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Yo, dudes: Alpha males are a myth, according to actual experts on wolves

Manosphere misogynists like to tell themselves fairy tales about women. Their favorite such tale, repeated endlessly, is one called “The Cock Carousel” – sometimes referred to in expanded form as the “Alpha Asshole Cock Carousel” or the “Bad Boy Cock Carousel.” (Hence that Rooster-riding gal you see in this blog’s header about half the time.)

Despite the different names, the story is always, monotonously, the same: In their late teens and twenties, when they’re at the height of their sexual appeal, women (or at least the overwhelming majority of them) have sex in rapid succession with an assortment of charismatic but unreliable alpha males and “bad boys” who make their vaginas (or just ‘ginas) tingle. Then, sometime in their mid-to-late twenties, these women “hit the wall,” with their so-called sexual market value (or SMV) dropping faster than Facebook’s stock price. As Roissy/Heartiste puts it, in his typically overheated prose:

So sad, so tragic, the inevitable slide into sexual worthlessness that accompanies women, the withering tick tock of the cosmic clock stripping their beauty in flayed bits of soulletting mignons like psychological ling chi. A sadistic thief in the night etching, billowing, draping and sagging a new affront to her most preciously guarded asset.

While many women try to pretend they’ve still “got it,” even at the ripe old age of thirty, they inevitably have to either get off or get thrown off the “cock carousel.” At this point the more savvy women glom onto some convenient “beta male” who, while somewhat lacking in sexual appeal, will at least be a good husband and provider for them – and in many cases the children they’ve had with alpha male seed. Those women who don’t accept the new reality are destined to end up alone and childless, surrounded by cats.

To borrow the phrase South Park used in its episodes about Scientology and Mormonism, this is what manosphere men actually believe. Not only that, but they claim that this fairy tale is based on real science.

So who are these mysterious alpha males that get the women so excited? As one guide to pickup artist (PUA) lingo puts it:

In animal hierarchies, the Alpha Male is the most dominant, and typically the physically strongest member of the group. For example, in wolf packs, the “alpha wolf” is the strongest member of the pack, and is the leader of the group. This position of leadership is often achieved by killing or defeating the previous Alpha Male in combat. Alpha wolves have first access to food as well as mating privileges with the females of the pack.

Social status among human social groups is less rigidly defined than in the animal kingdom, but there are some recognizable parallels. Although people don’t often engage in physical violence to achieve dominance, there are still recognizable leaders in different fields who have wide access to material resources and women.

Because the qualities of the Alpha Male (such as social dominance and leadership) are attractive to women, many PUAs have adopted these ideals as models of emulation. In fact, the term “alpha” has come be shorthand for the qualities of an attractive man, and it is a common refrain among PUAs to be “more alpha” or to “out alpha” competitors.

There’s a certain logic to all this. But unfortunately for the PUAs and other manospherians the notion of the Alpha male is based on bad science. The notion of Alpha dominance, as the definition above notes, came originally from studies of wolf packs. Even if we assume that wolf behavior is somehow a good model upon which to base our understanding of human romance  – as manosphere men and evolutionary psychologists tend to do – the science behind the Alpha male wolf has now come completely undone, with many of those who promulgated the theory in the first place decades ago now explicitly repudiating it.

The problem, you see, is that the studies underlying the notion of the alpha male wolf, who aggressively asserts his dominance over beta males in order to rule the pack, were all based on observations of wolves in captivity. In the real world, wolf packs don’t work that way at all. Most wolf packs are basically wolf families, with a breeding pair and their pups. When male pups reach adulthood, they don’t fight their fathers for dominance — they go out and start their own families.

As noted wolf behavior expert L. David Mech, one of those who helped to establish and popularize the notion of the alpha wolf in the first place, explains on his website:

The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book’s info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. “Alpha” implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that’s all we call them today, the “breeding male,” “breeding female,” or “male parent,” “female parent,” or the “adult male” or “adult female.” In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the “dominant breeder” can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a “subordinate breeder.”

