Defining Alpha

Many apologies for my recent absence from blogging. Concurrently launching two new liquor brands in Q2 is proving very time consuming, but it has allowed me to step back briefly enough to review some of my more ‘influential’ posts. Amongst those, none generated more dialog than my essay on Alpha, so I thought it prudent to come back to this very contentious topic.

I understand why guys, both of the red and blue pill variety have a problem with using the terms Alpha and/or Beta; depending on the perspective, terms that are definitive about what someone has an investment in make us uncomfortable. It’s much more comfortable to put those issues into more subjective understandings because when we’re objective about them we can’t help the wondering or the doubt of our own status within that definition. Objective terms are very close to absolutes depending upon who’s doing the defining.

From a generalized perspective, I feel that the terms Alpha and Beta are good reference points in assessing the characteristics that women find arousing in men for both short and long term mating strategies. However, I think that beyond these convenient terms, men need to be more realistic about how they apply to their own self-impressions in contrast with how women are interpreting the Alpha and Beta cues that they exhibit. For the record, at points in my life I’ve personally been the worst, bottom scraping Beta, the douchebag Alpha stud in the foam cannon party in Cancun, and the strong (but lesser) Alpha father and husband. So it’s with this in mind that I think guys shouldn’t believe that their ‘stars are set’ and they’ll never live up to the manosphere standard of Alpha.

Living Up

The reason that so many guys get so bent about what defines an Alpha is usually because they don’t fit that general definition very well. So it’s a logical ego defense to make necessity a virtue (once again) and redefine it to better suit their own conditions. It’s exactly the same dynamic as the debate over Looks vs. Game. Game takes priority for those without Looks and vice versa. A personal definition of “what’s Alpha?” becomes whatever plays to an individual guy’s strengths, and women who can’t appreciate them (i.e. all of them) are relegated to being less-than quality women. Sour grapes are sour, but deductively it makes sense; we want to be the embodiment of what we ‘know’ is attractive to women and others. The worst beta schlub you know thinks he’s Alpha, because every woman he’s ever known has defined for him that being beta is what women want.

Ethics of Alpha

The problem then is looking at the definition objectively. In an objective light it’s difficult to look at ourselves as not measuring up to an Alpha ideal. So it becomes the first recourse to cast suspicion on the whole idea of being Alpha at all. It’s a pissing contest between immature men then. Or is it? There is a LOT of observable, provable evidence that many so-called Alpha traits do in fact elicit very predictable, desired, favorable behaviors (usually breeding precursors) in women. From an evo-psych perspective Alpha is just as unprincipled, just as efficiently ruthless and uncaring as it’s female counterpart – feminine Hypergamy.

So then the definition moves into an ambiguous moral ground; is it ethical to be / act Alpha? To be Alpha implies that you necessarily rise above a certain degree of common mediocrity depending upon the context – whether you do so like a guy from hotchickswithdouchebags.com or like a perfect “honorable” gentlemen is irrelevant, you still position yourself above “other guys”. To some extent this is selfishness or implies a self-importance that questions moral tenets.

At this point I should also add here that women NEVER doubt themselves on moral grounds for outshining their own competition in the sexual market place – they just do so covertly and with a polite smile, unburdened by ethical doubts. Hypergamy is its own excuse.

Alpha Selectivity

And that brings us to the subjectively deductive end of defining Alpha. Every sexual competitor seeks to disqualify their rivals from breeding opportunities. Most animals fight for territory or harem rights. Humans generally (though certainly not exclusively) do the same combat in the psychological. We seek to disqualify sexual competitors by calling into doubt the sexual credibility of a rival. “Yeah, he’s really good looking, but that means he’s probably gay” from a man, or “You think that blonde with the big boobs is hot? Girls who dress like that are usually sluts” from a woman are both psychological, sexually disqualifying forms of combat.

