Fear of a cuck planet
December 19, 2016 8:18 AM   Subscribe

So what does it mean, then, to be a cuckold? In the Red Pill framework, it’s easy to slot in: liberals and progressives have sacrificed their masculinity, their ‘manhood’ (whatever that is) and their time-honoured place in the world, undergoing a metaphorical castration and degradation to appease their ‘Blue Pill’ phantasms of equality. Yet surely metaphor cannot fully account for the use of a term so rooted in racialised (or out-and-out racist) pornography and, further back, the insecurities of white slave owners. It is here that the connection between frustrated sexuality, white-pride race hatred, and distrust of liberal society (and all its permissive permutations) intersect most clearly. posted by modernserf (174 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
*toxic masculinity intensifies*
posted by lalochezia at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2016 [62 favorites]


My dad just discovered the term 'cuckservative' (and then determined that by the given definition, he is one) and... yeah, I never ever ever want to have that conversation again. *shudder*
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


Related -- what happens when a Ghostbro who spent most of 2016 trashing the new Ghostbusters movie actually sits down and WATCHES it?

Link

Answer: Douchebaggery.
posted by ELF Radio at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is this really that hard?

It stopped being quite as socially acceptable to call someone a three-letter slur for "homosexual" (with the implication of it being a man who is un-manly). The shitstains who still want to say such things came up with a new word to slot into the same place in their dialogue.
posted by tocts at 8:26 AM on December 19, 2016 [98 favorites]


Another perspective:
Here, the figure of viewer identification is not one of the participants, but the cuckolded husband; the viewer is not just watching, but watching the process of watching. The husband is forced to observe, sometimes masturbating, always ashamed of himself: cuckold porn is a metapornography, in which the viewer of the traditional pornographic film is himself inserted into the mise-en-scène to become the cathected object, a pornography at once narcissistic and utterly castrated. But power reproduces itself here: the wife and her lover are only spectacle, mute amusement, while the husband is spectator, or in other words subject. Cuckoldry is the real embodiment of the universal white male subject, the sourceless gaze that sees everything and desires everything and categorises everything while touching nothing; far from representing the crisis of white masculine dominance, it’s the agony of its realisation.
posted by modernserf at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2016 [41 favorites]


I really really dislike the use of red pill and blue pill in this way. I don't know why, and maybe I'm just getting a little bit ornery/off my lawnish, but I feel like it's an insult to the Matrix.
posted by INFJ at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2016 [70 favorites]


"but I feel like it's an insult to the Matrix."

and to Dayquil
posted by I-baLL at 8:32 AM on December 19, 2016 [138 favorites]


Man, when I was a wee undergraduate studying Renaissance literature, I never thought that the giant field of nervous-masculinity cuckold jokes would come back around again IN THIS ENORMOUS YEAR OF REGRESSION.

If anyone wants me I'll be in my closet.
posted by Hypatia at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2016 [79 favorites]


/me tries to give a shit about understanding the puerile minds of those who suffer toxic masculinity; fails.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:35 AM on December 19, 2016 [52 favorites]


Hypatia,

Would you mind expanding on that connection? It sounds really interesting.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


INFJ: "I really really dislike the use of red pill and blue pill in this way. I don't know why, and maybe I'm just getting a little bit ornery/off my lawnish, but I feel like it's an insult to the Matrix."

Especially as the Wachowski Brothers are no longer brothers.

Crikey, my hate for these fools can only be rarely paralleled in modern history. As a guy, they embarrass me and make me ashamed.
posted by Samizdata at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


Sangermaine: "Hypatia,

Would you mind expanding on that connection? It sounds really interesting.
"

Seconding. Please, Hypatia?
posted by Samizdata at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2016


I feel like it's an insult to the Matrix

The film was made by two transgender women whose work, dating back to Bound, has been set in worlds in which white men are not always the central characters (and I would include The Matrix in this, as Keanu Reeves is multiracial), and in which gender and race is often quite fluid (as in Cloud Atlas). And the dude who says the red pill and blue pill line is a black dude and is a member of Zion, a revolutionary world led by a council that is half women and half people of color, with only one white male on the council --

Well, yes. It's a metaphor that seems borrowed by people who didn't actually see the film.
posted by maxsparber at 8:43 AM on December 19, 2016 [166 favorites]


Hypatia, that sounds like a necessary FPP.
posted by baltimoretim at 8:45 AM on December 19, 2016


Between this and the previous thread, I have to ask, is today headache-inducing prose day?
posted by jonmc at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


maxsparber: "I feel like it's an insult to the Matrix

The film was made by two transgender women whose work, dating back to Bound, has been set in worlds in which white men are not always the central characters (and I would include The Matrix in this, as Keanu Reeves is multiracial), and in which gender and race is often quite fluid (as in Cloud Atlas). And the dude who says the red pill and blue pill line is a black dude and is a member of Zion, a revolutionary world led by a council that is half women and half people of color, with only one white male on the council --

Well, yes. It's a metaphor that seems borrowed by people who didn't actually see the film.
"

I am quite sure they viewed the movie, often multiple times, but I would agree they didn't see it. What they saw were GUNS, STUNTS, HOT CHICKS IN LATEX, and MARTIAL ARTS!
posted by Samizdata at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2016 [72 favorites]


when I was a wee undergraduate studying Renaissance literature, I never thought that the giant field of nervous-masculinity cuckold jokes would come back around again IN THIS ENORMOUS YEAR OF REGRESSION.

Sadly, it took me a while to realize that it wasn't just an attempt at anachronism.
posted by corb at 8:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Huh I had no idea they were involved with Cloud Atlas. Maybe that explains why I liked it so much.

(I find not a lot of people actually liked Cloud Atlas while I found it awesome and mindblowingly cool. I also liked all three matrix movies..)

/derail
posted by INFJ at 8:50 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can't speak for Hypatia, but cuckold jokes are all over Shakespeare. Shakespeare's like a good 5% horns puns. Merry Wives of Windsor, maybe 25%. I'm sure contemporary pornography and America's 400 year history of race-hatred have evolved the genre in interesting ways, but it's older than both.

There's also the famous legend about Shakes himself and one of his actors, "William the Conqueror comes before Richard." It's cuckold jokes all the way down, IRL and out.
posted by Diablevert at 8:51 AM on December 19, 2016 [26 favorites]


Also Chaucer, right? I remember there were an impressive number of fart (or farte) and sexual humiliation jokes in Chaucer and Shakespeare.
posted by witchen at 8:52 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Re: Renaissance literature and cuckolding, another one-word answer would be Molière.

Among other pieces awash in cuckold jokes, he wrote The Imaginary Cuckold.

My favorite French literature prof liked to show how much power Molière quietly gave the women characters in his plays, but that same prof also enjoyed eviscerating any misogyny on show.
posted by fraula at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


It stopped being quite as socially acceptable to call someone a three-letter slur for "homosexual" (with the implication of it being a man who is un-manly). The shitstains who still want to say such things came up with a new word to slot into the same place in their dialogue.

Part of the reason I find the "cuck" phenomenon so fascinating is that the people who use the term are fantasizing about themselves as the cuck'd; the erotic fantasies of cuck porn are indistinguishable from the Red Pill model of society. This is a little Psych 101, but its tempting to see cuck/sissy porn and the "alt-right" as parallel reactions to internalized self-hatred towards failed masculinity -- the porn revels in the sexual humiliation; the political movement is a reaction formation against it.
posted by modernserf at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2016 [32 favorites]




Since white nationalism's hottest new demographic is sexually frustrated college boys, one can only assume they had to read Othello in College Prep English, and only took away one thing from the play.
posted by MuppetNavy at 8:56 AM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Also, (outside of the internet) I have never heard anyone use this word.
posted by jonmc at 8:56 AM on December 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I agree with tocts that "cuck" is used as the new "f*g."

I think there's a bit more going than the metapornography aspect since the "voyer husband" has been a long-standing trope (especially associated with swingers) that doesn't involve explicit cuckolding. Rather I see "cuck" coming out of some very specific, "forced" D/s, feminization, and "bi" porn narratives. The cuckold isn't just a voyeur, he's feminized, insulted, and frequently humiliated into same-sex acts (usually as a "bottom.")

I'm more familiar than I'd like to be because it seems difficult to find bi erotic work these days that isn't also "cuckold," at least on the usual sites. It's one reason why I'm rather pushy on a distinction between "gay/bi" and MSM/MSMW because heterosexism has always had room for exceptions as long as they were sandboxed as such and masculinity affirmed for the "top."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:56 AM on December 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also, the white supremacist, misogynist fartwits (hat tip to the Chaucer reference) would do well to keep in mind Molière's last line from the play: "You have seen how the strongest evidence can still plant a false belief in the mind. Remember well this example, and even when you see everything, never believe anything."
posted by fraula at 8:57 AM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm pretty sure they've seen The Matrix and that they would find any critical analysis of the film with regards to race and gender to be liberal blue-pill cuck-talk.

They literally feel that their views represent "the real world", it's as simple as that. They believe going down their red pill rabbit hole of truth will expose how you can manipulate "the matrix" aka the web of PC lies and left-wing gender-studies bullshit that only exists to try and emasculate alpha dawgz, who simply don't realize that all you have to do to get laid whenever you want is be totally alpha AF.

Rape culture, feminism, or even the word "systemic" is PC liberal lefty talk that non-STEMs made up out of thin air to guilt-trip REAL MEN and they will tune out upon hearing it.
posted by windbox at 9:01 AM on December 19, 2016 [37 favorites]


I don't get any of this new internet stuff. Lets go back to pictures of cats and weird porn, because that somehow is a lot more normal then this.
posted by geoff. at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Between this and the previous thread, I have to ask, is today headache-inducing prose day?

Yeah I found the field reporting from Reddit interesting but was defeated by the confusing analysis.
posted by johngoren at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2016


I do find it fascinating that their nuclear-grade insult completely lays bare their worst fears. These are the same men who advise each other to only date very young, manipulable women who are pretty much virgins and "like sex but not too much".

Because they don't want to make any effort to be good in bed, so they need a girl who won't know better. And the worst thing that could happen would be another man - of color! - to come along and show your girl what she's missing because you're such a miserable shitstain.

And then they masturbate to porn about exactly that.

Also, I delight in the reactions of human men, who are like "are you also going to bite your thumb at me?"
posted by Lyn Never at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2016 [58 favorites]


Fear of cuckoldry is all over the early modern period--one of the likely targets of a skimmington was a husband perceived to have acquiesced in the adultery of his wife.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, basically what Diablevert said.

Anytime in Shakespeare (or in any other Renaissance drama) you see a reference to "horns", it's a cuckoldry joke. Like Beatrice "there will the devil meet me, like an old cuckold, with horns on his head" literalizes it (Much Ado, II.1). There are tons of jokes about Benedict wearing horns in that play -- and he makes them himself. Because it's a comedy and he's not married yet, we can read them as lighthearted jokes -- in comedies, the hero's friends joke about horns before he's married. Like, why would you ever get married, your wife's going to cheat on you anyway and dishonor your manhood. But he gets married in the end, so it's a comedy!

