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On being the heroes we need
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
- Kipling, Prophet Laureate of Tonic Masculinity
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Being no one’s idea of angelic, I will now hold forth on the masculinity question.
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Say what you will about the pronounists, they’ve nailed the zeitgeist in one important respect, that being the widespread confusion about what men and women even are. Somehow, we’ve found ourselves in a place where a plurality of us, maybe a majority, have no idea what it is to be a man or a woman, an issue that was considered not so much settled as simply obvious to essentially every previous generation. The apparently clear definition of ‘an adult human male or female’, beloved of big brains in the post-liberal set, doesn’t seem at all sufficient. We’ve got plenty of physically mature humans wandering about who have no real idea of what it is to be a man or a woman. Evidence: just look at them.
It isn’t just the gender confused who are gender confused. They’re merely the most acute symptom of this societal breakdown, their dangerhair1 a screaming siren that something has gone seriously wrong not only in their own broken psyches, but in the social disorder that broke them.
No, gender confusion is pervasive. We talk about it all the time because we have no idea what we’re talking about. We’re groping after something we know is missing, trying to repair something that’s been shattered, trying to learn something we were never taught without even knowing who we should approach to teach us.
Matt Walsh’s hilarious and poignant documentary What Is A Woman skewered leftist gender theory by posing the titular question to a procession of ‘doctors’, ‘academics’, and activists2 to wonderful effect. The best they could do as they avoided eye contact and attempted to shield their incoherent ideology from the detonation wave triggered by jamming that simple query into the rat’s nest of logical contradictions at its demonic core was ‘a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman’, a tautological non-definition that’s up there with Ibram Kendi’s ‘a racist is anyone who supports racist policies’. These people are frauds and simpletons with the small and terrified souls of vicious rodents, so we’ll pass by without further content.
In the end , the best definition was the one provided by Walsh’s wife: ‘you’re looking at one.’ The finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon. Precisely defining any entity in the cosmos turns out to be extraordinarily difficult, because some jerk can always roll up with a corner case and akshually the definition into submission. Definitions are always partial and incomplete, which is really just a basic property of symbolic language, since the signifier is useful precisely to the degree that it is much more informationally compact than the signified3.
This is all something of a red herring, since the problem isn’t one of definitions. Trying to turn it into that is a cope. It’s an attempt to reduce a pervasive, deep, and knotty problem – which is that most of us have no idea how to be what we know we’re supposed to be – into something simple and concrete. “Here’s the definition. This is what a woman is. Do this, and you’re a woman.” Or for that matter, a man.
The always fascinating and ever-so-slightly terrifyingrecently posted an essay on The Artificial Woman that’s been on my mind since I read it. Her central thesis, which I think is correct, is that the right-wing image of the tradwife staying home to cook the meals, raise the babies, clean the sheets, and do the rest of the Stepford Wife act, is every bit as much the hollow caricature of feminity as the autogynophile stomping around in drag and pitching his voice an octave too high. Both reduce a woman to a role defined by external imagery; both are hollow costumes, no deeper than cardboard, no more tangible than a hologram. The images are different, but on final analysis that’s all they are – signifiers standing in for signified. I don’t think Megha included them in her analysis, but the carefully curated plasticized instagram influencer or the OnlyFans e-whore seem equally faek and ghey, images of the feminine that have been so thoroughly abstracted from the feminine that they no longer have anything to do with the genuine article.
The performative femininity in the cyborg era is a low-rez screenshot of a photoshopped photocopy of a photocopy of a fax from a number that’s no longer in service.
Exactly the same thing has happened to masculinity.
The phrase toxic masculinity has been getting shoved down everyone’s throats as a bro-shaming tactic for years now. Open your mouth in a woman’s presence and you’re mansplaining. Sit so your balls don’t get crushed and you’re manspreading. Say something nice to a girl without asking her permission first and it’s literally rape. Since feminists apparently want men to be quiet castrata kneeling with downcast eyes in the corner like good little subs, it’s easy to infer that the attack on masculinity that gets so much attention is driven by the vindictive ressentiment of femoids demented by their lifelong penis envy; or post-wall bitter-bitches lashing out against the lack of male attention; or that it’s all just a shit test by women impatient for the men to stop just taking it like pussies and stand up for themselves, which is the most hopeful option. And maybe it’s all of those harnessed together into a janissary army by globalist social engineers who know full well that conquering a people is much easier if you cut off the men’s balls first.
