“In My Tribe”: Common Ground Among MGTOW, MHRA, & Game Theory in a Post-Rodger Discourse

Editorial note: To those who are new to the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM), it is important to understand that there is no more of an overlap between the Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) community and the PickUp Artists (PUA) and “game theory” community than there is between the Lutherans and the Elks Lodges—i.e., there may be some Lutherans who are Elks, and there may be some Elks members in any given Lutheran church, and if you squint you may see some shared ideas between these groups (both profess a belief in God and believe in doing good works, for example), but they just aren’t the same. In recent “news” reports (we’d call them ideologically driven hit pieces), some have tried to tie psychotic mass-murderer Elliot Rodger to the men’s movement because Rodger had some peripheral involvement in the PUA community, though even there the irony is huge: Rodger had left the PUAs and joined an anti-PUA group, “PUAHate,” for men seeking to leave the PUA lifestyle. And in another layer of irony amid all the slander, Rodger was also expelled from “PUAHate” for being too psychotic, all before he went on his rampage. The shades of incompetent and outright dishonest reporting on all this are manifold. Still, while we at AVfM have long been highly skeptical of, even deeply negative about, the PUA/game community, Ty Henry makes the case here that this is a form of fratricide we don’t need to indulge in, and that we don’t have to throw anyone under the bus to recognize that both communities are being horribly lied about and should recognize that common ground at least exists. So, let the debate begin! –DE

Men’s Human Rights Activists (MHRA), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), game theory, and, yes, PickUp Artists (PUA) share one universal goal: that each boy/man can feel free to chart a course for his own life free from social conventions and laws that pre-emptively shame, marginalize, and punish him. Despite the obvious distinctions, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killings, we should be cautious of “otherizing” one another to our antagonists. Instead, we should recognize ourselves as allies against a common opponent.

“Men blogging in the manosphere, whether it’s Game theory, PUA, MRA, or MGTOW, all assume a horrible risk for publicly expressing their views that a proponent of feminism would rarely need to consider. Professionally, personally, and to an extent, even physically, manosphere bloggers paint a big target on themselves that very few people would sympathize with their being damaged for their outspokenness. If it looks like patriarchy, it’s OK to set their home on fire, and a feminized world of angry women and their identifier mangina sycophants will line up with torches to do so.”

—The Rational Male, Build A Better Beta

In the wake of L’Affair d’Rodger, I already had this piece in mind when I read the otherwise skillful interview our own Robert O’Hara had with Al Jazeera. Bob deftly responded to both benign and trapdoor questions (“Do you like women?” = “Do you beat your wife?”) with aplomb, until the interviewer broached the subject of the PUA community with a question that presumed a connection to them when there really is none. But Bob gave the following answer, which isn’t quite true either:

Pick-up artists, they believe in this magical thing called “game.” And if only you had game, then your whole life would be great. You can have sex with any woman you want, everyone’s going to love you, your boss is going to love you, you’re going to make more money. And they honestly believe this. They’re deluded people. 

My critique is not Bob’s opinion per se (we in the men’s rights community are allowed to disagree) but time and place. Let us vigorously debate as we have in the past between the various camps, and as families often do. Our opponents have us ALL in their sights, and are making no distinctions as they ruthlessly lie.

Counter-theory to ideological feminist dogma has many constituent elements. The purpose of the following is to show 1) that game theory and MHRA/MGTOW both have at least one common goal: to seek to improve the lives of men by helping them take the blinders off about how the world really works, 2) how interconnected the schools of thought are, and 3) that we can have our squabbles (like this from Paul, and this) while never allowing outsiders to use our words as partitioning devices to leave us further riven. As we’ve caught the broader society’s limelight, and hit with the wrong end of the shit-stick, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger saga, it’s crucial to recognize this interconnectedness and how men’s lives have been improved by both. MHRA and MGTOW can maintain their distinctiveness from PUA and game awareness while at the same time recognizing its members as “fellow travelers” down this road of rejecting society’s flawed narrative about men. Indeed, there is no reason why, say, PUAs can’t believe in men’s rights, as many do. Public “othering” of each other when questioned by outlets not associated with the “manosphere” or MHRA/MGTOW represents internecine conflict that is unnecessary, and harmful, to all members of our “tribe.” I’ll start with my story.

My Red Pill Journey—A Play in Three Parts

My grandmother had converted me early into a news junkie, as I spent many evenings watching Walter Cronkite and Jerry Dunphy on her couch. Nightline with Ted Koppel had been regular viewing for most of my teen years on that spring evening of my senior year in high school when the show led with multiple clips of women gathered in groups, weeping as if a beloved professor or classmate had died, or some catastrophe had just occurred. Turns out, something did:


Mills College had decided to admit that virulent vermin known as men. After 16 days of strikes and untold acts of civil disobedience by the student body, the board of trustees changed course (turned tail?) and reversed its decision. This L.A. Times guest op-ed by Father Patrick Arnold of the University of San Diego is where I first heard the term “misandrosy” and is where I trace the origin of my red pill journey.

