The Gender Problem: Being a Beta Male Has Always Been Seen As Bad

There’s a current dilemma going on right now that seems to have origins dating way back in time, but for bizarre reasons, people are convinced the problem has only recently emerged. The problem stems from revelations that Harvey Weinstein ruled his Hollywood perch by forcing women into sexual relations with him without women’s consent. It comes from our current president bragging about grabbing women in sensitive off-limits areas and referring to it as “locker room talk”. It comes from politicians running for office, oblivious to the fact that dating 14 year old girls and then demanding those girls be tried for the crime of not reporting this crime until years later is not all that cool. Anyway, the dilemma is caused from men being called out for these types of things, including catcalling, sexual discrimination, hostile work environments and no end of other horrible circumstances. But what it really stems from is a sense of cognitive dissonance (ignoring) these things for so many years and then just casting such things off as “oh well, boys will be boys.”

But there’s no lack of conversation of this dilemma going on right now. Everyone is talking about it. But what’s lacking is a discussion about why this behavior is so prevalent, and, even more important, why it’s probably never going away.

You see, our society has done a miraculous job at making sure that guys who don’t participate in the one-sided sexual politics against women have been basically neutered or removed from the equation in any way whatsoever. We even have terms for guys who aren’t participating in this behavior. Guys call them “emasculated” or “pussy-whipped”. Women don’t call them at all; they’re basically invisible to the female half of the species.

Historically, we have called them “beta” males, and with that designation comes all sorts of negative connotations. Every dating site appeals specifically to the “alpha” male, specifically a guy who is aggressive, take charge and one who leads the pack (whatever that means). The “beta” male is seen as the follower, the one who makes room for the aggressive male and most often is seen as the “friend” to a woman rather than the potential mate. Having said that, there are those who argue that this isn’t the fate of a “beta” male, but way too often it becomes exactly that. And that’s mainly because of societal expectations and norms.

Think about it. You don’t see self-help books for guys that help them to embrace their “beta” side. Instead, what you see are all sorts of crap about how to best be an “alpha” male, the guy who gets the girl, the guy who gets the job, the guy who gets, well, pretty much everything that the “beta” male guy will never get. Instead, we get dating books with advice from guys who argue that it’s better to make your move and apologize after than to do nothing and never get the opportunity in the first place.

And that’s where we are right now. “Alpha” males have gotten themselves into serious trouble with society because they felt it was acceptable to do all sorts of sexual behavior that favors dominance and control from the male perspective. Women have been seen as something to be conquered, and thus, the ramifications have always been a) conquer and win, or b) fail to conquer and lose. We have so incorporated this behavior into our societal norms that when we challenge those behaviors we’re seen as sending misleading signals, and thus, doing the wrong thing by questioning such actions in the first place.

We’ve been doing it so long now that we have started to make arguments that it’s basically in our nature, that what is happening is because of anthropology, not psychology. If women don’t like it, then the argument is that they shouldn’t have rewarded it in the first place.

But we never gave any other option a chance. Equality has never been a part of our social fabric. Ever. When women were given the right to vote, we argued for it because it would allow them to address fundamentally female issues, like health care and children. Hell, in some cases we even argued that “feelings” come from the female side of the audience, like every man is some kind of binary computer algorithm.

But think about that last paragraph for a second. How many people even questioned the terminology of “women were given the right to vote”? Why should that have EVER been a choice given to men as to whether or not women were authorized to make democratic decisions for themselves? Yet, that’s a decision we only made about a hundred years ago. It’s not like we’ve had centuries since then to see how much more we might have evolved. On the grand scale of time, we made that decision ten minutes ago. We’ve been thinking that way for about as long as we’ve been able to think. Even now we’re still nowhere near where we should have been in the beginning. And we justify not making any further strides for all sorts of reasons, including history, tradition, science, religion, hatred and racism.

Which brings me to the original point I was trying to make because yes, I will admit it. I’m a beta male, and I’ve always been one. Over the years I’ve been humiliated, talked down to, laughed at, dismissed, looked past, friend-zoned, threatened and ignored. What’s interesting about this dilemma is that this attitude is one that a future male species appears to be heading towards if we’re ever going to see gender equality, but I suspect that we’re so very far away from achieving this that comfortable acceptance of this status is not going to be in our lifetimes.

So, expect this conversation to continue as it has for many years to come. Hollywood won’t be cleaned up with the alienation of a few producers and actors. Politicians won’t clean up their ways with a few of their numbers being sidelined. Expect to see these same people re-emerge as comeback stories and overcoming past indiscretions (but changing nothing but the optics); we’re really, really good at wanting to forgive people who used to be in our corner, even if they’ve done nothing to deserve such forgiveness. And if you’re ever looking for a reason why none of this will ever change, THAT alone is the reason. As long as there are Weiners, Bill Clintons, Roy Moores, Jerry Falwells, Mel Gibsons, Woody Allens, Kevin Spaceys, Ubers, Trumps, Thomas’s, etc., we’re never changing our ways.

And if you looked at ANY of those names and thought “I agree with one of those but not one of the others,” then you’re the reason why.

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

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