Cognitive conquest isn’t just about getting nagged to death by social media’s self-appointed HR ladies, although that undoubtedly has a depressive effect on testosterone. The war on men is full-spectrum 5GW. Sedentary living drops your t levels, both because the body needs physical hardship to stimulate testosterone production, and because adipose tissue is esterogenic. The food supply has been flooded with endocrine disrupting and hormone-mimicking chemicals as well, to say nothing of the obesity-inducing effects of high fructose corn syrup and seed oils. Cortisol kills testosterone, meaning the high-stress lifestyle, and the social prohibition on stress-relievers such as a single combat with that asshole from accounting who ballsed up the last quarterly report, serve as a systemic limiter on testosterone production. Then of course there’s porn. When the body is busting a nut on the regular, it concludes that sex is plentiful and therefore it can down-regulate testosterone production. The lizard brain doesn’t distinguish much between the supple flesh of a willing art ho gf and pixels displayed on a black mirror. Hormones are necessary to score whore moans, but whore moans deplete hormones: this is the whoremoanal cycle, and coomers are caught at its low point.
The lacuna in Megha’s Artificial Woman4 is why, precisely, we are so prone to being snookered by the image, to the point that we forget the real even existed. The obvious reason is that most of us have had almost no experience of a real woman, meaning a woman who embodies the multivalent archetype of femininity in all of its gorgeous and infuriating self-contradiction. So many of the women we run into in our everyday lives are just LARPing as women, based on what they’ve seen women presented as on Netflix and Instagram.
Women do have a certain advantage in this social breakdown, which is that femininity draws more on biology, and less on social conditioning, than masculinity does. At the most basic level of sexual attractiveness, men are drawn to the young and fit, a conditon most females will pass through at some point in their lives even if only by accident, at least as long as they don’t eat their feelings. Being tricked into thinking that acting like a grrlboss is acting like a woman might make a woman insufferable, but it won’t necessarily make her unattractive. At least from a distance, on the outside. That only goes so far, however. Enough bad advice, enough bad life decisions, and a woman’s soul can become so scarred that she becomes every bit the plastic parody of feminity that a tranny or a weeb’s conception of a wheat-field tradwife is. Still, there’s a certain limit to how much damage bad advice can do. Plenty of lib women are actually quite pleasant.
There’s an exact symmetry with the collapse in masculinity, but it’s much worse. As the old saying has it, women are born, men are made. The distinction isn’t as pure as that, but there’s an essential truth to it. Even in the absence of good guidance, and saturated with terrible advice, a lot of females will sort of muddle through and figure out more or less how to become a woman through sheer instinct if nothing else. Males need to be shown the way towards becoming men. They need to be molded and tested by other men. They need to be torn down and built up, terrorized and encouraged, bullied and bantzed. All of that requires pre-existing social infrastructure. All those male bonding instincts that enable men to operate within male competence and dominance hierarchies are like the built-in ability of a baby to learn language. If the language isn’t there, Broca’s area shrivels and the ability to learn any language is permanently lost; if the social technology to turn boys into men is absent, the boy cannot mature into a man, but remains a boy forever. Deprived of the hunting party, he walks naked in the jungle, not sure how to hunt, or what to hunt, perhaps unaware that he’s hunting at all, but with only the vague idea that he should be doing ... something ... whatever that is.
Over the last generation or so all those social technologies for turning boys into men were systematically corrupted and destroyed. This was done primarily by demanding the entry of females into male spaces, since the presence of even a single girl immediately changes male social dynamics. The normalization of homosexuality played a role, too, via the hermeneutics of gay suspicion. While legal force can’t be used to prise open informal male groups for female entryists, the implication that hanging out exclusively with other guys in environments with zero females is kinda gay, isn’t it? – a camping trip with your bros, for example, instead of meeting at the bar – serves as an effective deterrent to any exclusively male socialization. While it’s considered poor manners to admit it, straight men are instinctively revolted by homosexuality, and will push back desperately at any implication that they might be engaging in homoerotic behaviour5. A society that leers suggestively at any male-exclusive group inhibits the formation of such groups.