(Oh wait, though, the other strand in Much Ado About Nothing is about the public humiliation and slut-shaming of Beatrice's friend Hero, who is caught up in a plot to dishonor her fiance by making it appear like she's cheating on him. So how are we supposed to read all these jokes?)

Jokes about cuckoldry are everywhere, and in a lot of the plays it's one of those "well we just make these jokes! it's gentle ribbing! we joke about it all the time it doesn't mean you take it seriously even if you're married."

But then:
IAGO How is it, general? have you not hurt your head?

OTHELLO Dost thou mock me?

IAGO I mock you! no, by heaven.
Would you would bear your fortune like a man!

OTHELLO A horned man's a monster and a beast.

IAGO There's many a beast then in a populous city,
And many a civil monster.
In my opinion the cuckoldry jokes are probably the most common form of uncertain-masculinity discourse in early modern English drama. Look at all the ways we, in modern times, denigrate men's masculinity: Too feminine! Too weak! Too gay! Those tropes come up in early modern drama too, but not nearly to the extent of cuckoldry.

And that's the thing about cuckoldry: it has to have women at its center but it's never about the actual woman. Don John just wants to ruin Claudio's life! Iago just wants to ruin Othello's life!

Well, Hero comes back to life at the end because it's a comedy, but we all know what happens to Emilia and Desdemona.
posted by Hypatia at 9:08 AM on December 19, 2016 [69 favorites]


I’d been aware of Reddit for a while without ever spending much time on the site, but an interest in certain niche-y topics, combined with a general lack of savvy concerning more obscure (and more interesting) websites, led me around this time to start visiting a few subreddits on a semi-regular basis.

Am I the only one who struggled to find the good bits in this article amidst all the eyerolling? Guy needs an editor.

For what it is worth, I find the Baudrillardian aspect of The Matrix the most interesting when we are talking alt supremacist nonsense and the reactionary mood of 2016. The notion of the simulacra is being played out before our eyes (the distinction of reality and representation dissolves; truth and originality as meaningless concepts). I am pretty sure the alt supremacist boys shouting cuck on the internet have no idea what they are really re-enacting from The Matrix, but as I watch the world slowly starting to burn, I take small/grim satisfaction in how the cuck boys would really hate Baudrillard and yet there they/we are.
posted by kariebookish at 9:09 AM on December 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


praemunire: "Fear of cuckoldry is all over the early modern period--one of the likely targets of a skimmington was a husband perceived to have acquiesced in the adultery of his wife."

Today I learned a skimmington was something other than a snotty, inbred caricature of English nobility.

I already knew the redpillers sucked long before this though. Should we discuss the intersection of redpillers and incels?
posted by Samizdata at 9:19 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


This always seemed like one of those things where the subtext was basically text, tbh.
posted by PMdixon at 9:20 AM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Should we discuss the intersection of redpillers and incels?
Once you've taken the red pill aren't you supposed to go volcel
posted by modernserf at 9:23 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chaucer weaves the most scurrilous of his Canterbury Tales around the fear of being a cuckold ("cokewold"), and it's the pivot of the wife of Bath's tale, too.
posted by jamjam at 9:26 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


You can't swing a cat without running into some fear of cuckoldry in English literature, especially pre-modern.
posted by apricot at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


modernserf: " Should we discuss the intersection of redpillers and incels?
Once you've taken the red pill aren't you supposed to go volcel
"

No, because you realize you need to sexxor ALL the women as to break their hold on huMANity and teach them their proper place. /sarcasm
posted by Samizdata at 9:36 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "cuckholded husband" role in porn has to be a great job. The others do the real work while you sit off to the side of the frame and look mildly chagrined.
posted by dr_dank at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2016 [37 favorites]


If society is really that ‘liberal’, then all that goes to show is the paucity of that concept, and what little relationship it has to the values of a struggle that is non-nominal: anticapitalism, antiracism, antifascism, unionism, and so on.
...
It’s a heady brew of white men unable to find fault within themselves, instead needing to locate blame elsewhere, anywhere else, and unable to handle a loss of privilege – or, even less: a loss of unanimous agreement.


The wording is a little overwrought, but I agree. In many cases, what these losers are railing against isn't even a loss of privilege, it's just that the people they want to step on aren't being as adoring as they would like. It's not a complaint about economics, or rights (or at least it isn't beyond a surface level), it's a complaint about respect and social acceptability.
posted by codacorolla at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's this weird dynamic to both Trump and the alt-right/gamergaters/red pillers where they accuse others of the things they themselves do and by extension, their insults are their own insecurities.

Trump: The election is rigged for Hillary
Reality: hey GOP voter suppression and gerrymandering rigged the election for me

Trump: Drain the swamp (get rid of corrupt lobbyists)
Reality: hires industry-connected people to run departments that they'll benefit from running

Red pillers: you're a cuck
Reality: they sit and masturbate to porn while someone else fucks a woman (e.g. they're a virtual cuckold)
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on December 19, 2016 [22 favorites]


In my opinion the cuckoldry jokes are probably the most common form of uncertain-masculinity discourse in early modern English drama.

With gay panic a close second. These two themes comprise like 60% of the Childe Ballads, with rape being the other 40%.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:02 AM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


This really confuses me, though, because the cuckold porn I've seen is pretty definitely set up to position the viewer in the role of the cuckold? I agree that it's being used by these idiots as an insult akin to "fag," but there's evidently some market in which it's a sexy thing, to be dominated by a woman or a [usually black] man. Do these two groups intersect?
posted by OmieWise at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2016


The "cuck" things seems to me more of a rallying cry to more deeply "other" ideological opponents, rather than insult per se, because are the people being called "cucks" actually offended by it? Of course this is all in a Western context. Calling men in a lot of the world a "cuck" would be life-threatening business (to you as a liar, to your target's wife if you're a truth-teller).
posted by MattD at 10:11 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I lurked on some of these boards for a while, and these guys are absolutely obsessed with the idea that every married woman is passing off her lovers' children as her husband's. To the point where they honestly believe it would be a good use of taxpayer money to routinely run DNA paternity tests on every newborn whether the parents want it or not. They compare notes on the best ways to get secret vasectomies. Whenever child abuse comes up, someone's bound to bring up how understandable it is given the emotional stress of not knowing whether the child is yours or not.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:14 AM on December 19, 2016 [33 favorites]


these guys are absolutely obsessed with the idea that every married woman is passing off her lovers' children as her husband's.

It's so odd that in spite of being endless obsessed with women that these men know less than zero about them and are determined to make up fictions about women to somehow assuage their sexual frustration.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


Modernserf:
Can someone decipher that writing for me? It makes me feel genuinely of substandard intellect. I find his sarcasm amusing, but I'm having a hard time understanding the themes/point.
posted by constantinescharity at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2016


GuyZero I think you're right-- unhappy, uncentered people project a lot. I'm sort of baffled by this phenomenon centered around a Chaucerian-era theme. I guess it's interesting from a cultural perspective that so many people are projecting this at this moment. But -- I mean-- weird.
posted by mrdaneri at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "cuck" things seems to me more of a rallying cry to more deeply "other" ideological opponents, rather than insult per se, because are the people being called "cucks" actually offended by it

Exactly, I had a longer post typed out but I think this is less of an insult like nigger or fag, then it is an expression of discontent.

The whole Trump community of alt-right, gamergate, red pill thing really confuses me but I think it harbors something more then just casual Internet drama and a dissatisfaction with the way things are going. Someone smarter then myself will hopefully crack it but simply labeling this as misogynist I think is a bit superficial, as is comparing this to English lit where cuck and treating women as property is not what really is going on here.

There's a deep uncertainty with a large portion of the population that is brewing and resulted in all this. I don't get it, but I think dismissing it as a bunch of virgins or disenfranchised teens is the sort of mindset that saw the last election happen. Being back home for the holidays has showed me that people really aren't okay with things, but there's no hot button issue. Gay marriage? Begrudging acceptance or shoulder shrug. Weed? Sure why not. Any actual social or political issue actually seems to skew liberal, but there's this weird fear the coastal elites are out to get them. To an extent I get that, the media is incredibly skewed toward the large cities for practical reasons.

In any case I find this more of a counter-culture movement then anything else, it almost feels punk. There's no religious or idealogical aspect other then some internet memes and vagueness. It is just "be alpha male!" or "another cuck!"

I'm not defending this at all, but I think dismissing this as another weird movement like Quiverfull is missing the broader point.
posted by geoff. at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


With gay panic a close second. These two themes comprise like 60% of the Childe Ballads, with rape being the other 40%.

And one example of blood libel.

Amazing how we Jews always get sucked into this stuff. I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH SIR HUGH.
posted by maxsparber at 10:29 AM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


The closest analogy I've seen is similar to the radicalization of ISIS youth via the internet. Red pill represents (to me) a way to radicalize the angry white denizen of the internet in a way that slips under the radar. Codes, memes, message boards, so on to organize and disseminate hate that can be manipulated.
posted by msbutah at 10:35 AM on December 19, 2016 [23 favorites]


Especially as the Wachowski Brothers are no longer brothers.

Don't fucking do this, eh? It's not cool to misgender people, even (or especially) if it's in order to point out that they're trans. It's like saying "that dude isn't a dude", which like, why are you fucking calling her a dude then? Call a bloody spade a spade, and a trans woman a woman. Always.
posted by Dysk at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


The "cuck" things seems to me more of a rallying cry to more deeply "other" ideological opponents, rather than insult per se, because are the people being called "cucks" actually offended by it

Slurs serve two different purposes (at least). One is obviously to insult, but the other is to create in-group solidarity by defining the "other."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Don't fucking do this, eh?

My read was not that of a dig or misgendering of the Wachowski siblings. When the Matrix came out, it was "Wachowski brothers this" and "Wachowski brothers that".
posted by notsnot at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2016 [25 favorites]


The closest analogy I've seen is similar to the radicalization of ISIS youth via the internet. Red pill represents (to me) a way to radicalize the angry white denizen of the internet in a way that slips under the radar. Codes, memes, message boards, so on to organize and disseminate hate that can be manipulated.

I've mentioned it on here before, but I think a really dangerous aspect of this is the feedback loop between fan spaces dedicated to fantasy media (games, anime, comics) and the supremacist ideology of the alt-right. These spaces proved a fertile ground for it to grow perhaps because they were already a gathering spot for people who felt dissatisfied with their own masculinity and place in the world. I've long wondered how natural this was, and if there was any planning behind it.
posted by codacorolla at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


It was, but it isn't now, and this thread is happening now and not when the Matrix came out. Intent isn't magic. Don't call trans women men, or brothers. Fuck's sake, it's not complicated.
posted by Dysk at 11:00 AM on December 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


One of the chapters in my dissertation is about the 19th century novel He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope. Spoiler Alert: he wasn’t right.