This also applies to the observably, provably, sexually successful male capable of OVERTLY flaunting his high sexual value with two (or more) concurrent women. He must be of low moral character to so flagrantly manipulate his multiple girlfriends, right? His observable success, as a sexual competitor, conflicts with what a beta believes should constitute a beta-defined definition of Alpha-ness as it characterizes him personally. Ergo, the polygamist either must be disqualified as a sexual competitor based on subjective (moral) grounds, or a guy is forced to alter his own definition of Alphaness and therefore his own self-estimate.

Every guy has a Game. Everyone thinks they are Alpha in their own way. Even the worst doormat Nice Guy, hammered flat by women for a lifetime, thinks his supplications or Capn’ Save-a-Ho mindset is the best way to win a woman’s intimacy. He’s invested in thinking he’s unique in his understanding of how best to arrive at sex with a woman. Likewise, Alpha-ness is a moving target that’s conveniently applied or disparaged based on personal circumstances.

Personally I believe Alpha-ness can, and does, have a concrete, objective definition. The problem arises when anyone asserts that they can definitively outline Alpha traits when it conflicts with the subjectiveness and ego-investments of those who define it personally for themselves. So we get a wide variety of what makes a man Alpha – he’s the guy of high moral character, princely ambition and integrity, as well as the self-important cad banging his wife and “their” girlfriend. They are BOTH Alpha. Thus I would propose that while certainly contextual, objective Alpha-ness is NOT exclusive to social status or personal integrity, but rather an attitude of expressly manifested traits. These can be innate or learned, but the definition is not dependent on moral grounds (or a lack of). A scoundrel and a champion can be equally Alpha or Beta in their own psyche’s.


33 responses to “Defining Alpha

  • A.B. Dada

    Rollo says “So we get a wide variety of what makes a man Alpha – he’s the guy of high moral character, princely ambition and integrity, as well as the self-important cad banging his wife and “their” girlfriend. They are BOTH Alpha.”

    This is exactly why I have always defined males in 3 terms: hawk, vulture, chicken.

    Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that “alpha” is truly not sex-centric. I was doing some casual research over Facebook over the past 18 months or so, monitoring the relationship statuses of a variety of people I know in real life.

    It seems that the alphas (male or female) tend to dump their significant others in pre-spring, whereas the betas (male or female) tend to hook up with new long term partners in late-fall (pre-winter). Yes, it’s anecdotal based on limited input values, but it seems consistent with what I was watching for.

    Being “alpha” can be defined not by metrics of success, but by metrics of risk-taking and not making it seem like one’s doing so. Whereas others see someone walking into a room filled with fire, the alpha knows they’re wearing fire-proof gear and have enough oxygen to outlast anyone else in that room.

  • Traveller

    Ok but in this article you did not define clearly what is Alpha, at least for you. You give some clues, only.

    Like the intelligence is difficult to define, there is the risk of the tautology (intelligence is the ability to solve intelligence tests). Alphaness is usually meant as the capability to attract females, and vice versa.

  • modernguy

    I don’t think there is problem. Alpha is pretty clearly defined, based on how attractive you are to women in general.

    The problem arises when people turn it into a pissing contest of who’s slept with more women as a basis for self worth. On top of that the cultural conditions are such that there something of a lassez-faire free market in dating that allows for gross imbalances. It’s not really how attractive a man might be to women, everyone can appreciate good looks, charisma, wealth or creativity. No one despises the high school quarterback who marries his high school sweetheart and starts a family. It’s the people that use their advantages ruthlessly to reap the maximum harvest (and then make it into a virtue). It’s offensive on it’s face to everyone competing for those same women. Obviously the women don’t seem to mind. It’s really just a cultural, moral problem in the same way that lassez-faire economics created gross imbalances in the economy.

