Thursday on Men’s Rights

The Man Who is Thursday has Roissy’s insight, but without the swagger.  Read Thursday on who won the sex revolution, how to find a virgin, how social conservatives got it wrong, and why church guys do fine. Here is Thursday on men’s rights:

Men’s rights will never take off for the following reasons:

  1. It is hard for men to play the victim card without looking weak and therefore loserish. Most men would rather just suffer in silence than admit their weakness. … (You just can’t admit that, while your future wife was out shagging a couple alphas, you yourself could barely get laid.)
  2. There are all sorts of men who will chivalrously jump to a women’s defense. …
  3. Alpha males run everything … hence feminists … [can] point out how “men” are the big winners in our society. …
  4. The most talented and articulate men have little incentive to speak out … lends a further loserish cast to the proceedings.
  5. Most beta males are actually pretty happy … a lot … really do prefer XBox 360 to sex. …

Nothing will happen to reform our truly corrupt Western societies until something goes seriously, overwhelmingly wrong. It’s going to get much worse before it gets better, if it ever does.

He’s largely on target, but I think Thursday misses the main factor: no one gains by showing they care about sex-deprived beta males. By sympathizing with creatures who suffer in ways that kids might suffer, people signal their parental nurturing instincts.  And beta men look better by acting altruistic toward creatures that women feel sympathy for:

Men reported to indulge in selfless behaviours were found more attractive to women as both potential long-term partners and, to a lesser extent, for “flings”.  “Selflessness makes men of otherwise low to moderate attractiveness sexier, but not men who were already considered very attractive,” she said.

But women who sympathized with sex-deprived beta males actually might give them sex, which would not exactly impress the men these women prefer.  So since women are built to have little sympathy for sex-starved betas, betas don’t gain by showing sympathy to other betas.  And since alphas gain little from showing altruism, literally no one cares.

Hat tip to Rob Wiblin.  And for the record, I will make the hard admission of Thursday’s point 1.

Added 5:30p: I don’t really believe in “rights”; I take rights talk to really be complaints by a group about their roles and how they are treated.  Many other groups have complained successfully, gaining revised treatment.  Father complaints about custody treatment, beta male complains about sex-starvation, and many other male complaints all seem to me legitimate candidates for group complaints.  This isn’t to say that such complaints will succeed, however, nor that they should.

Added 27Sept: Today’s post elaborates my position.

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  • http://t-a-w.blogspot.com/ Tomasz Wegrzanowski

    6. It’s not exactly difficult to exploit differences between ancestral and modern environments, learn how to send all the right alpha signals, and get laid aplenty. I think most men who care about it enough, just learn how to do it and join the alpha ranks. There’s even an entire industry teaching people how to do so.
    7. “Ability to get laid” is the wrong metric. Most women (and men) want serious relationships with quality partners, not one night stands, and while alpha males might feel like shagging average women, they’re a lot less willing to get into anything long term with them. So success rates of both average women and average men is equally low on this metric.

    • http://www.transhumangoodness.blogspot.com Roko

      “Most women (and men) want serious relationships with quality partners, not one night stands”

      – evidence, please.

      Suppose that most men really wanted lots of one night stands or “friends with bodily privileges” relationships, but that most men simply couldn’t get that. Then it is likely that when questioned, they would say that what they really wanted “serious relationships”, for three reasons:

      (1) they would not want to admit to themselves that life wasn’t going the way they wanted it to

      (2) if they had never experienced anything other than a long-term relationship with an average woman, they wouldn’t have anything concrete to compare it against – they wouldn’t know what they were missing

      (3) they would want to signal how faithful and “well-behaved” they were.

      • Psychohistorian

        “Suppose that most men really wanted lots of one night stands with male celebrities, but that most men simply couldn’t get that. Then it is likely that when questioned, they would say that what they really wanted “serious relationships” with women, for three reasons:”

        You see how this reeks of Perfectly General Counterargument? The fact that most men do want to marry (at least in the States) and that, for thousands of years, human men appear to have been either harem-keepers or pair-bonders puts the burden of evidence on you. If your theory is that what men really want is a series of unconnected one-night stands, or a series of friends-with-benefits relationships in the long run, it needs supporting evidence, other than, “That’s what I want at my current age,” or “that’s what a fitness-maximizer operating in a complete cultural vacuum would want in our best current theoretical understanding of evolution, with its own cultural biases.”

  • Monica

    Your ideas on signalling are always interesting and informative….but, you focus a lot on signalling to others…..the more fascinating aspect (to my mind) is the signalling that we do to ourselves…..and why.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      We have doubts about ourselves, and we test/screen ourselves to see what we are made of. Mostly features we would admire are features others would admire as well, so this testing helps us signal to others, by seeming more confident in our good opinion of ourself.

      • tgrass
      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        In contrast to Tyler’s spam, this one doesn’t link anywhere.

      • John Maxwell IV

        Right, I think a spammer thought Monica’s comment was clever and appropriate for Marginal Revolution and then just reposted it there as the link text for the thing they were selling.

  • Peter Twieg

    Is there really evidence showing the significance of a class of “sex-deprived beta males”? I can understand that the distribution of mating frequency might be more skewed for males, but I’m skeptical that this is a real problem, let alone a new one.

    If there were such a class, I’d be curious as to whether they tend to really try to alleviate their conditions, or if they’ve adopted some form of learned helplessness about their sexual fortunes.

    • Joe

      It depends on what standard you use for “deprivation”. In particular there may be a problem with many men’s expectations — but while we never seem to have heard enough about unrealistic (mainly women’s) *body* images in pop media/culture, when was the last time you heard *anyone* complain that male celebrities, TV characters, etc. are constantly shown as having *access* to those very bodies? The lie we tell women is either “you can look like this” or “most women look like this”. The lie we tell men is “you can get this” or “most men can get this”. The latter includes not just very good-looking women, but a string of meaningless (but, apparently very desirable) hookups.

      Men don’t generally show *offense* at e.g. George Costanza sleeping with a dozen women who could easily pass as ( and in some cases are ) models, even though we may notice such extreme cases. To do so would be to signal: “I’m an even bigger loser than this character whose whole shtick is being a loser”.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      The mathematical reason for the inequality is simple.

      To a first approximation, man value looks and women value status. Looks is independent from the looks of other women, and thus normally distributed. Status is scale-free attribute, and follows power law distribution.

      You can see the result in speed dating events, where men typically accept twice as many women as women accept men. (Women’s ratio changes, however, when the size of the group changes, which is another signal that status is scale-free attribute.)

      • Peter Twieg

        I’m not disputing the premise that leads to inequality in general. I’m wondering about the specific claim that there’s a large class of beta males that could be considered “sex-deprived”, which is an assertion about a specific degree of inequality.

        The speed-dating result is interesting, however.

      • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

        To my knowledge, nobody has previously explained the premise as explicitly as I did above. Most people seem to talk about their own experiences.

        The speed dating issue is in reality more complicated, this and this will get you started. You may notice one thing that the latter article misses: when the roles are reversed, the effect does not reverse, it is merely cancelled out.

  • Eric Falkenstein

    This highlights a neglected historical loser: the underaverage individual in an overaverage group. He not only has low status among his peers, whom he interacts with most of his day, he garners no sympathy from academics, celebrities, or politicians because his is lumped with the overacheiving group. The unathletic, unintelligent, socially inept, heterosexual WASP male is just a loser, and should be quiet.

    • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

      Do you think it would be a balm to these men to be publicly pitied by academics, celebrities, and politicians?

    • Psychohistorian

      Such an individual has a strong incentive, and, potentially, huge gains to be had from switching social groups. I’d imagine this happens with some regularity – the son of the doctor and and professor who decides he wants to be an artist is probably realizing that he’s not going to be a winner in the academic world, so he’ll try to be a winner in a different world.

      I’ve seen obvious personal examples of this. When I’m around close friends who went to college with me and have similar career prospects and accomplishments, I don’t seem especially successful. But when I talk to an ex-girlfriend from high school who didn’t even go to college, I feel like the Most Successful Man Alive. I could move to her peer group and (potentially) be much higher status within it than I am within my current peer group. If I were low enough within my current peer group, this would probably be a very attractive move.