It is about this guy, Louis Trevelyan, who accuses his wife Emily of having an affair. He knows she isn’t having one, but he’s pissed off that she won’t apologize for the affair she isn’t having.

The rest of the book is him going slowly insane because his wife won’t apologize for something she didn’t do. He kidnaps their toddler child away from her (a lot of this is commentary on 19th century custody laws). He keeps forcing her to move to new houses and reducing her allowance. He keeps telling everyone he knows that she had an affair (that she didn’t have, and that everyone knows she didn’t have). He feels humiliated and miserable because his wife has her own opinions and sometimes they disagree with his, and so he spends the rest of the novel destroying her life, their son’s life (a lot of the book is also about how being stolen from his mother at a formative age and forced to wander the world with his incel father who focuses on drinking himself to death all day long is incredibly damaging), and his own (he dies, still insisting that his wife is “guilty” of a thing he knows she never did).

There’s a fantastic article from critic Christopher Herbert about how the underlying tension of the entire novel is that Louis wants his wife to playact that they are in a modern marriage of loving equals, but that he wants her to behave as terrified chattel whose life depends on pleasing him in every particular. When she doesn’t (because she thinks that is unmitigated bullshit), he destroys her life and steals their child.

It’s terrifying to see how many Louis Trevelyans are walking around in 2016, furious that women are allowed to think their own thoughts, and apoplectic that some men have been “duped” into believing that this state of affairs should be considered normal. (Louis doesn’t use the word cuck, but every time another man in the novel suggests that his wife hasn’t done anything wrong, he says something like “she’s gotten to you!”)

He doesn’t like his unhappy feelings, but instead of figuring out where they are coming from, he crafts an elaborate narrative of persecution and betrayal that feels true to him, and he sticks to it. It reminds me so much of all the people who love fake news— it doesn’t matter that none of it makes sense, that there is no evidence, that these theories hold not a single drop of water. These stories feel true. They give people reasons to hate people they already hate.

(Another funny thing about HKHWR— everyone in the novel keeps thinking “aren’t we over this fear of cuckoldry? Aren’t we modern people? Doesn’t he know women are people? Where is he getting this from?” Even in the 1860s, people thought the cuck obsession was bizarre and outdated.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2016 [149 favorites]


(Seems like Dysk is missing Samizdata's point, or I am. I thought his point was that the appropriation of the red pill/blue pill idea by the goofball brigade was particularly bizarre given that the filmmakers are very outside what the G.B. likely views as acceptable models of masculinity.)
posted by uberchet at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Shakespeare is only partially representative of English cuckold discourse during the early modern period. There were two basic cuckold types. The first was the obsessively jealous husband. These plots do tend to be primarily focused on the husband and the lover. Shakespeare is atypical in that these sorts of plays usually involve wives who really are seeking lovers. For instance, in Middleton's A Mad World, My Masters, the jealous husband sets up a constant watch over his house (where his wife is essentially imprisoned by him) and her lover disguises himself as a doctor to gain admittance. Pathologically jealous husbands fit easily into both comic and tragic plots and are frequently found in humoural comedies, which depict characters driven to inappropriate action by an excess of uncontrolled emotion.

The second was the husband complicit in his own cuckoldry. This character type appears all over the place in urban comedies and is usually connected to the growth of capitalism. The willing cuckold is the archetypal figure of the merchant who will sell anything, turning his own wife into a prostitute for some hope of material gain. In Dekker and Middleton's The Honest Whore 1, the willing cuckold is a draper who justifies his lax behavior by saying, "We are set here to please all customers, / Their humours and their fancies, offend none." His wife is deeply perturbed by the fact that her husband never gets angry and makes out with her pretended lover in front of her husband and all his employees in an unsuccessful attempt to irritate him. In Middleton's cuckold-packed A Chaste Maid at Cheapside, a willing husband lives happily on the money his wife's lover gives to her. Another character impregnates women every time he has sex and earns the money to support his many children by impregnating the wife of an impotent man who foolishly thinks he has a special fertility potion. In Jonson's Volpone, a pathologically jealous husband is tricked into allowing Volpone (who he wrongly believes is impotent) to share a bed with his wife in the hope that Volpone will leave his wealth to the husband, turning amusingly from the first type to the second type once there's profit in sight.

Yes, their masculinity has broken down, but this breakdown is one part of the breakdown of the old economic order. The willing cuckold is the masculine counterpart to the prostitute, inappropriately valuing wealth over order. The insecurity about masculinity is supposed to be felt by the audience rather than the blithely secure characters.

If we want to sketch a historical genealogy of today's use of the term among deplorables, the second type seems more pertinent, since in my (limited) encounters with the term in the wild, it seems to refer to people who know or should know that their actions have destroyed the traditional social order. Jealous men like Othello don't really line up with this usage. The treatment of free trade as a form of cuckoldry looks especially similar to early modern connections between the symbolic relationship between cuckoldry and trade. Both appeal to a supposed past of better economic relations, and the cuckold is a metonymic figure for the representatives of the new order.

The difference between "cuckold" and gay slurs is that the cuckold is a triangulated figure. The cuckold is the citizen who is symbolically wed to his country but happily allows other countries to take advantage of it. It refers not to deficient masculinity in general, but to a deficiently masculine relationship to one's possessions. In that way its adoption by the new nationalists fits into a long history of the cuckold as the figure of capitalism run amok.
posted by vathek at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2016 [52 favorites]


Seems like Dysk is missing Samizdata's point, or I am

I think it might be two different points existing in rhetorical tension. Probably best if we acknowledge that even with good intent finding a non-hurtful way to use a third party's gender identity and past to make a point is awfully difficult and better avoided, and let it drop.
posted by cortex at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


Can someone decipher that writing for me?

I recognize that this writing is rather dense, especially if you're lacking context. Here's some background and an abstract of the article:

in 2005, Neil Strauss wrote a book called "The Game" which documented and popularized the pickup artist lifestyle. Pickup artist techniques became popular with self-described "nice guys" who had trouble interacting with women.

Pickup artist techniques don't work, but a lot of men came to see the culprit as feminism, not their own grossness. A pickup artist calling himself Roosh V capitalized on this, combining pickup artist techniques with antifeminist & men's rights rhetoric.

Sometime in the last 5 years or so this coalesced into "red pill" theory (with r/TheRedPill as the home base), which states that women are sexually attracted to bad boys (alpha males) but want to partner with nice guys (beta males); therefore women are constantly cheating on their beta partners with alpha males. This is often stated as the 80/20 rule: 20% of the men will sleep with 80% of the women. Feminism emasculates men and trains them to be cuckolded betas; redpill is intended to be the force against this.

The linked articles explore how the redpill model of the world is essentially a straight-faced retelling of cuck porn as fact. Of particular note is how this unifies antiblackness with antifeminism -- black "bulls" are the co-conspirators with white women in these cuckolding scenarios. Though there is no factual basis for this theory, it has many parallels with other fascist mythology. The redpill movement essentially promises to restore the (nonexistent) natural order of dominant men and submissive women; a micro counterpart to the macro "Make America Great Again."
posted by modernserf at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2016 [52 favorites]


The primary "truth" of the alt-right - the thing that the red pill is supposed to wake you up to - is that modern society is racist toward whites and sexist against men, and that liberals, leftists, and so-called "elites" are responsible. They honestly see themselves as victims.
The real truth, of course, is that when you're used to privilege equality feels like oppression, but they don't believe in the concept of white and/or male privilege (ironically choosing the blue pill on that one).

As victims of an oppressive society, they not only blame their oppressors but also those they see as silent enablers - other white men who aren't resisting and fighting back like they are. In many ways, the insult "cuck" is analogous to that of "Uncle Tom" in the civil rights struggle.
posted by rocket88 at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2016 [32 favorites]


I'm wondering how much of the "cuckold" fear actually comes from some of the economic anxiety of no longer having the financial wherewithal to perform that kind of larger-than-life masculinity. If you're wanting a "traditional" relationship, but you can't afford to actually support your wife, if you think that's the trade, then you may fear someone else coming along with the money and power to take her away from you.

I'm also reminded vaguely of the way Caesar was known to sleep with his opponent's wives as a way to demonstrate power, and of the way that some of the alt-right have odd classical fetishes but only around certain people in certain times. It could also be a response to not having political power - like "your ideals may be ascendant, but One Of My Kind Is Still Sexxing Your Wife!"
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, a little more explicitly this time: drop the back-and-forth about misgendering at this point, all around.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm also reminded vaguely of the way Caesar was known to sleep with his opponent's wives as a way to demonstrate power, and of the way that some of the alt-right have odd classical fetishes but only around certain people in certain times.

Haven't we all been dreaming that a Republican senator will open his eyes and say "I don't nap for just anyone!"
posted by Hypatia at 11:44 AM on December 19, 2016


I'm wondering how much of the "cuckold" fear actually comes from some of the economic anxiety of no longer having the financial wherewithal to perform that kind of larger-than-life masculinity

The people who love to use these terms are mostly middle-to-upper-class white dudes. I'd wager that most of them aren't married, or are just plain single and bitter. This is only "economic anxiety" in the same way that it is (rightfully) used to parody the inability of the same people who think "both sides do it" is a valid response to conservative craziness to call bigotry out by name.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


vathek The cuckold is the citizen who is symbolically wed to his country but happily allows other countries to take advantage of it.

In which case Trump's Mirror strikes again, because the only people in today's America who fit that description are, of course, the very RP/PUA/MRA/Incel creeps who obsessively use the word cuck to describe their political opponents.

I find their word both odd and inevitable at the same time.

Odd because for all that it's supposedly an insult, I've never met a single person who actually felt insulted when called a cuck. I've been called a cuck on many occasions by various right wingers and my strongest reaction was some eye rolling. For an insult it's strikingly not insulting.

Yet, despite the puzzlement over a non-insulting insult, a slur that doesn't, I find the sudden spread of the word to all corners of the right wing awful world to be almost inevitable.

Mostly because of the racism involved with modern cuck fetish porn, something I dug into while arguing with a person about a Nickelodeon TV show called Bella and the Bulldogs (the TL;DR is that among the white supremacist awful people that show is viewed as poison for young male minds to condition them into being cucks).

Modern cuck porn is about as racist as a Klan meeting. There's a lot of awful involved in most modern porn, but the cuck stuff stands out for being as bad racially as the gonzo stuff is from a feminist perspective.

The entire point of cuck porn is that the cuck is humiliated by his wife having sex with black men who have large penises. That's it. And the blackness is not at all secondary, it's primary. The large penis part is only there because it fits racist stereotypes about black men as animalistic supermales who will stop at nothing to fuck white women.

