe it is unlearned or alien because male and female are part of our condition as humans, but, like most knowledge in the world corrupted by sin, it is harder to discern and understand without that external model teaching and confirming nature to us.
The present rise of trans issues is the next step of the long fall. When you have several generations of people who do not understand men and whose female model is lacking its other half, you get children who become so confused and disoriented they no longer can understand themselves as male or female, or think their form is somehow jumbled and mismatches their body.
“Masculinity influencers” exist within this dysfunctional state. On the one side is advice about masculine traits and attitudes, such as emotional self-regulation, self-sufficiency, and self-improvement. On the other side is what these activities are directed toward, which is women. Lots of this advice boils down to methods for acquiring access to sex. Get rich, gain status, look good… so that women will like you.
The problem with this, of course, is that the women whom the men are trying to attract have an even more clouded understanding of men. Pick-up artists, if they are honest, will confess that their methods target primarily fallen women (or women that are more fallen than the rest; women with reduced fatherly influence). The women men get with such manipulations don’t know how to treat the men, and the men don’t really know what they want from the women beyond sex anyway.
There is also the Men Going Their Own Way (or MGTOW) movement, which advocates abandoning the perverted and corrupted male role in modern society as it no longer benefits men. It is simply not worth the effort and risk, given the state of the culture and women in general, to bother attempting to find a marriage or even a long-term relationship. It is better (in their view) to pursue your own interests as you see them.
“Manosphere” and similar circles are ultimately selling a purely Machiavellian set of solutions to a problem that can only be solved by growing closer to God. One can gain some set of desired outcomes, but not find the male-female relationship as it was originally designed to be. You can get sex or avoid heartache, but not find true love.
I had a father growing up, and while I, like most of my peers, was raised in daycare and public school (a perpetual feminine prison), I still spent a lot of time with my father. He wasn’t perfect and didn’t come from a perfect father (his parents divorced), but I still had enough of him that I was in a better state than my peers. The biggest problem I had, looking back, was that most women were broken, and there was a large, often insurmountable, gulf between my values and purpose and their own.
It was rare that I ever went out with a woman who explicitly wanted to be a mother. The best I could hope for was “someday, maybe.” It didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t attracting the kind of woman I wanted because that woman was exceedingly rare and because my idea of what a “normal” woman was supposed to be was generated through my interactions with fallen women and girls. I honestly didn’t know what a real woman with a good relationship with her father was supposed to act like.
Of course, I am not a saint alone on an island, I live in the fallen world, and rather than elevating my surroundings, I became fallen as well, as many others have. With shallow spiritual understanding and a thin relationship with God, it is a wonder I did not fall further. And falling did not bring satisfaction, even when it produced desired outcomes in the moment. Again, Machiavellian approaches do not nourish the soul.
So don’t feel too bad if you can’t pick up chicks—they don’t even know what a man is supposed to be, or how to treat one when they meet one. The focus on acquiring sex is a very prurient approach to masculinity, part of what I sometimes call the grift of the “Fatherless Alpha Male,” who thinks he’s discovered manliness and sells his answers to those who likewise are clueless.
So, what is a man to do? What is he to be? What is the real solution?
I’m always hesitant to answer lest I join the ranks of the hypocrites, but I will risk being a fraud to suggest a few things.
First, accept the fallen nature of the world and our culture. Sin is not new. Brokenness between men and women is as old as humanity itself. You have likely made mistakes; women you meet will likely have made them, too. Your parents made mistakes. We’re all sinners. Accept it. This doesn’t mean discarding your standards. It means seeing humanity as it really is: a clouded, imperfect image of God.
Second, know that no relationship will be perfect. It can, at best, point toward God’s original, perfect design for men and women, but it cannot embody it because we are all too corrupted and imperfect. You will not be able to love your wife perfectly, nor she, you. If things are clouded in this time, know that they have never been clear, except at the beginning. You can have great love with great effort, but there is no free ticket to bliss.
Third, understand that being a man is many things to many people. Don’t let people selling a product convince you that you have look, act, or talk in a certain way to be a man. The same goes for any woman who reads this. Your sex is something you are, not just some set of behaviors. The act of being is what is the question, not what things you need to do to get laid or get the attention of the opposite sex. I could wax poetic on these natures, but what I would wish to avoid is prescribing a set of actions rather than being. Being a man is something different than “acting” like one.
Lastly, don’t equate having sex with masculinity by itself. Reducing masculinity down to the reproductive act is a sign of an immature mind and sick soul. Sexual desire is not wrong, nor is the act, but rather it ought to be subject to the will; the mind, heart, and soul, and directed towards the good through its proper purpose. If a dare to say it, being a man is about having mastery over one’s environment and oneself, having discipline directed towards good ends, and that includes mastery over sex. Some men even choose celibacy, and this is a harder path, not an easier one.
One of the silliest parts of our sex-obsessed culture is the belief that for men having more partners is a sign of manliness, not a lack of self-control, to the point where a man who has sterile sex with a different woman every Friday night is considered more sexually successful than the man who beds his wife every day. Again, it’s a symptom of a sickness that begins with fatherlessness.
Good luck, and God bless.
This has been on my brain for a while now, thanks for the read.
As a Millennial who’s turning 32 next week, can confirm… it’s a depressingly wild ride looking at how Fatherless (and Near-Fatherless) Behavior went from a Tragedy to a Statistic to a straight-up Meme/Joke over time. Even wilder when I started realizing how many bullets I’ve dodged coming from a Single Parent Family (Dad paid Child Support and occasionally visited; that’s it).
