In his new book Fantasy, Online Misogyny and the Manosphere: Male Bodies of Dis/Inhibition (Routledge, 2021), Jacob Johanssen takes us on a journey into the dark masculinist recesses of the internet. He analyses original data from online communities of Involuntary Celibate (Incel) men, women-denigrating “Men Going Their Own Way”, anti-porn crusading NoFap users and the manifestos of mass shooters. By making use of the work of Willhelm Reich, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl and Klaus Theweleit, he is able to construct a convincing and sinister portrait of this dis/inhibited online culture, in which intermingling fantasies of victimhood and destructive annihilation of the feminine Other create a seething mélange of hatred and misogyny. It is testament to the power of the psychoanalytically informed approach of gathering “identificatory knowledge” that Johanssen does not stop at painting a damning picture of these men, but tries to grasp the psychodynamics at play in their polarized and fragmented world views and identities. As unlikely as it seems, there is even a glimmer of hope at the end of the book. Johanssen applies Jessica Benjamin’s concept of recognition to the men discussed - a possible way out of the dead end of the obsessively intensified hate of the manosphere? We discuss this question and many more in the interview.
Sebastian Thrul is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in training in Germany and Switzerland. He can be reached at email@example.com.