The Red Band: A Stoic Criticism of the Red Pill by Vadim Korkhov

The Red Pill is the title of a movement and part of a broader movement called Men’s Rights Activism (MRA).  In recent years, its presence has escalated rapidly on the internet in parallel with right-wing nationalism.  Its major presence is on the social media and news site Reddit.  There, it holds a moderated discussion board where men come both to learn of its principles and teachings as well as seek advice for their own circumstances.

Red Pill, and the “Manosphere” (the collection of doctrines that springs from MRA), believe themselves to be inheriting an ancient masculine tradition whose roots go back to Stoicism, and the principles therein.  Red Pill claims to reflect Stoic teachings and values but falls far short of them, using them merely to establish clout.  Here I will go about explaining theRed Pill, both in its explicit claims and in its implicit ones, and demonstrate that it is little more than an outlet for disaffected and frustrated men, eager to blame others for their ills and desperate to cling to principles that further their anger.

What Red Pill Truly Is.

Red Pill has few comprehensive and systematic doctrines.  To sort out its guiding principles, one has to read their extensive literature and view YouTube videos by gurus.  Based on outward claims by its authorities, Red Pill is admittedly not a philosophy, but rather a “praxeology”.  Despite sounding like it was derived from Ancient Greek, and therefore lending more credence to the Red Pill claim of inheritance from ancient tradition, praxeology is a coined term from the 19th century that was supposed to refer to the science of human action.  The term never came into much use by science and was instead adopted by the Austrian School of Economics, from which much modern American right-wing economics is derived.  This is another nod to Red Pill as a derivative of broader right wing political movements.

As far as Red Pill claims not to be based on principle, but action, its goal is simple and spelled out on its Reddit sidebar. Red Pill is an amoral strategy to maximize sexual opportunity for a man with a woman.  In this, it prescribes a set of techniques, directed both outward with action, and inward to character building, that it believes will vastly enhance sexual opportunity for men.  The approaches espoused by Red Pill are nearly all derived from the Seduction Community (also called Pick-Up Artists – PUA).  But whereas PUA was solely interested in maximizing sex, Red Pill demands more.  In fact, Red Pill despises PUA, calling it a traitor to masculinity.

Red Pill believes that men have lost touch with their masculinity due to the shift in the social expectations of modern Western culture, and that these masculine features are those craved by women.  These features include a strong unshakable character and leadership quality, among others.  These have been lost in the quest for equality of the sexes, which women don’t actually want, despite the claims of feminists.  And that if only men would seize upon their masculinity, without apology, they would gain the adoration of women.  Thus, from the outset, Red Pill quickly distorts its claim of being merely a set of actions.  It is, indeed, a philosophy.

The core of the assertion of Red Pill is the implication that men have surrendered themselves to feminism, and that feminism is really just a disguised effort to subvert domination by men for domination by women.  In their view, feminism is really nothing more than a subversion of the positive role of masculinity which has transformed men from their rightful place as leaders of civilization to its servants, so that women can replace them as leaders.  This is called the “Feminine Imperative” and the demands of equality are nothing more than a test (“shit test”) to see which men are brave enough to resist it and gain a woman’s admiration for the defiant act of courage.

In their view, it was men who built Western civilization into the greatness that it is, and that, despite some flaws, the old social order is preferable to the new social order of feminism. Red Pill waxes nostalgically about the old social order of masculine dominance, hoping to restore it so that men may take more leadership of themselves and their social spheres.  But until that happens, each man must restore this social order within themselves and their immediate circle.  There is no claim to justice here. Red Pill derides what it believes is feminism’s attempt at usurpation of the man for the favor of woman, while it hypocritically asserts man’s leadership to the expense of a woman’s will and liberty.  Each is just a faction, aiming to assert power and nothing more.

Reading Red Pill tracts and literature, as well as the many threads on message boards, one notices the recurrent theme of men’s anger and resentment.  There is the premise of bitterness of men who believe they have suffered humiliation and stagnation at the hands of women, and their inability to compete with women.  They are drawn to Red Pill for its easy answer of casting blame on others – women.  It is not that men have done wrong, so they say, but that men have been made to believe the lies of the feminine imperative, and Red Pill will reveal these lies to them.  The truth will be revealed and it will be terrifying but liberating, and will finally allow man to assert his will when he was once just a slave.

