Zoologists tell us that there is such a thing as an “alpha male.” In the animal world, male members of a particular group compete with one another to determine who is the superior male. Often this involves a fight to the death. Only the strongest — also the most cunning and ruthless — survive this test. By this means, nature determines who is the most worthy to pass his superior DNA on to future generations.
To carry out this important reproductive function, the alpha male is granted sexual privileges above and beyond lesser male members of the group. To quote one expert, “When you’re famous you can get away with anything.” So he has the pick of the most desirable females in the group. Most females consider it a compliment and an honor to be chosen as one of his many partners. One can even imagine that there might be beauty contests to determine the suitability of females to attract the attention of the alpha male. But an alpha male does have the right to force his attentions on an unwilling female. He is, after all, the top dog, king of the hill, lord of the manor.
Fast forward on the evolutionary timeline and it is obvious that we humans are not so different from our animal predecessors. We too have our alpha males who rise to their dominant status by engaging in competition with other males. The criteria for becoming a human alpha male are not too different from their animal counterparts. The successful male rises to the top of his field and may even be judged “the sexiest man alive.” With it comes power that allows him a dominant role in his relationships with women. We have seen recently that there are alpha males in business, politics, sports, the arts — any activity where stellar performance gives a sense of sexual entitlement and domination.
I am struck by how many of our recent presidential elections come down to who is the rightful alpha male. How many elections were decided because the losing candidate was portrayed as weak and not “manly” enough. I think of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, John Kerry. Even an authentic war hero such as John McCain is now described as weak because he was shot down in combat and captured. Today we have one who is perhaps the ultimate alpha male as president. Say what you will of Donald Trump. There’s no denying he defines what it is to be an alpha male. He wears the title proudly.
What is often overlooked is that many women support this arrangement. The idea of becoming a trophy wife is appealing to many women. Perhaps the same breeding that perpetuates alpha male behavior also perpetuates the female response to it. However, recently a large number of women have come forward to say, “Enough.” Sexual misconduct is no longer acceptable as many women have said “me too.”
Behavior that might be useful for a pack of wolves or a tribe of chimpanzees is not acceptable for human society. Clearly our culture needs to change. It would be an important first step if women would stop rewarding the bad behavior of alpha males. These are not role models to be looked up to. Anyone who uses the power of his dominant status to commit acts of sexual misconduct should be held accountable. If you work hard to achieve a certain position in life, you should not want to jeopardize it with bad behavior. Increasingly we live in a society that rewards intelligence rather than physical strength. Compassion and generosity are values to be rewarded — not ruthlessness and greed. Women have the power to change male behavior.
Hopefully the alpha male is on the endangered species list. Let’s hope his extinction is not far off.