The Alpha male = asshole

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morngnstar

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I realize that the typical representation of the alpha male is a fantasy fulfillment type thing, because, considering the above, there can only be so many bosses to go around, if indeed, the order givers are the sought-after figures. What I have a problem with, and just a single man's opinion, is when this selective feeling involves or approaches masochism, it's gone too far for me. Twilight and 50 Shades left me with a disturbing feeling. Such a woman, to me, is too simplified, too easy, uniformed, unmotivated, and totally lacking self-confidence. She's about as sexy as a wet sponge, having little or no pride or decision-making capability. These women are ripe for being stepped on by the WRONG guy. I think most men like a woman that can hold their own in the intelligence department and demonstrate individualism.

Some books with alphaholes are about those women. The hero is strong and dominant, but the heroine is the one person who can go toe-to-toe with him. Probably equally unrealistic. To me it's more healthy to find a mate who respects your wishes, instead of one who intends to dominate you but you hope you can resist.
 

Laer Carroll

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I think one issue is that the cultural concept or meme of an "alpha male," ... is ... more a personification of toxic maleness. The societal perception of an alpha male represents the futile posturings of someone who is deeply insecure, both in his maleness and in his own competence and appeal, so he attempts to aggressively control those around him.

Exactly. This posturing, being a loudmouth and trying to throw one's weight around, is the exact opposite of how real alpha males act. An alpha male, meaning someone who is an obvious leader to most of the people around him, tends to be quiet and someone who listens, as tricererops said. Often he waits until he's heard everyone's opinions, thought about them, and discovered just what everyone should do. Then he says what it is, and a confusing and fluid situation immediately changes into clarity and action goes into high gear.

Or such has been my experience working in military and high-tech fields where I met and observed many of these impressive men.
 
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neandermagnon

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Exactly. This posturing, being a loudmouth and trying to throw one's weight around, is the exact opposite of how real alpha males act. An alpha male, meaning someone who is an obvious leader to most of the people around him, tends to be quiet and someone who listens, as tricererops said. Often he waits until he's heard everyone's opinions, thought about them, and discovered just what everyone should do. Then he says what it is, and a confusing and fluid situation immediately changes into clarity and action goes into high gear.

Or such has been my experience working in military and high-tech fields where I met and observed many of these impressive men.

Somewhat agreed (agree that people who aren't arseholes make better alphas) - but the alpha doesn't need to be male. It's the person who's the natural leader of a social group. Any social group. A social group of six year old girls in the school playground will have an alpha (though she's not technically the alpha when the teacher's around, she's still the alpha of her own little group). In animals, it's the individual that's the natural leader. Some animals will have both an alpha male and an alpha female, e.g. wolves, where you have an alpha male and female who are pair bonded (i.e. mates) and they lead the pack. Or it might be like in common chimps where there's a separate hierarchy for male chimps and female chimps, so you get an alpha male and an alpha female. Social groups in humans are a lot more complex as individuals are usually members of multiple different groups. At work, your boss is the alpha among your team, but when he or she goes to a meeting with the senior managers, he or she isn't the alpha any more.

"Alpha" isn't a trait people possess but a position in a hierarchy. Some traits (e.g. confidence) may cause you to become alpha more easily, but not all social groups value the same things so who the alpha is and why is going to be different for each group. Because humans are more complex than chimps. At least most of the time.

Note: you can get situations where the person who's officially in charge is not the alpha - in these situations they'll struggle to keep order as not everyone recognises their authority.

A historical example of a woman who's an alpha would be Margaret Thatcher. Theresa May's also an alpha but her position's more precarious as not all the Tories accept her authority - there's been two attempts to get her out on a vote of no confidence. Jacob Rees Mogg who led these attempts is like the young chimp who, backed up by his own group of betas, wants to challenge the alpha.