      This is probably the solution employed by many such men (and women). If they’re unsuccessful in a peer group they find themselves in, they’ll find another where they’re a better fit. They’ll also try to find a reason why their new group is better, so that they take a minimal ego hit from doing so.

  • not anon or anonymous

    Thomas Wegrzanowski points out the best solution: if it’s possible for men to improve their attractiveness by adopting appropriate behaviors, then women obviously gain by finding better matches in a larger pool, and the only losers are ‘alphas’ who would no longer have a quasi-monopoly on attractiveness.

    Given some kind of majoritarianism, sympathy with beta males wins again – because it effectively means that the vast majority of the population gets to endorse something which would benefit themselves.

    This does not address other aspects of the men’s right movement–such as the perceived unfairness of divorce and child support laws–but Coase’s theorem is already working its magic there, as men abandon the marriage institution in droves.

    • Pwno

      Although betas can learn to become alphas, or at least mimic their behaviors, it takes a lot of work. Most betas just learn to accept their place in society and aren’t motivated to become remotely alpha.

      • Grant

        To rephrase Jack Lover’s post above, teaching men to signal ‘alphaness’ won’t help things because status is zero-sum.

        I don’t think physical attractiveness is zero-sum, but I know it alone can go a long way. I’m good-looking, tall and athletic (mostly described as a 8 or 9), and occasionally get laid because of those characteristics. This is despite my deeply-rooted aversion to the sort of status games women find attractive (as a result I’m seen as an extreme beta by women).

        I put alpha in quotes because I really don’t think there are any, or at least very many alphas in existence. Social hierarchies were created to differ violence, but except in the case of certain government positions and high school pecking orders, violence is differed by other mechanisms and is no longer directed by alpha males. Most ‘alphas’ are just people playing a very old game they don’t know has ended.

  • Andy

    Men’s rights isn’t about access to sex, so I don’t really understand any of the criticisms. The “rights” generally apply to all men, whether “alpha” or “beta” (these labels are stupid, BTW).

  • m

    it sounds like a prisoner’s dilemma. Every individual beta defects against his brothers for a chance at a woman, but over time the only way betas won’t be stuck fighting for scraps is to make the case together that their sex drives have been disenfranchised. This might just cut them all off completely but once women realise how many there are, they won’t be content to serve explicitly as a harem for the alphas, the negotiating power of the many betas will garner some attention (at least the less attractive women, who have no hope of marrying an alpha).

  • josh

    What do you think of Whiskey? The Roissy-sphere is either proving society is doomed or completely full-of-it. We certainly do seem to live in interesting times.

    By the way, I think the biggest bias I have overcome was a tendency to assume a positive relationship between fairness (or truth) and goodness.

  • Aaron

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1) Couldn’t the labor movement and more broadly rights movements be considered “men’s rights” movements? My impression was that the feminist movement arose because feminists were being marginalized even within the more revolutionary movements.

    2) How much of alpha-ness is really granted by women? It seems PUA’s are trying to signal alpha-ness to women when it hasn’t necessarily been earned within the male social stratas. Are there really highly paid, aggressive execs, wide receivers, etc. that need to learn “game”?

    • High Status Beta

      Are there really highly paid, aggressive execs, wide receivers, etc. that need to learn “game”?

      There may easily be. According to the MBTI, I am a rather strong introvert and also shy (it is however hard to seperate the two in that very test, some people tell me I do not come across being particularly introverted after overcoming the shyness).

      Still, I got hired by a company rated among the top 10 most prestigious companies in the world and make a very decent amount of money right out of university.

      Does that help my shyness? I doubt it. I met my current gf at university years ago so I am not complaining but game I certainly lack… I guess my point is: a strong aversion against approaching women is not necessarily helped much by having an “objectively” high status.

      You may argue that the aggressiveness is really the key part in your above statement in which case I would tend to agree – but aggressiveness is likely not needed for high status.

  • Curt Adams

    In a mostly monogamous society, the betas do OK with sex. Most people who want to get relationships do. It’s more the “gammas” – intensely introverted men, men with limited social skills, etc. who have a problem, and that’s not something that’s easily fixed. Social skills are hard and are not a zero-sum game – two highly socially skilled people will get along better than two poorly skilled people. Those at the back end of the curve have a hard time playing the social game, even with each other.

    Also, there are approaches to leading “beta males” without seeming to be advocating “losers”. Loudly flashing a “no sex until marriage” ring and advocating against premarital sex allows a not-so-desirable guy to pose as a man of superior morals and self-control. They can still take advantage of any extramarital mating opportunities – the ring won’t talk if they break their “promise”.

  • Michael Turner

    “No one gains by showing they care about sex-deprived beta males.”

    My head swims with deja vu when I read that line. Surely, it’s from the chorus of some song by Tom Lehrer?

    (It’s prosodically better if you make it “sex-starved” rather than “sex-deprived”, in case anyone here wants to take a stab at some lyrics.)

  • tgrass

    First wave feminists did not ask for pity but for equality. It was about access to legal defense, access to the vote, access to money.

    Any legitimate Men’s Rights Movement is not about equal access to sex. That is merely a pubescent beta-male fantasy (alphas, by definition, must fight for theirs). Men’s Rights, if it is reasonable at all, is about the consequences of sex: children. That means a reasonable option to deny a partner an abortion, and a reasonable option to be involved in a child’s life.

    • stephen

      Why would a movement to address inequality in the dating market be less “legitimate” then one to address inequality in labor and political markets?

      Why is one fantastic and immature, the other noble?

      • Peter Twieg

        Well, at first blush, I’m not sure that even those who would try to address these inequalities would consider them meaningful violation of rights. Asserting a positive right to sexual fulfillment would tend to lead to odd implications, to say the least..

      • stephen

        Peter,

        I agree that there aren’t many who would consider sexual fulfillment a “right” (and hence there would be no movement), but my central question is why? Yes the implications would be odd, but the same is true of all “rights”.

        Why is it not meaningful that some can’t find a date to save their lives, while others get laid like crazy? Why do we feel so differently about income, for example? Both inequalities cause a lot of human misery.

        Anyway, I just find the discrepancy interesting from a moral perspective. I am certainly not advocating anything! (requisite exclamation point to signal I am not desperate)

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Andy and tgrass, is it that you do not think most men think they are deprived of sex, or that it is illegitimate of them to complain about this even if true?

    • tgrass

      Jacqueline (below) represents my sentiment.

      To answer your question: do I think most men think they are deprived of sex? I can’t reasonably say. I have heard complaints of both too much and too little. Obviously any individual’s personal assessment of most men’s sexual satiation would be heavily influenced by selection bias. Do I think most men have sexual fantasies of many women. Yes. Is this deprivation? No more than a neighbor possessing a new BMW.

      Is it illegitimate to complain about this? I believe in the freedom to discuss any thought, to logically dissect any proposition.

      Let us follow it out then: You write below “Beta males seem to me an acceptable group to have complaints and sex seems an acceptable topic on which to have complaints.”

      Complaining is one thing. Proposing that access to sex is (or should be) the goal of Men’s rights is another. Rights must be defended by society, by common consent and/or by law. My use of “illegitimate” is to say that access to sex as a right in our country presently derives from neither.

      As Jacqueline noted, a man’s right to access sex requires the submission of a partner. This is the philosophy which would conclude there is no rape in marriage.

      Is it then illegitimate? In terms of speaking of culturally defined rights, absolutely.

    • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

      Robin,

      I have heard serious discussions about “mens’ rights” in the past. They involved matters where women have some legal or other advantage over men. The main example that I am aware of has to do with custody rights over children after divorces. By and large our legal system assumes that mothers are better custodial parents than fathers, unless clearly proven otherwise, with the burden of proof on the father. The mother has to be shown to be taking drugs or sleeping with everybody in sight or actively neglecting the children in some way, with the father all wonderful on these issues.

      So, it is a matter of comparisons between the genders with in this case, the women having presumed advantages that may not be warranted. It should have nothing to do with Beta males not getting laid compared to alpha males. Certainly the feminist movement was not primarily about parallel matters, unless one wants to talk about certain sub-strata such as the “fat is not bad” movement, or the blonde-bashing subset of feminism.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

    Why is a post/discussion supposedly about “men’s rights” instead mostly about sex? Since when is having sex a “right”? A right implies that someone else has a corresponding duty — are you suggesting that women have a duty to have sex with men they don’t want to have sex with?

