A psychology lesson from MRAs: Defense Mechanisms 101

From the Institute for the Study of MRA behaviour

The MRA, or Misogynist Raging Asshole, is a man who is so enraged that women do not want to have sex with him that he spends large portions of his time writing misogynist messages on the Internet as a form of revenge. He hasn’t interacted with very many women before, and gets most of his information about women from television, music videos, and porn, but despite (because of?) his lack of interaction with real women he believes that we should all be basking in his awesomeness and begging him to allow us to service his boner. He further believes that because women aren’t begging him to allow us to service his boner, men are thus an oppressed class of people, being deprived of their human right to empornulate and abuse women. The MRA is dimly aware that the real reason women reject him is because he is a pathetic loser, but he denies this reality using so many defense mechanisms and delusions that he really deserves his own category in the DSM. This essay examines all the strategies the MRA uses to validate his bullshit, starting with Aesop’s sour grapes, and continuing with all the defense mechanisms described by Anna Freud: denial, repression, regression, displacement, projection, reaction formation, intellectualization, rationalization, and sublimation. They need all these strategies because it’s hard work trying to believe in utter nonsense.

Sour grapes

In Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, a fox who is unable to reach the grapes he is seeking decides that they must have been sour. The MRA uses the same strategy when he is rejected by a woman he wants. The unattainable woman is called “cum dumpster,” “garbage dump,” “whore,” “twat,” “pig,” “animal,” “slut” “worthless,” etc. He tells himself that women “are all fat and ugly anyway,” and that “the stench of vagina could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon at fifty paces,” and he makes proclamations such as “I would never date a cum rag” even though it is clear by his constant obsession with women that we are exactly what he really wants. “Girlfriends are for suckers,” he says, “wives are for fools and casual sex is not worth the effort of putting up with the rotten personalities that almost all women have.” Then he continues to spend a large amount of his time obsessing over how to “get” women.


The MRA’s primary denial is that he really does desire a sexual relationship with a woman, and that he feels too insecure and unworthy of finding and keeping a partner. But his denial doesn’t stop at his own desires. The MRA invents elaborate bogus theories about female domination and hatred of men; in order to maintain these beliefs he must deny many aspects of reality. Denial can be on a small scale, such as the choice to ignore statistics on sexual assault and the wage gap, or it can present on a large scale such as an entire make-believe world. When only a handful of people showed up for a men’s rights rally in Toronto, they just pretended it was a huge success, describing it in overinflated terms such as “one of the most important turning points for Men and Boys in Crisis.” Reality for the MRA is whatever he wants it to be.


Repression is to simply forget something bad, such as a traumatic experience, in order to avoid dealing with it. It is hard to say whether MRAs have experienced traumatic events because they are unable to explain their experiences in a coherent way, but it’s clear that they’ve either had negative experiences or they fear having negative experiences, and that they repress the related fear and anxiety. In this telling short story, a famous MRA presents an excuse for violence against women that reveals his underlying anxiety. He fears sexual humiliation and betrayal by his partner, and he fears being a “loser” who cannot please her.


Regression is to deal with anxiety by reverting back to a childlike emotional state. The MRA displays regression when he has long, screeching tantrums, when he allows his baser instincts to control him, and when he behaves like a schoolboy by bullying women, calling people names, trying to win sympathy by lying, making vague threats to try to intimidate people, and being unable to take back the shit he dishes out. Behaving like a schoolboy helps him to avoid unpleasant aspects of adulthood such as responsibility, self-reflection, and getting along with other people.


Displacement is to direct negative feelings away from their real source and toward an easier target. The MRA likes to blame women and feminists for a variety of social and natural phenomena, all of which are either nobody’s fault or the fault of men. When wildfires broke out in Sweden, MRAs complained that feminists were ruining the Swedish firefighting system. When boys don’t do well in school, MRAs claim that feminists have taken over the school system and have been systematically making sure boys receive lower marks. When men die in violent crime, MRAs complain that feminism has made men “disposable,” although it is overwhelmingly men, not women, who are perpetuating violence. When men go on shooting rampages, MRAs blame women for not providing sex to violent men. It is right to be upset when people are hurt in natural disasters, when large groups of young people are underachieving, and when people are wrongfully murdered, but it is important to address the actual problem or perpetrator rather than scapegoating or deflecting to an unrelated party.


