"Alpha"s Without The Omega
Charlotte Allen has a long piece in The Weekly Standard about the modern "dating scene" and its "winners" and "losers":
The whole point of the sexual and feminist revolutions was to obliterate the sexual double standard that supposedly stood in the way of ultimate female freedom. The twin revolutions obliterated much more, but the double standard has reemerged in a harsher, crueler form: wreaking havoc on beta men and on beta women, too, who, as the declining marriage rate indicates, have trouble finding and securing long-term mates in a supply-saturated short-term sexual marketplace. Gorgeous alpha women fare fine—for a few years until the younger competition comes of age. But no woman, alpha or beta, seems able to escape the atavistic preference of men both alpha and beta for ladylike and virginal wives (the Darwinist explanation is that those traits are predictors of marital fidelity, assuring men that the offspring that their spouses bear are theirs, too). And every aspect of New Paleolithic mating culture discourages the sexual restraint once imposed on both sexes that constituted a firm foundation for both family life and civilization.
Allen’s basic point is that social Darwinism has triumphed in the urban dating scene: the beta men (that is, me) get left behind, while the alpha men (in theory, the embodiment of the Playboy-Maxim vision of a master of women; in reality, those ranging from "serial seducer" to "sexual sociopath") get women and then teach others to do the same, deploying sales methods and psychological assumptions similar to the get-rich-quick movement.
There's a lot that is debatable about Ms. Allen's article - especially her rather uncritical citing of Geoffrey Miller's The Mating Mind about the relationships of Pleistocene era:
Many Pleistocene mothers probably had boyfriends. But each woman’s boyfriend may not have been the father of any of her offspring....
What the actual evidence is for such prehistoric sexual arrangements is not mentioned or even considered. It is merely cited to reinforce Allen's thesis:
That’s a pretty fair description of mating life today in the urban underclass and the meth-lab culture of rural America. Take away the offspring, blocked by the Pill and ready abortion, and it’s also a pretty fair description of today’s prolonged singles scene. In other words, we have met the Stone Age, and it is us.
However, such conjuring of non-evidence-backed prehistoric sexual shenanigans to try to cast light on the depravity of modern sexual shenanigans isn't what really alarmed me about what she writes about. What really got me was the peek she offered into the modern world of male singledom, specifically the "game" theorists whose terminology - alpha and beta males and females - she incorporates into her exploration and explanation of male-female relations.
For me, it wasn't so much "a peek" as a "remembrance of things uncomfortably familiar". Throughout my late teens, twenties and even thirties, I struggled with confidence with women. I received a lot of advice and encouragement from friends (and even friends of friends); almost all of it was helpful, especially from folks like
• Kevin Barth (my honorary older brother), whose blunt observations and cool-as-a-bushel-of-cucumbers masculinity reinforced the backbone I needed to grow
• Sheila Barth (my honorary older sister), who shined light on things I had become willfully blind to
• Blog partner Tom, Kristen Murphy, Matt and Erin Foley, my sis and her hubby, et. al. for listening to me first complain, then gird my loins for another foray into the world of dating.
However, some sources, though they may have meant well, were not so helpful: basically, the ones who offered advice and "strategies" that parallel that of Tucker Maxes, Tyler Durdens, and Roissys of the world.
Funny thing was, a good portion of those offering the aforementioned "advice" were not to-the-bone hedonists, but folks like "Thursday", who commented on the article on the First Things blog:
The work of "game" theorists like Mystery or Tyler Durden isn’t really either science science or pseudo science. It’s more like engineering. Oh, and by the way, it works like gangbusters.
To read Thursday's blog The Man Who Is Thursday (incidently, the title of an early Chesterton work), is, for me, to be reacquainted with the dichotomy of being someone trying to pursue the vision of male-female relations offered by Christ and His Church while being sorely tempted to pursue the vision of male-female relations offered by our sex-saturated society: you want to find a beautiful, virtuous woman to love, honor, and cherish, and in the meantime you also harbor a not-so-veiled desire to screw every attractive and semi-attractive woman within driving distance.
For Thursday, and such characters as Roissy (whom Thursday admires rather extensively), the "alpha vs. beta" serial-seducing philosophy does indeed work, if by "work" you mean "provides encouragement to insecure men to not let a woman walk all over them". Unfortunately, it does not restrain itself there: while the Mystery-Max-Durden-Roissy perspective is quite valuable for its observational insight and honesty, the mindset and behavior they go on to encourage is downright deplorable. If you’re looking for love, a modus operandi in which "works" means "succeed in maneuvering a woman into sex with you as quickly as possible" will not only not get you what you are looking for, but will make attracting the type of woman you are looking for nigh impossible.
A telling indicator of the shallowness of the the approach of Mystery, Durden, Tucker Max, et. al. to female relations is their dogmatism in regards to what constitutes the behavior of an "alpha" male. If you doubt such dogmatism exists, note (for example) the disdain on Roissy’s blog, in both the posts and comments, for those men who hold to some other approach to interacting with women; or towards those who, at the very least, display an inclination to pump the brakes a bit on such a headlong rush into treating women as objectives to be conquered and then discarded at one’s leisure.
Adopting such an approach to male-female relations is a recipe for disaster. As much a disservice it does to any women of quality that cross your path, it involves adopting an even more benighted view of men. Here is a (very) brief sampling of men who, by their words and deeds, would earn from these "alpha" males the dishonorable distinction of being considered a "beta":
Richard John Neuhaus
Not a single man on this list would find the advice of Mystery or Durden to have the slightest appeal. Though its observations on the "games people play" is insightful, its proposed course of action amounts to little more than post-adolescent vengeance:
"Attractive women can be manipulative, so I’m going to master the art/science of the manipulation and beat them at their own game."
Men under 35 adhering to such a self-demeaning view of men and women have my sympathy and prayers that they’ll move on to something more likely to bear lasting fruit; men over 35 who haven’t figured out what a anemic bill of goods they’ve been sold that such "engineering" is are just damned fools.
What finally "worked" for me, as far as confidence with women was - really - storming the gates of heaven with my prayers. On Christmas Eve of 2004, I decided to go the "Parable of the Unjust Judge" route: I would bug Him until I got what I wanted. I told Him that I would say a rosary every night for the coming year that this year I would finally meet "the one". And so my nightly rosary-nagging began.
For reasons I can't wrap my head around, this gave me a previously unattained level of confidence with the subsequent women I encountered, as my fear of rejection diminished rather markedly. Aren't attracted to me? Next. Not a good match? Next. After a couple of months, I had a brief relationship with former Miss Texas contestant who was both smart and witty, but walked away from her due to her rather negative view of the Catholic Church (she was Episcopalian). We agreed to be "friends" on Feb. 16; on the next day, she somewhat sarcastically forwarded my an article on her favorite topic, the Catholic clergy sexual scandals. That evening, before I went out, in the face of losing the approval of a beautiful, smart woman - my kryptonite - I penned as fine a defense of the Catholic Church - as well as a demolition of the Episcopalian claims to legitimacy - as St. Thomas More could have written himself. I also told her, in as gentlemanly terms as I could, to get bent. The power of my kryptonite dissipated, I went out to dinner with a group from St. Rita's here in Dallas.
That evening, I met Lynda.