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      A common response to claims of “labor rights” is that laborers have no right to anything they cannot successfully gain in negotiation with employers. Under this view there can never be a bad equilibrium where employers offer too little. Versions of this say that there is no place for anti-discrimination laws; no gender or race has any right to any labor market outcome they cannot get by negotiating individually. One could say something similar about kid’s rights, that they have no right to anything they can’t successfully negotiate for when dealing with adults. You seem to be saying something similar about sex.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

        Would agree on labor rights, since employees always have the option to quit (or not take the job in the first place), and can form unions to hire capable negotiators equal to those that employers can afford.

        Kids are a bit different because they are physically and mentally incapable of defending or taking care of themselves. So you can’t let adults abuse them just because the kids didn’t negotiate something better.

        Not sure if you’re being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, or if you really think that women have a duty to provide sex and/or men have a right to take sex (i.e. rape) from women who don’t want to have sex with them. Should homosexual men also have the right to sex with men who don’t want to have sex with them, or is it just women who have a duty to put out?

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        I general I don’t see the world in terms of rights, so I see rights talk as more about groups organizing to complain about how they are being treated and the roles they are expected to fill. Beta males seem to me an acceptable group to have complaints and sex seems an acceptable topic on which to have complaints.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

        Can’t figure out how to reply to your other comment — maybe this system doesn’t nest that far down.

        If you don’t see the world in terms of rights, then why are you using that word? In the context of how people relate to one another, the word “rights” has a specific and understood meaning. If you want to communicate with people, why would you set out to confuse them by using words incorrectly?

        If you mean complaints and a desire for different treatment, say so. Don’t confuse everyone by talking about men’s “rights” to sex. Not only does that misrepresent what your actual concern is, but also alienates the very people (women) whom you want to negotiate with.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        When I reply to the writings of others, I try to retain their language when feasible.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

        In this case, I don’t think it was feasible, because you seem to actually be talking about two different things.

        The men’s rights post you quote/link to on Thursday’s blog is primarily a discussion of legal rights in marriage, divorce, child support, etc., whereas the original content in your post is primarily about sex. There is a huge difference between saying that men should have the right to equal legal treatment and that men should have a right to have sex with women. Conflating the two doesn’t help the discussion.

        You’ve also really misrepresented Thursday’s reason #1 by selectively quoting his post to make it appear as if his parenthetical and somewhat tangential comment about sex FOLLOWING reason #1 was actually PART of reason #1. Not sure if this is intentionally dishonest or just sloppy, but either way I expect better of you, Robin.

        Bad blogger, no cookie! :)

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        At your suggestion, I added the parentheses in the quote. I agree one can distinguish equal legal treatment from sex access, but I do think the later would be a big part of most men’s complaint, if they felt free to complain.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

        Sure, but individual men who want more sex have it within their personal power to get more sex: start doing the things that would make women want to have sex with you. Whereas individual men do not have it within their personal power to change our legal system. The latter requires organization, the former does not.

      • tgrass

        Robin, why have you not answered any of Jacqueline’s questions?

    • http://adequatelyreserved.wordpress.com bcg

      Jacqueline, do women have any duties to men, as women? Do men have any duties to women, as men?

      • http://www.twitter.com/ Jacqueline

        No, I don’t think that gender should convey any special rights or duties.

      • glewis

        If somebody wants more money, s/he usually has the ability to get more money. So why do we have that much taxation and social security?

        S/he will even get the kind of money s/he wants. That can not be said of sex. So inequality in sex is a far bigger problem than monetary inequality.

  • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

    Robin, I have trouble finding insight in analysis that proceeds from some imagined distinction between “alpha” and “beta” males. Do you consider these to be legitimate scientific categories? Do you know of any evidence that supports this schema? As far as I can tell, these terms are used (especially by armchair theorists of seduction) not to refer to relative status, or to physical attractiveness, but to a kind of standing disposition (or lack thereof) to signal dominance regardless of status or attractiveness. What I see are a bunch of guys who have never encountered the situationist literature in psychology, and who therefore tend to build the fundamental attribution error into their analysis of everything. If that’s right, insightful it ain’t.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Social status seems to me a very valid and useful concept, and men clearly do have different statuses in their ability to attract women to sex. Yes of course it isn’t the only determinate of outcomes, but do you really doubt such status exists?

      • tgrass

        It will take a bit to respond to your previous question on legitimacy, but for now, I’d like to ask, Robin, isn’t asking for equality of status comparable to taxation based on one’s height?

      • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

        Robin, you wrote about another kind of status before, is it so far-fetched to think that women could recognize this, and use it as a proxy for social status?

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Jack, I don’t think it is at all far-fetched to think women use many easy proxies for social status.

        tgrass, “comparable” is weak, so yes to that, but it doesn’t say much.

      • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

        Robin,

        Again, this topic you are discussing is a total misnomer. This is a “beta male rights” movment, not a “mens rights” movement, which would presumably include alpha males and be against females.

        Only a small subsection of the womens’ rights movement was about fat and dark-haired women getting at slim and attractive blondes who had less trouble “getting laid.” What a joke.

        Mens’ rights is about things like making sure that men are just not automatically excluded from being custodial parents in divorce cases.

  • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

    I don’t doubt status exists. But “high status” is not what “alpha” is being used to mean, is it? And status is multidimensional and contextual. Suppose some man is high status in the Cleveland punk scene and this is correlated with attractiveness to women in the Cleveland punk scene, but not with attractiveness in the Cleveland ballroom dance scene, or in the Pittsburgh punk scene. Do we say this man is “alpha” or not?

    Anyway, I suspect that persistence, a relatively low level of fear of rejection, and a relative lack of scruples about promiscuity are all stronger predictors of sexual frequency and/or variety than local status. But we’d need evidence to say one way or the other. Do you know of any?

    • Aaron

      Will,

      I would think that there is an element of status that transcends one’s social setting, for the most part. So the local scene musicians would all be seen as lower status than a national act, or even a sports figure who the punk scene folk are “supposed” to care about. Conversations between men who just met often times seem to me to be about establishing their status in relation to one another. I see male social status ad being a much broader issue than who “gets” which women, and it’s unfortunate all the language and discussion is dominated by pick-up artists. That said, the more limited question of who has sex with whom does start to touch on broader themes. To make a long comment short, I don’t see status as being a local as you do. And, with marginalized men moving away from quiet desperation to armed desperation, it’s important to consider the effect status has on people’s mental well-being.

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        Aaron, Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago on the idea that that there are clear, context-transcending status hierarchies, in case you’re interested.

        “…with marginalized men moving away from quiet desperation to armed desperation…”

        Where is this happening? Which groups of men do you think are being “marginalized”? Aren’t levels of violent crime and violence generally low compared to the recent past?

        I accept that conventions for status attribution have change. In particular, the status value of whiteness and maleness have slipped as the status value of non-whiteness and femaleness have risen. One way to put it is that gains in social equality impose negative status externalities on members of once dominant groups. And, yes, human beings tend to react negatively to losses of relative status. For white men with no high status attributes other than whiteness and maleness, it is a particularly bitter loss. This deserves some sympathy and it is a good idea to keep an eye out for dangerous resentment. But this “marginalization” is simply the cultural version of the removal of a subsidy, a side-effect of large advances in justice. It is not itself an injustice.

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        By the way, I think the status value in Western culture of whiteness and maleness continues to be higher than the status value of non-whiteness and femaleness. So, despite losing some of their status subsidy due to the decline of racism and sexism, white men continue to be net beneficiaries of Western status norms.

      • Aaron

        Will,

        I’d hesitate to refer to what I was getting at as “injustice”. I had in mind the George Sordini’s, the Seung-Hui Cho’s, etc. of the world. I admit I haven’t done any empirical research on this and it may just be overestimation on my part, but it does seem that this type of violent outburst is on the rise. Further speculation on my part, but I think it’s what drives terrorism as well. Mental illness plays a part, but there is also the societal position folks like these end up in. Again, I don’t want to imply that there’s some sort of political action that needs to be taken. But society does have pecking orders, and the folks on the bottom rung may not necessarily be mentally equipped to handle it.

