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Being an Alpha Male

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Sunday, July 31st, 2011 in Culture

A new trend is developing online — the obsession with being an “Alpha Male”. While the definition is rather nebulous and the obsession over it is rather strange, I think it’s important to cover this topic in order to address how, in my opinion, it is both beneficial and somewhat stupid. In this article, I discuss some of the problems with this new “Alpha Male” trend, as well as some beneficial aspects of it. At the end, I propose a new definition of “Alpha Male” — one I think that is much more workable and positive in modern society.

Etymology

First off, let me address where the hell the term “Alpha Male” came from.

The term “Alpha Male” is originally a behavioral ecology term referring to the most dominant male in a pack of animals. In short, the “Alpha Male” is said to get the best females (or all of the females), the best food (and first dibs on the food), the most deference, and the like. In the animal kingdom, the “Alpha” of the pack is usually the “alpha” by virtue of being the strongest.

Because the aforementioned definition is pretty much included in every Biology class in the country, it should come as no surprise that this term has been co-opted by “PUA” (Pick Up Artist) book writers as a way to describe the ideal male. In the PUA vernacular, an “Alpha Male” of the human world is man who gets all the women, though who is not necessarily the strongest or the best fed. The PUA world uses “Alpha Male” as a quick way to say “the guy getting laid the most”, somewhat ignoring the part about being the strongest or the most confident (note: this isn’t surprising, “Mystery” is probably 130lbs wet, most of our readers could bench press him without breaking a sweat). In short, the PUA “Alpha Male” is likely to measure his worth in terms of the women he can attract.

One of the better definitions I've seen floating around the internet (click to enlarge).

This PUA book definition of “Alpha Male” has now made its way into the weight lifting/fitness world, where the term “Alpha Male” has begun to more or less return to its roots. In the fitness/weight lifting vernacular, “Alpha Male” now means someone who exudes dominance and strength. The idea of getting laid is still present, albeit in a more indirect way — the weight lifting “Alpha Male”, in some contexts, doesn’t measure his worth in terms of sex, but rather against society generally. It is considered “Alpha”, for example, to have unspoken control over a situation, such as having people in a gym give deference to you. In short, the weight lifting “Alpha Male” is likely to measure his worth in terms of society generally.

So what accounts for the popularity of this term and its quick spread across numerous communities? Nothing unusual. In fact, it should not be a major surprise that the idea of being an “Alpha Male” is pretty integral to both the pick-up artist and weight lifting communities given their usual vanity. While the above two communities have their benefits and are in some cases valuable to society, do remember that they are overwhelmingly filled with insecure guys obsessing over their social rank — that these insecure guys readily adopt a term to describe their ideal self shouldn’t be terribly surprising.

Why this obession is bad

As I mention above, I think this obsession with being an alpha male is bad. The reason, in short, is because obsession over being an alpha male frustrates ones ability to be an alpha male, idolizes questionable behavior, and ultimately results in stupid behavior by insecure guys.

Assuming (for the moment) that being an alpha male is desirable, obsessing over becoming one in itself prevents one from being an alpha male. The usual definition of being an alpha male, even in the sex-dominated PUA culture, includes some component of confidence. Worrying about ones social standing is antithetical to that entire process, because a lack of self-confidence itself is usually the reason why people worry about being an alpha male.

Even beyond that contradiction, being an alpha male (especially in the PUA context) can actually mean very little. The PUA “Alpha Male”, as mentioned above, obsesses over getting women and validating his self-worth through sex. I personally don’t see this behavior as much more than being a sex-obsessed loser. It seems ridiculous to categorize some sort of barhopping fratboy — a category in which I would include “Mystery” — as an alpha male by any measurement. Even outside of the PUA world, the typical “inidicia” of an alpha male — being unusually physically aggressive, getting deference from people at the gym, etc — seem to be paltry measurements to indicate worth. In other words, I really don’t think that I would be terribly intimidated to go toe-to-toe with “Mystery” or any other alleged “Alpha Male”, be it in a competition of who can get the most sex or in an outright brawl.

