After participating in the Manosphere for several years as a commenter and more recently as a writer, I’ve concluded that the “red pill” formulation of masculinity and its discontents is flawed. (The “red pill” is transformative knowledge that reveals the falsehood of one’s previous experiences – in this context, the evolutionary model of human mating that is often at odds with conventional sexual mores and myths. Caveat: there are too many red pill formulations to count. The alternative model I describe below is close in spirit to some of them, and my summary of the red pill risks mischaracterizing any particular red pill formulation.) The red pill thinkers were initially insightful into their diagnosis of the 21st century man’s difficulties in mating, correctly recognizing that his submissive, supplicating mating strategies were humiliating and ineffectual. Furthermore, they did men everywhere a great favor by explaining the essential role that dominant masculine behavior plays in the sexual arousal of many women, in contradiction to the strictures of political correctness. Unfortunately many of the most influential among them went beyond the support of evidence and reason by recommending the common man emulate the hyper-masculine “alpha” persona, especially in its most extreme form, the dark triad sociopath. Accompanying this exaltation of the “alpha” was the denigration of the “beta” as weak, submissive loser. This set up a double jeopardy for the common man: an aspirational goal that he was constitutionally unable to achieve, and an intensified dissatisfaction with his actual state of being.
Developing ideas I introduced in my last essay, I will present an alternative hypothesis here. The common man is neither intrinsically submissive nor weak, but is adapted to cooperating in a hierarchy of men. As such, he is capable of flexible dominance/submissive behavior – he can be both the situational alpha and the situational beta, depending on the social context. But his capacity for situational dominance has been suppressed by a society that demonizes expressions of male dominance while shaming him into a submissive and apologetic posture, especially in interactions with women. To render him more compliant, he has been increasingly isolated from the masculine cultures that once cultivated his stronger aspects. The nature of the common man is not intrinsically weak or submissive – it is contemporary culture that forces him into that condition.
The resolution for the common man is not to aspire to the alpha that he will never be, nor to withdraw from society with the Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), but to rediscover his full potential for both cooperation and situational dominance. This rediscovery can only reach full fruition through brotherhood because the common man’s strength is his ability to coordinate with other men,. Rather than rogue red pill alphas looting the ruins of Western Culture, or MGTOWs retreating in despair, I support something much more positive: men working together to fight against the forces that assail them, as men have done throughout history. The answer is not to fabricate faux alphas, but to become better betas.
In outlining this essay, I realized that it is a template for many things I want to write about and do in the future. Many of the points below could be expanded into full essays of their own. In the interest of brevity, I will draw only a sketch, with the intention of filling in details, justifications, caveats, and references in future works.
The Emasculation of the Betas
The great majority of common men are “betas”. They favor cooperation over conflict, and unlike “alphas”, the will to power is not a prime motivator for them. They have no overwhelming ambition to lead many men nor to seduce many women. Betas are characterized by flexible dominant/submissive behavior and can switch readily between situational dominant and submissive roles as the social context requires. This allows them to work well in a hierarchy as both boss and subordinate. In contrast to alphas, who always seek dominance, and gammas, who always accept submission, betas accept the roles that advance the well-being of the group.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that no longer values a well balanced beta man. Instead, it weakens the common man so that women may be more equal in comparison. The proximate cause of this cultural transformation has been feminism. Feminists, in attempting to assert social and economic equality for women, face two serious obstacles. First, men are naturally more aggressive and assertive than women, especially in intra-sexual interactions, where the natural sexual instincts motivate dominant actions in men and submissive responses in women. While feminists deny this biological reality, they still must counteract it somehow. Their solution has been social mores that shame male dominance and promote female dominance in order to counteract biology with pro-female cultural biases.
The second obstacle for feminism is men’s superior ability to build large scale social structures and institutions (see Baumeister, Is There Anything Good About Men?). These institutions enhance the situational dominance or submission of men by placing them in a hierarchy where much of the power differentials reside in the institution, not the individuals. These man-made institutions enhance the power of men relative to women, who specialize in small networks of relatives and close family. This male institutional power is what feminist call Patriarchy.