  • unbowed

    Agree about the definition of alpha being what turns on women: it’s simple and reductive, but if you think of it as the counterpart to hypergamy, it’s the only definition that works.
    Also agree about alphas, especially ‘naturals’ acting in destructive ways ‘use their advantages ruthlessly to reap the maximum harvest (and then make it into a virtue’. But I’d add that if you’re a beta/omega you never reach that particular moral dilemma. Most of us want to be in a position to have that problem: those w/ that dilemma are lucky to have choices. And, as Rollo notes, women don’t have any moral qualms about crushing their competitors.
    (It may not be an accident that being less troubled, they’re also less creative.)

  • The Shocker

    A girl can be ruthlessly hypergamous without it negatively impacting her identity. If she’s single, she can fuck the entire basketball team without it affecting her self-image unless she’s caught and slut-shamed (this rarely happens). If she’s in a relationship and her hypergamous drive ruins it, it’s totally justifiable via feelings. And most girls project an image of girlfriend-type no matter what, < or = 7 partners, even if it's as real as make-up.

    If a guy exercises his male imperative and sleeps around, he's that kind of guy. He made that choice, it's who he is. We've even created a name for that identity- alpha. A rebranding of asshole or jerk.

    The difference is girls like alpha, men don't like hypergamous women (a reversal of The Threat). Chicks who talk about their sexual conquests are like women who brag about their careers or act arrogant- they are projecting the behavior they want from men. Men aren't attracted to it.

    Girls like assholes, and they only stop when they've been hurt too many times and settle for someone safer. It's not true that 'women don't know what they want.' They want the basketball player to call them back.

    Every time a girl tells a story about some douchebag thing a guy did to her in the past, I always respond, 'yeah, but girls like assholes.' I tell one I hand my business card out to girls and she says, 'OMG, only jerks do that.' There is only one response- 'yeah, but girls like assholes.' They never push back.

    My failed pickup attempts these days come from not being asshole/funny enough- if the conversation slips to who-do-you-know-what-do-you-do, it's dead. If I'm making fun of her or being a happy jerk, it's on.

    This is the essence of pickup in a minute 25: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DHq86W8IZ8

    Fearless, crisp masculine display followed by nothing.

    The most beta an alpha can be is 'attentive.' Never conceding.

    There is no guilt in being an alpha jerk when you understand women want it.

    The girl who wants me most right now is my next door neighbor- the one who hears me bring different girls home.

  • bmwk1200s

    Maybe as stated elsewhere in the manosphere, but being Alpha is a response to, and an adjustment towards, a changing landscape when dealing with the opposite sex, especially a landscape shaped by decades of feminism that is wrought harm for male/female interaction.

    Case in point, I’m here because I just blew out what should have been a continuing LTR. Wrecked by it, I know…Oneitis…bla..bla. Did I back slide in beta and become less attractive, probably, actually I know I did, I just ran a playbook that is flawed.

    Did I see the onslaught of shit tests for what they are from the evo-psych understanding…no.

    Can you make the case that being Alpha is really an encapsulation of counter-intuitive behaviors that reestablish proper polarity and balance in man/women interactions, or survival skills for the 21 century male? Maybe this blog needs a mission statement that speaks to what it means to be alpha and how game is just knowledge or insight on how to advance your needs.

  • Sam Spade

    Great post. Only thing I disagree is that every guy has “a game.” Some guys have no game and admit as much, or admit that they’re “too nice” or too shy or whatever to pull women like they want to. A friend of mine with poor game always tells me, “I just don’t have the balls you do.” Yet they also don’t want to improve. But they seem to be under no illusion as to what really works better.

  • Solo

    Great post by rollo. The whole Alpha debate has been beaten to death in the seduction community as well as the whole looks vs money debate since 2002! To quote Mike C on Rollo’s other post, he hits the nail on the effing head.

    “Seems to me that arguing over and over whether alpha is alpha because it is alpha or whether it produces some measurable, empirical outcome (gets girls, gets pussy, generates attraction) is almost a sort of mental masturbation “how many angels dance on the head of a pin”. I think the point which I fully agree with is that the emphasis should NOT be on getting pussy. It should be acting, interacting, verbalizing with the right frame, right body language, etc. Getting pussy just flows from that.

