Image from Keep Sweet series on Netflix

Reflections on Deep Patriarchy After Watching Keep Sweet

Emma Lindsay


Something interesting about highly patriarchal societies, is they actually have more women in them than men. Historically, there have been various ways to dispose of unwanted young men; sending them off to war is probably the most popular one (and, I believe, part of the reason patriarchal societies are engaged in perpetual war) but forcing young men into religious institutions that required celibacy was a more humane second choice.

In the 21st century America, communities in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) otherwise known as fundamentalist mormons used to just drop these unwanted boys off (homeless) by the side of the road in Arizona or Utah.


Well; fundamentalist Mormons (unlike mainstream Mormons, who live fairly conventional American lives) believe that one man should have many wives, usually around 3 but sometimes as high as 60 or 70 for high ranking men in the community. Given that the FLDS doesn’t get a lot of converts (especially not female ones) most of the women available for marrying are born within the community, with the same frequency as boys.

However, for every grown man, you’re going to need — say on average — something like, 10 women to get the wife:husband ratio to balance. So, what about all those young men throwing the ratio off?

They get the boot!

If you’re interested in learning more about the particular FLDS sect run by Warren Jeffs (who, was ultimately imprisoned for life for sexually assaulting children) you can see the new Netflix series Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. Here’s the official trailer:

I found it absolutely fascinating, and while the series primary focus is on how terrible life is for the women there (and, it is terrible, and definitely worth a watch) it does cover a bit how life is actually pretty bad for the majority of men born into the Church as well.

Basically, what happens, is a few select men — really, one select man who is the “prophet” (aka, Warren Jeffs) — gets to have absolute control over everyone else. The higher up men get significant privileges (aka, many young women to marry and have sex with) but the majority of men just get discarded. And, even for the higher up men who are prominent members of the community, the prophet has complete control over their lives also. If these high status men do not behave exactly as he wants them to, he will take away their wives and children, he will take away their business and livelihood then kick them out of the community with no family, no friends, and no ability to make money.

This guy destroys people, and is given the power to destroy people in the deep patriarchal system. He can destroy anyone he wants, for any reason.

Which, actually, brings me to an important point of what patriarchy truly is. Patriarchy is not about placing “men” above “women” (although that is a frequent manifestation of it.) Patriarchy — pushed to the extreme — is a mechanism to give one individual (99.9% of the time, a man) absolute control over as many people as possible.

Patriarchy (in the modern era) is a tool to concentrate absolute power in one person, repressing women is more of a means of universal coercion than it is as an end to itself. Patriarchy is about controlling men just as much as it is about controlling women, and this is a rarely understood facet of patriarchy. For the sake of completeness, I should note, there have existed kinds of patriarchal republics of sorts, where all men were considered equal members and women/children were considered property, but these generally haven’t scaled in the modern era for the same reason matriarchies haven’t scaled in the modern era.

Societies with armies conquer societies without armies.

Patriarchal empire tends to generate a larger standing army than patriarchal republic or matriarchy, so there has been a selective push toward patriarchal authoritarianism as a government type. So, nowadays, what we see as “patriarchy” has become so deeply entwined with “authoritarianism” that the two are basically inseparable.

Which… brings me to a fairly interesting point about people like incels, “red pillers” and general low-status men existing in the man-o-sphere. Often, men in this space imply, “if we could just get back to the good-ol-days of men controlling women, then everything would be fine. We wouldn’t have to be single and alone, we’d have women to do our bidding and take care of our needs, and I’d get to have a million babies and life would be great.”

This is not what would happen.

If we go back to the good old days of deep patriarchy, low status men will not get to control women for their sexual gratification; low status men will be exterminated. This *is* what war is; war is the systematic extermination of low status men by high status men. Culturally, we glorify it because we need low status men to consent to their own extermination. Think of how perverse this aspect of patriarchy is; young men idealize the institutions that want to kill them (with gun and war worship) while demonizing the people (straight women) who are likely to be the biggest advocates for young male life.

