Years before anyone heard of incels, I was part of the internet's "manosphere"—and saw how vulnerable young men are being manipulatedby Hussein Kesvani / May 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
I was clearing out some old boxes the other week when I came across a battered USB stick. Over a decade old, it contained digital remnants of my teenage years.
On the stick was the usual stuff you’d expect of most teenagers circa 2005: drafts of last-minute coursework, two Green Day albums, and a couple of pirated movies from the KaZaa file sharing network.
But there was another folder too—one I’d simply labelled as ‘Other’. In it was a collection of documents and e-books including pick up artist Neill Strauss’ half-memoir, half-instructional guide The Game, as well as documents with titles like “How to Dominate” and “How to be the Alpha male.”
These are books that still circulate in communities now considered to be part of the ‘manosphere’: a section of the internet largely dominated by heterosexual men, united by a resentment against contemporary feminism and its influence in society, which supporters see as oppressing men.
The ‘manosphere’—mostly situated on Reddit—includes groups like ‘Redpill,’ a subculture that aims to ‘awaken’ men to their supposed oppression. Others take this philosophy to a practical level, with groups encouraging men being to become voluntarily celibate, or to stop all forms of masturbation, believing that doing so makes them more energetic and manly.
Most recently, the term ‘incel’—‘involuntarily celibate,’ taken up by an online subculture of men who unify through their supposed inability to have sexual relationships—has circulated in the media, following an attack in Toronto by self-professed ‘incel’ Alex Minassian which left ten people dead.
“You don’t want to be an AFC”
The ‘manosphere’ isn’t a new concept by any means—and I should know. Like most socially awkward teenagers, I spent most of my formative years in the mid-00s glued to the internet, and, like any teenager jealous of their classmates going on dates and parties, much of my time was spent venting about it online.
At that time there was no Facebook or Twitter on which to find communities of people who were into video games and sci-fi movies, and I found myself spending hours browsing obscure message boards on websites like 4chan (before it became known as a hub for neo-fascists) and TOTSE, a website which was home to the web’s most obscure subcultures—from…