Book Review: ‘Bad Men: The Hidden Roots of Sexual Deception, Harassment & Assault’ by David M. Buss (Part 1)

Bad Men by David Buss | Hachette UK
2.5/5 stars

Overview: David Buss’ book is interesting, but is ultimately let down by falling into feminist thinking and talking points.

I bought this book on a whim after reading a review of it on the website Aero by William Costello. What interested me was not so much the review itself but the comments underneath it which were critical of what Mr. Costello had written and the details of the book. One of the commenters was Steve Moxon, author of the book The Woman Racket who has done his own research and studies into human sex differences that goes against the feminist narrative. The general feeling in the comments was that, despite Aero claiming to challenge conventional thinking, the book and reviewer basically upheld the status quo idea that male violence against women was widespread and society had to find ways of dealing with it.

I concurred with the comments under the article but I was intrigued enough to read the book myself and draw my own conclusions. I believe both William Costello and the book’s author, David Buss, want to be impartial and objective in this discussion but they may be too entrenched in academia to challenge the current consensus and present an alternative or opposing viewpoint. William Costello appears to be sympathetic and open-minded regarding issues affecting men but I still differ in some ways from his point of view.

David Buss is a prominent evolutionary psychologist working at the University of Texas in Austin whose career began in the 1970s and has written books such as The Evolution of Desire and The Murderer Next Door. Bad Men is the first book I’ve read by Dr. Buss which explores sexual conflict between men and women and the psychology of male perpetrators of sexual violence in particular.

For whatever reason, the book has been published under two different names as it has also been published with the title When Men Behave Badly which also has a different cover. Bad Men is the UK title.

Chapter 1: Biology and sexual conflict

David Buss begins by explaining that sexual conflict between men and women is rooted in “evolved sex differences” in sexual psychology. This is related to the distinctive gametes that men and women uniquely possess. For more information, you can read my description of Chapter 3 of The Ape That Understood the Universe. One of the most obvious differences between the sexes, to everybody except trans fanatics at least, is that women get pregnant and men do not. This means that women bear potential metabolic costs after sexual intercourse which men don’t since men can successfully reproduce just by impregnating a woman. In other words, in terms of reproduction, men are the ‘outsiders’ and women are the ‘insiders’ which means they both have advantages and disadvantages in the domain of sex and reproduction. Dr. Buss believes an “evolutionary lens” helps identify when sexual conflict may occur between men and women and says one goal of the book is to highlight circumstances that may increase or decrease its likelihood.

It is pointed out in the first chapter, titled ‘The Battle of the Sexes’, that the increasing conflict surrounding men and women has been blamed on many things from the patriarchy and toxic masculinity to feminism. David Buss even addresses the ‘manosphere’ writing:

“Manosphere bloggers… blame women who seek sex with “alpha chads” (high status males) and exploit lower-status males who are “betas” for their investment.”

I don’t know if I meet the definition of a ‘manosphere blogger’ but David Buss’ perception of the manosphere seems to focus on one area of a very large and loosely connected group(s) rather than encapsulating the whole of it. The issue of hypergamy, which Dr. Buss is basically referring to, is more of an interest of certain groups of men who arguably make up the manosphere, such as incels but not only them, whilst other so-called manosphere bloggers may be focussed on issues such as family court bias or misandry in general. David Buss does acknowledge that women are attracted to men with high power and status but writes:

“Missing from these manosphere accounts, however, is that women’s mate preferences are enormously complex and include qualities such as honesty, intelligence, dependability, moral character, sense of humor, and many more.”

Again though, other figures in the manosphere may agree with this statement and be more interested in other topics relating to men.

The author also considers the feminist idea of patriarchy as the source of conflict between the sexes but argues against it by stating, in his opinion, that both sides – that is, feminists and the manosphere – fail to recognise biology and how it relates to the modern world. David Buss essentially argues for a ‘centre ground’ as a way to understand male-female sexual conflict. However, this isn’t entirely true as many of the individuals who have influenced my thinking and consider themselves part of the manosphere have read about evolutionary psychology themselves.

Likewise, in his attempt to strike a balance between feminism and the manosphere, Dr. Buss states:

“Patriarchal institutions such as laws that give husbands control over their spouses’ sexuality for example are still on the books in some countries and have lingering pernicious effects in others.”

This is clearly to appease any feminists who could be reading and might be troubled by his accusing them of denying biology. The problem here though is that Dr. Buss states a feminist position but doesn’t give any alternative theories why such institutions and laws exist other than an apparent male desire to control women. Unlike the arguments by bloggers in the manosphere, this is presented as self-evident and something that does not require further scrutiny. Undoubtedly, men in some countries may use particular laws as a means to oppress women, but the motivations behind ‘patriarchal’ laws, in Western countries at least, are partly to deal with the aforementioned fact that men are the outsiders of reproduction and their role in their children’s lives can be diminished if these laws are altered without thinking about this. These feminist-influenced statements are a recurring feature of the book so I’ll explore this a little more later.

Here the book takes a more interesting detour into sexual conflict in other species, for example, spiders of the family Pisaura mirabilis and how they interact during courtships. Typically, the male engages in the arduous task of capturing an insect and offering it as a gift to the female to initiate mating. This isn’t always straightforward, however, as a number of scenarios can occur such as the female taking the gift and leaving without mating with the male or the male wrapping something worthless in silk and mating with the female while she unwraps the gift.

I found this description darkly amusing in a way and we can probably think of human examples that are not dissimilar! Other examples of sexual conflict amongst insects in particular include water striders of which the males have penile spines which can damage the female’s reproductive tract. Another more well known example is the female black widow spider which can consume the male after mating.

Buss then writes about men and women being in a ‘sexual conflict co-evolution’ whereby one sex develops a tactic to exploit the other sex resulting in the latter developing an evolved tactic to avoid the exploitation. This is compared to predators like cheetahs evolving tactics to capture prey like gazelles which, in turn, evolved a response against it – i.e. both use speed, habitat, vigilance, etc. to prey on or avoid being preyed on by the other. In terms of men and women, Dr. Buss writes:

“adaptations in women to avoid subpar males or to require extensive courtship displays before consenting to sex have created selection pressures on men to circumvent these barriers. Defensive adaptations to deflect sexual advances are countered by sexual persistence adaptations.”

One problem I have with this argument is how closely this falls into the now standard narrative of ‘female victims’ and ‘male perpetrators’. Using the predator-prey analogy makes this more likely and discourages interpreting sexual conflict in other ways. We could just as well interpret the ‘battle of the sexes’ as a form of ‘one-upmanship’ in which each sex simultaneously takes advantage and is taken advantage of. The previous example of the male and female Mirabilis spider illustrates this idea more than the cheetah vs. gazelle one.

A notable ‘battleground’ where sexual conflict can arise is the differing sex drives between men and women. As women’s sex drive is generally lower than men’s, ‘female choosiness’ comes into play which inevitably creates tension, misunderstanding and potentially violence. The often cited statistics about online dating sites are presented which show that most men rate most women as attractive whereas women rate only around 20% of men as attractive. One reason for female choosiness is of course because women face costlier consequences if they have sex and become pregnant. The author notes that men and women tend to differ in how soon after meeting they desire to have sex, with men desiring it earlier than women:

“1 scientist analogized this to having 2 pairs of hands on the same steering wheel of a car, each having a somewhat different destination, each trying to turn the wheel towards its own destination but being forced to contend with pulls from the other.”

To manage these biological realities, many civilisations have found unique ways to order relations between the sexes. The book describes how men in the Tiwi tribe, a group from an island near Australia, use women and girls like currency by bestowing them to other men at birth. When the girls reach adolescence, they move in with their bestowed husband. Men who are given women as brides can reciprocate by offering their own daughters in return. If this sounds highly demeaning and exploitative towards women, it’s worth noting that this system results in a lot of young men without any women whilst a small group of older men have three or four. Also, many of the younger women can become widows when their older husband dies and may have a say in their next husband. Not surprisingly, there is also infidelity between young brides and younger men and the tribe have found their own ways to manage this. Although this is an extreme example, it shows that women are often a resource that men compete for.

Regardless of men’s desire for more sex and with more partners than women, men also face costs which can lead to sexual conflict. The most obvious is that they could be a victim of ‘paternity fraud’ – i.e. a man can unknowingly acknowledge and raise a child that isn’t actually his own. This is not only costly in terms of mating opportunities, but also in time, resources and possibly psychological damage. This can lead to ‘sexual jealousy’ in which men are suspicious about women’s sexual activity and proximity to other men. To manage this, men may engage in ‘mate guarding’ by monitoring women’s activity and location. The book describes an app available in Saudi Arabia called Absher whereby men can track their wives’ movements! It is also noted that this suspicion from men hasn’t altered even though many women use contraceptive pills to prevent getting pregnant.

The restrictive practices towards women in countries like Saudi Arabia is contrasted here with a tribe in Brazil called Yanomamo in which men spend a lot of time away from their wives hunting for big game. This means that women have more influence to make decisions as they are not ‘guarded’ by their husbands. This is interesting considering that this kind of arrangement is more or less identical to traditional hunter-gatherer societies or, more recently, the traditional gender roles of men going out to work and women staying at home. We are often told that women were oppressed in this situation but if women’s husbands were away at work most of the time, doesn’t this mean women had the same freedoms as Dr. Buss argues Yanomamo women have? We could draw two conclusions from this: either, feminism falsely portrayed women staying at home as oppressed or, feminism naturally developed from this environment, particularly as technological advances reduced women’s dependency on men for resources. I actually think both are true even though they appear contradictory.

