There’s an amazing amount of pure nonsense slung around these days about being an “Alpha” male or female. Here’s some now:
“She [Alpha female] is unabashedly sexy as well as career oriented. Her towering four-inch stilettos march off to the office, the store, the judge’s chambers, and her lacquered-red soles send a “follow me” signal, straight to the bedroom.”
Srsly? Being an Alpha female requires marching around a courtroom in front of a judge or jury in four inch fuck-me heels? So she can make sure she isn’t taken seriously? Can have crippling arthritis in her feet in a few years?
I’ve been in more than a few courtrooms and I’m pretty sure this woman would alienate most of the female jurors and make most of the males picture her on her knees. In front of them.
It’s just as bad for men, apparently.
This article requires men to change the way they walk to “become” an Alpha:
“Alpha males walk slow but with strong steps. Unlike a beta male who just walks fast or uses a walk to get from point A to point B, an alpha male knows his walk can make him stand out.”
Oh, dear God. How little self-esteem does a man have to have to buy this? The one most likely to not think at all about his walk is the Alpha moving from point A to B. Then we come to this, a standard trope in modern romance:
“Alpha males take control. They are dominant. They tell people what to do. They are direct. They take over situations when necessary. Alpha males are seen as powerful. They are the king of the mountain.” source
Unfortunately, the Alpha in many BDSM-themed books is far more bully than Alpha, as illustrated so perfectly by 50 Shades. They have power by wealth or situation. It’s Donald Trump. It’s Bill Gates. Which one do you want to follow?
You know what a leader with no followers is called? A guy shooting off his mouth. Alphas don’t make themselves up, they are created by genetics and environment.
SO WHAT IS ALPHA?
Alphaism in social structure is a common component of animal studies. But for humans, let’s use an older, but much better descriptor for Alpha: opinion leader.
1. General: Influential members of a community, group, or society to whom others turn for advice, opinions, and views.
Hang out at your child’s 4th grade classroom and you’ll soon identify kids who are opinion leaders (OLs).
The OL in a group, what we might call the Alpha, is the one people look at when a surprising or scary situation arises. Whether a clown or a rattlesnake enters the room, everyone looks at the OL for a clue as to how to feel or respond. This kind of Alphahood is a natural trait.
The Jury Foreman Model: Someone can learn to manipulate the social situation—12 strangers in a room—so that they are likely to be elected jury foreman. But during deliberations, the OL/Alpha—male or female sitting anywhere at the table—is the one the other jurors will listen to. This person may be unassuming or gregarious, or anything in-between.
They will have the greatest influence on the outcome while the Delta jury foreman who attained artificial Alphahood is relegated to counting the votes and ordering lunch.
The thing about that Alpha OL is, they might be a sub in the bedroom:
… all of us, along with several other mammal species, appear to possess subcortical circuits for sexual dominance as well as submission. … source
You don’t need to find neural pathways in an autopsy to know this. Every individual, female or male, is on a status continuum. We are socially dominant relative to some people and submissive relative to others.
Sexually, some like a partner who rolls them onto their backs and takes over, because it mimics the partner being the Dominant who has chosen them. Some like to roll their partner onto their backs and take over because by submitting, the partner chooses them. Sometimes, both partners like doing both things in the same session.
D/s is a continuum. Some are further along the dominance scale, some the submissive. Some switch between extremes, and some are just hanging out in the middle.
But both people in whatever relative position, are seeking the experience of being chosen. And being chosen by someone perceived as high status is the most desirable scenario for both. So, ideally, both are Alpha.
The basis of this is as old as our species and easily observed in others. The female wants the highest status male to make her babies. Whatever we define as high status, that’s what a female will be drawn to.
Males want the same, exact thing: the highest status female to produce his offspring. IOW, he wants a strong, healthy Alpha female who will raise up his offspring to be high-status, likely-to-survive individuals. She wants a male healthy enough to give her vigorous offspring, and strong or high status enough to protect them after they are born. Which means he can defend his position, because the next Alpha would kill her infants to bring her into estrus so he can make his own offspring.
Sex is reproduction. Nature doesn’t care about condoms or pills. Millions of years of evolution have created the system that drives us to fuck each other’s brains out in order to make more babies to grow and make more babies. And that system stays in place regardless of whatever higher brain function decision-making we bring to the table.
BDSM is rife with low-self-esteem submissives being pursued by high-status Alphas who are more bully than Dom, and only culturally “alpha” by virtue of money or might.
In The Pixar Story, a terrific great documentary about evolution of modern animation, there’s a shot of the three men credited with making the Pixar dream a reality.
No one’s going to deny Steve Jobs was pretty Alpha on all counts. But John Lasseter is the real mover and shaker behind the twenty-year evolution of modern animation, assisted by science and technology wizards like Catmull. Watch the documentary and you won’t come away with a stereotypical picture of dominance. But Lasseter—artist, writer and director—is as Alpha as they come.
I have no problem with authors who write to market with standard tropes that sell well. But at some point we all live in the real world, as we’ve come to call it. Mistaking a bully with lower self esteem than your own for a fictional Alpha is not anyone’s most life-affirming choice.
CODA: I wanted to add that the reason man-on-woman sexual assault is about power not sex is that only low-self-esteem males commit it. Having some cultural imitation of Alphahood—as in inherited wealth—allows these low-status males to be chosen. They hate the women who choose them, believing only a lower-status female would do that. Their brute, controlling behavior short-circuits rejection by an Alpha female who is going to reject him no matter how much money he has. ( See: Donald Trump )