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The Teens Who Seek Help on the Most Toxic Subreddits

With burning questions and nowhere else to turn, middle school boys ‘Ask the Red Pill’ — and join a community of misogyny

After discovering the girl he had a crush on liked someone else, Ryan, a distraught 13-year-old halfway through the eighth grade, tried to figure out where he’d gone wrong. He was particularly at a loss for answers because he had been working out a lot more, which he believes gained her attraction in the first place, and the two of them “spoke for hours on end, every day.”

His search for an explanation eventually took him to r/TheRedPill, a “sexual strategy subreddit for men [whose] unifying mission is to optimize male sex lives by helping them maintain a ‘dominant’ role,” writes my colleague Isabelle Kohn, and an internet outpost that’s generally considered to be a gateway to far-right ideology (despite framing itself as a place for dating advice). Though Reddit “quarantined,” or blocked the public from discovering r/TheRedPill and other manosphere-centric subreddits, they’re still easy enough to find.

how to be alpha and attract people to you as a loner in high school? from asktrp

After a few hours spent consuming all the videos, articles and posts on r/TheRedPill,  Ryan had an answer. “She wasn’t ‘cheating’ per se, but she rejected me due to my lack of forwardness,” he explains. “She had said a few times that I was shy, and that she was trying to open me up, but I showed no signs I was interested in anything beyond talking. It was all my fault.”

“A lot of the posts discussing beta behavior patterns and highlighting why it is wrong, especially in the context of attracting a female, interested me,” he continues. “I realized what I’d been doing wrong with how I lived my life — I was always too nice, undermining myself to placate others.”

Similarly, it’s not rare to see teenagers like Ryan looking for advice on r/AskTRP, or “Ask The Red Pill,” a place where fellow red-pilled men answer each other’s “personalized questions about specific situations, people, scenarios.” “r/AskTRP is one of the best subreddits out there,” Ryan says. Ever since he discovered the sub four years ago, he visits it multiple times per day to ensure that his shy personality never gets in the way of his goals again. “I guess you can say that when I come to a crossroads in my life with decisions that are important to me, I come to r/AskTRP as I believe the men there understand the importance of excellence, not mediocrity,” he says. “I generally trust their input more than the input of [the more mainstream advice-centric subreddit for men] r/askmen.”

Am I too young for weed? from asktrp

How to throw parties (in high school) from asktrp

John, a high school senior from Toronto, began his “journey down the rabbit hole” at 14, when he curiously clicked a link in a r/RelationshipAdvice thread that took him to r/TheRedPill. Previously, John says he would “write [girls] long letters about how much I loved them,” and “was such a simp that I didn’t even get into a relationship with girls and they broke my heart anyway.” Needless to say, the subreddit persuaded him that he was “doing everything wrong.” “Over time,” he tells me, “I’d see the [red-pill] principles play out in real life and at school.”

R**pe and sexual assault, feminist propaganda or real problem? from asktrp

Along those lines, certain interactions between guys and girls at school that would otherwise be attributed to individual preference or simple happenstance, John believed to be further evidence of a system rigged against him. “I saw guys get friend-zoned for giving girls too much attention. I saw a girl reject me and go for the guy who was an asshole to them,” he says. “I saw how men, including myself, were so easily manipulated by women around them as they were sociologically programmed to operate in their frame.”

To that end, the subs provide a concrete set of rules that young men like John and Ryan use to understand the world, which is what makes them particularly compelling. “As a teen, seeing how my worst bullies tended to get into relationships with the ‘most popular’ girls wasn’t exactly beneficial for my mentality either,” Samuel, a 26-year-old who spent his teen years consumed by manosphere-centric subreddits, tells me. “If you’re a kid like me, and you lack both the necessary skills to communicate with your peers in a healthy way and a safety net at home to retreat to when life gets too confusing and overwhelming, you begin to look for those things in other places.”

These sites, he continues, “just so happen to advertise a way of life that would allow you to achieve both — whether it be the relative safety of knowing that you won’t be challenged on your extreme ideology by the other inhabitants of the red-pill sub, or just the fact that interacting with these people will always net you positive attention, so long as you change your worldview to align with theirs.”

The thing is, the self-assurance these online spaces provide for John and Ryan hasn’t exactly translated back into the real world. “After learning TRP, I tried to red-pill some of my friends at school, and let’s just say it didn’t go well,” John explains. “I mentioned it once, and these guys tried to expose me to other people for believing in it, so it would tarnish my reputation and paint a bad picture of me.”

As a result, John stopped associating with these friends, because “those are the kind of people that don’t want to see me win anyway.” He currently has three remaining close friends, one who shares the red-pill ideology, while the other two “have a hard time grasping the entirety of TRP and still try to shit on it sometimes.”

Ryan, too, is careful about divulging his red-pilled beliefs offline. “I haven’t spoken to anybody about TRP verbatim,” he says, adding that he mostly showed his dad the “self-betterment” aspects, like going to the gym, more than the “other stuff.”

“I feel like there’s a stigma surrounding not getting girls, and it’s better if you act as though you learned this naturally. Otherwise you could be labeled an incel or something, without even being one,” he explains. “Of course, I know you ‘shouldn’t care what other people think,’ but reputation is very important.”