The origin of the term “red pill” is from a scene in the film The Matrix, where the character Neo must decide if he wants to learn the unpleasant truth by swallowing the red pill, or accept a pleasant lie by swallowing the blue pill.  Many men who have been indoctrinated into Red Pill become angry at themselves for being victims of lies for so long.  Their leaders actually encourage this anger, advising neophytes to use it for good purpose, such as in exercise or leadership.  They once again betray their lack of awareness of Stoic doctrine, which says that anger is a destructive and not a useful emotion.  Conspiracy theories like to take simple truths and make them more elaborate.  The simple fact is that most of these men have had bad relationships with women that they’ve generalized upon all women, and are determined to take revenge by taking a position of dominance over them — cruel dominance if necessary.

Dominance is the key feature of Red Pill, whereby all aspects of a relationship with a woman are measured by who makes decisions and who has power, and how to play power games to divert as much power onto the man.  One adage holds that the one who cares least about a relationship controls the relationship.  There is no room for a relationship built on mutual benefit or cooperation – only obedience.

One cited power structure is the “captain and first mate” scheme.  The man is the captain of the ship – the household – and the first mate is the woman.  Both are leaders of the household and while the first mate can discuss orders with the captain, the captain’s orders are final.

Both men and women are caricatured.  Men are defined as “Alpha”, “Beta”, “Omega”, in order of leadership role.  Women defined as seeking wealth and social status by attachment to powerful men – never love – and to use their sexuality as leverage.  The terms “alpha male” and “beta male” are derived from zoology referring to social animals where a single powerful male is solely allowed to mate with all the females of the group.  The wisest alpha male realizes how to leverage his desirability to women by his social status, just as the wisest woman leverages her sexuality for a man’s social status.

Both genders are expected to be “hypergamous” – to leave their partners once they no longer serve their useful purpose and seek others.  Although women are usually accused of this more, Red Pill encourages men towards this same behavior.  For women, their biological agenda is to seek out the fittest male with which to produce fit children, and also to provide for her and these children.  For men, the goal appears to be to find a woman to satisfy his sexual cravings with enthusiasm, and most of all without complaint.

To gain sexual favor with women, there are a wide assortment of tricks and tips, all adopted from PUA, which strive to subvert a woman’s judgement to have sex with a man without getting to know him well.  Readers who are interested are free to seek out relevant sources of information on Seduction, and it is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on them.  Although some tactics are clearly aimed at self-improvement, such as integrity, character, and confidence, many are gimmicks such as the best approaches, controlling the “frame” of a conversation, and sexual escalation.

One aspect, often called “inner game”, involves focusing on one’s inner demeanor, confidence, and poise so as to increase one’s attractiveness with the opposite sex, but not to better oneself for its own sake.  Thus there is the reliance on an external – the value judgement of a woman.  Lost in this advice is the focus on the person of the man, his character, his value as a human and not merely a sexual object, and his value as a productive member of society.  Most proscriptions devolve to the appearance of social status, wealth, and power, not virtue, since that’s all that RP believes women care about.

Once again, despite its claims, Red Pill does not understand Stoicism.  Social status, wealth, and power are typical externals that are derided by Stoicism as being wasteful endeavors that are largely outside one’s power, yet Red Pill encourages their pursuit.  If they were really interested in applying Stoicism to approaching the opposite sex, one might imagine they would advise sticking to one’s virtue and integrity while eschewing material goods and vain reputation, and letting those women who value those things come to you.

How The Red Pill Is Not Stoicism.

Red Pill believes itself the inheritor of an ancient masculine philosophical tradition, specifically Stoicism.  But what it is actually doing is selectively using and misusing some aspects of Stoicism to gain standing for its flawed doctrines.  While some of its approaches have a hint of Stoicism, they are very selective, with Stoicism often serving as a point of awe and admiration by Red Pill practitioners.  In actuality, it does not resemble Stoicism despite its claims in the following ways:

