One of the never-ending struggles for men is the dichotomy of the Nice Guys vs. the Tough Guys. The Nice Guy is sexually null, a pathetic being who can’t earn a woman’s affection through his own worth and so attempts to weasel his way into her heart (and pants).
The Tough Guy though… he’s the dude to be, right? Adored by men, beloved by women. He’s the alpha, the bad boy, the one who pushes the Nice Guy aside and bangs his girlfriend, his sister and his mom.
The idea of the dominant alpha male as the superior mate has long been a trope among pick-up gurus, Red Pill advocates and the like, often pointing to studies that have shown the correlation between dominance and attraction. Clearly, being alpha is the key to getting chicks, right? Well… not so much. In fact, science has quite a lot to say about whether it’s the dominant Alpha Bro or the Nice Guy who gets the women’s hearts a-flutter.
Turns out, people are asking the wrong questions.
The Fragile Alpha Male
The cult of the alpha male is a relatively recent one; the obsession with the idea of an “alpha male” vs a “beta male” didn’t take off until the mid-90s and reached its apotheosis in the mid 2000’s when various PUA gurus from Mystery to RSD’s Tyler Durden to Heartiste started trying to apply evopsych ideas to human sexual behavior. The idea of being an Alpha Male as the One True Way took off like wildfire in no small part because it felt right; after all, how else could you explain why so many asshole jocks could keep snagging the hottest girls in high-school? Throw the imprinteur of nature on the subject, bolster it with kicky buzzwords, visions of newfound toughness and (literal) animal magnetism and you have a self-help concept that’s ready to be marketed to anxious young men who long to buff up their manly bonafides.
It’s a pleasingly binary state of being – either you are or you aren’t – which nicely cuts away the often frustrating complexities of sexuality and attraction. If you’re not suitably macho, no woman will ever love you. But the solution is simple. All you need is to Be Alpha, Bro. Of course, nobody can define what being “alpha” actually is. Becoming alpha is the masculinity equivalent of feng shui – ask three experts how to be alpha and you’ll get four different and contradictory answers. This is in no small part because “alpha/beta” divides don’t actually exist in nature, The concept described the behavior of wolves in captivity, which immediately becomes like trying to base assumptions of human social behavior on reruns of Oz and Orange is the New Black.
Even among primates, the idea of the domineering alpha who leads the pack through aggression falls apart very quickly. In fact, in one famous study of a savannah baboon troupe, the aggressive and violent males were wiped out after stumbling upon a garbage dump near a tourist lodge. This became their primary foraging site and, in keeping with “traditional” dominance, the aggressive males prevented the less-aggressive ones from eating. As a result: the aggressive males contracted tuberculosis from eating tainted meat and died, leaving the less aggressive males and females in charge. Not only did the troupe start displaying far less aggression and greater social cohesion, but stress levels (measured via hormonal testing) plummeted. Even new males who joined the troupe would adopt the more conciliatory and less aggressive behavior.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Strong Man approach towards social dynamics.
Of course, for a class of man that claims to be top of the social food chain, it’s rare to find people more obsessed with gender policing and insisting that others play along. Alpha maleness is a performance that requires constant vigilance to maintain.
The performance of manhood plays straight into the fragility of traditional toxic masculinity – being alpha is a precarious position that can be taken from you at any time. Hence the renewed popularity of “cuck”1 as an insult; if “your” woman were to bang someone else, then clearly you aren’t alpha, bro. It’s the fear of having your masculinity stolen, distilled and weaponized and leveraged at others lest it be thrown at you. That core of insecurity takes it’s toll on you on a deep level. The stress of maintaining that front wears at you. It eats at your self-esteem and makes it harder to trust others or to work with them successfully. You have to guard your back at all times against challengers. Even publicly questioning the idea of alpha males is enough to trigger floods of “Cuck! Mangina!” in one’s Twitter mentions by people who are very concerned about strangers’ opinions. After all, there’s no better proof that you’re an alpha male than by yelling over hashtags, is there?
But if being Alpha isn’t the path to social success, what about being a Nice Guy?
Nice Guys Aren’t Good Guys
The other side of the coin is the Nice Guy. Niceness, in and of itself, seems like something that should be a desirable trait in men. After all, very few women go looking for someone who’s going to treat them like shit. However, the first of many problems is that Nice Guys tend to view niceness as all that they need. Just as with the Alpha Bros, Nice Guys divide the world into a simple binary; the Assholes and the Nice Guys. The Assholes – the assorted jocks, frat boys and bad boys – are everything wrong with men. They’re the date rapists and misogynists, unenlightened and unwoke Neanderthals who treat women’s bodies like their personal playgrounds. The Nice Guys are above all of that. Nice Guys respect women!
They don’t neg women, they put them on pedestals2 and worship them! They’re friends! They listen, they provide comfort and companionship and buy her nice things! They continually pass up opportunities to be assholes! Shouldn’t that get them some credit?
Well… no. No, it doesn’t.
Nice Guys rarely get that being just “nice” isn’t going above and beyond. It’s quite literally the baseline for human interaction and you don’t get a cookie for meeting minimum standards. Moreover, because Nice Guys define themselves in opposition to Assholes (i.e. everyone else) their self-examination tends to come to a screeching halt. Because their inherent goodness is assumed by definition, they conveniently ignore that Nice Guys usually aren’t. Nice Guy behavior at best tends to be passive, manipulative and self-serving. At worst, it’s not that different from the assholes they claim to despise. They ride the ambiguity of their relationship with the women they’re attracted to rather than step up. As long as they can hover over the line between “platonic friend” and “interested”, they can keep their love interest in their life in ways she might not choose to if she knew his “friendship” came with strings. For Nice Guys, friendship isn’t a gift, it’s a tool to leverage oneself into a woman’s intimacies. Once love and sex is off the table, then friendship becomes a punishment, a cruel and taunting reminder that they just aren’t good enough to fuck like that Asshole Chad who lies to her and doesn’t respect her!
