“White stuff.” That’s how Skyler describes his interests by the time he got to college. As a preteen, he had moved with his family from the entirely Black neighborhood he’d grown up in to a predominantly White suburb; the next few years were an exercise in cultural assimilation. In college, he even joined a majority-White fraternity.
But after the 2016 presidential election fueled racial tensions on campus, Skyler began distancing himself from his frat brothers — and seeking out the culture he had drifted from. Eventually, music and reading led him to YouTube, where he came across Red Pill Table Talk, run by a creator calling himself Angryman. Through Angryman, Skyler descended into a YouTube rabbit hole he never even knew existed.
The men he watched discussed a variety of topics, but seemed preoccupied with women. Some showed their faces. Others remained anonymous. Few used their real names. At first he thought they were harmless — but things changed, and changed quickly. Prompted by his interest in dating White women, Skyler visited a now-defunct site devoted to the topic, and was deeply discomfited by what he’d found. “It was filled with so many stereotypical images of Black women you’d think you were watching a minstrel show,” he says.
His disenchantment began to snowball. One YouTuber he followed blocked him on a Discord chat room because he couldn’t recite the pillars of Save Yourself Black Men (SYSBM), an online subculture that demonizes Black women and urges Black men to find interracial relationships. The whole thing, Skyler realized, felt a lot like a cult: welcoming until you challenged the teachings, at which point the whole system — self-styled gurus, forum moderators, and even the other followers — turned on you.
Skyler is just one of many young Black men (thousands, he claims) in a loosely affiliated, anti-feminist online community called the Black Manosphere. Like Skyler, many of its adherents are drawn to it thinking its gender-war debates are harmless, even entertaining; many of its supporters refer to it as a “digital barbershop.” I first happened upon the community inadvertently, much as Skyler had; yet, over the course of nearly 20 months exploring its darkest recesses, I found much more than just good-natured banter.
Like so many online communities, the Black Manosphere is rife with internal divisions and disputes, each more ridiculous than the last; what unites it is its founding principles of anti-feminism. Most of these are cribbed from the larger “manosphere,” an umbrella term for a collection of subreddits and “men’s rights” forums claiming that women and a feminist-leaning society have robbed men of their power, and then tailored to Black women specifically. Black women lack femininity, says Black Manosphere dogma; they refuse to be submissive; they are the ones responsible for Black family dysfunction.
As with the manosphere at large, the Black Manosphere traffics in jargon that makes them sound like Matrix superfans whose experience with actual women doesn’t extend beyond fantasy. “Red pill” ideology casts followers as visionaries who dare to see through the illusion; they divide other men into “alpha” and “beta” categories to denote their power and status (“betabux,” for example, is a term used for weak men whose only value to women is as sugar daddies). Sexually empowered women are denigrated as riding the “cock carousel” until they hit “the wall” in their mid-twenties and their “sexual market value” drops; the 80/20 rule dictates that women find only one out of every five men attractive enough to have sex without added incentives like money (at which their “hypergamy,” or drive to marry up a class, kicks in).
As with the manosphere at large, the Black Manosphere traffics in jargon that makes them sound like “Matrix” superfans whose experience with actual women doesn’t extend beyond fantasy.
Unlike the larger, ostensibly White manosphere, the Black Manosphere isn’t a pathway into the alt-right. It reserves its ire solely for its own community: Black women and men who violate its expectations. Black women in particular are its targets, with men referring to them as “scraggle daggles,” “demons,” and “the most filthy and disease-ridden women on the planet.” It’s a codified system of misogynoir — misogyny toward Black women in particular — that gives stark form to an attitude Black women have been noticing and discussing for well over a decade.
Before the Black Manosphere, there was the men’s rights movement, and lo, it was bad. It was also predominantly White, or at least non-Black. A Philadelphia-based man who calls himself Mumia Obsidian Ali sought to change that. After coming across men’s rights activists online in the mid-2010s, he began to contribute pieces to blogs like A Voice for Men and Return of Kings, and eventually launched a radio show where he holds forth on his favorite topic: Black women. (The seeds of his own anti-feminism were sown in childhood, he suggested in one article, when he saw his grandmother and mother being verbally abusive toward his grandfather and father, respectively.) “Black women [in America], as a group, suck,” he tells me in an email exchange.
