A few summers ago, I was up in Michigan visiting family. The focal point, my brother’s home, was crowded so I bedded down at a nearby hotel. It happened there was a lounge in the hotel and so it also happened that taking a break there after reunion time with family each day led me to meet a couple of new friends.
Even if these relationships would be passing in short order, three days to be exact, I would still call them friendships. We bonded over sharing our purposes for our travel and our daily episodes into life.
One of these people was a very beautiful woman, lesbian in sexual orientation. I’ll call her Mary. The other was a somewhat boisterous guy, all American male. Tom. And then there was me.
On one of our meets, we decided to go sit outside in the parking lot and enjoy the evening. It was just before twilight. The setting sun was beautiful with its slowly receding, diffuse reds, golds and yellows. The green islands among the pavement broke the urban landscape, and the breeze was full of the smells of summer. Birds were taking roost and singing their good night songs. Stars were beginning to emerge.
It was really quite peaceful.
From seemingly nowhere, a couple of other men appeared riding bicycles. They stopped and engaged. While they tried to pretend their focus was somewhere else, their real attention was on Mary.
As Mary and I carried on our own conversation, the other three males began what you might call the mating dance. They erupted in ritual bragging about their exploits and with trying to show off their physiques. They even became overt about claims to whom could perform oral sex better. All to impress, and hopefully win over the lone damsel, who was in no distress.
Among this background noise, Mary’s and my discussion had just taken an emotional turn. A huge U-turn on the highway of conversation. She told me her story about how she had been gang raped by four men.
I know the look on my face had to be incredulous. Oh, I believed her, one-thousand percent, but I was simply shocked, stunned, heart-broken, and angry all at the same time.
These types of events are simply beyond my rational understanding. I just don’t get this stuff, along with how people can abuse their children or abuse animals. It’s beyond my comprehension as to why people, especially in this day and age, behave this way. It just doesn’t compute. And every time I hear such a story, I can only shake my head and acknowledge that men just haven’t emerged that far from the cave.
Mary and I didn’t really need to say anything more at that point, we were speaking to each other through our eyes.
And about this time, Tom’s voice rang out. Clearly disturbed that Mary wasn’t focusing her attention on him. He needed to do something to assert himself as top dog. So suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Tom exclaimed that he was an ALPHA MALE! Yes, literally yelling it to the world so no one in a one-block radius could escape registering it.
A sonic boom.
And he followed this pronouncement with a list of traits, highly imbued with narcissism, that you might call a mixture of chauvinism, machoism, and misogynism. Throw in whatever other descriptive words you choose, this guy, and the two others that had joined us, were clearly heavily sexist, and were vying for the attention of a woman, when all had admitted being in other so-claimed “committed” relationships.
You might call this the single woman in the room dynamic. I find it disgusting, but also sometimes amusing, when men behave this way.
I looked over at Mary, who was obviously unimpressed, and said to her, well I guess that makes me a beta male. That gave Mary quite a laugh, and we continued to have a nice conversation as though the others didn’t exist. I never felt I was in competition with the other males, I was just having a pleasant conversation.
So here we were, Mary, Tom, and I, all three clearly representing different wavelengths on the spectrum of gender identity.
So, what the hell is a “beta male,” you ask?
Well, why not jump to some good fiction for some help here. Fiction sometimes does mirror reality, after all.
In Christopher Moore’s book, “It’s a Dirty Job,” he describes the male protagonist as being a “beta male.” The positive adjectives he uses to describe this male type are “intuitive” and “empathic.” The negative terms are “paranoid” and “neurotic.” Moore further explains that beta males have survived evolutionarily by anticipating and avoiding adversity – not by meeting it and overcoming it.
Beta males can only fantasize about holding wealth and power and engage heavily in self-delusion. But they are steady, responsible, loyal, considerate and can make a great best friend.
Yes, the beta male, as Moore ridicules the main character of his book, “will always be there past the point you can stand to have him around.”
Of course, Moore writes satire and he’s good at it. I laugh out loud when I read his books. But this strikes me as reinforcing the typified, societal message that if you are a caring and compassionate male, you suck. And unfortunately, in my own personal experience, this label is reinforced just as much by women as it is by men. Of course, woman have been subject to the same patriarchal programing as men have in our culture.
And I do want to stress that I am making these statements, and others, based solely on my own limited experience. I am not trying to over-generalize here.
I’ve seen some women describe this type of male as being effeminate, in a negative way, which is doubly bad. First it excludes the possibility that there is simply an entire range of personality traits that can compose what it is to be a male, or an individual for that matter, because it labels, categorizes and forces a preselected checkoff list of traits upon an entity who, by and large, is usually much more complex than that.
Second, this adjective, used in that manner, carries with the assumption that being a woman, or having what are typically described as feminine characteristics, is a bad thing. A woman who uses the term “effeminate” negatively to describe a male, may actually be degrading herself and all women.
Alpha males summarily reject beta males as inferior beings, but don’t mind having them around to prop up their perceived image of superior masculinity. Alpha males embody what people are now labeling as “toxic masculinity.”
People are people.
If you like certain traits in the people you keep company with then seek those out without labeling or denigrating or assuming that a whole set of traits you think are captured in a single term applies to the person you just stereotyped.
As for myself, an admitted beta male, I agree with the descriptors of being intuitive, empathic, compassionate, devoted, honest, and loyal. I disagree with the descriptors of being paranoid, neurotic, desperate, or clingy. I tend to be a bit more reserved as opposed to the chest-thumping alpha gorillas. And being less assertive as a male is usually viewed as being yet another deficiency.
I also strongly disagree with a few who have said that for a male to try to defend themselves as being a “good man,” or the opposite of what I’ve described as the sexist, alpha male, means that they are insecure with their manhood. And I disagree with the other gross generalization that all men are sexist, breath toxic masculinity, that this is hard-wired, and can’t be changed.
I support feminist issues and thoroughly disapprove of the current patriarchal system I’ve grown up in. I consider myself blessed for having parents that modeled a true loving relationship based upon mutual respect and understanding.
In today’s lexicon, I might be described as being “woke” instead of being “beta.” But I’ll dive more into what “woke” is supposed to be in the next installment of this series. I’m not sure I’m all that “woke,” or consistently “woke.”
I have my list of negatives too, I’m sure.
And as far as being “woke” is concerned, it also applies to women. And there is research out there, that might be flawed, but it tends to show that some women, despite claiming the opposite, prefer the gorillas over compassionate men. Reinforce and reward misogynistic behavior. They help propagate the behavior they say they despise. Not “woke.”
It was clear that Mary didn’t have this preference. She had lost any preference towards men, sexually speaking, and for good reason. As I’m sure other women have too, also for good reasons.
More to come . . .
Photo: The Luna Moth. I wasn’t exactly sure what pic I should choose for this post, so I picked one demonstrating transition. As moths and butterflies transition so beautifully from caterpillars, so can humans in all of their diversity and at any stage in life.
Luna is derived from Latin and means the Moon, and in ancient Roman religion is the divine embodiment of the Moon – the female complement to the male Sun or “Sol.” And is also included in the triple goddess “diva triformis” including Proserpina (goddess of wine, grain and agriculture) and Hecate (goddess of prosperity and blessings, with rulership over earth, sea, and sky).
Sol and Luna represented the extent of Roman rule and the aim of guaranteeing peace. Indeed, may the sexes compliment one another’s best attributes and live in harmony and peace with mutual love, respect, and compassion. I like that symbolism.
Previous posts in this series include: