April 11, 2019

All emo'd out: MeToo winds down, setting up anything-goes revival for 2020

A recent spate of attacks on Joe Biden for being a handsy creeper has failed to derail his presidential bid even slightly. Lest you think that's only due to his Establishment credentials, earlier in the year when Bernie announced his bid, they tried these attacks against him as well, referring to the work climate of his campaign in 2016 -- but they accomplished nothing, and are already forgotten.

No doubt these attacks will continue throughout the year, showing that there's still a bit more life left in the #MeToo movement, but not much. Contrast with the figures large and small, Establishment and otherwise, who were taken down over the last several years -- Trump (pussygate), Hollywood mega-mogul Harvey Weinstein, SNL alum and senator Al Franken, "Civil Rights icon" Congressman John Conyers, and so on and so forth. On the Right, Bill O'Reilly got canned, while Tucker has survived the 2019 attacks.

The stalling out of MeToo reflects the ending of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, as people are pretty close to getting back to baseline energy levels, after suffering in the refractory period since 2015. Each of the phases lasts 5 years, so we're on the last one for this phase.

In an earlier post, I detailed the history of feminism over the course of multiple excitement cycles, showing how the concerns and attitudes regularly repeat during each of the phases. During the manic, invincible phase, feminism is exhibitionistic, sex-positive, and agency-granting toward women. When excitement levels collapse during the vulnerable phase, feminism focuses on victimhood, feels like all sexuality is rape-y, and denies women agency. Finally when their levels restore to baseline during the restless, warm-up phase, they're in between -- done with victimhood, but not yet so exhibitionistic, more like coming out of their shell, getting flirty and feisty, and getting to know the opposite sex all over again.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, I noted how the Slutwalk-era feminists were ignoring the MeToo hysteria over the supposed rapist-nominee, since the "you go girl" feminists of the early 2010s wanted no part of a narrative about how powerless women were, how they need rescuing from the big scary men, and the overall tone of sex as dangerous rather than liberating. But during that height of MeToo, they were in the distinct minority, a shrinking holdover from the ever-receding world of Slutwalk and the No Pants Subway Ride.

The Kavanaugh hearings were so over-the-top hysterical, that they forced people's vulnerable feelings to hit rock bottom. After that, they can only drift upwards toward a normal baseline, and we're in the process of that already.

We've seen similar rock-bottom moments for other moral panics of this vulnerable period, which seems to give rise to them in all sorts of domains, not just dating-and-mating. The peaks of moral panics striking during the vulnerable phase of the cycle is a topic for another more detailed historical post, though.

The whole Alt-Right / white supremacy / everyone's a Nazi panic began during the 2015-16 election season, and hit rock bottom with the media hoax against the Covington high school kids. Whining about everyone and everything being racist is only going to get more tiresome during the remainder of this year, and although that may not keep some from beating a dead horse in 2020, it will not result in the hysterical panics that we've had to suffer through since 2015.

Then there was the whole "Russia's working to undo America" hysteria, and that hit rock bottom when the Mueller report's findings were announced. More accurately, it "is hitting" rock bottom, since it'll take some time for the "full report" to come out, etc etc etc., but it's basically done. Again, some fools may run with it in 2020, but it will not resonate like it has since 2016.

As people stop feeling so vulnerable -- so sensitive to external stimulation that everyone else is somehow victimizing them just by existing -- they won't be so susceptible to these hysterical panics anymore, or at least for the next 10 years (two phases of the cycle, until the next vulnerable phase hits around 2030).

In the meantime, we can look forward to a new restless warm-up phase beginning around next year. The last time we were in that phase was 2005-09, after the early 2000s vulnerable phase of Law & Order: SVU, emo music, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, 9/11, the Valerie Plame affair, and "everyone who voted for Bushitler is a Nazi".

In contrast to the first half of the 2000s, the second half was way more do-whatever, anything goes, hold nothing sacred or taboo, experiment, play around, and don't give a fuck. Raunchy anarchic Family Guy humor came into the mainstream after being an obscure cult hit during the early 2000s, the Game / Pickup Artist phenomenon showed that people didn't feel sex was icky or dangerous, American Apparel ads, pop music got more flirtatious instead of distancing, young people began packing dance clubs as a neo-disco atmosphere took over, and the Left stopped taking itself so seriously and moralistically, as shown by the viral hit site Stuff White People Like (which ended, fittingly enough, in 2010, as the manic phase replaced the warm-up phase).

It may not feel like it right now, but before you know it, there will be no more "Girls Like You" and "Happier" songs on the radio, but flippant and decadent indie hits just like the last time around:


  1. The last time we were in that phase was 2005-09, after the early 2000s vulnerable phase of Law & Order: SVU, emo music, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, 9/11, the Valerie Plame affair, and "everyone who voted for Bushitler is a Nazi"

    Considering also your point that the existence of some others is seen as threatening, I remember this period as being kind of painful for me. I had five young children by 2008, all close in age, and I would sometimes get ugly comments in public and even scolding; I'd also get the opposite, "Atta girl!". And then it just stopped happening, all of it. I had attributed it to Obama getting elected, and thus they felt less threatened by me (and the Duggars whom were subjected to online hate campaigns and even a female journo stalker), but most of all, I assumed it was the Democratic party becoming Islamophilic and thus toning down anti-religious, anti-natalism rhetoric.

    Perhaps my thinking has been all wrong. I haven't received an ugly comment in years despite our family growing. I'd have to go all the way back to a pizza place incident when my 5th was an infant: 2009.

  2. Trump didn't get taken down, he became President after the Access Hollywood tape was leaked. Sailer has interpreted the subsequent Me Too movement and Weinstein's fall in particular as a reaction to Trump's victory.