To diminish the institutional power of men relative to women, feminists have worked to isolate men from their supportive peer networks and limit their socialization to the realm of friends and family, where women reign supreme. Most fraternal organizations have either been eliminated or forced to admit women, after which they are changed to favor the needs of women over men. In addition to feminism, society applies a range of other social pressures and diversions on men to further their isolation: using homophobia to emotionally isolate men from each other; fostering a cult of rugged masculine individuality that leaves most non-alpha men weak and isolated; divisive identity politics; pervasive negative portrayals of masculine socialization; and the anesthetizing effect of electronic media.
Many of these trends were prevalent as early as the 1830’s, when the “domestic feminism” associated with the “cult of domesticity” held sway across the Western world.
For centuries, a man had been the head of his family rather than part of it. His social status rested on his right and ability to represent his family in the outside world. Now men came to view the lives they led outside the home as morally ambiguous. Their greatest satisfactions and highest moral strivings were transferred to the sanctuary of home. Historian John Tosh argues that the cult of domesticity transformed men’s roles even more than it changed women’s. “By elevating the claims of wife and mother far above other ties,” says Tosh, the ideology of home and domesticity “imposed new constraints on men’s participation in the public sphere” and curtailed many of men’s traditional associations with other men.
Coontz, Stephanie (2006-02-28). Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (p. 166). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
These two strategies have been very successful. A young man today is constantly bombarded with messages on the evils of dominant male sexuality through the media, educational system, and government, all of which have fully adopted the feminist agenda. And men are more isolated now than ever before; participation in fraternal organizations is at an all-time low in the U.S. (Murray, Coming Apart), and the social group that reports the fewest friends and the most social isolation is white men.
As the Coontz quote suggests, feminism draws on centuries of chivalry and pedestalization of femininity to advance the needs and desires of women over those of men. Disparaged and isolated, contemporary men have been rendered submissive so that women can succeed. Cowed by feminist claims of victimization and privilege to care, they are incapable of asserting their own interests vis a vis women.
This socially enforced submissive behavior leads to observably bad consequences for men, especially in poor mating outcomes. Men who are unable to exert benevolent situational dominance and display initiative are generally sexually unattractive to women. These men suffer involuntary celibacy, poor relationship outcomes, high divorce rates, social isolation, and poor mental health.
The Red Pill Sees But Misunderstands
The strategies to weaken men have primarily affected betas who flexibly assume dominant or submissive roles in response to social cues, but not alphas imbued with high will to power, nor sociopaths, who are indifferent to social norms. So it is understandable that a contemporary observer would assume that betas are naturally submissive and weak, and that if one wants not to be submissive and weak, one must become or emulate an alpha or sociopath.
In many popular representations of the red pill, the social and sexual misfortunes of betas are attributed to behaviors that are ineffective in triggering sexual arousal in today’s women. These “beta” behaviors include protecting, providing, deference, and solicitude to women. But the term “beta” is often used more broadly to castigate men who exhibit these behaviors as intrinsically weak and deficient losers.
In contrast, the red pill promotes “alpha” behaviors, including sexual and interpersonal dominance, assertions of high status, irrational self confidence, and a lack of deference and solicitude towards women. If one doesn’t want to be a loser beta, then one must emulate alpha behavior as best one can. Even more extreme variants celebrate the exaggerated form of alpha masculinity, the alpha sociopath, or best of all, the dark triad alpha, endowed with psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. In contrast to the beta losers, alphas are winners.
However appealing this idea may be, I believe it is incorrect. Betas cannot transform themselves into alphas by force of will – possessing such will would already render them alphas. And normal well-adjusted men do not become sociopaths outside of conditions of extreme duress. (Some moderate interpretations of the red pill focus on “alpha” behaviors such as asserting situational dominance. But such behavior is within the natural capability of betas, and is much different from true alpha behavior motivated by a will to power.)
The first error of the red pill doctrine is to mistake the proximate cause of men’s poor sexual and social outcomes with the primary cause. The proximate cause is indeed the submissive behavior of the beta male. But this is not the primary cause, because the beta male is not naturally that submissive. The true cause is the social manipulation of male dominance flexibility to create an unnatural state of submission. Castigating the beta male as naturally submissive, weak and deficient mistakes the effect for the cause.