My third serving was during my sophomore year in college. Working in a library during my first 16 months of college was pure gold, and never more so than when I came across Norman Podhoretz’s  Rape in Feminist Eyes, a classic, comprehensive, erudite, and airtight takedown of the still-germinating field of “rape crisis” feminism, in which Podhoretz exposes threadbare the “demon penis” philosophies of Andrea Dworkin and the hypo-agency/hyper-agency dichotomy foundational to “non-violent sexual coercion,” prophesying the current wave of codified expansionist sexual violence definitions. I consider it the Magna Carta of the subject, and 23 years later I’ve still not read a better essay.

In between, I heard Ross Jeffries say the following on The Tom Leykis Show in early 1991.

“There’s what women say they want. There’s what women think they want. And there’s what they actually respond to.”

Those three sentences affected me with all the subtlety of a roadside IED detonated at the base of my brainstem. I loved women, but was perplexed by them, until I heard those words. It was a moment of clarity, and suddenly everything made sense.

Back then, Tom Leykis was a local, albeit quite popular, host in my L.A. metroplex, whom I’d been listening to since I was 15. Bear in mind, the post-1994 iteration of Leykis is nothing like he was then—he had the same manner and rapier wit, but social issues, current events, and hot political topics dominated his show. Indeed, Leykis was a bit of a purple-piller when it came to women, fond of saying women wanted equality “when convenient” but yet on his third of four marriages (opposite of the advice he now dispenses), albeit with pre-nups for the final two. It could be argued that Ross Jeffries was an inspiration to Leykis’s unabashedly pro-male format, as Jeffries gave Leykis some of his best ratings whenever he appeared.

Leykis also gave A Voice for Men founder Paul Elam his most friendly guest platform, allowing him to speak for an hour, unedited and unfiltered.

And therein lies the irony: the progenitor of the modern pickup artist heavily influenced the manosphere’s most beloved talk-show host, who was happy to share Paul Elam’s message.

Did Jeffries and Leykis imbue this then-18-year-old with priceless knowledge when I conversed with them on the call-in line? Did I run out and blow $20 on the book Jeffries was hocking? Not at all, as about 18 months prior, I had made a decision after my junior year to dial-back the amount of time spent with “female friends.” Never was I cross, but I had grown weary of being the emotional tampon for women I thought were cute, listening to their “boyfriend issues.” Needless to say, I gained my first girlfriend that summer, and subsequently more girls seemed to find me arousing. By college freshman year, I had gained my “footing” with talking to women, so I was already starting to “get it.” Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was 6’3”, 195 lbs, and an avid basketball player. Although some of what my mom had told me was true (“Women like TALL”), I was in the midst of a long-term, two-year, ego-crushing heartbreak from the first girl ever to lay with me. Nevertheless, I felt validated, something crucial for a testosterone-laced new adult man who had not had his dad in the home and was just beginning to navigate the treacherous waters of the sexual marketplace and was experiencing some extremely choppy waters.

Allies vs. Friends

Joseph Stalin was the most brutal of Soviet dictators. What’s also true is that he saved Europe in World War II. The turning point in the war was the Battle of Stalingrad, in which Stalin’s generals surrounded and trapped the German battalion’s advance on the Caucasus oil fields, trapped them in the city, and allowed the Russian winter to do the rest, so weakening the Eastern Front that they could not stop the advance into Germany. Without Stalingrad, there would be no successful Operation Overlord many months later.

The Soviets were by no means our friends. They were, however, necessary allies.

PUAs and game theorists, by contrast, are not analogous to the Soviets in terms of diametric philosophical opposition to MHRA and MGTOW. Regardless, our opponents have us ALL in their sights and are making no distinctions as they deploy their artillery.

Game Theory vs. PUA

PickUp Artistry (PUA) is unabashed applied male sexual hedonism. Nothing more, nothing less. Every man, even gay men, with any sort of single sex life has engaged in “picking up” someone in some form or another. Just like diet regimes and multi-level marketing scams, many “get you laid” programs have the element of swindles, and men can completely lose their own identity in pursuit of “lay counts.” On the flip side, they can serve like jumper cables to the sex lives of some—it’s no substitute for a working battery (read: developing your own personality), but they can get you on the road to where you want to go. There’s no such thing as self-improvement schemes that work for everyone, and by the same token, rare is the guide that is universally useless for everyone. As a sales professional, I learned many techniques, but ultimately I had to adapt each one to the client/prospect, product, and my style of delivery. Caveat emptor.