So the dominant male wolves – those whom manosphere dudes would still call the alphas – achieve this position not by being sexy badasses but simply by siring and taking responsibility for pups. To use the terminology in the manner of manosphere dudes, alphas become alphas by acting like betas. That’s right: alphas are betas. (For more of the details, see this paper by Mech; it’s in pdf form.)

Also, they’re wolves and not humans, but that’s a whole other kettle of anthropomorphized fish.

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Posted on August 22, 2012, in alpha asshole cock carousel, alpha males, bad boys, beta males, evo psych fairy tales, heartiste, MGTOW, misogyny, PUA, worst writing in the history of the universe and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 977 Comments.

  1. So when the PUA kids get here and start whining, what do?

  2. make fun of them for thinking a dumb thing, duh

  3. So, if we’re like gorillas, than beta males are only betas if they have a high probalility of being closely related to all possible sexual partners. Alpha males are individuals who, by definition, are raising a family with one or more mothers. How is this explained in PUA?

    BECAUSE…..HOOERS! THAT’S HOW!

  4. “every sentence is worse than the one before it. roissy is worse writer than fucking mikey”

    It’s like they think more words = better writing. (Protip: It doesn’t.)

    I told a friend about “Giny Tingles”. She thought it was so funny it’s now an inside joke.

  5. @Falconer Rubbish stuffed wolf will haunt my dreams, that’s for sure.

  6. Actually gorillas don’t behave like that either. Generally groups consist of a silverback (mature) male, a few females and their offspring (which may include adult male offspring who haven’t left to form their own groups yet). They are tightly bonded groups. Young females will often switch groups multiple times before settling down with a silverback.

    The silverback mediates disputes, will die to protect the group, if a female dies and leaves behind offspring the silverback will take over their care including sharing his nest. Now gorillas aren’t always nice, males will fight occasionally when two groups come in contact and if a new unrelated male takes over a group after the death of the previous silverback he will sometimes kill nursing infants but this isn’t that common, mostly because often a younger male in the group will take over or the group will disperse.

  7. Don’t tell them about bonobos. Their wee little brains will asplode.

  8. It’s like they think more words = better writing. (Protip: It doesn’t.)

    it would at least be semi-acceptable if they thought about how they were using words, but they dont. why is the thief ‘sadistic?’ for that matter, what kind of thief spends his time ‘etching, billowing, draping, and sagging’ instead of y’know, stealing shit?

  9. I think the real takeaway is that women love men who are willing to remove lice eggs from their hair. Unlike alpha/beta, this is common to both gorillas and bonobos.

    When will PUA’s write the REAL evopsych guide to picking up women?

  10. An inconvenient Truth

    Shorter Futrelle:

    “You can safely ignore the mountains of evidence favoring the Alpha/Beta hierarchy in humans because some PUA was wrong about certain types of WOLVES! Soft/nurturing males (like me!) are therefore attractive. Squee!!”

    Feminists really are like young-earth creationists, desperately seeking the slightest countercurrent to unpleasant reality.

  11. “it would at least be semi-acceptable if they thought about how they were using words, but they dont. why is the thief ‘sadistic?’ for that matter, what kind of thief spends his time ‘etching, billowing, draping, and sagging’ instead of y’know, stealing shit?”

    Exactly! I could probably describe thieves in as many words as they do and still make it more eloquent.

    …….. I feel the need to write something better than them just because it’s easy.

  12. Wait, how do bonobos work?

  13. I do like my head skritchies. Perhaps women are simpler than we thought??

  14. Seriously, if someone gave me and my friends a list of ten dudes we all knew in common and asked us to guess which ones were alpha and which ones were beta, I bet our guesses would not line up.

    I half want someone to do this survey now, except I imagine it would wind up being like the episode of This American Life where they all get their testosterone levels measured and everybody gets worried and upset before they all learn that the only gay man among them turned out to have the highest testosterone.

  15. Hey, I’ve spent time picking nits from kids hair. Any man who wants to spend several hours a day for the next week or so doing that is definitely gonna get some admiration from me.

