I had always been baffled by white knights – men who saw it as their purpose in life to save every woman from the consequences of her own ineptitude. Like many others, I thought men want sex, and white knighting is a strategy some men use to get it. The baffling part was that I had never seen this strategy actually work – I never saw a man get to sleep with the woman he so passionately tried to save. Why would masses and masses of men try to get sex with a method that never actually gets them laid? Don’t they realize their sexual strategy is not working?

In truth, the white knight is not after sex. Men of all ages and places have a deep desire to be valued, to be seen as honored members of their tribe. Men crave a reputation for being honorable and good, most acutely by their father. They will often go to great lengths to earn this honor and esteem.

In a patriarchal society masculine values predominate, values like courage, valor and virtue. A man’s colleagues and teammates would be overwhelmingly male. To accrue honor, he proves his value to other men. Every step of the way, it is men who decide his fate, not women.

It is popular to say that women are the choosier sex, that it is women who do the choosing. Absent arranged marriages, yes, this is true. But only superficially so. In a patriarchy, viewing women as the choosers obscures more than it reveals. In a patriarchy, the attributes on which a woman is choosing a man were largely determined by other men. The woman prefers a man of high status, but it was other men who gave him that high status. Indeed, men even decide what confers status, whether it is athletic prowess in modern America or testing ability in Imperial China. In rewarding status, a woman’s mating choices are captive to those men who confer status.

In a patriarchy, the say of women has no place in ordering men in the hierarchy of the tribe. Man’s natural desire for honor means he must submit to the priorities of the men in his tribe, to acquire acclaim. Moreover, in more patriarchal times, women were closely guarded; they passed from the care of the father to the husband, with little freedom between. Her capacity for sins and missteps was limited, given the oversight of her male stewards.

We do not live in a patriarchy. We live in an age where traditional masculinity is taken to be broken, hurtful, antiquated – all in all, a hideous anachronism at best, a source of mass rape, murder and oppression at worst. Traditional femininity is reviled as well, in softer denunciations. We live in a time when women and their ways are declared to be morally superior. Ours is a society where women are the final arbiters of morality – it is they who decide who is good and who is evil. Women have conviction and men are convicts.

The white knight is an expression of this reality. On a deep level, he feels that it is women and women only who can grant him the honor he desires. When men condemn him, it is invariably the ‘wrong kind’ of men – their attacks don’t lead the white knight to doubt himself. If anything, when men oppose the white knight, the white knight takes this as a sign that he is doing something right, because he has upset an opposing tribe – that of lotharios and misogynists. What he prizes is female endorsement, for it is only women who can say with authority that he is a man of honor, as he has been told all his life.

This dynamic is not limited to the sexes. One can see it happening in the field of race as well. Convince the masses that one race of people is wicked and morally degenerate, and the masses will assert that therefore this race has no say in what is right and what is wrong. And they will seek to forbid this wicked race of people from having the authority to pass judgment on itself, except to condemn themselves. In our society, whites fill this role, especially Christian whites, as did Jews in Nazi Germany or blacks in the Antebellum South. Not that these groups suffered equally, which is patently false, but patterns recur. And every time this dynamic arises, there are the sellouts among the group demonized, the race traitors, the house Negroes, the Kapos, the white knights, the men who seek to elevate themselves by denouncing their brothers, and collaborating with their greatest opponents for personal gain.

Be it with sex, race or some other distinction, when a man feels so inadequate as to seek honor from outside his tribe, from his sworn enemies, he makes himself a slave. He becomes beholden to those whom he appoints as master.

A man will stop white knighting when he stops viewing women as the arbiters of the good and tasteful. Perhaps women must not have any authority to judge men, and men would disregard their opinions entirely. From ancient Greece to ancient Israel, many civilizations of antiquity saw fit to deny women equality. When men feel they cannot accrue honor from a woman’s saying so, men will stop beseeching a woman to supply it.

Read More: The Master And The Slave