Betas Pushing Theory That Insults Them

averageSome guys who call themselves “Betas” (gentler, less macho men) complain that women want successful, dominating “Alphas,” instead of them.

Despite evidence to the contrary.

Turns out, women actually prefer Betas. I know I do. (Well, I prefer most Betas: the one’s who aren’t complaining about what idiots women are for wanting Alphas.)

Actually, they aren’t always complaining. They are often explaining, matter-of-factly, that women want Alphas because of evolution. Because dominating genes are just better genes, or something.

And sometimes these guys aren’t just telling me. They are adamantly pushing a cause.

I “get” the complaining. Who wants to feel rejected?

But why are they so tied to a theory that puts them down? And that leaves them no hope (in their minds)?

Maybe when you lack hope, giving up removes a burden? You don’t have to do anything?

Or, maybe a sense of superiority arises somehow?

Alphas may be genetically superior, but Betas are kinder and gentler, and better in that way? (Which sounds genetically superior to me.)

Or, women prefer dominating males because men are naturally supposed to dominate. And as males, Betas are part of that dominant class?

Who knows?

I find the attachment to this theory puzzling. If anyone’s got a better guess let me know.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 26, 2013, in feminism, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. I came across this post from six years ago, and would be interested in looking at the study you refer to, but can’t find it with the links provided. Could you post fresh links, perhaps?

    A great deal depends on one’s definition of “alpha” and “beta”, and if the study relies on self-reporting, that could be another wrinkle. People don’t always do what they say they will do, or want what they say they want. There’s also a huge difference between wanting a relationship and visceral lust.

    That said, two things about human existence are unlikely to ever change:

    – Many people are much less attractive to the other sex than they would like to be.
    – Many people make poor mating choices and suffer for it.

    It’s natural for the former to blame the latter in some way, especially when hearing “Where are all the good men?” See the “angry swan syndrome” discussed here:

    Lotsa mental gymnasics can be performed for placing, or avoiding, blame.

    • Looks like they moved the article. I did find this write up:

      • Thanks, but it’s really hard to conclude anything from that summary. There’s nothing about their methodology or the data they were working with.

        They seem to define “alpha” as “muscular”, which is an extremely limited part of what people who might call themselves “beta” are talking about. Social skills and resource allocation are very much part of the “alpha” package.

        What I think incels mostly talk about is how a small number of guys, of whatever characteristics, have the vast majority of success with women. I haven’t seen any hard data that points one way or the other about that.

      • If you find the original article let me know. I don’t feel like rummaging through the web to find it.

        I think that many men believe that some men, who they call alphas, get lots of women, when really what is happening is they just make stuff up and the guys believe it.

        In our culture women receive a lot of punishment for having sex with random men, alpha or not, which depresses women’s Sexual activity and even depresses their sex drive.

      • I’m afraid this comment will appear under your earlier reply, rather than your later one, because of how the interface seems to work. It’s meant to be a response to your Dec. 19th reply.

        — “In our culture women receive a lot of punishment for having sex with random men, alpha or not, which depresses women’s Sexual activity and even depresses their sex drive.”

        It took me a while to catch onto the relevance of this paragraph to the discussion of what “betas” imagine about women selecting men. You’re clearly interested in how women internalize society’s expectations for them, and are wondering whether “betas” are doing the same by constructing a theory in which they must have low expectations for themselves, and might give up.

        I’m sure this happens. If a boy is ignored, rejected, or ridiculed by girls, one common reaction might be “sour grapes”: feigning a lack of interest, or simply giving up.

        — “I think that many men believe that some men, who they call alphas, get lots of women, when really what is happening is they just make stuff up and the guys believe it.”

        That can account for some exaggeration of their perception of what other men are getting, and I’m sure the media have a lot to do with that too (probably more), but don’t ignore their own observations. They might be awkward, but not stupid, and they have eyes. They might be better at tellling when other guys are lying than women are. Nevertheless, I wish we had something more than anecdotal observations to go by.

      • Well, many have talked about how a lot of so-called alpha males want to appear dominant and exaggerate to build themselves up. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist who studies men and masculinity, wrote a book called “Guyland” Based on his studies of young men and that is where I got the information about all of these men bragging, which other men believe.