  16. howardbann1ster

    So, if the betas are the alphas, and the alphas are the betas, and all along the PUAs have tried to be alphas and no betas…

    Man. Normally when PUAs make my head hurt it isn’t this much fun.

  17. Um, wouldn’t you be testing for cortisol and other stress horomones rather than testosterone?

  18. howardbann1ster

    Naw, man! EVERYBODY (by which we mean nobody) knows that T is what makes a man a man! Don’t get any on the ladies, they will totally become Rambo. Measuring you Testerosity is the only way to know how manfully manly you are!!!

  19. Right, I think it goes to show that we don’t know what the hell we should be testing for. It’s a pretty funny episode, though: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone/

  20. I think they’ve even stopped making it about even pretend wolves a long time ago. I don’t think it’s even about pretend (non-pygmy) Chimps anymore.

    I think they’ve gone insular and are only communicating based on a shared understanding of their own pretend world.

    Signalling status within it with such terms as “beta” and “alpha” ;)

  21. And then they refer to “mountains of evidence” supporting their position, by which they never seem to mean actual science.

  22. @aworld: we point, laugh, tell them how dumb they are.

    Still, 1,000 crybabies is preferable to Joe the 1st.

  23. dominant breeder still is an alpha.
    the other wolves that aren’t breeders are beta

    The “other wolves that aren’t breeders” are often not breeding because the other females in the pack ARE THEIR SISTERS.

  24. Please tell me that PUA isn’t too frequent in university circles, or at least not the ones I’d be gauged as being likely to find myself among.

  25. mountains of evidence favoring the Alpha/Beta hierarchy in humans

    This is pretty fantastic right here.

    What even is the Alpha/Beta hierarchy? It it’s like apes, it means that men don’t sleep with women if they’re likely to be related. I can live with that.

    It it means that society has been ruled by old aggressive men for so long that we’ve come up with thousands of ways to glorify and appease them, then there’s a better word. It’s called patriarchy.

    If you don’t like patriarchy, you might want to consider supporting feminist organizations?

  26. Ugh, I think that was really well-put.

  27. @aworld

    Please tell me that PUA isn’t too frequent in university circles, or at least not the ones I’d be gauged as being likely to find myself among.

    My advice is to take people’s interest in PUA as the glorious gift that it is: a good way to tell who is a fun responsible adult and who is a manboy overinvested in proving masculinity. There are enough of both for you to just hang out with the former, and not care about the latter because they’re clearly idiots anyway.

    I had friends in college who were into PUA. It made me feel bad because I felt that I wasn’t cool or masculine enough to be into their games. Then I realized they were complete tools and my life has been much better for it.

  28. for that matter, what kind of thief spends his time ‘etching, billowing, draping, and sagging’ instead of y’know, stealing shit?

    The thief… of Youth. Etching wrinkles at the mouth, the hands, and the corners of eyes; draping wizened skin where it was once taught and regularly exfoliated; dragging women’s only assets down with the relentless pull of time!

    … I got nothing for billowing, though. Billowing?

  29. The sight of birth is the primary event of wonder and joy and for men the primary experience of envy. That’s why the concept of penis envy is secondary and to most women, laughable.

  30. Shorter Futrelle:

    reactionaries can’t shorter. that’s our thing.

    mountains of evidence favoring the Alpha/Beta hierarchy in humans

    a bunch of low comment blogs = mountains of evidence?

    that’s cute, champ

  31. So when the PUA kids get here and start whining, what do?

    I plan on feeding them to the failwolf.

  32. Wait, how do bonobos work?

    Bonobos are THE SHIT! They are like, the hippies of the animal world, all free love, all the time, baby!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo

    The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior. Sex functions in conflict appeasement, affection, social status, excitement, and stress reduction. It occurs in virtually all partner combinations and in a variety of positions. This is a factor in the lower levels of aggression seen in the bonobo when compared to the common chimpanzee and other apes. Bonobos are perceived to be matriarchal; females tend to collectively dominate males by forming alliances and use sexuality to control males. A male’s rank in the social hierarchy is often determined by his mother’s rank.

