In this article we will explore the cultural phenomenon that is the Red Pill.
We will investigate:
- Red Pill philosophy
- The social-psychology of Red Pill group dynamics
- Why the Red Pill is a potential incubator of toxicity
Let me preface this: I think there is good content in the Red Pill.
I might be considered a Red Pill author and there is some obvious overlap between this website and the Red Pill.
Yet, this website is also significantly different in a few crucial aspects and, as a whole, the Red Pill is an unhealthy environment.
This post explains why.
- What Is The Red Pill
- Is Misogyny Red Pill’s Philosophy?
- Alpha Pride: How Toxicity Starts
- The Social-Psychology of Group Conflict
- The Truth of Inter-Gender Relationships
- The Psychology of Abusive Red Pill
- The Red Pill Drift Into Nonsense
- Does The Red Pill Make Matters Worse?
- The Red Pill: Feminism For Men?
- So What’s A Man to Do?
What Is The Red Pill
This is a high-level definition of the Red Pill:
The Red Pill is a community of individuals, mostly men, who congregate with the aim of learning, sharing and discussing topics and uncomfortable truths that are too politically incorrect to be openly acknowledged and appreciated by society at large.
The Red Pill is a subset of the larger “manosphere” constellation, dealing with varied topics such as life strategies, power dynamics, male rights and general self-development.
But the main course are gender relations, dating and relationships.
The popular expression “taking the red pill”, means opening up to the hidden truths of life that society hides from most people.
That sounds admirable to me.
But is the Red Pill really an unadulterated pill?
Truths and Lies
The Red Pill’s is not wrong,
There are major systemic layers of lies and manipulation both in people and society.
Yet, the Red Pill seldom approaches topics with a rational, scientific and analytical mind.
And, at times, Red Pill communities make men -and their lives- worse, and not better.
In this article, I will make the case that Red Pill communities, victim of self-selection bias, groupthink, and unhealthy group dynamics, can turn into a breeding ground of toxicity and misogyny.
Is Misogyny Red Pill’s Philosophy?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room:
The Red Pill focuses around gender dynamics, dating and relationships. So to understand the Red Pill, we must first understand how they view women.
In general, how men feel, think and interact with women provides a wonderful litmus test of a man’s maturity and personal value.
If we had to simplify with 3 buckets, this is how men relate to women:
- Blue Pill Man / SJW: men for women, white knight, women are oppressed, men need to serve women (lose-win)
- Red pill: men VS women, men need to protect against women and show power over women (win-lose)
- High quality leader: men and women, top men naturally are relationship leader, and great leaders lead with both in mind (win-win)
The Red Pill’s take is not wholly wrong.
Men and women’s interests diverge sometimes, and those divergences can create frictions and chances for cheating.
We could call the Red Pill’s approach a “Machiavellian take on gender dynamics”.
However, the Red Pill mindset is toxic for two reasons:
- Men VS Women: It focuses only on areas of friction, disregarding opportunities for win-win
- Women as aggressors: It only focuses on women cheating men, never on the value women can add (beyond sex) and never male cheating
80% of the red pill toxicity stems from N.1, seeing men as opposed to women.
The second one is a consequence of the first, and leads to extremism.
So let’s see how the “man VS women” narrative start:
Alpha Pride: How Toxicity Starts
Red Pill philosophy encourages men to self-identify as men.
Up until here, all good.
Being a man, feeling like a man and being glad of being a man is OK.
The problem with red pill male self-identification is two fold:
- Man is the only self-definition: “being a man” is the main category of self-identification, and “alpha male” is the dream belonging, all else is secondary
- Being a man is opposed to being a woman: being a man stands against all that is not good, such as women, effeminate men, gay men, betas, blue-pill men, etc.
Both tendencies are either latent in Red Pill culture, or openly embraced and encouraged.
Here is one example from the Red Pill subreddit:
Red Pill authors discuss “male pride”, “male bonding” and “alpha male” at length.
Masculinity is Jack Donovan’s main focus, for example.
Donovan, author of “The Way of Men” and a respected author in the RP community, theorizes that society, weakened by feminization (the enemy), is on the verge of breaking up
So he teaches men “how to start a gang” and, tough lack for women, it’s for men only:
Rollo Tomassi, possibly the most notorious voice of The Red Pill community, also encourages “male pride” and “men only spaces”.