I don't think it's at all a coincidence that the US right wing, which is becoming increasingly open about their racism, is trying to spread propaganda rooted in the same sexual insecurities and deep racism that were used to justify violence against black men for the whole of American history.

It is worth remembering that virtually every lunching was justified as protection of white women. It is worth remembering that fear of black men having sex with white women was one of the central emotional hooks used during slavery to justify oppression, torture, and murder, and after slavery to justify oppression, torture, and murder.

To imagine that the modern right wing just sort of stumbled across the word cuck and randomly picked it up is to engage in self delusion.

With one word that isn't yet so well established as a racist or homophobic slur the right can invoke both homophobia and racism at a level that's simultaneously visceral and titillating for them. It's one of the easiest and currently the best in group signifier that they have. Anyone willing to use that term is clearly on their side because while no one on the left finds it insulting to be called a cuck by them, we on the left do have a visceral reaction against using it because we understand the bigotry from which it comes.

The Underpants Monster On what you said about the right being obsessed with women passing off a lover's children as theirs, it fits in well as the sort of mirror image of their other obsession which is the idea that somehow their sperm is amazingly valuable and that all women will try to steal it to impregnate themselves. The way they go on and on about "spermjacking" and discuss protective measures to prevent a woman from stealing their sperm is both pathetic and telling.
posted by sotonohito at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2016 [45 favorites]


The cuckold...refers not to deficient masculinity in general, but to a deficiently masculine relationship to one's possessions. In that way its adoption by the new nationalists fits into a long history of the cuckold as the figure of capitalism run amok

There are specific types of men who follow my tumblr blog (I have pictures of my trans bewbs on it) who are into sissy/cuck porn and from what they privately message me, reblog and make comments on, it seems there is a desire in many of these men to be the one in power, to be cuckholding, not cuckholded. As if having violent sex with pretty trans women is a way for these men to show dominance over these "cucks" (trans women). I believe these men are indulging in fantasies that are driven by a desire to rape anyone who dares to undermine their masculinity as the central source of power and truth over what a male body is allowed to be, and how it shall be used.

...I would be remiss if I didn't admit a certain fascination to being one of these girls in the videos they pass around, but that's something I'm trying to work out in therapy instead.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


...spermjacking?

SPERMJACKING?

What the actual fuck. Why.
posted by corb at 11:48 AM on December 19, 2016 [23 favorites]


They honestly see themselves as victims. The real truth, of course, is that when you're used to privilege equality feels like oppression, but they don't believe in the concept of white and/or male privilege (ironically choosing the blue pill on that one).

They often are in fact significantly disadvantaged: by youth and inexperience, by being poor or physical and/or social misfits. They see the privilege levels expressed in media, ads, movies, tv, and feel that what Tony Stark is is owed to them, as part of the natural order. From this, they can construct a belief that they're being denied their "birthright" and so feel that this is their struggle.

It's very similar to the ideologies of fascism of the past, save with sexism and racism at the core, rather than nationalism.
posted by bonehead at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


From this, they can construct a belief that they're being denied their "birthright" and so feel that this is their struggle.

And the fact that they might be the first generation significantly and noticeably less privileged than their fathers could explain the timing of it all.
posted by rocket88 at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


@corb, because they're deeply insecure and suffering from a terminal case of fragile masculinity. Rather than face reality and become better people they retreat into a fantasy world where they're both envied and hated by all. Also because they're really vile people.

So they imagine that women just **pretend** to hate them, but really want their sperm so badly that they resort to desperate measures just for a bit of it. Hang around on some of the right subreddits and you'll encounter men, apparently in all seriousness, advising one another to wipe up after masturbating with Kleenex or other disposables so they can get rid of the mess of it by burning it immediately. This, you understand, is critical to prevent women from sneaking into their house and getting pregnant with any of their (incredibly valuable) sperm that they might carelessly leave behind on a sock or some other cloth wipe.

It's so bizarre and unrooted from reality that I'm not yet fully convinced any of them actually believe this stuff and it isn't just some elaborate form of sexual/political role playing game.
posted by sotonohito at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


But, from what we can see, the people who took the red pill weren't "released into reality," but just moved to a more convincing version of the Matrix: we see a Neo manipulate the red-pill reality as if it was the Matrix, we see an entity confined to the matrix "escape" to the red-pill reality and take over what was supposed to be a flesh-and-blood person, and other things that just don't make sense if the red pill reality was truly the real world. In other words, those who have taken the red pill offered by the alt-right are even more deluded than those who took the blue pill, or who never took a pill.
posted by Blackanvil at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


They often are in fact significantly disadvantaged: by youth and inexperience, by being poor or physical and/or social misfits.

Of all the things on that list, the only one that actually constitutes a significant disadvantage is being poor. I'm sorry, but being young, or a social misfit is just not on the same scale of disadvantaged in modern western society as being a woman, queer, or disabled (to list just a few examples).
posted by Dysk at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


The myth of a libertarian technocracy is that they should all be Tony Stark, when in reality, it's crushing work for declining wages, student debt, minimal job security, mandatory overtime, and emotional and physical burnout.

The sexual anxiety that technically-educated men are competing against the rich who can buy sex on the one-side and "alpha" men on the other is at least as old as the industrial revolution.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:01 PM on December 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


But, from what we can see, the people who took the red pill weren't "released into reality," but just moved to a more convincing version of the Matrix

This is a very convincing analysis of the second two films, yes, but the first Matrix film viewed in isolation (which is the way most people want to remember and experience it, probably) does nothing to support this interpretation.
posted by Dysk at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2016


you'll encounter men, apparently in all seriousness, advising one another to wipe up after masturbating with Kleenex or other disposables so they can get rid of the mess of it by burning it immediately. This, you understand, is critical to prevent women from sneaking into their house and getting pregnant with any of their (incredibly valuable) sperm that they might carelessly leave behind on a sock or some other cloth wipe.

I...I still can't wrap my brain around this horror but thank you for explaining that the problem is I just didn't look deep enough under the rocks these guys crawled out from.
posted by corb at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


Another aspect that differentiates current "cuck" talk and porn is that the porn is often either explicitly or implicitly based around the husband's desire to be cuckholded, to the point of setting it up or even basically forcing his wife to engage in the act. The husband then is the director or the creator of the spectacle, and in a sense the one in control of it, even as he is also the one who might be allegedly humiliated by it.

Coercing or forcing the wife to perform, allows the male view to remain dominant, the black male has little agency, he, of course, will agree since he, in this view, could do nothing other, while the woman is forced to accept the mutual dominance and, eventually, admit she was lying/hiding her true desire to subvert the relationship all along by her response to the black male. The husband's power comes from awareness of the hidden lies and the force by which he brings the truth to light. A self-fulfilling fantasy of decadent power.

With The Matrix, at least the first movie, the key elements are not that different than in most popular films. You can't trust anything. A superhero will come, usually a white male, and through learning to trust himself, will defeat the system and reveal the truth to all. The question being asked is not who you can trust, but who will trust you, the hero. That modern politics on both sides seems so tied to this same model is a little bit more than coincidental seeming to me given how completely dominant it has always been in films and other mass market media. That isn't to say Max's description was inaccurate in greater depth, it wasn't, but that the basic formula had already long been established and The Matrix adheres to the outlines pretty well. Like most huge commercial enterprises, the movie, in that sense, is reversible, able to be understood in ways that suit contradictory points of view by selective emphasis on detail.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


"I'm not yet fully convinced any of them actually believe this stuff and it isn't just some elaborate form of sexual/political role playing game"

Maybe it is. It's just the poor manipulated asses don't realise they're NPCs.
posted by edd at 12:08 PM on December 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


(I have pictures of my trans bewbs on it)

Hah! I couldn't parse "bewbs" at all, I kept trying to piece together what it was an acronym for. Finally got it.
posted by OmieWise at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm a little worried that I come off as that guy who wants to claim that economics are at the bottom of everything in my post on early modern cuckolding, which wasn't my intent at all. Racism and sexism are central and inextricable to the modern usage. I was trying to flesh out the quasi-derail about the early modern cuckolding and suggest how the historic use of the figure of the cuckold can help illuminate one not-entirely-obvious aspect of this paranoid worldview, but it sounded like an implicit claim about the relative importance of bigotry in a way I didn't at all intend.

I also don't want to come off as saying that the people who use the word have drawn inspiration from early modern theater. I'm sure they took the word from porn. The ideological echoes are still interesting to me regardless of the lack of direct influence.
posted by vathek at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm sorry, but being young, or a social misfit is just not on the same...

I completely agree with you. But unwillingness to exert themselves in the usual ways of self-improvement is part of this fascist fantasy, I think. Redpillers, like the PUA culture that preceded them, are about learning the cheat codes, getting instant gratification now, without the need for experience or self-work.

Neo's transformation was instant. He didn't go to therapy for years, or get a good job or train hard. He just suddenly Knew Kung-fu. He went from cubicle nerd to martial arts badass in five minutes.
posted by bonehead at 12:22 PM on December 19, 2016 [23 favorites]


I find it very interesting that folks using "cuckold" as an political insult supported a candidate who is very likely a cuckold. Dude is in his 70s, married to a smokeshow in her early 40s. The real "blue pill" in this equation is Viagra.
posted by Cranialtorque at 12:22 PM on December 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


"It'a not a fedora, you cuck, it's a trilby

What was that about 'cellar door' being the most beautiful phrase in the English language?
posted by Itaxpica at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


What was that about 'cellar door' being the most beautiful phrase in the English language?

Wasn't she a contestant on You Bet Your Life?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:42 PM on December 19, 2016


really the hilarious thing is that their most heinous slur, the thing that whips them up into the greatest froth known to humanity, is a word that prolly most people who see it just assume is a typo for cock or fuck, and laugh at the fools who can't even spell or who are so enraged about some imagined crime against their manhood that they can't type whilst consumed by their rage.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:43 PM on December 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've seen several Trumpgrets from people who say that Trump is a cuck because as soon as they committed themselves to him, he immediately betrayed their loyalty, going out and making bedfellows of other powerful men he had previously expressed a distaste for.

Uhhhh...
posted by ckape at 12:52 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know any of these folks well? I mean, are they having sex with one hand and building a house from scratch with the other? Real he-men, master of the universe types?

Or is this, as others have suggested, just a cesspool of basement neckbeard despair projection? Is any useful generalization possible?

This is so far outside of my frame of reference that I feel like a useful threat assessment is impossible for me.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's almost like "cuck" is a competently meaningless insult that simply means "someone I don't like" to the people who use the term. It's deployed in exactly the way "fag" used to be - to impugn someone's manhood.
posted by Dysk at 12:57 PM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


are they having sex with one hand

While cuckolding the other hand.
posted by maxsparber at 1:08 PM on December 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yes, their masculinity has broken down, but this breakdown is one part of the breakdown of the old economic order.