        Aaron

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        Aaron, If I showed you that violent crime perpetrated by males had declined over time, would you accept that as evidence that sexual inequality among males has declined?

      • Aaron

        Will,

        Sure, I wouldn’t have any reason to doubt research. I don’t even doubt that there’s research like that available. Again, it’s just speculation on my part, and it might just be due to high profile incidents like the ones I mentioned.

        Aaron

      • Aaron

        Though are we talking total number of cases, or total number of cases and severity of the cases that occurred?

    • Peter Twieg

      The way I see it, it strikes me as at least plausible that men have a more-skewed density of sexual success than others. You could probably look at the overall distribution, label a point that delineates those in the righthand tail from the general population, and call everyone above it “alphas” and the others “betas”… wouldn’t a sufficiently-skewed distribution speak for itself as a problem, regardless of whose view of the road to sexual success is actually correct? Are you denying that the relative skewness exists, or that it would just provide evidence that men need to… man up?

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        Peter, I’m sure the distribution (of # of sex partners) is very skewed. But I can’t see why a high level of inequality is a problem in itself. I happen to think that the prohibition of prostitution exacerbates this inequality, but I think the reasons it ought to be legal are orthogonal to inequality of sexual access.

        I take it that “alpha male” language comes from an analogy of human groups to wolf packs. As I understand it, this language has been abandoned by wolf researchers. Wolves get to be pack leaders by having a litter of cubs, not by displaying superior dominance. So “alpha male” has been replaced by “breeding male.” We already have a term for human “breeding males” and that would be “father.” Being a father implies nothing much about either status or dominance.

        So what would be the point of drawing a line through the distribution of number of sex partners and then labeling each side of the line with with a term drawn from abandoned schema for understanding a different species? There isn’t one. It’s a nonsense set of categories.

        Again, status is very real. But in human groups, status and dominance are quite different things. Henrich and Gil-White [pdf] argue that human status hierarchies are based largely on non-agonistic “prestige” rather than agonistic dominance. The conferral of prestige, they argue, plays an important role in making the uniquely human practice of cultural transmission adaptive. This suggests that terms intended originally to apply to the dominance/deference hierarchies of non-human species will tend to be misleading.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Will, I don’t see what different it makes in this context if it is prestige or dominance that matters. And of course there is a continuum of status, not just two categories.

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        Robin, In this context, we’re talking about human beings. The point is that the language of human alphas and betas is drawn from an analogy to other species’ dominance-deference hierarchies. That human status is grounded in something unique to humans — the cultural capacity — and that human status hierarchies are not so much dominance hierarchies as culturally-mediated hierarchies of prestige (or whatever you want to call it) seems to me strongly to suggest that the application of the language of non-human dominance hierarchies to culturally-mediated human status hierarchies is going to be badly misleading.

    • Grant

      I agree with Will on all his points above. Why would academics take the unscientific claims of people like Roissy and PUAs so seriously? Clearly they warrant study, but their techniques aren’t scientific so their claims are questionable.

      Where is the evidence of an objective definition of ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’? I’ve been wondering this for a while now. Unlike the ancient past, there are no ‘alpha’ males wielding violence over ‘beta’ males. The distinction seems completely subjective; in this case its in the eye of the woman.

    • http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/ Chris Hallquist

      Will,

      I agree with most of the specific points in your comments, but the alpha-beta thing is a distraction here. Thursday is probably mistaken to assume that talented and articulate men are the ones who get laid a lot (there’s probably a correlation, but a weak one), but otherwise the assumptions about kinds of men are irrelevant. Most of it can be summarized as “no one wants to be known as the champion of men who can’t get laid”–as long as there are such men, the question of why so many such men exist doesn’t matter.

  • Captain Awesome

    Where I see it used, the term “alpha” just refers to one’s desirability by women. An underlying model is usually posited whereby men are distributed along a single dimension from “omega” to “beta” to “alpha,” just like women are often rated on a 1 to 10 scale of attractiveness. This may or may not be a useful concept for explaining mate market outcomes, but I don’t see anything problematic or difficult about the basic theory.

    • ben

      Dude, the point is that all the talk from PUAs making up their own scales and definitions is pseudoscientific. It isn’t based in any hard science at all, yet these same numbskulls will pick and choose which evidence they want to support their theories, without testing and falsifying the overall structure itself.

      Roissy and his commentators are basically PUA’s version of communists or christians: hardcore believers that think they have the entire world figured out, and will persecute anyone that disagrees.

      I have said it for ten years. The original PUA movement was filled with smart, introspective guys that were artists and didn’t think of their movement as a political or social phenomenon (in fact they wanted to keep it secret, for good reason). The PUA movement is now filled with bitter women-hating idiots, gurus with feet of clay, pseudo-scientific jackasses, and the drooling snarling mob.

      • Eric Johnson

        Do you consider it a pseudoscientific charade to simply state that people differ in attractiveness? I can’t begin to understand that view. This fact is overwhelmingly obvious from personal experience, and indeed there are published studies showing that standards of physical beauty tally worldwide.

        I can certainly understand someone’s being annoyed about the claims that alphas are monopolizing all the women, claims which might be exaggerated or just false. That makes perfect sense. Those things need to be looked at empirically. As for the degree of anti-womanism, I too find it in bad taste. I’m all for making fun of women as such (or men), even quite scathingly, but I dislike the shrill or coarse invective.

      • Michael Sullivan

        Eric: Of course people differ in attractiveness. The problem with ratings scales and simple categories like [alpha|beta|omega] is that they implicitly assume important characteristics of the space and distribution that are not generally well understood, and for which there is at least some informal evidence against.

        Many different things about different people are attractive or unattractive. One person is smart, but physically weak, another is smart and strong, but unusually cruel and disloyal, another is a very good singer, another is a very good cook, another understands emotional/sexual dynamics. So how are these all weighted to determine who is more attractive than who? Using a one-dimensional scale implicitly assumes that there is a very strong correlation between what one man or woman finds attractive and what another does. Is this accurate? There’s been some research that suggests certain features are highly correlated with attractiveness across all people and cultures, but does this capture everything about attractiveness? Are we sure that people who score high on these particular confirmed measures (waist/hip ratio for women, facial symmettry, ocular distance, etc.) are *always* individually more attractive to nearly all people than someone else who scores lower on those matters — no mattter what else is true?

        In determining whether, say, facial symettry is attractive, all we have to show is that people find those with greater facial symettry attractive most of the time, all else being equal. To show that attractiveness is one-dimensional, we have to describe a set of traits and a particular weighting of those traits that accurately models attractiveness to nearly all people, even when all else is radically unequal.

        Further, using terms such as alpha and beta implies not only that attractiveness or dominance is one-dimensional, but that either the distribution is strongly n-modal, or that particular division points on the scale are far more socially significant than others. Where is the research on that? Anywhere?

        My experience suggests that attractiveness is not strongly one-dimensional, nor n-modally distributed. People fall widely distributed over a many dimensional space, and different people put very different weights on many of the dimensions. I often find a person hideous that someone else finds attractive and vice versa.

        Although there is clearly substantial agreement on strong weight for certain features, it’s not enough for me to say, find my wife any less attractive than a typical pageant contestant even though she is quite fat — fat is at worst a mild negative for me, and she is very attractive in ways that don’t appear to be captured by the pageant norm, but that I value highly. You could say I am simply signaling loyalty and blinded by the relationship when I talk about my wife, but there are strangers I don’t know that I consider beautiful who it’s clear many other people do not find particularly attractive.

        My intuitions are all based on small non-random samples of course, but where is the science with better evidence to which I should bow on which to base these very strong implicit claims? It just doesn’t exist. The field is in its infancy with very few strongly supported conclusions.

  • Anthony

    It is hard for men to play the victim card without looking weak and therefore loserish. Most men would rather just suffer in silence than admit their weakness. … You just can’t admit that, while your future wife was out shagging a couple alphas, you yourself could barely get laid.

    There’s a non-sequitur hiding in that ellipsis, but the first three sentences, divorced from the comments about ability to get laid, really are generally true.

    Notice that economic and political movements which have aimed at shifting the balance of power/wealth to masses of men from elites have generally had aggressive, rather than supplicatory, rhetoric.