Other sources of conflict include men’s superior size and strength, the proximity of friends and family or ‘allies’ and the choice of potential partners available to either sex. In addition, individual differences can determine the likelihood and severity of sexual conflict occurring. For example, people who score highly on the so-called ‘dark triad’ traits of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism are said to be more likely to be sexual exploitative. I’ll explore this in a little bit
more detail later.

Given the topic of this book, most of the exploration of sexual conflict focusses on male perpetrators and female victims but, to his credit, Dr. Buss states:

“Can women be sexual predators? Our research on the Dark Triad suggests yes, but in somewhat different ways. Women who score high in Dark Triad traits are more likely to engage in mate poaching, luring men away from existing relationships for sexual encounters. High scoring women are also more likely to use sex as a tactic for getting ahead in the workplace.”

Chapter 2: Attraction, Dating and Mating

In the second chapter: ‘The Mating Market’, David Buss argues that conflict arises between the two sexes due to them pursuing different mating strategies. In addition to men having a higher sex drive, they also have a greater desire for sexual variety. This has been shown not only across cultures, but in homosexual men as well (see Chapter 3 link for more details).

According to the book, men also overestimate their attractiveness in the mating market and have higher self-esteem than women. Men also appear to have a ‘sexual over-perception bias’ in which they perceive sexual interest in a woman that is not actually there. Men might also underestimate how upsetting their actions are towards women. In my view, I can’t help thinking that men simply assume women are as attracted to them as vice versa. However, in the event of a low risk casual encounter, men may lower their standards. It is pointed out that both men and women attempt to secure a partner on dating sites who is 25% more desirable than them.

What explains this behaviour? One explanation is female choosiness. Here the author writes:

“‘Men are one long breeding experiment run by women’ according to some evolutionary anthropologists. Men have evolved to be fiercely motivated to acquire the resources and status women desire in a mate and to embody the qualities women want, such as kindness, dependability and physical fitness.”

Note that survival is also an effective motivator for acquiring resources and status as well as the traits mentioned if only to work in a group or evade conflicts. Women could simply be more receptive to traits that would aid survival, which is something both sexes desire. In other words, men’s motivations for obtaining status and resources might not just be motivated by female approval.

Much like the spiders described in the first chapter, both sexes try to find short-cuts to attract the opposite sex. Men may deceive by posing next to expensive cars, wearing expensive items of clothing, or even posing with attractive women in order to impress other women. Women may deceive by ‘catfishing’ whereby fake photos of an attractive woman are presented on a dating site and then used to fraud the victim in some way. Indeed, Dr. Buss writes:

“Neither sex has a monopoly on deception. One study found that an astonishing 81 percent of online dating profiles contained at least one lie about a verifiable characteristic such as age, height or weight.”

The book veers into more feminist-tinged territory with the idea that men are particularly attracted to women deemed to be ‘exploitable’, reflecting that perpetrators will target people they consider to be more vulnerable. This is true not just for sexual assault but for many crimes. Traits that favour exploitability include low intelligence and being younger. Evidence of this purportedly comes from men perceiving women who are intelligent as attractive in a long-term relationship but not in a more short-term scenario.

I don’t entirely agree with this argument about intelligence and exploitation as it is possible for somebody to be intelligent but also naïve and suggestable – especially younger people. While it’s true that more intelligent people will be better equipped mentally to avoid being taken advantage of or manipulated, a young, educated woman from a protected, privileged background may be less prepared to deal with certain kinds of men than a less educated, less intelligent woman from a poorer background who may have experience of predatory, exploitative men. This is the difference between a woman who is ‘booksmart’ and a woman who is ‘streetsmart’.

Alcohol consumption is another way in which women can be vulnerable; it is easier for them to get drunk as they have less of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase than men. It is not pointed out in the book, however, that people individually, and regardless of sex, can differ in how much alcohol they can consume before becoming drunk as some men can be classed as ‘lightweights’ and so can equally be exploited. Here again, the book presents women as poor, helpless victims and men as potential predators and perpetrators. Dr. Buss writes:

“Because alcohol stimulates bonding endorphins, women are more likely to misread interactions and relationships with men when intoxicated. They overestimate the likelihood of an emotional bond and a long-term relationship – what Dr. Andy Thomson calls the Prosecco perception bias.”

Since alcohol affects our judgement and increases our impulsivity, which would favour short-term desires over long-term ones, I’m not entirely sure how accurate that statement is, but it’s perhaps not a good idea for women, or anyone, to believe that they’ll make sound decisions whilst drunk. A good piece of advice to women would be to watch how much they are drinking so they are less likely to find themselves in unfortunate situations. This may nowadays be misconstrued as victim blaming.

David Buss continues the ‘female victim, male perpetrators’ perception by describing male college students drinking as “high testosterone, alcohol-fueled men” as if they are big bad wolves preying on Little Red Riding Hoods. But if young college women were so vulnerable and afraid of their male peers, they would never go out at all.

In reality, women can take advantage of sexually aroused men just as some men may take advantage of women. The author concedes this, noting that women can benefit from short-term mating via access to resources, but describes them as “exploiting the exploiters” as if such women are simply retaliating towards male offenders.

Indicative of what could be called ‘feminist thinking’, Dr. Buss writes:

“Women’s manner of dress does not excuse men legally or morally from being guilty of sexual exploitation, although historically it has been misused by defense lawyers for this purpose.”

But this depends on what we would define as ‘sexual exploitation’, such as if a man and a woman had mutually consented to sex or not. A woman who dresses a certain way, particularly on a night out, is inviting certain attention from the opposite sex even if she may not consciously intend to do so. If she is sexually assaulted, it doesn’t mean that she ‘deserves’ to be, but dressing in certain ways will generate responses she may or may not want. Is it wrong to expect women to have some responsibility over this?

The book turns to the more interesting topic of women’s attraction to men high on the aforementioned ‘Dark Triad’ traits (psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism) which is called the ‘bad boy paradox’. This is apparently evident in dating profiles as such men are rated higher by women than men lacking in these traits. One explanation for this is that Dark Triad men are often charming and confident which conveys high mate value. This makes sense as this is what women find attractive in men in general. These traits would have also benefitted men in surviving our more chaotic and unstable ancestral past. Women who mated with such men may have passed these traits on and had ‘sexy sons’ who passed them on as well. However the author notes:

“The hypothesis would have to pass a high empirical hurdle, because these reproductive benefits would have to outweigh the costs that women vulnerable to high-level Dark Triad men are known to suffer.”

The phenomenon and the possible explanation behind it make sense to me, but I still have issues with how personality traits like the Dark Triad are ‘measured’ by psychologists, since they appear to be based on a subjective assessment. It is hard to imagine people high in psychopathy, narcissism or Machiavellianism being willing and able to give an accurate evaluation of themselves, in much the same way that it would be hard for a compulsive liar to admit they are a compulsive liar. It wouldn’t be surprising, after all, if compulsive liars were high on the Dark Triad traits! I doubt a genuine psychopath, if asked if he was psychopathic, would reply: “Why, yes. Yes I am” although this of course is an extreme example.

In this section, some of the statements used as measurements of the Dark Triad traits, which people are asked how much they agree with, are presented. Nevertheless, a lot of these statements are, in my opinion, hints of the traits at best.

For psychopathy, the statements presented include: ‘payback needs to be quick and nasty’, ‘people who mess with me always regret it’ and ‘I like to pick on losers.’ Whilst these statements correlate with psychopathy, I think you could agree with these without necessarily having psychopathic traits. For me, the closest example to a psychopathic mindset given is ‘I’ll say anything to get what I want’.

Similarly, statements measuring narcissism include: ‘I like to be the centre of attention’ and ‘I know that I’m special because everyone keeps telling me so’. While these are certainly how a narcissist might think, I don’t know if a genuine narcissist would be so self-aware, or so honest and self-critical, to agree with them. For Machiavellianism, statements provided include: ‘It’s wise to keep track of information that you can use against people later’ and ‘make sure you plan benefits you, not others’ which might hint at the trait but, to me, needs to be more specific to be an accurate assessment.

Chapter 3: Trouble in paradise

In Chapter 3, the book delves into the conflicts that can arise after a relationship has been established. Any long-term relationship inevitably has its struggles and conflicts as couples have to live together and face life’s trials and tribulations.

In the case of sexual conflict, one problem that can present itself is the changing desirability or ‘mate value’ of one partner relative to the other as nothing remains static. As people grow older, they may become less attractive to their partner and face competition from younger suitors. Situations can also change and make one partner more attractive and, crucially, more attractive to others. The case of Dorothy Stratten, for example, highlights what can happen when someone’s mate value increased to the detriment of their partner. She became an actress and left her husband Paul Snider for the director Peter Bogdanovich in a classic case of ‘trading up’. In response, Snider murdered her and then killed himself.

According to the book though, even stable and committed relationships can cultivate people who act as ‘back-up mates’ in case the relationship turns sour or suddenly ends due to death or other circumstances. These back-up mates can turn into affairs and Dr. Buss notes that men and women may pursue affairs for differing reasons. As already stated, men may pursue an affair or affairs to satisfy their desire for sexual variety whereas women may have an affair to obtain a ‘better’ partner. David Buss writes:

“women are more likely to cite emotional involvement as a reason for the affair. Men are more likely to cite pure sexual pleasure.”

It is also claimed that women are more likely than men to fall in love with the person they are having an affair with. While it is not stated in this book, this is basically the principle that ‘women want love and men want sex’ which is a conclusion that a lot of people come to. In my opinion, this is a flawed assumption. The reason I believe this is because of the declining marriage and birth rates that have accompanied ‘women’s liberation’. Additionally, there has been a rise in births outside of marriage and the growth of areas described in one report as ‘men deserts’ in many towns and cities.