No-fault divorce, the destruction of marriage, and the legal preference to award custody to the female has also led to a large number of boys being raised exclusively by their mothers. They then attend schools in which the teachers are largely female – almost exclusively so, in elementary school. The tendency is to treat them like defective girls. “Can’t pay attention? Take your meth pills6! Rough-housing in the hallway? Suspension7!” What men they do run into, maybe with the exception of the coach if they’re lucky enough to be athletically gifted and inclined, are apologetic and henpecked, and certainly don’t stick up for them. University is no different. By the time they reach physical maturity, many young males have had no actual men in their lives to show them how to be men, they’ve been relentlessly punished by women whenever their male instincts broke through the social conditioning, and they’ve never experienced deep male bonding in the context of an all-male social environment. This isn’t new – as Tyler Durden8 pointed out over two decades ago, they’re ‘a generation of men raised by women.’ Now that’s two generations and counting.
The leftist response to the miserable crisis created by sexual depolarization, and yes, it is making everyone miserable, is to claim that there’s no such thing as masculinity or femininity in any case, that gender stereotypes are limiting straightjackets, and that we’re better off now that we’ve evolved beyond them. Everyone just needs to be their own authentic selves and not worry about living up to some false ideal ... better yet, they should subvert those ‘ideals’, challenge them, reject them, because after all those old patriarchal ways are suffused with misogyny. It’s toxic masculinity, by which they mean anything that would have been recognized as masculine by any healthy human culture in history before the present moment.
The rightist response is to say fuck you to the culture that let them down like this, and to start trying to cobble together the lost man-making social engines from scratch out of the wreckage of the dead civilization in whose ruins most haven’t yet even realized we all inhabit. This is the only possible correct response, but it’s not without its difficulties, chief among which is that when you don’t know what being a man even is, it isn’t obvious where to start or who to turn to.
Being the cyborg era, we turn to the Internet – the hall of shadows where simulacra thrive, where discerning the image from the real becomes more challenging than it ever has before. And there are plenty of grifters out there willing to take your money in order to teach you how to be a man.
The grifter everyone’s talking about right now is Andrew Taint, the flashy e-pimp who claims to have become a billionaire thanks to crypto scams and his stable of emotionally damaged cam-whores.
I was going to ignore the guy, until it got personal. Recently I was relaxing in my favoured local watering hole when a three-sheets-to-the-wind and probably stoned Brazilian dude and his equally intoxicated lady friend sat down beside me and told me I looked like Taint (because we’re both bald dudes with facial hair? I dunno I don’t see it), whom he apparently greatly admired. Later they tried to recruit me for a threesome. So that’s the kind of guy the Taints of this world appeal to, it seems, and having been compared to him for some fucking reason pissed me off.
I’m not gonna claim to know a lot about Taint because I’ve never been interested. I find his kind tedious. He’s a high profile example of a certain type, the male equivalent of the Instagram ho, projecting an image of success and danger intended to appeal to the male caricature of the female concept of what makes men sexually appealing. Women find powerful, wealthy, confident guys sexy, men instinctively know this, so Taint’s grift is to project this image, pretend he is this, and then sell his real product to his real audience: boys who want to be just like that, because they have no idea what being a man even is and the image Taint projects looks great to them, and will therefore give Taint money to teach them how to be something Taint t’aint. To use the lost boy hunter analogy, Taint is the guy who shows up in the forest promising to teach the kid how to hunt, not telling him that the prey he intends to hunt is that lost kid.
Taint’s arrest on sex trafficking charges has been an absolute bonanza for the left, spawning awful takes like this by midwit male feminists who got their understanding of the ‘red pill’ (a term that hasn’t been used exclusively by the manosphere for years now, but anyhow) entirely through the insightless misunderstandings of leftist YouTubers who themselves are probably lacking any direct experience of what the manosphere actually is and what its participants’ discourse actually concerns. I feel a bit icky kicking Taint while he’s down and out in a Romanian holding cell but this is compensated for by the abundant ick provided by the greaseball himself. In any case, the emotionally incontinent freshman paper linked at the beginning of this paragraph seemed to operate under the assumption that every single PUA guru could be thrown into the same garbage bin as Taint. The author seemed completely unaware that Roosh, for example, pulled all of his books and blog posts from the Internet after converting to Orthodox Christianity and proselytizing celibacy to his followers.
As an aside, a close friend of mine woke up a few years ago and got it into his single-minded head that it was time to solve the Family Question. He picked up Roosh’s final (and no longer available, you rat bastard, Roosh) book Game, and applied the seduction tools therein. After a couple of false starts and less than a year he got hitched to a very high quality woman, and he is now happily married and the stressed-out father of two strong and beautiful children. I mention this to emphasize that Game 1) works and, 2) like any tool, contains exactly zero moral weight. You can use it to be a fuckboi the way most PUAs did back in the naughty oughties when they were developing their psychoemotional arsenal, and find yourself emotionally unfulfilled and unable to bond when the music stops and the party’s over; or you can use it to get married and start a family. Time was you learned everything you needed to do that from your Dad, but these are not those times. Our fathers failed us, and we do the best we can do.
