All over the world, straight men are making the conscious decision not to be involved with women.
This isn't a decision in any sort of metaphorical sense. These men are literally cutting women out of their lives, completely. It's not a spiritual choice—like becoming ordained as a Catholic priest—nor is it a socioeconomic problem, like Japan's herbivore men. It is more of an ideological celibacy, one that crosses both national borders and religious divides. And the basic reason is the slow crawl toward gender equality.
They are called Men Going Their Own Way (or MGTOW, pronounced "mig-tow") and they have a serious problem with feminism. To them, the feminist movement has all but ruined our society, and it just doesn't make sense to participate in the dating game because women have been, in their eyes, programmed to ruin a man's life. Around every corner they seem to see one-dimensional women who are just out to take their well-earned money and stick them with kids who aren't theirs.
Also false rape accusations: They are fucking terrified of those gosh-darn prevalent false rape accusations.
At first glance, it's easy to lump MGTOW in with typical Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) who also believe that female oppression is a myth and that it's actually males who are oppressed—but that's not the case. The two groups differ significantly in how they make sure those tricky, tricky women don't pull any of their devious tactics. While MRAs are out to fix the problem through action and activism, members of MGTOW hold self-preservation above all else, and because of this the majority of the community seems to have decided to bow out.
They've had enough, and they're taking their balls and going home.
I first came across this story while reporting on Edmonton, Alberta's Slut Walk earlier this year. There was a young-ish Canadian man protesting the event in a superhero/cheerleader costume, the initials MGTOW emblazoned across his chest. He held signs that said "Women are programmed to ruin men's lives" and "Feminism is a refuge for woman's [sic] sexual failure."
He didn't seem angry. If I were to play armchair psychologist, I thought he just looked sad.
A major rule with Men Going Their Own Way is that no women are allowed in the community—something that differs from MRAs. The group also has a penchant for anti-Big Government rhetoric, but, in all honesty, that isn't the most surprising thing in the world. Also, one can't simply proclaim to be a MGTOW. There are stages. In fact, numerous MGTOWs have proposed that members of the community can track their growth with something called "The Four Levels of MGTOW."
- Level 0 - Situational Awareness: the member has "taken the red pill" and embraces the idea that gender equality is a lie and propaganda.
- Level 1 - Rejection of Long-Term Relationships: the man rejects long-term relationships but will still partake in short-term relationships and sexual encounters.
- Level 2 - Rejection of Short-Term Relationships: the member won't participate in hook-ups or any form of short-term or sexual relationships.
- Level 3 - Economic Disengagement: a member at this stage refuses to earn more money than is necessary for sustaining life. He views the government as tyrannical and is trying to actively drain money from the bureaucrats.
- Level 4 - Societal Disengagement: this is as far as a mainstream MGTOW can go. Here the man refuses to interact with society.
Few members will ever reach level four, and the majority seem to float somewhere between the second and third level. But even if they don't go full-out, most members will see themselves cut off from most "unneeded" contact with women, and in extreme cases, even alienate themselves from their friends and family.
"All my friends are MGTOW, I bond with no other, the smell of cunt on a man's breath is sickening! Their [sic] unable to sustain a logical mind when their thoughts are all wrapped up in pussy," wrote MG-ɹǝʍo┴, a regular on MGTOW.com.
A large portion of MGTOWs will not in any way participate in long- or short-term relationships. They preach using their lives for "productive pursuits" (work, I guess?) and get companionship from brotherhood. There's a problem, though: your sexual drive isn't something you can just turn off. A libido just can't be satisfied, no matter how hard you try woodworking and hanging with your bros.
So how do MGTOWs get their rocks off? There are numerous tactics discussed on the MGTOW.com forum, their largest stomping ground. Some men try to remedy this by attempting one night stands, others rely solely on masturbation, and some routinely visit sex workers. The old adage "You don't pay for the sex, you pay them to leave" is a rather popular (and gross) sentiment on the forums. "For me, it's escorts or play the dating game," one user wrote. " I'm not wasting my time with the dating game and I'm not interested in a life of celibacy right now."
Celibacy, which they refer to as Men Going Monk, is another option discussed routinely on the forum especially among the devout going their own way. For the extremely religious, being MGTOW causes a little bit of a conundrum. You can't have sex out of marriage, but you have also vowed not to get married, so you're essentially up virgin's creek without a paddle. Going monk isn't just for the religious—some men have also talked themselves into celibacy because they can't have sex without love but can never love a woman.
"Myself, I hate getting associated with women in any form, be it relationships or sex, moreover i [sic] can't have sex with a girl that i don't love," wrote forum user rorick. "I'm kind of old school here, or may be that is how i was born. Therefore for me to have sex i need to love her, so to love a girl i should throw away all my logical thinking and turn myself into a mangina, which i never wanted to be, hence i stayed virgin."
Do yourself a favor and try not to think about it too hard.
Again, like Men's Rights Activists, some followers made their way to the MGTOW community out of completely spiteful reasons, but others have found themselves in the group after tough situations. Some have lost their kids in a custody battle and others have had their lives shredded by divorce proceedings. Some of these men credit the brotherhood they find within MGTOW as the catalyst that stopped them from ending their lives.
