Those of you who follow my site will have noticed how I frequently return to the observation that even the world of unusual eros is subject to fads and trends – and how these often appear more evident in the BDSM scene, which is inherently characterized by taking everything to extremes. Recently, for example, I’ve been noticing both online and at live events a general inclination toward competition.
As several other people from all over the country also confirm, it’s as if suddenly there was an urge to be noticed at all costs: there are those who boast of inflicting more extreme practices than others, those who endure more, those who have more partners and of more different types, those who are more flexible in their preferences and those who – at the cost of making a fool of themselves – invent the most bizarre specializations.
For I can still understand who poses as a great bondage guru and maybe makes a business out of it; I can understand who delights in building strange contraptions; I can even understand who reinvents himself as a lover of games with fire that would make the shabbiest camp animator snicker… but even with all the open-mindedness I can muster, I have some difficulty in grasping the eroticism in the guy who only hangs Coca-Cola bottles (and only of a certain size, mind you! ) from unlikely body parts, or that of the other who has built a persona on his use of a selection of vegetables instead of a whip.
In short: just as I was wondering about this weird circus so far removed from the control and elegance aesthetic of classical domination I stumbled upon an interesting comment on an online group dedicated to kink. «The thing is, I like to play both master and slave roles, » one poor wretch dejectedly complained, «but if I dare to introduce myself as a submissive amidst all these supermasters women immediately lose interest and even kind of disdain me. »
It must be said that some ladies hastened to clarify the situation, explaining that it is not the submissive male that makes them feel less attracted – in fact, it is a rather sought after figure precisely because of the overabundance of the opposite – but the way the subs behave. In fact, they tend to follow a sexual model based on the expectation that their fantasies will be satisfied regardless, the typical result of which is only to transform disinterested ladies into professionals who, if they really have to be treated as feet and flogging dispensers, they might as well have a coin box and get paid. A lot, and sometimes degenerating. Incidentally, the solution is very simple: just change your approach.
Anyway, by a funny coincidence, a few days before, the newsmagazine Il Venerdì di Repubblica had undeservedly called me an anthropologist, and this has contributed to make me finally connect the dots. It’s all due to the plague of Alpha Males.
The alpha male is not what you think
In recent years, the concept of “alpha male” has become the obsession of a good chunk of the Internet, which has mythologized it beyond all reasonable measure by inventing a whole series of terms and theories completely out of air. In particular, it is one of the workhorses of the incel circle: clueless males who believe they are entitled to sexual intercourse by divine grace but refuse to do anything to achieve it – including leaving the house, talking with female creatures, taking care of their personal hygiene and so on. Instead, they spend their time stoking each other’s hatred of women and blaming fate for not letting them be born “alphas” (or rather: ‘chads’, because every cult must have its own initiatic jargon), who in their imaginations would be testosteronic monsters beyond the worst parody of macho iconography. Bottom line: their distress grows more and more – helped by a whole undergrowth of gurus who take advantage of such delusion at a high price – and every now and then we find them behind atrocious attacks and violent acts.
Even without reaching these excesses, however, the general confusion about male identity urges an increasing number of men to aspire to the “alpha” role – too bad they usually don’t know what they’re talking about at all.
In ethology, the term indicates the pack leader of an animal population. The alpha male is at the top of the hierarchical order of the group and for this reason enjoys some advantages, among which in particular the preference of the females. They – even the human ones – instinctively prefer to mate with the partner who can transmit to their offspring the most favorable survival traits.
Among such characteristics there is also the capacity to protect them from harm and to guarantee them food by physically defeating possible enemies, and this is why alphas are noted for their physical strength, aggressiveness and dominant posture. If this were the end of the story all would be clear.
However, as anyone who really studies herds knows, yelling loudly and beating your chest is just the most visible part of much more complex behaviors. Most of the desirable traits in a pack leader are in fact quite different. Whether you are a chimpanzee, wolf, or human, to become a leader you must be able to maintain peace in the group, comfort those in need, create strategic alliances, favor previous pack leaders (who have enabled your rise to power and know how to disgrace overly arrogant youngsters)… and of course provide for the welfare of the females. If you’re beginning to suspect that maybe it’s not all that great of a life, you’re right: those who have measured the stress levels of alphas have found that they’re under just as much pressure as the lamest members of the group, unlike those in the middle who generally suffer far fewer problems.