A second and possibly more serious red pill error is to glorify rugged individualism and autonomy over communal action. Men are encouraged to improve themselves, but self-improvement regimens are naturally centered on the self. The red pill man is encouraged to choose his own path, his own goals, his own ideals, rather than follow communal standards of behavior. Because alphas are putatively highly individualistic, and sociopaths even more so, the common man should be so too.
Individualism may be an effective strategy for an alpha who has the high level of self confidence to pull it off. And it may be the only strategy available to a sociopath who lacks the means to sustain cooperative relationships. But it is the wrong strategy for the beta, who gains strength in number through cooperation. In fact, the red pill emphasis on individuality plays right into society’s effort to weaken men by isolating them. In a culture where the communal standards of behavior are designed to weaken men, rejecting them is understandable. But the problem lies with the standards, not their communal nature. The beta man needs the support of communal values to reach his full strength among a community of like minded men.
Finally, the idolization of the dark triad is one of the stupidest things about manosphere. It is immoral, unachievable for those not so inclined by constitution, and capitulates to the feminist framing by reinforcing the social isolation of men.
Becoming A Better Beta (BABB)
A more productive strategy is to recognize that the submissive beta men of today are created by cultural programming that suppresses their inner strength and isolates them from their social support. This condition can be counteracted through cultural deprogramming; the cure for the submission and isolation of the beta male is to re-learn how to assert situational dominance in a community of men. If men have had success through the manosphere, it is for these reasons. They have not become more alpha, but they have found a message to counteract the prevailing feminist ideology that allows them to more fully realize their potential for situational dominance. And they have not become more sociopathic, indeed just the opposite – they have found a community of men that provides support and encouragement.
The better beta succeeds more often than not at relationships with women because he is capable of balancing the three pillars of male psychosexuality: the situational benevolent dominance that excites the admiration and arousal of many women; the sexual assertiveness that makes them feel desired; and the kindness and care that makes them feel protected and safe. The balance of these three factors is at once simple and complex. Dominance must arouse but not oppress. Sexual assertiveness must communicate desire but not harass. Kindness must comfort but not supplicate. Too much dominance crushes kindness, while too much kindness undermines dominance. The red pill advice rarely presents these three factors in balance, with a particular deficiency on the importance of kindness and care.
In conclusion, the solution I espouse involves restoring betas to their proper masculine state, capable of situational dominance and strength through cooperation, not trying to turn them into erstwhile alphas, and certainly not trying to emulate dark triad sociopaths.
Postscript: More on Becoming a Better Beta
BABB is a team activity. Men are highly cooperative social beings who gain their strength from their ability to organize and coordinate with large groups of fellow men. One must resist the pressure of isolation and reach out and cooperate with one’s fellow man.
BABB benefits from a hierarchy. Effective hierarchies leverage the situational dominance of men by placing much of the authority in the position, not the individual. The leader derives his power through the structure of masculine cooperation, not through the cult of personality.
BABB is not independent study. One can build one’s strengths and skills in private, and that is good and necessary, but it is not sufficient. One can only fully build one’s masculinity in the company of other men.
BABB is an exercise in proandry, not misogyny. While it is necessary to understand the forces of the feminine imperative and the ways in which society privileges women and disadvantages men (and vice versa), it is important to understand that both men and women are under the influence of a sweeping program of social engineering. Recognizing that society incents negative behavior from women does not justify negative attitudes or behavior towards women.
A better beta likes women, appreciates their strengths, forgives their weaknesses, is able to discern good character in a woman, and is capable of close and meaningful relationships with a woman of good character.
A better beta understands the hazards of Marriage 2.0, but may choose to marry anyway. For many men, the companionship of a good woman is one of the very best things in life, and raising a family with her is their highest calling.
BABB is unavoidably political. The common man is squeezed between the forces of feminism that seek to emasculate him, and the forces of crony capitalism that seek to disenfranchise him. Unfortunately, these are the two major forces in politics today, and while opposed to each other, both are hostile to the interests of the common man.
BABB means rejecting the old “Blue Pill” model of masculinity, which is the result of a couple of centuries of suppressing and isolating masculinity. It also means rejecting defeatism. It is a positive vision of masculinity that faces the reality of the challenges that men face today.
BABB is not for everyone. It requires men who are not too deeply impressed into submission, who are not too badly damaged emotionally, and who have the emotional and social skills necessary for cooperative endeavors with both men and women.