But most of it is pretty out there. Many MRAs and MGTOW have taken to calling themselves "red pillers." It comes from the scene in The Matrix in which Morpheus offers Neo a red pill and a blue one. "You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes," Morpheus tells the Chosen One. In what they deem a broken system they are Neo, messiah complex (possibly) aside, and in their minds they are the only ones who see the world clearly. Everyone but themselves and their brethren are blinded by the "feminist agenda" and are a "goddamn blue pill" or, my personal favorite, a "mangina."
Once you move past the basic anti-feminist/blue pill rhetoric, any major similarities between MRAs and MGTOW come to an end. Their actions differ hugely. While the MRA's victim complex parlays itself into a loud and screechy anger, a MGTOW's anger is quiet and seething. While talking to a founder of MGTOW.com, he said that while MRAs try to "fight fire with fire," MGTOW prefer to "fight it with water."
"Gay rights is a movement, feminism is a movement, men's rights activism is a movement," Oz, a founder of MGTOW.com, explained to VICE (on behalf of himself and the website, not the movement as a whole).
"Those things thrive and their success depends on collecting an army of people and them all agreeing on a common goal, and they have parades or whatever it is to unite. This is nothing like this," he said.
"It's really important that we make that distinction."
There is also a distinction between the way groups in the "manosphere," a term for the overarching community, treat their comrades in arms in regard to their success and failures with women. One MGTOW forum user, Megachris%, wrote of the difference between MGTOW.com and other sites when he was deciding where to spend his time and where the blame falls:
"While both sites were telling me it's because it's [sic] merely because she's not interested in me, THIS page was telling me it's because women are deceptive and will lie to get out of anything just because that's their nature," he wrote. "You guys were honest and to the point, and 'lovingly' blunt (which I appreciate, by the way). The other site instead focused on telling me 'it's because you're ugly.'"
He went on to write, "This site is more 'it's not you, it's women that are the problem. You do whatever YOU want to do to better yourself. Disregard those wenches.'"
MRAs haven't taken kindly to MGTOW culling their members with this kind of talk, so there exists an animosity between the two. But there's also yet another men's group that views them as a second-class movement: pick-up artists. The "hyper-masculine" culture of pick-up artists just doesn't mesh with men who have decided to no longer pursue women. An article on Return of Kings, a PUA website, calls MGTOW "The creeping cult of male loserdom" and goes on to disparage the community.
"As it exists now, MGTOW has become a lonely hearts' club for the refuse of the male species," wrote Matt Forney, the article's author. "Not only are most Virgins Going Their Own Way personally repellent losers, their 'philosophy' is completely wrongheaded."
The "manosphere" snake is starting to eat itself.
The MGTOW community's history is murky, but it was most likely birthed in the mid to early 2000s by two men who go by the online aliases of Solaris and Ragnar. A little over a decade ago a MGTOW manifesto was drafted.
This original manifesto stands in stark contrast to the definition that is currently offered by MGTOW.com. It begins with the declaration, "The goal is to instill [sic] masculinity in men, femininity in women, and work toward limited government!" before adding that in order for men to be masculine, women must first lose their masculine traits. It then goes on to say, "Women have other qualities is [sic] not interesting to men because we don't need them! Femininity will be the price women pay for enjoying masculinity in men."
Since that time, the movement has exploded in westernized English-speaking countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. According to MGTOW.com, the epicenter of men going their own way is Toronto because the center of the Canadian universe "is the worst city in the world if you are a man." The community has quietly flown under the radar of the public for some time now, only being publicized by right wing publication Breitbart, who deemed the movement the "Sexodous," and Info Wars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. (Both articles had a significant anti-feminist lean.)
An Infowars video on the subject
However, MGTOW isn't the revolutionary movement many of its followers hold it up to be, nor is it even a new concept. Throughout the ages, similar movements have popped up as pushback any time feminism managed a win. Communities similar to MGTOW and MRAs were around during the suffragist movement, when women began entering the workforce, and so on. In the 80s and 90s, the mythopoetic men's movement developed as a response to the second wave of feminism.
The cycle is a reactionary one.
Dr. Tristan Bridges is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the College of Brockport and works with the scholarly journal Men, Masculinities, and Methodologies. Bridges's work deals in depth with gender issues specifically focused on masculinity. I asked him to explain MGTOW and the history of similar movements from a scholar's position.
"When we look at the historical record that's what it shows: Men start to get pissed off and want to talk about masculinity and change masculinity right after there has been some sort of transformation in femininity," Bridges said. "When these kinds of things come up, I think historians would say something significant has happened with respect to gender inequality that men are feeling their position of privilege as challenged and this is a cultural reaction that takes place after that happens."
There are numerous factors at play here and another major one possibly driving the movement is "gender vertigo." This is a concept put forward by Barbara Risman that deals with gender expectations and ties into the sense that we don't really know what it means to be masculine anymore.
But it's hard to listen to any concerns—valid or otherwise—coming from the "manosphere" when these groups employ such disrespectful and, at times, hateful rhetoric.
I don't know what it means to be masculine either, but I am pretty sure it doesn't involve five levels of excommunicating women from their lives.
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