We’ve heard it often: The Alpha Male concept. Macho men & the pickup community use it all the time to refer to the aggressiveness or the „rank“ of a man amongst his peers. The term is quite confusing, as it mostly gets used by folks, who don’t have a heck of a clue what they actually mean by it. Time to bring some light.
Where „Alpha Male“ Originates From
The first use of the hierarchy order in „Alpha Males“, „Beta males“, „Omega Males“ etc. occured out of the mouth of people, who transferred social structures observed in animal packs onto humans. Wolves for example have a strict hierarchy, where zoologists speak of „Alpha Wolf“, „Beta Wolf“ etc.
Where „Alpha Male“ Gets Used
It’s tempting to categorize humans and especially men competing about women on the dating market in terms, that imply status superiority or inferority. It gives men a false sense for understanding their role within a group of men, where usually one or two are clearly leading the pack and the rest is merely following.
It’s even more tempting, to use this term in the modern self-help industry and promise desperate men to provide them with a fancy blueprint for „developing the alpha-self“ for reaching the desired yet sometimes so difficult seeming goal of finally bedding women.
Why It’s Bullshit
People (mainly the men) like to look up to leader figures and point out „Whoa this guy is so alpha. It has some truth in it, that especially in fields occupied by men the few outstandingly successfull specialists gain enormous attention, since they are „at the top“ of the pyramid and therefore appear like „being the first in the food chain“. I’m referring mainly to top pickup artists who make a living with their skills of bedding almost any female of desire. Men need leader figures to follow, and declaring a person to an „Alpha Male“ makes him an idol to admire & emulate.
And here we have it, our root of issue: Most men think, they can simply copy behavior, appearance & words from such a guy in pole position and with time, they become the same. „Fake it till you make it“ is a popular saying in the pickup community. The idea, that one can simply adapt visible behavior of professionals is a catastrophic fallacy.
This leads us to hordes of drunk guys, grabbing random women’s butts, escalating macho fights and expecting all needs & desires getting satisfied by their partners. Since they’re so alpha in the relationship. While it is true, that the real pro’s in the pickup field get away with touching women inappropriately, appear like they would dominate in their relationships and not seldom do the stuff that is socially somewhat prohibited, is never a very sustainable approach to simply emulate what you see on the outside.
Prehistoric Social Dynamics
One could argue, that in the times of our primordial ancestors, only the most assertive and dominant males would’ve been the ones leading a group and impregnating all the women. Somehow we seem to compare our prehistoric past to the lives of gorillas, where are actually the strongest and boldest males takes charge over a complete harem and violently fight rivals.
Our human ancestors haven’t been like that. Anthropologist assume, that over hundreds of thousands of years our forefathers lived in fierce egalitarianism – meaning that no one holds power over others. Everything got shared from food to shelter, mutual decision-making to the access to women.
The concept of a single individuum being in charge & violently controlling all the sex with females doesn’t make the slightest sense in a world, where social dynamics were based on sharing culture and group inseminations. Heck, it was probably even dangerous to put oneself over the interest of the group, since all the other hunting-skilled and weapon-carrying men have been ready all the time to use deadly violence against anything or anyone, that was a threat for the horde’s survival.
We must assume, that in times of our prehistoric ancestors, there would rather have existed a bunch of leader men – those individuals, who’ve been proven to possess the sharpest minds, most survival experience and profoundest wisdom. Those men had instinctively the fitting proposals & skills to lead the group into the direction of best interest and since their status came from experience rather than from egocentric selfishness, group peers naturally listened to this collective of early meritocrats. No place for an „Alpha“ here.
Nevertheless, we’re not quite finished yet.
Sexual Power Dynamics?
It is not to argue, that in modern men the instincts for competing with each other about a woman, excelling opponnents or even using violence against sexual rivals are definitely there. This idea, that one man is sexually „better“ than the other – whether by pounding performance or through genetical superiority – is without doubt deeply rooted in the male psyche. And this does not come from anywhere, especially not when we regard the fact, that our ancestors have been used to mass inseminations (basically group sex orgies) for hundreds of thousands of years. At the end of the day (or the night), only one’s sperm will eventually fertilize the female egg and create an offspring, right? Would this make the successful breeder an Alpha Male?