  • There is no appeal or effort towards justice. Red Pill is just an amoral sexual strategy.  It cannot be amoral and also Stoic because, in Stoicism, virtue is regarded as the sole good.  Feminism is claimed to be an injustice, but Red Pill simply wants to replace it with the old social order of the domination of men in place of the domination of women.  It favors a social order based solely on obedience of one group to another, with contrived justifications such as “men built civilization.”  There is no effort made to justify obedience for deserved reasons, such as wise leadership.
  • There is no appeal to wisdom. There is only a striving towards superficial wisdom, like approaches and conversational framing.  Nor is there insistence on gaining to know a woman as a person, and not as a sexual target. Red Pill generally sees wisdom in narrow terms of what is immediately useful, without any long term foresight.
  • There is almost no mention of the dichotomy of control. The only mention of the dichotomy of control is that if one approach fails, try another.  However, little is offered on alternatives to standard Red Pill dogma.  For the most part, if you fail at something, it is just your fault for being either too stupid or too weak to apply Red Pill methods properly.  This is demonstrated when men ask for advice from others in message boards, where they are usually derided for weakness or lassitude.  This tends to discourage advice seeking and favors posts on boasting success
  • There is no sense of community. The community is nothing more than a sexual marketplace, where people are selling sex for wealth and status, and social bonds nothing more than goods and services in a market.  Outside of the sexual marketplace, society is nothing more than a game of dominance, with some having more power than others, and some commanding, whether or not they deserve that privilege, and others obeying, whether or not they deserved this subservience.

On the other hand, Red Pill does resemble Stoicism in the following ways, which makes it appear as if one derives from the other, and in this way, may make it attractive.

  • Courage is favored. A true alpha male is one who is not afraid to be daring.  He stands up to adversity and intimidation.  No woman is out of one’s league, and no challenge is impossible.  This factor is one of the most pushed in Red Pill circles.
  • Temperance is encouraged. Men do not whine and cry “like women” and accept, with calm reservation, whatever situation they’re in.  There is also a strong focus on athleticism, albeit less for one’s health and more for one’s attractiveness with women.  On the other hand, temperance is betrayed when men are encouraged to gain social status, wealth, and power, and not necessarily for personal benefit, but to be attractive to women.
  • There is some allowance for the Stoic principle of Providence. One commonly repeated maxim is that a woman is never “yours” but only borrowed for a time, until she is another man’s.  But here there is a betrayal, because this also discourages long term relationships, the very antithesis of community.  Stoicism at least only acknowledges that a family can be ended with death, but not so casually disposed of as divorce or lack of interest in the partner.

To summarize, Red Pill only resembles Stoicism in its regard towards some internalized goals of the man – character and strength of will – in order to maximize his perceived attractiveness in the eyes of women.  Internalized goals of personal improvement are only incidental to the goal of sexual attractiveness, and therefore, nothing more than vanity.  The pursuit of virtue is not the primary motive, only sexual attractiveness is.  What few virtues are cultivated are also incidental.  There is an obsessive focus on vanities and externals, including sex itself, which is not only an external but depends also on the cooperation of another who is entirely outside of one’s control.  The focus on externals explains why many Red Pillers are inherently insecure and constantly seek to put down others who challenge them.

Dr. Vadim Korkhov is a critical care physician who works in the ICU of a major urban hospital in the US.  He developed an interest in ancient Greece and Rome from an early age, and earned a BA in Classical Civilization from NYU.  He developed an interest in philosophy from a colleague, in more recent years, which led to his immersion in Stoicism. 

Author: Gregory Sadler

Editor of Stoicism Today

23 thoughts on “The Red Band: A Stoic Criticism of the Red Pill by Vadim Korkhov”

  1. The ‘Red Pill’ people, and I use the term people loosely, are not Men’s Right’s Activists. Men have lost no rights.

    Rather they are Men’s Power Activists because their whole philosophy is centred around getting power over others. This is because without a philosophy giving them power and a society based around that philosophy to support them they are to a person too weak and foolish to actually acquire any power of their own. They can’t compete and so are trying to change the rules of the game.

  2. I think the “red pill” philosophy is using the term Stoic more in the sense of the lexical definition, which is to have a sort of strength or fortitude as opposed to the theoretical definition, which would entail following and adhering to the Stoic worldview as developed by the ancient Stoics. The same is true of the word “Epicurean”, in which the modern usage of the term has significant differences from the classical philosophy of Epicureanism.

