The Rise of the Beta Male

The alpha male, the iconic bad boy, has been making girl’s hearts throb for years. But recently, despite all their chest pounding, attention seeking, in your face behavior, their appeal has been on the decline. The beta male, the timid little nerd, has been moving in on the alpha males’ territory. Whether you turn on the TV, look at the tabloids, or go to a movie, you will see this major shift in the male hierarchy. Shows like the Big Bang Theory display the epitome of a nerd starting to rise to the top. They are now the focus of the show, not taking the back seat to the alpha male. In fact the alpha male is often displayed as the “villain” or a bully in these shows. Dr. Reid on the television show Criminal Minds is a genius and quite the nerd, but he also runs around shooting and taking down some legitimate bad boys. Introverted guys, such as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, are taking over the business world and replacing demanding, loud, forceful alpha males such as Donald Trump. But what is behind this dramatic shift? What is causing the fall of the infamous alpha male and allowing the shy, nerdy beta male to take their place? There are multiple social movements that have slowly allowed the beta male to rise to the top. The shift in male hierarchy can be attributed to evolutionary beta traits contributing to their dominance in society today, the furthering equality of females, further acceptance of homosexuals, and the major movement to prevent bulling.

Who exactly are the beta and alpha males? The alpha male is commonly described as a powerful, aggressive, and dominant man. He exudes confidence and is very physically fit. Alphas display masculine qualities, such as a deep voice, defined bone structure, and muscular physique. They are often pictured as the “ladies’ man.” The beta on the other hand is very introverted, and will avoid confrontation. He is extremely intelligent, thoughtful, capable, and driven. Unlike the alpha male he is smaller in stature and possibly even scrawny. Essentially they are contrasting versions of each other, and society is now favoring the beta version of the male over the alpha.

This preference makes perfect sense from an evolutionary prospective, and is supported by countless studies and centuries of human behavior. Men cannot contribute physiologically to parental investment. Women have to take on the full burden of gestation, child birth, and lactation, so when females look for long term mates they do not necessarily put emphasis on physical appearance, but more so on a man’s economic status or the resources he can provide. Evolutionarily the male’s role is to provide his mate with resources such as shelter and food, because he cannot offer any physical contribution to the development of the child. Women are therefore in a way evolutionarily programmed to desire males who can provide them with these resources. Early on in men’s evolutionary history the physical prowess and domineering behavior of the alpha was important in attaining basic and necessary resources. In today’s society it is financial wealth that is needed to gain these resources, and in this aspect it is the traits of the beta that are more advantageous compared to the alpha. A recent study was conducted analyzing personal advertisements of over 1,100 heterosexual people. The results of the study showed that for every one man who mentioned financial resources as an important criterion for a mate, eleven women did (Putts 190)! Alpha male behavior is on the decline in the business world, it has even been shown to be detrimental to the work place environment. Studies have been done that illustrate “testosterone-choked males” actually struggle to cooperate and act more egocentrically in groups. Bossy, in your face alpha males can hinder the progress of projects and intimidate fellow employees (“Testosterone”). Females will not choose a resource deprived male for long term relationships because they receive almost no benefits from this association. Betas on the other hand are extremely intelligent, capable, and often very successful so they can provide females with the resources they desire.

Alpha males are also often pictured as a “ladies’ man,” someone who can have their way with as many women as they want. In nature the alpha male usually has the sole mating rights to any female he wishes. This behavior has somewhat translated to human alpha male behavior, and can be explained by evolutionary mating choice patterns. Women only put emphasis on physical attractiveness when it comes to one night stands. Women know that the only contribution they could obtain from this man is good genes, and physical attractiveness and masculine qualities are two indicators of good genes (Putts 197). Alpha males can further their own reproductive success by taking advantage of this evolutionary mating behavior of women, and reproducing with as many women as possible. This kind of behavior can be very beneficial to the alpha male, but females will receive no economic benefit. Beta males ,on the other hand, offer females the economic benefits they are looking for and in some cases can also contribute good genes, and are there for a more desirable long term mate.

The image of a desirable mate also began to shift when women started to ardently fight for their rights and equality. The 19th amendment was passed by Congress June 4, 1919 and Ratified August 18, 1920, officially giving women the right to vote in all elections, state and national (“Nineteenth”). From then on women have made tremendous progress in gaining equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of their lives. During the 2008-09 academic years 28,962 women earned doctorate degrees at U.S. colleges and universities compared to 28,469 men (“Northeast”). Studies show, on average, girls are out-preforming boys in school. Girls are getting higher grades and completing high school at a higher rate compared to boys. They score higher on standardized tests in literacy, spelling, and general knowledge (Zembar). Women now have the opportunity to excel academically and are proving they are just as intelligent, if not more, on average as men.

With this movement toward women’s equality females do not want a macho alpha male who acts superior to them; they do not need a man to take care of them any longer. Women comprise 46% of the total U.S. labor force, and women business owners employ 35% more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined. There are about 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., a number that encompasses nearly 40% of all businesses (“10 Surprising”). The stereotypical image from the fifties, of a mother in an apron tending to her children and cooking dinner for her husband before he returns home from work is no longer the norm. Women are almost expected to get a job today; it has become the social norm to be a working mother. Women now want an intelligent man who can share in their success and also have success of his own. The beta male is the perfect man for the “new women.” Beta males are successful but are also more reserved and sensitive then alpha males. They are not intimidated by a women’s success. Alpha males on the other hand tend to overcompensate to prove their masculinity. A successful woman could jeopardize their role as the sole provider and diminish their masculinity.