This is in no way to say that these developments are all women’s fault, but if most women naturally desired long-term relationships, wouldn’t giving women ‘more control over their bodies’ result in them choosing men who also wanted long-term relationships? Also, why did societies in the past stigmatise women who had children outside of marriage or without a father around? The feminist answer would be because of ‘patriarchal oppression of women’ but the plausible answer would be that without these stigmas, some women would have chosen to have sex and get pregnant without thinking of the consequences. These women are now usually provided welfare in place of a husband meaning they are, effectively, ‘married to the state.’ It is likely there were women in these circumstances who didn’t deserve to be shunned, but these attitudes must have emerged for a reason.

To be clear, I don’t believe men in these situations were always innocent and blameless. It is important to point out that men who impregnated and abandoned women were stigmatised as well so this is not about ‘female victim blaming’ or misogyny.

According to Michelle Langley in her book Why Women Cheat, although women claim they want an emotionally involved man, they may in fact pursue men who are not interested in them, at least not in the romantic sense, as this creates tension and excitement which may link with women’s attraction to ‘bad boys’. In contrast, a man who openly shows his love for a woman may appear needy and too dependent on them. Obviously, many women also desire love and commitment from men but this shows that, in both sexes, there is often a disconnect between our sexual desires and our romantic ones. The author does point out though that women who have affairs may also score high on the Dark Triad traits.

Returning to the book, Dr. Buss writes that humans have evolved strategies to switch mates if needed in response to environmental changes:

“we come from a long and unbroken line of ancestors who went through mating crises – ancestors who monitored mate value, tracked satisfaction with their current unions, cultivated backups, appraised alternatives, and switched mates when conditions proved propitious.”

Mate value can be thought of as a balance between the value one person places on themselves and the value they place on their partner. This is called a ‘welfare trade-off ratio’ or WTR. If WTR is balanced then the relationship is likely to be stable and healthy as neither person is self-centred nor entirely dependent on the other person. In long-term relationships, mate value may change suddenly or regularly fluctuate. An example given is women’s ovulation cycle which may make them more attractive due to physical changes like a lower waist-to-hip ratio.

The so-called ‘double standard’ in attitudes towards sexual infidelity might also be a source of conflict. Generally, people consider women cheating on a man as worse than a man cheating on a woman which some women consider to be wrong. The author states this is partly due to men’s desire for sexual variety but does not mention that another reason is that men reasonably fear paternity fraud if they discover their wives have cheated on them with another man although he mentions this earlier in the book. There is also a ‘me versus thee’ double standard in that people tend to judge their partner kissing, performing a sex act or having sex with someone else more harshly than they would if they did it.

The final source of conflict covered in this chapter is sexual withdrawal which is usually thought of as done by women as a way to control men. This is true, but Dr. Buss points out that men can also do this to women. Many cultures expect there to be sexual relations in marriages so one person denying their other half sex, or having sex with somebody else, is obviously considered to be wrong. Historically, adultery committed by women was considered a ‘property violation’ of one man against another which suggests to some that this was a form of patriarchal oppression of women. David Buss falls back into feminist thinking when he writes:

“the male sexual psychology that gave rise to the laws to begin with – specifically male sexual proprietariness – continues to be fully activated within committed relationships. Cultural
shifts towards greater gender equality within relationships have dramatically reduced men’s entitlements. Western marriage no longer grants men unconstrained sexual access whenever and wherever they want. Women within committed relationships have the rights and freedoms to consent to sex or to withdraw sex. And this gives women a critical lever of power – the power to reward and the power to punish.”

This implies men created such laws as a kind of ‘ego trip’ to exert power over women rather than to deal with many of the conflicts David Buss described in this chapter. Since men are the outsiders of reproduction, their relationship with their children can be threatened if women are not honest about their sexual discretions, and many men would assume that their wives want to have sex with them and would, understandably, be suspicious if they didn’t – over the long-term at least. Withdrawing sex may allow women to get what they want but this can also create resentment as the man might emotionally withdraw. As already mentioned, men can also withdraw sex which can lead to women fearing the relationship is falling apart or there’s another woman involved.

Underlying many of these relationship conflicts is feelings of jealousy which is explored in the next chapter.

To be continued…

MMM#10: All You Have Is Now

All of the self-help type stuff I’ve written on this blog is as much for my own sake as anybody who chooses to read it. I’ve always been obsessed with self-improvement and productivity even though I’ve often failed at both of these things. At the end of last year, I set myself some targets to accomplish during this year such as posting at least twice a month and writing at least five book reviews. Even though it’s only the first month of the year as I write this, I feel like I may not be able to achieve most or all of these targets! This is one of the problems with planning for the future as it’s hard to tell what will happen when the future becomes the present.

It we consider the years 2024 or 2025, which are only a couple of years in the future (thus dating this post fairly quickly), it can seem like they are filled with endless potential and possibilities. When they come around though the same issues that face us in the present will emerge and whatever thoughts and plans we had about it will become limited. It’s true that a lot can change by then, but we still have the then-present to contend with.

The psychologist Jordan Peterson has developed a self-authoring program which allows people to plan out their life in the future as well as write about the past and present. This program has apparently helped many people to achieve their goals and reduce anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future but there may be drawbacks to this approach too. You could potentially set yourself up for a fall by setting targets for a later date because you don’t know what may happen to you between now and that later point. It’s also possible that you frustrate yourself if you don’t manage to achieve the goals you set for yourself. You also don’t know what your situation may be in the near future as your mood can change depending on the circumstances.

Depending on your temperament, you might worry more about the future than other people and become fixated on accomplishing something by a certain date at the expense of other things. If you fail, then your worries were for nothing.

Since we only live in the present, it’s important that we focus on what we’re doing now as well as paying attention to what we hope to do in the future. Why waste time worrying about what you haven’t done or had wanted to do if nothing comes of it anyway? Could whatever you happen to be doing right now be done better? While focussing too much on the present could lead to short term thinking and instant gratification, I think if you look at what you’re doing now as well as look at what you’ve achieved and what you hope to achieve, you can maintain your productivity. In short, you should try to look at the past, present and future but remember that you only live in the present.

I’m still going to try and achieve the goals I set for myself, but will also try to focus on the present and not dwell on the future too much since the future will turn into the present very soon.

MMM#9: Patriarchy Under the Knife

A recent study appeared in the news which claimed that women were more likely to die when operated on by men than by women whilst there appeared to be no differences when either men and women were operated on by women. The study, conducted by the University of Toronto in Canada, analysed data from 1.3 million patients and found that women were a third more likely to die when operated on by a male surgeon.

This reminded me of a similar news story that appeared a while ago about a study that suggested that patients in general were more likely to die during operations carried out by men rather than women. The conclusion drawn from this earlier study was that women were better surgeons than men and it was necessary to increase their numbers in light of this. As you might imagine, there were a number of triumphant response articles written by feminists either highlighting female superiority or bemoaning the gender imbalance in this area of medicine. Feminists will accept sex differences if it suits their narrative to do so.

The reaction to this recent news has generated a similar response. Researchers from the study itself even suggested that male surgeons might “act on subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes and attitudes” as well as suggesting that men and women’s differences in communication style might also have an effect. It was also suggested that the solution to this apparent issue was to train more female surgeons so that the gender imbalance in surgery would end and there would be fewer female deaths.

Presumably, the idea that there might be ways to improve male surgeons’ performances to decrease the number of deaths, if this is indeed an issue, was never contemplated since this wouldn’t fix the male dominance in surgery. This was because the issue the media – and, it seems, some of the researchers themselves – were primarily concerned about was not the safety of patients during operations, but the idea of ingrained sexism in the medical profession.

Hannah Fearn, writing in the i newspaper, argues that the reason behind this disparity is because women have a constant awareness and fear of male power and authority:

“Every interaction between a man and woman in our society is coloured by this imbalance – and the relationship between male surgeon and female patient is the most extreme of these scenarios.”

Hannah Fearn

Earlier in the article, she also claims:

“Medical misogyny is already well documented in Western societies. In the UK, the “belief” barrier that many women need to hurdle before female pain is taken seriously inside the NHS is staggeringly high.”

Hannah Fearn

If this quote is to be believed, it would appear that the NHS is ignorant of women’s healthcare needs due to being too male-dominated. This is despite the fact that this recent government mandate to improve the NHS states it will improve outcomes for major diseases (page 20) by providing screening for cancers like breast and cervical which predominantly/exclusively affect women without listing any male-specific types like prostate or testicular. Similarly, the mandate states it will reduce maternal mortality and support women in senior leadership roles, alongside those who are black, Asian, etc. (pages 20-21).

It would be interesting if the Toronto study had found the opposite result of more male patients dying when operated on by women than men. I can imagine in this scenario either the news being buried or explained away as something like men making poorer health choices.

Alternatively, Tom Utley, writing in the Daily Mail, expresses scepticism to some of the conclusions drawn from this study in an article describing how statistics in general can be misleading and used to make any point you want to make. Whilst conceding that women may be better at communicating than men – I have my own thoughts about that, but I’ll leave that for another day – Mr. Utley writes:

“a far more plausible explanation is that the most experienced consultant surgeons – those entrusted with the most dangerous and life-threatening cases – are chiefly men. In fact, in Britain 86 per cent of consultant surgeons are male. Meanwhile women, who for all sorts of reasons (mostly to do with child-rearing) tend to be less experienced with the scalpel, are generally left to concentrate on the simpler operations. So it’s no wonder if male surgeons have a lower success rate.”