    I've been thinking of this Spotted Toad quote recently: "We often conceive of the social movements of the last half century as unleashing erotic energies hitherto constrained and bound, but an alternative perspective is that they are increasingly anxious attempts to summon Eros back to the continent after his banishment by technological civilization, and no one knows what will live here after Eros leaves."
    You've noted that back in 1969 there really was a surge in STDs, divorce, illegitimacy, etc. But most of those have been on the decline for some time now. What connection, if any, is there between pop culture and actual behavior?

  3. Gee, no one noticed Trump became president. I'm talking about the effect it had on him -- it was devastating, everyone but a few pulled out of his support coalition, and he was lucky the election was still a month away, giving him enough time to recover.

    Did anything approaching that level of devastation result from the attacks against Biden or Bernie? Was there a widespread moral panic as a result? Not even close.

    MeToo really began during the campaign, and fairly early on, when everyone assumed Trump was going to lose. It resonated with audiences, showing that the vulnerable feeling of hysteria was already growing, and this social-emotional state of the population made the media take that line of attack against Trump rather than some other line.

    Same with the hysteria about Russia -- that got going in the summer of 2016, when everyone assumed he would lose. And likewise the Nazi / white supremacy / Alt-Right panic.

    They certainly reached a greater fever pitch after he won, but that's because the refractory period was still going. But it had already been going on for some time (the vulnerable phase of the cycle, and the series of moral panic stemming from it), and was therefore not entirely a post-hoc rationalization of the lost election.

    When I say "excitement cycle," it's about the state of their nervous systems, and not so much about cocooning vs. outgoing behavior, which is a separate cycle with a longer period. A manic, invincible phase of the excitement cycle doesn't have to lead to greater promiscuity, drug use, etc. -- just a feeling of being high, indestructible, etc.

    In a cocooning phase, it gets expressed in a less wild way than during an outgoing phase. So like the Slutwalk or No Pants Subway Ride, which didn't involve actual promiscuity or sexual contact of any kind. Contrast to a manic phase during an outgoing period, like the early '80s (Fast Times), when there was a shit-ton of drug use, promiscuity, and young people hanging out in public spaces all day long.

  4. No coincidence that MeToo's source material came from the late 2000s, the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle. Trump's Access Hollywood remarks, Tucker's calls to Bubba the Love Sponge, Al Franken's photo with the Iraq War reporter.

    Weinstein is an exception, since he was doing that in his role as studio head for decades, regardless of which phase the cycle was in.

    The others were just indulging in the raunchy, flippant, anarchic zeitgeist of the warm-up phase. It was no different from Family Guy humor, American Apparel ads, the PUA phenomenon, and the rest of it.

    At the time, nobody thought anything of it. Nor did they during the following manic phase, when everyone feels invincible and carefree. But once the vulnerable phase struck, people started remembering the previous times that they were immersed in a no-taboo environment. At the time, they felt OK, but imagining that past during a present vulnerable state when everything feels like a painful over-stimulation, it made them freak out retrospectively.

    Ditto for the previous vulnerable phase -- the Catholic Church abuse revelations during the early 2000s, whose events had transpired much earlier. Or for that matter, the Save the Children panic of the second half of the '80s (vulnerable phase), after the disco (warm-up) and new wave (manic) climates just before.

  5. The evolution of PUA mirror the cycles.

    PUA started in the mid-to-late 2000s as step-by-step instructions for seducing women. It was notorious for its nerdy acronyms and offering specific pick-up lines.

    In the early 2000s, it morphed into a more generic positive thinking movement, with more emphasis on "inner game" - that was the era of Roissy/Heartiste, who would discuss seduction in a more general way. Famous PUA "gurus" linked PUA to a broader plan for self-improvement.

    And then in the mid-2000s, PUA devolved into a grievance movement against feminism and liberals. Neil Strauss renounced the seduction community with his book "The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships", in which he claimed that PUA damaged him emotionally and left him unable to have normal relationships with women. Roissy began writing more and more about politics, etc.

    There was also a backlash against PUA with the PUAhate forum, where embittered "incels" claimed that it was a scam which downplayed looks, money, social status, etc.

  6. Roissy actually goes back to the late 2000s, along with Roosh V, when the PUA phenom was at its height (Mystery had a reality show on VH1).

    (Typo: you mean early 2010s, when it went to "inner game," and mid-2010s, when it devolved into grievances.)

    Much like the rest of pop culture at the time, that classic era stuff was flippant, ironic, and playful (negging was like playing little affectionate pranks on girls, not trying to be confrontational against them).

    And there were a lot of girls / women who were "adjacent" to it (normies, indies, cuties, nubiles and milfies), being regulars in the Roissy comment section. That showed the end of the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s. Now they were happy to come out of their shells, be flirty and feisty ("witty banter"), and take part in the conversation about how guys and girls are going to start relating and interacting with each other again.

    I see that happening again in the early 2020s, with girls and women of the Red Scare type mixing it up with guys of the Cumtown type. I mean, they're already like that personally / individually, but there's no broader social-cultural zeitgeist they can take part in to amplify, since we're still in the MeToo vulnerable phase.

  7. "...summer of 2016, when everyone assumed he would lose. And likewise the Nazi / white supremacy / Alt-Right panic."

    It occurred to me that the white men during this period are simply occupying the same role that identifiable conservative Christians occupied during the last cycle. If your theory is correct, the critiques and apologetics for both may be overdetermined. This time around is worse for white guys, I'd say. The last time, "values voters" were credited with re-electing George W. Bush. There were whole attitudes and hostile beliefs that no longer exist. "Breeder" was a pejorative and a well-understood concept on the internet... when was the last time anyone has come across that? Encountered the meme, "It's a vagina, not a clown car"? Many years.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."