Dear Men and Boys: There Are No “Red Pills”

Joshua Adams
5 min readFeb 17, 2023

The most lonely I’ve ever been in my life was during my first year and a half of college.

I was an out-of-state student adjusting to a new world without much guidance. Perpetually sick, one week I had a cold, next week a fever, rinse and repeat from September to winter break. As a way to cope, I enveloped myself in music; listening to my iPod at virtual all times where human interaction wasn’t required. I’ve never had issues attracting girls, but college hook-up culture didn’t mesh well with my personal and spiritual comportment. And what tied this all together was I still hadn’t gotten over the death of one of my best friends Eddie. He was run over by a drunk off-duty police officer. I was stuck in muddy melancholia, unsure of how I could get out — to be honest, not making much effort to get out. ­

This amalgam of issues sent me into a vicious cycle: I felt sick and lonely, and the only thing that made me feel better was playing basketball. After my classes got out, I’d go to the gym and play pick-up for hours, not leaving until dinner time. It doubled as an outlet and as practice, since I was training to tryout to be a walk-on the basketball team. I’d be so exhausted when I got home that I had no energy nor motivation to do homework or study, choosing to either go to bed or make beats on my laptop. The next day’s classes would come, my body would be sore from hours of basketball and from whatever sickness I was nursing, my mind would be running on fumes, so I’d get bad grades on tests. This made me feel like crap. Back to hours of hooping catharsis, and the cycle repeated.

My grades for my first semester in college were the worst I ever gotten in my life. I was put on academic warning and the secondary effect was that my GPA was so low, there was no way they would accept me onto the basketball team, regardless of my skills or effort. When I got home for winter break, I told my father what my grades were and then started crying. He had always been no nonsense about grades, so I expected hours of admonishment and lectures. To my surprise, he saw my tears and responded with empathy and only allayed disappointment. His reaction was exactly what I needed. It was a like getting to breath after being underwater too long. And when I look back on it, my father’s empathy after my academic setback was a seed of grace I needed to get back on track.

Over the next couple of semesters, things got better. My health improved and I toned down going to the gym so frequently. I put more effort in my classes and made it a priority to get more rest. I’ve always been a little advanced academically, but I started studying more often than I had prior to college. With the help of friends, family and professors, I got through those tough times.

But one thing that I’m grateful for, one thing that is a big counterfactual in my story, is I didn’t grow up in the social media environment that we have today. I had no one telling me that the issues I was going through were someone else’s fault; by someone else I mean (liberal) society, women, feminists, the Jews, the Blacks, etc. Though there have always been rabbit-holes on the internet, they weren’t as deep as they are now. I shudder while imagining what college would have been like if the Manosphere had had the reach it has now. Now that I’m a professor, I can see how The Manosphere has influenced the men and boys of Gen Z.

Snake-oil salesmen and false prophets know no gender. But it seems like men are uniquely susceptible to the placebo called the “red pill.” Those offering it usually give at least some, albeit quotidian, “good advice” — eat healthy, get in good physical shape, take pride in your appearance, clean your room, get your finances in order, work hard, take charge of your life. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But this wisdom is almost always coupled with reactionary misogyny — the essentializing of male and female traits, naturalizing gender differences, the framing of dating or marriage as a mix of classical conditioning and asset management, treatises about how men nowadays are emasculated and effeminate, guides on how to be a so-called “alpha male,” and a detailed list of how feminism has poisoned modern life.

But while you’re here, make sure to take advantage of a special offer! Take the online seminar for $549.99 that will teach you how to make thousands of dollars in one day! Take this supplement with seventeen vitamins proven to give you rock hard abs. Get enough money to buy a sports car and girls will like you. Buy Bitcoin and you will be unplug from the Matrix.

To be fair, there will be success stories. Some men and boys will take the advice, complete the classes, and transform their lives for the better. But for the vast majority of men and guys enamored with these teachings, their life changes very little. They become little more than neophytes in a cult of hyper-masculine personality; fitting somewhere between evangelist and the bottom level of a multi-level marketing scheme. Thousands of men and boys are consuming ideas and advice, that, at bottom, is essentially “Be better at capitalism.” Generations of older men are set in their ways, even many of my peers. But if I could convince young men and boys of one thing, it would be this:

There are no red pills.

Understanding this world is very hard. It takes more than common sense and gut feelings. Even through rigorous study (reading widely and deeply), you’ll realize you only scratch the surface. Linking being a “free thinker” to being a contrarian is a logical fallacy. There are no all-encompassing models of the world; no panacea or fait accompli you can hold on to.

Living in this world is even harder. But it becomes more bearable when you quiet the ego and operate in good faith; accounting for the things you can’t change and asking for help, taking charge of the things you can change. Get out of your head, make friends, start a hobby that gives self-gratification and isn’t inherently tied to productivity. Stop trying convince all the men online and in real life that you are an “alpha male” and just be a good man.

Be vulnerable with the women you pursue or are currently with. Love doesn’t mix with domination and control; not only is it wrong, you’ll be a worse version of yourself. You will resent your partner, because deep down, you will know that what you want is love but all you truly get is compliance.

I know I won’t be able to reach some of the men reading this. They can dismiss me as a simp, cuck, or whatever goofy shit people say nowadays. To those men, I still wish you nothing but the best. I just hope you forgive yourself when you realize the scam: there will always be another red pill you have to buy.

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Joshua Adams

Joshua Adams is a writer from Chicago. UVA & USC. Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago. Twitter: @ProfJoshuaA