Tom Utley

While admitting to not knowing why there was no difference in male patients, Tom Utley argued that there were other factors to consider before we could conclude that women were better surgeons than men. I’m inclined to agree with him. One possible factor is the different life expectancies of men and women. Since women tend to live longer than men, there is a greater chance that patients of an advanced age that are operated on are predominantly women. Since older people are more likely to die during an operation than younger people, this may be why women are more likely to die during surgery. It’s also likely that men are the majority of surgeons who operate on elderly patients. It would be ironic if this was the primary explanation!

While I don’t think this study was conducted with the aim to challenge the so-called patriarchal field of medicine, any mismatch between the sexes which may affect women is inevitably jumped on as being down to men and society as a whole not taking women seriously even though the opposite is usually true.

Whatever the truth behind the study, it made me think about this Weird Al Yankovic song which parodied a well known Madonna hit and made it about a hapless, incompetent surgeon which is probably what feminists think the medical profession is like.

MMM#8: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

As another year flies by, it’s common for people to reflect on what they have done over the past 12 months and ponder what they plan to do in the coming year. These plans usually get derailed and abandoned pretty quickly but I think it’s still a good thing to do if only to see how you have progressed over that period of time.

In tribute to Vention MGTOW, who died this year, I’m going to do what he once did and look back on what I’ve done this year with this blog and my plans for the future.

Overall, I’m pleased with what I’ve done with the blog in 2021 as I’ve got to grips with some of the features on the site to make it more accessible and presentable. Hopefully I can improve on this next year. In the first year of this blog, I struggled to write posts but this year I’ve gradually found ways to produce content on a semi-regular basis.

Although this year seems to have gone by fairly quickly, it does seem a long time since I wrote about the George Floyd incident and the rise of Black Lives Matter back in January. Since then I have made a video, written a book review and began writing shorter posts so I can update my blog at least twice a month.

My hope next year is to build on what I’ve done during 2021. While you should never make promises you can’t keep, here are some of the things I’m hoping to achieve by the end of 2022. If I can remember, I may write a post in 12 months’ time analysing how well I did:

Regular posts

Since I started this blog in 2019, I’ve had several periods where months have passed and I haven’t posted anything. My target next year is to post at least twice every month. Some months may be more productive than others but hopefully whatever content I post will be of interest to whoever stumbles upon it.

More book reviews

I’m quite pleased with how my review of The Ape That Understood the Universe turned out even though it was a lot longer than I planned. I split it into three parts to avoid giving the reader a large dump of text to slog through assuming they stuck with it.

I have a few books I want to read and write about and I’ve nearly finished writing a review of one of them. My target next year is to read and review at least five books. I’ve finished one book and I’m currently reading another so I may be able to achieve this. At most these should be in three parts but I’m trying to limit the length of them. I know I don’t have to outline in detail the entire book!

More videos (eventually)

I spent a lot of the early part of this year making a video which I posted onto YouTube where I read out my post about Laura Bates’ book Men Who Hate Women. For my efforts, I’ve received two dislikes (before YouTube took away that option)! I’m not too bothered about that because it was just an experiment in video making.

Like this blog, I don’t have a clear plan what I want to do with video content but it’s something I’m interested in doing. My target next year is to make at least two videos although I’m not sure what the content of those videos will be. It may be into the latter part of 2022 before I can achieve this given how long it took me to make the first one.

And other things

As well as writing about men’s issues and politics, I want to write about other things that interest me like TV and film. Some of this will be related to men and politics, but may be more general as well. I still want what I’ve done so far to be the main focus of this blog though.

A bigger audience?

Blogs aren’t exactly the most popular medium to spread ideas or information on the internet so I never expected to have an audience. At the moment, I know one person who reads my blog (a big thanks to femgoggles whose blog can be viewed here) but I’m interested in increasing that next year. If I can get another person reading I’ll have doubled my audience! I’m not too concerned as I enjoy what I’m been doing but it would be nice to get some more people interested. I could have made more of an effort by using social media but I’m trying to limit how often I go on sites like Twitter.

Overview

Book of the year: it’s the only book I wrote about this year so it’s Steve Stewart-Williams’ The Ape That Understood the Universe. I disagreed with some of the author’s viewpoints but I think he wants to be objective and open-minded. Overall I liked it and found it informative.

Post of the year: Thoughts on ‘Toxic Femininity’– one of the reasons I started this blog was to express my thoughts about certain topics that I didn’t think were commonly expressed elsewhere. I don’t claim to be a brilliant or original thinker but I figured that some of the things that I’ve written may chime with what other people have thought about.

In this particular post, I wrote about my disagreements with Freya India Ager’s Aero article ‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’ which was widely circulated and discussed. I found the article because of femgoggles and he later linked to my post which I appreciated.

Reader of the year: despite some stiff competition it’s femgoggles!

I’ll end this post and this year by reposting some of the video links that appeared on my blog. Have a happy new year.

  • My YouTube video – a little basic but it is what it is.
  • Vention MGTOW’s summary of 2018: from ‘RIP Vention MGTOW’ – this video was my favourite of Vention’s and inspired this post in a way. From the beginning of 2019 and shortly before his cancer diagnosis, Vention talks about keeping a journal and doing summary of 2018 along with other aspects of his life.
  • Mitchell and Webb sketch about Jesus telling his followers the story of the Good Samaritan – from ‘Thoughts on ‘Toxic Femininity”. Jesus’ emphasis on the goodness of the Samaritan as a ‘weird curiosity’ makes me think of the way people talk about ‘healthy masculinity’
  • Two videos by ‘The Glass Blind Spot’ – the first is his video about the gobby feminist MP Jess Phillips in my post about anonymity and the tragic death of David Amess and the second is about how Doctor Who was infiltrated by SJWs from ‘Who’d be a male role model?’
  • Song from South Park about safe spaces – it’s a few years old now but is still relevant today – from ‘To be anonymous or not to be anonymous?’

MMM#7: The Day Shall Come

Looking back on this year, one event that happened to me in the summer sticks out more than any other: I was almost made redundant as I was told that the department I had been working in for a few years was closing down and me and my co-workers would have to compete for other jobs in the building. I managed to get a role in another department as did most of my colleagues but some other people I had worked with and known for a while decided to leave. The news completely shocked us at the time and for a little while I was having to consider finding another job. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, I was fortunate that I could still go in to work and not have
to wear a facemask all day so I had a false sense of security about my job and could not imagine this bombshell hitting me.

It got me thinking about how we are often complacent about the stability and constancy of our lives and also how we assume we are in complete control of our circumstances. I was briefly stripped of that complacency when I discovered that a decision made by people I’ve never met completely upended my life for a couple of months and I didn’t realise that I was so vulnerable.

Of course, a risk of redundancy is nothing compared to other sudden and unexpected news that people are forced to deal with. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to imagine how you would react if you were told you had a terminal illness or if a friend or family member died without any warning beforehand.

Of the job vacancies that were available, I ended up getting the one nobody really wanted and so effectively drew the short straw. At the time, I was understandably a little annoyed that I ended up where I had but it was wisely pointed out to me by others that it didn’t have to be forever and I could eventually find somewhere else to go.

I thought about these lines from Bob Dylan’s famous song The Times They Are A-Changin’:

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past

In other words, fortunes and circumstances change and my unhappiness would not last forever if I just got on with it and was proactive. Fortunately, it turned out my new job was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be and at the moment I’m satisfied with where I am so my initial grumblings were completely unnecessary. This shows that we can experience unexpected good outcomes as well as bad ones. It would still surprise me though if I knew at the beginning of this year where I’d be at the end of it.

Similar to the idea I put forward in another post about comfort being a false god, we should be wary about being too complacent and assume our contentment will last forever. Another mantra of sorts I came up with during this period is ‘the day shall come’. This basically means that there will be a day at some point in the future that will completely change your life in some way, maybe only temporary, maybe permanently, and likely in such a way that you didn’t expect. This can sound ominous and unnerving as it suggests that there will always be bad news around the corner but it could be that things suddenly improve when you are suffering and in a dark place. Thinking about this can help you prepare for possible bad times to come but may also reassure you that the bad times won’t last forever.

Overall, what happened to me was only a minor occurrence even though I didn’t expect it but there will be tougher times that I’ll have to deal with some day. In some ways, I’ve returned to the complacency I had before all of this happened but at least I had the experience to remind me to expect the unexpected.

The day shall come. Watch out for it.

MMM#6: Who’d be a male role model?

Despite my more recent posts, I’ve tried not to respond too much to current events partly because news moves on very quickly and often by the time I’ve written about something, it’s no longer prominent in people’s minds. Inevitably, a hot topic of one week or month will disappear soon afterwards and anybody who discusses it after some time has passed will find there’s a very limited audience for it.

However, I couldn’t resist writing about the controversy over the comments made by the MP Nick Fletcher during a discussion inspired by the recent International Men’s Day. Nick Fletcher pointed out the trend in recent years of notable male characters in films and TV shows such as Doctor Who, Star Wars and Ghostbusters being replaced by women which, in his opinion, left men with only characters like Tommy Shelby from the show Peaky Blinders. Since Tommy Shelby is a criminal figure compared to the more universally good characters like Luke Skywalker, Mr. Fletcher believed men and boys were being exposed to largely negative role models rather than positive ones which he felt influenced them to commit crimes. As you might imagine, this prompted a hostile response in the usual places.

Most of the attention was directed towards the MP’s comments about Doctor Who since this is the most prominent role that was mentioned whereby a woman had taken on a traditionally male character as opposed to replacing an existing male character with a new ’empowered’ female one. The headlines that followed Nick Fletcher’s comments suggested he had said a woman playing the Doctor in Doctor Who had led to young men committing crimes resulting in him releasing a statement clarifying his points. The fact that Mr. Fletcher also made comments that ticked the politically correct boxes such as that it was a “wonderful thing that girls’ football is on TV, it’s terrific that female tennis stars are starting to be paid as much as their male counterparts” wasn’t enough to spare him from the vitriol that he received.

