Human Alpha Male: Myth or Fact?

Alpha male is a term often used by various sites online discussing what women want in men. The argument is that like animals have a dominant male of a group that gets the most chances to mate, human alpha males also do.
However, does the human alpha male exist or is it a myth?

Human Alpha Male: The Basis Of The Argument

In a group of Gorillas, there is one male who is in charge and rules by a sort of physical intimidation. This ‘alpha’ male essentially has the ability to choose what other members of the group do and how they behave, which also results in him having sex with the most other members of the group. However, as a cost he must constantly defend his position from other males attempting to usurp him.

In regards to humans it is argued that this same set of social relations applies, albeit with a more advanced set of cultural rituals over the top of it. As such, when a group of men are at a bar and attempting to court women, the male that is considered the dominant alpha male of the group attracts the most women. This particular theory has a more complex placement in Marshall Sahlins anthropological theory of the ‘big man’. Sahlins argues that within Polynesian societies there is a man that often has a large degree of sway in regards to preference of resources, including women, despite having no formal title1. This big man would be the equivalent of an alpha male.

Human Alpha Male: Why It Is Flawed

The first reason the argument in regards to the existence of alpha males in human societies is flawed is that it does not take an evolutionary perspective in regards to why there needs to be an alpha male. While a pride of lions might have an alpha male, there are examples of societies in which females had either equal status as men or even greater status2. Thus, the alpha male concept in regards to the nature of humanity is ultimately flawed in that exceptions should not exist.

The second reason the existence of human alpha males is flawed is that it does not take into account humanity’s ability to override such matters with culture. For example, while one male could have the ‘genes’ of an
alpha male another male might be more successful. As a result, women may be attracted to the more successful male despite him not having a dominant personality. Ultimately, culture can override and even change what are in essence our ‘natural’ dispositions.


1. Sahlins, Marshall 1963. Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 5/285-303

2. Anitei, Stefan 2006. Mosuo, One of the Last Matriarchal Societies. Softpedia.

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