I do think that's an important point, that the emergence of cuckoldry and the figure of the willing cuckold become central dramatic fulcrums at that same early modern era. Because legitimacy is the lynchpin of the patriarchal, feudal system: When rightful power passes from father to son, when being of the true blood is what makes you worthy of power, noble, when power is birthright, then cuckoldry is the central threat to order, allowing false blood, the ignoble, a hidden route to access power. It's no accident that cuckoldry is the fulcrum of the entire sprawling plot of the ersatz medieval Game of Throne/SoIAF series.

Nor that the figure of the willing cuckold might emerge as a locus point of interest in drama at the same point in history when the feudal system itself was breaking down. England entered the Tudor period after devastating civil wars essentially wiped out nearly all the royal line, leaving the most "royal" candidate left on the board the grandson of a Welsh knight/the great grandson of a prince's bastard. Who himself when attaining the throne promoted "new men," eschewing the old noble orders, a practice his descendants largely upheld. When nobility is no longer the only sure route to power, legitimacy loses its salience; cash money may be of equal worth.
posted by Diablevert at 1:10 PM on December 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think an awful lot of this analysis of the finer points of "cuckold" in history and literature is very interesting, but thinking it's relevant perhaps gives way, way too much credit to the people actually using the word in the wild.
posted by Dysk at 1:16 PM on December 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think an awful lot of this analysis of the finer points of "cuckold" in history and literature is very interesting, but thinking it's relevant perhaps gives way, way too much credit to the people actually using the word in the wild.

I agree on this. If anything the current use of "cuck" comes directly from pornography, where the cuck is distinguished from the usual peeping-tom threesome fantasy through humiliation, feminization, and frequently penetration.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:25 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but what the red pillers are attempting is nothing less than the revival of explicit patriarchy. "Cuck" is only an insult if you buy into that, into that world view. The anxiety around that particular issue now at the same time as the economic order that upheld it is crumbling does to some degree parallel the similar anxieties that manifested in the past.

There's also a sort of self-abnegation there. In a partnership of equals based on mutual respect, etc. etc., for one partner to cheat is a terrible betrayal of trust on the cheater's part. But under the Red Pill view of the world, while the cheater is terrible, some portion of the blame is also due to the cheated upon --- if they had been a Real Man, she wouldn't have strayed. The betrayal is also an indictment. I think that's also true of how the figure plays in Shakespeare's day --- the cuckold is a figure of fun, of contempt, because being cuckolded isn't something that can happen to anybody, it's something that happens to the weak, to the foolish, to those unable to live up to their end of the bargain (elderly, impotent). The modern context for the re-emergence of this as a term of abuse has similar threads to the prior.
posted by Diablevert at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think an awful lot of this analysis of the finer points of "cuckold" in history and literature is very interesting, but thinking it's relevant perhaps gives way, way too much credit to the people actually using the word in the wild.

Sure, in the depth of reference, but there does seem to be a fairly strong link between talk of cucks and the self proclaimed "beta males" and their anger at, well, everything. So in that connection, cuck has some added significance as it ties to their view of themselves and women.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think an awful lot of this analysis of the finer points of "cuckold" in history and literature is very interesting, but thinking it's relevant perhaps gives way, way too much credit to the people actually using the word in the wild.

I want to point out that it's a misogynist worldview, continuing for at least 500 years (though varying in intensity at different times), that directly impacts women. Let me repeat: what are they literally saying, even though they don't understand it?

Not "you are weak".

Not "you are gay".

But "you can't exert sexual control over the women you are supposed to sexually control".

Even if there are no "actual women" in the picture, this is a game that is rhetorically played out over women's bodies. Women aren't even pieces, they're the playing field.

And what happens to women when asshole men feel they've lost control over "their" women? Shit like honor killings, that's what.
posted by Hypatia at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2016 [93 favorites]


Right, there are definitely important parallels in the worldviews, but the finer points of what distinguishes the cuck in literature or porn - what it is and isn't - is perhaps not so relevant when people are actually using it to just mean "not a Real Man (TM)" - like the dudes calling Trump a cuck for betraying their loyalty (which flies fully in the face of any definition linked to porn or Shakespeare). It's been genericised as an all-purpose insult.
posted by Dysk at 1:35 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


But people don't come up with it in a vacuum - whether consciously or not, the word has echoes, and I think it's worth examining which echoes may be playing in their heads.
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's been genericised as an all-purpose insult.

But, as with most insults, it is largely used against people based on its implications, rather than on it being literally true.

People who have embraced this slur may not be aware of the sociopolitical implications of its usage dating back centuries. But they are uncannily recreating that usage, so I don't think studying the history of the concept is irrelevant. It is essential to understand the foundational anxieties of any given era/culture, whether or not every person feeling anxious understands the entire set of connotations of the words they are using.

This is a word that would have been considered weird, awkward, laughable, by this same group of people, fifteen years ago. That it has resurfaced with such a vengeance-- and in such a wide variety of contexts-- means that something is going on. Understanding what that is, and how we can fight it, is essential.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


It's been genericised as an all-purpose insult.

There are many things that have been genericized as all-purpose insults, and that have now become unacceptable once again to use. The word "retarded" comes to mind.

If I decided I could start using, say, a Latin term that meant "one who can't exert control over his slaves" as a general all-purpose insult, and it just took off in popularity, it might be reasonable to study that term and why it would become so popular in spite of / because of its meaning.
posted by Hypatia at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I agree with Hypatia, the origins of the word do matter, even if it's become somewhat normalized to a generic term of demasculinization and derision (and I would argue that many of the people who use it are using it the way described in the FPP).
posted by codacorolla at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


For much of history, mocking someone as a cuckold was just as likely to mean "his wife is allowed to speak her mind, and he gladly listens" as "his wife sleeps around". In a post-GGate world, this seems important to recognize. We have a political and cultural movement dedicated to silencing women, in an economy where the production of written "content", much of it packaged as "thinkpieces", can provide significant income. Silencing women is not merely a marital practice today, or a personal preference. It is a way to remove half our population from economic centers.

That people using the slur might not fully understand this is not the point. But women being told "just delete your twitter account" or "just don't read the comments (even though interacting with your audience is known to help grow a career today)" is, in a way, a form of taxation, or barring the doors of a specific marketplace to a certain subset of people.

The President of the United States is about to be someone who thinks women shouldn't speak. These forces are operating in tandem. Looking to their historical contexts is vital.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:52 PM on December 19, 2016 [58 favorites]


I fully agree that the basic implications of the term are important - it's the finer distinctions like whether the cuckold in porn is the dominant figure setting up the scene, or whether he is dominated by the (black) man fucking his wife is largely a distraction from the larger racist and misogynist points inherent in the term.
posted by Dysk at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure there is any precise kind of answer one could give or find for that question. I pointed out the beta male aspect because from what I've seen that has some coherence with some cuck porn. I'm no expert in any of these areas, but the connections are enough for me to at least speculate how they work together in that world view. I'm sure there is variation between members of the cucklove community though, like with any other that spreads from a small group in term to larger usage.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2016


Love this thread. I was also taken taken back to Shakespeare studies in college, where there were many discussions about a man with horns. Its such a bizarre term for these new white supremacists to focus on.

All I have to add is this Tim Heidecker song, "I Am a Cuck."
posted by kittensofthenight at 2:05 PM on December 19, 2016


I think something that's new about the term is that feminism occupies the same position as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion did for previous generations of American racists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


Its such a bizarre term for these new white supremacists to focus on.

It plays on sexist and racist tropes, and is the direct result of a genre of online porn, so it is sort of the perfect phrase for the modern aggrieved white dude.
posted by maxsparber at 2:26 PM on December 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah i get that, still fuckin weird though!
posted by kittensofthenight at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think something that's new about the term is that feminism occupies the same position as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion did for previous generations of American racists.

Right, these are, roughly, the same groups who engaged in Gamergate harassment, so at the core, misogyny is likely a strong element. My supposition, based on the essays people have linked to on this site and some observations of the kinds of people involved, is that the slur began as an in-group insult based in part on all the "incels" and betas on 4chan and its ilk. The insult was in recognition of their lack of self-command in dealing with women, so they slandered the women as being at fault and maintained a love/hate relationship with alphas, which is what they desired of themselves, as they understood the concept. Calling someone a cuck in that instance was calling out their own weaknesses, and at the same time moving away from "f*g" as a slur as their interest in "traps" and alphas grew, making "f*g" seem, well, impotent as a insult at a certain point.

Given their awareness of the porn world, cuck took the spot of honor as the new insult as it is the one they most identify with themselves. In this sense, it becomes like "f*g" to those who hold a self-hating interest in men, the stronger the self-hate, the greater the projection. Moving the slur to the larger society meant casting liberals and weak conservatives in the role they themselves are obsessed with. Cuck, in recent times, had virtually disappeared as an insult in broad usage, so the insult wouldn't be acutely felt by those they are using it on as it had so little recent history. The one's who care about it as an insult are the ones using it to suggest a particular form of weakness tied to the growing power of women in society, who are alleged to be controlling men or tricking them into failure by working against the proper order of male dominance. That only they can see the "real truth" is evidence of their particular power, which is not recognized only due to the machinations of women using the sexual allure to distort. Their own perceived weakness then is actually a strength in the sense that their lack of success with women is due to their being able to see the real truth, thus converting their fears into a sort of ability.

All of that is way more explicit and rationalized than any actual thoughts on the matter anyone involved would likely have, but it is only intended to roughly over-enunciate the subconscious workings that may have led to the rise and shifts in use of the term, as these things generally so seem to connect to some underlying thought process, even if it isn't clearly understood in direct terms that way by those using the terms. It all could be completely offbase of course, but it seems to fit well enough with the conversations I've observed to be a basic outline of the patterns involved.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:45 PM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I liked the article. I thought it charted a nice transition from PUA culture to the alt-right. It makes a lot of sense--psycho-sexual frustration seems to be a very real thing for these fellows (I read YouTube comments.)

maxsparber's GQ article ^^^ is a better introduction/survey for the mainstream, tho.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned gun culture yet. Part of the defense of being cuckolded is shooting the black guy with a shotgun (or if he tries to steal your big-screen TV).

Tie this horrible, sexist/racist nonsense into gun culture, and it becomes terrifying.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


It’s a heady brew of white men unable to find fault within themselves, instead needing to locate blame elsewhere, anywhere else, and unable to handle a loss of privilege – or, even less: a loss of unanimous agreement.

A loss of unanimous agreement that never existed of course (or only existed at the threat of punishment or death), but there is something interesting there.

I keep wondering where are the women who think this way (for surely there are some tho not nearly as many of course).

I think they're the one who insist coffee cups need to say "Merry Christmas."
posted by mrgrimm at 3:00 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


this is a game that is rhetorically played out over women's bodies

That's a great point, made explicit: Saying "cuck" says, directly, that the speaker thinks women are things. To be fought over, to possess, to control. A central part of the whole redpiller philosophy to be sure, but great to see that laid bare so clearly.

