An illustration of two people breaking through doors, each of which are meant to represent a gender and its norms that are being broken.
Instead of seeing gender relations as a war, or women as objects to conquer, young men could look to conversation and cooperation instead. (Illustration by Amber Duan, Pratt Institute)

The Idea of the ‘Alpha Male’ Is Rife With Contradictions

Gendered constraints have only become tighter for men since the ideology was introduced, and many are arguing for its end due to the damage it causes to self-perception.

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An illustration of two people breaking through doors, each of which are meant to represent a gender and its norms that are being broken.

Gendered constraints have only become tighter for men since the ideology was introduced, and many are arguing for its end due to the damage it causes to self-perception.

In today’s age, social media has provided millions with a platform to promote their ideas. One popular concept is self-improvement, and content creators have taken it upon themselves to guide their listeners toward a “new you.” The mass success of this content stems from a (very) available market: So many people are unhappy with who they are. That’s no shocker, especially evident in the focus on mental health in the past decade, particularly among teenagers, who are the most popular consumers of social media. High school boys sit alone in their bedrooms in sunken bean bag chairs, questioning their career, physical appearance and social status, while they scroll endlessly for the key to a glamorous life. Some get carried away, however; they don’t merely want to grow themselves — they want to be an alpha male.

Alpha Males: What Are They?

The term “alpha male” has been recklessly introduced into Gen Z’s vocabulary in the past decade. It has gotten to a point where behaviors that are considered ultra-masculine — wealth, attractiveness and an uncontrollable sex life — are identified as “alpha traits,” unjustly glorifying the term in society. Those three qualities are extremely appealing (they’re the reasons why “Wolf of Wall Street” exists); combining such greed with the vulnerability and lack of self-assurance among teenage boys has destroyed the term “alpha.” Unfortunately, the presence of alpha male content creators further perpetuates the damages of becoming one.

Content-creating alpha males claim to cultivate strong and driven young men, but they end up skewing this claim through contradictions. One source praises alphas as “great, strong, powerful men [who] decided to be masculine lions instead of feminized male sheep.” So, giving into mainstream media and stereotypes is beta behavior. Okay, sounds good; rule number one, maintain individuality at all costs.

Now, let’s go back to this article’s list of the nine necessary traits all alpha males must have. Let’s reevaluate rule number one. Maintain individuality at all costs but still fit into the mold of an alpha male. Not only is it a confusing contradiction, but it creates a polarizing image of being happy. It implies that happiness consists of women, money, sex and subscribing to this list of nine traits. This gross oversimplification is completely ignorant of the fact that millions of happy individuals don’t subscribe to this list. Rather, they developed their own understanding of self-fulfillment.

Alpha Male Strategies

A popular figure in the alpha male community is the YouTuber Alpha Male Strategies (AMS), who hit the social media scene in 2017, promoting his idea of what it takes to be an alpha. The first video of his that I watched was about “being on your purpose.” He emphasized the feelings of freedom he got from defining his growth. It was somewhat inspiring, to say the least. What’s the harm in promoting self-love? The message is nice and brings people in. He points out how women can distract from this journey of “being on your purpose.” Okay, got it. Don’t let women get in the way of personal goals. Sounds reasonable.

The next video was about how not caring about anything will attract heaps of women. Throughout the circus fest, his entire character is defined by how many women he has slept with. He talks about these people like toys, which is profoundly disgusting. He has a “six-woman rotation, 10 prospects, and dozens of girls he ain’t got no time to date.” He boasted about not remembering his “favorite girl’s” name. It was Tori.

Somehow, the master of not giving a s— was able to come up with a name for his sexual partner in an earlier video. Once again, I had to reevaluate my understanding of alpha males. Don’t let women distract me from my goals but use a hyperactive sex life and “living in abundance” as a ruler for my manhood. His contradictions further convolute the idea of being an alpha male, destroying any legitimacy behind the concept in the first place.

As mentioned above, there is a strong market that alpha male educators have at their disposal. Tons of people wish to live a life of women, attention and power, according to AMS members’ YouTube comments: One member is overjoyed by AMS’s tips, claiming he “had a dominant girlfriend who would kick his ass all the time.” I don’t exactly know what that means; it is a wee bit ambiguous. Anywho, he now has a “6 women rotation,” and is “in [his] 40’s having a blast.” I am in no position to pass judgment on a divorcé’s claim to joy, especially considering I have no personal experience in the divorce department. However, Hank Moody, an idolized figure in alpha male culture, provides a nice rebuttal.

Moody, a character from the TV series “Californication,” is a criminally charismatic and seductive womanizer. He gets any girl he wants, flies by less than the seat of his pants and looks good while doing it. Alpha male content creators admire his ability to pick up women; dozens of videos are made with titles like “How to flirt like Hank Moody – Alpha Male Breakdown.”

As a lover of the TV show, there’s no doubt observing Moody’s (fictionalized, I might add) life is enticing. It looks so goddamn fun — that is, until you realize Hank is an alcoholic, disappointing father, weak-minded (the show revolves around him constantly giving into temptation) and a complete asshole. Idolizing a fictionalized character to such a degree further undermines the concept of being an alpha male, pointing naive and hopeful viewers in the complete wrong direction. People searching to improve themselves end up with poor role models shoved down their throats. All of it seems like a weak attempt to define men by how many women they sleep with, which doesn’t sound too alpha to me.

Coincidentally, Dave Duchovny, the actor who played and lived as Hank Moody, disagrees with his alpha male diagnosis. In a 2014 interview, Duchovny was asked how he’d respond to the glorification of Hank’s life: “I’d say, ‘Don’t!’ [Laughs] I don’t think it would make for a very easy life. That’s why I wanted him to die. I wanted that to be the lesson.” Clearly, alpha males missed the entire point of the show, losing themselves in the superficial and childish excitement of it all.

Despite my distaste for the polarizing term, I would consider Duchovny’s analysis far more alpha than Moody’s body count. He presents himself as an assailable, accessible and realistic human being, not some knuckle-dragging buffoon everyone drools over. It goes to show that online “alpha” personas like AMS aren’t realistic; they’re mere portrayals of a character whose potential for greatness is shattered by reality.

Realizing What’s Realistic

Presenting oneself as unassailable is completely unrealistic and damages the vulnerable viewers who, sadly enough, idolize these men. It creates a fantasy that the alpha male lifestyle wipes away all the problems in the world, replacing them with undivided attention (or validation) and sex. As Hank Moody shows, there’s always more behind the curtain. Nobody is perfect, to be as cliche as possible. It’s about time the whole concept of being an alpha male is eradicated and replaced with a nuanced understanding that happiness is subjective.

Instead of using the polarizing term, open the ballpark to something more inclusive: role model. These role models don’t have to agree with a limited list of nine “alpha” traits; they can be defined through personal thoughts and actions. That may be messy man buns or other stereotypically “beta” behaviors, but nonetheless, people are much better off leaving the masculine hierarchy in the past.

Writer Profile

Jacob Sanders

Rhodes College
English, Minors in Business and Education

I’m an aspiring educator and freelance writer. I appreciate soft-filled Airheads bites and informality.

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