Week 19 in the year of our Lord 2020

Our honest assessment of the red pill and manosphere

7 minutes to read

Hey, it’s Michael.

A couple years ago, I took a deep dive into the world of “the red pill” and “manosphere.”

I didn’t do it for the reason most do. (I was happily married and we didn’t have any problems in our sex life.)

I did it because I was a pastor and friend to men—and I saw a lot them struggling.

Many couldn’t find a wife.

Many had sexless marriages.

As I sought to counsel them, I found that my wisdom was for a bygone age. The world had changed a LOT, and most pastors, myself included, had failed to recognize the shift. I could either keep serving up out-dated platitudes that frustrated these men, or I could upgrade my knowledge and really help them navigate the time that God had placed them in.

I choose the latter, and It’s Good to Be a Man was born.

My research led me down a crazy rabbit hole. I found forums, YouTube channels and books that would make you blush. I read and saw things that many nice-guy evangelicals would be scandalized by.

I didn’t do it to be titillated.

I did it because guys were telling me that they were being helped by these things. I wanted to understand.

I was very skeptical at the beginning. I remember watching a pickup artist/dating coach guy give advice that I thought was insane. I literally said out loud, “No way that works.”

But I realized there’s only one way to find out. So I tried it on my wife.

And it did work.

So I read all the popular books in the space, and watched/listened to a few hundreds hours of YouTube videos. Over time, I came to see why this world was so attractive to Christian men. Unlike so many pastors, the men producing this content were unashamed of their masculine desires. More than that, they were ready and able to offer practical advice on how to realize them.

They were filling a void left by absent and abdicating fathers.

Once upon a time, your dad or uncle would explain to you how the world—and women—actually worked. They’d give you time-tested, no-BS straight talk.

Those men are now few and far between.

In their place, the manosphere has sprung up: men helping men learn what their fathers should have taught them.

And this is the best lens to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the manosphere/red pill. It is essentially a body of fatherless men who have learned a thing or two teaching clueless bastards.

This became apparent to me as I read Neil Strauss’ The Game. Strauss was a dorky but talented writer for the Rolling Stone. His book documents his induction and rise through the ranks of the pick-up artist (PUA) community.

It was a fascinating but difficult read. I had to skip over a lot disgusting salacious details. But the quote I’m about to share made the read worth it.

In the second chapter, Strauss and a few other wannabe PUAs are learning the five attributes of an alpha-male from the master PUA, a man who goes by the name of Mystery. Strauss writes:

As Mystery dissected the alpha male further, I realized something: The reason I was here—the reason Sweater and Extramask were also here—was that our parents and our friends had failed us. They had never given us the tools we needed to become fully effective social beings. Now, decades later, it was time to acquire them (p. 21-22).

It’s an insightful observation. Being an “alpha male” is really about being a well-adjusted, well-kept, and confident man with a mission.

This is the sort of man who comes from a fully-functioning “traditional” household.

Such households are lacking—thus so are the alpha-males. Our culture primarily produces broken-down, thirsty and insecure “beta” types.

So where do these high-notch-count PUA types come from? Well, this brings me back to The Game.

The book opens with Strauss taking a mentally broken, nearly-suicidal Mystery to the Hollywood Mental Health Center. He writes:

[The Hollywood Mental Health Center] was an ugly slab of concrete surrounded day and night by homeless men who screamed at lampposts, transvestites who lived out of shopping carts, and other remaindered human beings who set up camp where free social services could be found… Mystery, I realized, was one of them. He just happened to have charisma and talent, which drew others to him and prevented him ever being left alone in the world (p. 1).

This revelation slowly unveils throughout the book: Mystery is from a broken, messed up home, and consequently is a broken, messed up man. But he learned a few tricks that allowed him to get women in the sack.

That’s it.

That’s all he has to offer.

It’s just sex.

A lot of red pill gurus are fond of saying, “Women don’t care about your struggles. They wait at the finish line and pick the winners.” And by pick they mean have sex with.

Everything reduces down to sex with these guys.

Sex validates them. It proves that they are a winner. And guys that don’t get any, regardless of their efforts to win, are losers.

If you peel the paint off most (not all) red pill guys, you find a bitter blue pill boy underneath.

In other words, red pill is not a full-orbed doctrine of sexuality. It’s a narrowly-aimed reductive strategy for horny men to get some. It’s a mindset which, ironically, is the very thing it claims to despise: gynocentric. While blue pill men pedestal women directly, many “red pill” men simply switch to pedestaling them indirectly by putting sex on the pedestal instead.

Needless to say…sex requires women.

Since red pill revolves around sex, it makes sense that men without girlfriends, or husbands with frigid wives, would flock to it. It makes sense these men would be greatly helped by the manosphere. Sex and arousal is the immediate issue.

However, the red pill can only offer a few tips and tricks. Its gurus can help you land a girl, or maybe unfreeze your old woman. But only momentarily. They teach you how to fake it to make it…for a moment. But it’s empty, surface-level stuff—not true transformation.

This is why we are now even seeing PUA men like Roosh and Victor Pride leave behind empty hedonism in pursuit of Christianity.

I don’t want this to come off as dismissive towards the red pill. I think it has a lot helpful ideas. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote, "If the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance.” This is a good summary of our attitude towards non-Christian sources on issues related to sexuality. We accept their assistance as we seek to flesh out a doctrine of masculinity.

But—and it’s a big but—it must be replanted and anchored in the biblical worldview. It must be interpreted through the lens of faith.

That is one thing we’ll be doing through these weekly newsletters. Next week we’re going to look the red pill concept of “the burden of performance,” so keep an eye out for that.

Till then,

Michael & Bnonn

Further reading:

  • Performance and desire on Deep Strength—if you want an advance primer on where we are heading next week.
  • Red Pill as another religion on It’s Good To Be A Man—for a more developed critique of the sharp theological divide that we think makes red pill irredeemable as a general concept.
  • The bitter taste of the red pill on It’s Good To Be A Man—a short, cautionary post on the dangers of discovering red pill truths, and how to properly deal with this.
  • Was Jesus an alpha male? on Bnonn’s website—for a more in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of the manosphere, and of the idea of alpha males.
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