Thank-you.
posted by bonehead at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


you'll encounter men, apparently in all seriousness, advising one another to wipe up after masturbating with Kleenex or other disposables so they can get rid of the mess of it by burning it immediately. This, you understand, is critical to prevent women from sneaking into their house and getting pregnant with any of their (incredibly valuable) sperm that they might carelessly leave behind on a sock or some other cloth wipe.

Oh God I needed this laugh after this article
posted by schadenfrau at 3:04 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cuck, in recent times, had virtually disappeared as an insult in broad usage

Paternity tests probably had something to do with that. Much of the old fear of cuckoldry was that you'd be raising a child (with all your privilege, etc.) who "isn't yours."

Also, scientific research: Cuckoldry is incredibly rare among humans
posted by mrgrimm at 3:08 PM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Re that article by mrgrimm, I just like the caption "Science proves that there's only about a 1% chance that your wife is having Satan's baby instead of yours."
posted by Hypatia at 3:12 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


It’s a heady brew of white men unable to find fault within themselves, instead needing to locate blame elsewhere, anywhere else, and unable to handle a loss of privilege – or, even less: a loss of unanimous agreement. [...]

I keep wondering where are the women who think this way (for surely there are some tho not nearly as many of course).


If the women in my and my partner's extended family are any indication, they're all busy trying to actively discriminate against people in assorted PTAs, children's extracurriculars and churches, all under the guise of volunteering.

From what I've gleaned in conversation, those women seem to see those community-facing groups as the last bastion against the actual community which surrounds and supports them (and which wants to participate too), and boy howdy, are they doubling down on the ways in which they try to drive out anyone who threatens their idea that the U.S. should be a Jesus-loving, white nation. And they hate feminists, because all feminists are simultaneously lesbians and sluts, both of which are deeply distressing to men and the reason society is all fucked up.
posted by sobell at 3:30 PM on December 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


The Underpants Monster On what you said about the right being obsessed with women passing off a lover's children as theirs, it fits in well as the sort of mirror image of their other obsession which is the idea that somehow their sperm is amazingly valuable and that all women will try to steal it to impregnate themselves. The way they go on and on about "spermjacking" and discuss protective measures to prevent a woman from stealing their sperm is both pathetic and telling.

The specific paranoid fantasy appears to be a fear that women are going to get their sperm and have a child as a means of extorting alimony checks from them.
posted by straight at 3:48 PM on December 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


I keep wondering where are the women who think this way (for surely there are some tho not nearly as many of course).

They're over there, unless that too is some bit of elaborate performance art, or honeypot, or subtle reverse psychology, or parody... it's getting really hard to tell.

But it claims to be "a spot for like-minded Women to objectively and realistically discuss sexual strategy from an anti-feminist, non-feminist, traditionalist and/or evolutionary psychology perspective. [...] We agree with /r/TheRedPill in its description of male and female nature and seek to apply it to our lives. This feminized culture has told men and women over and over how to find happiness, and we're learning the hard way that maybe what we were told isn't working."

They also have a FAQ, which describes themselves as "[s]elf-aware women that work to identify their weaknesses, stifle their inner Bitch, and increase their female sexual value as much as possible in order to attract (or keep) a good RP man." I stopped reading at about that point, but someone with a more anthropological mindset and a stronger stomach might be able to figure out whether there really are any actual women behind it, or if it's some sort of fantasy created largely by dudes.

As a sidenote, there is a huge and unpleasant fascination with (usually poorly interpreted) evo-bio/evo-psych stuff, to the exclusion of any other explanations for human behavior, in the seamiest corners of the MRA "movement", the "alt-right", etc. In situations where just assuming everyone is on board with white-male supremacy isn't safe, that seems to be their preferred justification, and part of the underlying "truth" that is revealed to one as part of becoming an adherent of their ideology, it seems. If, as seems likely, people with these views start getting real political power, it's not hard to imagine those views getting pushed via science funding and education policy; basically the "alt-right" answer to Lamarckism.

(I considered putting both of those links behind donotlink.it, but I don't know if that's preferred for archival purposes, and I think MeFi already takes most of the SEO juice away via "nofollow" anyway.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:56 PM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Evolutionary psychology is neither.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:14 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think MeFi already takes most of the SEO juice away via "nofollow" anyway

No, we don't.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:15 PM on December 19, 2016


I started looking for media coverage of the term, which seems to pick up around July 24th 2015 following a piece in a well-known white supremacist publication (and a concomitant proliferation of the term on Twitter). From there, I looked for prior instances of the term both as a hashtag and as a single word on Twitter.

The earliest appearance on Twitter appears to be April First, 2010 alongside a hashtag adaptation of the term mocking "#TCOT". This user had used "cuck*" related terms as early as 2009.

Subsequently it appears on January 14th 2015 in a discussion between two morons regarding the merit of it as an insult. In the interim the shortened hashtag mockery of #TCOT appears only two other times in 2010 (discarding one apparently unrelated occurrence). Examining the history of these two participants, one had used "cuck*" words extensively in the years prior, largely in relation to 4chan politics and gg. The other participant had not used the term or related terms prior to that.

Unfortunately I don't know a good technique to timeline term usage on 4chan or the two other awful sites that seem like alternative origins for this particular usage. My thought though is that while this term speaks to certain biases, there may have been a group of people working to actively promote it for some time.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:16 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Paternity tests probably had something to do with that. Much of the old fear of cuckoldry was that you'd be raising a child (with all your privilege, etc.) who "isn't yours."

Actually I'll pin it down more to the sexual revolutions of the 1920s and the 1970s. Maybe even earlier. Infidelity is a big theme of pre-Rock jazz and blues.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:24 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dale, from King of the Hill, is supposed to be an example of cuckoldry, right? Clueless, all talk, secretly a coward, not someone you can rely on, and he's oblivious to his wife's ongoing affair with her very masculine masseuse who's clearly the biological father of his son.

It's not like these trolls invented the caricature. They're just experts at stealing bits and pieces of pop culture to further their goals.
posted by Beholder at 4:37 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's not like these trolls invented the caricature. They're just experts at stealing bits and pieces of pop culture to further their goals.

* POCKET SAND! *
posted by Talez at 4:41 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pickup artist techniques don't work, but a lot of men came to see the culprit as feminism, not their own grossness. A pickup artist calling himself Roosh V capitalized on this, combining pickup artist techniques with antifeminist & men's rights rhetoric.

Is that true? I've always viewed them as conman tactics, which definitely work (for a given value of work).
posted by Sebmojo at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2016


i mean? they successfully date rape a lot of women, that's for sure.

here, for example, is a horrifically triggering article on this subject, which i considered for months and finally rejected as a potential FPP.

like honestly there are not enough trigger warnings for that article, it is legitimately agonizing to read.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:59 PM on December 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


OMG, that "RPW" FAQ literally, unironically used the word "stifle." Do you think they're old enough to remember Archie Bunker?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:07 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The rest of the book is him going slowly insane because his wife won’t apologize for something she didn’t do. He kidnaps their toddler child away from her (a lot of this is commentary on 19th century custody laws). He keeps forcing her to move to new houses and reducing her allowance. He keeps telling everyone he knows that she had an affair (that she didn’t have, and that everyone knows she didn’t have). He feels humiliated and miserable because his wife has her own opinions and sometimes they disagree with his, and so he spends the rest of the novel destroying her life, their son’s life (a lot of the book is also about how being stolen from his mother at a formative age and forced to wander the world with his incel father who focuses on drinking himself to death all day long is incredibly damaging), and his own (he dies, still insisting that his wife is “guilty” of a thing he knows she never did).

Delusions of infidelity (an aspect of morbid jealousy) are common to a range of organic brain syndromes, including chronic alcoholism:
Morbid jealousy can occur in a number of conditions such as chronic alcoholism, addiction to substances other than alcohol i.e. morphine, cocaine, amphetamines. Organic brain disorders i.e. Parkinson's, Huntington's. Also with schizophrenia, neurosis, affective disturbances or personality disorders.[9]
I don't doubt Trollope intended the kind of commentary you and Herbert attribute to him, but Trollope was such a keen, indefatigable, and comprehensive observer, it would surprise me if he hadn't seen this delusion develop in at least one man of his acquaintance who drank himself to death.

And if you were a man who suffered from this delusion and no amount of proof to the contrary could convince you otherwise, the path of least cognitive dissonance could easily amount to trying to force your wife to admit to a non-existent affair.

I wonder whether some men who like to watch their wives have sex with other men have a similar motive.
posted by jamjam at 5:10 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


@Sebmojo: PUA likes to pretend that it's based on evidence and co-opts scientific language with gross, dehumanizing terminology like "field report" and "kinesthetic escalation" for things that normal people would call "story of my night out" and "touched her arm." But we all also know that any claims of measurable efficacy with PUA are BS.

However, I tend to agree with you that for men who are vulnerable to PUA, it is more effective than their next best alternatives of giving up or behaving without a script. PUA encourages men to go out and to talk to women, gives them a script, encourages exercise and building interesting hobbies and gives men a like-minded community of support. For someone who is a social outsider, that's undeniably more likely to lead to meeting their goals than doing nothing at all.

The merging of Men's Rights, Steve Bannon Nazism, PUA and red pill are really dangerous. There are a lot of disaffected men out there, stewing in the broken promises of the male archetype. It's not feminism's fault, it's the fault of the ever widening gap between getting behind and getting ahead. Susan Faludi documented it way back in 1999 with Stiffed and she foresaw that the return of the angry white male would be the linchpin of the 2016 election. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/opinion/sunday/how-hillary-clinton-met-satan.html

All this cuck talk just reaffirms the unfair expectation that's put on masculinity. If your political party loses, it's because you're weak and you deserved it. If your partner cheats on you, it's not because they are a bad person, it's because you're bad at being a man. I've seen that some men are driven to PUA out of being unable to meet women and others are driven there because of being cheated on. They internalize the blame, then seek to become an ubermensche who will never be cheated on again.

Now that's the part of the PUA lie that most of them will fail to understand. If anything, being an asshole to your partners guarantees that only other assholes will want to be your partner. I'd guess that men who have this mindset end up self-selecting even less trustworthy relationships, fall into less and less healthy relationships and then use all of this as self-reaffirming confirmation bias that they were right about the evilness of women all along.
posted by Skwirl at 5:18 PM on December 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


One of my favorite pieces, on why masculinity is an anxiety disorder.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:23 PM on December 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I like to hope that most of the people in Red Pill Women are really men pretending. It's been established a few times that at least some of them are, including one guy who posted from at least three different accounts to post very leading questions and then answer them as two other "women" assuring his "questioner" that being treated like property was totally normal and proper.