Consider Putin, who is currently acting as a fairly classic authoritarian patriarch. We might tempted to ask how can he send so many of his young men into the meat grinder without a second thought? The answer is, this is not a side effect of war, but rather a benefit that supports deep patriarchy. It reduces competition for high status male power, and it creates a surplus of women who will need to rely more heavily on the surviving/high status men for survival. Now also consider, who are Russians most deeply opposed to the cost of this war, which is young male lives? The mothers and wives of the young men who die.

Deep patriarchy (or, authoritarian patriarchy) isn’t just men controlling women; it is the brainwashing of men to valorize the institutions destroying them, while demonizing the people who value their lives. And this is done via the promise of personal power.

Let’s revisit the FLDS for a minute here; imagine you are a young boy being raised in that church. Life is probably pretty tough for you; you probably have to work hard (they use young boys as child labor in their business ventures) and you don’t get a lot of individual attention or care in your, like, 50 person family. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you behave yourself, and pray well and all that, then one day you will get a family of your own. You will get to be the absolute ruler and patriarch of this family; you will have many wives to do your bidding, and an army of children who well, will also have to do your bidding. Yes, you will be completely subservient to the higher ups of the church and the “prophet” but most of your life won’t be spent doing that. Most of your life will be spent bossing around your family, who will be so dependent on you that they will never question you in the slightest.

You can get people to submit to absolute authority by promising them absolute authority in their own personal domain. Of course, the part the church doest’t say, is there is no way all boys born into the FLDS can have this life. In fact, I’d estimate, only the top 10% will get that, and the rest will need to be “removed” — or at least, exist wifeless as a perpetual low status male in the community. But, the church can’t admit this, so they’ll just be looking for any minor infraction or excuse to give a young man the boot.

Which, brings me to more conventional American society. For a “traditionalist” — say, one who wants to “make America great” — when were the periods of greatness that we want to get back to? It’s frequently seen as the kind of 1950s timeframe, when “men were men” and “women were women” and all that.

You know what’s special about the 1950s? It came right after WW2, when over 400,000 young American men died in war. Now, in a monogamous patriarchal society, you don’t need to kill quite as large a percentage of men to maintain order as you do in a polygamous one. The total US population in 1950 was about 150 million; if 20% of that was between the ages of 20 and 40, (which, is a ballpark estimate based on this chart) then around 30 million people were in that age frame. If half-ish were male then 15 million people were male. If we round the deaths up to half a million dying, then you could be seeing something like, a 2-3% surpluses of young women vs young men in that particular age bracket.

This is enough to make a significant shift in a how society operates.

On the other end of the spectrum, modern china has about a 2–3% surplus of men as compared to women and is having massive demographic problems because of it (about 118 boys are born to every 100 girls in China, but given China is still functioning as an authoritarian patriarchy, I’d say there is likely selection pressure against young male survival — e.g. giving men more dangerous jobs — leading to a less severe divergence in adulthood.) What this leads to, is many unmarried young men who are bitter and angry at a society that promised them more than what they got. They are more likely to resort to violence, crime — and even things like rape. It’s important to note this, because women who are exposed to sexual violence may be inclined to leave the marriage market all together if they are able. So, a 2–3% gender imbalance can lead to a marriage disparity of much greater than that.

Unmarried women, however, tend to just quietly drift into spinsterhood, and are more inclined toward pro-social forms of resolving problems around gender imbalance. For instance, in Aging Well by George Vaillant, Vaillant describes how single older adult women often found companionship though close female friendships, who they would sometimes even cohabitate with. Adult men nearly always had to rely on their wives for such companionship, and if they were unable to marry, generally they were not able to achieve intimacy in any form and would live alone.

Of course, Vaillant was studying an older generation and norms are changing, but my main point is; for a patriarchal society to stay orderly, you need a surplus of women. If you don’t have that, you end up social instability. For a monogamous society, you only need a small surplus, but for a polygamous society you need a large surplus.

Part of the reason, I put forth, that the 1950s seemed ideal for people who want to live a patriarchal life, is that it came hot on the heels of a mass extermination of young men. This is the unspoken cost of authoritarian patriarchy; it is not possible for us to return to a similar mode of life without finding a way of removing a lot of young guys from the heterosexual dating pool.