    Most beta males are actually pretty happy … a lot … really do prefer XBox 360 to sex. …

    A lot prefer semi-regular sex with not-model-attractive women to changing their personality and putting in lots of late evenings in bars attempting to get sex with more attractive women.

  • Eric Johnson

    Will Wilkinson, you seem to be committing the fundamental error of denying or ignoring intersubjectivity. Yes: surely a given man’s desirability is rated differently by some punk woman, some economist woman, and women W[1] thru W[n]. No one denies this. But the ratings are obviously correlated. They are neither objective, nor “hopelessly” subjective (ie totally uncorrelated).

    The leap from “not objective” to “radically subjective” seems to me to be the characteristic technique of postmodernism.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      It is easy to see this in housing market. Not everybody wants or has resources to buy the same house. In fact, everybody is looking for different kind of houses. But still, each house has a market price (or range), and all sales effect other sales.

    • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

      I am making a claim about the socially contextual nature of relative social status. I did not claim that ratings of a man’s sexual desirability will be uncorrelated across contexts because I did not claim that relative social status was the only determinant of a man’s perceived sexual attractiveness.

      I don’t see what “postmodernism” has to do with anything.

      • Eric Johnson

        Social status is just about as intersubjective as sexual desirability. You ask in your post “Is the worst player in the NFL higher status than the world’s best Scrabble player? Again: the question is nonsense. There is no common frame of reference.”

        I say there is common ground if some people know both of those individuals. Kim Jong-il has a hermetic polity, but scrabble and professional football can only dream of this. In truth the votaries of thrash-death black metal occasionally deign to spend a few minutes among proponents of black thrash-death metal, who will in turn, however rarely, descend to the company of [etc]

        Even people who don’t know them might get invited to party thrown by the scrabble fiend and one thrown on the same night by the NFL benchwarmer. Or in some other way have opportunities to meet these people, which they evaluate compared to other things they could be doing, in part on considerations of social status.

      • http://threethingsblog.wordpress.com/ j r

        will,

        as someone who spends a lot of time dealing with economic inequality, this should be familiar to you. as the french writer michel houllebecq has said, sexual liberalisation is akin to economic liberalization. increasing freedom tends to lead to increasing inequality. most people are winners, but the degree to which individuals gain is determined by their posession of certain factors.

        i agree that the alpha/beta distinction has serious limits when applied to complex human interactions; especially since humans interact over any number of different settings. that does not, however, means that we can’t look at the sexual marketplace and see some very obvious cases of feast and famine.

      • http://threethingsblog.wordpress.com/ j r

        the more i’m thinking about this, the more examples, both public and personal, are popping into my head in regards to the alpha/beta distinction. attractive, powerful, charismatic men (alphas) really do live by a different set of rules than everyone else (betas); in much the same way that extremely attractive women do. of course, these traits exist on a continuum ratther than as two discrete categories. the point is that alpha/beta distinction is more than just something thrown out by “armchair thoerists of seduction.”

        i could start listing examples, but this clip, of the snl tom brady sexual harassment video, sums up what i’m getting at:

        http://www.dailyhaha.com/_vids/sexual_harassment.htm

      • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

        Eric:

        Not only are there winners and losers in the sexual market, but unlike in other markets, where a rising tide really can lift all boats, the sexual market is essentially zero sum.

      • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

        A huge problem with Will’s saying that status is contextual is that not all contexts have equal status. Steve Sailer explains why Will’s theory is only a glass half full:

        Men can invent all the status hierarchies they want, like World of Warcraft (as noted by Half Sigma), but women don’t have to be impressed by them. Ultimately, some status hierarchies (e.g., the Forbes 400) are higher status than others (e.g., nerd competitions like World of Warcraft) because the highest status male hierarchies in America are whichever ones attractive women are most impressed by.

        Hierarchies can be fairly objectively measured by the quality and quantity of women they attract. Will might object that some might not care about that, but female attractiveness is pretty darn close to a common currency.

        Is the worst player in the NFL higher status than the world’s best Scrabble player?

        A good example of why starting with the hard cases can be seriously misleading. Even a mediocre NFL player would clobber the Scrabble god.

  • http://dhex.wordpress.com dhex

    “(especially by armchair theorists of seduction)”

    that seems to be where this idiocy comes from, right down to the fixation on hierarchy.

    it seems a lot cheaper and less painful to build a personality that’s not based on treating women like meat you fuck (presuming that no one else has “ruined” them first, of course!) but rather some kind of shared communication, but that might skip the bitter joy of the loser and his imaginings as to what the rest of the world is really like.

  • Tom

    I am so sick of this crap about alpha/beta males and dating polluting the men’s rights movement.

    Men’s rights are about gender equality, parenting rights, rights to due process, divorce, child custody, etc… The list is so long that I could write forever, and the human rights violations against men and fathers so outrageous, it is unbelievable men haven’t stood up for their rights yet!!!

    Whining about how you can’t get laid and how it’s not fair, does not make you a men’s rights activist, it just makes you a pathetic loser!

    • Anthony

      Tom – the problem is that complaining about parenting rights, divorce and child custody, etc., etc., can also be seen as whining, unless one can point to a plausible “enemy” who is oppressing men in this way. Thursday points out:
      Alpha males run everything … hence feminists … [can] point out how “men” are the big winners in our society. …
      which makes it rather more difficult to frame men’s rights as a struggle against an oppressor, unlike the fights for higher wages, better working conditions, racial equality, etc.

      • tgrass

        Complaining about rights is a beta approach. Asserting or demanding rights is an alpha approach.

  • tgrass

    Jack Lover compares dating to the housing market. Though there is a market price which reflects the aggregate demand, without market by market hedonistic regressions, the market price tells us little about what is valued in houses generally.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      True, but to me Will Willkinson seems to object to the whole idea of market price in this context.

      There is no need to oversimplify attributes that people generally employ to value partners. Like house pricing, we are looking at behavior on macro level. Macro level theory cannot predict micro level behavior.

      However, there are some clear sex differences. Based on speed dating results, on average, men seem to rate women primarily on some attribute that is normally distributed. Women seem to rate men primarily on some attribute that follows power law distribution. That should tell you something very specific about the nature of corresponding attributes.

      • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

        Jack, I’m saying there are multiple markets, different currencies, and no non-arbitrary way to determine PPP.

      • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

        Will, if two people sort potential partners, do you believe it is possible that they have completely opposite sort orders? That is pretty strong statement, if you think about almost any attribute (beauty, friendliness etc.).

        Of course there are differences on what attributes people prefer over another, but they still don’t seem to prefer the reverse order for some attribute.

        It seems that preference of beauty over non-beauty is almost universal, likewise for larger house size over smaller house size.

  • http://graehl.posterous.com Jonathan Graehl

    Robin,

    I admire you for admitting you had trouble getting laid … but so what if women have an easier time of it than men? It’s certainly nothing that makes me think more of women or less of men, except that men race to the bottom with desperate lies and delusion-stoking, and women believe them.

  • tgrass

    Can a man be considered an alpha male if his spouse is unfaithful? It would seem like that would be evidence of another male besting him.

  • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

    In case my replies to earlier comments do not get seen, I shall restate my point here. “Mens’ rights” should be about issues that potentially affect all men in relation to women, not one group of men against another group of men. This is how the womens’ rights movement was focused, at least most of it.

    So, issues of the presumption that mothers should have custody of children in divorce, or possible discrimination in hiring of men in traditionally female occupations would be examples of candidates for a mens’ rights movement, not some ridiculous whine about beta males not getting laid as much as alpha males. Are all those movies that dump on “popular girls” in high schools a crucial part of the feminist movement?

  • LeBleu

    After reading several of the linked articles, I fail to understand what is supposed to be interesting about what appears to me to be a shallow, misogynistic religious nut. None of his assertions seem to be backed up by references to other data sources to confirm them.

    He seems to assume everyone of the same gender identity has the same sexual utility function. All heterosexual men must be trying to have sex with a variety of beautiful women, and if they are failing to do so it is because they are “beta”. Apparently they can’t be looking for something else, like a woman who is really good in bed independent of her physical attractiveness, a woman with the same sexual perversions, or a woman who will reliably aid in raising children.