    I think the money, status, etc. just confuses the issue. Is Mark Zuckerberg an alpha? Really? When I was bouncing, I worked with a guy who didn’t have shit besides his motorcycle who was probably the most alpha guy I’ve ever met in my life. Would he be the same level of alpha in a tuxedo cocktail party discussing modern art? Probably not. So yeah, alpha is contextual.”–Mike C

    The community/manosphere definition of alpha is to narrow. For instance I remember reading a topic about paying for the first date then your considered “Beta”. The arguments just get ridiculous, with a lot of “cock measuring talk” and KBJIng. A lot of this is harmful for your Noob, and this is how b.s. topics like “Do looks and money matter” come about weekly on forums, because of the confusion. If you can’t afford to take a chick out why bother? look I’m not trying to sound like a simp here but honestly if you worried about paying for a couple drinks then you have more issues to worry about then being alpha(like stepping your money game up for instance).

    At one point dressing like this was considered alpha in the Pua community

    http://www.datingskillsreview.com/images/stories/jreviews/1344_Strauss9_1279690436.jpg

    ^^^guaranteed wear this to any venue in my city, and these guys wouldn’t make it past security.

  • Rollo Tomassi

    Ironically Roosh had a great post yesterday about how “not all girls want an Alpha” though he does offer a lot of caveats in his assessment:

    http://www.rooshv.com/not-all-women-of-the-world-want-an-alpha-male

    I feel like I need to emphasize again that while I think Alpha can be objectively defined, it is definitely contextual for women. The traits and the characteristics that impress a woman that a man is Alpha are fairly universal, however the context they’re presented in are also important. An Alpha jock, artist, musician, businessman, doctor, etc. are still Alpha in that the dominance they exhibit in their particular sphere indicates they are, it’s just the context that changes.

    Maybe in Estonia the context for an Alpha is a guy who’s more laid back, but there’s still an Alpha distinction that women make in their mate selection. It may not be as pronounced in Poland as it is In America, but the underlying prerequisites that hypergamy demands for women to make breeding selections is still in effect regardless of the sphere any particular Alpha may have sway over.

  • Leap of a Beta

    Awesome and helpful definition of Alpha – I think many forget that its all about the context.

    Curious Rollo, whats your take on Vox’s idea of Sigma?

  • Good Luck Chuck

    The whole alpha/beta thing as it has been co-opted by the PUA community makes me want to throw my computer against the wall and never look at another manosphere website again for the rest of my life.

    Bleh.

  • FFY

    I’ve been on this bandwagon for awhile.

    Haters want Alpha to mean “douchebag”, a smokescreen so they can reframe and shift focus away from what is really Alpha (cough cough Aunt Susan). Others want to define it according to wolf packs, or business success, whichever takes the focus away from seduction skills. None of them really get it.

    http://flyfreshandyoung.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/youre-not-quite-there-yet-if/

  • FFY

    I agree that it has been overdone significantly.

    But it’s still a good starting point for reform-minded chumps, and as a rough, quick metric to judge progress/performance.

  • derthal

    You should take into consideration that Roosh is an American (guy form rich, high developed country) and that fact alone rising a lot his status in Polish chick’s eyes in comparison to an average Polish guy from postcommunist country where an average status of man is much lower then American man in USA. It’s not financially easy to buy or even rent good flat in Poland for us. His’s stereotypical exotic guy from rich country. Average Polish guy must have tighter game, especially in main, biggest Polish cities.

    Fact is that those cities are full of sweet, not yet corrupted nor feminized women form small towns moving to big cities to learn and work. But they “adapt” quickly and learn quickly form mas-media and from their friends returning back from UK where “eqalism” rules. There is a Facebook in Poland too, very popular. Mentioned girls have a not quite good opinion about about Polish men. The average Polish man in Polish chick’s opinion drink a lot of beer, watch TV a lot and frequently, and is in bad shape, read almost no books, etc, etc. Stereotypical small town man. As Polish we have “by definition” a much more “obstacles” to pass when we meet a chick than average American, Spain or Italian. But it is good fun anyway. :)

    Unlucky for us we have progressing feminization here in Poland too, like you had 10, 15 years ago I suppose.

