In recent months, I have been absorbing a lot of personal reflections from men expressing their thoughts on a topic known as MGTOW, men going their own way. These are mostly men who for one reason or another have decided to live alone, in varying degrees avoiding relationship commitments with women. I am drawn to their experiences to compare and contrast to my own where I have done the same thing all my life.
Despite the widely varying experiences they have related, I almost always find some level of agreement with their thoughts, and a sense of being part of the same group. These include men who expressed a past of many sexual partners, or a past of a long commitment with one partner including those that did not eventually end in divorce, or a past of frustration in attempts at having a relationship. I don’t identify with either of these, but at the same time, I can relate to them. It is nice to know that I’m not that unusual.
On the other hand, I object to the more imperative messages, commanding others to continue the path of isolation from romantic partnerships, or to not pursue it in the first place. I agree with the risks of such relationships and with the benefits of being free from the obligations of relationships. I disagree that this should be commanded or encouraged on others.
Even presuming the most pessimistic assessment of female nature and of female-favoring governments, I think it is most fair to end the discussion at providing autobiographic information or social science information. The reader should make his own decision based on his understanding of himself. The appropriate MGTOW approach is to say this is what I experienced but you have to decide for yourself what will work for you. In the end it is a gamble, we are only arguing over the values of the odds and what odds are acceptable for making the bet.
In particular, I object to what I sense is an intention of older members of the community to provide direction and encouragement for younger people to avoid relationships and to focus entirely on their own priorities. Again, there is good information about the ease of misinterpreting the affection or the commitment of the partner, or about the necessity of taking appropriate precautions from unwanted pregnancies or vulnerability to accusations of sexual misconduct. This is good information. The broader topic of whether to enter a relationship is something that needs to be a personal decision from the coercive influence of gaining approval of peers or elders.
It is valuable to observe the experiences shared by others. It is another thing to infer instructions from those experiences. The latter is an attempt to establish some type of philosophical if not scientific truth that should guide one’s life. While there are many elaborate arguments about philosophical or scientific basis for the choice to avoid relationships, they remain vulnerable to good counter arguments.
In particular, I respect the religious and moral arguments that promote entering committed life-long partnerships, especially with the goal of raising a family. Given the modern realities of easy divorce or easy accusations of misconduct where the government favors the accuser, such relationships do have more risk for men than before. However, I am not convinced that these risks forbid the attempt to seek or to enter a relationship.
I am not a MGTOW advocate. I just happened to experience a MGTOW-like life. I say MGTOW-like because I’ve been this way all my life, long before this acronym was coined.
The idea of there being men who were opting out of relationships went by other names in the past. I don’t even think the phenomena is a modern one. There has always been a spectrum in terms of male enthusiasm for pursuing female relationships. This has not been a problem since in most periods of time, the next generation does not require sexual participation of all men to produce the next generation to sustain the population.
A lot of the current discussions contrast the modern experience with a supposed traditionalism of a nuclear family, frequently modeled on a stereotypical depiction of family life in the late 1940s to the early 1960s, the era the produced the baby-boom generation in which I belong. I think the term “traditional” is unfortunate because I think the basic idea of an isolated nuclear family of man, wife, and children in a single-family home was most common only during this era. The connotation of traditional is that it goes back to ancient times, but I think the modern concept of the nuclear family doesn’t really apply prior to the 1940s.
As we frequently refer to the 1950s family sitcoms as models of a traditional relationship, I refer to the movies and shows in the same period involving middle-aged characters in a story the lacked any sexual relation outside of a seduction as part of a scheme to achieve some selfish objective. These movies were closer to the truth of men negotiating with other men to survive or the get ahead. The presence of women merely defined the man’s needs or the man’s constraints based on the obligations to the women or the family. Other men can have motivations or limitations even in the absence of any female engagements.
Throughout history, there have always been men who chose a life alone, and even exclusive of even temporary relationships with women (in the case of heterosexual men). These men set their life goals based on an assessment of their prospects of opportunities. History provides abundance evidence of explorers, adventurers, transients, and solitary thinkers in the arts, sciences, or philosophies and yet history does not remark that such lifestyles were exceptional. The only thing exceptional were the examples of the ones that accomplished something of note.