        My point about women being punished for their sexuality was that the likelihood that women are having all this sex with random men is unlikely since they are so punished for that sort of behavior. And when they are constantly punished they actually lose touch with their sexuality, their interest drops, and they don’t even have any desire to act that way. Studies consistently show that nearly half of women — with numbers ranging from 41% to 44% — of women have low or no interest in sex at all. That makes it difficult for either (So called) alphas or betas to have a lot of sex. But at the same time pornography portrays women as being super sexually interested so men often end up thinking that other men (Who they call alphas) are getting lots of sex but not them. And the idea is bolstered by men who want to appear dominant and one of the ways they do so is by making up stories about all the women they are having sex with and how they were driving the women crazy/freaky. Sorry about my lack of clarity on why I talked about that.

      • I read some reviews of “Guyland”, and it sounds pretty restricted by color, class, and subculture. I wonder whether any of the young men interviewed for that study viewed themselves as “betas”. I’m always suspicious of academics who choose to study college students as their sample. Sounds a little too convenient. It’s been decades since college fraternities were relevant to much of anything outside them.

        We seem to agree that “betas” have an exaggerated view of the overall quantity of sex going on, but that’s not really the issue to them: it’s the distribution of it. Of the sex that is happening, what proportion is happening with a small number of “Chads” vs the great mass of average guys? Who knows?

        If I’m interpreting what I see in discussions among incels right, the usual stereotypical narrative goes something like this:

        A small number of guys, blessed with looks, social skills, money, or some good combination thereof, gets the majority of attention from women and girls. This is blamed on the women, of course: that they’re too picky, thinking themselves entitled to a “Chad” of the higher ranks, ignoring ordinary guys. If there’s some truth to this, your point about women repressing their own sexual interest could be relevant here. Maybe it takes some overwhelmingly charming “Chad” to seduce them?

        In any case the narrative continues with how these women, having been conned by “Chads” in their youth and “ruined” in some way, later in life decide the “Chads” are not all that and it’s time to settle down. So they want a nice stable, ordinary, monogamous guy to help them raise the “Chad’s” children. (Being charming, he might be a deadbeat dad with more than one baby mama.) The “beta” is expected to put up with all the financial and emotional baggage Chad has left behind. You can see the misogyny this leads to, and how “giving up on women” could be a natural response for someone believing this narrative.

      • And yet if you look at studies of online dating women are much more open to a variety of looks compared with men. And some men have complained on my blog that the most attractive women aren’t interested in them, but I ask if these men have a double standard: are they only interested in the most attractive women themselves? Which online dating sites suggest is the case.

        Whether it is frat boys or anyone else pornography portrays women as anxious to have sex with lots of men, and then believe what they see, even though it is a male fantasy and not reality. When other men who want to appear dominant make up stories/exaggerate about sexual exploits other men believe it.

        If men want women to have sex more easily we definitely need to stop punishing and repressing women’s sexuality.

        No study is perfect and there is a difference between qualitative and quantitative studies. Quantitative studies come closer to matching reality but even then many people don’t answer surveys. We are lucky if 50% answer them. And who answers and who doesn’t has a bias. So even your best case scenario is far from perfect.

        Michael Kimmel used a qualitative method which does not attempt to survey random samples of the general population but to sample a smaller group and let the reader know what that group is. The data gets into the subjects lived experience. Logically it makes sense that when fraternity boys watch pornography and come to the conclusion that women want to have sex with everyone it makes sense that these men are the only ones who come to that sort of conclusion. I was actually talking with a man I know who is not a frat boy and that’s the conclusion he has come to.

      • I think even whiny “betas” are well aware that men selecting women are noticeably pickier about looks alone than women selecting men. That’s no surprise.

        You might be amused by this thread in Reddit’s AskMen sub:

        Replies are no doubt self-selected for the bold, since replying anonymously is a lot of bother (making a throwaway account).

        A good number of men freely admit to sex with women they wouldn’t want to be seen with, and whether they’d want to be seen with them is mostly about looks.

        What I’d expect women to be pickier about in their selection is social status (oversimplified as “money” in my previous comment).

        The third factor I mention in the makeup of a “Chad” is social skills, and I’d guess that that is roughly equal in importance between the sexes.

        Women need to know how to appear available and inviting without seeming too “slutty” for the situation, while men need to bear the burden of taking the initiative and making feelgood smalltalk. Both are skills that take some time to develop. It’s probably what “betas” are most lacking. Think Holden Caulfield here. Social skills could also be called “phoniness”.

        Porn, other media that aren’t much better, and hearing braggarts all have their effects,,but don’t discount a man’s own direct experience. To a young life that hasn’t known a lot of pain yet, watching a girl you really like fall for a line of feelgood bs while lacking the skills to compete with it can be pretty bad. A guy inclined to overthink it can come up with a lot of strange generalizations about women.