  33. howardbann1ster

    Feminists really are like young-earth creationists, desperately seeking the slightest countercurrent to unpleasant reality.

    Um… are you sure that you end up on the side of this metaphor that you think you end up on?

    (hint: no)

  34. Sexual intercourse plays a major role in bonobo society observed in captivity, being used as what some scientists perceive as a greeting, a means of forming social bonds, a means of conflict resolution, and postconflict reconciliation. Bonobos are the only nonhuman animal to have been observed engaging in all of the following sexual activities: face-to-face genital sex (although a pair of western gorillas has been photographed performing face-to-face genital sex,) tongue kissing, and oral sex. In scientific literature, the female–female behavior of touching genitals together is often referred to as GG rubbing or genital–genital rubbing. The sexual activity happens within the immediate community and sometimes outside of it. Bonobos do not form permanent monogamous sexual relationships with individual partners. They also do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behavior by sex or age, with the possible exception of abstaining from sexual intercourse between mothers and their adult sons. When bonobos come upon a new food source or feeding ground, the increased excitement will usually lead to communal sexual activity, presumably decreasing tension and encouraging peaceful feeding.

  35. I plan on feeding them to the failwolf.

    Just don’t feed that thing after midnight…

  36. Blargh, failfox. Tried to search “Alpha” in quickmeme to summon the failwolf pack and got 6 pages full of PUA misogyny memes instead.

    Any chance of sharing the base image, David?

  37. timetravellingfool

    @ An inconvenient truth- you did hear the bit where he made note the scientists who wrote that ‘mountain of evidence’ have refuted their own theory? Based on evidence?

  38. That’s why the concept of penis envy is secondary and to most women, laughable.

    The allegations contained in your comment are denied, and strict proof is demanded.

  39. I should amend that–it doesn’t work as a ‘horror’ style name.

    On the other hand, “Friendzone; the bar where you can hang out with men and women alike and there’s no flirting allowed” would be kinda nice.

    Well. Kinda nice for some of us.

    http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35o99m/

  40. I just watched a Nature of Things on animal behaviour, in which they talked about the differences between how gorillas and bonobos behave with strangers. Bonobos are awesome.

    Bonobo A: Howdy, stranger, let’s fuck!

    Bonobo B: Well, I’m the same gender as you, but sure!

    Bonobo A: Also, would you like some of my food? It’s yummy.

    Bonobo B: :)

  41. Hi Falconer

    Not an allegation – as no blame is implied. Proof would lie with women’s testimony – are you will to listen to that?

  42. Will should read willing.

  43. I blogged about the alpha male wolf myth a long time ago, but in relation to the teachings of Cesar Millan (who also happens to be a sexist asshat). I didn’t even think to apply it to PUA and other dudes who use the terms “beta” and “alpha” all the fucking time. Well done.

  44. An inconvenient Truth

    If you don’t like patriarchy, you might want to consider supporting feminist organizations?

    Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?

    I had friends in college who were into PUA. It made me feel bad because I felt that I wasn’t cool or masculine enough to be into their games. Then I realized they were complete tools and my life has been much better for it.

    Your initial assessment was the correct one.

  45. The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior. Sex functions in conflict appeasement, affection, social status, excitement, and stress reduction. It occurs in virtually all partner combinations and in a variety of positions. This is a factor in the lower levels of aggression seen in the bonobo when compared to the common chimpanzee and other apes. Bonobos are perceived to be matriarchal; females tend to collectively dominate males by forming alliances and use sexuality to control males. A male’s rank in the social hierarchy is often determined by his mother’s rank.

    Ok, so what I gather from this, is that bonobos are a polyamorous matriarchy, and it’s awesome. Somehow I think the MRAs are gonna whine about it anyway.

  46. howardbann1ster

    “If you don’t like patriarchy, you might want to consider supporting feminist organizations?”

    “Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?”