The alpha male’s overcompensating masculine behavior is believed to be due to homophobia. Alpha males displayed such over bearing, loud, dominant, macho behavior because they feel the need to prove there heterosexuality. When homosexuals first started to fervently petition for gay rights, there was little acceptance of their sexuality, and a large amount of disapproval and discrimination. Even in 2001 fifty three percent of the population thought relations were morally wrong. Now fifty three percent of men think it is morally acceptable and fifty one percent of women. If you look at the statistics by generation, the younger generations are even more accepting. Men eighteen to forty nine showed that sixty nine percent think it is morally acceptable and fifty nine percent of women in this age range did as well (Saad). With these present trends, as time goes on homosexuality will only become further accepted. With the acceptance of homosexuality comes the decline in the alpha male behavior. Heterosexual males feel less of a need to prove their sexuality, and do not need to display such exaggerated “straight” behavior. The term metrosexual has also allowed straight males to relax their alpha behavior and display a more beta male behavior. Men can now take care of themselves, dress fashionably, and express a softer more emotional side without being considered a homosexual.

Another social movement that has seriously affected the male hierarchy is campaigns against bullying. Most people do not think of bullying as a problem in the work environment but this has been alpha male territory for years. And as I previously stated, studies have shown that alpha male behavior may actually be counter-productive when pertaining to the business world. Beta males are not interested in dominating others and are more likely to understand the importance of encouragement and motivation over demands and domination. Alpha male behavior does not provide an efficient, healthy work environment. There has also been legislation passed against harassment and discrimination in the workplace to try and prevent this type of behavior. However, the biggest influence on the downfall of the alpha male is the bullying among teens.

Alpha males, especially at a young age, assert their dominance through bullying and taking advantage of those weaker than them. This kind of behavior has been the underlying cause of serious mental breaks in numerous teens. Tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings and Columbine showed the world just how serious the issue of bullying was, and the extreme violence and heartbreak it can cause. In twelve of fifteen school shootings in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied (“Effects”). Seventy seven percent of kids have admitted to being bullied at some point in their lives! The American Justice Department did a study that showed that one out of every four kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence. Now with all the technology available to kids bullying has become even more of a problem. Studies show that about forty two percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being verbally attacked more than once. Around thirty five percent of kids have been threatened online, and about fifty eight percent of kids and teens have reported that something mean has been said to them or about them online (“Bullying”). Kids who are bullied are likely to experience negative school, physical and mental health issues. They are also more likely to experience things such as depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and the loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Certain alpha male behavior can have detrimental effects on children; these issues can sometimes persist into adulthood.

Bulling can also have a damaging effect on kid’s grades, and they are more likely to skip, miss, or even drop out of school (“Effects”). A study held in Britain found that at least half of suicides among kids and teens are related to bullying, and ten to fourteen year old girls may be at an even higher risk for suicide (“Bullying and Suicide”). Alpha behavior can have seriously damaging effects on kids, and with countless studies and awareness of this issue building, this type of behavior is no longer being tolerated. People who display this type of behavior are no longer looked at as “cool” or though. Unwarranted violence and cruelty is primitive and morally unacceptabe. With disturbing statistics such as these, it is no surprise that numerous campaigns to stop bullying have come about. Programs such as Diversity and Tolerance Awareness Clubs (DTAC) have been put in place to promote acceptance and kindness to fellow student and to empower kids to stand up against bullying.

. Psychological studies on observational learning aid in portraying the threat alpha male behavior and bullying portrayed on TV and in movies poses to our society. Observational learning is the learning of a new behavior through watching the actions of a model, someone who is doing the behavior (Ciccarelli). Numerous studies have been performed on children and they all yield similar data and reached the same conclusion, exposure to television and movie violence increases aggression and violence in kids (“Journal”). If the alpha male continues to be the role model portrayed on TV shows, bullying other kids, and demonstrating destructive and aggressive behavior, kids will imitate these harmful characteristics and bullying will inevitably continue.

To fight this epidemic, shows like Sesame Street show kids how to deal with bullying and empower them to stand up against it, and how to get help if you are a victim. Children’s movies are also starting to star beta males like in Disney’s new How to Train Your Dragon. Hiccup, the main character, is a beta male in a Viking society, known for their alpha male characteristics. He does not fit in, but in the end he teaches his village a very important lesson. He exposes them to an alternative way of living, one where violence and cruelty gives way to understanding and harmony. There are also shows such as Bully Beatdown on MTV that are targeted more towards teens. In this show a victim of bullying reaches out to the host, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, to help them confront their bully. The bully is then asked to fight a professional fighter to get a taste of his own medicine. There are numerous other examples of anti-bullying campaigns and shows, but it is unmistakable that there has been a shift in how bullies are displayed on television. The alpha bullying the little guy is no longer seen as cool. The beta is no longer forced to live in the shadow of the alpha male; it is now his turn to stand in the light.

The beta male has been working his way up for a long time now. Evolutionarily speaking he was always destined to be at the top because of his abilities to provide resources and invest faithfully in his mate, but social practices and behaviors hindered this rise in the male hierarchy. Women have now gained equality among men and no longer need alphas to take care of them. Females are no longer obliged to tolerate the alpha’s oppressive actions, and betas now have their chance to prove themselves as desirable mates. With the growing acceptance of homosexuality, and the establishment of the term metrosexual, men do not have to try and overcompensate to prove their heterosexuality. A male can express a more sensitive introverted personality without being considered gay. The tragedies of the past few years with school shootings, and studies on the effects of bullying have also become a stimulus for the fall of the alpha male. Beta behavior is more appropriate as a role model for impressionable kids and teens. Television shows and movies have taken full advantage of this and have shown the beta is now on top. Females are now drooling over little timid nerds, and boys are looking up to them as their new role models. The beta has successfully risen to the top of the male hierarchy.

Works Cited

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