    Virginity is apparently supposed to be some sort of uniformly positive attribute of women that all men should seek. I don’t understand how, in an age of paternity testing, virginity brings much value. I suppose there is some value in them not knowing how bad you are at sex, but I have to wonder if that is really balanced by them not being any good at it either?

    • Eric Johnson

      It seems very likely – though I won’t claim it is transparently unquestionable – that a high number of consorts in a woman’s past makes it less likely she will be permanently faithful to you. So I think it is human nature to want a relatively more innocent woman. But some men care about that more than others.

    • Eric Johnson

      > All heterosexual men [roissydim would have it] must be trying to have sex with a variety of beautiful women, and if they are failing to do so it is because they are “beta”.

      That, exactly, is my biggest objection to Roissy and Roissydom – which I generally sort of like – though I have a few others. He certainly does point out, at length, how his sort of psychological insights can benefit long-term relationships: a good thing. But, on balance, he markedly promotes promiscuity. He is projecting his own nature onto all males to a large degree. Many of us are quite prone to monogamy. I’m not going to demand that Roissy get married; conversely, neither do I think he should broadcast cad-ism and promiscuity into the culture as a good thing for every man.

  • Eric Johnson

    > Where is the evidence of an objective definition of ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’?

    The definition is simply more sexually attractive vs less. It’s relative and less than 100% precise, of course, but so are the words “big” and “small.”

    > Why would academics take the unscientific claims of people like Roissy and PUAs so seriously? Clearly they warrant study, but their techniques aren’t scientific so their claims are questionable.

    I don’t think Robin has said otherwise. Roissy is a belles lettresist not a sociologist and I don’t think there’s much confusion about that. I would call his worldview a thought-provoking caricature, overall, but some parts of it are more accurate than others.

    Robin has also been interested in canonical introspective psychologists such as La Rouchefoucould, who were not scientists.

    If you want to see an empirical takedown of one of Roissydom’s claims, see the multiple posts on sex ratios on Peter Frost’s blog from a couple weeks ago, particularly the comments by Jason Malloy..

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    Robin’s quote from me on men’s rights makes it seem as if I am conflating men’s rights and with some sort of right to get laid. Here is the original quote in full.

    It is hard for men to play the victim card without looking weak and therefore loserish. Most men would rather just suffer in silence than admit their weakness.

    (Similarly, most men will not complain about the fact that they have lost in the sexual revolution. You just can’t admit that, while your future wife was out shagging a couple alphas, you yourself could barely get laid. Again, by complaining, you admit you are a loser.)

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      I’m sorry; I didn’t intend to misrepresent you. I focused on the complaint I found most interesting; I didn’t mean to imply that you thought it was the main men’s rights complaint.

  • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

    Robin, I have trouble finding insight in analysis that proceeds from some imagined distinction between “alpha” and “beta” males. Do you consider these to be legitimate scientific categories? Do you know of any evidence that supports this schema?

    Of course they are scientifically meaningful categories. I’m surprised that someone as broadly knowledgeable as yourself would ask. Think about the gini coefficient for income. Biologists have a similar concept – reproductive skew. It is a measure of the degree to which the procreation (or alternately, sexual access to females) is concentrated into the few. The alphas are the ones with the disproportionate access. Of course, it is tough to draw a precise line, but that’s standard sorites paradox stuff. The fact that you can’t draw a bright, clear line doesn’t mean that the two categories don’t exist.

    Sandra Vehrencamp describes reproductive skews as either despotic (langur monkeys, lions, gorillas) or egalitarian (monogamous species with low rates of adultery). I personally don’t care about the rights of either betas or alphas. What I do care about is the likely proposition that you cannot build a sustainable modern economy on a despotic reproductive skew. It diverts energy away from the non-zero sum game of heavy investment into offspring and into the status-seeking zero-sum game of, well, “Game”.

    Edmund Burke put it more succinctly, “Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

    • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

      Justin, Is there evidence of reproductive skew in humans? (Seriously, I don’t know.) Obviously, sex and reproduction come apart. I would guess that number of children is negatively correlated to number of sexual partners.

      But, sure. The distribution of # sex partners is highly unequal. How does that even take you a single step toward establishing some kind of attribute — alphaness — that all men on one side of the line share. If you just want to stipulate than alphaness is the property of being on that side of the sex partner distribution, you can do that, but it won’t be illuminating. What you’re looking for is a property that EXPLAINS being on that side of the line. I expect there are a number of properties correlated to various degrees with being on that side of the line, but I doubt they’ll correlate with one another strongly enough to justify the posit of a unifying, higher-order property.

      Moreover, it’s difficult to see why one would choose a term associated with dominance when it is not clear that dominance has anything to do with it. It’s not even clear what status has to do with it. (Won’t many of the men “winning” side of the line be of low socioeconomic status?) Anyway, the attempt to move straightaway from inequality in # of sex partners among human males to “despotic reproductive skew” assumes rather too much.

      • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

        Hi Will, thank you for the response. There is almost certainly some reproductive skew in humans in less you maintain that everyone has had an equal amount of children and/or sexual encounters. The more salient question is whether or not it is severe enough to cause real social problems. I think it probably is in places like Africa where polygamy is legal and common, but I doubt it is a widespread problem in modern society. Contact with the West has been beneficial in that regard.

        Your other question is very interesting. Is there something that separates alphas from non-alphas? I only noticed after I posted that you had made similar arguments upthread. I should have read all of the comments before replying! When it comes purely to the mating game I think there are three classic factors: (1) symmetry, (2) highly developed secondary sexual characteristics (big muscles, long colorful tail, whatever), and (3) age. I think age is valuable as a costly signal of fitness. 35 year old professional football players probably have better genes than 25 year old professional football players.

        But I think human society is too rich and complex to be capture by “fundamentalist” evolutionary psych. Smart people will acquire more wealth and connections. Charismatic people will move to the center of attention structures. I find that liberal egalitarianism generally fails because we live in a non-zero sum world. I think that the same arguments are generally correct when they are applied to zero sum games. If one person’s success really does make the rest of society worse off then we should have “reproductive redistribution.” To me that means simply this: lifelong monogamy is the ideal social arrangement. If you want to do something else then you have the right. But don’t call it moral.

  • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

    I take it that “alpha male” language comes from an analogy of human groups to wolf packs. As I understand it, this language has been abandoned by wolf researchers. Wolves get to be pack leaders by having a litter of cubs, not by displaying superior dominance. So “alpha male” has been replaced by “breeding male.” We already have a term for human “breeding males” and that would be “father.” Being a father implies nothing much about either status or dominance.

    I would be curious if you had a reference for that. I’m working on the sociobiologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. She is the one who first figured out why langur monkeys commit infanticide after deposing a rival alpha male. They do it to bring the females into heat sooner. It sounds obvious now but it was heretical to biologists back when ‘the good of the species’ was the reigning dogma.

    In any case, she discusses status-seeking alpha behavior among females extensively in her (very impressive) book ‘Mother Nature’. She makes it pretty clear that females (and males) become alpha first and then are able to reproduce. If a low status female tried to reproduce her offspring would be killed by the alpha female. If a low status male tried to reproduce he would be killed by the alpha male.

    • marc

      Here’s a link to a post about this:

      http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2009/08/no_more_alpha_male.php

      For the record, this post seems to imply that Will Wilkinson is wrong. The alpha male distinction doesn’t exist in natural wolf groupings because these tend to be divided along family lines. But, under the unnatural conditions of the original experiments, it seems that the alpha male distinction does apply.

      • Eric Johnson

        Here’s the refereed gospel from the pen of Mech:

        http://article.pubs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/RPAS/rpv?hm=HInit&journal=cjz&volume=77&calyLang=eng&afpf=z99-099.pdf

        He treats as exceptional packs containing anything but the breeding pair and their offspring, but he doesn’t give numbers – kind of annoying since he is making a slightly polemical point. Numbers would beat the heck out of adjectives.

        At any rate, when an animal forms a social group with its offspring it’s no surprise that there won’t be intense physical struggle for dominance. But when animals group with non-relatives, there quite often is such a struggle and it can be quite physical, from Polistes wasps all the way to chimps and man. Here’s a refereed bit on Polistes:

        Many Polistes fuscatus colonies are founded by multiple queens (foundresses) in early spring. During colony foundation, foundresses on the same nest (co-foundresses) are extremely aggressive as they fight to establish relative dominance rank (West-Eberhard 1969).