Anyhow, back to Taint.
Some on the right have tried to defend his dubious honour, which has resulted in some funny moments, such as Darren Beatie trying to claim Taint is the embodiment of the bronze age mindset, only to get slapped down by BAP not just once but twice because a skeezy cam-pimp just ain’t it. A former beauty queen enlisting the Taliban9 to come to Taint’s aid and save America from the rainbow people got a chuckle out of me, too.
By and large, though, it seems to me that Taint elicits just as much distaste on the right as he does on the left.
Smarter takes on the Taint debacle are, as one might reasonably expect, to be found in relative abundance on our side of the ideological fence. Substack’s resident ponerologisttried to figure out what in the heck Taint means by the Matrix, which as Syrian Girl explained on Twitter is apparently traffic laws. Koehli points out, correctly, that Taint shows all the hallmarks of a dark triad demon who, precisely because of his narcissistic lack of concern for others and psychopathic disdain for social mores, is able to say and do whatever he wants, flouting the rules that tie the rest of us down like Gulliver in Lilliput. To quote Tyler Durden again, he’s free in all the ways that you are not, and for young guys who are acutely conscious of the cramped cage of punitive norms and hostile laws into which they were born, it’s like they’re budgies with clipped wings watching a vulture soaring free on the thermals10.
Dancemasteralso wrote a solid piece on Taint Modern. I refer to Rollins as a dancemaster because the Dance is his characteristically brilliant reframing of Game. Frame can make all the difference, and understanding the socioemotional dynamics of seduction as a dance reconceptualizes it in a way that has real consequences. ‘Game’ implies a sort of Machiavellian, manipulative sociopathy in intersexual relations that always made me a bit uncomfortable with actually applying it. ‘The Dance’, on the other hand, implies a cooperative, playful interaction. Thinking of the toolset one way or the other almost certainly affects how one is likely to apply it, and that matters if you don’t want to break people and hate yourself.
The important thing in Rollins’ piece isn’t ripping on Taint, though. It’s his introduction to the titular concept of this essay: Tonic Masculinity:
Leadership is Tonic Masculinity. Caring about men in your community, making sure they don’t spiral into depression, or addiction, or just loneliness, is also Tonic Masculinity. ... Tonic Masculinity is using the right tool for the job, and the tools that I’ve found work best for the job of being a man, the real tools in the toolbox of masculinity (which is surprisingly heavy), are a combination of doing your duty and treating others with the respect they’re due. Those are the tools good men reach for most frequently, and they require a certain amount of practice and elbow grease to ingrain the habit of applying them.
I think this is a very useful term. Right now the culture has masculinity and toxic masculinity in its lexicon, and because it doesn’t really know what the first is, the second swallows it in the popular imagination, leaving males adrift in a Sargasso sea of impotent faggotry where they’re at the mercy of emotional parasites like Andrew Taint.
Adding Tonic Masculinity to our conceptual universe helps to draw out the distinction between good, bad, and evil. It provides something positive to associate with, rather than simply a negative with which to disassociate.
There’s an important theme uniting Rollins’ introductory remarks. Tonic Masculinity isn’t primarily concerned with women. It isn’t preoccupied with poon like PUAs, it isn’t defining itself against feminism like MRAs, and it isn’t some sort of Stockholm syndrome beta male white knight male feminist learned helplessness ally nonsense like the Good Men Project. Women are simply ... absent from the discussion. They’re not in the room. They’re not allowed in the room.
To quote Durden a final time, if we are a generation raised by women, another woman is the last thing we need.
The focus of Tonic Masculinity is on lifting men up, on making them strong, powerful, and virtuous, in the old renaissance era meaning of virtu – possessing in abundance those qualities which are worthy of admiration and praise. As Weapon-X Program escapeeputs it, Strength Is a Virtue, Weakness is a Vice.
