The Evolution of the Manosphere Across the Web
Manoel Horta Ribeiro♠, Jeremy Blackburn♦, Barry Bradlyns, Emiliano De Cristofarop
Gianluca Stringhini♣, Summer Long♦, Stephanie Greenberg♦, Savvas Zannettouq
♠EPFL, ♦Binghamton University, sUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
pUniversity College London, ♣Boston University, qMax Planck Institute for Informatics
– iDRAMA Lab –
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
In this paper, we present a large-scale characterization of the
Manosphere, a conglomerate of Web-based misogynist move-
ments roughly focused on “men’s issues,” which has seen sig-
niﬁcant growth over the past years. We do so by gathering
and analyzing 28.8M posts from 6 forums and 51 subreddits.
Overall, we paint a comprehensive picture of the evolution of
the Manosphere on the Web, showing the links between its
different communities over the years. We ﬁnd that milder and
older communities, such as Pick Up Artists and Men’s Rights
Activists, are giving way to more extremist ones like Incels and
Men Going Their Own Way, with a substantial migration of
active users. Moreover, our analysis suggests that these newer
communities are more toxic and misogynistic than the former.
Online platforms are increasingly exploited to spread hate, ex-
tremist ideologies, and weaponized information, and have been
repeatedly linked to radicalization leading to real-world violent
events [1,28]. Seemingly niche communities are often involved
in such activities; for instance, Gab, 8chan, and 4chan have all
played a role in the apparent radicalization of individuals that
went on to alleged murderous actions [3,10,17]. Each of these
communities was considered niche; yet, niche does not mean
unimportant. In fact, these are often well-positioned within
online cultures to have impactful effects in the world .
Over the past few years, the Manosphere has emerged as
a noteworthy conglomerate of “niche” communities, roughly
aligned by their common interest in masculinity and its al-
leged crisis . Communities like Pick Up Artists (PUAs),
Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), Men Going Their Own Way
(MGTOW), and Involuntary Celibates (Incels) have been grow-
ing in size and in their involvement in online harassment and
real-world violence .
So far, researchers have mostly studied the Manosphere
through deep domain experience and immersion into the ma-
terial, drawing from a tradition of diverse concepts, such
as techno-sociological theories (e.g., toxic disinhibition) and
views on patriarchal societal constructs [18,21,33,34].
However, Manosphere communities are scattered through
the Web, in a loosely connected network of subreddits, blogs,
YouTube channels, and forums . Consequently, we still
lack a comprehensive understanding of the underlying digital
ecosystem, of the evolution of the different communities, and
of the interactions among them. For instance, little is known
about the evolution of discourse within the communities, how
users migrate between them, or how active each of them have
been over the last years.
In this paper, we present a multi-platform longitudinal study
of the Manosphere on the Web, aiming to address three main
How has the popularity/levels of activity of the different
Manosphere communities evolved over time?
Has there been substantial migration of, or intersection
in, users across communities?
Has speech become more toxic and/or misogynistic over
To answer these questions, we collect and analyze a large
dataset with posts collected from 6 forums (6.7M posts) and 51
subreddits (22.1M posts) related to the Manosphere. We anno-
tate and categorize each forum/subreddit according to the most
relevant movement (e.g., Incels, MGTOW, PUA), and study
their evolution over time. Speciﬁcally, we: 1) analyze the evolu-
tion of the user base and of the activity in each of the different
subreddits and the forums over time; 2) study the user migration
ﬂow across communities by examining, in different subreddits,
the intersection between users in different communities; and
3) examine the toxicity and the misogynistic content in the
communities across the years using the Perspective API 
and a misogyny-related lexicon .
We ﬁnd that older communities such as MRA and Pick Up
Artists have eventually been overshadowed by new communi-
ties like MGTOW, and Incels (
). Moreover, users are often
active across several Manosphere communities, with newer
communities receiving signiﬁcant migratory inﬂuxes from the
older ones (
). Newer communities are also appreciably
more toxic and misogynistic, which might imply an overall
trend of the Manosphere as a whole (
). Overall, our work
highlights the importance of studying different communities
at scale, in aggregate, rather than separately, and prompts a
number of possible future directions, including understanding
the reasons behind user migration movements.
arXiv:2001.07600v2 [cs.CY] 18 May 2020
2 Background & Related Work
The Manosphere is loosely deﬁned as the collection of groups
and communities aligned by their common interest in men’s
issues, often associated to online harassment and real-world
violence . Since the creation of the term around 2009 ,
it has been adopted by both the media and those within the
Origins of the Manosphere.
The “roots” of the Manosphere
can be traced back to the Men’s Liberation Movement in the
60’s and 70’s. The movement was a critique of traditional
male gender roles, which were seen as oppressive . In the
70’s, a new branch began to see the “problem” as stemming
more from feminism and women empowerment . So-called
Men’s Rights Activists would focus on men’s issues such as
military conscription, divorce, and custody laws. In this new
ideology, women’s liberation would be inﬂicting on men “the
worst of both worlds,” and the movement’s empathetic tone
turned into anger .
Many of the ﬁgures at the forefront of these movements were
once associated with second-wave feminism; Warren Farrell,
for example, led a men’s group within the National Organiza-
tion for Women. Then, in 1993, he wrote the Myth Of Male
Power , which became a fundamental text to Men’s Rights
Activists, claiming that men, and not women, are systematically
disadvantaged in modern society. Farrell’s work has repeatedly
been criticized as simplistic and insensitive to women’s struggle
for equality [7,37].
Manosphere on the Web.
Ging  argues that many tradi-
tional theories on views of both masculinity and misogyny
are expressed in new, impactful ways online. As modern soci-
ety has generally accepted the core ideals of gender equality,
she observes an increase in “a more virulent strain of anti-
feminism online,” positing that the Web’s facilitation of infor-
mation dissemination across boundaries and multiple platforms
has greatly increased the spread of extreme anti-feminist views,
along with misogyny and violent rhetoric.
