One Pill, Two Pill, Red Pill, Blue Pill

While having lunch with a friend recently, the red pill phenomenon came up. My friend was not aware of this movement, which made me wonder how many others out there–men and women–are unaware of its existence. For those of you who have not heard of the red pill, here is its definition in a nutshell, courtesy of doctornerdlove.com: “The Red Pill is, for all intents and purposes, what happens when the pick-up community decides that it hates women. The name derives from the scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the choice: he can take the red pill and wake up from the Matrix and live in the real world, or he can take the blue pill and forget ever knowing that the Matrix is an illusion.”

Dr. Nerdlove goes on to say, “Where the Wachowskis intended the scene to be a metaphor for the Buddha receiving enlightenment and no longer being bound by worldly concerns, to the Red Pill philosophy, it means ‘the recognition and awareness of the way that feminism, feminists and their white-knight enablers affect society.’ It’s a neat rhetorical trick–trying to claim both the identity of a persecuted minority (cisgendered, hetero men) while also proclaiming themselves inherently superior to the ‘blue-pillers’, white knights and ‘betas’ because they see the truth: that they’re supposed to treat women like shit.”

Aside from the obvious, what intrigues me about Red Pill followers is their goal of being alpha males, which is partially defined by them as men who have their pick of the hottest, youngest women as sexual partners, and obtain and keep them through a variety of (often emotionally abusive) means, including aloofness, preying on a woman’s insecurities, flirting openly with others, and much more. Red pill does throw a bone to self-improvement–men are encouraged to eat better, exercise, etc.–but at its heart, it’s a fear-based belief system, one that appeals to men who feel powerless or sexually disenfranchised because it appears to offer them a way to take control of their lives.

Now, as any regular romance reader knows, alpha males are a staple of the genre. And on the surface, the romance novel alpha hero shares some similarities with the red pill alpha: Both are sexually dominant and often controlling. However, at heart, the romance novel alpha is the antithesis of the red pill alpha: The romance novel alpha’s actions are ultimately selfless, and born of a desire to make his partner feel loved, protected and secure. The red piller’s motivations are just the opposite; he is guided by self-interest. I’ve read numerous red pill opinions that point to Fifty Shades of Grey (and its astronomical sales) as proof that women are irrational and want to be dominated and manipulated. Unfortunately, they are missing the point of the trilogy. The book’s BDSM elements may have been titillating and, along with the story’s Twilight origins, been an entry point for readers, but the reason its popularity has endured is because it is a love story. We readers may enjoy the fantasy of Christian’s penthouse and helicopter, but his money, dominance and bad-boy ways are not the main reasons why so many women fell in love with him. We fell in love with Christian because he loves Ana as we want to be loved; he wants to protect her and nurture her, and he allows her to do the same in return. My favorite scene in the trilogy is (spoiler alert) in Darker, when Christian submits to Ana. He makes himself vulnerable, and in so doing lets her in…lets her really see him and know him. That is what women want, and that is a true alpha male–someone who knows that the ability to be vulnerable, to love and be loved, is a strength, not a weakness.

There is a ton of info on the Internet about the red pill movement. Two great places to start if you want to learn more are the red pill blog therationalmale.com and the anti-misogyny blog wehuntedthemammoth.com.

It’s not my intent with this entry to bash red pillers; the movement has gained traction because so many men are frustrated and unhappy, and the red pill offers them a battle cry and an action plan (albeit a misguided one). I would just say that, yes, most women want equality. But we do not want to dominate or subsume men. The end result of this discord can only be that neither side will find the fulfillment it seeks.

 

 

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I Am What I Read…And What I Read Is Me

We all know that ultimately a novel is a collaboration between author and reader. An author (usually) writes the book that he/she would want to read, and then each reader synthesizes the words, absorbing them through the filter of his or her own experiences, tastes, background and mores, with the end result being a unique reading experience. No two readers will ever experience a story in exactly the same way. Because of that, it always intrigues me to read negative reviews of a book I have loved, or vice versa. This was especially true today, when I read some of the low-rated reviews of Beth Kery’s Because You Are Mine, an erotic romance that I just finished and loved. Foremost among the criticisms was that it is in many ways a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. There are similarities…we have Ian, the dominant alpha billionaire hero with a troubled past and an affinity for BDSM who needs to punish and control Francesca, the beautiful, naturally submissive heroine. Ian, like Christian Grey, professes that he can offer sexual pleasure but not love or romance. Furthermore, a few of the scenes, set-ups and secondary characters in Because You Are Mine are deeply evocative of Fifty. While these similarities made a negative impression on some readers, for me it was just the opposite. (And we can’t forget: Fifty itself was the retelling of another tale.) Far from being a hindrance, I loved seeing how Kery would take these similarities and make the story her own, and she did not disappoint. The caliber of her writing, the crafting of her characters and her beautiful language make Because You Are Mine very compelling fiction–erotic writing at its finest. Writing in third person (my preference because it allows an author to tell a broader, richer story), Kery took me on an emotional journey with Ian and Francesca. One of my favorite elements of the novel is the fact that, years prior to their first meeting, Francesca, an artist, had seen Ian from the rear and been moved enough to capture his desolation on canvas:

“She’d painted him four years ago. That’s what he was telling her—that he knew she’d observed him walking the dark, lonely streets in the dead of the night while the rest of the world slumbered, warm and content in their beds. Francesca hadn’t realized the identity of her inspiration at the time, nor had he probably known he was being observed until he saw the painting, but there could be no doubt of it. Ian Noble was the cat who walked by himself. And he’d wanted her to know it.”

That’s a beautiful scene, one that speaks to the heart of the connection between these two characters. When it comes to erotic romance, Beth Kery is at the top of her game and the top of my list.

There were also a few things about this book that I loved on a personal note, e.g. when Ian takes Francesca to Paris, they stay at the Hotel George V. Apparently, it’s the hotel of choice for fictional billionaires. (I have it on good authority that Heaven in the Dark ‘s David Swift always stays there.)  Also, as the book is set largely in Chicago, the protagonists visited many of my favorite spots. Dinner at Trump’s hotel? Yes, thanks.

In summary, the person that I am–my tastes, my experiences–had a fulfilling journey with these characters. For me, Because You Are Mine was a work of beautiful, nuanced writing, and each turn of the page was time well-spent.

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