Indeed, I’d also argue that many of the social problems we’re having now are due to the fact that, since WW2, we haven’t had an extermination event of young men on nearly the same kind of scale. Now, personally, I think this is a very good thing, but it is causing disruption to the patriarchal order.

So, let’s just toss out the patriarchy, amirite?

I am. But, many of the young guys on the chopping block are likely not to agree with me on this point.

And, part of the reason for this, is the solutions for abandoning patriarchy also require abandoning authoritarianism. The selling point, the promise to men who want patriarchy, is that they will get a wife and a family they are allowed to rule with absolute dominion. And this is apparently such a strong selling point to (some) men, that they are willing to endanger their own lives in order to get it.

Feminism is pushing for equality in marriage, but the thing about equality, is it requires negotiation. It means, not getting everything that you want without discussion, but rather working with someone to create a solution that works for both parties. And, it’s not just that this isn’t appealing to some men, but it may be unimaginable to many. Many men exist so squarely within authoritarian structures that they believe it is impossible to get their own needs met unless they can control someone else who has to do it.

And, this answers a basic question around “why don’t incels just learn how to be more attractive to women?” Well. The deep belief in authoritarian patriarchy is, weirdly, that men are worthless, and that if you are a man, you are such a lowly creature that a) your life is expendable, and b) no one will want to be near you unless you can find a way to control others, and force them to do your bidding.

Feminists don’t believe this. We may be accused of being man haters, but no one hates men like patriarchy hates men. Most feminists are actually straight women, people who *literally* love men.

Women suffer terribly under patriarchy, but female life is still seen as inherently worthwhile in the patriarchal system (if, for superficial reasons, like the ability to bear children and care for members of the community.) Male life is seen as expendable, but many men will cling to a system that views them as expendable for the eventual promise of unchecked power over their family. And, men benefitting will not object to this system until it is too late for them. The high status men in FLDS who Jeffs stripped of their wives, families, and livelihood never complained about the exploitative system until they were the ones cast out. They never complained about all their sons who were rounded up and dumped by the wayside, the just held on for themselves.

And, on a lower level, this is what is happening in America today. It’s not as extreme, again, because of the cultural expectation of monogamy over polygamy creates less gender pressure, but we still see rich men like Elon Musk and Donald Trump taking multiple wives and having many children with them (patriarchs in mainstream America take their wives sequentially rather than concurrently.) When you consider that women age out of having kids, men who keep taking young wives to have children with while discarding older wives after their childbearing years are functionally preventing other men from having children. Obviously, this is happening on a smaller scale than when men take 20 wives, but this is still a form of patriarchal exploitation that is putting similar pressures on conventional society that exist in FLDS communities. This behavior creates pressure toward male extermination events.

Something else that was apparent from Keep Sweet, is that patriarchy will not admit that it is causing many social ills by using forms of mental domination to prevent those victimized from rebelling. In the FLDS, this unbelievers are told they will go to hell, and are insulated from outside influences. In conventional American society, this looks more like the valorization of war. I actually view things like violent video games and superhero movies to be forms of patriarchal propaganda, as they convince young men to identify with the hero in the movie, and in this way encourage them to sacrifice themselves doing “heroic” things.

Perhaps, however, another form “male removal” is push towards crazy work hours as a form of achieving social status. When I used to date men in San Francisco, one of the issues I had was that many of the guys I dated just didn’t have time for me because they were so devoted to their jobs. We have conditioned men to be so identified with their careers, that many of them will sacrifice their personal lives until later so they can climb the career ladder. Some of these men who wait too long will not succeed in getting a wife.

A confluence of these pressures does have impact; According to 2019 census data, by the time they reach middle age, about 25% of men do not have children compared to 16% of women.

Just under a quarter of U.S. men between ages 40 and 50 were childless, and about 17% had never been married by the time they were in their 40s. Both figures were noticeably higher than for women who had reached middle age. Just under 16% of women between ages 40 and 50 were childless, and 14% had never been married, according to the report.