Rollo Tomassi says women actively try to “insert” themselves into male spaces to subvert them:
(…) women inserting themselves into male space in order to enforce the dictates of feminine social primacy
I enjoy reading Rollo and he’s got deep analysis, but this is an example of one-sided analysis and conspiracy theorizing, which is a big thorn in the Red Pill’s side.
In male bonding, Rollo Tomassi sees a bulwark against the feminine assault.
Criticizing the MGTOW movement, he says:
This only serves to cede power to the feminine imperative
-Rollo Tomassi, “Positive Masculinity“
Tomassi sees genders locked in war, and he is not alone.
The Red Pill is founded around a purported big struggle between men and women.
If exaggerated male pride and a poor opinion of the outgroup had no consequences, this would be just an immature mindset and that’s all.
But an extreme sense of belonging with an adversarial attitude leads to increasing anger and hatred towards the outgroup (in this case, women).
Let’s see a few examples:
#1. Men Are Good, Women Are Bad
Someone once said:
In war, truth is the first casualty.
Among the truths that first go AWOL in the Red Pill are the nuances and complexities of human psychology and behavior.
The Red Pill replaces complexity with a more effective and group-bonding take on life: “men are good, women are bad”.
It’s a convenient belief to adopt.
It helps men find solace among other disgruntled men while also propping up their ego, as they can bask in their supposed superiority.
Red Pill practitioners deny, promoting the Red Pill as a culture of self-development investigating uncomfortable truths with science and open mind.
That’s typical debating “confound game”: when someone accuses of a specific flaw, no matter how evident it is, always deny it with appeals to complexity and higher ideals.
But it seems apparent that a significant chunk of Red Pill’s philosophy can be boiled down to this precise central tenet: “women are bad, men are superior”.
Let’s see some examples:
#2. Men Work Hard, Women Manipulate
Do women manipulate?
Just like everyone else.
But the Red Pill wears the distorted lenses which are typical of adversarial group dynamics.
With the conveniently distorted lenses the faults of the “us” male ingroup are out of sight, while the faults of the “them” female outgroup are in full focus.
A quick sift among the most popular threads shows repeated confirmation of the “good men VS bad women” frame:
#3. Men Are Smart, Women Stupid
This is what I have realized:
Misogyny and anger might not be the style of the best Red Pill authors, but they are endemic of Red Pill communities.
This post has been upvoted more than two thousand times, by 88% of the readers, and received the moderator’s endorsement.
Here is what it says:
Basically, this guy claims unsurpassed experience to draw the conclusion that “all” women are “f*cking retarted”.
Makes a lot of sense… Not.
And still, most people Red Pill members lapped it up.
#4. AWALT: All Women Are All Like That (Bitches)
The good old “they’re all alike”.
What does it remind you of?
To me, it’s reminiscent of undiscriminated pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and the worst ilk of racism.
Again, no surprise for anyone schooled in group dynamics and psychology: this a natural consequence of adversarial ingroup/outgroup dynamics.
These two group dynamics are particularly salient in communities like the Red Pill:
- Self-Stereotyping: members strive to conform to the group (See Haslam, 2006)
- Outgroup stereotyping: the outgroups is seen as “homogeneously bad” (see Baumeister, 1997)
Both of them can take some mental gymnastics.
It’s not always easy to only see the positives in us and only the worst in them.
How do red pillers pull it off?
Enter cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957), the ostrich-mode psychological superpower to stick to your preferred beliefs no matter what.
In online communities it’s simple: simply publish and upvote only information which supports our view until supporting information is all that’s available to see. And everyone can keep repeating “see? All women are bad”.
In real life, it takes some more work, but it’s doable. Plus, they got the online community to go back to for a shot of “Red Pill truth”.
Here is a meme on Red Pill cognitive dissonance:
Once the community becomes protected by cognitive dissonance, it becomes an insular island detached from reality.
And free of any external interference, it becomes easy to spread one-sided theories that are poor reflections of reality.
Here is a quick overview of what the Red Pill hammers its members with:
- Women are slaves to hypergamy (but men are not)
- Women dupe a beta to provide, then cheat him (as if men are not interested in cheating)
- Marriage is how women keep men hostage (as if some women couldn’t be victims of poor marriages)
- Women never really love a man
- Women from no real attachment: she forgets you the moment she dumps you
Again, there is a backdrop of truth in most of them.