    ….go read a history book and come back when your understanding of history isn’t so full of absolutely incorrect shit.

  47. “Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?”

    As if you need to violently oppress women to “survive”. Bullshit. Are you racist, too?

  48. Hmm. Okay. But I’ve read studies that suggest you can tell a persons rank in the social heirarchy by measuring the amount of stress horomones produced. The higher the stress, the higher the stress related horomones.

    Personally, stress horomones might be interesting to look at in terms of work organizations, but I’m not sure it would play out the same in terms of overall living.

    And what do all these manly men do when its carefully explained that even the most feminine of women have T?

  49. Sexual intercourse plays a major role in bonobo society observed in captivity, being used as what some scientists perceive as a greeting, a means of forming social bonds, a means of conflict resolution, and postconflict reconciliation. Bonobos are the only nonhuman animal to have been observed engaging in all of the following sexual activities: face-to-face genital sex (although a pair of western gorillas has been photographed performing face-to-face genital sex,) tongue kissing, and oral sex. In scientific literature, the female–female behavior of touching genitals together is often referred to as GG rubbing or genital–genital rubbing. The sexual activity happens within the immediate community and sometimes outside of it. Bonobos do not form permanent monogamous sexual relationships with individual partners. They also do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behavior by sex or age, with the possible exception of abstaining from sexual intercourse between mothers and their adult sons. When bonobos come upon a new food source or feeding ground, the increased excitement will usually lead to communal sexual activity, presumably decreasing tension and encouraging peaceful feeding.

    And from this, I gather that bonobos worship Slaanesh.

  50. lol

    Shorter inconvenient truth: i am so too, cool!

  51. Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?

    I think we were confused because of your constant whining about said social order…

  52. Oh hey hey, Truthy, are you a libertarian? We can introduce you to a few friends if you are, but don’t try to spew that shit around here.

  53. Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?

    Haha yes all long-lasting social structures are inherently awesome for everyone.

    ALL HAIL THE GOD KING. HE IS THE INCARNATE HORUS. BRING HIM GIFTS SO HE WILL BRING THE RAIN.

    For real, can you think of a single reason why patriarchy is a good idea but rule by the incarnate falcon lord is not?

    I’m sticking with my assessment. I mean, you’re into PUA, and you’re being a tool right now, right?

  54. howardbann1ster

    Y’know, it’s really bumming me out that Al Gore turned out to be a PUA.

    (this is a joke–Mister Poe won’t get me with his silly laws!)

  55. Also, truther, I don’t have a girlfriend because I have social anxiety issues, however on the other hand I know I could prove myself to be attractive easily in the same circles as PUA guys because of my Super Sexy French Language Skills ™. I don’t though, because I need it for all of the practical applications it has in Canada, and because I’m not an emotionally manipulative shithead who thinks the way to get a girl interested in me is to get her drunk and fuck with her self-esteem.

  56. ““You can safely ignore the mountains of evidence favoring the Alpha/Beta hierarchy in humans because some PUA was wrong about certain types of WOLVES! Soft/nurturing males (like me!) are therefore attractive. Squee!!””

    If you try hard enough you can make human history fit the model of a variety of animal species. Its called a “just so story”, and anyone is capable of making one up. There is no way to reconcile the variety inherent in patterns of human interaction throughout history (and currently, across cultures) into a theory as simplistic as “alpha males vs beta males”.

  57. Catholic priests: PUAs or MGTOW? The Pope has got Game…but the whole chastity thing…?

  58. Why wouldn’t I like the social order that has ensured our survival for millenia?

    I think it’s kind of funny how many conservatives think X negative trait “ensured our survival.” It’s like, advanced handaxes and lower nutritional requirements allowed us to outcompete the Neanderthals and idaltu like 200 000 years ago. Then it was a done deal. From 200 000 years ago to 60 years ago, humanity was not in any actual danger of extinction.