Ever since the actress Jodie Whittaker took on the lead role in Doctor Who, there has been tension amongst fans of the show over its direction and the writers’ insistence on presenting politically correct storylines and content. There was an understandable feeling that a male (albeit alien) character that a lot of people had looked up to for years was being replaced by a female to satisfy certain people’s political agenda. It’s also possible that the decision to present a female Doctor was a way to boost declining viewing figures as there’s only so many times you can watch the Doctor encounter and defeat Daleks and Cybermen. Nevertheless, I’d stopped watching Doctor Who long before Jodie Whittaker got the part so I wasn’t too bothered at the time when she was announced as the new incarnation of the Doctor. I was never as into the show as much as other people were maybe because, growing up, it had disappeared from TV and I was in my early teens when it was revived so I didn’t have the same nostalgia for it. One day I might check out the original series though. However, I’d recommend watching The Glass Blind Spot’s video here in which he investigates the background behind the casting of a female Doctor.

The replacement or marginalisation of male characters in place of female ones is obviously not restricted to shows like Doctor Who as it can be seen in other established franchises like the already mentioned Star Wars as well as James Bond and Mad Max. James Bond seems to be particularly despised by feminists and SJWs because he is not only a male lead character but a rather masculine one as well which is why he has been gradually neutered in the Daniel Craig films.

I’ve always been fascinated by popular culture and its impact and influence on society so the discussion this news prompted drew my attention. A book I’ve mentioned before called Spreading Misandry explores, amongst other things, how men have been portrayed in popular culture in films and TV shows and I hope to write about it more in the future. The book’s authors, Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young, argue – in both this book and their other books about misandry – that men need to have a role in society that has three key components:

  1. It is distinct
  2. It is necessary
  3. It is publicly valued.

Mr. Fletcher in his speech argued that phrases like toxic masculinity vilified men and made them feel worthless which, on top of presenting men and women as interchangeable and disappearing portrayals of positive male figures in the media, shows that societies are not fulfilling these requirements.

One argument against the supposed lack of male role models in society that has being put forward by many people is the reverence that Marcus Rashford, Gareth Southgate and the England football team as a whole have received for their conduct and performance during Euro 2020 and in their political campaigning. While they all may be perfectly nice men, they have been lavished with praise partly because they’ve ‘toed the woke line’, so to speak, on issues such as ‘taking the knee’ for alleged racial injustices. If Gareth Southgate, or any of the England players, came out and said something like ‘toxic masculinity is a stupid phrase’ or ‘Black Lives Matter are an extremist organisation’ then the admiration and goodwill the media has given them would disappear very quickly.

Like many of us, Nick Fletcher was guilty of presenting a valid point in an unclear and clumsy fashion which allowed people to attack or deliberately misunderstand his point of view. Finding characters like Tommy Shelby appealing does not necessarily mean that young men will turn to crime, which, as others have pointed out, is caused by many different factors which are social, cultural and even biological. On the other hand, young men raised in environments where crime is a normal part of life who have no positive role models to aspire to will look at criminal characters as appealing for simply reflecting their own life.

In one chapter of Spreading Misandry, the authors reflect on an incident in the early 1990s whereby the then-Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle criticised the show Murphy Brown for its portrayal of single mothers in a way that he felt undermined fathers, resulting in predictable outrage from the media. Quayle was accused of reading too much into what was just a TV show or not knowing fact from fiction. The authors respond:

“Shows such as Murphy Brown are not the direct cause of single motherhood, either in the ghettoes or anywhere else. Nevertheless, they legitimate what many have already accepted in others or even decided to do for themselves. Few people, if any, have premarital sex after learning about it from sitcoms on television. But many feel no qualms about doing so, because, according to these shows, everyone’s doin’ it. And hey, if everyone’s doin’ it, how can it be wrong? In short, there is nothing trivial about popular culture.”

‘Spreading Misandry’

Young men who only see negative male role models will have similar feelings.

Nick Fletcher is the MP for Don Valley in South Yorkshire and seems to be one of the ‘Red Wall’ Conservative MPs who were elected in traditionally left-leaning Labour seats in the 2019 General Election. Being from Yorkshire myself, I’m pleased that there are MPs around here like Nick Fletcher and the Shipley MP Philip Davies that are willing to speak out on issues affecting men. Hopefully when the next election comes around he’ll be able to keep his seat, if only to spite the people he’s annoyed.

MMM#5: To be anonymous or not to be anonymous?

You may be surprised to learn that ‘Mystery Man’ is not in fact my real name but simply a name I use when I produce online content such as this. With that shocking revelation out of the way, you might wonder why I have bought this up and why I choose not to use my real name.

Recently, a Conservative Member of Parliament named David Amess was tragically murdered in his constituency by, it seems, a British-born Somali called Ali Harbi Ali. This was the second serving MP to be killed in the last 5 years following from the murder of Jo Cox in 2016. While a politician being killed isn’t an unprecedented event, the fact there had been two MPs killed in a short space of time has led to discussion over the volatile atmosphere that has surrounded politics in recent years. Although the divisions in the UK are not as stark as they are in the US, there is a still a growing divide over many social and cultural issues or a ‘cultural war’ which inevitably creates tension and conflict. The suspect being from an immigrant family is alone a point of contention as it raises questions over how much control countries should have over immigration.

How much these tensions contributed to Ali’s motivations for killing David Amess is debatable, but the reaction from the media and MPs has been to focus attention on abuse MPs receive on sites like Twitter and online abuse in general. One MP, the shy, retiring and in no way attention-seeking Jess Phillips (watch this for more context) wrote an article for The Independent where she described how she felt about the killing and how she gets attacked online for some of her views, just about remembering to mention David Amess at the beginning and end of it. Like I wrote in my previous post about Sarah Everard’s death, unfortunate incidents like this are often used to pursue a political agenda.

There have been attempts to apply further controls over online content to crack down on trolling and unpleasant comments targeted at people known to the general public such as politicians, broadcasters, footballers, etc. This includes introducing rules like banning anonymous users (like myself) from social media websites. This is similar to the desire some people have for ‘safe spaces’ where they will be protected from comments they dislike. The show South Park, in its typical satirical way, did a good job of parodying safe spaces in this song a few years ago.

That being said, it is true that people who hide behind a name and image and then proceed to troll and bully other people are in some ways being cowardly, especially if the person who is the target of their trolling uses their real name and presents a photo of themselves.

The internet is an interesting medium as it crosses the line between public and private spaces. We often use it in the comfort of our homes, but can engage with people thousands of miles away with a few keyboard taps and clicks of buttons. This means that how we present ourselves on it and interact with other people can vary widely. The different ways people use the internet include:

  1. People who show their face and real name
  2. People who show their face but don’t give out their name
  3. People who give out their real name but don’t show their face
  4. People who don’t show their face or real name

Obviously, I belong in the last category – I’m naturally a cautious and cagey person so I feel more comfortable using another name and some of the content I am interested in and want to create myself could get me in trouble; anything that attacks the status quo of politics is considered ‘problematic’ even though I have no position of influence or power and I’ve no skeletons in the closet.

Because I choose not to show myself or use my real name, I think the name and image I use online is a kind of ‘glass house’ in that it gives me protection but I can still be accused of hiding behind it if I was to attack somebody else over the internet. At some point in the future, I’m planning on making some more videos on YouTube (for more information see here) and I’m wary of attacking other users on the platform for the reasons I’ve described. Celebrities and famous people are an exception to this, in my opinion, and we should be free to criticise them as they are already judged by the public, anonymous or otherwise.

In terms of banning anonymous users, others have said that doing this wouldn’t stop the prevalence of online abuse anyway and certain vulnerable people, such as whistleblowers and people residing in oppressive countries, would not be able to express their views if they were not anonymous.

One possible way to deal with online abuse from trolls using anonymous accounts is to develop an online culture that favours people who are willing to show their faces and use their real names on websites. You could even offer ‘perks’ of some kind to those who appear as themselves online. This could be just having free rein to say whatever you want. While I’m not in favour of banning or blocking anybody for what they express on the internet, people who don’t use their names should expect to be called out for it if they want to attack others. Conversely, trolls can either be shunned, ridiculed or just not ‘fed’. None of these suggestions requires any new laws being introduced to try to deal with this problem, it only needs websites and individuals to find solutions for themselves.

I’ll continue to remain anonymous – if I didn’t it would take a lot of the ‘mystery’ out of Mystery Man! – but I’m aware that I have to think more carefully what I might say to other people because of this.

MMM#4: Not letting a crisis go to waste

The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 was undoubtedly a tragedy, particularly for her family and friends, but her death has also made an impression on many women across the country who shared their apparent experiences of harassment or abuse at the hands of men. What made this incident particularly noteworthy was the fact that the person charged with the crime was a serving Metropolitan police officer named Wayne Couzens. The police’s reputation, already bruised by accusations of racism following the George Floyd incident in the US, took a further battering following the revelation about the culprit. This was followed by more controversy over the manhandling of several female protestors at a vigil for Ms. Everard in Clapham Common, London shortly after the incident.

In response to the killing of Sarah Everard, it wasn’t surprising that many politicians, journalists and other social commentators came out to speak about violence against women which, like racism or homophobia, was said to be endemic in society. Such was the concern for women’s safety that there was even a suggestion of a ‘curfew for men’ put forward in the House of Lords by Green Party peer Jenny Jones which was even considered by the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford! This however was denounced in many places, prompting her to say it was just a thought experiment.