But people are shitty, women included, so I know that odds are very good at least some are real women.
posted by sotonohito at 5:53 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


they hate feminists, because all feminists are simultaneously lesbians and sluts

also Nazis, hypocrites and liars. Mustn't leave out any of the essentials.

Oh, and if you object to this drivel in public? Then you're employing "bullying and shaming tactics" and expressing the "groupthink" so typical of the "progressive stack". Also, you're "projecting".

It's like watching 5-year-olds play games with the words they've heard the adults using around the dinner table.
posted by flabdablet at 5:53 PM on December 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


like honestly there are not enough trigger warnings for that article, it is legitimately agonizing to read.

I just want to endorse this statement. I read the article and am actually shaking with rage.
posted by corb at 6:17 PM on December 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I keep wondering where are the women who think this way (for surely there are some tho not nearly as many of course).

Just today a woman was sentenced with regard to her death threats to a Sandy Hook parent. The crazy women are out there.
posted by srboisvert at 6:52 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


In ape cultures, the Juvenile Primates separate from their tribe until they are mature enough to re-integrate.
posted by ovvl at 7:07 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a sinking suspicion that among the group of friends that I've known the longest, and spent the most time with that, over the last couple of years (also the time when I've had the least amount of time to spend with them) they've started to find out about this stuff, and are pretty much on the slide down into this shit. People I don't see as much as I used to (or frankly, used to want to) are on facebook posting memes mocking any discussion of privilege as 'white guilt' or using SJW or PC as if they were, in and of themselves, slurs.

One of these friends contacted me, and asked me to listen to the Joe Rogan podcast with Jordan Peterson, who I'd luckily managed not to know anything about until just recently. The thing is, he messaged me privately to find out what I think about it, but then posted it publicly, and it was quickly liked by other members of our group of friends, as well as commented on, with a friend who I'd never seen showing any of this sort of leaning saying "it's a complete disgrace what happened to this guy, SJW political correctness gone insane." I tried to listen to it (it's three freaking hours long), and the first ten minutes involves snide attacks on Justin Trudeau ("Castro Lover!" they proudly exclaim), strawman bullshit about laws being created to enforce 17 different pronouns that, of course, include cherry picking otherkin as a way to deligitimize trans people's opinions, and pretty much went downhill from there.

And I'm stuck. These people have been in my life long enough that they're basically what amounts to a second family to me, so much so that a good number of annual events that I cherish are spent with them, but there they are, on facebook, asking for "hard facts and statistics" that show that white male privilege is a real, observable effect, which is it's own form of bullshit, and yeah, I know that the second I engage at all about this, anything I say, they'll immediately demand that I provide all of the sources, which they'll then discount for whatever reason. I'm pretty much realizing that getting involved in the discussion is going to amount to being asked for a bibliography of the last ten years of my life. I'm not interested in citing sources for my belief that equality is good, that people who strive for equality are those who suffer from it's lack, and those that are against equality are (most of the time) the people who benefit from inequality. And yeah, over the course of writing this, I'm realizing that I pretty much need to accept that I'm not really willing to put up with shit like this in my life anymore, and that that most likely means I'll need to find some new drinking buddies.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:09 PM on December 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


Ghidorah, I'm so sorry to hear this is happening in your life. I send you sympathies and hugs. If we were nearer, I would also offer to buy you beverages.
posted by rtha at 7:17 PM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


And yeah, over the course of writing this, I'm realizing that I pretty much need to accept that I'm not really willing to put up with shit like this in my life anymore, and that that most likely means I'll need to find some new drinking buddies.

I'm assuming you're a man. If not, I apologize. But...

Please consider the fact that you might be the only person these guys might listen to about this. It won't happen overnight, but if you put the emotional labor in over time, sometimes you can sway them. I've done it in some unique situations, but I'm a woman, so absent those unique circumstances, none of these guys will listen to a word I have to say.

You have a voice they'll choose to hear, and you're privileged enough not to be the real target of their hate. Those of us who are targets don't have a voice with them. It's less expensive for you to do this emotional labor than it is for us, less dangerous, and also, you know, possible.

And if you've laughed it off uncomfortably while having a beer, you're not a bystander. You've contributed.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:26 PM on December 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm not really willing to put up with shit like this in my life anymore, and that that most likely means I'll need to find some new drinking buddies.

This is how polarized island communities happen. I think it's a dangerous tendency.

the second I engage at all about this, anything I say, they'll immediately demand that I provide all of the sources, which they'll then discount for whatever reason.

I think you'll find that if you just abuse the hell out of the shit they post you'll feel better. Make it clear that you think of their heroes as the off-the-planet up-themselves narcissists that they absolutely are. Don't provide "sources" or try to engage in rational argument; people who have bought into this crap are post-truth now, and this is about values, not facts. If they post something that you find viscerally repellent, reacting viscerally is completely appropriate.

The best thing you can do for people who share your values is not retreat from online spaces where those values are being trashed. Stand up and serve as a reminder to the 10x as many people reading those threads as participating in them that this red-pill bullshit is not even close to being universally considered OK.

If that ends up turning you into a somewhat more abrasive person online than you're comfortable with being: yeah, well. Bit of personal discomfort won't kill you. Just do your best not to let the stench of online get on your face-to-face life.

Above all: when you do react, do your best to do so with a certain degree of eloquence. You can use their tools against them, but you don't need to sink to their primary-school-playground modes of expression.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 PM on December 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


The thing about online discussion is that it sticks around. People will be reading this crap for years after it's posted. I think it's important for the record to show that substantial numbers of people can still smell shit when it's stuck to their shoe.
posted by flabdablet at 7:41 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


schadenfrau, yes, I am a man. I have in the past called them out when they say things. The only difference is that they realized that they can't make racist jokes around me, not that they made any change to their life or ways they think, and that, as I said, now that I don't see them all that often, it seems they're creating a feedback loop among themselves.

I did, in the past, try to ignore things, as you said, making me complicit. It took a long damn time to work up the courage to say anything, and I have, for the last several years, made it clear that I won't tolerate their sexist, racist bullshit, which is probably why that guy asked me to listen to that podcast, because he does want to know what I think. But I also feel pretty damn confident that he's not really going to listen, and things are going to end badly, and I'm trying to figure out how to move forward without half of the people I just invited to thanksgiving in my life.

This isn't the time or place, but I have serious issues with social isolation and not having friends, to the point that I have, in the past, put up with pretty horrific, abusive behavior from people I thought were friends just to avoid (what later happened) being absolutely friendless. When you talk about it being less emotionally expensive, honestly, you know, you might be right, except here I am, three days after listening to the first ten minutes of that podcast, having spent those three days nauseous and literally shaking trying to figure out how to deal with this. I spend a great deal of my emotional and mental strength just trying to get through each and every day, and the thought of even starting this discussion makes me feel physically ill. I have no doubt that you're right when you say they wouldn't listen to you. I also have no belief whatsoever that they will actually listen to me, and I'll end up with the people I've known for the last 12-16 years demanding that I provide them with clear cut, cited evidence for every single thing I say, demand, essentially, that I do all of the intellectual work for them (which is a pretty standard tactic, one that I learned about here), and honestly, I don't know that I have it in me to do it. I'm sorry that I can't be strong enough to debate almost the entirety of my social circle to convince them to change their views on the world.

You know how, here at Metafilter, we've had long, long discussions over how ridiculous it is to have to re-teach feminism 101, or trans 101, or any of the basic starting points for discussion? How there's links to them on the Wiki (the only one I could find was Privilege 101)? And we've pretty much come to a consensus that people who are demanding that each thread start from the beginning are essentially pointed towards that, and expected to educate themselves (no, it doesn't always happen, but it's a fantastic idea)? These are people that not only don't know anything that could be considered 101 level stuff in anything vaguely progressive, they're likely to want to debate each and every point.

And the end point? It's most likely going to be that I am not going to be friends with them, and that's not, in any way, going to change the way they think. Would it be easier for me than you? Sure, in the idea that swallowing a baseball is easier than swallowing a softball. Especially since, if I even try to do this, the end result is going to be outright emotional and mental exhaustion on my part, and "hah, Ghidorah is such a PC SJW. I'm glad we got rid of him" on the other. I know what's right, I know what I feel I should do, what you want me to do in this situation, but god damn, walking away is just so, so much more attractive.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:17 PM on December 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


All of that said, this thread isn't, and shouldn't be about me and the poor friend choices I've made in my life. I can be reached by memail, if it's a conversation you want to keep having.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:18 PM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The people who love to use these terms are mostly middle-to-upper-class white dudes. I'd wager that most of them aren't married, or are just plain single and bitter.

I'd bet many of them are divorced or have been rejected as marriage partners. This goes into some of the discussions about emotional labor and the fact that a lot of men have a really hard time functioning day to day without female partners, but as people age a lot of women don't see the trade off as worth it. In middle age a lot of straight married women realize they are unhappy and aren't dependent on their husband and they leave him. Divorced women tend to be much happier than divorced men, who have finally realized how much their wives did for them. I'm thinking specifically about this recent piece on the topic.

So to a certain extent, yes, I think there is a certain amount of realization involved in Red Pill followers: they've realized they aren't worth as much to the opposite sex as they thought, and they equate this to either economic or social political reasons rather than the fact that they simply aren't offering much to their partners.
posted by threeturtles at 8:51 PM on December 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


Thanks for sharing, Ghidorah. This kind of outlook ends up hurting everybody. I spent my childhood listening to my father saying these sorts of things, although the slang and buzzwords were different back then. He seemed like a deeply unhappy person who could have gotten so much more out of life if he'd been able to get that chip of toxic white masculinity of his shoulder.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:59 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


But people are shitty, women included, so I know that odds are very good at least some are real women.

I've known women that subscribe to versions of this way of seeing the world. Every single one has one thing in common. Their social value, identity and self worth is mostly derived from their relationships to and with men. How men see and think about them is a primary life driver. Not just sexually but in everything. It's not that all women who identify themselves this way also will be some version of Red Pill type thinking but all of them that are Red Pill type thinkers in my experience do. Though they don't seem to have much actual awareness that this is what's happening.
posted by Jalliah at 9:05 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


This was probably not a good thread to read before bedtime. (Although the thread was tl;dr it all) But I looked up spermjacking on Google and was horrified. The "cuck" term always disgusted me, and it was precisely because of what a few people posted above about the ramifications of the term. I am a white cisgender male, but am almost ashamed to admit it after dipping into this pool of cess...ughh.
posted by kozad at 9:12 PM on December 19, 2016


For people who want a sense of how extensive and long-standing this sort of thing is, I recommend We Hunted the Mammoth. If you have a ton of time, the comments are often worth it.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:13 PM on December 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't doubt Trollope intended the kind of commentary you and Herbert attribute to him, but Trollope was such a keen, indefatigable, and comprehensive observer, it would surprise me if he hadn't seen this delusion develop in at least one man of his acquaintance who drank himself to death.

