Illustration by Dave van Patten
It’s completely personal—and their way of protesting a world they believe has turned its back on them
A few weeks ago, I reached out to the moderator of the primary site devoted to Men Going Their Own Way — a man known as the “Keymaster” — for comment on a recent story about man caves. I assumed a community within the online manosphere dedicated to “preserving a man’s sovereignty at all cost” would be fond of any kind of masculine refuge.
I was wrong.
“Bullshit,” the Keymaster told me by phone. “The whole man-cave concept is shunned by MGTOW because the idea is that your wife gives you permission to make one room in the house — the basement — your own. It’s condescending. The man cave makes a mockery out of itself. Like Al Bundy, or one of those unfortunate television-dad morons who apologize to their wives for everything. Those guys need a man cave.”
MGTOW (pronounced “MIG-tau,” at least per everyone I spoke with) is a worldwide social phenomenon and online community of heterosexual men who have chosen a lifestyle that avoids legal and romantic entanglements with women at all costs. A Man Going His Own Way values self-ownership above all else, believing that he — and only he — has the right to decide what his goals in life should be. He refuses to surrender his will to the social expectations of women and society since he believes both have become hostile toward him.
Some MGTOW make a pledge of celibacy. (“Cut off the dick supply and raise awareness against the millions of chicks that use men and disrespect our natural role.”) Some engage in sex with prostitutes exclusively. (“The only honest women.”) Others sleep with tons of women; they’ll just never marry them. (“Even if a man has only three lovers in his entire life, he is getting more than his own grandfather — who had to marry her first.”)
The media has tended to cover MGTOW by mocking them. For example,VICE’s profile last year, entitled “This Group of Straight Men Is Swearing Off Women,” featured a photo of a fat guy in a homemade MGTOW superhero costume, protesting outside a feminist conference, carrying a placard reading “FEMINISM IS A REFUGE FOR WOMAN’S SEXUAL FAILURE.”
An article on Return of the Kings, a site owned by Roosh Varek, an American blogger known for his controversial writings and advice on the pickup community, deemed MGTOW the “creeping cult of male loserdom”: “Men Going Their Own Way will never appeal to anything more than the rejects of American society because it’s a philosophy that denies the fundamental nature of human beings.” Others simply dismiss it as a cult. Whatever it is, a Google trends search reveals an expanding movement that can’t simply be cast aside as a handful of angry misogynists watching porn and playing video games in their parent’s basement.
Most MGTOW will tell you it’s more of a philosophy than a movement, punctuated with a serious helping of ZFG (“zero fucks given”). MGTOW areunapologetically selfish and, unlike men’s rights activists, aren’t looking to change the status quo, but instead trying to opt out of marriage, fatherhood, cohabitation and/or whatever else society expects of them — like a flock of indifferent ostriches.
Smitty the Great One, another MGHOW, employed a slightly more combative analogy in his description to me: “MGTOW are the Viet Cong of the gender war. The men’s rights activists don’t like us because, while we agree with them on some things, we won’t be their cannon fodder in a war we know they can’t win. Pickup artists hate us because they can’t make money off us. Feminists hate us because we won’t fight them. And women hate us because we won’t give them what they want.”…