Just not the way the Red Pill presents them, because the Red Pill naturally distorts them.
#5. Women Control Unfair System, Men Fight Back
The Red Pill sees itself as a bastion of truth and fairness.
A bunch of rebel freedom-fighters unleashed against a feminized society which is out to oppress, harass and turn men into blue-pill slaves.
It’s a romantic and appealing way of looking at oneself, reminiscing of old myths and modern rebels fighting wicked dark empires.
It’s also exactly how hate groups operate, recruit and proselitize though (Lee, 2002), and a convenient narrative to double down on conspiracy theories.
Part of the “good rebel” narrative, appealing to the masses and which further distort Red Pill “analysis”, are:
- We’re right, they’re wrong
- We’re good, they’re bad (a free pass to being nasty)
- They’re strong, so we must stick together (helps the group survive)
- They control the brainwashing media, but we’re smart
The last one is particularly interesting.
It provides an excuse never to double check one’s theories because you can’t get the truth outside the Red Pill.
Great weapon for cognitive dissonance.
The Social-Psychology of Group Conflict
Writes social psychologist Roy Baumeister:
People do not generally need a great deal of urging to despise the groups that are arrayed against them (…)
That much is true.
But just to make sure, the Red Pill still provides plenty of urging.
In social psychology the tendency of hating the outgroup is an offshoot of the “realistic conflict theory“.
Conflicts become more extreme when:
- Members are authoritarian, craving power, and control
- Members engage in competition
- The competitions are zero sum games
All three are true for the Red Pill.
The Red Pill attracts authoritarian men who crave more power and control, men high in Social Dominance Orientation, which in turns predicts sexism (Pratto et. al., 2000);
it encourages a view of gender relationships as social competitions;
and (falsely) teaches that relationships are zero sum games.
The Truth of Inter-Gender Relationships
I always loved this expression from the Bible:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye
That might be the red pill’s mantra: focusing on the speck in the sisters’ eyes and missing one’s own planks.
When red pillers focus only on the “wrong” that women do and “what’s to lose”, they only see 1/4 of reality.
Why one quarter?
Because they miss:
- The positives of women
- The negatives of men (also see “games men play“)
- The potential for win-win (you find what you look for, as they say)
Let’s dig deeper.
#1. Game Theory Explains Red Pill’s Philosophy
Looking at relationships as win-lose is not unique to the Red Pill.
It’s also not necessarily wrong, either. Take zero sum games, for example. Zero sum games are win-lose.
In zero sum games, for one party to win, the other must lose.
Cooperation in zero sum games is difficult, challenging, and borderline impossible.
Playing itself is risky and time-consuming: you need to learn game strategies and, as much as you can win, you can lose.
If you see relationships as zero sum games, then the red pill approach makes sense.
It makes sense for some men “go their own way” or focus on short term, zero investment relationships.
The questions becomes: are inter-gender relationships zero sum games?
Defective Strategy For Red Pillers
Relationships are difficult for (and with) Red Pill men.
Red pillers see relationships as zero sum games, playing against manipulative opponents, within a society that defends women and punishes men.
How could anyone not get paranoid with those premises?
The Red Pill is at odds with women and relationships because it presupposes zero sum games relationships, playing against a cheating opponent, who successfuly rigged the system to win.
Thus, Red Pill relationships look like prisoner’s dilemmas: they can’t trust neither their partner nor the system, so they must always defend never give an inch.
Here is the typical red pill advice when it comes to women:
- Avoid long-term relationships
- Never trust women
- Make sure you can drop her quickly
- Invest nothing in women
In game theory, this is referred to as “defective strategy”.
A defective strategy in social relations means maximizing one’s own returns at the detriment of others.
The defective strategy is not necessarily bad for the defector, and it can pay off big time if they are playing with a gentler player (ie.: swindling a naive girl).
Of course, a defective strategy is always bad for their partners and, we might argue, for society.
As Berz says:
Individual defection can improve the individual’s life at the detriment of the collectivity.
Berz, 2016, “Game Theory Bargaining“
But what if relationships were not zero sum games?