      • And the reason why women care a bit more about money seems to derive from our culture. Until more recent times women couldn’t make their own money so they had to be concerned with it in a mate. “Oh, you’re marrying a doctor that’s so great.” You’ll still hear that and so it affects status. More for women and for men. If a truck driver marries a doctor his status doesn’t rise as much as a waitress who marries a doctor, for cultural reasons. Whereas historically women didn’t have anything to offer men other than their looks, and that still carries in the culture even though men and women now both make money.

        I think confidence is a huge draw for both women and men. In high school it’s often the mean girls that are both confident and desired, just like idiotic but confident men attract women. So I agree with your point about social skills but I think it applies to both genders.

      • Ha! Caughtcha! You said “truck driver” and thought we would assume any truck driver was male.

        But seriously, an appearance of confidence is certainly a factor: it makes less work for the other party to draw them out, but there are skills that need acquiring, which then contribute to confidence.

        Small talk is like “improv” comedy or jazz: It might look like it was spontaneously cooked up that second, but it wasn’t by any means. An improv troupe has a repertoire of standard performances for standard suggestions from the audience that they choose from. A jazz musician has a vocabulary of musical moves that they can draw on in response to the situation. Conversation is very much the same, with a repertoire of jokes, stories, and whatever builit up over the person’s experience.

        Boys who were discouraged from interaction with girls earlier in life (e.g., going to a boys’ school, being laughed at by girls, whatever) cannot, later on (after losing the wieght, acne, or whatever) simply “become confident” and draw up equal with the “Chads”. Later in life, they’re getting a late start on all the experience ;that builds up a repertoire, and all the learning about what women repond to well. Guys who call themselves “beta”, I suspect, are caught in a much deeper hole than you might think.

      • Yep. We all internalize patriarchy. And since truckers are almost always men most of us have a paradigm of the male trucker. Guilty as charged.

        I have a friend who took a class that taught conversational skills in middle school. That would probably be a good idea in all middle schools.

  2. Personally, I wonder why they feel the need to use labels such as “Alpha” and “Beta” rather than just who they are as an individual. Are there only two classes of men? Or is there a grey area? Nothing is black and white. Perhaps the need to classify oneself as a Beta is an excuse to justify lack of success in the dating scene. It’s convenient to make the generalization that women only go for Alphas, which I believe is actually somewhat sexist and what Betas “aren’t supposed to be.” Putting yourself into a group with a built-in excuse for failure does nothing to help one achieve their goal of being successful with dating. It’s easier to be lazy and make an excuse than to put the effort into finding the real issues and improving one’s chances. Of course, these stereotypes can be seen in the media. I’ve often heard in the media this trope that “women like the bad boy,” and popular movies are full of the Alpha-type male “winning” the girl. However, in real life, when you look the men in your family, friends, and co-workers who are in successful relationships, you’ll see a broad range of personalities that span from loud to quiet, aggressive to passive, and stoic to sensitive, with all kinds of combinations.

    • Yeah, I don’t really think they are accurate classifications. But the idea is out there so I’m curious as to why men who call themselves betas do so in a way that puts themselves down.

    • Interesting connection.

      • Another thing that makes this whole “theory” extremely plausible is that:

        1) It is simple
        2) It sounds “sciency” and plausible
        3) It appears that there are many other guys around in the same boat, which confirms the theory even more

        But it is likely that in reality each self-identified beta has a combination of issues that prevents them from succesfully dating, like:

        1) Untreated depression
        2) Social anxiety
        3) Any kind of psychological trauma from the past, ranging from being bullied to being rejected by women in the early adult years due to crappy luck (it does happen)
        4) Habits/beliefs that they inherited from their parent(s) that set them back. For example, some men on the past looked down on personal grooming and attempts to dress stylishly because it was not “masculine”. If their sons inherited this habit then guess what happens
        5) Messed up sexuality
        6) Poor social skills
        7) Economic background of their families
        8) Whatever you can imagine

        Of course it is easy to believe in a simple theory than to accept and deal with all those problems.

      • Some interesting points. I’m sure this is true of many people that would be labeled betas. Maybe I will throw your thoughts out there sometime and see what people think.

        But it also depends on how you define beta. Most of my friends have married betas. Probably all of them. We all like them better than Alphas, who can come across as domineering jerks.