Another travesty about the way the term "alpha" gets abused by men who think being an arsehole makes them more manly is when you get a group of them that claim they're all alphas. That's a nonsense. You don't have a social group with all alphas - if there's no heirarchy at all then none of them are the alpha. You get one alpha in a social group (two if it's the kind of social group that has both an alpha male and an alpha female) and the alpha has a little group of betas that support them - you see this in human social groups a lot... it's most obvious in the kind of high school cliquey social groups that do social hierarchies in a more chimp-like manner. This is true with all male, all female and mixed social groups. A good literary example of betas would be what Crabbe and Goyle are to Malfoy in the Slytherin house social group (in Harry Potter by JK Rowling, in case there's anyone who hasn't read it). While they act in a more chimp-like manner, in Griffindor house, Harry Potter's the alpha of his friendship group, with Ron and Hermione as the betas, but they treat the low-ranking members of the group (like Neville) a lot more kindly than the Slytherins do. The hierarchy may be more subtle but it's still there. And you might argue that Harry's not the alpha... it depends who's around, like when your boss goes to a meeting of the senior managers and he/she goes from alpha to low ranking just by walking in the room. Humans are more complex than chimps.
 

CJSimone

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In fact, according to some, aggressive and controlling individuals are actually lacking in status, self esteem or confidence.

Yep.

I don't think it's a missed truth by many. I think the outwardly cocky, yet insecure underneath combo deep down appeals to many, and the weaknesses can be as much a pull as the strengths for some b/c unhealthy attracts unhealthy. People who are attracted to a-holes (in fiction or in life) aren't necessarily those feeling they deserve to be treated badly, they're also often the people with "savior" needs or those looking for someone who fits into their unhealthy world and is a mess-match. It can be that extreme vulnerability and damage beneath the cockiness, and a certain intertwined tendency of the two extremes, that often sucks people in, even if not a popular thing to state as desired.
 

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IThe alpha male is a man’s, man.

I'm... so sorry, I just can't stop looking at that comma. My brain wants to burn the whole paragraph to the ground just to get rid of it. Argh!

Other than that, though I can't give you any recs due to being somewhat new to the romance genre, I agree with you!
 

Laer Carroll

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I just read the Washington Post article. Boy, did they get it right. I see myself and my problems in nearly every paragraph. Luckily over the years I've made a good deal of headway in fixing them, partly because of wise and caring friends.

The following struck me most.

“A lot of men have the expectation that they need to be stoic, and independent, and take care of things on their own — and those can all be quite helpful tools,” Englar-Carlson says.

The trouble comes, though, when those are the ONLY tools men believe they have: when they need help and are afraid to ask for it, when they’re experiencing emotions they can’t even name, much less express. And when they blame themselves for being unable to make those insufficient tools work, and the result is to lash out — or lash in — in violence.
 

SamanthaDrake

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YES! I am not the only one who thinks a man can be strong without being abusive and jealous. In my book, I am on a mission to create an alpha male who is actually a good person. Not perfect but caring, thoughtful, not over jealous, and actually trying to make the world a better place. What are we teaching women about what constitutes romance? I want the man to be dangerous but still ask me what I think, and trust that I am capable of taking care of myself. That's what I want in a romance.
 
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Klope3

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YES! I am not the only one who thinks a man can be strong without being abusive and jealous. In my book, I am on a mission to create an alpha male who is actually a good person. Not perfect but caring, thoughtful, not over jealous, and actually trying to make the world a better place. What are we teaching women about what constitutes romance? I want the man to be dangerous but still ask me what I think, and trust that I am capable of taking care of myself. That's what I want in a romance.

Not sure if you're into fantasy at all, but have you read Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series? The lead couple is a great example of a strong, healthy relationship between a masculine man and a feminine woman, both of whom are strong-willed, intellectual equals, and hold great respect for each other. I strive to depict that kind of romance in my own writing.
 

SamanthaDrake

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I gave up on reading m/f shifters because of the number of stories which started with the man's inner wolf or bear getting one sniff of the heroine and recognizing her as his soulmate, bondmate or packmate. After that, control and jealousy and moodiness are only to be expected, because how else can his wolf or bear react?

My biggest peeve! Is it because a writer is too lazy to develop the relationship or because we believe that's the only way a man would stay faithful. I want to see the man get mad and walk away! And what? Can't a man be considerate, loyal, and still be considered an alpha male? What if he sacrifices his life for his pack and tries to make the world a better place? I think a story like that could work.
 

