There’s an obsession with the concept of value and status when you’re dealing with men’s dating advice. The idea is that, when you boil everything down, women are attracted to high-value, high-status men; therefore, men who want to be more successful with women should be as high-value as possible.
This manifests itself in almost all dating advice for men, from Pick-Up Artists, Red Pill-ers and … even my own. The cult of the Alpha Male, for example, is explicitly about how Alphas are socially (and/or physically) superior1 to Betas and thus are awarded with all the sex. Nice Guys, on the other hand, lament the fact that being “nice” is supposedly of low value and thus they are cruelly kept from the sex that they deserve. The idea of leagues is often the assumption that looks are the primary source of value. And of course everybody is familiar with the complaints about how you first you get the money, then you get the women.
Now here’s the thing: they’re not entirely wrong.
The problem is that they’re wrong about what a high-status man is.
What Value Isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong: having social status and value is definitely attractive. It’s just that we so often go about mistaking status for other things.
For example: the first common mistake is in how value gets defined. Value and status are often erroneously distilled into a single attribute.
The most common definitions of high-value or high-status men is in the measure of their material wealth. The complaint that women are hypergamous status-seekers is a common stereotype, especially in MRA/Red Pill/Manosphere circles; it’s often a tenant of evo-psych that women instinctively look to the best providers and thus get the screaming thigh-sweats as soon as they see a man flash a Patek Philippe watch or smell the beluga caviar on them.
Of course, this is easily disprovable; a quick trip to your local Wal-Mart will find plenty of folks in happy relationships despite their distinct lack of Hermes, Bugatti or Swiss bank accounts. In my own life I’ve known many men of privilege – ranging from “comfortably well-to-do” to “richer than God” – who had the same troubles with women that I did. Money by itself clearly didn’t buy love for them; it didn’t even give them that much of an advantage at the negotiating table.
What about power? Noted Kavorka man and war criminal Henry Kissinger once quipped that “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, and Lord knows that the man got more ass than a drunk at a donkey auction with a stolen credit card despite the fact that he looks like the Goblin King.
And to be fair, people are attracted to power. But at the same time, Kissinger was also a political animal who thrived in a world of influence-peddling and Machiavellian manipulation; this is not an arena where the socially awkward get ahead. One doesn’t get to be the secretary of state to two presidents without having an ability to charm others and after all, a man who was able to negotiate détente with Russia isn’t going to be flummoxed by a pretty lady.
What about fame? It certainly helps – Kevin Bacon once mentioned that “any idiot can get laid if they were famous”. But it’s clearly not the end-all, be-all – after all, Ray-J isn’t exactly the last of the Red Hot Lovers despite having been propelled to momentary stardom by association with Kim Kardashian. Does a socially desirable job make one higher status? I’ve known plenty of lawyers, doctors, actors, musicians and DJs who have all had miserable dating lives.
What about athletes – everybody remembers how popular the jocks were in high-school and college after all?
The short answer is that they have value and status… of a sort. But not quite in the way that you think.
Value Is Context Sensitive
You see, the second mistake is to assume that value and status are universal – that certain things are always going to be respected more highly across the board, regardless of when and where they occur.
Except humans as a whole aren’t a hive-mind. We’re part of diverse and varied communities, and what marks you as high status in one is going to mean jack in another. After all, a venture capitalist may be used to being king of all he surveys in the corporate world… but nobody’s going to give a shit about him at a comic convention. Not everybody is going to be impressed by the same things; I’ve had pleasant conversations with actors, rockers and porn stars and kept my cool, but I absolutely lost my goddamn monkey mind the first time I had a chance to talk to Peter S. Beagle. Penn Jillette has stated more than once that he’d rather party with rocket scientists than rock stars. Robert Kirkman and Brian K. Vaughn are beloved comic writers and respected names in television and film with multiple Eisner awards to their names, but if you drop them in the middle of a NBA playoffs, more people are going to flip their shit when they see Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobli walking by.
The scene girl isn’t going to flock to a lawyer in an Armani suit, not when Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence is around. The women at a nightclub are going to be far more interested in the club promoters or the DJ or the guys who can get them into the VIP section than Patrick Rothfuss, while Neil Gaiman’s female fans are less likely to squee over Kobe Bryant. During my time on the comic-con circuit, I often found myself seated next to the porn stars in artist’s alley2 While they were always willing to interact and pose with the men who came by, they kept a professional detachment, even when the men were startlingly good looking3 . However, they would literally fall all over themselves to flirt with George Perez.
So yes, the jocks in high-school do have value… within the context of high-school. And even then, it’s only in people who value high-school sports. So in West Texas, the football player may be a god among men, but if you drop him in the middle of Manhattan… well, he’s just another guy.
You Can’t Fake Value
So if having value and status makes you more attractive, then clearly the best thing you can do is convince others you have it.
One of the common complaints I’d heard during my time on the Austin dating scene was that every guy was telling women that either he was a photographer (the better to invite them back to his studio for – ahem – art photos) or in a band.4 In Dallas, every guy claimed to be a DJ and in Houston, everyone was in oil. In New York, every guy’s a Wall Street hustler, in DC they’re a consultant and in LA everyone’s an actor or a producer.