Finally, this obsession over being an “Alpha Male” encourages guys to act in all of the wrong ways. Because many insecure guys tend to think being an “Alpha Male” means being physically dominant and having lots of sex, many obsess over getting ridiculously muscular and having sex with virtually any girl, ultimately forsaking other more important things in the process. The Internet’s rather limited definition of “Alpha Male” would roughly culminate in an oversexed body builder living at home with no money and no future — and that’s simply not a goal for guys to seek. Let’s face it: there are far too many things to be working on to obsess over one or two in order to become dominant in society.

Why the definition is good

Now that I’ve effectively destroyed the definition of “Alpha Male”, allow me to give it some praise.

The idea of being an alpha male, in my mind, is probably the closest society has come to a decent role model in quite some time. Once the sex/violence obsession(s) are stripped of the definition of “Alpha Male”, the resulting list of characteristics — including confidence, risk-taking, hard work, etc — are remarkably positive. In a world where there are virtually no decent male role models anymore, the sort of platonic “Alpha Male” seems pretty alluring to guys like me. Without question, I’d rather have some sort of nebulous, platonic male role model than a series of increasingly bad ones portrayed in the media today.

I should also note that most people don’t take the term “Alpha Male” that seriously, which takes the bite out of it. While the PUA community seems to legitimately obsess over turning themselves into alpha males, it appears that weight lifting and body building communities use the term with a sense of sarcasm. In this way, a lot of the unfortunate extremes of the definition (the way in which it pushes guys to obsess over sex, etc) seem to feel less relevant. In other words, because many people only use the term “Alpha Male” jokingly, they aren’t susceptible to the negative aspects that come from it, and the term becomes fairly innocent.

Re-fashioning the definition

So what will I do, now that I’ve treated the definition from both angles? Simple: I’ll define it in a way I think that is much more positive and beneficial.

I would define a positive, well-cultured Alpha Male as the following:

An “Alpha Male” is a man who personally excels at life. While he may not be perfect, he excels and continues to work on self-improvement in various aspects including, but not limited to, his intellect, his physical fitness, his social standing and social life, his romantic life, his financial situation and professional life, his manner of dress and manners, and his family. In short, the Alpha Male exudes dominance not by force or by limiting his social sphere, but by others’ recognition of his aptitude across numerous fields.

Allow me to make a few comments on this definition.

First off, you will note that sex is not explicitly included in my definition, and this is intentional. Sex is arguably easy for the ideal alpha male to acquire; however, he does not obsess over it, nor does he modify himself in order to receive it. In short, the ideal alpha male can get laid, and ostensibly could be a great “pick-up artist”, but he does not do so because he has larger goals and ambitions.

Second off, note that the list is inclusive of numerous variables. The point here is to illustrate that an alpha male need not be the strongest, most intelligent, or the most wealthy. The alpha male’s worth is measured by the accumulation of numerous factors, none of which are particularly dispositive. Some men may be alpha males by virtue of being the strongest in the world alone, and others may be alpha males by their sexual prowess. Nonetheless, one needs not excel in one single, finite field to be an alpha male.

Third and finally, this definition is intentionally vague — I don’t include examples, extensive definitions, or ideas. Alpha males are present at various levels of society and in various ways — a bland list of athletes, politicians, authors, actors, and astronauts would simply limit the definition. As I allude to above, the inherent vagueness of the “alpha male” definition is desirable and in some sense proper.

So in closing, what should you do with this definition? Try to live it, but don’t obsess over it. The idea of being an “Alpha Male” needs no definition: it’s simply a statement that refers to a man who, by virtue of his many qualities, is admirable in society. With that being said, it goes without saying that you should, every day, seek to be someone more respectable in society by working on making yourself a better person. Such work needs no definition: it’s common sense.

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2 Responses to Being an Alpha Male

  1. Andrew says:

    Great article broski

  2. Todd MacRae says:

    I live this practice as you have laid it out daily and it’s obvious to me that my dominance is rewarded yet again by this article. thank you for trying to teach young men what a man should try to be daily.

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