Selfishness Loses Out to (Smart) Cooperators
Here is the answer:
Human relationships are not zero sum games.
The most important relationships are repeated interactions between colleagues, family members, friends and, of course, partners.
Game theory would refer to long term relationships as “iterated games” (see an oveview of Auman’s work).
To keep it simple:
In iterated games, the more you interact, the poorer the defective strategy performs.
Defective players in iterated games gain little rewards as people learn their style and adapt, giving back as little as possible. Defective players remain stuck with the little pay-offs of their defensive strategies (the Nash Equilibrium).
Cooperative players who gain the trust of trustworthy players instead leverage win-win relationships and reap bigger rewards with each transaction.
A similar argument can be made for business and negotiations:
#2. Neoclassical Economics & The Fixed Pie Mindset
The “zero-sum mindset” dominated economics for a while.
The “rational operator”, also quipped as “homo economicus“, was the central figure of all economists’ theories.
He operates rationally, defects whenever it’s good for him, and optimizes for self-interest.
As psychology improved the field of economics, a new model started taking hold.
It was a model of a more irrational man, sometimes quipped “homo reciprocans“, with feelings and biases and who, lo and behold, often sought collaboration and mutual gains (Thaler, 2015).
The two models are not mutually exclusive, but the consensus in business these days is that collaborative works better.
And researches have shown that homo reciprocans tend to be more successful in life and, unsurprisingly, to have higher life satisfactions (see Dohmen et al., 2006)
#3. Negotiating Small Pies With Red Pills
Western negotiation style was truly Red Pill.
It was all about defecting, showing power and grabbing as much as possible of that negotiation pie.
But even here, things have upgraded.
The first salvo against the “tough and uncollaborative negotiator” model came when Robert Cialdini showed that concessions lead to better negotiation results.
And cooperation, empathy and pie-enlarging strategies went mainstream with the seminal “Getting to Yes” and the influential “Never Split The Difference“.
In modern negotiation science The Red Pill mindset is called “fixed pied mindset” (Malotra, 2007).
The fixed pied sees negotiation as zero sum games and can be summarized as such:
If one negotiator takes more, the other must lose.
This is exactly the mindset of the Red Pill when it comes to relationships.
Rollo Tomassi writes in “Preventive Medicine“:
For one gender’s sexual strategy to succeed the other gender must compromise or abandon their own.
I respect Rollo Tomassi, but with that attitude, I am truly curious of his marriage.
To end this part, top negotiators, like top quality men, are not stupid.
While they seek to enlarge the pie, they know they must be careful about diverging interests and potential cheating.
Smart negotiators cap their downside while seeking more upside.
#4. Evolutionary Psychology Disproves The Red Pill
Finally, back to psychology.
In evolutionary psychology the defective strategy, the homo economicus and the small pie mindset found its home in the theory of the selfish gene.
The Selfish Gene, best selling book by Richard Dawkins, postulates that self-interest is good policy, pays off and permeates everything in life.
It was a great insight, but it needed heavy corrections which, in time, arrived.
Luckily, Dawkins is a true scientist, and he took stock of the new scientific evidence, acknowledged and made amends.
In more recent versions of “The Selfish Gene”, Dawkins writes:
Cooperation and mutual assistance can flourish even in a basically selfish world (…) we can see how even nice guys can finish first.
Dawkins went as far as to say that he could have called his book “The Cooperative Gene”.
Today, evolutionary psychology widely accepts that self interest can sometimes be best achieved through cooperation (for an overview, see Ridley, 1996).
And there is lot of research to show that humans function better with strong relationships. John Gottman’s research for example shows that highly mistrustful men, men who withdraw from relationships in fear of being taken advantage of, die significantly younger.
Summing it all up
Relationships have plenty of areas of friction and men (and women) should be aware of them.
But humans collaborate with each other because it’s good for them.
In intimate relationships we developed as a pair-bonding, semi-monogamous species because it’s better for both.
The red pill defective strategy of approaching relationships as win-lose is bad for the guys who adopt that mindset, toxic for the couple, and bad for the world.
P.S.: Exceptions Apply!
Let’s avoid over-generalizations.
There are plenty of poor relationships or poor partners with whom collaboration is not convenient or not possible.