I think why the various Manosphere- good and bad- types are popular is that they seem to provide the answers that churches are unable- or worse, unwilling- to provide about Male/Female Relationships and being a functioning adult in general. Growing up in Low-Protestant Church circles, I heard a lot of spiritual jargon (aka Christianese) about Accepting The Gift of Singleness and using God as a Surrogate Father Figure. It was good for an ear-tickle in the intended audiences, but very little practical application was given so it wound up being little more than Copium in Spiritual Clothing for the Speaker.
Good point. I also think people are innately religious and maybe don’t realize it. If you aren’t part of a church, you will make a church, and the manosphere/MGTOW functions like that as well.
I definitely agree with you there. I originally heard the idea that people were innately religious back in the mid-2000s, I think it was in an editorial on The Wittenburg Door’s website, and ever since I’ve seen it proven correct more times than I care to admit.
The thing I find craziest about MGTOWs is that, for all the stuff they get right, they just seem like the Rule 63 of, “I Don’t Need No Man,” Feminist types.
“This phenomenon is a bit of an oddity, historically, since the essays and talks tend to revolve not around philosophical and spiritual questions about the nature of man and his energies, but of what masculinity means on a personal, actionable level.”
Before converting, I encountered the Manosphere during the end of phase I or PUA Forum years and phase II with the rise of the Manosphere Blogs. This was early to mid 2000’s. It’s the progression of the movement that explains the lack of higher meaning, as it all started with Pick Up Artistry, and then some of those PUAs wanted something less silly (initial PUA looks ridiculous – peacocking, magic tricks, anything to get attention and be different to create interest. Look up the pua Mystery for an example).
This lead to the second phase of trying to distill what attracted women…lacking any Christian influence obviously. Evolutionary Psychology became the dominating framework rather than Original Sin.
Discovering the lies of Feminism then initiated the questions of what else are they lying to us about. This birthed Red Pillism. I’d credit Roissy/Heartiste for this, who was influenced by Curtis Yavin writing at his old blog.
Cernovich was tale end of this phase, but launched himself forward during the election of 2016 via Twitter.
Roosh V is an interesting case, since he converted to Armenian Orthodoxy. He was a major pua voice and now repents of it and writes from a more orthodox perspective. There were Christian voices in the manosphere who tried to reframe red pill truth in a Christian paradigm, but their voices never took the fore. Quintus Curtius tried to also get the manosphere to look back to the wisdom of the West but the same thing. Reading Aristotle does not get you laid.
The whole thing kinda peaked then petered out with the 2016 election. Most of the big blogs from phase 2 were destroyed by big tech or just defunct and taken down. Most of us guys were 10-15 years older, wiser, and had moved on to bigger things. The red pill had reached mainstream and was not going to die, so the job was done. But sadly, this current new phase is as you described in the piece above. Roosh V is probably the only Christian voice in it that is left from the old guard.
Roosh is a really interesting case, since he exists on both sides. About 10 years ago, when I still lived in Vegas the PUA scene was really hot, but I realized from spending time with them (the real people) that it was all little manipulation tricks. What were you trying to get? Just get laid that week. Great, I guess if you don’t want anything permanent with another person; you aren’t turning any pick up into a wife, that’s for sure. Even then, dudes I met were burned out and lonely.
Well that’s kinda what happened by 2016. You had to choose, find God (white pill) or embrace nihilism (black pill). I keep up a little with the new crop of red pill/manosphere types, and it’s clear MGTOW is the rising choice. I understand why, but unfortunately the message in general tends to be to give up finding a good woman (understandable given the stats and the state of modern secular dating in the West) but no additional statements about giving up pr0n or self-harm or growing spiritually and reconsidering if the Liars who lied about everything also lied about Christ.
Other old guard from the second phase I still floating around are Rollo Tomassi (Rational Male), Captain Capitalism, Paul Elom (Voice for men) and Terrence Papp (Redonkulas). No offense to them, but they sound like they have not changed/not grown. So the message out there is very black pill but to use hobbies and friends to deal with being burned out and lonely.
Like Roosh, I found God. He went Apostolic Armenian and I went Traditionalist Catholic (pre-V2). Vox Day actually helped me to convert. As a guy raising a large family now, I don’t have energy to focus on this stuff beyond how it affects young family members. I think a good number of us from those days did the same, and that’s why our voice is no longer in the conversation.
Likewise, I mostly talk about it because of how I see it affect the young men around me.
Speaking of MGTOW, one of the things I realized is that for all their appeals to rationality, they don’t understand probability and statistics at all, and you can’t instruct them on it. My hypothesis is that it’s a particularly male way of approaching emotional justification—”I don’t want to get married because of how common divorce is,” when in reality, they are hurt or lonely. They really don’t want to tackle the reality that divorce isn’t a random event and that you marry a human being, not an average of human actions in a particular time. Easier to give up than to face the real black pill – it’s probably you.
“I don’t want to get married because of how prevalent divorce is” is the most unmanly reason for not getting married, or even trying, despite a desire to get married and start a family. If marriage is not a desire, fine, but if it is, and that’s what’s keeping you from trying to find a suitable wife, you have other problems, such as: maybe you’re looking for a wife in all the wrong places.
Anyway, good discussion. God is really the only way out. Contrast Roosh (who actually later became Russian Orthodox because, as he realized, the Armenian church is not in communion with the Orthodox Church) with “Bad” Billy Pratt who writes from a similar perspective as pre-Christian Roosh, admits that he should turn to God as the only way out of Hell (as he calls the dating world), but isn’t there yet. Pray that he gets there.
I didn’t realize he had gone to the Russian church.
I think men often use divorce statistics as an excuse and a way to reinforce their own actions. Can’t keep a woman interested? She’d divorce you anyway. Cheat on your girlfriend? She would have ended up cheating on you. And so on.