Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Hey Jason, What's Your Take on The Red Pill?

Over the last few weeks, I've been engaging my Facebook friends in discussions about sex, gender, and relationships. I've used a wide range of sources as inspiration for these discussions. A virtual friend recently recognized some of the language I used in one of my questions, and asked "Did you get this question from The Red Pill?" After I answered in the affirmative, he then asked for my take on the group.

Let's back up a moment. What exactly is The Red Pill? TRP is a group composed of mostly men and centered around a subreddit of the same name. The group description aptly describes the group's purpose:

The Red Pill: Discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.

The group discusses a huge range of topics under this umbrella, and the nature of the discussions have earned the group a notorious reputation as bitter, angry misogynists. That charge isn't necessarily unwarranted, which is part of the reason I've balked at really diving into their world. I've been aware of their presence for a long time; the group grew out of the work of "pickup artists" that were floating around in the late nineties and early 2000's. As a sex and gender researcher, I found their claims of finding "seduction secrets" be be mildly fascinating. However, their writing style was somewhat silly so it was hard to take them seriously. I was in a relationship anyway; why would I care about picking up women?

Fast forward about a decade and a half. 

While writing No Bone Zone, I had several conversations with Joe, a former co-worker and impressively talented pickup artist. I didn't go into a lot of details regarding Joe's theories about women because it was beyond the scope of NBZ, but it was fascinating. He mentioned a few influential bloggers, and those bloggers frequently discussed "The Red Pill" Reddit group (which I'll abbreviate as TRP.) And I started reading.

Over the years, I've spent a great deal of time in special interest groups like TRP (SBL, anyone?) There's a whole lotta talking going on. Lots of theories. Lots of anger. Lots of playing the victim. Lots of hyperbole. Not a lot of criticism. Even less common sense. It's basically a large group of emotionally-charged folks that have fallen so far down the rabbit hole, they've lost all sense of the bigger picture.

Not surprisingly, this specific group is heavily criticized. Since they essentially declare war on feminism, they receive scorn from pretty much anyone with a vagina and their penis-toting sympathizers. In other words, pretty much everyone that's not a part of this group. 

Unfortunately, those that criticize fail to realize brilliance almost always hides under a mountain of stupid. And nothing creates stupid faster than an echo chamber. It didn't take long to realize the group is made up of socially-awkward guys that are trying to learn better life skills, guys that have been scorned by one or more women, and of interest to me, a handful of astute observers of human nature. 

I was trained as an experimental social psychologist. I'm used to ignoring the moral or ethically-questionable behaviors and ideas to find the more valuable underlying principles. I'm used to sifting through stupid shit to find the useful stuff. In regards to this group - I'm glad I went swimming in this particular pool.

Those few brilliant observers of human nature had some sort of academic background that provided a framework for their observations. The echo chamber serves a useful purpose here; it allows them to observe and discuss without having to frame the ideas in a way that appeases the masses. Specific to this situation, they could observe female and male behavior without the burden of explaining it through the lens of a feminist-sympathizing public.

The result is a fairly comprehensive theory that's horribly politically-incorrect, but more importantly, the single most accurate framework to understanding gender roles and how those roles influence our sex and relationship behaviors.

So what do I mean by "accurate?" I measure hypotheses and theories based on a few criteria. First, does it accurately explain behavior? Second, do it allow us to accurately predict behavior. Finally, can it be generalized to a wider population? In the case of their theories, all three are true to a greater degree than every other gender role theory I've ever encountered. That's significant; this has been an intense area of study for me since about 1995. My last post about my year-long alpha experiment documented my own attempts at including a few of their ideas in my daily life. I can say, without hesitation, that the ideas work. Really, really well. 

Back the the OP question - so what's my take on TRP? Aside from the silliness of naming a group after a sci-fi movie prop (The Matrix), the group is more valid than most seem to realize. The group operates on some solid theories, but the people attempting to explain the theories, with a few exceptions, are horrible. The group accurately identifies legitimate issues modern males face today; this is valuable because there's a strong tendency for females (and a lot of males) to simply dismiss the bias males experience on a regular basis. The group also proposes some excellent actionable solutions to many of these common male problems. Again, it's the selling of the ideas that sucks, but the actual solutions are valid. There have been quite a few calls for Reddit to shut the group down, which I believe would be a huge mistake. While a great deal of the discussions are nothing more than overt hate speech, they're also engaging in discussions that simply can't happen elsewhere. Those discussions sometimes kick around profoundly important ideas. 

Over the next few weeks and months, I'm going to continue sifting through their ideas and bringing them to the discussion table that is my Facebook wall. Their theories are too good to ignore, and the group culture itself assures the vast majority of the population is never going to be exposed to the ideas. The ultimate goal is to spark conversations on the more profound topics with the hope of making a world a little better place. 


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