  • Leap of a Beta

    Well I think they’re trying to assign moralistic values to it (such as Susan’s case) or they’re wanting to distract the discussion by using examples outside of seduction.

    Probably a good amount of people on both of those issues get it – they just really, REALLY don’t want to acknowledge that they get it. It would break their world views to admit that the Corey Worthington’s are able to be just as successful (or more so) with women as the lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc.

    Which sucks, because all the men like me trying to learn how to be more successful with women and not get screwed over could learn from them if we could just have a discussion without all the hate, moral side tracking, or social sidetracking. We could just discuss what game and alpha is and learn it more clearly instead of being demonized and called cads so often that we stop caring if we actually do turn into them.

  • e.p.

    It should be similar to diagnoses in the DSM… “there are seven typical Alpha traits, if the patient presents 4 of them they are considered alpha” …

  • Traveller

    “Rollo Tomassi February 21st, 2012 at 2:41 pm
    Traveller, read the linked article I was following up on:
    http://rationalmale.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/alpha/

    Thank you. Ok it is my fault I usually do not read linked pages, or by laziness or by thinking a post should try to be in se complete.
    That link is about the (in)famous kid who trashed a neighborhood or similar in a party. Alpha is defined by example, totally acceptable since the social root of the question. Roissy wrote about him too.

    It is positive to specify alpha/beta is not definitive classification. This gives hope to many men, convincing them it is not branded it in the forehead.

  • Rollo Tomassi

    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2010/01/roissy-and-limits-of-game.html

    Semantics.

    Vox is a respectable writer, so not to take anything away from him, but classifying men into different socio-sexual strata is still defined by behaviors. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with his outlines in a social context, but a guy with a Beta, Delta, Omega male perspective can be taught to successfully ape the behaviors that cue for Alpha traits in women.

    There’s very little distinction between the behavioral motivations of the Alpha thug in prison receiving letters of sexual proposition from random women, and the decorated Officer & a Gentleman Marine fighting for God & Country that women swoon for; the only difference is the context. Vox would say the thug is Sigma and the Marine is Alpha, but all he’s doing is applying his own names to varying degrees of sociopathic behavior patterns.

    The main problem being that the root evolutionary motivations for the behaviors that he classifies preclude the social aspect that he wants to build a hierarchy from. In other words, Alpha is as Alpha does.

    Example, Adres Brevik can psychopathically murder 72 unarmed teenagers in Norway, yet still receives propositions for conjugal visits in prison from a dozen women. Is he an Omega, a Sigma or an Alpha?

    The capacity to kill another human being has been an Alpha behavioral trait since the dawn of humanity.

  • milchama

    I think what people don’t realize is that there are different genres of alpha (as well as beta and omega). There are alphas who are strongly religious family men. There are alphas who are the hot chicks with douchebags type. The thing is, the latter group is emphasized far more in the manosphere due to PUA blogs. The aspiring PUA will strive to be the latter kind of alpha because that is the kind that will get him the most sex. Couple that with the fact that one of the most-read blogs in the manosphere is Chateau Heartiste, and you of course produce many men who are convinced the “HCWD” type of alpha IS the real sole definition of alpha. It’s arguable that Heartiste has a monopoly on the term – heck, he has the alpha assessment article on his blog that many assess their alphaness by. That’s no knock on Heartiste – he’s entertaining and informative, even if he’s unethical – it’s just pointing out the truth.