        Here’s a very good episode of the show Nature (which once was always good). It shows a little bit of complex social stuff – this is one of the large packs Mech considers unusual, and which his paper suggests are likely to contain some unrelated members.

        http://www.pbs.org%2Fwnet%2Fnature%2Fepisodes%2Fin-the-valley-of-the-wolves%2Fvideo-full-episode%2F4678%2F

        Since this stuff does happen in the wild, even if unusually, it would seem that the stuff seen in captivity is “true” behavior even though most wild individuals do not have the occasion to behave that way in their lifetime.

      • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

        Ah, that makes sense if wolves are basically a monogamous kinship group. As a post below implies, it is broadly seen that when you have groups of unrelated (or loosely related) individuals you see status hierarchies. That also applies to chimps and bonobos. See ‘Our Inner Ape’ by primatologist Frans de Waal.

  • http://roissy.wordpress.com roissy

    If you want to see an empirical takedown of one of Roissydom’s claims, see the multiple posts on sex ratios on Peter Frost’s blog from a couple weeks ago, particularly the comments by Jason Malloy..

    i assume by roissydom you mean the theoretical meanderings of one of my commenters, because i haven’t written much if anything at all about sex ratio. i read malloy’s studies and nothing he pointed to contradicted what i’ve written, specifically, when there are more women than men they will have more leverage in the sexual market to get what they want, and thus easy lays will be harder to obtain.

    the studies that were somewhat counterintuitive were the ones showing that high sex ratios (more men than women) have less violence and criminality, as men have to be on their best behavior to get any nookie.

  • http://roissy.wordpress.com roissy

    that should read “more men than women” above in the first paragraph.. brain fart happens.

  • curious

    grazie to will for shredding this nonsense.

    and if thursday wants to be treated as anything other than a deranged religious nut shouting on the corner, he needs to get himself some data before throwing around unsubstantiated claims about women (or men, for that matter) all over the internets.

  • Eric Johnson

    Hasn’t there been some talk about wider social implications (bad ones) of increasing numbers of deprived betas? This deprivation being created not through a change in the male:female ratio, but through a decline of monogamy and a shift of sexual success towards alphas. A different deal, but some of the effects are the same.

    Maybe I’m thinking of something written by Whiskey or somebody.

    It could also be that, if I criticize you, it’s largely because I’m irritated that you weren’t around fifteen years ago when I was eagerly absorbing the herbal decoctions of National Public Radio. Testifications like yours would have afforded me a more penetrating knowledge of human affairs.

  • Noumenon

    Thanks for the link, Robin, an interesting and under-the-radar perspective.

  • Eric Johnson

    Will Wilkinson, when you mention prestige it’s perhaps a little vague. To concretize, perhaps we should say what factors actually prevent individuals from arrogating a higher status within a given hierarchy.

    We probably(?) agree that in wolves, chimps, etc, that factor is violence. When you say “prestige” it sounds like maybe you are referring to “popularity” that derives from, I don’t know, economic productivity, or other forms of value creation? At any rate you seem to be mostly denying the importance of violence for human status. This is obviously more true of the upper classes of complex state societies than, say, New Guinea tribes which remain in a stateless condition of “vandetta law.” It’s two separate questions, really. How things work in our own society is of course of interest, but when it comes to evo-psych it’s probably equally important to understand how things were prehistorically. Our adaptation to the state and to the division of labor is probably very incomplete, if it exists at all.

    It’s interesting to note that dueling was of some importancein the status system until rather recently, as Alexander Hamilton would doubtless point out if he could.

    I wish I had more empirical information to contribute from ethnography. I do know that ethnographers have been impressed by the high variance in hunting success in at least some pre-ag societies. Pure theory would suggest that the best exerters of violence should tax or pirate highly productive persons, which should tend to make violence trump value-creation in the race for status. But I’m not sure how much this happens. I haven’t heard of it, so far. I know Yanomamos may defect from their group to another, mutually hostile one if they get too cheesed off about their situation, which may limit taxation to some extent. Of course, to a large extent the great hunters and great exerters of violence may be the same people.

    Also, the violence of humans and chimps does not rest on Homeric individual combat – it’s totally about coalitions. Perhaps this also has something to do with why you would stress the concept of prestige rather than violence. Who you want in your coalition as a chimp or hunter-gatherer has a great deal to do with their sheer capability in individual combat, but it has to do with other things – particularly traits that will keep the coalition from fracturing or disintegrating. Loyalty, honor, agreeableness, perseverance & dedication, generosity, social skills, etc.

    • http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle Will Wilkinson

      Eric, I have the strong sense that this conversation in fact has been about the conditions of men in contemporary, wealthy, liberal-democratic capitalist societies. Violence seems to have little to do with sexual success under these conditions. Don’t you agree?

      • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

        Violence seems to have little to do with sexual success under these conditions. Don’t you agree?

        I responded to your very thoughtful post to me above. I disagree with “fundamentalist” evolutionary pysch (stone age brain in a modern skull). But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that violence is irrelevant. What do big muscles and success in sports that demand fast-twitch muscles signal? Deer ram their antlers together and humans play football.

  • Jim

    Yeah, I’d have to agree this post is really quite dumb.

    When the topic is Men’s Rights, you act as if the topic is an Affirmative Action Sex Distribution Program for “beta males.” And since no one benefits from supporting that, it is a silly idea. This is pretty dense.

    The issue of Men’s Rights has nothing to do with any “alpha/beta” divide. Just off the top of my head, I can think of these issues that would rank highly among anyone concerned about Men’s Rights: child custody; the presumption of guilt in any domestic violence or sexual assault accusation; alimony; and the fact that any woman can get a restraining order against any man just because she feels like it.

    These are extremely serious issues. But hey, if you’d rather say that “betas” like the XBOX 360, I suppose that settles it for you.

  • tgrass

    The very term “alpha” needs a revisiting in this forum.

    Even without a renunciation like Mech’s, the term is used loosely in these comments to describe reproductive success and mere sexual success. What’s the correlation of number of sexual partners and reproductive success for a male? In a culture which approves of abortion and birth control, sexual relations is not necessarily a proxy for reproduction.

    • Eric Johnson

      > What’s the correlation of number of sexual partners and reproductive success for a male?

      In America it is negative in sign, moderate in magnitude. So you’re right, alphas are not alpha. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Again there’s ambiguity when we discuss these things because the valences of things change; America 2009 is not 1949 is not 12,000 BC, but there’s still a good deal of 12,000 BC left in the human mind.

      • tgrass

        Eric, the sexually dominant male (sex alpha) is not a reproductively dominant male (repro alpha).

        More: the wife of the resource dominant male (the white, educated, and wealthy alpha) has a lower pregnancy rate than the wives of betas (CDC report page 4 .)

        By income, the pregnancy rate of the top tier is 43% that of the lowest tier. The Master’s of the Universe are not replicating.

      • tgrass

        Eric, that was merely my tedious restating of your “alphas are not alphas.”

  • Eric Johnson

    Will – yes, I concede we’ve mostly been referring to wealthy technologic societies. Though, there is a little vagueness as Justin says, because some of our instincts and drives still pertain to or allude to violence… we might engage in gestures/displays that threaten some sort of violence (particularly a nonlethal fistfight) that still just might occur, rarely, but has become extremely unlikely in upscale modern America.

    Also, I think if we go to the far side of the tracks we will see more physical conflict. I think fistfights actually loom pretty large as a final arbiter of status and mating, if you look at Baltimore dockworkers, or whatever. This sort of society is less than one half of the american population, but it’s no tiny sliver – it’s more than 10%. Though raised affluently I know a little about the downscale labor and enlisted military guy sort of world, via summer jobs.

    I googled for a little fistfighting info. TIME Magazine, 13 Dec 1954: Half of all U.S. men have had a fist fight since they were 15, but only one woman in ten has engaged in a hair-pulling match. Seventeen percent of men admit they have hit their wives, and 18% of women say they have struck their husbands.