SamanthaDrake

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Not sure if you're into fantasy at all, but have you read Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series? The lead couple is a great example of a strong, healthy relationship between a masculine man and a feminine woman, both of whom are strong-willed, intellectual equals, and hold great respect for each other. I strive to depict that kind of romance in my own writing.

Yes! I liked it but something about the plot lost me in the first book. I'm Not sure what it was now. I always hated that they couldn't be together physically too. I guess I like the naughty stuff. I admit it. I have no shame.
 

SamanthaDrake

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That, IMO, is a large part (no pun intended) of the appeal of romances like the one I referenced. Much as I hated the "hero", I have to admit, the author knows how to write sex scenes. I keep a couple of her other books, ones with slightly less psychopathic male leads, for reference.

Hey, who is that author if I may ask. I'm trying to learn how to write good sex scenes but there isn't a lot on the subject.
 

Roxxsmom

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YES! I am not the only one who thinks a man can be strong without being abusive and jealous. In my book, I am on a mission to create an alpha male who is actually a good person. Not perfect but caring, thoughtful, not over jealous, and actually trying to make the world a better place. What are we teaching women about what constitutes romance? I want the man to be dangerous but still ask me what I think, and trust that I am capable of taking care of myself. That's what I want in a romance.

A man can be strong without being a so-called "alpha male" too. The wonderful thing about humans is we are so complex that the ways of being strong and successful are almost endless.

"Alpha male" in the pop culture sense doesn't simply mean strong or brave. It has a particular (somewhat problematic) cultural meaning, and a fairly limited (imo) take on masculinity that generally includes being a man who is wealthy and strong and controls others via dominance and intimidation and therefore has had his pick of women all his life (at least until he meets our intrepid FMC).

In other words, the pop culture alpha male is that he is kind of a narcissistic asshole, but that's a good thing for guys to be, because women (the young, pretty ones, at least) like narcissistic assholes.

Alpha males are not supposed to be terribly in touch with their own feelings or particularly sensitive to the feelings of others (in romance stories, an alpha male main characters love for the FMC will eventually make him care about hers, at least, but that's a major triumph). It's also based on pop cultural pseudo scientific views of animal social systems that are rather inaccurate, but that issue was discussed pretty extensively earlier in the thread.

I wonder if one reason it's so common for the MMC, at least, to be "emotionally constipated," or to have poor control of his temper (and little respect for most other people) in romance is because it creates an obstacle that gets in the way of romantic success between two people who *really* love one another. It's also why female romance protagonists are often "fiery" and tend to hold grudges.

I read one a novel a while back that subverted some of these tropes. She was a woman of good breeding but whose family had fallen on hard times, and he was a Duke or something, so that was a pretty common trope. They fell for one another, but it turns out he was a sexual sub (in spite of being a strong and competent man) with a tortured past, and she found it was fun to be the dominant one in the boudoir.

I don't think many romance readers want to read stories with protagonists--male or female--who are spineless dishrags. But there are many ways a guy can be strong besides the traditional alpha route. I'm sort of a sucker for nerdy scholar characters who find love with each other.
 
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Klope3

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I don't think many romance readers want to read stories with protagonists--male or female--who are spineless dishrags. But there are many ways a guy can be strong besides the traditional alpha route. I'm sort of a sucker for nerdy scholar characters who find love with each other.

Brandon Sanderson's "Well of Ascension"--two scholar characters fall in love with each other. Though one's a eunuch, so if you're into sex scenes, well...
 

SamanthaDrake

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Brandon Sanderson's "Well of Ascension"--two scholar characters fall in love with each other. Though one's a eunuch, so if you're into sex scenes, well...
I like Brian Sanderson but that is something i didn't like about the way of kings. It's isnt romance so it's alright. He is a great fantasy writer.
 

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I think these alpha-types came about for the sole purpose to appease bored homemakers that thought their hubbies were a little boring. Now we're in a time where we're wise to the crack, and won't tolerate being treated like a trophy by MR Tall-Dark-and-Brooding.
 