Another example occurs to me of the stories of the 19th century tinkerers attempting to make new inventions, in particular the fanatic attempts at building perpetual motion machines. These required obsessions that either resulted in neglect of a family obligation or avoided in entering one in the first place. I guess another example are the western land-rushes and gold-rushes of the earlier 19th century that captivated many men, most of whom left no legacy in terms of accomplishment, wealth, or offspring.
There are examples today, especially in the more rugged mining or oil-drilling locations. These areas attract men who devote a substantial part of their life away from their families or not even having families. These locations would have very few women available, even for hire. We do not label as MGTOW such men who avoid female relationships during the job-site periods. I would consider them to be traditional men.
In short, I do not want to influence any younger person about learning from my own life experience. From what I can tell, even after learning about many MGTOW stories, my own experience is very unique to myself. Men in my situation don’t normally write about our experience because there really is nothing to brag about. I have no stories of younger conquests of women, or of families broken by divorces. Also, I have no stories of personal success or catastrophic failure to make for an interesting story.
On the other hand, this is a lazy Saturday that begs me to write something, so here I am writing with an intention to reach a younger mind.
Consistent with the intention of the blog-site in general, I will write to myself. I direct my thoughts here to myself, but in particular the my 17 year-old self who lived 40 years ago. I have some advice I would like to give that person, if only he were around to listen.
The advice I would give him is that his suspicions about his nature was absolutely right. He learned his innate nature when he was about 13 years old. At the young age, he was right to respect the elders who advised that future lessons would change his mind. But 4 years later, at the age of 17, you learned that the most basic truths remained unchanged and you suspected those truths would never change. You were right.
This is not a truth about MGTOW. Instead this was a truth about your own nature independent of how it fits with theories of human nature or of differences between men and women. You suspected you were outside of those natures. While this is false, you were indeed fully male in the human species, you were correct in seeing yourself as somehow outside of those natures.
It’s the job of the sociologist and psychologists to fit your data point into their models of males and humans. I wish you had more confidence in making a decision that you knew yourself well enough to no longer need the advice or direction of peers or elders.
Of course, in your pursuit of a way of life, you would seek out mentors to learn skills and apprenticeships to develop those skills. This is different from changing your mind about who you are in terms of basic temperament, attitude, aspirations, and ambitions. Everything about these topics you knew at that age of 17 would not change over the next 4 decades, not one iota.
My advice to my younger self it to be much more confident in ignoring the counter examples presented by peers or of more senior associates. I recall those moments that raised doubts that maybe their example was something to emulate. I also recall the more stubborn conclusion that it was not for you. That stubborn conclusion was right all along. Where you erred was in given credence to the advice of others, to give their example a try in the chance that maybe you were wrong.
That was a serious error.
I look at my current situation and wonder what would have been different had I the confidence to accept what I suspected about myself at 17 years old, despite the conflicting examples of peers and advice of elders. Certainly, there would have been a different timeline and I would have ended up in a different geographic location. However, in every way that counts, I could have ended up at pretty much the same place had I been more confident.
In my real life, I had chosen to pursue college instead of going straight into working. Looking back, I don’t really think I would have avoided college, but I do recall at least considering the option to avoid that. In any case, I did have the choice between pursuing liberal arts, or hard-science (particularly mathematics), or engineering. Engineering was the choices furthest from my assessment of my nature, but I deferred to the implicit advice of it providing a good career and that would be needed to follow the advice of being able to support a family eventually. I suspected at the time the neither would really suit me, but I chose the option that others would accept as being a good choice, especially since I was able to do the course work with good grades.
During and following college, I was looking for opportunities for finding a potential wife. This was a mistake that would continue for three decades. You knew it at the time. That is why you fumbled every opportunity to connect with someone despite having the prerequisite infatuation for pursuit. I recall you knowing this truth even at the time. You cried at many of these failures not because you didn’t succeed, but because you had tried.
You knew yourself. You were not made of the right stuff for relationships. You lived in an anomalous period of time that presented the fallacy that sexual relationships (at the very least occasional sexual encounters) were a requirement for healthy male life. You wasted a lot of your time and energy doubting your instinctual understanding that this was not for you.
Going back to your life choices, you squandered your education years on engineering. You did take challenging course-loads and you had good grades, but you didn’t embrace the opportunities presented. Your sense that this was not right for you was in fact absolutely correct. However, I still admire your signaling of your discontent in your choice of a senior project of deliberately choosing an obsolete technology.