    A big part of the point of the gamers is that you can behave in promiscuous manner and act macho towards women in upscale, anonymously-urban american society, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll pay the price. Although you could probably get away with it in teh upscale world, it’s not really necessary to be macho towards men, which would get you into a non-lethal fight rather reliably in downscale America, and sometimes in midscale America. In a small town where you don’t meet new people every night, it is, on average, necessary to be macho towards men if you want high mating status – and tradition might also portend a fistfight for you if you sleep with a guy’s sister and then ignore her phone calls. Yet even in the upscale world, the effectiveness of macho displays toward women has to do with neural circuits the women inherited from hunter-gatherer times, and probably has a lot to do with violence. When you describe modern technological people you are describing an organism that is poorly adapted to its environment, so the hunter-gatherer times toward which we remain partially adapted can’t be left out of account completely.

    Part of the reason a male CEO is “hot,” I would opine, is because he seems like he could bring violence to bear. Could Steve Jobs successfully order Apple desk jockeys and Objective C code poets to march on Washington in a unitary horde and terminate with extreme prejudice? Probably not, but I think the human brain sort of “feels” like maybe he could, when it sees him juggling zillions of dollars and employees.

  • http://dhex.wordpress.com dhex

    Moreover, it’s difficult to see why one would choose a term associated with dominance when it is not clear that dominance has anything to do with it.

    it does if you think of women as alien beings, have odd hangups about sex stemming from religious and cultural packaging, and think in terms of “game” rather than human interaction.

    it does, however, explain why folks like jeffries and strauss drive around in gold-plated cars, however; tons of men apparently want an explanation for their inability to connect with other human beings, presumably so they can treat them like objects.

    more glibly, it’s the walking, talking manifestation of the virgin/whore dichotomy. fascinating, if creepy.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      more glibly, it’s the walking, talking manifestation of the virgin/whore dichotomy.

      How so?

      Interestingly, the opposite seems to be true. These men have realized that individual women are not all good or all bad, but human beings which corresponding weaknesses.

      Take infidelity, for example. It is people like you who believe there are only madonnas, who never cheat, and whores, who do. And only whores value power, status and money in men, whereas madonnas only like men for their personality. And only whores lie about their mating preferences, whereas madonnas could never lie.

      • Cyan

        Interestingly, the opposite seems to be true. These men have realized that individual women are not all good or all bad, but human beings which corresponding weaknesses.

        There’s more diversity of attitude among PUAs than you seem willing to acknowledge. Consider this popular guru, for example. His default opinion of any girl he meets is “worthless dirty whore until proven otherwise,” and if he does manage to have sex with her, it just confirms his opinion.

        It is people like you who believe there are only madonnas, who never cheat, and whores, who do.

        Ah, the “I know you are but what am I?” rejoinder. It’s not as effective as you may have been led to believe.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      it does, however, explain why folks like jeffries and strauss drive around in gold-plated cars, however; tons of men apparently want an explanation for their inability to connect with other human beings, presumably so they can treat them like objects.

      Exposing beliefs in whore/madonna dichotomy is offensive to believers of the dichotomy, because it lowers the status of madonnas by associating them with whores. While objectification has real meaning, usually it is used like here, as a pejorative to put down people doing the exposing.

  • Eric Johnson

    Dhex has a point. I certainly wouldn’t want to “game” my girlfriend constantly. To have a real connection with someone you can’t be gaming them all the time, you have to be real. Putting on a front is obviously anti-intimate. Yet on the other hand, no one truly goes all the way to the other pole. To be “truly” authentic you should immediately blurt out every thought you have, rather than make a liar out of yourself – something no one has ever done in human history. Realistically, you can’t be perfectly real. A certain amount of artifice is part of life – a rather minimal amount suits my taste, and that partly depends on individual personality. “Artifice” is, in harsh terms, a lie – art is a lie. So is ideality.

    • http://modeledbehavior.com Karl Smith

      Roissy’s blog didn’t wind up being as bad as I suspected. There are many concepts that he lists as “Game” that when I was teenager/early twentysomething, we just called “being a man.”

      My view on acceptable male behavior has broadened since then but its wrong to think that you can’t have a serious meaningful relationship within the contours of traditional male behavior.

      Now there were some techinques that clearly served to make women feel bad about themselves and I don’t see how that has in any role in a caring relationship, but that is true for all of the “Game.”

  • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

    The commentary on this post, which was mislabeled to begin with, is some of the most infantile I have ever seen anywhere. Gag. Grow up, guys.

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  • http://dhex.wordpress.com dhex

    “It is people like you who believe there are only madonnas”

    how so?

    see, the difference here – and were i more clever i’d turn this into a seminar, dress like a pirate, and milk some crowds – is that in my particular worldview, women are people first and women second. and so i act accordingly.

    not sure how to package that for optimal sheep shearing, however.

  • http://weddedabyss.wordpress.com Puma

    Robin –
    I just discovered your site by searching on “men’s rights” with Google’s blog-search function and landing on this article. I must say, you have a fascinating array of topics and interest areas here. I hope to dive into the material in more depth, especially regarding futurism, in the days ahead.

    Regarding this particular article/thread, I agree with some of the commenters above that Men’s Rights a la Legal Equality and the Men’s Mating Game are different but intertwined topics. They do intersect at certain junctions both at the personal and policy level.

    At the personal level, many men now have to compete in the open mating free market, as they no longer have the option, willingly or unwillingly, to go down the lifelong monogamous Marriage path. At the policy level the implications for the changing fault-lines of where men’s rights, women’s rights, equality, and marriage/divorce laws intersect are going to have profound impact on how humans live as socities in the near future.

    Here is a good essay, written by Noveseeker a fellow DC-resident of yours, that explores the latter topic. It is titled A General Theory of Human Mating – Past, Present, and Future:

    http://novaresources.blogspot.com/2009/04/general-theory-of-human-mating.html

    Novaseeker is also one of the contributing writers over at the new Men’s Awareness eZine called The Spearhead. You may also want to check out that site when you get a chance.

    Cheers,
    Puma

  • These days, those days

    That’s a good article, Puma. I like how it explains that the current unjust alimony laws (I fully agree with the men’s rights movement here) are not the feminists’ ideal; rather, they are a feature of a transitional phase between the pre-sexual revolution social order, and the kind of matriarchal socialism that radical feminists talk about, where marriage as we know it would be obsolete. I think it’s interesting that the author favors monogamy and capitalism, but appears fairly resigned about the likelihood of this brave new world coming about; to me he sounds like he’s saying, “At least we won’t have the status quo.”

    Basically, I think that I would be all right with the way the mating game would work in such a society (as well as other aspects of life), although (or perhaps because) I am very much a low-beta male. From where I’m standing, “each woman has many partners = good.” I’d be more optimistic about my prospects under matriarchy than I would be about traditional polygynous patirarchy. And as for comparing the amount I get laid under the status quo vs. a society dominate by free-love women–well, I couldn’t very well have a success rate lower than my current one.

    After all, the talk about “sympathy for deprived beta males” misses the point that sympathy isn’t the only reason for helping the deprived. There’s also the idea that helping the deprived can make the society stabler and more efficient, and thus be a benefit to everyone. It’s pretty well agreed that the sex-deprived men in polygynous societies are a force for chaos, and so the matriarchy would have every reason to want as many men as possible to have access to some kind of birth-controlled sex. Growing opportunities for beta males would include homosexuality (we’re starting to see this already), some form of prostitution, older women, and non-reproductive sex acts like oral sex.

  • http://weddedabyss.wordpress.com Puma

    Thanks TDTD. One thing is for certain: signing the marriage contract will convert even the most alpha of males into a beta. No man can match the full power of the State arrayed against him.

  • http://twitter.com/NiceGuyGoneCad NiceGuyGoneCad

    As a lobby, the Men’s Rights Movement is a complete failure and I don’t think that’s gonna change. However it’s been moderately successful spreading all over the internet a realistic insight into how the law is unfair to man in matters like divorce or sex crimes and how women and relationships really work.  
    I think that activism in the classic sense is a waste of time. The only option for men is direct action; don’t marry; don’t cohabitate; if you want to have kids adopt or hire a surrogate mother; boycott as much as possible business that are subservient to feminists; live frugally and avoid as much as possible paying taxes; don’t vote for politicians who don’t actively oppose anti-male legislation…the system will eventually collapse if enough men don’t support it; ironically feminism NEEDS men to survive.