Farrell et al.  present a large-scale analysis of
Manosphere-related subreddits with a focus on misogyny.
They build a lexicon from seven dictionaries related to hate,
harassment, violence, etc., and manually categorize the terms
in this meta-lexicon into one of nine misogynistic categories
informed from feminist theory (e.g., “belittling,” “patriarchy,”
“physical violence,” etc.). Out of 2,454 terms, they select 1,300
for their ﬁnal lexicon, which is then used to measure the preva-
lence of terms from each category in 5.7M posts across six
subreddits identiﬁed as being Manosphere-related.
Laviolette and Hogan  study two subreddits related to
the Manosphere (/r/MensRight and /r/MensLib). Using ma-
chine learning and qualitative analysis, they characterize both
subreddits, with a particular focus on understanding their inter-
pretations regarding gender and discrimination.
Lilly  offers an overview of the representational poli-
tics of the Manosphere. Through a mixed-methods critical dis-
course analysis, she presents a taxonomy for the communities
and highlights the key ideas of the Manosphere: masculinity is
1Please note that this work is by Tracy Farrell, and not Warren Farrell.
under siege by feminizing forces; and feminism is as hypocrit-
ical and oppressive. Her taxonomy considers 4 communities,
Men’s Rights Activists (MRA), Men Going Their Own Way
(MGTOW), Pick Up Artists (PUA), and Involuntary Celibates
(Incels). According to her, while the ﬁrst two communities
see this “crisis in masculinity” in society, which would be in-
creasingly “feminized,” the two latter see the crisis in men
We describe the communities of the
Manosphere as deﬁned by Lilly’s taxonomy :
1. Men’s Rights Activists (MRA)
focus on men-related so-
cial issues and institutions, which they argue discriminate
against men . The movement has been repeatedly la-
beled as misogynistic and/or hateful [13,22,35].
2. Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW)
society is rigged against men . They espouse the aban-
donment of women and sometimes, of western society.
The system is impossible to change, so the solution is
to “go your own way.” This is often paired with extreme
anti-feminism and misogyny . While MRAs want to
change politics and the rule of law, MGTOWs advocate
abstaining from relationships with women .
3. Pick Up Artists (PUA)
are a community built around
“game,” i.e., techniques, strategies, and mindsets that help
men pick up women . This often involves objectify-
ing women and promoting harassment techniques like
negging , i.e., insulting women to overthrow their
conﬁdence. The PUA community conceptualizes the mas-
culinity crisis in terms of the femininization of the man,
“a fool at the hands of women” .
4. Involuntary Celibates (Incels)
are a group, mostly of
young men, united by a strong feeling of rejection and rage
towards the opposite sex. Incels rose to the mainstream
due to the their association with mass murderers . The
community is obsessed with theories about looks and
relationships, and members often express desire to hurt
others or themselves.
Hateful and Abusive Speech.
Prior work has extensively stud-
ied how to detect and measure hate speech on the Web. Silva et
al.  analyze the targets of hate speech in Whisper and Twit-
ter by matching expressions like I <intensity> <userintent>
<hatetarget>. Chandrasekharan et al.  examine 100M posts
and comments from two banned subreddits, /r/fatpeoplehate
and /r/CoonTown, and observe user behavior on other subred-
dits after the ban by the number of occurrences of a set of
keywords. Olteanu et al.  measure the impact of extrem-
ist violence on hate speech online, also using a lexicon-based
approach, starting with terms related to anti-Muslim hate and
then expanding by iteratively querying online platforms.
Overall, detecting and measuring hateful content is a hard
problem, as hate speech is highly contextual and subjective [44,
49,50]. Recent work highlights these challenges empirically:
 shows that machine learning algorithms often struggle
to distinguish offensive and hateful speech, while Hosseini et
al.  points to possible ways to deceive APIs. Davidson
et al.  also ﬁnd that techniques for hate speech detection
tend to predict tweets written in African-American English as
abusive at substantially higher rate.
In this paper, we focus on measuring toxic content and
misogynistic speech using two methods: 1) Google’s Perspec-
tive API ; and 2) a dictionary-based approach relying on
misogyny-related keywords from . Naturally, this shares
the caveats of the aforementioned work, which, however, we
mitigate by using two different methods and by comparing their
signal across time in multiple communities and platforms.
Bernstein et al.  analyze 5M posts on
4chan’s random (/b/) board to examine the effect of anonymity
and ephemerality, while Hine et al.  focus on the politically
incorrect board (/pol/), studying 8M posts collected over almost
three months. Zannettou et al.  study the inﬂuence of fringe
communities with respect to images. Ribeiro et al.  study
the growth of the Alt-right on YouTube through “radicalization
pathways.” Finally, anecdotal evidence points towards a sig-
niﬁcant intersection between the Manosphere and other fringe
communities , a direction that calls for further inspection.
Throughout the paper, we use data we collected from two main
sources: 1) six forums related to the Manosphere; and 2) posts
from 51 subreddits related to the Manosphere.
Forums are an interesting medium through which to
study the Manosphere, as they allow us to track communities
that were prominent before Reddit (e.g., PUAs). Moreover, they
often involve discourse considered too toxic for mainstream
social media platforms . Thus, we crawl multiple forums
related to four Manosphere-related communities: Incels, PUA,
MRA, and MGTOW, based on manual visits of specialized
Wikis – speciﬁcally, IncelsWiki, RationalWiki, and RedPill-
We focus on forums that: 1) are popular and/or active for
a long period of time; 2) do not require registration to see all
posts; and 3) are broadly related to the communities of interest.
We select six forums: Incel.is, Rooshv, The Attraction, MPUA
Forum, MGTOW, and AVFM
, and describe each of them
Forum created hours after the ban of
/r/Incels . It is the largest Incel forum in activity, allow-
ing speech which would likely be censored in platforms
like Reddit . It does not allow women to join as they
would disrupt discussion .