But if neither the Alpha nor the Nice Guy gets the girl… then who’s right?
Assertiveness Vs. Dominance
The divide between Nice Guys and Tough Guys is what’s known as a false dichotomy. It’s not a question of whether one needs to be a controlling asshat or an overly entitled lovesick lamprey. The answer is sidestepping both entirely for something different.
Take, for example, alpha male behavior and its supposed charms. Once you filter out the contradictions, most of the lore about being “alpha” revolves around social displays of dominance and toughness. Be the one in charge, the aggressive and domineering one and you’ll have proven your superior genes and automatically trigger those breeding instincts in women.
Except… the science doesn’t actually back this up. In fact, studies analyzing the correlation between social dominance and heterosexual attraction found that dominance and aggression were not attractive traits in and of themselves. In fact, aggressively dominant behaviors – especially the use or threat of force in the name of achieving dominance – was found to be a turn off in women. Why? Because of concerns that same “alpha male” behavior that was demonstrated towards other men might spill over into his relationship with her. In other words, that scowling, gorilla-minded bro might decide that his need for control might include using force or the threat of force to keep her in line as well.
At the same time, needy, obsequious behavior – whether directed towards women or other men – makes sex disappear. So what was attractive? Assertiveness. Confidence. Sensitivity. Charisma. It wasn’t dominance or dominating behavior that turned women on, it was the demonstration of social intelligence and status. Where Nice Guys were passive and sneaky, these men were willing to step up and do what was needed. Women appreciated guys who had prestige and status, but cared more about how they got that status. It wasn’t chest-beating alpha machismo that gave them prominence, it was their ability to persuade, charm and win others over through personal magnetism rather than force.
But there’s another factor involved in what makes men more attractive:
White Knights, Betas, Manginas, Cucks and Other Figures of Myth
Kindness and altruism frequently get forgotten in the discussions about attraction. All too often, it gets lost in arguments about Nice Guys and betas. In the Manichean world of the Alpha/Beta divide, anyone who isn’t a suitably Ayn Randian model of masculinity that gets theirs and fuck everyone else is a beta. Doing anything that isn’t motivated by acquiring or maintaining social status is suspect – doubly so if it involves helping others without an obvious benefit to yourself. This leads to significant gender policing from the Alpha tough guys because it challenges the validity of their status quo. Don’t believe like they do? You’re a beta motivated by jealousy. Not voting for Strong Daddy Trump? You’re a cuck. Doing something nice for a woman? You’re either a mangina or a White Knight, a sexual quisling who’s only pretending to care because every True Man knows Men only do things involving women in order to get sex, quod erat demonstratum.
But in reality, simple kindness is actually a highly appealing trait in men. In fact, in repeated studies, it’s the intersection of social dominance and kindness and understanding that makes men the most sexually desirable. Men who demonstrate – not tell, show – that they’re agreeable and friendly are also showing higher levels of social intelligence and a greater ability to work well with others. On a strictly selfish level, somebody who demonstrates greater levels of prosocial behavior is someone who will benefit the group overall. It also shows that they’re someone who can be trusted, relied upon and who values others. Being a genuinely good guy – rather than a Nice Guy – makes others feel valued, and that makes them want to spend more time with him.
There are few things more appealing than a strong man who is gentle or a tough man who is sweet. Want to see this in action and make women squee? Show them a picture of The Mountain – literally the World’s Strongest Man – being an adorable dog-daddy with his wee Pomeranian puppy.
This shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it often is. Stories written by women for women are awash in guys who’re tough yet also kind. Fanfic is neck deep in Draco In Leather Pants stories where villains have secret gentle or softer sides or who would otherwise be heroes if the world had given them a chance. Even Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray feature protagonists who are outwardly domineering yet are sweet, broken birds inside.
The thing that so many Nice Guys miss is that those good guys don’t rely on being “good” by definition, nor are they doing it in expectation of being rewarded. It’s just part of who they are – they’re being kind because they are kind. They’re not telling people that they’re good, they’re showing it through their deeds and actions.
So What Does A Good Guy Look Like?
Part of what gets so lost in discussions about being a good guy vs. a Nice Guy or Alpha vs. Beta is that there is that there’s more than one way to be a man, especially a good man.
Look at people like Chris Evans. The biggest part of his appeal isn’t his physique, it’s that he’s a giant golden retriever of a man. He’s known as someone who’s consistently sweet and agreeable. He’s someone who’s fun to be around. And he’s just one example. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is setting hearts on fire not just because he’s pretty but because he’s a guy who Gets It. He’s a socially aware progressive who walks the walk even as he talks the talk.
Movies and television have also been a bonanza of role models for men. Being appealing – that intersection of assertiveness and kindness – doesn’t mean that you have to be Captain America. There’re many, many different ways to hit that vibe. Charlie Day’s Newt Geizler is the definition of adorkable. He’s not smooth, he’s not macho, but women find his energy and awkward intensity appealing. Chadwick Boseman’s T’chala in Captain America: Civil War has a very different feel than Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson but both hit the combination of authority, confidence, authenticity and compassion in in their own way. The Doctor, Han Solo, Gomez Adams… they all are very different characters and personality types but they are all appealing in their own ways.
If you want to be the kind of guy women love, then don’t try to be the Alpha guy. Don’t be the “nice” guy. Just be the good guy.