About two months ago, myself and several members of the SDMC Facebook group and I joined another Facebook group to do some field research and maybe have a little trolling fun. The group was supposedly set up to discuss gender in general and masculinity in particular. I didn't realize it at the time, but the group turned out to be a front for a cult I had briefly researched way back in the mid-2000's, then had interviewed a few former members when writing No Bone Zone.
It didn't take very long to discover the connection between the cult and this particular group. Like most cults, the group catered to damaged people, most of which were either going through an existential crisis, had recently experienced a major negative life-changing event, had a troubled childhood, were struggling to meet partners (especially men searching for women), or were desperate to experience a sense of belonging. The group leaders would pick up on these weaknesses and exploit them to draw the people closer. A few ex-members of the cult explained that was the process used to sell workshops and other such financial exploitation.
Normally I'm a pretty calloused dude when it comes to other people and the consequences of their bad decisions. I'm usually of the "If these dudes are stupid enough to buy this bullshit, they deserve to have their lives driven into the ground" mindset.
But this was different. Based on my own past experiences and the shared experiences of a lot of the SDMC members, I knew a lot of these dudes were doing what they were doing because they could not see an alternative. In most cases, they lived their lives in a way that led to a shit-ton of pain and hardship and this group WAS their alternative. They failed to understand there are a myriad of alternatives. Like any good cult, this particular group heavily censored dissent under the guise of "language policing", which is just a form of virtue-gilded oppression.
So What Makes These Men So Vulnerable?
In short, the vast majority of the men that stuck around more than a day or two simply did not know how to be a man. In many cases, they were raised by single mothers and had zero masculine male role models. In a few cases, they had been badly burned by women. That includes painful break-ups, divorce-rape (occurs when the woman gets the house, lots of alimony, child support, and custody of the kids), or having been the victim of female emotional of physical abuse. These men had little or no emotional resiliency; even the lightest teasing was taken as an aggressive attack. They had little or no understanding of male social hierarchies. They had little or no ability to explain, understand, or predict female behavior. That extended to having no concept of the antecedents of female desire and arousal. They also had little or no ability to objectively measure if their participation in the group was helping them or making their life worse. All of these behaviors were encouraged and enabled by the senior members of the group.
The real hook, though, had to do with the original reason the cult showed up on my radar in the first place - they give desperate men access to vagina. If there was one common denominator that tied all the long-term male members together, it would be their repeated failures with women. As much as we like to deny it, our primal drive for sex is our species' most easily exploitable weakness. And this group does just that.
Okay, So How Do Men Avoid The Cult Trap?
Before I go farther, it's important to note that, at the end of the day, I really do not care if dudes get wrapped up in batshit-crazy cults. It's the same approach I take with converting beta males - I don't help people that don't want to help themselves. And I do not care what other people do if it has no direct impact on my life. Having said that, I do feel a twinge of social responsibility to plant seeds for the dudes that may currently or will some day look for different, probably better answers.
Anyway, I digress.
In theory, a man that is actively trying to get better at being a man (our definition of "masculinity") SHOULD be pretty damn resilient to the allure of cults. In this specific case, the cult ropes men in based on a promise of access to women, though they're really just used as human sex toys (the practice is based on the woman receiving pleasure while the dude just gets blue balls.) A man SHOULD be living his life based on his mission, not living his life to seek out (or give pleasure to) women.
Also, a man that is actively trying to get better at being a man SHOULD be skeptical of anything and everything they encounter, especially the stuff that seems to make the most sense. In other words, men never develop unconditional love for any one particular belief or idea. They're always searching for better answers. As such, they adopt an incredibly skeptical view of anyone claiming to be a "guru" of any sort. They understand they know themselves a million times better than anyone else, therefore they're in the best position to measure the outcomes of any given idea.
How about specifics? Here are eight things all men should be doing:
- Always ask for empirical evidence. This is something this particular cult could not provide. Several of us repeatedly asked for any supporting empirical evidence that the ideas tossed around in the group actually worked. Peer-reviewed meta-analyses that are supported by a large consensus of scientists is the ideal, but any data is better than no data.
- Always ask for reports of objective results. If we're going to make our lives better, we need to measure the objective outcomes of our decisions. If we're going to test an idea, it's wise to consult with those that have tried it before. If they cannot explain the objective results they're experienced, run. Run and don't look back.
- Never trust people that censor language, ideas, or beliefs. This one's a no-brainer. Censorship is oppression, and will often be carried out under the guise of "protecting" people. It doesn't protect people. It controls people.
- Never fully trust people that are selling you shit. They have a vested interest in compelling you to think a particular way.
- Surround yourself with diverse, cynical assholes. Curating a large group of cynical assholes may be one of my crowning life achievements. My group of real-life and social media friends have no problem speaking their mind whenever I throw out new ideas. Since they're such a diverse group (politically, socially, from different religions, racially, different ages, etc.) I can always count on getting feedback from all kinds of different angles.
- Don't take advice from women about anything related to masculinity. This one is tough for a lot of dudes. Most men are pretty desperate for female affirmation (usually in the form of access to pussy.) Logically, it makes sense. Want women? Ask women what they want. There's two problems with this. First, there's a disconnect between what women think arouses them and what actually arouses them (which is supported by... you guessed it, empirical data.) Second, the woman you ask is going to be biased. If she's into you, she'll be all over you and you won't have a chance to ask the question. If she's not into you, she's sexually repulsed by you and will give you advice to get you away from her because she doesn't want to lead you on.
So there you have it - six methods to help inoculate you from being that weak man that gets roped into a cult. Hopefully it'll help some dudes that might fall prey to their predatory practices. If you think you might be in a cult or susceptible to cults, just start making the appropriate life changes. Start developing an attitude of self-experimentation and surround yourself with that diverse group of assholes. In short - learn how to stop being a weak man.
Edit - Some have asked what happened with the group. They booted me out. Asking questions and challenging ideas are dangerous to those who have an agenda that demands blind allegiance.