This post does not urge you to “get into a relationship”, or to “trust women (or men) blindly”.
Quite the opposite.
Marriage is a risky business in the West and asset protection is smart.
I’m also not saying be “nice”.
Quite the opposite.
I’m saying that, in many realms of life, smart cooperation trumps defection.
And relationships, which research proves to be the most important determinant of life satisfaction, is one of them.
The Psychology of Abusive Red Pill
Let me start with the obvious:
Not all Red Pill men are abusive.
Yet, it would be naive to deny a strong overlap between Red Pill philosophy and abuse.
There are two group dynamics active in the Red Pill which can lead to abuse (and self-abuse):
- Dehumanization process (common in all hate groups)
- Drive to “be alpha” and dominate
- Overlap with the authoritarian branch of political conservatism
Let’s go in order:
#1. Dehumanization Process
Dehumanization is what allows good people to become monsters.
Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo, notable researcher on violence and abuse, lists four social causes responsible for evil:
- Deindividuation (“I” merges with “red-piled men”)
- Dehumanization (women are bad, so morals don’t apply to them)
- Anonymity (Red Pill communities are founded on anonymity)
- Diffusion of responsibility (the more of us, the safer it is to be extremists, thus the effort of recruitment)
Women live an animal existence. They like eating, drinking, sleeping – even sex, providing there is nothing to do and no real effort is required of them.
Vilar describes women as mindless, animal-like creatures who leech on men for their survival.
Vilar’s book, “The Manipulated Man‘, is a recommended reading of The Red Pill subreddit, finding a prominent spot right on the sidebar:
Through dehumanization, even normally moral men stop feeling any bond and empathy with women.
See an example from a popular thread:
The toxic end game?
Once women are dehumanized, then it’s fair game to treat them as sub-humans.
And that’s why the Red Pill openly supports abusive behavior like:
- “Dread game” and triangulation
- Dark triad traits acquisition
- Emotional abuse to “keep her hooked”
#2. The Alpha Imperative: A True Male Yoke
This is what f*cks men up without them realizing it.
The Red Pill purports to free men.
But it actually enslaves them under the yoke of the alpha man.
The Red Pill talks about “feminine imperative”, but the true diktat Red Pill men are all under is the Red Pill (misguided) “alpha imperative”.
Men who buy into the red pill build their self-esteem around semi-toxic and inherently fragile traits such as:
- Being alpha / dominant
- Banging lots of women
- Controlling the relationship
- Being the most alpha she’s ever had
See the pattern?
Every fear of this red-pilled man can be boiled down to the possibility of someone more alpha than he is.
If there is someone more alpha, that other guy wins, he loses… And he goes into existential crisis.
Why is he in such a crisis?
Because, after internalizing the Red Pill philosophy, he builds his self-esteem around being alpha.
And if he’s not the most alpha she’s ever had, then… Ouch, then that will crush his Red Pilled ego.
The fear of other alphas branding their women is so scary and devastating it has a name: “alpha widows”.
Alpha widows, or women who’s been with an alpha, are supposedly “dangerous” to be with because they harder to control (again, the toxicity of controlling men).
True Enlightenment Means Not Fearing Alphas
Overcoming the fear of alpha is crucial both mentally and practically.
Avoiding women who have been with alpha male is the equivalent of looking for a low-quality woman.
But hey, red pill alphas can still console themselves feeling like the big fish in a small pond.
#3. Hierarchical-Minded Authoritarianism: Oppression is Natural, So It’s Good
There is a significant overlap between self-defined Red Pill men and affiliation to political conservatism.
See an example here, with Red Pill moderators officially endorsing Trump:
There is plenty of research showing that the authoritarian branch of conservatism:
- Cannot stand ambiguity: that’s why you see the sweeping generalizations
- Focus on threats: that’s why they naturally focus more on defection than on possibilities of cooperation
- Tendency to form outgroups and derogate them: that’s why the strong “us” and “them”
- Tendency to being comforted, respect, and enforce structures and hierarchies: that’s why you see lots of anger for anyone who discusses the basic tenets of “red pill theory”
- Tendency to fall for the naturalistic fallacy (Miller & Kanazawa, 2008): what’s “natural” is good, so if oppressing others whenever you can is natural, it’s also fair
BTW, much research links low intelligence with conservative political affiliation (see Sapolsky, 2018)
How’s that for a generalization (BTW, I don’t believe that’s the case).