It’s not uncommon for guys to try to enhance their resume a little in the name of impressing women; they drop an extra hundred for the Hermés belt (with the big H buckle of course- what good is it if they don’t know it’s Hermés?) to look richer or promote themselves from a grunt in Accounts-Receivable to a major player in Acquisitions. They’ll puff up their vacations from a weekend in Corpus Christi to a week in South Beach, name drop when they think they can get away with it and basically lie through their teeth in order to appear cooler than they are.
A lot of classic PUA techniques are all about faking status and conveying that you’re actually high-value through behavior and appearing to be less-invested in the interaction… all while desperately wanting to get into her pants. Negging, for example, is intended to convey to a beautiful woman (who is – by PUA definitions – a high-status target) that you have higher social status than she does by being willing to covertly insult her; after all, most guys are going to be so intimidated by her beauty (and perceived social status) that they’d never dream of giving a left-handed compliment like “nice nails… are they real?” By conveying their higher status – and bringing her down a peg – the woman is then theoretically supposed to become more attracted and actively seek your approval.
Similarly, many of the canned routines from PUA culture – especially classics like the C’s vs. U’s or Crazy Stripper Ex – are intended to subtly convey higher status by implying that the PUA has dated high-value women before, usually models or actresses. These pre-packaged conversations are designed to make the individual using them seem more interesting and higher-status and help them convey sexual interest without seeming too interested; after all, being too invested in getting her home is a sign of low-status and thus unattractive.
The problem is that you can’t fake value. You can baffle people with your bullshit for only so long before they start to notice the cracks in the facade; you may be talking about your model ex-girlfriend but women will start noticing that you can’t look them in the eye for very long, that your body language starts to change as soon as you’re distracted and that you’re more nervous around them then someone of your supposed status would be. Moreover, women are used to guys lying about themselves – ask any woman about about men lying about their height or physique in online dating sites. Anyone who has spent any time in the dating scene is going to be used to guys embellishing themselves in order to look better and are quite good at spotting incongruities.
Value is inherent; if you don’t have it, you’re going to give yourself away in hundreds of little tells and no amount of “magic bullets” or verbal trickery is going to make up for that lack. The more you have to tell others about how high-status you are, the less you actually have.
What Is Value, Then?
So after all of that talk of what status isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.
Put simply: value and status is about what you bring to the table. Money can help; people do value wealth after all. But having money in and of itself isn’t status or value and the people who are attracted to it tend to only be interested in the money, not the person. Same with power – power without actual value attracts users and manipulators who want that power for themselves. Fame brings people looking for a little reflected glory – look at all of the would-be starlets of both genders who’ve tried to make a name for themselves by talking about how they fucked Kanye or Kim Kardashian or Pauly D. Geraldine Edwards, one of the original groupies and the inspiration for Penny Lane in Almost Famous, wanted to be considered a muse; she was sleeping with musicians because she wanted to be a part of the creative process, not because of the musicians themselves.
Real status and value come from how you act and how you make others feel.
Someone who helps other people feel good, who is interesting to talk to and who can bring the fun has value and status; people will want to spend time with him. Can you inspire respect in other people, not through your material goods or being famous but through what you have to offer as a person? That’s status. Can you connect with people on an emotional level and make them feel as though you understand them better than anyone else does? Then you have higher social value than someone who is only able to meet someone on the surface, who is all glitz with no depth or substance.
Someone with an abundance mentality is going to be displaying higher value than someone with a scarcity mentality. The man who understands that there are millions of women in the world and that rejection isn’t any big deal is going to be less needy – and thus higher status – than someone who treats every conversation with a woman as the last chance he’s ever going to have for love or sex. Someone with strong boundaries is higher-status than someone who lets others walk all over him – after all, if he can’t respect himself, why should anyone else? Confidence, similarly, is a mark of value; it’s a sign that you understand what you’re worth and that you’re worth quite a lot. Someone who is secure enough in himself to allow himself to be vulnerable, to be his authentic self – willing embrace his flaws and not feeling the need to impress others – is higher-status than the man who is obsessed with what others think of him. Someone who is at ease with himself and others is going to be higher status than someone who is constantly obsessed with being the alpha male of the group, trying to dominate every conversation and interaction to ensure his place in the hierarchy.
This is why the unemployed musician -the one with ambition and drive, who’s scrambling for every gig he can get and constantly pushing the limits of his talent – is more appealing to women than the shallow stockbroker with the Audi coupe who’s sucking up to his bosses as he tries to climb the corporate ladder. That musician brings more to everyone he meets; his belief, his drive and willingness to persevere are of higher value than the ability to kiss ass and fellate egos. This is why millionaires can be as awkward as a pauper and struggle to meet women even as he insists he’s better than the hoi polloi.
You can be a high-value man even when you’re working a lousy job. You can show that you have value without having to pretend to be someone you’re not.
Being high status isn’t in what you do or what you have, it’s in who you are.
- Insert my obligatory correction about how alpha/beta actually works here [↩]
- Oddly, this always happened at Wizard World cons. Go figure. [↩]
- Wish I could find the picture I took of the Hawkman cosplayer at WWChicago in 2005. PHWOAR [↩]
- In fairness: I was a photographer at the time and Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World [↩]