It is still debated amongst anthropologists, whether our ancestors even knew about the breeding effect of sperm or if they were not really aware of it. Some indices point towards a no, what would exclude the idea, that creating offspring was related to a feeling of superiority.
We’re moving into the right direction, but if we want to find the true origin of the Alpha, we have to dig deeper.
It is to assume, that our ancestor men gathered regularly in hunting groups to find new ground & sources of food. For this purpose, they left the tribal camp of the women & children for a while, as it is still observable in today existing hunter-gatherer societies.
But no one ever asked, what the men so far away from their horny women did all day long.
The following is not profoundly backed up by scientific data and reflects my own opinion. Still though it bases on a combination of observations in modern male courtship behavior, data from sexological research & biological facts.
As far as I know about the effects of sexual hormones, I assume, that on the hunting trips, due to the absence of estrogen-causing women & children, the hormonal disbalance of too much testosterone automatically led to a subtle sense of competition between the men. I think, that in that time, where men were amongst themselves, they (at least on a subconscious level) competed about anything from who catches the biggest prey, crafts the scariest weapon, makes the dirtiest jokes or can run the fastest.
We know this behavior from guys-only classes, the military, working fields where only men are to be found and corporate offices with almost male-only staff. The comparison program of men automatically kicks in, when only dicks are around. Some few guys begin to get louder and get in charge, others automatically begin to listen and follow.
Alpha for the Sake of Sex
I don’t exclude the possibility of even homsexual acts between our primordial ancestor men, where the mere act itself clearly demonstrated within the group, who the penetrating, dominating part was and who was to be found on the submissive, passive spectrum. In my opinion, it’s not unlikely, that the arousing effect of a stimulated prostate evolved to „accept“ the sexually lower status by getting „rewarded“ with orgasmic hormones.
While we can argue about that, I’m convinced that, when the men returned to their women, they had a slight kind of hierarchy crystallized out, where the men at the „top“ experienced an increase of testosterone and the men, who couldn’t keep up with, would return with a measurably decreased level of testo. I can’t tell, whether those differences have been huge or almost didn’t show up on the surface behavior, but I’m sure, that it was significant enough amongst the male groups, that the men had a clear sense for who was „sexually superior“ or „more worthy“ to sleep with women than others. This is something only taking place in men’s heads, the women probably weren’t even really aware of this dynamic.
But it’s now easy to imagine, that those men, who literally stunk after the „winning-hormone“ probably gained more attraction from the women and therefore probably had more sex. While it is to assume, that the female choice was well established and the women freely chose their sex partners, it is true even in the 21st century, that statistically women get more attracted to men with high testosterone levels. How much more must this have been the case in paleolithic times. Sharing culture – true. Sexually free females – true. Preference for men with high testo – true as well.
So said, we would locate the „Alpha Male“ concept in those areas, where men-only groups experience an interior competition game – biologically to „reward“ the „superior“ ones with increased testosterone and a higher likelihood to get selected by women.
Transferred to modern times, we recognize that this concept has nothing to do with groping women (harassment), approaching hundreds of girls at the street or displaying attention-seeking behavior like lots of drunk guys do. It would only be appliable to fields, where men amongst each other compare themselves to establish a hierarchy.
While the „Alpha“ idea has lost nothing in normal social life and we shouldn’t use this term anymore in daily interactions, it still has its roots in the depth of the male psyche and shows its effects in a lot of parts of our culture. In the military, only one can lead the army. In mafia clans, only one can be the godfather. And in most constitutional governments, there is only one president to be found. Such an individual could be called an „Alpha“, but this status would be restricted to his field of action in comparison to his co-workers. Contrary to prehistory, in modern times such a status has nothing to do anymore with „sexual superiority“, as it often gets confused by popular opinions of street folks. Except experienced pickup-artists of course, whose field of action actually is sexuality.
And by the way, if someone would tell me, that he’s an Alpha Male, I would immediately ask him „So, you like f*cking guy’s butts then?“.
Have a good night.