Your choice of declining an immediate pursuit of a MS degree was a good decision but made for the wrong justification. You had in mind that you would begin earning money to increase your wealth to be more attractive to a mate (that you knew you weren’t interested in). Also, you had student loans that had to be retired.
Overall, I would say it was a good idea to leave college after the BS, and a good idea to pick the job you did — a job that interested you just long enough to pay off the loan. You made the decision for the wrong reason, though. You had in mind that advice of settling down with a wife and eventually starting a family, something you knew was not for you.
I criticize you now for not being more confident. However, you managed to avoid getting entangled in a situation that could not have ended well for you. Yes, you wasted your time trying to live up to other’s expectations, but you had enough inner confidence to derail each opportunity, even if that was done completely unconsciously.
You especially deserve criticism for continuing across 3 decades to reject this core conviction about your nature. You cycled through a dozen employers and a return to college and all but one case did you choose rationally, and in that case you irrationally stuck around long after it was useful to you.
You knew when you were 17 years old that you valued most of all the solitude for contemplation. You were fully prepared to live as modest as possible, spending enough to be comfortable but not much beyond that. You also accepted a model of earning as much as possible while spending as little as possible. You knew you could be happy just working when needed, saving when working, and living frugally.
Had you the confidence to stick to that plan, you could have avoided the waste of time with unnecessary college education, or devoting hours to unnecessary jobs. You only confidence in one conviction: that you were not destined to be in a relationship, and that you did not need a woman in your life at all. Had you had that confidence at the age of 17, I’m confident I would be in a very similar situation as I am right now but with a memory of a life lived differently. I can’t tell if it would be happier or not, but I do know I would have had more time for doing what I love most: solitude, contemplation, and living simply. I’m guessing I would be here similarly situated but with more stories that I would be eager to tell. My lack of confidence in what I knew to be true denied me those stories of living an authentic life.
Obviously, this advice reaches you too late to change anything. I wonder though why you hadn’t received this advice from others at a time that could have made a decision. I can only recall one person giving this advice. It occurred when I was in my late 20s, 10 years later than optimal, but more than 20 years before I would come up with it myself. This was a brief discussion with a manager at the time. It was not really advice, but instead an observation that he has met others like me, and described them in a way that matched what I knew about myself. That should have been sufficient to confirm the validity of following my nature. To be clear, this was not advice in the sense that this would have led to a better life outcome. Instead it was merely an observation being true to my nature had precedence, and it was as valid a way to live as any other.
I admit that his observation did influence my future choices. It would have been much more valuable had I had a similar validation ten years earlier. Better still would be if I didn’t need that validation to counteract the direction I had been receiving.
This gets back to the mythologies I grew up under. The recent technologies of television and cinema emphasized the necessity of sexual experiences at least and ideally of a traditional nuclear family. Clearly, these are not new concepts. What was new starting around my generation was alternative directions for living, especially for men to go about life in a self-directed way even if it leads to solitude.
It makes sense that society did not discuss these alternatives at much: these decisions rarely result in interesting stories for movies or TV series unless the individual has achieved some major success or was a fictional character with superpowers. The history for the vast majority of self-directed men left no legacy at all: no lasting accomplishments, and no descendants. As a result, there stories are less visible in modern culture. This invisibility makes it seem like this is not a valid option.
The valid options presented for men today require some type of interaction with women. pursuing them for pleasure, or sacrificing for their benefit.
The recent MGTOW discussions is a correction to the recent past mistake of overlooking the fact that humanity produces some men who do not need to participate in the games of mating or of sacrificing for women. Hopefully, the term will become trite and we will just accept that this phenomenon is a part of human nature.
Culturally, the MGTOW story tellers are providing a valuable service by providing stories to validate this option for men to lead their lives. Perhaps these stories can reassure the present-day counterparts of my 17-year old self, that their internal assessment of their place in society is valid and can direct one’s life. It is not necessary to build a life that caters to female attraction, if that is not that interesting. This is different from advocating from avoiding such relationships if that is appealing. It is merely a validation that such avoidance is a valid way to live.
If I had the means to time-travel back to my youth and give only the simplest advice, that advice would be: you are correct.