Created by prominent ex-PUA Daryush V. It was
a place to discuss game, and sex-tourism, but it increas-
ingly became fertile ground for anti-feminist and Alt-right
narratives . The discourse changed so much that in
2019, Daryush condemned extramarital sex as sinful .
3. The Attraction/MPUAForum:
Older forums dedicated
to pick-up-artistry. The Attraction is run by lovesystems.
com, and MPUAForum featured coaches (e.g. Gam-
bler ), and sold courses and event tickets.
Sources: incels.wiki,incels.wiki/w/incels.co,rationalwiki.org, and redpilltalk.
Sources: incels.is,rooshvforum.com,pick-up- artist-forum.com,
Forum #Threads #Users #Posts Min. Date
Incels.is 117,592 5,933 2,436,053 2017-11
Rooshv 47,203 13,598 1,490,231 2008-08
The Attraction 133,520 45,937 892,715 2005-11
MPUA Forum 165,270 59,332 890,651 2006-03
MGTOW Forum 52,022 3,762 794,698 2014-07
AVFM 20,159 1,804 211,070 2012-09
Total 535,766 130,366 6,715,418 2005-11
Subreddits #Threads #Users #Posts Min. Date
PUA (7 subr.) 228,208 177,095 2,041,313 2008-04
Incels (18 subr.) 419,819 197,196 6,413,459 2010-09
TRP (12 subr.) 272,673 162,192 5,286,137 2012-10
MRA (11 subr.) 241,053 214,061 4,691,807 2008-03
MGTOW (3 subr.) 199,702 85,268 3,728,367 2011-06
Total 1,361,455 835,812 22,161,083 2008-03
Overview of our dataset (not including baselines). Recall
that, for all forums and subreddits, the latest date is was set as the end
4. MGTOW Forum:
The largest MGTOW forum, created
in 2014. Threads often discuss alleged negative female
traits, society’s supposed bias against men, and how men
should abandon women altogether .
Ofﬁcial forum from Paul Elam’s prominent MRA
site A Voice for Men . It dates back to 2012, and the
threads largely reﬂect the topics that govern the MRA
movement: anti-feminism, men’s issues (divorce, men’s
health, reproductive choices).
For each forum, we build a custom crawler, which we run
between June 19–30, 2019. Importantly, all content in forums
was publicly available and did not require us to log-in. Table 1
(top part) lists the number of threads, users, and posts, as well
as the relevant dates. Overall, we gather 6.7M posts from 130K
users. For ethical reasons, we do not make any attempt to link
users across forums, so if a user has accounts on two forums it
will be counted twice.
We ﬁrst retrieve all submissions and comments made
available via Pushshift between June, 2005 and December,
2018 . Then, we identify a set of subreddits relevant to
the Manosphere by ﬁnding references to subreddits on the
Incels Wiki page as well as popular subreddits like /r/MGTOW,
/r/Braincels,/r/TheRedPill. In the end, we select 56 subreddits.
The list is available from , along with the source that referred
to each of them and basic statistics.
By parsing Pushshift’s monthly dumps, we extract all sub-
missions and comments for each of the subreddits. Note that
we ﬁnd data for 51 out of 56 subreddits, as ﬁve subreddits were
banned before Pushshift collected data for them. Ultimately, we
gather a set of 22M posts from 835K users. Next, we group the
subreddits as per ﬁve categories, largely based on the taxonomy
of Manosphere subcultures :
discusses involuntary celibacy or related concepts,
e.g., the Black Pill.
2. MGTOW: discusses the MGTOW movement.
3. PUA: discusses pick up artistry and game.
discusses the MRA movement and its broader
agenda (e.g., anti-circumcision, alimony).
associated with /r/TheRedPill, as well as other sub-
reddits that broadly belong to the Manosphere.
While the ﬁrst 4 categories directly map to Lily’s taxon-
omy, we separate the subreddits related to /r/TheRedPill into
a different category. Journalistic investigations  suggest
that the /r/TheRedPill’s creator, pk_atheist, was a state law-
maker with former ties to the Men’s Rights movement. How-
ever, the subreddit (as well as other “adjacent” ones like
/r/RedPillParenting, and /r/RedPillWomen) merged elements
from several Manosphere communities. Besides those ties, the
subreddit also contains a lot of content related to relationships
and pick-up artistry .
Moreover, many of the members
self-identify as MGTOW, to the point where they have a ﬂair
(a category of posts) dedicated to MGTOW-related content.
Thus, given this conﬂuence of communities and ideas in these
subreddits, we separate them in a category of their own.
To assign each subreddit to one of the ﬁve cate-
gories, we performed manual annotation with seven annotators.
These spent a minimum of ten minutes browsing the subred-
dits and reading random posts from them, and assigned each
subreddit to one category. The subreddits were then labeled
based on majority agreement. Note that the annotators are au-
thors of this paper, they are familiar with scholarly literature on
the Manosphere, and had no communication with each other
about the annotation task. We also compute the Fleiss’ Kappa
Score to assess the agreement between the annotators, which
amounts to 0.91; this is regarded as “almost perfect agreement,”
hence denoting high inter-annotator agreement . In Table 1
(bottom part), we provide the number of subreddits, threads,
users, and posts, for each of the categories.
Beyond the subreddits and forums already
discussed, we use a few additional data sources as baselines.
Namely, we use a dataset from Gab  consisting of 29M
posts, using the publicly available corpus
, a random dataset
consisting of 0.5% of all the Reddit corpus, as well as random
dataset from 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board (/pol/). To
extract the random dataset from Reddit, we parse all posts
between 2005-2019 and generate a random sample of 0.5% of
all posts (28M posts). For 4chan’s /pol/, we select 25% of all
posts (32M posts) from the dataset collected by , with all
posts from June 2016 to September 2019. They are employed
through the paper as reference points of our other analyses.
