If, like me, you’ve been puzzled by the rise of “cuck” as a sort of all-purpose insult among the American alt-right, you might have been focusing too closely on its sexual connotations, and especially on its origins in the word “cuckold”. This could be an especially easy mistake to make if your exposure to cuckoldry has primarily been to cuckoldry-as-a-porn-genre. When a political partisan cries “cuck!” in 2017, it’s an entirely different insult he’s making. He’s making an insult about power, which may be the source of your confusion.

Let’s put this in terms that might be easier to understand. There’s an old saying among poker players. At every poker table, there’s a chump. When you sit down, look around. If you can’t spot the chump, the chump might be you.

What does this have to do with cucks? Well, let’s listen to Jessica Crispin explaining Why They Need The Cucks at The Baffler:

In the mythology of 4chan, there are many different kinds of men: the snobby alpha males and the wronged beta males, for starters, and then a thousand variations from there. Cucks are considered the worst of the lot: soft, overripe men who have lost their power and control, like failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush or any man who shows an interest in feminism.

That the word “cuckold,” fusty and ringing of Shakespeare, was first brought back into popular discourse via a category of pornographic fetish videos is less important than you would think. Those videos won’t teach us anything we don’t already know.

The categories of embattled manhood now trafficked by the cuck-trashing, immigrant-bashing men of Breitbart or 4chan are shifting but ultimately exacting; they obsess over finer and finer distinctions. Their aim is not to elevate one idealized version of masculinity, but to break masculinity into a more perfect pecking order, so almost everyone can look down a level at the scum below. This new order relies on the traditional markers of manly achievement — a girlfriend, sexual partners, money, power, and, most importantly, control — but none of those matter as much as the act of division itself. It’s a coping strategy. Yes, the 4chan men like to make jokes about living in their parents’ basements, but those jokes are only funny if they can point to someone even lower than themselves.

Here, then, is the task of the twenty-first-century American man: making hierarchies that don’t put him at the bottom. The bottom is where the cucks are — because “cuck,” in its current incarnation, is an insult aimed not at men who are betrayed by women (or even men who are betrayed by women and really, really like it), but at men who don’t have anyone to control.

That’s it, then. Can you spot the cuck at the table? No? Then the cuck might be you — especially if you don’t have anybody to control. Darn!

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