As the Black Manosphere proliferated, so did a deluge of content. Men — mostly from North America and Western Europe — write ceaseless articles referencing other articles, and upload videos as long as 12 hours blaming Black women for every societal ill plaguing Black communities in Western societies. Literally, every one: crime rates, single motherhood, STD rates, killing sprees, lagging school performance, out-of-wedlock births; abortions, incarceration rates. To bypass YouTube’s content moderation policies, some make their videos age-restricted. Others post their content on BitChute or Free Speech Avenger, both of which can feature profane or even pornographic content, as well as their own websites, blogs, podcasts, private Facebook pages, and Telegram chat groups. Some self-publish books. Revenue builds through donations during livestreams, one-on-one consultation fees, book sales, merchandise, and Patreon subscriptions. A nearly two-hour video can generate more than $200 in donations.
It would be disingenuous to insinuate that all the content in the Black Manosphere is toxic or even misogynistic. There are valuable discussions about confidence, goal-setting, finances, traveling, entrepreneurship, and physical fitness. Unfortunately, even many of these videos steer off topic or devolve into shouting matches.
In her book Not All Dead White Men, classics scholar Donna Zuckerberg argues that the manosphere-adjacent “seduction” community is less about actually picking up women and more about “establishing authority and social capital among a group of male peers.” This observation transfers neatly to the Black Manosphere, where infighting is omnipresent. While its creators, to a one, purport to uplift the Black man, their true aspirations are clear: selling a personality, building a subscriber base, and accumulating income.
Because most YouTubers receive relatively few views, and no one directly or indirectly linked to this group has committed an act of violence, it’s tempting to dismiss the Black Manosphere as offensive but harmless. But online misogynoir has turned into IRL homicide: In 2009, a young Detroit woman named Asia McGowan was murdered by a man who had created his own videos, and stalked McGown on social media. And enough Black Manosphere videos have received six- and seven-digit view counts that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm can push them to those watching related videos.
Pseudo-intellectualism runs rampant. Content creators have alleged that “Black-on-Black crime” is driven by women procreating with presumed unreliable men. One YouTuber, who goes by Xanatos Clutch, asserted in a private video that Black men mainly committed crime “to impress [a] hoodrat bitch,” and that crime is lower in cities with a low segregation index because Black men have more opportunities to genuinely interact with non-Black women. No criminological theory supports these claims.
Other pseudo-historical narratives espoused by the Black Manosphere portray Black women as adversaries, accusing them of thwarting slave rebellions, causing the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and even fomenting both World War I and II. Amateur interpretation of academic scholarship occurs as well. University of Wisconsin women’s studies professor Pernille Ipsen’s book Daughters of the Trade gained a cult-like following within the Black Manosphere because her research covered five generations of interracial marriages along the Gold Coast of Africa; members cite the book to argue that Black women willingly conspired and had sex with White men during the slave trade to the detriment of Black men. (Reached via email, Ipsen called the argument “ridiculous.”)
The group spends much of its attention on Black women, but Black men who don’t fit its definition of manhood — often referred to as “maggles” — find themselves in its crossfire as well. Creators who disagree hurl homophobic slurs at one another, mock physical appearances, and accuse their critics of lacking an active sex life or having an unattractive partner. Some reveal YouTubers’ real identities and expose their criminal pasts or family dysfunction. Brotherhood is fragile.
Shawn James, a YouTube creator who once counted himself among the community, experienced this fragility firsthand. As some YouTubers discussed traveling abroad to meet women, James uploaded a now-deleted video warning men about some of the risks they might encounter. Content creators accused him of discouraging Black men from traveling overseas — then summarily defriended him on Facebook, mocked his looks and singleness, cropped his face onto memes, stalked his Twitter page, and ridiculed his joblessness and sex life. The blowback went on for over three months.
The event disappointed James, who had originally hoped the Black Manosphere would be a place where older Black men would mentor the younger generation about networking, employment opportunities, and building a stronger community. Egos and infighting doomed those prospects, he tells me. “Most of the men who were a part of it are so obsessed with Black women and sex that they’ve lost focus on working towards achieving anything serious or tangible,” he claims.
Black men deserve, even need, a space to talk about their issues, but the Black Manosphere is a perversion of that space, selling retrograde patriarchal ideas under the promise of community around Black masculinity. Content creators hide their identities, create alter egos, bathe in victimhood, and allege that any critiques of their pernicious philosophies are an attack on Black men. “I know people can get frustrated with the opposite sex sometimes,” Skyler says, “but all their content began devolving into a complete cesspool of negativity.” In retrospect, he tells me, they are no different from the White Manosphere: “They have conservative views, [are] misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and racist, even against themselves.” He now describes the group as “ridiculous” — which might just be the best outcome an internet rabbit hole could lead to.