We follow standard ethical guidelines , not making
any attempt to de-anonymize or link users across platforms,
encrypt data at rest, etc. We work exclusively with publicly
available data and as such our work is exempt from IRB ap-
proval at our institution.
4 Evolution of the Popularity and of Activity
Levels in the Manosphere (RQ1)
To study the changes in popularity and activity in the different
Manosphere communities over time, we longitudinally exam-
ine the number of active users and of posts. We present these
5See, e.g. www.reddit.com/r/TheRedPill/comments/2sd0cg/
6Available at https://ﬁles.pushshift.io/gab/
quantities aggregated per month both in absolute terms and
normalized over the total number of active accounts.
mer gives us a sense of the absolute growth of the Manosphere
and of each community, while the latter allows us to better
compare the changes in the relative sizes of the communities.
We consider users to be active in a given month if they have
posted at least once then. For forums, as we discuss their time-
lines, we use the Internet Archive to check whether the ﬁrst
posts are indeed indicative of the beginning of the community.
Fig. 1depicts, in the top two rows, the normalized percentage
and the number of monthly posts for forums (left) and subred-
dits (right). Below, in the bottom two rows, we show the same
values for monthly active accounts. We discuss the trends in
popularity and activity of each community separately.
Pick Up Artists.
PUA-related forums (The Attraction,
MPUAForum,Rooshv) were the ﬁrst to be created, and quickly
grew in number of active monthly accounts and posts. The ﬁrst
two forums, by the end of 2008, had over a thousand active
monthly users and had reached close to their maximum number
of monthly posts. This coincides with a time where PUAs got a
lot of attention in the media. In September 2005, Neil Strauss
wrote “The Game”  an exposé of the PUA community that
was featured as a New York Times Bestseller, and between
2007 and 2008 the television show “The Pick Up Artist” aired
The ﬁrst posts from Rooshv date back from mid 2008, which
is earlier than its ﬁrst registry in the Internet Archive.
around the same time the ﬁrst PUA subreddits were created,
/r/PUA and /r/seduction, which are still the largest. Unlike The
Attraction and MPUAForum, which declined in number of ac-
tive accounts and of posts in the following years, Rooshv and
the PUA-related subreddits continued to prosper, and present
a relatively stable number of posts since 2013. It is worth re-
calling that as it evolved, Rooshv morphed into a very different
community, more aligned with the Alt-right .
Looking at the normalized percentage of posts and active
accounts, we ﬁnd that PUA forums had a large share of the
total number of posts and of active accounts of the entire forum
ecosystem considered. One of the three PUA forums consis-
tently had around 50% of the monthly active accounts from
2006 until the end of 2017. In late 2017 until mid 2018, we
can see a sharp decrease in the activity and in the popularity of
MPUA Forum. We found no apparent reason for this decrease,
but a possible hypothesis is that they had some issues with
hosting the standalone website. Since 2018, the Rooshv and In-
cels.is forums have similar number of active monthly accounts,
but the former is much less active (∼10% of posts).
On Reddit, from mid 2008 to early 2011, PUA boards in-
creasingly grew compared to MRA subreddits, becoming the
community with largest number of monthly active users on
Reddit for a brief period between early 2011 and late 2012
(although they were never more active then their MRA counter-
parts). Then in the following years, they decreased in relative
activity and popularity, becoming the subreddits with the small-
est number of monthly active accounts and of posts by the end
We normalize over all monthly active accounts/posts in all forums/subreddits.
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
% Unique Accounts
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
# Unique Accounts
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Evolution of the amount of posts and of active accounts at each point in time in the forums (left-hand side) and subreddits (right-hand
side). We depict, for each month, both the normalized and the absolute number of posts (top two rows), and of active accounts (bottom two rows).
The normalization is done separately for forums and subreddits, and thus in the ﬁrst and third rows, the percentages always sum to 100.
Men’s Rights Activists.
MRA-related communities were the
Manosphere pioneers on Reddit, with /r/MensRights dating
back from March 2008. The relative number of posts and of
active accounts decreased over time, but the community was
still the most active in number of posts until late 2013. The
absolute number of accounts remained relatively stable since
2013, and the monthly number of posts had a slight decrease.
However, in relative terms, from 2013 to 2018, the community
went from the most popular and active to the second least active
(% posts), and the third less popular (% unique accounts).
In late 2012, we have the ﬁrst recorded posts in A Voice
for Men, the largest MRA forum, which is associated with the
homonymous blog, running since at least 2009.
experienced a small growth in the number of monthly active
accounts and posts in its ﬁrst year of existence, but then their
numbers declined signiﬁcantly both in absolute terms and in
comparison to the other Manosphere communities.
The ﬁrst Incel subreddit, /r/ForeverAlone, dates back to
late 2010, but the community would really pick up momentum
in mid 2016. Then, the most active and popular subreddit then
was not /r/ForeverAlone, but /r/Incels, created in 2014. The
community would grow to become the most active subreddit
in the Manosphere during most of 2017, until /r/Incels was
banned in November of 2017 .
According to an Incel-wiki, users of the subreddit then
ﬂocked to /r/Braincels  or to Incels.is , a standalone
forum. Both were created in the days around the ban of the
main subreddit. Despite the ban, the Incel community on Red-
dit would continue to prosper, and they became the most active
community again in early 2018. Notice that the ban can be
clearly seen in Fig.1. There is a dip in activity in the Incel-
related subreddits, and, around the same time, Incels.is was
created and already had, in its ﬁrst month of existence, the
highest amount of posts.
