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.