The Alpha Male, Beta Male, and Males That Defy Classification

I was brows­ing for a romance novel a cou­ple of days ago at Barnes and Noble, and I found myself hunt­ing in vain through all the alpha male heroes for a hero I actu­ally LIKED. I wasn’t hav­ing much suc­cess. The end­less string of dom­i­nat­ing, rude, self­ish, thinking-​with-​his-​prick “heroes” was annoy­ing. I am well famil­iar with romance nov­els and their con­ven­tions, but that night, I just wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent. Or some­one dif­fer­ent. And I couldn’t find him in any of those books.

For clarity’s sake, I had bet­ter define what I mean by “alpha male” since there are many def­i­n­i­tions and descrip­tions out there. The Alpha Male hero of most romance nov­els is absurdly hand­some, usu­ally pow­er­ful, whose hands are as good at plea­sur­ing women as they are at beat­ing some­one to a pulp. Alpha Male heroes are usu­ally emo­tion­ally repressed, arro­gant, ego­tis­ti­cal, and bad at gen­uine con­ver­sa­tion. They tend to think they should dom­i­nate who­ever they are around, and they view women as sex objects to be bed­ded as quickly as pos­si­ble. They like to act in a sex­u­ally preda­tory man­ner, and are por­trayed as dan­ger­ous (in the best way) to the ladies. They usu­ally have some sort of dys­func­tional past the author uses as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of why they are such ass­holes for most of the book. Alpha Male heroes are nearly always reformed by the end of the book because of the woman who cap­tures their hearts and minds and helps them find their bet­ter natures.

I do enjoy the bat­tle of wits and the humor and sex­ual spark of the best romance nov­els. I enjoy watch­ing the rela­tion­ship blos­som, and I love a good sex scene. But hav­ing to wade through pages and pages of ass­holery on the part of the Alpha Male puts a big damper on my enjoy­ment of the book.

Where is the Beta Male in all this? I know, I know – the Beta Male is the object of scorn and deri­sion in our cul­ture. He is por­trayed as every­thing from the loser guy liv­ing in his mom’s base­ment (though that’s also referred to as Omega Male) to sim­ply the Nice Guy that every­one enjoys talk­ing to at a party and nobody remem­bers after­wards. He is seen as lack­ing con­fi­dence, as being “bor­ing,” and as rarely get­ting the girl.

This is an unfor­tu­nate box in which we’ve put male heroes (and real life men, too). The true Alpha Male type guys I have met have not been pleas­ant to be around. Few of them are good rela­tion­ship mate­r­ial because of that self-​centered, arro­gant prob­lem they have.

So what’s the appeal? Some researchers and anthro­pol­o­gists think women are “pro­grammed” to seek an Alpha Male because we long for pro­tec­tion and to be pro­vided for. I’m sure some women do feel this way – it’s what we are cul­tur­ally con­di­tioned to believe we need, even if it’s not really true in mod­ern society.

But I think there may be another rea­son the Alpha Male holds such appeal. In romance nov­els, the Heroine has such beauty or wit or gutsi­ness or indi­vid­u­al­ity that she is able to make that Alpha Male desire her. So great is his obses­sion that he becomes will­ing to change and be a bet­ter man. This is ulti­mate con­trol and power – the abil­ity to con­trol a pow­er­ful per­son through sim­ply being your­self. It is this myth that may be the most seduc­tive thing about these sto­ries – the idea that “just by being myself, some man will desire me so greatly that he will trans­form him­self into my ideal just to win my approval and affection.”

Women in real life can rarely change an Alpha Male. This isn’t a bad thing, actu­ally. Personal change and improve­ment should come, not to please another per­son, but because we are con­vinced within our­selves that it is the right thing to pur­sue. All our rela­tion­ships do change us, for bet­ter or worse. But it is usu­ally a dis­as­ter to begin a rela­tion­ship with the hopes of chang­ing the other per­son into what you want them to be. When the woman real­izes she actu­ally CAN’T change her Alpha Male, that’s when the rela­tion­ship starts falling apart.

What I’d love to see in more nov­els is not Alpha Male or Beta Male, but real males. Real guys that stand out­side and beyond the Alpha Male/​Beta Male cliches. Flawed, yes, but maybe not in the stereo­typ­i­cal ways. It would be nice to read about heroes that know how to com­mu­ni­cate, who do value women for more than just sex, who are socially con­scious and…humble. Who are will­ing to lis­ten and con­sider the ideas of other peo­ple, instead of act­ing brashly on their own. Back in March 2011, Heroines With Hearts blog had a sim­i­lar dis­cus­sion. If you read through the com­ments, you’ll see that many of them voice the same wish – for heroes that are a blend of Alpha Male con­fi­dence and action, but the gen­uine kind­ness and con­sid­er­a­tion and gen­tle­ness of the Beta Male.

What do you think? Alpha Male, Beta Male, or Real Male: What kind of hero do you want to see more of in romance novels:

A) Alpha Male all the way, baby! It’s just a story, and I can sep­a­rate fan­tasy from real­ity, so let me fan­ta­size about all that protection/​providing and control/​changing stuff because it sure feels great!

B) Beta Males rock! Nice guys don’t get enough credit. They maybe don’t have the piz­zazz of an alpha male, but I am more attracted to gen­tle­ness and kind­ness than I am to macho chest-​beating.

C) Down with Pigeonholes! Give me Real Males that are a blend of alpha male and beta male, or who defy clas­si­fi­ca­tion. This is the 21st cen­tury, after all, so we value peo­ple being them­selves, in all their glo­ri­ous indi­vid­u­al­ity and uniqueness.

Comment below, darlings!

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One Response to The Alpha Male, Beta Male, and Males That Defy Classification

  1. Pingback: Non-Alphas Need Not Apply: Can only Alpha males get published in Romancelandia? « Angela Quarles

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