More often than not, it gets mixed in with evolutionary psychology – the idea that men and women act a specific way because of evolution.
According to the standard script, women are attracted to “alphas” because they are looking for prime genetic material who can also protect and provide for them, thus ensuring the continuation of their genetic line.
Evolutionary psychology is frequently used to justify certain behaviors in men and women, insisting that certain behaviors are not only natural but inevitable and thus are the way that things are supposed to be.
Every once in a while, I like to go browse through some various blogs, forums and subreddits specializing in men’s dating advice to see what theories are being espoused.
It’s not terribly surprising (to me) to see that the idea of “being alpha” is continuing to be tossed around as the end-all/be-all of dating; it’s a part of the DNA of men’s dating advice – the complaints of Nice Guys lamenting the popularity of assholes, nerds complaining about jocks getting all the girls and of course, the obsession in PUA circles with status games and “shit tests” – that is, acting in such a manner as to “test” a man’s status by trying to make him supplicate or otherwise disqualify a man from being a potential sexual partner.
Amongst primates that live in social groups (baboons, chimpanzees, gorillas), the largest, strongest of the male apes is the alpha male; the others are betas.
The alpha rules the pack by dint of his strength and furious violence; he gets the greatest amount of food and unlimited sexual access to the females.
It’s an appealing idea in many ways; it provides the gloss of an appeal to nature- it nicely coincides with the macro perception of human sexual interaction and provides justification for promiscuous male behavior and an explanation for hypergamous females. The narrative that men are naturally promiscuous (the better to ensure the survival of their genetic line) while women are naturally monogamous is the result of a cultural fallacy dating back as far as Charles Darwin; scientists and anthropologists of the time tended to use Western cultural morality as the prism through which they viewed natural discoveries – a problem that occasionally crops up today, as a matter of fact.
In fact, the idea of sexual exclusivity – of humans being concerned with genetic lineage and trying to avoid raising another man’s child – is a relatively recent development, evolutionarily speaking.
The problem with the worship of the alpha male starts with the current fad of explaining male and female sexual behaviors via evolutionary psychology and involves two disparite beliefs.
The first belief is the modern narrative of sexual behavior in men and women.
The idea of sex and parentage in a hunter-gatherer society was one of community; in an agricultural society, it became one of strict possession. Women – and potential children – became possessions, with sexual access becoming something to be strictly controlled and regulated.
Everything about humans from the size of our testicles to the shape of our pensises to the noises we make during sex is evolutionary testament to the fact that sexual exclusivity is attributed to nature.
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