The Red Pill Drift Into Nonsense
Groups like the Red Pill are bound to be irrational.
From a social-psychological perspective, the bigger the personal self-identification with the “we”, the higher the depersonalization.
At the extreme of depersonalization, the group becomes more important than the self (Turner, 1986) because, well.. The group is the self.
Any attack on the group is an attack on the self, and defending the community means defending oneself.
And at that point, the goal of the community is the preservation of the community itself.
And to preserve the group and its Red Pill ideology, anything goes.
The bar gets lowered to anything that might help confirm the ideology, no matter how unlikely the theory is or how flimsy the evidence appears.
This guy, for example, offers confirmation that “all women are the same” after having visited one hooker:
Blue-pilled men and “beta males” also help preserve the group, serving two important Red Pill functions:
- Strengthen the group (“they suck, never go back to blue pill, stay with us”)
- Shore up weak egos (“I’m better than this blue pill”).
The “beta male” and “blue pill” designations also serve as tools for silly and time-wasting social climbing.
I have described these dynamics in “alpha male posturing” and the previously linked article.
Check them out, because social climbing is poisonous to your mood, your status, and your personal freedoms. Also read “big fish in a small pond” to help you overcome that small-timer attitude.
When At War, Warriors Lead: The Power Dynamics of Hate Group Leadership
Hate groups need hate to stay alive.
Says Baumeister in his landmark work “Evil“:
The members with the firmest sense of hatred will end up being the ones that the others look to for support and guidance.
A moderate leader disempowers the group by building bridges.
That’s dangerous because assimilation to another group means dissolution of the group/self and loss of the “special status” of “superior” red-pilled man.
Better an extremist to keep the group tight.
Out of fear of ostracization, nobody will tell of a leader he’s too extremist anyway. The more moderates in the group will either quit or toe the party line, thus making the group even more extreme.
That is why some red pillers resent Jordan Peterson: he might be too mainstream and seek too many bridges.
The community needs the adversarial outgroup of women and enemies to stay strong. Without them, the extremists lose power and support.
Does The Red Pill Make Matters Worse?
Men with a certain mindset naturally gravitate to the Red Pill, but the Red Pill also pushes them further down the line.
The Red Pill also provides angry men with the sounding board and confirmation to reassure them that “yes, I am right in my hatred”.
It’s a sort of group chest-pounding that whips men into a heightened frenzied state they would have never reached on their own.
Red Pill: self-development group or gangs for extremization?
The Red Pill: Feminism For Men?
Red Pill men cannot stand feminists.
And feminists cannot stand red pill men.
Which makes a lot of sense, since they are specular movements at the mercy of very similar group dynamics.
Of course red pillers abhor this idea.
Same as feminists, of course.
Because they both adopt distorted lenses and they fail to see that both make some valid points (while failing at others).
The feminist “patriarchy” becomes the “gynocratic society”, “male domination” becomes the “feminine imperative”, “toxic masculinity” becomes “feminazi”.
The Red Pill is just a tad less bad, but I might be biased as a man myself.
So What’s A Man to Do?
How do we take it from here?
In my opinion, ingroup/outgroup dynamics are the biggest drain of human potential, and one of the basest, most useless relict of our cavemen days.
And sure, some manosphere author misses the caveman days with “true male bonding”, but the only way forward is, you guessed it, forward.
I might even go as far as to recommend you avoid any group based on strong ideology.
But I cannot put it any better than Robert Greene in “The Laws of Human Nature“:
We belong to the human race. Anything else is backward and far too dangerous.
In “Growing Beyond The Red Pill” you can get a more actionable list of mindsets to help you move forward.
The Red Pill presents itself as the place where to get the uncomfortable truths of life.
And some of those uncomfortable truths, they get them right.
Sure you’d wish they’d turn that inquisitive mind towards, well… The Red Pill itself.
But that’s not in the nature of groups.
Do You Think Anything Positive About TRP?
This post was critical.
Yet, same as the Red Pill philosophy focuses on the problems between men and women, I focused on the problems of the Red Pill.
My overall position on the Red Pill is otherwise not as extreme and I recognize they also get a lot of things right.
What do you think about it?