Trevelyan doesn't start drinking until the final chapters of a 700 page book dedicated to his stone-cold sober weaponized misogyny, but thank you for the suggestion that I might have just done a bad job of reading the novel that I studied for nearly a decade. It is a particularly Solnit-esque experience.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:38 AM on December 20, 2016 [23 favorites]


'stone-cold sober weaponized misogyny' is a term I aim to use a lot.

I haven't read the Trollope (yet) but am just nearing the end of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which seems to cover many of the same themes as He Knew He Was Right.
posted by Myeral at 6:17 AM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's a French hit song from the 1930s: Si tous les cocus (the clip includes vintage cartoons) . The refrain: "If cuckolds had cowbells / cowbells on their heads (the mind rhyme is "on their asses") / there'd be so much racket / that we wouldn't hear each other". Each verse is about "noisy" things (cannons, flushing toilets, volcanoes) or people ("vibrating" (?) women, whistling painters, drunkards) and concludes that none is as noisy as cowbell-wearing cuckolds.
posted by elgilito at 6:54 AM on December 20, 2016


Jesus fucking Christ, that fucking Daily Beast article, including the end! What the fucking fuck?
posted by OmieWise at 7:32 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Daily Beast article now seems to be gone. Their site in general is up, but that page is 404ing. The author's bio page is also missing.

Google Cache still has it, though, for the moment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2016


That daily beast article is fine for me as is the author's bio page. It was truly horrific reading.
posted by diziet at 10:09 AM on December 20, 2016


In middle age a lot of straight married women realize they are unhappy and aren't dependent on their husband and they leave him. Divorced women tend to be much happier than divorced men, who have finally realized how much their wives did for them.

Middle-aged woman here, watching this go on around me. My husband has been fielding calls from old college friends whose wives have decided the marriage is over, these men come up to visit and spend time with old friends, and to a person, they are usually stunned that there are consequences for treating their life partner as the hired help who make their lives go smoothly. (Weirdly, these dudes are usually conservative men.)

It has been my observation that boys and men are not socialized to acquire the skills of relationship maintenance the same way girls and women are, and if a man does not realize what skills he lacks, he's at particular risk for his marriage dissolving.

It has also been my observation among my girlfriends who dissolved their unhappy marriages that their lives are so much better once they've finalized the divorce. Their careers usually take off; they've got the emotional energy to nurture friendships that, in turn, nurture them; they've got money and time; they're generally happier parents and happier in their homes; they're going out and having amazing new experiences, from PR marathon times to new travel destinations to new hobbies.

That radical split in well-being is, in my opinion, a sign that we as a society need to work on teaching boys and young men to be the exact opposite of red-pill dudes. The toxic masculinity trope where men are men and women are unpaid handmaidens to greatness is not working out for the people who buy into it.
posted by sobell at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yep, back up now. Weird. I was concerned when only that article and the author's bio were failing, but the rest of the site was live.

And yes, horrifying.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2016


[A few comments deleted. Please don't continue the Wachowskis thing here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


maxsparber: "are they having sex with one hand

While cuckolding the other hand.
"

So, we can change literature to say "On one hand... On the other hand... On the cucking hand"?
posted by Samizdata at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


>>Pickup artist techniques don't work, but a lot of men came to see the culprit as feminism, not their own grossness...
>Is that true? I've always viewed them as conman tactics, which definitely work (for a given value of work).


IMHO it's worse than that. Someone made the point about just these books having some success just by encouraging these guys to talk to women, giving them a script and encouraging them to exercise more. That's an excellent ponit.

But much of the PUA technique, starting with "negging" (small insults to gauge reaction), can also be seen as ways to identify and target emotionally damaged and vulnerable women who can be preyed upon.
posted by msalt at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


msalt: Absolutely. I remember randomly finding & reading a “trip report” (urgh) a number of years ago written by some soi-disant PUA who described quite clearly how they went round the nightclub looking for the women who were psychological pushovers. They didn’t see it in those terms of course, but that’s exactly what they were doing.
posted by pharm at 12:33 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't doubt Trollope intended the kind of commentary you and Herbert attribute to him, but Trollope was such a keen, indefatigable, and comprehensive observer, it would surprise me if he hadn't seen this delusion develop in at least one man of his acquaintance who drank himself to death.

Trevelyan doesn't start drinking until the final chapters of a 700 page book dedicated to his stone-cold sober weaponized misogyny, but thank you for the suggestion that I might have just done a bad job of reading the novel that I studied for nearly a decade. It is a particularly Solnit-esque experience.

In the part of my comment you quote, I make an effort not to impugn your or Herbert's understanding of He Knew He Was Right, or your grasp of Trollope generally, and I do not mean to impute to Trollope what would be an anachronistic conception of the possibility that chronic alcoholism might cause a delusion of infidelity -- or even that it can be a delusion or so much as an idée fixe.

Although I think he does come pretty close to the latter in what he has to say about He Knew He Was Right in his autobiography:
In November of the same year, 1867, I began a very long novel, which I called He Knew He Was Right, and which was brought out by Mr. Virtue, the proprietor of the St. Paul's Magazine, in sixpenny numbers, every week. I do not know that in any literary effort I ever fell more completely short of my own intention than in this story. It was my purpose to create sympathy for the unfortunate man who, while endeavouring to do his duty to all around him, should be led constantly astray by his unwillingness to submit his own judgment to the opinion of others. The man is made to be unfortunate enough, and the evil which he does is apparent. So far I did not fail, but the sympathy has not been created yet. I look upon the story as being nearly altogether bad. It is in part redeemed by certain scenes in the house and vicinity of an old maid in Exeter. But a novel which in its main parts is bad cannot, in truth, be redeemed by the vitality of subordinate characters.
posted by jamjam at 2:50 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


So if I understand things correctly: to combat the rising tide of fascism, leftists need to give better dating advice.
posted by ckape at 5:07 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


So if I understand things correctly: to combat the rising tide of fascism, leftists need to give better dating advice.

Not specifically dating advice, and I don't think the responsibility falls especially on leftists, but it does feel like we're at a point in history where an unusually high number of young people have a particularly bleak outlook on their own future. They're poorer than their parents were, worse off in other ways, and don't see any sort of positive future for themselves. That has, historically, been a violent and unpredictable force that has the potential to do terrible things. Western society has traditionally been able to keep those forces in check by presenting people with a vision of the future that will be better than today, but that's started to break down pretty severely, and in the absence of a relatively passive belief that government/industry/religion/family/whatever will make your life better if you just empower it to do so, people turn to some very dark and horrible places that are willing to make bold promises and seem like they might follow through on some of them. That's how you get ISIS or the Nazi Party, or, in this case, Red Pill sociopaths.

I don't think anyone has the responsibility to improve the dating lives of some of the worst assholes on the Internet, but I do think we all have a responsibility to help, at least some small way, to build a world where people can have some hope for the future and something to look forward to that's better than what are essentially antisocial death cults, because if we don't, antisocial death cults are going to be all that's left.
posted by Copronymus at 6:35 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


So if I understand things correctly: to combat the rising tide of fascism, leftists need to give better dating advice.

No, we need to teach kids how to have and manage their own emotions, so they don't become stunted adults who don't and won't know how. And this stands across the board, because girls are trained to do all this heavy lifting for others to the detriment of their own emotional health (and this is done on purpose, so they'll do this for men; it's a vicious cycle), which isn't helping anybody either.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:06 PM on December 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


I would point out that in a classic Freudian analytic model (which of course, in itself has some embodied problems in the 21st C., of course, duh) this is a rather clear cut example of the erotic being frustrated and swinging all the way over to the thanatopic.

It can be fruitful to slice this apart through a feminist lens, as some are doing, but I think the general analysis applies neutrally.
posted by mrdaneri at 7:04 AM on December 21, 2016


So it seems like the modern usage is very close to the historical literary understanding: a man who has become so weak and/or governed or blinded by "feminine" thought that he no longer has the strength or will to stand up and claim what should be his by right.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2016


It strikes me as exactly the same people who'd be talking about dudes being "whipped" and making "ka-PSSHHH" noises at them a decade ago having found a new word to sub in for that.
posted by Dysk at 11:07 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Straight man cancer is a lovely term for toxic masculinity, seeing as it doesn't just kill... it grows.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:11 AM on December 22, 2016


I've been wondering how the red pill crowd will interpret what has been widely reported as Melania Trump's decision to remain in New York caring for Barron while Donald does DC. They revere what they see (and he describes) as his sexual conquests (detailed to Howard Stern), his "me first" approach to marriage and, especially, that he landed a woman who appears to be completely subservient while also a supermodel. If the red pill guys perceive Donald as humiliated by Melania's decision to stay in NYC, what does that do to their ideas about the one they call their God?
posted by carmicha at 5:06 AM on December 23, 2016


They'll just assume he's having affairs the entire time, and they're probably going to be right.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:21 AM on December 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


There this movie from the '80s called Johnny Dangerously. It's a slapstick parody of a '30s gangster movie and it's charmingly aware of how goofy a movie it is.

Anyhow, there is a scene where Johnny (who is full of confident swagger throughout the whole movie) is walking down the hall with a bunch of women on his arm and they and he go through this exchange about all the sex the women want to have with him. One of his gang members asks him how he does it. Something like, "Mutual respect and interests" is the reply.

I've always loved that scene. Johnny is exactly who these guys are trying to emulate. He's a nice guy, everyone loves him, he's full of success, confidence and swagger, he does the right thing (even as the head of a mafia family). He's a stand up guy. But he's also a bad boy. I mean, he's the boss of a gang in New York. And he comes right out and tells the audience that, if you want women hanging off you begging to be first in line to have sex with you, all you need to do is talk to them like they are actual human beings instead of chattel. It turns out that women are attracted to confident nice guys who do right by everyone and are genuinly interested in and care about the people they meet.
posted by VTX at 7:07 AM on December 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


if you want women hanging off you begging to be first in line to have sex with you, all you need to do is talk to them like they are actual human beings instead of chattel.

And if that doesn't work, okay! It's inherently worthwhile to be decent to other human beings and sometimes you don't get sex as a reward!

I know that dialogue isn't in the movie, which was, after all, made in 1984 and set in the 1920s. I'd still like to see that message in a movie once in a while.
posted by maxsparber at 7:23 AM on December 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, that's a good point. To me, that part is implied by the mutual respect piece. That means respecting the other person's agency and not treating them as a sex object. And I think that's part of the larger point that sex is just one small part of human relationships and focus on that, to the exclusion of everything else is a good way to make sure that you miss out on everything else and also miss out on the sex.

Just be interested in other people because other people are awesome, sometimes sex is part of the relationship, sometimes it isn't and either one is good. As you say, it's inherently worthwhile to be decent to other human beings, the relationship, in whatever form it takes, is the reward.
posted by VTX at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2016


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