Is Being An Alpha Male Killing Your Dating Vibe?
Illustration by Mr Gaston Mendieta
Internet dating advice is… varied. If you’re looking for some tips and tricks, you can find some decent help amid the millions of articles and TikTok videos, but there is much, much more bad advice out there. There is a lot of talk about tapping into “divine masculine” energy, becoming a “high-value man” or an alpha male. Being professionally successful, a leader, being stoic and disciplined, having “control”, having a high net worth and being sexually “successful”, etc, are expressly valued.
In her latest book What About Men? feminist author Ms Caitlin Moran explores how traditional patriarchal values are negatively affecting young boys and men (suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 50). Though some might have us believe that a woke mind virus has infected us all, “manning up” in conflict, being emotionally closed off and being financially dominant are still quite popular. A 2022 survey by charity Future Men found that 51 per cent of young men believe that society requires them to “man up” to challenges and that crying in front of others would make them feel emasculated.
“The idea of an alpha male that other boys or men would look up to is as old as we know, and has taken many forms,” says Dr Eric Anderson, professor of sport, masculinities and sexualities at Winchester University. “This isn’t new, it’s just the latest form as social media exemplifies a lot of things. It’s an evolution of previous versions.”
“We are seeing a growing industry of ‘microcelebrities’ of men who are trying to make money out of the manosphere (a collection of online spaces embedded in anti-feminist ideology),” explains Dr Simon Copland, PhD candidate in sociology at the Australian National University and an expert on the manosphere. “These men identify themselves as ‘alpha males’ as a way to sell their ideas to other men.”
“Some men are feeling alienated in their lives. Without that alienation, people like Tate or Peterson couldn’t get popular”
“There’s nothing sexier to a woman than a man that’s in his masculine,” exclaimed mindset mentor Mr Rob Dial in an interview on life coach Mr Danny Morel’s podcast The Higher Self a few months ago. “A masculine man that wants to take care and wants to provide, whatever that means.” Morel has almost a million followers on TikTok. And, although not a consistently malign influence, he is a major advocate for tapping into your “divine feminine” or “divine masculine” energies. He pushes the idea that our lives fall out of balance when we don’t conform to our gendered behaviours.
Last year, former kickboxer and the epitome of the toxic “alpha male” social media persona Mr Andrew Tate – who has recently been charged with rape and human trafficking in Romania – posted a video in which he discussed Stoicism and channelling his inner rage through exercise. It was a misleading video for several reasons, not least because he seems to fundamentally misunderstand what Stoicism is.
“A lot of people can confuse Stoicism with stoicism,” says Mr Donald J Robertson, author and cognitive behavioural therapist. “Lowercase stoicism is a character trait that consists of suppressing or concealing unpleasant or embarrassing emotions, such as shame, fear or anxiety. This is the crudest form of avoidance – not dealing with your emotions and not seeking help can lead to further mental health issues.
“Stoicism [with a capital S] is the life philosophy and doctrine that moral wisdom is the only truly good thing in life,” he adds, “and things that may appear important to us, such as health, wealth and reputation are of supposed to be of secondary value.” Turns out it has nothing to do with repressing your emotions.
“It’s very easy to fall into patterns of behaviour when you’re in an echo chamber and no one is questioning the status quo”
“Men such as Andrew Tate or Jordan Peterson are having a major influence in how some men are viewing the world,” Copland says. “Some men are feeling highly frustrated and alienated in their lives. Without that alienation, people like Tate or Peterson couldn’t get popular. They are successfully tapping into underlying sentiments and directing them toward anti-feminist and regressive ideas.”
This stoic “being in control” alpha male ideology can be problematic in general, but it becomes increasingly difficult when it comes to romantic relationships. Nicole, aged 34, went out with someone who referred to himself as an alpha male: “He was in a very competitive male-dominated profession, and he was very focused and driven,” she says. “I have no idea how much these environments impacted him and his behaviour, but I imagine they didn’t help. It’s very easy to fall into patterns of behaviour when you’re in an echo chamber and no one is questioning the status quo.
“It felt great to be pursued in this very unambiguous way, but there was always something a little uncomfortable about the dynamic. I started to get the feeling that it wasn’t about me. It felt like he wanted to be seen with a good-looking girl and wasn’t interested in the conversations or listening to me – which only got more obvious and problematic when we started sleeping together.
“Sex felt really performative and stereotypically gendered: he wanted to throw me around and have me be super submissive, which isn’t my vibe. There wasn’t any communication around this. And he would seem really disappointed when I had to say something and stop what we were doing.
“This experience has made me nervous in dating and sleeping with new people, as I don’t want to be in that situation again.”
Angelica, aged 27, also had a similar experience. “He identified himself as an alpha male; he was the leader of the friendship group, he was very ambitious, he was working very hard to achieve his goals,” she says. “He wanted a relationship, but it was more built around a fantasy he had and didn’t consider building something together.
“I was confident in communicating with him, but he wouldn’t recognise what I was saying. He wouldn’t work out his issues, he felt like he was always right. He wouldn’t deal with conflict, and wouldn’t sit down and talk with me. He would just put up a wall and ignore it.”
“Being masculine is not a bad trait, but it needs to be a relationship with mutual respect, boundaries and balance”
Behaviours like these – especially online – have led women to take preventative measures. “Are we dating the same guy?” is a Facebook platform for women to share if they had a bad experience with a man. Though it only started in New York last year, it’s now available in more than 100 major cities across the world. New dating app Hulah only lets men join if they’ve been endorsed by another woman, allowing for a safer dating pool.
Projects such as the Don’t Be A Dick campaign by dating app WeAreX are advocating for better dating behaviours (on and offline) to encourage a safer and more supportive environment. Future Men and Beyond Equality are working towards reshaping what it means to be a man by helping young men develop into healthy individuals.
“There is no one-size-fits-all for dating and relationships,” says Ms Rachel Maclynn, psychologist and founder of matchmaking agency Maclynn. “However, all healthy relationships need basic building blocks, such as honesty, trust, loyalty and open and honest communication. Healthy relationships have boundaries. And, most importantly, healthy relationships have equality and mutual respect.”
You and your partner need to cultivate feelings of safety and comfort, be able to fight healthily, and compromise and negotiate in disagreements or conflicts, Maclynn adds.
For anyone dealing with a friend or relative with extreme ideologies, Copland suggests patience. “You are unlikely to win by arguing against their ideas,” he says. Instead “provide alternative narratives to the problems they are facing. It’s also a good idea to point out the hypocrisies of the movement and provide people alternative spaces and socialising in different groups.”
“Do not shy away from vulnerability,” Maclynn says. “Be introspective and look at how society has progressed by being respectful and welcoming of all genders. Find a source of influence that brings positive change. Being masculine or confident is not a bad trait, but it needs to be a relationship with mutual respect, boundaries and balance.
“Call out and challenge gender bias when you see it,” Maclynn adds. “When you reject outdated stereotypes, others will follow.”