The biggest and ﬁrst MGTOW subreddit /r/MGTOW
was created in mid 2011, auxiliary and smaller subreddits like
/r/MGTOWBooks being created only later, in 2014. Since its
creation, the community has steadily grown both in terms of
monthly active accounts and of monthly posts. It was the most
active and popular community of the Manosphere for a brief
period in late 2017, around the same time when /r/Incels was
banned, and shortly after became the second most popular
In mid-2014, we also have the creation of the MGTOW Fo-
rum. The forum was the most active in 2017, with over 50%
of the total number of posts. Interestingly, it had around half
of the number of unique active accounts compared to Rooshv,
the second most active forum then. Around early 2018, the
forum decreased both in total number of active accounts and
monthly posts, and also in the relative numbers, since Incels.is
was created around then.
Since its creation in October 2012, /r/TheRedPill and
its adjacent subreddits grew at a fast pace, becoming the most
active community by the end of 2013 (in terms of number of
posts), and the most popular community by the middle of 2014
(in terms of number of active accounts). The TRP community
would remain the most active community until the end of 2016,
when it was surpassed by the Incels community. In September
2018, the /r/TheRedPill subreddit was quarantined by Reddit,
and by the end of the year, it was the community with the
third highest number of posts, and the fourth highest number
of monthly active accounts.
Analyzing the popularity and the activity of these
forums and subreddits through the years allow us to witness
the rise and fall of different online communities. Importantly,
it allow us to understand when a community was the most
relevant and popular within the Manosphere. For example, we
can coarsely divide the data-story in three periods: a ﬁrst period
(2006-2011) where the Manosphere was mostly about men’s
rights and pick-up artistry, and where the Incel community
was in its infancy, a second period (2012-2016) where there
was a growth of the MGTOW and the TRP community and
the decline of PUAs, and a third period (2016-2018) where
Incels and MGTOW rose to prominence, and the TRP-related
subreddits lost their momentum.
5 User Base Similarity and Migration Across
Manosphere Communities (RQ2)
In this section, we examine the similarities in the user bases
of different communities over time, aiming to understand user
migration. We limit our analyses to our Reddit data, as tracking
users across forums is hard, inexact, and has ethical implica-
User Base Similarity.
First, we analyze the intersection be-
tween the user bases of different communities using two set
similarity metrics: the Jaccard Similarity (
the Overlap Coefﬁcient (
). Former captures the size
of the intersection between sets over the union, while the latter
captures the size of the intersection relative to one of the com-
munities. Note that sometimes the overlap coefﬁcient has the
smaller set as the divisor, but here we do not enforce that.
In Fig. 2, we plot the Jaccard Similarity (lines) and the over-
lap (background color) between pairs of communities from
2008 to 2018. The metrics are computed on a yearly basis,
i.e., for a given year we get the set of users in two different
communities and calculate the two metrics for them. Note that,
in the ﬁgure, the dividing set (in the overlap metric) is the com-
munity in the row For example, in the cell at the second row
and the ﬁrst column (Incels-PUA), the overlap is calculated
with the total number of Incels members as the divisor. In the
diagonal of the ﬁgure, we calculate the similarity metrics of
the community with itself the year before, as another point
of reference. Finally, the ﬁlled blue interval is a baseline. To
calculate it, we bootstrap
users 1000 times from the random
Reddit baseline, and calculate the Jaccard similarity with each
of the communities. We choose
to be of the same size of the
community in the column, and thus the baseline is the same for
each cell in a given column. The intuition behind this is that we
are calculating the Jaccard similarity with a randomly created
community of the same size as the community in the column.
This is a lower bound, as in, if the similarity between two of the
communities was smaller than the similarity of one community
with the random baseline, then it is unlikely to be noteworthy.
The Jaccard similarity between the MRA and the MGTOW
subreddits shows a sharp increasing trend, reaching close to
9% in 2018. This number is higher than the self-similarity of
the MGTOW community in its founding years (2012–2014).
Looking at the overlap, we can see that MGTOW was almost
a subset of the MRA in 2012 (87% overlap) and 2013 (52%
overlap). The MRA community was also quite similar to the
PUA community around 2010. In this period, it had an overlap
of over 10% with respect to the PUA community, and a Jaccard
Similarity of around 4.5%. Notice that, in 2010, the Jaccard
Similarity of the PUA community itself in the previous year
was around 6%.
The TRP community exhibits high similarity with several
other communities throughout the years. This is particularly
interesting, as it resonates with the qualitative observation that
the subreddits around /r/TheRedPill incorporate a variety ideas
of the Manosphere. In its creation, it had high overlap with
the PUA (25% in 2012) and MRA communities (33% also in
2012), and in subsequent years its Jaccard Similarity with these
two communities reached around 6%. In the early years of
MGTOW, it also had substantial overlap with the community
(more than 35% between 2012 and 2015). In more recent years
(between 2016 to 2018), the Jaccard similarity with the MG-
TOW user base is over 6% and the overlap with regards to TRP
is over 10%. In fact 25% of the users who commented in TRP
subreddits during their ﬁrst year of existence (2012) were also
active in PUA forums (438 users), and out of the initial users in
the early days of MGTOW subreddits (2012–2014), 11% also
commented in PUA forums in the same year (266 users).
The Incels community had more than 10% overlap with the
PUA community back in 2010; recall that the PUA commu-
nity was much bigger back then with 1
367 vs. 8
users. Also, after 2016 both the similarity and overlap with
the MGTOW community increased, with the former being of
around 6% (in comparison, the self-similarity of the Incels
subreddit after 2016 was only around 10%), and the latter of
around 10% (with respect to the MGTOW user base). Of all
communities that have grown in popularity in most recent years
as discussed in the previous section, the Incel subreddits have
the least overlap with other communities in its founding years.
A = PUA
B = PUA
A = Incels
A = TRP
Overlap: [0%,10%) [10%,20%) [10%,30%) [30%,50%) [50%,75%) [75%, 100%] Baseline Jaccard
A = MGTOW
A = MRA
B = Incels
B = TRP
B = MGTOW
B = MRA
Intersection of users in Manosphere communities. The plot reads like a matrix, where each cell shows the similarity between two
communities (whose names can be read in the columns and rows). The green line in each cell shows the Jaccard similarity between the two
communities, and the blue line shows the baseline similarity (as described in the text). In the main diagonal, we report the Jaccard similarity and
the overlap between a community and itself in the previous year. The color on the background of the plot shows the overlap between the two
communities. The overlap is normalized by the size of the community presented in the rows.