Similarly, on Twitter the hashtag #notallmen, which pointed out that most men do not commit acts of violence against women, was criticised for somehow taking the focus off women as victims. A forgotten fact about the case, that a woman had also been arrested as an accomplice to Couzens, prompted me, at the time, to comment about this on Twitter with the hashtag #notallwomen. Nevertheless, later on, this woman was released without charge. I’ve tried to find out for certain who this woman was but I couldn’t find any more information. I can only assume it was Wayne Couzens’ wife who, as far as we know, had nothing to do with Sarah Everard’s death. Even so, women who are guilty of a crime rarely get the media attention and condemnation that men do so the #notallmen point is valid.

The recent conviction of Wayne Couzens brought the Sarah Everard case back into public discussion when he was sentenced to a whole life sentence in September. This was predictably followed by further hand-wringing about how awful the world is for women. Another controversy emerged when the Police Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Philip Allott, said that women should be “streetwise” and “educate themselves about powers of arrest” so they know “when they can be arrested”. This was because Couzens had placed Everard under arrest as a means to abduct her and subsequently rape and murder her. Instead of women taking this as advice to avoid such an incident happening again, Philip Allott was accused of ‘victim blaming’ and faced calls to resign, which he eventually did. Perhaps he could have worded it differently, but if women are supposed to be responsible and independent, why was this such as bad thing to suggest?

In an ideal world, no police officer would use their power to harm and exploit another person, but no human being (not even women!) is flawless. It’s an unfortunate fact, but there will always be some men who commit acts of violence against women just like there will always be acts of violence against human beings in general. Therefore, telling women to be cautious and think twice before putting themselves in a vulnerable position is not ‘victim blaming’ but just common sense. Since women have what could be called ‘permanent victim status’ though, any recommendation that they act to avoid putting themselves at risk is met with howls of condemnation.

Many men have been asking women how they can make them feel safer which, while sincere and well intentioned, is another way in which men as a group are forced to denigrate themselves before the ‘victim sex’. Men such as myself can only look on with disappointment. Since a lot of men aren’t willing to stand up for themselves, it’s encouraging that other women in the public sphere such as Davina McCall in a Twitter post and Janet Street-Porter in an article for the Daily Mail criticised the response to the death of Sarah Everard which framed violence against women as if all men are responsible for it.

I don’t always agree with Janet Street-Porter, but I was impressed with what she wrote here. In her article, she notes:

“As with Meghan and Harry (MM: a reference to the then-recent Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), an utterly unique set of circumstances is in danger of being hijacked and politicised by people with their own axes to grind”

“Young women might complain that they are being blamed for wearing skimpy clothing, for drinking too much, for wearing heels and not sensible trainers. I think that’s an over-reaction. These matters are all personal choices. But don’t demonise men – that won’t solve the problem.”

“the reality is that most men are NOT rapists or murderers or kidnappers and pretending that they are demeans both sexes and will only make women even more terrified.”

Janet Street-Porter

Another woman, a friend of Sarah Everard’s called Helena Edwards, wrote an article on the website spiked arguing that Ms. Everard would not have wanted the response that has occurred over her death:

“my friend’s tragic death has been hijacked. It is not a tribute to her any more, it’s about something else – and I don’t like what it has become.”


“I don’t think Sarah would have wanted them (MM: the men in her life), or men in general, to be smeared with the same brush as her attacker. Most people, and indeed men, are good.”

Helena Edwards

Likewise, the criminology professor Marian Fitzgerald of Kent University pointed out in an article in the Daily Telegraph that men were far more likely to be killed than women, stating:

“Women account for about a third of all murders. Men are far more likely to be murdered. Men are far more likely to be murdered by someone they don’t know. Men are far more likely to be murdered in a public place, and that hasn’t changed. I think I’m entitled to say as a woman, we shouldn’t pander to stereotypes and get hysterical.”

Marian Fitzgerald

The reaction to this event is indicative of the saying: ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ – i.e. using a particular event as a means to score political points and put forward a particular narrative – in this case, male violence against women and misogyny in general. This has been reflected elsewhere in the increasing influence of ‘Black Lives Matter’ following George Floyd’s death in 2020. People often demand that ‘something must be done’ in response to such a crisis despite the fact that, in the case of Sarah Everard’s death, Wayne Couzens has been apprehended and convicted. The ‘something’ that ‘must be done’ in this particular case is the conviction and imprisonment of the murderer which is what has happened. However, what activists mean by ‘something must be done’ goes beyond this and demands instead a more utopian solution to the problem. They would only be truly satisfied if violence against women was completely eradicated.

Much like with George Floyd’s death, the truth doesn’t matter as long as a particular narrative is put forward.

Thoughts on ‘Toxic Femininity’

A blogger named ‘femgoggles’ has been kind enough to read and like some of my blog posts and I’ve tried to return the favour whenever he has posted content I particularly enjoyed. Through his blog I learnt about an article written on the website ‘Aero’ by Freya India Ager which explores the idea of ‘toxic femininity’ as a counterpoint to ‘toxic masculinity’. femgoggles has also written about toxic femininity here and here in response to Ms. Ager’s article and also Jordan Peterson’s view of the subject.

In this post, I mainly want to express where I (respectfully) disagree with Freya Ager’s article and my own thoughts on the idea of toxic femininity.

Since I’m just a random guy writing a blog barely anyone has read, I don’t presume to be any kind of expert in this area so people are free to agree or disagree with me as they wish. I don’t particularly like either ‘toxic masculinity’ or ‘toxic femininity’ as a term but since the former has now passed into common usage, it’s important to discuss what these terms mean and how they affect debates on the differences between men and women.

Overview of the article ‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’

The central idea of Freya India Ager’s article is that the current social justice culture that is pervasive in college/university campuses and increasingly across society is directly linked with the predominance of women in the education system and consequently in other institutions. This is because social justice has many features that correlate with “typically female psychopathologies.” Three of the main features described are:

  • ‘Cancelling’ others – i.e. cancel culture
  • Valuing ’emotional reasoning’ and ‘lived experience’ over rational thinking and empiricism.
  • Being overly protective and prioritising safety.

These traits are said to be more predominant in women than in men.

There is certainly a lot of truth in this. ‘Cancel culture’ involves expelling those who are deemed incompatible or threatening to the group whilst avoiding any kind of physical risk or exertion. This reflects women’s tendency to avoid physical conflict and instead engage in ‘reputational destruction’ and social exclusion which is more costly and psychologically upsetting for women than men.

Additionally, the promotion of ‘lived experience’ and personal narratives reflects a female tendency to prioritise feelings and emotions to a greater extent than men. The psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has suggested that women, on average, have an ’empathising brain’ whereas men have, on average, a ‘systematising brain’ which reflects this difference. Ms. Ager notes that the problem with personal narratives is that “faulty conclusions are drawn from subjective experience.”

Finally, over-protectiveness and ‘safetyism’ is rampant across society with the ubiquity of political correctness, ‘trigger warnings’ and the over-emphasis of victimhood and concern for people’s mental health. This, according to Ms. Ager, is reflective of women reacting more strongly to negative experiences and scoring high on personality traits like neuroticism and agreeableness.

Since women are said to be more empathetic than men, it is claimed that these behaviours are an extreme expression of altruism and empathy that has emerged due to women having more power and influence in politics and culture. At these extremes, they do more harm than good and thus can be labelled as ‘toxic femininity’:

“While toxic masculinity may involve caring too little about how others feel, toxic femininity seems to involve caring too much.”

‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’ – Freya India Ager

My View

While I agree with Freya India Ager’s observation that social justice culture has many similarities with feminine behaviour, I have some disagreements with what motivates that behaviour and what can be defined as ‘toxic femininity’. It seems to be automatically assumed that social justice warriors are driven chiefly by empathy and compassion as if it is inevitable that if you are high in these traits, you will become a supporter of social justice and political correctness. On the other hand, if you criticise it, then you must be lacking in these traits and must be a less caring person as a result.

Freya Ager ends her article saying:

“Healthy discourse should not put the genders against each other or present women as morally superior, but recognise that we’re all fallible, and need to work together to eradicate all kinds of issues from sexual assault to safetyism.”

‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’

This is a fair point, but although she states that we should not “present women as morally superior”, the issues of ‘sexual assault’ and ‘safetyism’ she cites as ones that need addressing by society are presumably meant to represent ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘toxic femininity’. However, sexual assault is clearly worse than safetyism so it comes across in my mind as a little imbalanced. This is especially true if ‘safetyism’ really comes from a place of compassion. It’s a little like saying “we need to work together to eradicate all kinds of issues from murder to talking about other people behind their backs”. Any moral person would agree that, in this example, one is much worse than the other. In short, toxic masculinity comes across as worse than toxic femininity so women could still be perceived as being morally superior.

Similarly, the quote about toxic femininity involving “caring too much” seems to conclude that the negative outcomes of social justice are simply the result of social justice warriors, and women as a group, being too nice for their own good. “Caring too much” is not always a positive trait, of course, as it can mean being hypersensitive and easily offended. In this context though, it’s presented as a good trait gone wrong. It’s as if the argument is: ‘toxic femininity is bad, but at least it comes from a good place’.

I’m not targeting Ms. Ager directly for this view as she has obviously been influenced by other thinkers like Jordan Peterson who has made similar comments. While I agree with a lot of what Jordan Peterson has to say and have definitely being influenced by him, I don’t completely share his view on this which comes down to other disagreements I have with him, and other psychologists, on differences between men and women.

I should make clear that I absolutely believe that there are biological and psychological differences between men and women and most of the research that has been carried out to show this. When it comes to some areas of psychology, however, I believe that some differences between the sexes are more complicated than they are often presented.