The problem with “game” is a branding and semantic one. The connotation of “playing a game” just rubs some people the wrong way. In the African-American community, however, there is widespread comfort with the term on many levels. Although it’s only about 15 years old as a popular phenomenon, the idiom has been around as a catch-all for both intersexual relations and a general life skill for decades in black inner cities, with our common lexicon replete with phrases like “you played yourself”( see Ice-T video of the same name), with even women extolling the virtues of a silver-tongued parrying as prerequisite to coupling. The advice novelist and audio-blogger Tariq “Elite” Nasheed uses our concept of “game” to promote practical self-improvement for men, and women, with his panoply of books, lectures, and Internet call-in radio shows.

But rather than go down the ethno-linguistic rabbit hole, I’ll keep things simple. There have always been masculine and feminine biological drives and imperatives. Correspondingly, social conventions, mores, and laws, although always in flux, have been put in place across civilizational history to check both for the cohesion of a society. If you view feminism as the philosophical and governance arm of unchaining feminine imperatives and hypergamy, while bending and constraining the masculine, “game” is no longer “magical.” It’s self-evident . . . and necessary.

The Rationale Male, married and himself a sometime-critic of PUA seminars and DVD pimps, recently discussed where his approach differs against the backdrop of the Rodger killings.

“What’s more legitimate, my prescribing some course or template to follow that leads a man to a success that ultimately I define for a reader, or my laying out an accurate landscape for his better understanding and he creates his own success with it?
Are you your success or my success? I’d rather a Man be his own.
Most men already know what the keys are, and most even know how to use them, but what they really want is confirmation that they actually have the keys.
My approach to Game is defined in much broader terms than simply “how to get girls,” and I think for the better part of the manosphere the understanding of Game has evolved beyond rote memorization of scripts and plans. It’s gotten to a stage where even the most enthusiastic proponents of PUA techniques acknowledge a need for an individualized approach to relating and interacting with women based on a broader applied understanding of feminine psychology, sociology and the particular conditions that apply to themselves as well as the women they’re interacting with.
It’s been noted before, my approach to Game is descriptive, not prescriptive.”

The relentless and unabated pursuit of “more notches” can lead to an empty existence, and some men already have both the attractiveness and charisma to attract partners easily. However, men who encourage the rejection of evidence-backed theories under the umbrella of the catch-all “game theory” out of hand do boys and men the greatest disservice. Just as girls should have an idea of how boys’ worst impulses can manifest if left unchecked, the landscape is littered with the carcasses of men who, had they gone into their relationships/marriages understanding the mechanics of women’s worst impulses unchecked likely would not have immolated themselves, self-medicated, committed suicide, or gone on murderous rampages. Pages like The Rational Male have done more than even MRM/MHRM pages to explore how hypergamy affects the interactions between the sexes, and the ever-fluxing social conventions that shape-shift to conform to it, while remaining cognizant that “underpinning all of these areas of specialization was still the need to internalize and personalize Game in a Man’s life.” Correspondingly, game theory mixed with a little MGTOW would show boys and men that “opting out” partially (like YouTuber Barbarrossssa) or fully (like YouTuber Sandman) are both viable and rational options which are not antithetical to a fulfilling life.

For those who scoff that one can be MGTOW and game-adhering, read one or more of Roald Dahl’s stories of Uncle Oswald, a bachelor who traveled the world with hedonistic flair, collecting walking sticks, and getting rich, with only one ironclad rule for sex with women.

Balance in the Force

To use a Star Wars analogy, 60-plus years of one-sided gender discourse have put “The Force” out of balance. MHRA and MGTOW are there to restore this balance on the broader philosophical and legal side. Likewise, on the intersexual relations front, multiple generations of women have been weaned on Cosmopolitan, The Rules, and Sex and the City, to name just a few popular sources for modern women, all with the prevailing lesson being that women are entitled to make the masculine heel and genuflect before them, bending all social conventions to the Princess Paradigm. Thus it’s reassuring to know there is a faction willing to snatch off the tiara, throw it in the mud, and laugh heartily as the pearl-clutching ensues. PUA is our countervailing influence to the Fem-Centric Relationship Industrial Complex, the carnal IRA to our Sinn Fein. Why should we unilaterally disarm when the Ulster Party isn’t?

That is not to say that men should feel compelled into being “sexual performers.” I, for one, am not interested in treating my sex life like a video game. By the same token, let’s check our sanctimony at the door and admit some hard truths. Like Dahl’s Uncle Oswald, all men have that Lothario in our circle who makes us feel a little more alive when we’re around him. We may not feel like BEING him, but we’re happy he’s out there, if only to live vicariously through (my good friends on the University of Arizona basketball teams in the 1990s come to mind). Which leads me to . . .