This analysis shows that Manosphere communities shared a
substantial portion of their user base, especially in the founding
years of newer communities, such as TRP or MGTOW. This
effect is less noticeable for the Incel community, although it was
similar to the PUA community in its early years, and recently,
increasingly shares its user base with the MGTOW community.
Although the previous analysis shows that
there are historical intersections between the Manosphere com-
munities on Reddit, it does not explicitly inform us how users
have navigated between them. This leads to the study performed
in this section. We begin by tracking users that posted in a com-
in a given year
. We then track what percentage of
users commented in another community
during the previous
1). We deﬁne the migration relative to the destination
(MRD) as the number of users from
in the year
we ﬁnd in
for the year
1, divided by the total number of users in
for the year
. Moreover, we deﬁne the migration relative to
the source (MRS) as the number of users from
in the year
we ﬁnd in
, divided by the total number of users in
1. MRD tells us, for a given year (
), what percentage
of users can be traced back to other community (
) in the year
1), while MRS is the percentage of users from the
previous year (
that migrated to
, i.e.„ the per-
cent that went on to comment on
in the year
. Suppose for
instance that 10 users commented in
, out of which
6 have commented in
1; this means MRD is 6
I.e., out of the 10 users in
, we can trace 6 back to
assume that, in community
, there are 12 users in year
MRS is 6
12. I.e., half the users from community
to comment in community
. It is important to emphasize that
users can be active in multiple communities, and that these
metrics, by themselves, may be more analogous to a spread
than a migration. To help with that, we analyze them along with
the timeline of the popularity of/activity in the communities,
depicted in Fig. 1.
To obtain a baseline for this scenario, we once again use
5% random sample. We calculate MRS and MRD
with one of the communities as the destination
, and with the
random sample as source
. Since the random sample is orders
of magnitude larger than the communities, we under-sample
it and draw
random users. We choose
to be equal to the
size of the largest community in the year of interest. Suppose
that we are calculating the migration from this random baseline
to Incels in 2012. We ﬁrst get the users who commented in
Incel subreddits in 2012. Next we get the size
of the biggest
community one year before (2011). Then we sample
who commented in 2011 from the random subreddit sample and
compare MRS and MRD using these two subsets. We repeat
the procedure 100 times per community and report 95% CIs.
Results for this analysis are shown in Fig. 3. Each column
represents a different community as the source
, and each
row, a destination community
. The main diagonal contains
D = PUA
*S = Random
S = PUA
S = Incels
S = TRP
Migration relative to destination Migration relative to source Baseline
S = MGTOW
S = MRA
D = Incels
*S = Random
D = TRP
*S = Random
D = MGTOW
*S = Random
D = MRA
*S = Random
Migration of users between the communities of interest. Each row has a given community as a target and each column has a community
as a source. For each given year (x-axis), we report the migration from users who posted in the previous year in the community in the column
), to the community in the row (the destination
). The red line shows the number of users that migrated divided by the original
number of users in the source community in the previous year (migration relative to the source). The blue line shows the number of users that
migrated divided by the number of users in the target community in the given year (migration relative to the destination). On the main diagonal,
we show the migration relative to the source for the random Reddit sample. 95% CI are drawn for the baseline but are very small.
the baseline condition where the source is the random sample.
Importantly, in our analysis of the migratory ﬂuxes we must
keep in mind the order in which the communities were created
and rose into popularity, as depicted in Fig. 1. First, we ﬁnd
that the MRA to MGTOW migration did indeed happen. This
can be seen by inspecting the MRD with MRA as a source and
MGTOW as the destination. In the early years of MGTOW,
30% (2012) and 23% (2013) of the commenting users had com-
mented in MRA communities in the year before. Interestingly,
as the MGTOW community grew, the migration relative to
destination (MRD) became less prevalent, and the migration
relative to source (MRS) became more prevalent.
The MRA community also showed heavy migrations to the
TRP community. Both in 2012 and 2013, the founding years of
the TRP subreddits, we have around 10% MRD from the MRA
community. Moreover, we see that the MRS grew as the TRP
community rose to prominence (see Fig. 1), reaching around
10% in 2015. I.e., around 10% of the user base of MRA in
2014 went on to comment in the TRP-related subreddits in the
We also ﬁnd that the PUA community had substantial mi-
gration to other communities. Examining MRS and the MRD
of the ﬁrst column, where PUA is the migration source, we
ﬁnd that the MRD towards TRP and MGTOW subreddits was
around 10% in 2012: approximately 1 out of 10 users of each
of these communities in 2012 had previously (in 2011) posted
in PUA subreddits. Also, there was substantial migration to
MRA subreddits in the early days of PUAs on Reddit (2009-
2011). For instance, in both 2009 and 2010, there was
MRS. Recall that back then the MRA community on Reddit
was much bigger than the PUA.
Users of the PUA community also migrated to the Incel
subreddits. The migration reached a peak of around 4% of
MRS in 2011 of around 5% MRD two years later, in 2013.
Although not so prominent, this was still twice the random
sample baseline, which had around 2% MRS and MRD in both
these occasions. The reverse migratory ﬂow (from Incel to
PUA) was more substantial. In 2010, we observe an MRS of
13% and in the following year, of 7%.
Other interesting migrations are those between MGTOW
and TRP, and Incels and TRP. Recall that these communities
gained traction more recently. We ﬁnd that in the early years of
the TRP community, when it was much smaller than MGTOW,
there was substantial migration of the small MGTOW user base
to the TRP user base, with around 49% MRS in 2013 and 2014.