Empathy

If we take empathy as an example, it is widely stated that women are more empathetic than men, reflecting Simon Baron-Cohen’s theories of a distinctive male and female brain. Ager herself writes:

“they’re (MM: women) better at feeling what someone else is going through. For example, when watching others in pain, women show higher activation in a sensory area correlated with pain than men.”

‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’

This could be due to women having more pain receptors than men but may also be an evolutionary function relating to caring for infants who can’t communicate what they are feeling verbally. Whatever the reason, empathy is often automatically assumed to be a good thing so there is an assumption that women are generally more selfless and caring than men are.

From my point of view, which is admittedly from a non-psychologist, lay-person perspective, empathy is more complicated than we think. The definition of empathy presented on Wikipedia states that it is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” While Wikipedia isn’t always the most accurate source of information, in this case this is a suitable summary of how the word is widely understood.

However, if the general idea of empathy is to put yourself in another’s position, does this necessarily mean you need to ‘feel’ what someone else is feeling? Consider that you can ‘think’ about what someone else is going through as well as ‘feel’ it. In order to see someone else’s perspective, you have to detach yourself from your own thoughts and feelings and try to take on someone else’s. This is different to “feeling what someone is going through”. Moreover, the Wikipedia article describes different types of empathy such as cognitive, emotional and spiritual. This suggests that empathy is not wholly tied to feelings.

Thus, even though men don’t feel the pain – or other emotions – of others as readily as women seem to do, they can certainly imagine the experience of being in pain in their mind. This could be the difference between ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking about feeling’. After all, the common phrase to express understanding is ‘I know how you feel’, not ‘I feel how you feel’.

Furthermore, women may very well be better at “feeling what someone else is going through” but does this mean they will inevitably be compassionate and have solidarity with the person they are empathising with? Or could this type of empathy be simply an ability to ‘detect feelings by feeling them ourselves.’ This can definitely lead to sympathy (note that sympathy is a different word) towards a person who is suffering, but could it not also generate an indifferent or, even worse, a malevolent response from other women?

Our ability to understand other people has dark underpinnings as well as virtuous ones. Jordan Peterson has noted, when talking about the story of Adam and Eve, the significance of their covering themselves up after they have eaten the fruit in the Garden of Eden and obtained the knowledge of good and evil. Through this newfound knowledge, they become aware of their nakedness and vulnerability. The ability to feel vulnerable, such as the potential to experience pain, means also recognising the vulnerability of other people. As Peterson puts it: “If I know what hurts me, I know what hurts you too.” In essence, people are aware of suffering which makes them capable of inflicting suffering onto others. In terms of empathy, the ability to feel the pain of others could lead to a positive reaction – i. e. wanting to help and alleviate the pain – but also a negative one – wanting to cause or increase the pain, depending on the individual.

It’s possible that men and women simply have a different way of empathising, although this is just speculation on my part. The important point here though is that empathy is not necessarily just about feelings and compassion; it may primarily be a means to ‘read’ other people by how they feel and then act on it.

Political correctness as a form of compassion and agreeableness

Freya Ager also writes that ‘excessive political correctness’ is a result of the personality trait agreeableness:

“Political correctness is best predicted by the trait agreeableness. In an influential 2003 study, in which over 23,000 men and women from 26 cultures completed personality questionnaires, women scored consistently higher in the traits agreeableness and openness to feelings, whereas men scored higher in assertiveness and openness to ideas.”

‘Social Justice Culture and Toxic Femininity’

Again, whilst speaking as a non-psychologist, I have some disagreements with the conclusions drawn here, which is largely due to my reservations about personality tests in general. It would take me too long here to explain in detail my mixed feelings on personality tests such as the ‘Big 5’ or ‘five factor model’ but I may do one day in the future. I’ll just say that, while there are obviously personality differences between individuals and between men and women, I also believe personality tests are highly subjective which skews their results.

It’s important to note that the argument that ‘political correctness is just compassion’ is also put forward by proponents of it. The same can be said for people who identify as ‘woke’. Like I mentioned before, one of the assumptions made through this argument is that people who oppose political correctness and ‘wokeness’ are therefore lacking in compassion for supposedly disadvantaged groups. In reality, critics of political correctness can be sympathetic and empathetic to less fortunate groups but simply disagree with how to help them.

Also, the idea that certain racial groups, or women and LGBT people, are helpless and inevitably disadvantaged could be said to be very demeaning and patronising. Similarly, the people who support political correctness could be viewed as arrogant and self-satisfied for believing it is necessary for them to protect and rescue groups they’ve designated as disadvantaged or oppressed. Bernard Chapin, on his YouTube channel, used to sometimes do an impression of social justice warriors by patting himself on the back and saying: “I care! You don’t! I care! You don’t!”

It’s not very surprising when we consider this to find that people who support political correctness score themselves highly on wanting to help people and being caring – traits associated with agreeableness. There’s a big difference though with ‘thinking’ you’re agreeable and ‘being’ agreeable. In much the same way, the fact that some people believe themselves to be intelligent doesn’t mean they actually ARE intelligent.

The academics Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young note in their excellent book Spreading Misandry the tendency to conflate political correctness with compassion or kindness but argue against this assumption; comparing it negatively against other qualities like courtesy and etiquette:

“Far from fostering genuine courtesy, it (MM: political correctness) actually fosters nothing more than outward signs of respect for those deemed on political grounds to be worthy of them. Not all human beings, in other words, are deemed worthy. The term “political correctness” has thus come to imply not only smugness and self-righteousness but hypocrisy as well. Unlike etiquette, which fosters harmony, political correctness fosters disharmony and even polarisation.”

‘Spreading Misandry’ by Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young

Political correctness is also useful in smearing certain groups as bad – the most obvious being heterosexual ‘cisgender’ white men. Despite their overwhelming compassion, it appears supporters of PC don’t extend it to this particular group of people.

Nathanson and Young also note:

“What all this amounts to is a very convenient way of silencing potential enemies. Some people are given permission to say anything they want about their real or perceived enemies; the latter are not given permission to respond in kind or even to defend themselves.”

‘Spreading Misandry’

This suggests there’s a controlling and belligerent aspect to PC, but this doesn’t fit in with the conventional view of femininity and social justice advocates.

This hostility towards ‘privileged’ groups like straight white men nonetheless has been argued to come from a place of compassion by Jordan Peterson who has labelled it ‘maternal outrage’. The idea here is that this anger towards the designated ‘oppressor’ groups is equivalent to the classic idea of the ‘mother bear protecting her cubs from predators’. There could be something to this but it’s worth noticing how behaviour deemed as negative can be viewed as actually positive and compassionate depending on how you perceive it. In other words, if you view political correctness as compassion taken too far, any examples of it can be labelled as compassion even though it doesn’t appear that way. In this way, you can reason that any disagreeable acts by agreeable people are actually agreeable. Therefore, political correctness can be justified.

‘Safetyism’

As pointed out in the article, the focus on personal safety and avoiding harm as much as possible – safetyism – in social justice culture is a clear example of its similarities to femininity. One of the most distinctive differences between men and women is their contrasting attitudes to risk taking, with men being more willing to take risks and women being more risk averse. This can also be seen in how mothers and fathers relate to their children. Typically, fathers take a more encouraging and risk-taking approach to their children whilst mothers take a more comforting and risk averse approach. Because of this, the rise of safetyism can be connected to greater female participation in society.

Nevertheless, like political correctness, the emphasis on safety above other considerations is often perceived to come from a place of caring and compassion when, in actuality, it may be motivated by a variety of emotions.

We can relate the motivations of safetyism to what Nathanson and Young outlined in their analysis of political correctness because both can be presented as largely driven by compassion and empathy to certain groups that are labelled ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘oppressed’. However, if you happen to belong to a group considered ‘privileged’, then you may not be considered worthy of social justice warriors’ concerns for safety and protection. To put it another way, if you are ‘in with the in-crowd’ – i.e. you are a woman, or gay/lesbian, or trans, or a racial minority, then you are viewed as needing protection from harm and criticism. Conversely, if you’re not, then you’re on your own. We could call this ‘selective safetyism’.

Speaking as somebody who has had problems with anxiety and risk-aversion in the past, I also think there’s a misconception about the psychology of risk-taking and risk-averse people. There’s an idea that risk aversion is related to a lack of self confidence, self-belief or a small ego compared to risk-takers who can be characterised as being very confident or having a big ego. This can certainly be true but risk aversion can also be motivated by having a big ego – or at least a fragile one. This is because taking risks does not just expose somebody to life-threatening dangers, but smaller dangers that can ‘bruise’ somebody’s ego and self-image.

For instance, somebody may be wary of saying or doing something that might make them appear stupid or incompetent. This is a fear that can be shared by someone who is shy and timid but also someone who can’t bare people disagreeing with them or criticising them. The person who can’t handle the risk of being proven wrong might find safetyism appealing to cushion their large, unhealthy egos. Risk-takers, alternatively, may have a healthy ego and be willing to be proven wrong.

In my own case, my risk-aversion stemmed from both a lack of self-confidence but also not wanting to ‘look bad’ and be looked down on by others. This isn’t always a bad thing to be concerned about, but it does show that self-interest is a factor in risk-aversion and safetyism.

Social justice as a product of more female influence

Elsewhere, the article argues that social justice culture is a result of greater female influence in politics and society, again echoing some of Dr, Peterson’s ideas. Peterson has argued that men prioritise ‘production’ whereas women prioritise ‘distribution’ as a result of their different personality traits. Women’s increased involvement in politics is said to have influenced social justice because of this. This is plausible, but again I have some disagreements here.