    I think you’re right, Rollo, when you say that there are traits that define an alpha. There are some things that an alpha MUST possess to be considered alpha. It does men no good to “move the goalposts” in order to protect their egos, because that limits their development into alphas. I consider myself a greater beta due to my confidence levels, sense of humor, decent way with women, etc, but I freely admit most of my life I was a beta and I started from an omega level. When I was omega (20 y/o virgin who never even kissed a girl) I admitted it and progressed to beta, and when I was beta I admitted it and worked towards becoming alpha. That said, it does help if you carry yourself about like you are an alpha. When I go out (even if it’s just to work or the gym) I consider myself alpha because it gives me confidence, but I make sure I accurately assess myself and see my weaknesses clearly. I also make no excuses for my failures. I’m a very religious guy, but I don’t blame the fact that I sometimes go a month or so without a date or anything on that like many religious folks do. I’m straight with myself. Only those who are straight with themselves go anywhere, the delusional experience arrested development.

  • Leap of a Beta

    Cool. Some good food for thought that both definitions are Alpha and its only social constructs that make the would be Sigma as such.

  • Rollo Tomassi

    The problem with Vox is that he’s built a social definition of what Alpha “should” be (i.e. Leader of Men) and then started in on constructing his version of Game around it. So-Cons and Aunt Giggles love his architecture because it agrees with a feminine primary social structure.

  • Leap of a Beta

    So would you say then that, while they may be examining and trying to learn from/about Alphas, they’re doing so with too narrow of a mindset? That would make sense…

    It would easily lead to some of the off-kilter writings of said Aunt. Incorrect conclusions and extrapolations based off biased and incomplete views.

    Like studying in detail a section of the painting The Scream while only being able to see the man while the rest of the painting is blocked out of view. You might be occasionally right and get to know that tiny portion real well, but you’ll never understand the whole picture as it were.

  • YOHAMI

    “Like studying in detail a section of the painting The Scream while only being able to see the man while the rest of the painting is blocked out of view.”

    And through the lense of what that portion of the painting *should* be to fit on your imaginary painting.

    And with your hands firmly grabbing whatever is blocking the view of the real painting.

  • Leap of a Beta

    Hahaha. Nice.

    Gotta keep from breaking the illusion of being able to see the whole thing clearly after all.

  • Sam Spade

    Questions for you Rollo – because I’d like them clarified.

    You say you believe that “Alpha” traits can be objectively defined, though it can be contextual.

    You’ve also said that the Quality Woman is a myth – based on female game and male self-delusion. (Not your exact words but I think that sums it up.)

    Heartiste said to a commenter yesterday, “Sexual double standards are a fact of life. get used to it, because they aren’t going anywhere.” That was in response to someone calling him a hypocrite for asking Western women to be more selective and less promiscuous.

    On SS and elsewhere men are (rightly) advised to “qualify” the women they spend time with, short or long term.

    I don’t disagree with any of these things, but….

    It seems that while the Alpha are flesh and blood and walk among us, the Quality Woman is a mythical creature at best, or a femcentric lie at worst, according to PUA conventional wisdom.

    If the sexual Double Standard is to have any meaning, and if men are to qualify woman, how can the “Quality Woman” be just a myth? If it’s just a hypergamous chess move by females, then what does that make men embracing Alpha traits?

    Maybe one is more easily demonstrable than the other. I remember the late Jophil saying something like, “if you listen, your woman will eventually communicate to you her sexual values and history” even if it’s not overtly communicated. Certainly some good female qualities (besides attractiveness, the most obvious) are also universal and objective.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

    Thanks – Sam Spade

  • Leap of a Beta

    Haha, I saw that Rollo. Hilarious, as are the comment reactions to it. There’s some great stuff from both sides of that hamster wheel. I love seeing how individual women will spin that wheel real hard when asked how they view Christ Brown – the look in their eyes is priceless.

    Also – its an interesting way that is currently a popular subject to see how they’ll react to Alpha men.

  • Socialkenny

    There are so many material out there on alpha that it’s not even funny.I’m looking forward to reading an instructional post on alpha(for AFC’s to learn from).

  • Jimbo

    “Yeah, he’s really good looking, but that means he’s probably gay”

    I used to believe that was a rationalisation too, until I heard my mother say something almost identical.

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