Also, in the early years of the MGTOW community, in 2012
and 2013, when the Incel community was much bigger, there
was over 10% MRD from the Incel community to the MGTOW
Overall, dissecting these migratory ﬂuxes is dif-
ﬁcult, and is a fruitful direction for future work. Yet, our
analyses indicates that there are substantial user overlaps in
the Manosphere communities throughout history, including
some large migratory movements from older communities such
as MRAs and PUAs to newer ones, such as TRP, MGTOW,
and Incels. This suggests that it is inaccurate to think of the
Manosphere simply as discrete communities that experience
peaks in popularity and then decay. It is important to consider
that users were active in different communities simultaneously,
and that some communities are jump-started by large migratory
inﬂuxes of older existing ones.
6 Evolution of Toxicity and Misogyny
in the Manosphere (RQ3)
We now study the spread of toxicity and misogyny in the
Manosphere over time, and how it compares to other main-
stream and fringe Web communities.
As a proxy for toxicity, we rely on the
returned by the Perspective API ; more precisely we run all
posts from all forums as well as the subreddits through the API
and obtain the severe toxicity score for each post. To calculate
the severe toxicity score, Perspective uses a Convolutional
Neural Network (CNN) trained with GloVe word embeddings,
which are ﬁne-tuned during training. The severe toxicity score
ranges from 0 to 1, and it is deﬁned to be high for “a very
hateful, aggressive, disrespectful comment or otherwise very
likely to make a user leave a discussion or give up on sharing
their perspective.” Compared to the normal Toxicity score,
it relies on a model that is less sensitive to positive uses of
As a proxy for misogyny, we use a modiﬁed version of the
misogyny lexicon from . The lexicon was designed to cap-
ture different aspects of misogynistic speech online. We ﬁrst
remove from the lexicon the names of the communities them-
selves (e.g., “mra”, “mgtow”) and do not use three out of the
nine categories in the lexicon (“Racism”, “Homophobia” and
“Physical Violence”) since they are composed of more common
inappropriate words (e.g., “f*g”, “n*gger”, “shoot”), which ex-
pose the link to more general expressions of hate but also add
some noise to the more focused expression of misogyny that
the Manosphere “specializes” in. These are better represented
in other categories such as “Patriarchy” and “Sexual Violence,”
with words such as “betabux”, “stacy”, “cock carousel.” 10
Using the lexicon, we count exact matches for each post in all
subreddits, forums, and baseline datasets (recall that baseline
datasets are large samples from Reddit, Gab and 4chan used
as reference points for our analyses). We then normalize them
by the total number of words in that post and call it lexicon
density. Note that we use this metric rather than counting posts
including these words as it is more robust to differences in
average post size across communities.
Fig. 4reports the evolution of toxicity and
misogyny in the Manosphere according to both Perspective
API and ’s lexicon. For two of the baseline datasets (Gab
and 4chan), the data is very recent (2016 onwards), and thus we
For more context on these terms, see rationalwiki.org/wiki/Manosphere_
measure the mean toxicity/lexicon density as a small rectangle
on the side of the plot. Notice that we opt to report their means
like this because there is little variation in their toxicity score,
and because its conﬁdence interval is very tight (
to the size of the datasets.
Toxicity and Misogyny within communities.
Looking at the
evolution within each community, a noteworthy trend is a sharp
rise in the mean toxicity score and lexicon density for both
MGTOWs and Incels. For MGTOWs, there are few posts in
the early years (see Fig. 1) thus yielding larger CI, but there
is an overall positive trend from 2013 to late 2016 for toxicity,
and from 2015 to 2019 with respect to lexicon density. For
Incels, the sharp trend start in 2016, which is also when the
of posts (again, see Fig. 1). As of 2019, we ﬁnd that both these
communities present levels of toxicity similar to Gab, and
lexicon density comparable to either Gab (for Incels) or 4chan
Within single communities, almost all forums are signiﬁ-
cantly more toxic than their subreddit counterparts—with the
exception of MRA subreddits and forums, which exhibit simi-
lar levels. For example, PUA’s mean toxicity in the subreddits
is of around 0.15, whereas, for the PUA-related forums, such
as The Attraction and MPUA Forum, the mean toxicity score is
consistently around 0.20 for most of the period the forums were
active. This same trend is noticeable when comparing Incels
subreddit and the Incels.is forum, and the MGTOW subreddits
and the MGTOW Forum.
Analyzing the toxicity on the Incel forum is particularly
interesting as it is possible that the community was initially
entirely made up of old /r/Incels members . The toxicity
of Incel subreddits when /r/Incels got banned, in November
2017, with the initial toxicity of Incels.is, we indeed see a rise
in toxicity; from 0.2 to 0.3 on average. In terms of the baseline
communities, this is more or less a jump from the level of
toxicity in Gab to the level in 4chan. Although outside the scope
of this paper, this ﬁnding highlights the potential pitfalls of de-
platforming measures taken by mainstream platforms: while the
banning subreddits might indeed reduce toxicity levels across
Reddit , users migrating to less moderated platforms might
become substantially more toxic.
However, the pattern of forums being more toxic than subred-
dits does not appear with the misogyny lexicon-based analysis.
There, lexicon density is similar for the same community in
forums and subreddits. This result somewhat highlights the lim-
itations of the lexicon-based approach. For example, it yields
similar values for Reddit and Rooshv, which by 2012 was
already listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as as no-
toriously misogynistic website . Despite these limitations,
lexicon-based analysis does reveal similar patterns in the toxic-
ity rise for the MGTOW and the Incel subreddits.