This argument seems to imply that the only genuine power that is possible is direct power. In other words, since men have predominantly wielded power throughout history, only ‘masculine’ versions of it, whatever that may mean, have proliferated. This in itself has shades of feminist thinking in it. Effectively, women have never had direct power, at least in relation to men, therefore they have never had any means to influence society as a whole. This ignores other forms of power like the ability to influence others or ‘indirect power’. A classic example would be Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play. Therefore, we cannot assume that women have never had any power just because they’ve rarely been in positions to directly wield it like men have.

If we look at any cult or dictatorship that existed in the past, even though they were almost always headed by men, both men and women were equally swayed by their influence and often their destructive and damaging tendencies. Whatever social justice tendencies women have, it clearly wasn’t enough to topple these systems, so it’s important to draw a distinction between ‘feminine thinking’ and ‘feminist thinking’.

This raises some interesting questions: if feminism had never occurred, would women have gradually moved into the public sphere anyway? The advance of technology meant that women were no longer as disadvantaged physically from participating in outside endeavours as they once were and breakthroughs in medical science meant that dangers that mostly affected women like death in childbirth and unwanted pregnancies were alleviated. It’s no surprise, then, that women began to advance outside their traditional environment of the home and into greater society. This had been occurring more strongly during the 19th Century onwards before feminism, as we understand it today, had taken hold. Women could have done all this without assuming they were victims and men had historically oppressed them. Of course, feminist thinking advanced whilst this was going on so you could argue that you can’t have one phenomenon without the other.

To reiterate, Freya Ager does make a valid point that social justice culture has feminine traits, but this has been enhanced by turning women in a victim group in need of social justice. In essence, social justice and femininity, toxic or otherwise, have fed into each other so it’s no surprise that social justice culture has developed in this way.

Does ‘toxic’ mean ‘too much’ or just ‘bad’?

At the heart of Freya Ager’s article is the idea that ‘toxic femininity’ means ‘too much femininity’ which is presumed to mean ‘excessive empathy and compassion.’ Essentially, femininity is naturally good but you can always have too much of a good thing. Contrast this with ‘toxic masculinity’ which seems to mean ‘bad masculinity’ as it is associated with too much aggression and violence which, understandably, can be considered bad male qualities. Notice how there’s never an assumption that toxic masculinity could mean ‘too much of a good thing’. A possible positive example of ‘toxic masculinity’ would be a man who works himself so hard that he becomes exhausted and physically unwell which is something that I’ve observed myself. Another example would be a man who risks his own life to try and save someone else’s even though the act is futile.

Something that I’ve noticed is how people assume ‘too much masculinity’ is inevitably a bad thing. Words like ‘hypermasculinity’ or ‘ultramasculinity’ are used to conjure up images of violence, exploitation and destruction. In this way, ‘toxic’ can mean both ‘too much’ and ‘bad’. These terms seem to imply the idea: masculinity is bad – taken too far it’s even worse! Contrastingly, phrases like ‘tonic masculinity’ and ‘healthy masculinity’ suggest that masculinity is only good if it’s presented in a certain way. The word ‘masculinity’ on its own now has so many negative connotations that it has to be prefixed by positive words to soften some of its supposed ‘badness’ and you can no longer assume that there is anything positive about masculinity without them.

This reminds me of a sketch by the comedians Mitchell and Webb whereby Jesus is telling the story of the Good Samaritan to a group of his followers and stresses the goodness of the Samaritan, as if this is uncharacteristic of Samaritans as a group: “He was a GOOD Samaritan, if you can imagine such a thing.” One of his followers takes exception to this and argues that Jesus is reflecting a cliché that “all Samaritans are wankers” and “implying the fact that he was good is worth a story in itself.” I know that isn’t the point of the actual story, and the sketch could also be a parody of people who are easily ‘triggered’ by such things, but to me it also shows how some people view masculinity.

So what is ‘toxic femininity’?

If we have to use the term ‘toxic femininity’ then I think it should be the female equivalent of ‘toxic masculinity’ in that it should be defined as feminine behaviour that society considers to be bad and which should be discouraged. Defining the term as something like ‘excessive compassion and empathy’ simply presents femininity as universally good and selfless. It’s true that anything good taken too far can be a bad thing but that’s not the same as identifying something as distinctively bad.

Here are some examples of what I would consider to be toxic femininity:

  • Falsely accusing a man of rape, sexual harassment and/or misogyny/sexism
  • Lying to a man by telling him that he’s the father of her child and expecting payments from him when he isn’t (paternity fraud)
  • Denying a man access to his children even though he is not a danger to them
  • Playing the victim and not taking responsibility for her actions
  • Engaging in psychological and physical violence
  • Being vindictive and duplicitious
  • Highly manipulative
  • Using sex and appearance as a way to exploit men

No doubt a woman would complain about the examples I’ve presented here and say: “men do them too!” For some of these, she would be right, but the point is that there are behaviours that women need to be aware of as a group that should be discouraged in the same way that men need to be aware of their own flaws too. Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t do anybody any favours.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I was interested in what Ms. Ager had written and was glad the article came to my attention (thanks femgoggles) but my understanding of toxic femininity and the psychology of social justice and political correctness differs from hers. I hope I’ve expressed my own position clearly here.

R.I.P. Vention MGTOW

I was very saddened to hear that the YouTuber Vention MGTOW died from cancer on 25th September 2021. I subscribed to his channel a few years ago as he was friendly with some other YouTube channels I followed that primarily explored men issues and identity politics. As his name suggested, Vention identified with ‘Men Going Their Own Way’ and most of his videos were focussed on MGTOW but also his life as a mechanic and his other interests like permaculture. MGTOWs are men who choose to avoid marriage and relationships due to society’s bias towards women in countries like the US and UK. Vention always ended his videos saying: “Don’t get married!”

I don’t identify as ‘MGTOW’ myself as part of me does want to get married and have children even though I’m aware of the dangers that can befall men who are in that situation. As a Millennial, I’m at the age when most men, nowadays at least, tend to marry and start a family so I do think about it from time to time. Nevertheless, being a bit of a loner, I don’t think I’d be too upset if I ended up being single and childless when I’m older as I think I would still be able to lead a productive and fulfilling life. I’d regret not being a father more than I would regret not being a husband in any case! However, I have no problem with other men who choose to go their own way so I consider myself to be ‘MGTOW friendly’ or a ‘potential MGTOW’. At the same time, I have no issue with men who are married, if they are happily married at least.

MGTOWs, which I explored a little bit in this previous post, are controversial not just to feminists but also to a lot of anti-feminists for a number of reasons. For feminists, MGTOWs are often accused of being angry and bitter misogynists who may want to oppress and harm women in some way. Alternatively, anti-feminists sometimes accuse MGTOWs of being weak and immature for, in their mind, giving up their purpose as men in society in order to lead a selfish, hedonistic and unproductive lifestyle. Vention didn’t fit into either stereotype of a MGTOW as he came across as a nice, cheerful guy who worked hard and was productive. Prior to his cancer, he had been working and saving money in order to retire early and live off his earnings. It shows you how cruel life can be that he only got to enjoy his retirement for a short time. Vention’s own reasons for never marrying was, I believe, due to observing when he was younger what happened to other men in his life going through divorce and also his own family background. In a sense, he was ‘MGTOW’ before the word was invented.

Vention had stage 4 colon cancer for a couple of years and continued making videos up to his final days when he uploaded his last video lying in a hospital bed. Whether it was the medication he was on or just his own personality, Vention frankly stated to his YouTube audience that he was about to die. I found this quite upsetting as it was hard to see him weakened and debilitated by his illness from the man he once was. As an aside, it’s strange how interconnected we all are now that we can be a witness to someone we vaguely know thousands of miles away at the very end of their life. Vention at least knew there were people out there who cared about him.

Instead of undergoing chemotherapy and operations, Vention chose to undergo fasting and alternative methods to try and treat his cancer. I once commented on one of his videos that I didn’t know if he was doing the right thing but that I admired his courage. He replied back saying that he believed his chances of surviving stage 4 cancer were the same regardless of if he had the standard treatment or not so he wasn’t doing anything courageous. I don’t know enough about cancer treatment to comment on if he would have lived longer had he gone through the conventional route but I still admired the stoic way he dealt with his situation. He could have easily despaired at what had happened to him.

There’s a scene in an early episode of the TV series Breaking Bad where Walter and his family are discussing whether he should receive treatment for his cancer. His sister-in-law Marie says he should do whatever he wants to do much to the shock of her sister and Walter’s wife Skyler. Marie says at the hospital she works in she sees cancer patients who are completely miserable and that some people don’t want to end their life being “picked at by doctors.” Walter also states he doesn’t want to spend his final days too weak to do anything because of cancer treatment although, in the end, he decides to go through with it. I imagine Vention had the same thought process with his illness. Again, I’m no expert on cancer and I believe sufferers should decide for themselves how they want to deal with it.

I’ll end this post with a link to one of Vention’s videos. Now that he’s gone I don’t know what will happen to his channel but I’ll link to one anyway. Instead of focussing on Vention’s cancer battle and his final videos, I want to show a video that I think shows Vention as he was and which resonated with me personally.

In this video, Vention talks about keeping a journal which I try to do as well. Vention said the purpose of his journal was to write to his future self and how, when you’re young, you don’t know who you’re going to become in the future. He noted that, now that he’s older, he doesn’t write as much because he has become the person he will be until he dies. Being younger than him, this felt like I was given a profound perspective from an older relative. In my journal I think I’m writing to the person I will become as well. It’s a little sad when he talks about his plans for the future now we know what happened to him but Vention kept smiling until the end.

You can watch the video here.

Rest in peace Vention.