  59. This is pretty much my worldview and it pretty much explains everything I’ve ever seen. (Although “alpha” is so context-dependent that I’ve seen an adenoidal-voiced Aspie theoretical physicist with women hanging off of him as well as hanging on his every word.) It’s true that if I carry it through to its logical conclusion, I’d be a rapist, but like most human males I have the ability to feel empathy and the ability to defer gratification. PUA was an explanation and a liberation, a path to being a more masculine me while reading women well enough not to step on their toes. (Of course, I stay chatty and do nothing more than that a lot more often than virtually all other PUA-identified men.) And humans are not bonobos.

  60. We can introduce you to a few friends if you are, but don’t try to spew that shit around here.

    – Whatta ya mean we? ;)

  61. I think it’s kind of funny how many conservatives think X negative trait “ensured our survival.”

    This is why even when I was an MRA I thought that a lot of it was sketchy as all fuck. Also the fact that they try to hold on to these traits because they’re “human nature”.

  62. @aworldanonymous

    Truther is actually a great case in point of what I was talking about. See, he started by just arguing that a PUA talking point is a real thing. Immediately, we knew he was a moron. But if you don’t pick up on the signal, you might actually keep talking to him and not realize he’s a moron until he says that patriarchy is a great social structure because it’s been around for awhile, and we wouldn’t have survived without it.

    In real life, by that point, you’d already be stuck in a conversation with an idiot.

  63. I have the ability to feel empathy

    citation needed

  64. Why would yOu want to maintain a social order that has dropped yours, and everyone elses standard of living?

    People still living in hunting and gathering tribes and have not been disturbed (read: forced off their traditional lands or forced into sharing with other groups of people where the human to square mile ratio cannot support them) are often healthier, happier and work FAR less to have everything they want

  65. A truly horrendous example of bullshit evo-psych with extra woman-hating, courtesy of National Review: http://wonkette.com/481728/nro-ladies-should-love-mitt-romney-because-of-gold-digging-and-having-daughters-made-obama-gay

    Shorter: women should vote for Romney cause he’s an alpha male and has only sons, not like that faggy fag with the daughters!

  66. “And humans are not bonobos. – No. We’re not anything that isn’t a human. But we’re equidistant from them and chimpanzees. Sex at Dawn has its flaws, but it makes a lot more sense than your tale of woe.

    “This is pretty much my worldview and it pretty much explains everything I’ve ever seen. (Although “alpha” is so context-dependent that I’ve seen an adenoidal-voiced Aspie theoretical physicist with women hanging off of him as well as hanging on his every word.”

    Well, most people’s world view has the effect of explaining pretty much everything they’ve ever seen from their perspective which is why we adopt our world views.

    If you just define Alpha as “successful with women” and therefore everybody who’s successful with women as an alpha- then yes, you’re right, that’s so “context dependent” it’s almost… Hmm…

  67. @zhinxy

    we have have had an influx of randroids recently. you, of course, can peddle all the shit you want. :P

  68. So I’ve basically come to the conclusion that the whole right wing vs. left wing thing really comes down to whether you value competition or co-operation.

  69. This is pretty much my worldview and it pretty much explains everything I’ve ever seen. (Although “alpha” is so context-dependent that I’ve seen an adenoidal-voiced Aspie theoretical physicist with women hanging off of him as well as hanging on his every word.)

    “This is a completely true theory except that it does not predict future observations consistently.” You’d make a great scientist, Euro.

    “It’s true that if I carry it through to its logical conclusion, I’d be a rapist.” False. Most wolf and ape sex happens only when females feel like mating.

    PUA was an explanation and a liberation, a path to being a more masculine me

    More masculine according to which culture? Are you learned in philosophy? Do you have several male lovers? Do you powder your face? Can you break a horse?

    while reading women well enough not to step on their toes.

    You could always just ask women where their toes are instead of trying to read them. That’d be the, you know, non-rapey way to go about it.

    And humans are not bonobos.

    Don’t tell us. Tell them.

  70. @zhinxy

    I should have rephrased that to say randroids instead of libertarians. Joe, Nomless, and Steele all seem to be glomming onto the virtue of selfishness bandwagon.

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