    One issue that I would have with the red pill philosophy is that on the face of it there seems to be an inconsistency when it comes to women. The rationality and conscious nature of women are highly devalued, and seen as a major cause of modern society’s problems, with ideologies like feminism. Yet, their entire self worth depends on being attractive to women, their ultimate good is to be attractive to the woman that is either a 9 or 10. This seems like an inconsistency, but if I am charitable to them, I think there is a way to resolve this. Since they take an evolutionary psychological view of the human mind, the mind is seen as modular. The part of the female brain that is rational is seen as deficient and unworthy of value, but the part of the female brain that deals in sexual selection is part of a greater force, to use a term from Schopenhauer, it would be the “Will of the Species”. The more attractive a female is, the more she manifests a greater selection when it comes to this “Will of the Species”, and if they are validated by this woman, they feel as if nature has validated them, which has meaning for them. They would rather be validated by nature, which is the part of the female mind which is a product of evolutionary forces, instead of being validated by a corrupt society, which is a product of many decadent forces, in which the main one for them is ideologies that are the product of female conscious thought. This would be their view of living according to nature.

    The main problem that I have with them is that many still adhere to PUA tactics, which would be the nature of the fiddler crab. Which is dishonest signalling for success in mating. The following link would be a good point of reference for that.

    For anyone interested there is a good analysis of PUA from an Aristotelian perspective. It is an article titled, “Hitting the Bars with Aristotle”, by Richard Paul Hamilton, and in it you will see where the whole PUA / Red Pill philosophy goes wrong.

    1. Here is the link which shows clearly that RP is very explicit in its Stoic claims, and doesn’t just mean “stiff upper lip”. notes:

      Red Pill Theory/Stoicism 101: A Primer on How to Be,

      And yes, you are indeed giving RP a very generous handling. Their goals and means are quite straightforward. All they care about it having more sex with women, who they see as nevertheless loathesome. If it was just about having sex, that would be ok, since there is no claim to anything more. But RP then goes on to elaborate this vast conspiracy theory where feminism is the scourge of humanity, and all women are in on the scam. The notion that men and women are different isn’t exactly novel or even contentious, nor is the idea that all of us are subject, to some degree, to our animalistic natures. The difference is that RP doesn’t believe that humanity is capable of anything better, so that, despite proving by history that humanity has indeed transcended many aspects of our worst bestial attributes, it still believes we are doing it all wrong. For RP, a woman’s nature is flighty and scheming, and a man’s is aggressive, competitive, and violent. So that, in one blow, they reduce all of humanity to a primeval beast.

      1. Yes, I admit I was being generous to the RP philosophy. I was steelmanning their position.

        I would agree with you that the majority of people that adhere to RP philosophy would not have anywhere near the degree of sophistication that I gave to their position. For most of them it is a philosophy born of ressentiment, and women are the target of that of ressentiment. I think it cripples them from having any type of deep relationship with a woman, since she is now only valued for sex, and not as a person.

        I do think they have this interesting dichotomy when it comes to women, and again this is me steelmanning them. I think they have a very negative view of women as rational agents / persons. They believe if women gain political and cultural power then decadence will set it. They believe that the ideas born from women are destructive to a society, so their influence must be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, the woman as a sexual creature is highly valued, especially the more attractive she is. Is the reason due to the pleasure of sex, or the conquest in attaining such a woman? From what I read it seems to be more of the latter. Just like Plato had his philosopher king, and the Stoics had the sage, the RP has the “alpha male”. This is a man who has been very successful when it comes to women, both in the number of women and attractiveness of the women. This is the good that they aspire towards. So women are manifesting this will of nature in their unconscious desires for sexual selection, and the ability to understand that aspect of their psychology and manipulate it makes the “beta male” into the “alpha male”. Some aspect of Nature or Existence has just validated their existence.

        Also, as far as the Stoicism is concerned, I think the RP philosophy is in its nascent form, so people are out there making these inconsistent hodgepodge philosophies that integrate whatever with RP.

