"For several years now, I’ve had a dark and fairly unusual hobby. When I’m alone and bored and the mood strikes me, I’ll open up my laptop and head for a particularly unsavoury corner of the internet. No, not the bit you’re thinking of. Somewhere far worse. That loose network of blogs, forums, subreddits and alternative media publications colloquially known as the “manosphere”. An online subculture centred around hatred, anger and resentment of feminism specifically, and women more broadly. It’s grimly fascinating and now troubling relevant. In modern parlance, this is part of the phenomenon known as the “alt-right”. More sympathetic commentators portray it as “a backlash to PC culture” and critics call it out as neofascism….On their forums I’ve read long, furious manifestos claiming that women are all sluts who “ride the cock carousel” and sleep with a series of “alpha males” until they reach the end of their sexual prime, at which point they seek out a “beta cuck” to settle down with for financial security. I’ve lurked silently on blogs dedicated to “pick-up artistry” as men argue that uppity, opinionated, feminist women – women like myself – need to be put in their place through “corrective rape”."
This is all darkly fascinating and troubling, of course, and given a sharp relevance by the appointment of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon to a senior role in Trump’s White House staff. What captures my attention is how this chimes with my own experience:
From the age of seven until the age of eighteen, I attended boarding schools that were, to all intents and purposes, single sex. Sure, there were girls, but they were in an overwhelming minority and were generally treated, at best, as being a completely different species. I don’t have any sisters and, separated from my mother for long periods of time, this meant that I spent the majority of my formative years surrounded only by other boys and with very little feminine influence. I’m pretty confident that this left me emotionally scarred to the extent that I found it difficult to form meaningful relationships with girls. I don’t want to exaggerate the impact this had on me: I’m still friends with one girl I met at school when we were both 17, and I like to think I was perfectly capable of interacting relatively normally with women… it’s just that it took me a long time (and, trust me, it felt like an absolute bloody age) to be able to get myself a proper girlfriend. Even that makes it sound like I knew what I was doing; truth be told, I met the girl who was prepared to look past my rough edges and decide that I was worth persevering with. I don’t think I really had all that much to do with it.
Would this have made me a candidate for the Manosphere? Perhaps, although I’d like to think that I focused all my anger and frustration inwardly. I never blamed anybody but myself for my inadequacies and I certainly never blamed the girls. Actually, the prevailing attitude at my school towards girls was pretty shocking. There was one guy in my year who seemed to delight in using his “power” (he was popular, confident and privileged) to seduce girls. He’d work on them for a few weeks, to the point where they thought he was “the one”, and then, once he’d got access to whatever he needed, he dropped them and never spoke to them again. He was 18 and these girls were 17. He thought this was funny, and so did many others. Lots of the boys, I’m sure, thought this was behaviour to be admired because he was getting some from these stupid girls. To be honest, I was just appalled that you could treat another human being so callously. Did I wish that I was more successful with girls? Of course, but I was damned if this was going to be the way that I went about it…. even if I had that sort of confidence, which I definitely did not.
Then, like so many people before me, I discovered the music The Smiths. It’s cliché, of course, but in my late teenage years, Morrissey seemed to be speaking directly to me and articulating the things that I felt.
And in the darkened underpass
I thought oh God, my chance has come at last
(But then a strange fear gripped me and I
Just couldn't ask)
And then I grew up. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but it wasn’t until some point in my early-20s (well, they do say that men mature more slowly than women). I’m
Why would you want to be that guy? As Noel Gallagher once memorably said about his younger brother, don't be a man with a fork in a world of soup.