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It’s clear to me that young women’s mental health has declined dramatically since the emergence of social media and I want to look today at what may be the reason for that.
I have the impression for example, that onlyfans serves the same psychological need for young women. as the drug trade and cryptocurrency serve in young men. I call it status affirmation. They’re doing these jobs, not because it earns them so much money, but because it earns them money in a way that nourishes their ego.
Throughout history, for men to have a high status looked as following: You earn money by doing very little actual work and you have to answer to nobody. That’s for example why you could probably halve the number of male college dropouts, simply by removing group projects from the equation: It leaves them with fewer people to please and is thus less psychologically costly for them.
For women to have a high status is entirely different. A young woman wants to be desired. This isn’t something that emerged with agriculture 10,000 years ago, it has been part of what it means to be a woman, probably since before we were anatomically modern humans. They would like to imagine that they’re not dependent on male validation, but they are. Even the judgement of other women in regards to your beauty is ultimately overridden by what men think. You won’t see a woman as euphoric as she is when she is desired by a man, in the presence of other women.
Smart women want to be attractive, rich women want to be attractive, creative women want to be attractive, funny women want to be attractive. They’re ashamed of this, of this very base psychological need, they seek to be virtuous, to base their self-esteem on their accomplishments, but at the end of the day, all of human rationality is just a thin veneer that we apply on top of primitive monkey brains. And among the apes it’s pretty obvious, that women’s status among each other is determined by the desire that men feel for them.
And so the product is that young women are constantly seeking out validation. Of course the other desire women have is to be perceived as young, this desire only seems to be overcome to some degree when they give birth to children. If as a young man you post your photo on Instagram, nobody is going to call you handsome or beautiful. If you’re lucky, your friends won’t be mocking you. On the other hand, young women will shower each other with praise, because validation is their drug.
But validation needs a cost. Your brain grows tolerant to every reward it receives, anything that gives you dopamine begins to give you less dopamine over time. Similarly, free validation doesn’t give you the burst of dopamine that it used to give after a while. Every other average woman who calls you “beautiful” on Instagram doesn’t pay a cost in the process, so of course they give out free compliments, but that diminishes the value of each compliment. Similarly, with every shady dude who adds you and says “hi” to you, the dopamine released declines over time.
So what’s the next step of validation? Well that one is obvious: Validation for a price. “Someone is willing to pay 5 dollars to see my naked body” is a form of validation that most modern young women apparently need. If nobody bites for five dollar, then you offer a discount and so now you’re asking three dollars, for someone to see your naked body.
It’s the same with women who refuse to go out on a date, or women who don’t feel like having sex, but then changed their minds after you asked them multiple times. Men are constantly stuck with the dilemma of having to figure out an answer to the following question: Is she really not interested, or is she trying to harvest more validation, by me paying the cost of violating some social norm to be with her? If you guess wrong, you’re stuck with a lifelong social stigma. I once felt so insulted by a woman who changed her mind and was suddenly really eager after I tried to initiate multiple times, that I lost interest and she began to cry.
And as the need for more validation increases in the era of Instagram, monogamy becomes unsustainable too. One man is increasingly incapable of providing a woman with the validation her brain craves for an extended period of time. After a few months she’ll find herself wondering if he is just “used to her”.
The “wedding ring” and the “wedding” phenomenon can be explained through this lens too. Men aren’t supposed to invest resources in a relationship to make a woman happy. You’re not supposed to “buy a house” for your wife to make her feel happy. No, first you need to make a big pile of money up front and burn it in front of her and everyone she knows.
What does that look like? A diamond wedding ring and a wedding that costs you a median annual salary. It’s all destroyed wealth, the ring has no resell value and the wedding dress is worn once. The destruction of the resources is essential to the ritual: The signal needs to carry a cost. The woman doesn’t consciously seek to burn a pile of money, the brain just seeks signals that it associates with waste and opulence. An excessively big dress is waste of cotton, an excessively big cake is waste of food. If you can signal that you can waste resources, it’s a decent indicator that you can probably raise and feed a lot of children in the years ahead.