PUA Shaming = Slut Shaming

As MRAs/MHRAs, we have a vested interest in ending “slut shaming,” both as a philosophical (sexual hedonism is not always harmful) and practical matter; as has been demonstrated by Pierce Harlan and others, fear of shaming is the fuel of much regret asymmetry that leads to false rape allegations like the Kobe Bryant, Hofstra, and Oregon cases. Why then are we so easily goaded into internecine food fights with those men who choose to live their lives in a more hedonistic fashion? If you’re uncomfortable defining your existence by “lay counts,” fair enough. If the commodifying pickup gurus reek of snake oil to you, that’s fine too. But the foundation of the MHRM is to allow men to choose masculinity in their own way while taking an “agreeable disagreement” posture if you do not approve.

I believe Bob O”Hara fell into a “Let’s You and Him Fight” trap on Al-Jazeera, and the trained journalist and public relations pro in me cringed as Bob took the bait, riffing that “game” was some hoax akin to Christian Science and stating that all who believed in it were “delusional.” This was based on the demonstrably false presupposition in the interviewer’s question that Rodger was “connected” to PUA communities. His comment left the unsophisticated reader with the impression that PUA is more likely to lead to destructive behavior than the MRM/MHRM, an impression that is poisonous. However, Bob’s response should have been: “We disagree with game on much, and agree on some. But if you’d like to know more about PUAs and game theorists, ask them, not us.” Like any family, we should never offer our words as partitioning devices that opponents can use to make us further riven. It’s just another form of proxy violence.

Even after I realized the NBA and major college basketball were not in my future, I would still take some tactics and moves of some players to adapt to my game. Even though I knew I would never be like them, adapting components used by the best in the world only made me better, and it didn’t make guys like James Worthy and Joe Dumars “magic tricks.” Some guys really ARE that good. Likewise, as men experimenting is how we learn best. That includes different ways to interact with women. Eventually I found ways that work for me, comporting with my sense of decency and my basic personality, through trial and error, making sure not to compromise who I am. I find it needlessly antagonistic to burn the toes of young men testing the waters simply because they have one foot in the game pool. That young man was, and still to a point is, me.

Common Ground

Ironically, Bob’s next answer based on MHRA outlook and “game aware” philosophy correspond to each other. Both teach men to focus on improving themselves, from physical fitness to their dreams and goals, all the while “safeguarding” themselves from traps. MHRA and MGTOW focus on the problem from the pragmatic, social, and legal hazards for men in relationships, while game awareness teaches men to observe behavior above all else when interacting with the opposite sex and understand its origins. Game theorists take down feminists, as well as simpering white knight academics like Michael Kimmel; impart lessons we should learn from male feminists like Hugo Schwyzer; and both game and MHRA/MGTOW teach men how to withstand and combat social conventions that shame the masculine for nonconformity. Paternity fraud is nothing more than the sizzling poop-pile of the dualistic procreative impulses game theorists like The Rational Male have broken down, most of which have a basis in research, impulses most women keep in check but today incur no obvious and immediate penalty when they don’t. Both endorse men maintaining control of their own reproductive futures and mitigating risks of being put on the hook financially or emotionally (see the “real man” meme). Indeed, some game theory actually does a better job of explaining these ever-shifting shaming tactics and their origins. When you listen to Sandman discuss the MGTOW observations of “Male Harems,” it’s just the functional destination of being in “the friend zone.” From either perspective, the point is clear: you are being used in order for a woman to keep your attention fixated on her, whether the reason is ego-edifying, utilitarian (disposability), or both.

It’s likely that if Elliot Rodger had immersed himself in the MHRM or MGTOW communities, he would have been less likely to go on his rampage. Like Sandman said, Rodger could not stomach truly “going his own way.” This corresponds to The Rational Male’s postulations that Rodger could not come to grips with the red pill truths as they presented themselves. Know this—had he immersed himself 100% in game awareness (or even PUA), he would have been just as unlikely to commit those acts of murder. Indeed, the most critically thought-out, well-crafted, and incisive breakdown came from Roissy, despite what you may think of some of his more sophomoric snark-laden riffs.

We can condemn Rodger’s actions with all our muster while still recognizing that every boy/man has suffered some disillusionment after realizing he’s been lied to about “what women want” or while trying to reconcile what he’s been taught about girls after getting assaulted by two of them simultaneously, emotionally bullied, or seeing his efforts to be “the good man” go for naught.

Men’s counter-theory is a buffet table. If you’re going to run a 5K or hike, eat the salad and carbs. If you’re in a celebratory and indulgent mood, then by all means grab some apple pie with a dollop of sorbet to chase down the prime rib. At different times in your life, men may want and need different things, and those things are always there, on the same “table.”


This “renaissance age” is too important to be allowed to be squandered with finger-pointing. Like steel forging steel, the best ideas survive the trials of fire. But fire can both heat our home and burn it down. I, for one, will not set one room in my house alight, as each room contains something valuable, and fire rarely stays in the “other” room.

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