        I think that there can be some positive from RP, and that is only as a stepping stone. The reality is that most of the males that follow RP are malakos, and they need something to harden them up. I do agree with them that males our age have been raised to be soft, and there needs to be a toughening and hardening. This type of male needs to understand what Aristotle calls the golden mean. They were “nice guys”, which means they were obsequious, boring, and mock modest. They were fearful of disagreeing with women at all, since they might have been seen as a jerk, they were afraid of any type of deep conversation, so they were boring, and afraid to signal any strong qualities, fearful of being seen as a arrogant. They had these vices of excess and deficiency in social conduct that are rooted in weakness, and this is due to how they were raised. Their problem is that they don’t understand that golden mean, and now have to be jerks and assholes.

        I do think they would benefit from actual Stoicism, since they would get that hardness and toughness, and not the other negatives the RP philosophy has to offer. The reality is that there are women are out that have this ethical beauty as far as intellectual virtues are concerned, no matter how much they deny that, and being attracted to that is a noble form of eros.

        Also, on an end note, I steelman to try to develop what the Buddhist call karuna, which is the great compassion instead of sentimental compassion. To do that I have to try to get in the mind of the other person, so that I can have that greater perspective. This is not about sentiment, but gaining a higher perspective. Would a stoic sympatheia be something like this? You are a doctor and a Stoic,tell me what you think about this?

  3. If anyone doubts the veracity of this article, the original version included a list of citations to verify every claim. I can produce these upon request. At no time did I claim that men lack problems, for that would be irrational. But RP is not the solution to men’s problems. RP merely uses women as scapegoats for all problems and makes all women into wicked beasts. That some men may have been victimized by some women is not evidence of wickedness by all.

    1. “RP merely uses women as scapegoats for all problems and makes all women into wicked beasts.”

      I think their position if thought out is more nuanced than this, or the more intelligent adherents of this philosophy have this nuanced view. I think their position is very close to what I elaborated in the above comment. The rationality and conscious thought of women is bad and corrupt and leads to decadence, whereas their choosiness when it comes to sexual selection is manifesting the “Will of the Species”. They would view the rationality of women as a tool for manipulation and deceit whose only purpose is to advance the egocentric desires of the specific woman, whereas the part of her unconscious that is responsible mate selection is driven by the more “noble” aspects of nature and concerned with the good of the species as a whole.

      I am not sure of many of these people would like to return to nature when it comes to sexual selection, because there is a missing dimension in their thought, and that is intrasexual selection. Part of that primordial nature is about intimidating the male rival, and possible fights with this male rival, which is something that they don’t have to worry about given the laws of modern society. The reason I bring this up is that most men who adhere to this philosophy don’t have the “virtues of the hawk” when it comes to other men, they have the “virtues of the dove”. They deal with intrasexual conflict more through submission than conflict and dominance. .

  4. For those of you who doubt the veracity of these claims, the original version of the article included a list of citations, which can be produced by request. At no time did I claim that men lack problems, but RP isn’t the solution. It merely serves up women as the scapegoats to men’s problems, no matter their contribution to them.

  5. This was a very interesting article. I did not know anything about these groups. I also very much appreciate the comments which have opened my eyes further to important nuances. Thank you

  6. This is the first I’ve heard of the red pill movement and it sounds disgusting. However I am familiar with Austrian Economics and it is incorrect to say that the far right derives its economic policies from it. The right (and the left) both derive their economic policies from Keynesian economics, which essentially says much gov’t involvement should be used. This then creates unintended consequences and economic distortions since there tends to be winners and losers. Both wings are Keynesian in this regard, despite having very different views of where to apply the involvement, but both advocate the use of force and law to their self interest at the expense of others. The political movement that does subscribe to Austrian economics is actually Libertarianism which is neither liberal nor conservative, but rather is about the freedom of the individual which is what “human action” was meant to describe, not dominance.

  7. Some good points but also mischaracterizations. I’ve been a fairly regular reader of “red pill” literature and I don’t recall ever seeing it claim to be stoicism.

    There are several other passages in which the author seems to have read a small group of red pill authors and is claiming that it represents all red pill beliefs. Would be more interesting if he represented it more accurately.

  8. I have read a lot about the red pill movement and I have not seen stoicism mentioned at all. I simply must have missed it. The movement to me seems to be a mish mash of various thoughts and may well evolve into something more cohesive. For men who have been abused by women it is a wake up call; however it does itself no favours by too much outward blaming and locker room talk, however if that is the point people are at in their understanding maybe there is some use to it. The simple answer for anyone who is being abused is to leave if they can physically do so..