Projection is when we imagine our insecurities or problems on other people, instead of facing the fact that they’re our own traits. The MRA imagines that women are immature, dull, lacking in emotional development, childlike, not accountable for our actions, irresponsible, unable to understand our own feelings, emotional, short-sighted, needing leadership, selfish and narcissistic, confusing opinions and feelings with reality, making claims with no evidence, seeking attention and validation, and being fickle/having a short attention span. These are, of course, his own traits, as evidenced by his behavior. As well as projecting his childlike qualities on women, he also projects his fears of being insufficiently masculine on other men. The MRA enjoys calling other men “beta,” a word meaning “not macho enough.” Since he fears having this quality himself, he imagines that other men have it and mocks them for it.

Reaction Formation

Reaction formation is to create a public persona that is the opposite of the way one truly feels, because the real feeling is shameful. The MRA fears that he is not masculine enough to attract a woman, and he is ashamed of this, so he disguises his insecurity by playing the part of the “Alpha Male,” a character who is heroically hypermasculine and misogynist. (Of course, women don’t actually want hypermasculine, misogynist men, but once again, the MRA assumes that porn and television are real life.) One of the MRA’s favourite Internet activities is the sharing of fantasies in which he goes to bars and uses expert pick-up lines to pick up women, or in which he has several girlfriends who adore him completely because of his masculinity and abusive behavior. It is a description of what he wishes his life could be like, and the opposite of the way he really feels about himself. He also enjoys giving advice to other men about how to act more “Alpha”, and judging by the advice he gives, he is obviously talking out of his ass. One MRA recommends to spit in women’s mouths to be more alpha, and another imagined the following totally plausible scenario: “Of course, I also never keep them around for long—although some of them have managed to make themselves so useful that I won’t willingly kick them to the curb—how can you veto a woman that actively brings other (younger) women to your bed?” Sure, women are always bringing younger women with them into their boyfriend’s beds—in porn movies!


Intellectualization is to think away your feelings of anxiety or insecurity, taking comfort in the neutral world of facts and figures instead of the difficult world of emotions. Of course, since the MRA’s world is mostly imaginary, so are his facts and figures. For example, “Sluts release less oxytocin than normal women do during lovemaking, which means the hard slut is less likely to emotionally bond when she’s spermally bonded.” Right.


Rationalization is explaining away or making excuses for shameful behavior. When men’s violence toward women comes up in conversation, the MRA will make excuses for it in attempt to justify it, to hide his shame that he loves abuse. A justification for peeping toms, for example: “If we use state violence to protect women from the consequences of her choice to wear a skirt, we remove her agency. This man didn’t assault her, didn’t touch her…all he did was take a picture of what her choice in clothing exposed to the public. How is that criminal to the point of deserving of state violence upon him? This is saying that protecting women from the consequences of their choices in clothing is more important than men’s freedom.”


Sublimation is to channel rage or other negative emotions into a productive outlet, such as when a misogynist channels his hatred for women into Men’s Rights Activism. Well, actually this would be a good example, except the MRA doesn’t actually fight for men’s rights. His only activities are typing factually incorrect and hateful messages on the Internet, harassing women, and wanking. It’s too bad, really, because men could use some activism around poverty, racism, suicide, mental health, the stigma against male victims of sexual assault, rape in prison, and more, but the one defense mechanism that could be productive is the only one he won’t do. It’s probably because real activism requires a person to be responsible, caring, socially aware, and selfless—qualities that MRAs do not have.

All these psychological tricks work together to keep several important truths away from the MRA brain. Women don’t reject him because there’s something wrong with us, we reject him because there’s something wrong with him. The reason women won’t submit to his authority is not because we “don’t know our place,” it’s because we’re people, and people aren’t interested in submitting to some douchebag’s authority. The use of defense mechanisms to shield his ego from reality isn’t the only psychological problem the MRA has—he also has issues with power and control, possessiveness and jealousy, anger and violence—but those are topics for another day. The solution here is not too complicated—the MRA could be helped a lot by changing his attitudes and behaviours with some good old cognitive-behavioural therapy. However, the first step in getting help is realizing that you have a problem, and he has diligently protected himself from realizing what the problem really is.  The continued use of these defense mechanisms will ensure that the MRA remains a sad, lonely little boy for the rest of his life.


2 thoughts on “A psychology lesson from MRAs: Defense Mechanisms 101

  1. Pingback: MRA defense mechanisms. | The Prime Directive

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