Of Vice and Men: An Ethnographic Content Analysis of the Manosphere

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Coulling, Ryan




Using an ethnographic content analysis, I examine masculinities on eight websites from the manosphere. I document how the men on these websites are reacting and acting to maintain and expand their power. The power these men cling to is not just gendered, patriarchal power. Rather, the hegemonic ideal was a white, heterosexual masculinity (WHECM) that included evangelical Christian and colonial-capitalist lines of force that leverage eugenics' notions of family. WHECMs often expressed their masculinity in sexist and misogynistic ways, their sexuality in homophobic and transphobic ways, and their whiteness in racist and anti-Semitic ways. Further, WHECMs anointed themselves as supreme by thinking that their race, gender, and sexuality reflect the sacrifice and sacredness of Christ, situate themselves as purveyors of Truth, or both. I develop a conceptual model to explain the emotional backlash that WHECMs release in response to the denigration of their exaltation and the subsequent loss of patriarchal, racial, and heteronormative dividends. WHECMs' backlash begins as paranoia. They concoct narratives that they are under attack by an elite who are weaponizing identity politics. Under a perceived attack, men on the manosphere backlash through an emotional border work that segregates WHECMs via emotional exclusion of Others and emotionally incarcerating men within racist, misogynistic, and homophobic walls. The emotional erection and reinforcement of borders makes the Other proximate and causes reactions of discomfort for WHECMs. This discomfort is then read as an attack, which increases their paranoia, making the paranoia-border work-discomfort system recursive. I explicate five strategic actions WHECMs on the manosphere advocate to reclaim, maintain, and expand their power. WHECMs encourage propagating the white race with pliant white women who hold the white man in esteem. WHECMs encourage democratic consumption that includes boycotting companies and culture that champion progressive ideals. WHECMs advocate for trolling marginalized people and using racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynist memes. Viewed as under attack in a racial holy war (RAHOWA), WHECMs also promote violence and killing. Finally, WHECMs withdraw. Sometimes this takes the form of distancing and dissociation to assuage their complicity. Other times withdrawal takes the form of abandonment of responsibilities within society.






Carleton University

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