When comparing the different com-
munities, we ﬁnd that, for both scenarios (forums and subred-
dits) and measurements (toxicity and misogyny), Incels and
In 4chan, for the toxicity score, min=0
316, and for the lexicon
00812. For Gab, min=0
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Severe Toxicity Score
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
% Words in Lexicon
08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Evolution of toxic and misogynistic speech in the Manosphere using Perspective API (top row) and ’s lexicon (bottom row). We
report mean toxicity score/lexicon occurrence, each month along with 95% bootstrapped conﬁdence intervals. Note that the toxicity scores
for the baseline datasets are in all plots: the random Reddit dataset is the vibrant blue dashed line, and the Gab and 4chan datasets are in the
right-side of each plot, as two small rectangles (red for 4chan and green for Gab) representing the 95% CI of their means.
MGTOW have appreciably higher scores than the remaining
communities. Considering only the toxicity score, the TRP
community (which exists only on Reddit) yields similar toxic-
ity score as the MGTOW community over time. In the lexicon
analysis however, the scores of TRP and MRA are similar.
Overall, we can rank communities based on the levels of toxi-
city and misogyny, with MGTOW, Incels and TRP at the top,
MRAs in the middle, and PUAs at the bottom.
Naturally, comparing the communities at face value
is challenging because stylistic norms and communities stan-
dards may differ, and is unclear how these may affect our mea-
surement tools. However, we are conﬁdent that our analysis
uses different measurements, and compares the same commu-
nities across time and on different platforms. Moreover, our
ﬁndings should also be considered in the light of the results
presented earlier. For example, many of the individuals of the
MGTOW and the TRP communities can be traced, respectively,
from the MRA and the PUA communities (see Fig. 3). In that
sense, the “evolution” of the Manosphere communities coin-
cides with a substantial increase in toxicity and these results
conﬁrm, at scale, qualitative work that has theorized a worrying
path of radicalization.
Furthermore, the two most toxic/misogynistic communities
have been subject to global moderation actions by Reddit. The
biggest Incel subreddit, /r/Braincels, was banned in September
2019, and the biggest MGTOW one, /r/MGTOW, quarantined
in January 2020. Whereas, less toxic/misogynistic ones, e.g.,
/r/seduction and /r/MensRights, remain active as of May 2020.
7 Discussion & Conclusion
This paper presented a data-driven characterization of the
Manosphere on the Web over the last 14 years. We gathered
and analyzed a large dataset including dedicated forums and
subreddits, and used a typology to divide these into commu-
nities. Our analysis provides a partial reconstruction of the
Manosphere’s history, along with how its language evolved in
terms of toxicity and misogyny.
By analyzing the popularity and user activity across several
different forums and subreddits, we ﬁnd that older communi-
ties, such as Men’s Rights Activists and Pick Up Artists, are
becoming less popular and active, while newer communities,
like Incels and Men Going Their Own Way, are thriving. Be-
sides simply looking at the activity in each community, we also
examined (on Reddit) the user overlap and migratory ﬂuxes. We
ﬁnd that communities in the Manosphere shared large amounts
of users through their history, and that there was substantial
migration from older to newer communities. For example, there
was a migratory inﬂux of MRA users to MGTOW subreddits,
with over 50% overlap in the ﬁrst two years of its existence. Our
analysis unveils the magnitude of links between these commu-
nities, but also that it is important to consider the Manosphere
as a more cohesive whole: there are users who participate in
several different communities simultaneously and the user base
of some communities can be directly traced back to previous
Our analysis indicates that the newer communities in the
Manosphere (Incels, MGTOW and TRP) are more toxic and
misogynistic than the older ones (PUA, MRA), as theorized by
previous literature. It is important to stress, however, that this
analysis has its limitations. As discussed, we use the Perspec-
tive API, which previous work shows that can be deceived ,
and may exhibit racial biases . Also, it is reasonable to
assume that differences in Perspective scores may arise from
varying use of English language and the varying perception of
toxicity across geographies. We try to minimize this problem
by comparing the communities across time, platforms, and by
using a misogyny lexicon ’s.
It is also important to consider our work in the broader con-
text on the existing scholarship on the Manosphere. Our study
not only provides large-scale quantitative analysis that sup-
ports much of the core hypotheses of qualitative work, but also
prompts new research directions. The migration from MRA
to MGTOW corroborates Lilly’s work , in that both com-
munities are similar with respect to their views on the root of
the alleged crisis of masculinity and femininization of society.
Yet, the increasing migration from MGTOW towards Incels
– who, according to Lilly, see the crisis of masculinity in the
femininization of men – still lacks theoretical explanation: are
these users changing their minds? Or are Incels increasingly
seeing the crisis of masculinity as a societal issue as opposed to
a personal one? Moreover,  states that content produced by
the Manosphere, despite internal conﬂicts and contradiction, is
united in its adherence to “Red Pill” concepts. In our work, we
ﬁnd evidence, given signiﬁcant overlap and migration across
communities, that these contradictory ideas may very well be
steps along a radicalization pathway. Many of the individuals
involved with the PUA community went on to participate in
more extreme anti-feminist communities such as TRP, whose
users in turn migrated to MGTOW. In this sense, further work
is needed to understand the underlying processes that lead to
these shifts in views, and the Manosphere can serve as a fruitful
area of exploration considering its long history of spawning
new, seemingly more extreme sub-communities.
Another interesting direction for future work could be to
develop methodologies geared to identify and characterize
Manosphere-related activities on other platforms, like YouTube
and Gab, as well as other adjacent communities, like those
criticizing the Manosphere and mental health related communi-
ties. Previous work has shown that fringe communities impact
the information we see online , and recent events have
suggested that some of these communities have played a role
in hate crimes and mass murders , highlighting the real-
world consequences of their espoused ideology. It would also
be interesting to analyze migrations between the user bases
of Manosphere communities to other fringe communities. For
instance, perpetrators of hate crimes have been found to be as-
sociated with both White Nationalist ideology and Manosphere-
related ideas [57,58], therefore, it is possible that communi-
ties in the Manosphere may act as very real gateways along a
radicalization pathway. Overall, mapping Manosphere-related
activity in more fringe communities would be an important ﬁrst
step towards mitigating their harm.
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