    I feel it will change and evolve it will be interesting to see how that happens.

    1. Search r/TheRedPill on Reddit for “stoic” and “stoicism” and you’ll find plenty of references to bastardized versions of Stoicism.

  9. After reading this I have no idea what Stoicism has to say about the proper relationship and dynamics between men and women other than Red Pill isn’t it.

  10. Men and boys have genuine issues, the red pill is not about promoting the alpha male. Men and women are different, full stop end of discussion. But have combined throughout evolution to bring us where we are now. Only in the last 50 years has some crazy, stupid people with their unbelievable arrogance believe they can define what men and women really.
    Women are fantastic, so are men, working together they are unstoppable. End the gender war, fight the real fight, that’s against injustice, poverty and the wealth divide. Keep families together, encourage mum and dad to bring their children up in union. Society will collapse unless we understand the responsibilities of parenting and self sacrifice.

    1. “Men and women are different, full stop end of discussion.”

      How does it feel to present your opinion as fact without the burden of having to provide evidence?

      Sure, there are probably some psychological differences between men and women, some of which may even be there result of nature rather than nurture. However, beyond the physical, these differences are difficult to define, particularly from one individual to another (rather than just as averages) and experts have argued nature vs. nurture for decades. We don’t have definitive answers.

      But even if we did, would those differences justify circumventing personal freedoms in the name of forcing each gender to its “natural role”?

      Feminism demanded that women have opportunities to leave the house and try their hands at real professions. Women are thriving and making fantastic contributions to nearly every field. They’re improving human life. Would you limit the contributions of 50% of the population just so you can cling to your antiquated beliefs?

  11. Biggest load of Tosh I have ever read. Red pill seeks exactly the opposite. It’s about breaking down barriers, but in the it’s focus is special men and boys issues. Family court, male suicide, male work place deaths, fatherless family’s. I love it though when people like you have a voice, because it encourages debate.

  12. The author has a Humanities degree from NYU. NYU is as biased toward modern ideology as UC Berkley or UMich. These schools should join forces and be renamed “-Ism University”…

    The author should be specific when tossing around the term “Stoic”. Anyone who has read these authors that compose the “Stoic Cannon” would know how much these various authors differ. Which Stoic authors do “redpillers” put on a pedastal?

  13. Agree completely with most of this, but I even think trying to connect the two is a stretch…thry have so little in common except for a few stoic virtues. The Red Pill in my opinion is nearly entirely against stoic virtues. The strive for dominance and the war between the sexes is about as unstoic as can get and completely against the flow of nature. I do think a hierarchy is a natural. It is natural to have leaders and followers in nature. It is not natural and completely unfounded that the leader needs to be the male and the followers female. It can be either and whoever wants to fill the role.

    1. Specific examples would have helped. However, I agree overall that Red Pill/Blue Pill is a simplistic dichotomy (as is the Stoic dichotomy of control–it’s more like a spectrum of influence), and that the Red Pill is mainly a right wing belief.

      The basic point that Red Pill philosophy is inconsistent with Stoicism is well taken, however.

      But I do think there needs to be a greater distinction between groups within the Red Pill that sometimes conflict with each other. Think of a Venn diagram:

      PUA and MRAs are often at odds, though both talk about the Red Pill.

      Further, while most MRAs appear conservative or libertarian, I wouldn’t generalize that they’re about male dominance. Some are, but others are about addressing issues like family court discrimination against men, suicides being 78% male, and boys falling behind in school.

      And there are left wing MRAs like Warren Farrell who advocate a gender transition movement where people are not defined by gender role expectations. Farrell is a former feminist not because he’s anti-feminist but because he views feminism as a one-sided approach to gender (though he doesn’t really use the phrase “Red Pill”).

      And finally there’s MGTOW (men going their own way), a male separatist group at odds with both PUAs and MRAs. IMO they’re a very misogynist group.

  14. A pretty good analysis however I have some sympathy with Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) who seem to get a raw deal in divorce cases. Much more so in the US than in the UK where I live. The film, ‘The Red Pill’ highlights many such injustices.

    However as I don’t live in the US I happy to accept I may well be wrong.

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