  3. I know it’s not scientific, but in my mind I define ‘alpha’ as dominant/leader and ‘beta’ as submissive/follower.

    In many relationships, the woman may prefer a ‘beta’ man because the woman is herself an ‘alpha’ personality. She may be the most suitable ‘leader ‘for the relationship, and as such, a ‘beta’ man would be pleased to follow the lead of his mate.

    This is not to say that there has to be a leader and a follower in every relationship, but somehow it usually works this way. While I know that an egalitarian relationship is an ideal, it’s usually just a illusion and one person tends to lead.

    • My mom thinks that my brother is a beta– As you define it– Led around by an alpha female. But she thinks that my husband and I have an equal partnership. I do too. And I know other couples with equality. So it is possible.

  4. I stopped using okc a few weeks ago after one too many awkward dates lol. My coworker showed me and I’m a big fan of that over the others in terms of actually meeting people vs. just entertainment. It has a different approach that feels less sketchy cause you and your friends essentially act as “wingmen”. I like that it helps you find things to do too. Skout’s okay too, but still has it’s fair share of creepers

  5. They push that theory because if it’s true, then it’s not their fault if they don’t suceed. It’s not that they might have to change something about themselves. It’s someone else’s fault. Genetics’ fault for giving them bad genes, or the women’s fault for preferring other type of man, or society’s fault for idolizing the alphas. Complaining and giving up is easier than doing something.

    Besides, when they say “women ignore me”, they don’t mean women in general. This is from an okcupid study on messages sent. With a minority of women getting nearly all the messages, it’s logical they won’t respond to everybody.

    • Kind of a double standard, then. Sounds like there’s a possibility that they ignore most women, themselves, and are only interested in the female alpha-equivalent (top of the hierarchy).

  6. Great post.New concept worth reading.Thank you for liking my post ( Educating women ) Bet wishes.jalal

  7. I think there’s also a manipulative element there. Humans just LOVE to prove themselves to be exceptions, so “Woman don’t want guys like me” is setting the stage for “Oh yeah? Well I do!”

    Which never happens.
    But we- I mean, THEY keep trying it anyway.

    • That was the one reason I was hesitant to say that women prefer betas — because of the ones who lash out. So I made clear in my post that I don’t like the lasher-outers.

      But most Betas aren’t like that. So I defiantly prefer the kinder, gentler, more thoughtful “betas” to the dominating, womanizing types that are labeled “alphas.”

      And since the guys who lash out aren’t actually kind and gentle, they don’t have the qualities that I like in betas.

      • One could create an entertaining visual aid for this spectrum, from the “Alpha” guys who are genuine jerks, to the “alpha” guys who are actually pretty solid fellows despite their fondness for pissing contests, to the “Betas” who are angry and end up being jerks, to the “Beta” guys (the green zone?), to the whiney Betas…the Omegas? (This is the closest I’ve ever been to joining a fraternity.)

        Of course, these are surprisingly fluid archetypes, I think I personally have moved between a couple of them at different times.

      • If only I had the artistic ability!

        Evolutionary psychology might want to rethink how they describe alphas and betas, too. They say betas are generous, but the self-described betas who are so harsh hardly fit into the category – especially with regard to being generous in their views of others. They say they’re nice guys, but a strong hostility often rages beneath.

  8. If Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back, I’m bringing beta back. I believe we are at the turning point of a new evolution that will prioritize compassion and empathy over brute force or coercion. I have to admit that I used to complain about this stuff all the time. “Is she really going out with him” by Joe Jackson was one of my theme songs. Truth is there have always been plenty of women who like betas, but betas usually are socially conditioned to like the alpha-loving women.

    • “Truth is there have always been plenty of women who like betas, but betas usually are socially conditioned to like the alpha-loving women.”

      Well, there’s a new twist.

      And go for it on bringing beta back.

  9. Give me a beta any day, I don’t think a true alpha and I would work at all.

    All women do not just automatically like alphas because of some sort of biological thing. Love is a lot more complex than that. It’s like me saying

    ‘all men like women with big boobs, they have evolved to do so. I don’t have a boyfriend and it’s because I don’t have big boobs. You can’t fight biology.’

    I think some people just have trouble finding a relationship and rather than look at themselves, they want to find some convoluted evolutionary reason. The reality is there are betas everywhere in happy relationships with lovely women that love them very much.

  10. Maybe their inability to get the women they desire, is being rationalised by putting themselves in a specific class i.e. Beta, and therefore justifying their situation. The root of the problem is usually lack of confidence and low self esteem.

    That is how I see it logically. Another way to look at it is they have a problem getting women because they are dickheads, then they are indulging in self-pity.

