Phi Beta Cons

Re: A Few Thoughts about Hookup Culture

Carol — I’m not sure too many people actually use the term “alpha male” the way you seem to interpret it. Users of the term don’t contend that it explains everything there is to explain about female attraction; they contend simply that women like to be with high-status men, and that some women are willing to sacrifice monogamy to do so.

Seen this way, the concept has two important ramifications on college campuses: (1) College males who want to attract women should learn to send signals that they are high-status, and (2) when students don’t practice monogamy and women are free to follow their whims, some men will have multiple partners and other men none. This is the situation Allen describes; I believe this situation exists, but is not as pervasive as others seem to think (again, only 40 percent of college women participate in the hookup scene at all, and only 10 percent do so regularly).

You mention that the “alpha male” concept doesn’t take into account the “higher” things that women might look for. Of course it doesn’t. But neither does the statement, “Men are attracted to youth and hourglass figures.” Sure, men also look for other things, but (believe me) that doesn’t make the statement any less true.

And as for the point about mafiosi: Despite their violent nature, they get girls, so if anything, they’re particularly good examples of the alpha-male phenomenon at work. Allen used the example of serial killers who get love letters in her piece.

Also, I don’t understand why it’s important how evolutionary psychology arrived at the place it is today. My concern is: What actual evidence is there that its current arguments about human nature are wrong?

Finally, regarding whether monogamy is “natural”: Human societies have had plenty of different mating systems, and even in monogamous societies, many people stray, so I have a hard time believing it is. But so what? Capitalism isn’t “natural,” either; nor is democracy. It doesn’t much matter whether an institution is part of human nature; what matters is whether it channels human nature in a useful way. Monogamy minimizes sexual jealousy by forbidding adultery, and it makes sure that low-status men have access to partners by restricting high-status men to one partner apiece. Those are two very valuable features, and that’s why monogamous cultures have dominated non-monogamous cultures for centuries now, “unnatural” as either may be.

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