I’m not going to pretend that Tonic Masculinity is some sort of a brilliant new discovery. Like everything else of value, it is something very old, something perennial, primal and instinctive. It isn’t a new rediscovery, either. If there’s one thread running through the disparate elements of the Dissident Right or the New Right or whatever we’re calling our thing this year, it’s bromotion. It’s spreading tips and tricks for getting jacked. It’s cajoling and bullying and encouraging one another to hit the gym. It’s offering a sympathetic ear and a kick in the ass as needed when your boy is feeling down. It’s cracking jokes over whiskey. It’s bromoting the shit out of every amazing meme, song, poast, or book our frens create. It’s mobbing comments sections and Twitter threads to mog enemies that insult the honour and intelligence of our buddies11.
It’s the open-ended silicon koryos that’s been self-organizing in the cultural voids left by the collapse of the Shriners into obscurity, the
Boy Scouts into pedarst grrlpower bankrupcty, and the military into lesbian supremacist autogynophile idolatry.
I’m not going to try and give a comprehensive treatise on Tonic Masculinity, here. I hope we’ll be talking about it for some time, and more than talking, building out fraternal systems of mutual aid.
The one thing I want to emphasize, not because it’s an original thought but because I don’t see it said nearly often enough, is that Tonic Masculinity is goal oriented. Forming associations is important, but just getting together to fill out your beer guts while spectating sportsball is every bit as fake as sportsball and fully as gay as beer guts. Just getting together for its own sake isn’t enough, there needs to be a point, otherwise the male brain instinctively knows that it’s pointless and that seed of ennui is the devouring mother of despair. Furthermore, that goal has to matter. Getting together to build a teepee in the woods so you can pass a talking stick around and ‘be men together’ changes nothing in the world, it does nothing to advance your or your friends’ interests.
Male groups function best when they serve as vehicles for the direction of their members’ collective will to power. They need to be directed at making real, consequential changes in the world, in such a fashion as to directly improve both the members’ lives and the lives of those they care about. The nature of the goal is entirely irrelevant. Killing, skinning, and butchering a deer; defending the village from a cattle raid; capturing cattle and brides from the neighbouring village; developing an Urbit app; manufacturing a quadrotor sky-bike; making a movie; all these and more can do nicely. The key element is that the group is organized around a project, and the project is something that will raise the status of members by improving the lives of people in their community, ideally by bringing something new into those lives that they didn’t previously have access to. The whole self-improvement angle of Tonic Masculinity is a subset of goal-directed activities: you want your bros to be fit, strong, and sharp because that makes all of you fitter, stronger, and sharper, and thereby makes the goal, any goal, easier to achieve.
The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
I started this piece off discussing the sexual depolarization arising from the loss of contact with the primal sexual archetypes, so I’ll finish on the same subject. The simple fact is, men can’t teach women how to be women. Women have to get their own shit together. The reverse is even more true. The only way we’re going to become men again is to teach ourselves how to do it, to lift one another up, to form into mannerbund mafias and reconquer the Earth. In the process of becoming real men, we become worthy of real women; that then inspires women to become their best selves; and those priceless jewels in turn inspire the men to cultivate virtue. All we can do is our part. The ladies have to do theirs. For both parties it’s an act of faith. Neither alone can rebuild the shattered archway of sexual polarity, but if we’re successful we can redeem the vicious spiral into a virtuous one.
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I’m also on Twitter now, although I haven’t much bothered posting. You can follow me in case I do @martianjohn1.
The latter being the only category not deserving of scare quotes, given that it ate the first two categories.
There’s a theory that dolphin ‘speech’ is actually just dolphins painting pictures in each others sensoria using reverse sonar. If true, I wonder if dolphins have this problem: they don’t say ‘hey guys there are a bunch of fish over that way’, instead they just relay the images of the fish.
At least as far as I remember.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”
Which stunt growth, by the way.
Female social aggression, of course, is never punished.
“Haha don’t you know Fight Club was just a metaphor for Chuck Palahniuk coming out of the closet as gay?” No. No I don’t. And if you slander that movie in such a fashion again I will send you to to the Internet dungeon where your virtual tongue will be ripped out by hungry digital weasels.
The Taliban have come a long way from a bunch of illiterate cave-dwelling goat-fuckers. Haji has mastered trolling to a degree no other government on the planet has, and in the process moved from demonized enemy of American neoconservatism to low-key antiheroes of the Very Online Right.
For those with a taste for the cerebral, Koehli followed up with another roundabout examination of the Taint question, Symbolism All the Way Down, where he ties together the metaphysical systems of Whitehead and Langan with the psychological insights of Lobaczewski. I’m still working my way through it as I write this. Koehli is one of the few writers where I need to put his stuff down and think about it a while.