AminaAdamou

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I'm posting this blog because it's exactly how I feel about so many of these novels that have the alpha male, yet to me the alpha male should not be an abusive dick wad. I'm sad to see so many of these novels with men who in real life would be flagged as abusive and women should run the other way from.
Quote from the blog.
"The alpha male is confident. Brave. Fierce. Unwavering. Protective. He’s a sexual powerhouse. Sometimes cocky and his ego can get the better of him. He’s in great physical shape. He’s a natural leader, and someone people find themselves drawn to. When he tells you he loves you, he means it. The alpha male is a man’s, man. He probably eats a shit load of steak and loves beer, scotch and whiskey. The alpha male has purpose and drive. He has values, he knows how to treat a woman and above all else – he is true to himself no matter what because he knows who he is. He’s the kind of guy that most often gets described as smelling like tobacco and cologne, or smoke and spice or…whatever bonkers but super masculine scent combination us writers like to come up with."

Here's what he's become.
Quote from blog
"Moody and brooding almost 70% of the time. Hyper jealous, insanely possessive and controlling. Complete assholes…oh, to make up for some traumatic event in their life most likely. They disappear only to reappear and the woman takes them back…because he’s just an alpha and that’s what they do. Ego’s bigger than Texas, and acting like overgrown babies when another man even dares to speak to “their woman.” I’m surprised some of them didn’t toss the heroine over their shoulder cave-man style and carry them back to their lair so they can have over the top sex, and she doesn’t complain because he’s just so darn irresistible."


https://alynehart.com/2017/08/06/the-problem-with-the-alpha-male/

It's just something that is driving me crazy in the genre. And what is even more disheartening is sometimes I'm blindsided by it mid novel after enjoying the book and then half way through the guy I really like turns into a possessive creep.

So if any of you have read some great alpha male romance novels where he isn't an asshole and doesn't treat the woman like a child I would love to gather a list so I don't waste any more of my precious reading time on losers.

Ok vent over.

I'm posting this blog because it's exactly how I feel about so many of these novels that have the alpha male, yet to me the alpha male should not be an abusive dick wad. I'm sad to see so many of these novels with men who in real life would be flagged as abusive and women should run the other way from.
Quote from the blog.
"The alpha male is confident. Brave. Fierce. Unwavering. Protective. He’s a sexual powerhouse. Sometimes cocky and his ego can get the better of him. He’s in great physical shape. He’s a natural leader, and someone people find themselves drawn to. When he tells you he loves you, he means it. The alpha male is a man’s, man. He probably eats a shit load of steak and loves beer, scotch and whiskey. The alpha male has purpose and drive. He has values, he knows how to treat a woman and above all else – he is true to himself no matter what because he knows who he is. He’s the kind of guy that most often gets described as smelling like tobacco and cologne, or smoke and spice or…whatever bonkers but super masculine scent combination us writers like to come up with."

Here's what he's become.
Quote from blog
"Moody and brooding almost 70% of the time. Hyper jealous, insanely possessive and controlling. Complete assholes…oh, to make up for some traumatic event in their life most likely. They disappear only to reappear and the woman takes them back…because he’s just an alpha and that’s what they do. Ego’s bigger than Texas, and acting like overgrown babies when another man even dares to speak to “their woman.” I’m surprised some of them didn’t toss the heroine over their shoulder cave-man style and carry them back to their lair so they can have over the top sex, and she doesn’t complain because he’s just so darn irresistible."


https://alynehart.com/2017/08/06/the-problem-with-the-alpha-male/

It's just something that is driving me crazy in the genre. And what is even more disheartening is sometimes I'm blindsided by it mid novel after enjoying the book and then half way through the guy I really like turns into a possessive creep.

So if any of you have read some great alpha male romance novels where he isn't an asshole and doesn't treat the woman like a child I would love to gather a list so I don't waste any more of my precious reading time on losers.

Ok vent over.
The awful- and scary- thing about this is that when young women grow up reading about these toxic heroes, they sometimes end up thinking it's the norm. That it's okay to be treated that way. I actually wasn't aware that I'd been influenced that way myself until I wrote a werewolf novel and posted it on Wattpad. The comments from readers snapped me back to reality and I spent the rest of the sequel trying to educate my readers on toxic behavior and how it ISN'T romantic. We all have our hang ups and past trauma, it doesn't mean we can go around mistreating others. Hopefully I can write a better male lead the next time around.
 

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