Census information on fatherhood

This is consistent with the patriarchal pattern of higher status men functionally having multiple wives while lower status men are not able to partner off or have children. And, the problem is obviously not women, because women are having children in higher numbers than men are; the problem is more men are having kids with multiple women than women are having kids with multiple men. If we add to this, that more men want children than women do, this divergence is even more disturbing. Effectively, fewer men are allowed to have kids than want them, and more women are forced to have kids when they don’t want them.

So, what’s going to happen as more and more low status men begin supporting patriarchy because they mistakenly believe it’s going to improve their social standing?

Well. Frankly, I think we’re already well on our way to creating a male extermination event of some kind. Overall, there are still more women in the US than men, but this is disproportionate among older generations because women live longer than men. For young men, there aren’t “enough women” to go around, partly because in many communities young men outnumber young women and also because older men will marry younger women as well.

It’s pretty clear at this point, that there is a lot of resentment and rage build up in the young male population. Historically, a war right around this time could be used to kill off a large swath of these men (who, seem highly primed to go out and fight in war) but feminist success and modern war techniques that lead to lower infantry mortality (e.g. drones) imply that will likely not be as large an extermination event as it was in the past. As it is, many of these young men are going rogue and starting to kill people within their communities (mass shootings) and this is creating a kind of pressure to do something with these young men.

It might seem mighty convenient that Russia started a war right around this time, but truthfully, it was probably subjected to similar demographic pressures that the US was. Russia had massive male casualties during WW2, that likely carried the patriarchy demographically for a while, but similarly to the US, in the 2000s it started staring at a surplus of lower status young men it didn’t know what to do with. I’m sure it wasn’t a conscious factor on the behalf of the patriarchs, but rather just, at some point, a historically patriarchal society will end up with a bunch of angry young men who are not able to achieve the kinds of status that they were promised.

What do you do with those men?

The feminist answer, is you begin the painful, painstaking, and thankless task of trying to convince these young men to come over to the side of female equality. Yes, equality can’t promise the same kind of mini-dictatorship patriarchy promises, but it can promise freedom and personal agency, and the ability to live a life on your own terms. New solutions for old problems come up, like men choosing to be single fathers by choice or polyamorous relationships to ease the burden of gender discrepancies in straight relationships. Yes, those options aren’t for everyone, but they really only have to be solutions for 2–3% of the population to start seeing large demographic changes.

But, all of this, all of this is at risk with the rise of authoritarian patriarchy that is happening in the US. The most threatening element of authoritarian patriarchy, is it feels entitled to impose its will on others. It’s not enough that people who want a traditional life can go off and get married and have kids; for authoritarian patriarchy to fully function, it must demographically control the population so that women have few options for independence, and young men are somehow removed from the dating pool.

Because, the ultimate goal isn’t to empower men over women; it is to concentrate the power into the hands of a few men. The people who push this are doing so because they believe reinstating patriarchy will bring them personal power. Like the high status men in FLDS who didn’t complain as long as they had their 10 wives, high level politicians, business owners, and other wealthy will embrace this because they think their own piece of the pie is going to grow, and they do not care what the cost is to younger people of any gender.

However, the final thing I’ve learned from Keep Sweet is, in the ultimate authoritarian patriarchy, there can only be one true ruler. This ruler will have absolute dominion over everyone else, and no one is safe, especially not the higher status people, because high status people pose the greatest risk to the ruler’s dominion. And so, all those idiots like Ted Cruz, if they succeeds in instilling a kind of authoritarian patriarchy, are likely to ultimately be destroyed by the same monster they helped create.

This may end up being Trump, it may end up being another republican using the infrastructure Trump built to gain personal power — but rest assured, if authoritarian patriarchy succeeds, there will be one single ruler with concentrated power. Shortly after that ruler is implemented, the chance of a new war is very high, because we have too many volatile young men and feminist solutions will no longer be considered under a new rule.

If true authoritarian patriarchy comes into power, young women may pay the price with their bodies, but young men will pay with their lives.