Men tend to have little need for validation and women tend to get really annoyed when men need validation from them the way they do from men. For women this feels like someone who lost a tooth asking for sympathy from someone who lost an arm. Men who do strongly crave physical validation tend to be bisexual or gay. The other thing I notice is that men who are really successful at a young age tend to gradually become bisexual: They already receive validation of their skills and so the brain just starts searching for affirmation elsewhere.
What most men want instead is power and control. Of course some women also want that, particularly as they grow older, but they generally want it as a side-effect of their desirability: They married the king, the king died and so now they run the country on behalf of their infant son.
I see quite often that a man complains that he takes great pride in having his own small business, whereas his wife just thinks it’s a lot of hard work for little money. What’s going on there is that men have a much greater psychological need to be their own boss, to have a high degree of autonomy and not have to answer to another man. Workplaces that reduce your autonomy will tend to end up with a relatively higher share of women over time.
The onlyfans era is great for men without morals. If you fundamentally don’t care about a woman as a person, if you have no genuine desire to see her happy, then it’s easy for most men to get what they crave in this era with some simple manipulation and dishonesty. On the other hand, for men who are wired to want to take care of their children, who seek a deep meaningful and stable relationship with a woman, the onlyfans era is about as damaging as it is for women’s overall mental health: It’s practically impossible for a single man to satisfy most women’s craving for validation now.
There are some theoretical solutions to this problem. Validation has signs of functioning as a zero sum game: Women start craving more of it, when they see other women receiving it. Women’s hatred of porn is for example largely a product of envy: Another woman receives massive amounts of validation by violating a social norm, this is a defector in a prisoner’s dilemma who screws over the rest of us! We’re gradually moving towards a situation in which we are left with two types of young women: Those who produce porn and those who hate the whole phenomenon.
So, an obvious solution would be to ban porn. If women don’t find themselves confronted with other women who seem to be far more desired by men than they are, they feel less insecure. If women feel less insecure, they feel less desire for validation. When women need less validation, relationships with men become more stable.
The reason you hear very little about this problem, is because women don’t like admitting it. Women who complain about their boyfriend watching porn will suggest that they hate it because he will want to force his perverted fetishes on her. What they generally won’t say is: “I hate it because it confronts me with the fact that he seems to be more sexually attracted to other women.” That’s a realization that hurts you in your pride, in a way that being pressured into all sorts of perversions doesn’t hurt your pride.
What I notice is that women will very happily complain about the problems they experience as a consequence of men’s desire for them. I’m sure these problems are real. I’m also sure some of them are exaggerated. As an example, studies show that women having their drinks spiked by men almost never happens. I’m also sure they receive a disproportionately large amount of coverage, because people like to complain about the sort of stuff that only affects successful people.
On the other hand, what they won’t happily complain about, is the psychological anguish they experience over not being desired by men. You might say that this anguish is a far less significant problem, but I don’t believe so. Surely you must have noticed the fact that there’s a whole industry of products designed to keep women desirable for men? The “keep me sexually desirable to men” industry has a few billion dollars more in revenue than the “help me protect myself from having drugs slipped into my drinks” industry. How big is the skincare industry? How big is the martial arts self-defense industry?
This phenomenon is kind of similar to how men will happily complain about having to pay so much taxes, but won’t happily complain about how little unemployment or welfare subsidies they receive. You’re far more hurt when you’re struggling to pay for food because you’re so poor than you are when you’re forced to pay 51% taxes over the highest portion of your income. Men who publicly sympathize with Elon Musk bashing Elisabeth Warren are similarly engaged in such status signaling. They think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires and want others to think of them as millionaires.
Almost every feminist complaint can be boiled down to: “It’s really painful to be a woman because I’m a constant victim of men’s sexual desire for me.”
And yet almost every factor in young women’s severe decline in mental health since the rise of social media can be boiled down to: “I feel unattractive because I live in a society where I’m constantly faced with other women who can earn millions of dollars simply by playing video games or whispering into a microphone.”