    I do not see myself as either Alpha or Beta; I probably have traits from both.

    • Thanks. Interesting thought. You could be right.

      I don’t totally buy into the “Alpha” or “Beta” theory, myself. But given the way they are described in evolutionary psychology, I prefer the betas.

      • Using the Alpha/Beta classification for simplicity, it is quite often the case that women marry a Beta male because he makes a better husband and father. In contrast, quite often they would rather have an Alpha male for sexual satisfaction, which leads them down the path of infidelity.

      • So I’ve heard. Makes some sense.

        Also heard that women probably most prefer alpha-beta mix. All the good parts of Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes mixed together. Which makes sense to me. Especially if you add this point: I also think that women are more attracted to confident than domineering men. And betas can certainly be confident.

  11. I read a lot of blogs from what is commonly called “the manosphere”, some of which is Pickup Artists, some of which is men talking constantly about going their own way, others are Men’s Rights Advocates…and some are minor blogs from guys who are trying to make sense of what they see in high school and beyond.

    It seems to me that these “Betas” push this theory for a number of reasons:
    1. If the cards are stacked against you from the get go, it isn’t your fault that you’re not very successful with women. It’s due mostly to biology, which is often seen as something you have to deal with, no matter who you are.

    2. It gives a sense of community. You never could get a date in high school and college? Well, here’s an entire forum of guys who *also* couldn’t. You go from being “that guy” to being “one of those guys”.

    3. Let’s face it: The stereotype of the hot woman going for the “Alpha” jerkface man exists for a reason. I personally knew a good number of women who did this, and would constantly complain that “all the nice guys are gone!” Take 200 guys who all saw the same thing (but directed at them) and sooner or later one of them will come up with an Evo Psych theory to explain WHY they all saw this.

    4. Some of these men are just angry. They see double standards that affect them, or have been royally screwed by their wives, girlfriends, female friends, etc. When people are angry, they get irrational and tend to lash out…often at what they perceive to be their “Enemy”. For some of the manosphere this means Feminists, or just women in general. It’s a classic Us vs Them, with various members of the female sex playing the part of Them/The Other. Most guys will admit that they know a few “good women” like their mothers or sisters…but I’ve seen others who are adamant that AWALT (All Women Are Like That). Like I said, anger (even justifiable anger) breeds irrational thought.

    5. You neglected to bring up the female half of their Evo Psych theory: Hypergamy. In everyday use, it means marrying above one’s caste or social level, like a nurse marrying a doctor or a janitor marrying a corporate CEO. But the manosphere uses it to explain why many of them date/marry women who are (for lack of a better term) golddiggers. According to their theory, all women of childbearing age are hypergamous and will want to have children and/or settle down with the richest man…the one who can ensure that their offspring are the best cared for. The problem, they say, is when a better prospect comes along, and after 10+ years of marriage or 3+ years of dating, your wife/girlfriend divorces or dumps you for the new guy who is better off than you, or just hotter than you overall. Sometimes this is referred to as “divorce = cashing out for money and prizes”.

    It is interesting stuff, and to be honest, a lot of them have valid points. I’ve known, either directly or through mutual friends, men who have been taken for a ride by their wives and girlfriends…guys who have been divorced unfairly, guys who have been falsely accused of physical abuse, guys who have been kicked out of their apartment by angry dates. It does happen, and I don’t believe that these manosphere men are making it up. But I disagree with them that the vast majority of women are like that. The fact that most of them seem to use the “bar scene” to find mates is, I think, more indicative of the type of people who go there that anything else. If you go looking for a nice, nonentitled, pleasant woman in a bar…you’ll probably find a woman who uses her body and charms to get free food and drinks all night long instead.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it.

    • Interesting points. Thanks for your input.

      Yes, someone women do prefer alphas (though most don’t), and in the past I’ve told complaining betas that the alpha-preference, where it occurs, just stands out: Why would women prefer bad boys over good guys? Cruelty stands out. Women who like nice guys — and who are nice, themselves — don’t stand out.

      I admitted to another beta that I also preferred alphas in high school. Not because I liked them so much but because they were popular and I was more concerned with my self-esteem than relationships at that point. If I could get an Alpha then I must be pretty great. Like I said, status over relationship. I actually liked the beta boys better.

      But that is a whole different topic that I plan to write on in the near future.

      As for hypergamy, next Friday’s post discusses that. (I schedule posts a week ahead.) All I will say right now is that men push this just as much as women do.

      (I try to keep my posts to around 500 words so I tend to break up the topics I discuss.)

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