Translating all of this into human terms, what attracts the ladies is not to behave like obnoxious bullies, also because we are generally not surrounded by murderers and all it takes to get dinner is a trip to the supermarket. What really counts is prestige, which is demonstrated by displaying serenity and maturity. And I can prove it.
But do women really desire chads?
I found the data in a research that analyzed precisely which male traits women most desire. The most important attribute (for 76% of respondents) is sensitivity, followed by self-confidence (72%) and a calm and easy-going demeanor (68%).
To get to ‘assertive’ you have to go down to 48% – hence less than half of the respondents – but only if we are talking about one-night stands; for serious relationships assertiveness drops further down to 36% of requirements.
But what about those behaviors so mythified by hordes of insecure males? Worse than ever: it turns out that being aggressive attracts only 12% of women; just 2% of them like a ‘dominant’ man… and only towards other men anyway. Those who think that that fastidious Christian Grey truly is a ladies’ idol are in for a shock: the ‘demanding’ man receives exactly zero preferences.
When all is said and done, the most desirable type of male is not a chad at all, but simply… a level-headed guy. Believing the bullshit of those who brag about ‘having taken the red pill’ and claim to have figured things out is the worst choice you can make if you want a decent relationship.
The problem, however, is that, willingly or unwillingly, we are all influenced by our surrounding culture. Even without becoming incel-like, interest in the figure of the Alpha Male has tripled in the last twenty years and has ended up infiltrating just about everywhere – and even more so in sexuality-related circles.
The eagerness to appear as “the best” in a context where this means nothing because everyone obviously has their own criteria of preference comes from there, also driven by the insecurity resulting from the harrowing times of pandemics and assorted catastrophes dominating the news.
The effects, however, reach far beyond the presence of colorful characters at play parties. The anxiety of wanting to capture attention is, for example, causing people to lose sight of something far more important…
Bravo, but quit it already
A young woman recently told me of a distressing conversation she had with her partner, that can be summed up like this:
«Dear, this BDSM play session was far more enjoyable than usual…»
«Really? But I went much easier on you than we are used to! In fact, I feel I should have done more.»
«But… You see, I found it so exciting because you talked with me!»
In fact, I have been long complaining – sometimes in rather convoluted ways – of how more information about the technical aspects of kinky practices negatively impacted the relational side of alternative eroticism. Also, as highlighted by this edifying anecdote, I am under the impression that the obsession to stand out at all costs has further worsened the situation.
A pity, if we consider that sexuality – of any kind – should be based on communication between the partners instead of putting on three-rings-circus shows. And an even greater pity when you realize that every time me or some other educator point the issue out… the “kinky community” treats us as madmen – simply because in this testosteronic climate (self-)criticisms and authority are perceived as threats by those who found their fragile predominance on these very shows and posturing.
It is also especially a pity for those who in this general farce find themselves, maybe involuntarily, playing the role of the victim. Like the submissive males we talked about in the beginning, forced to act like second-hand superheroes just not to feel excluded.
Or like the many women who, to feel more attractive, have discovered they better define themselves ‘sub’ or ‘little girl’ – reminding me of the Asian women who, back in the turbocapitalistic Eighties, sadly confessed how they were willing to be beaten up in Tokyo and Bangkok clubs just to receive some male attentions. In other words, better being an accessory to megalomanic buffoons than being alone.
But how can we get out of this absurd script? The theory is simple: we should just stop buying into the oversimplifications sold by social networks, reject prepackaged narratives, make peace with ourselves. The last twenty years of news, however, show this is far easier said than done.
So my hope is that, secretly from the herd, someone will recognize that so much effort to be recognized as a champion of something – anything, for goodness sake! – isn’t worth it after all. That, after googling all the “secret” manuals, tricks and pills of all colors, they may even end up here and dare to consider one very little “alpha” but very practical advice.
Here it is: «Stop pounding your chest and growling at nothing, and focus on the person next to you. Talk to her, play with her, and most importantly listen to her. You’ll see that it is going to work so much better».