The Rise of the Alpha: Fiction Vs. Reality

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A quick search through the Erotic Romance genre would lead one to believe that the “Alpha Male” is the living embodiment of all women’s fantasies. So much copy is devoted to this concept, authors and readers know what they are talking about, right? As an author devoted to realism within her fictional world, I simply must protest.

The Urban Dictionary defines Alpha Male in several different ways, but the one that seemed closest to the concept I think authors are attempting to convey with this title was: 1) the dominant member of a pack of wolves, and 2) any person with a dominating personality, causing the assertion of or struggle for leadership in almost any situation. I did leave the first definition in on purpose. Younger women may not understand what is meant when a man is called a wolf, but to anyone of a certain age it connects beautifully back to the Alpha concept. In pre-Feminist days, men were indeed seen as predators, but this was confusingly backhanded praise. Your wolf assumedly would protect you from all of the other wolves. This was an age, understand, where a wolf-whistle (See how the concept pervaded the culture!) or a smack on the ass was considered a high compliment.

Then, the Rise of Feminism! We could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let him forget he’s a man! Uh-huh. This was a concept that was terrifying and confusing to the male of the species. A good male friend of mine tells me that being needed is extremely important to men. As a woman who had been called needy as an insult, I was confused to say the least. I think the confusion comes from this cultural collision. We as a species had gender roles so proscribed that they appeared to be instinct, until suddenly it was proven they were not. I could recount the reasons for the change for you, but I will let you research Rosie the Riveter and her impact on our culture. I wouldn’t want to take that journey of discovery away from you, if it’s not a familiar story. However, if we assume that my friend is correct, and men need to be needed, what did the Feminist need from her man?

Many angry men would quote “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” and use that as his excuse for douche-bag behavior until the end of time. You’ve all met men like this. They want to appear to be “Alpha” because they are secretly certain they are not. They have no concept of their place in the order of things, but they know what they wish was their place. The true feminist just wanted to be treated like a human being, and not a life support system for a vagina, or a baby factory. The sort of man who viewed us exactly that way became the one who lashed out at any sensible discussion of equality, and that was the beginning of the conflict.

On the other hand, we got Sensitive Man. He was amazing in our minds. He knew just what we needed, gave us all the emotional support of our women friends, and made love tenderly, just how we liked it. Unfortunately, men did not get an instruction manual on this. Add to this the fact that many women have no idea what they really want, and have never tried to explain it to anyone. I was recently asked this exact question, and was flummoxed by my inability to answer. Words failing me? Perish the thought.

So, should we assume that, as some have asserted, we as women covertly want to head back to those days, the days when home discipline was any husband’s prerogative? I suggest that we only want that in our fiction, where it’s safe. Many of the ladies who read about “Alphas” and are thrilled right down to their damp panties have never, ever met one, much less sat at his feet and attempted to serve him.

An Alpha in the truest sense is a transformative influence in the lives of those around him. People crave his approval. They don’t know why, and this is not just women, mind you. They seek to please him. This isn’t fiction. It’s an actual phenomenon. It’s scary to be caught up in it, especially when one has no idea what’s happening. An Alpha in fiction is like a dog we can domesticate. An Alpha in the real world is like a wolf. He may mate for life, or he may EAT your ass.

I do my best to bring you real people, but my perfect man is no Alpha. You meet one, in Switch It ON, but he is not my main male character. Jason Merrin would never claim to be an Alpha, although in many social situations he would appear to be. His buddy Joe is the Alpha, and you’ll learn much more about him in Switch It UP. Mad’s beloved Jase is a chameleon, a true Switch, someone who gives her what she needs rather than what she thinks she wants, whether that’s chicken casserole for dinner or a thorough hand spanking over the knees. Joe doesn’t require service, and doesn’t need to. He is, as the Alphas I have actually met, simply a leader. He warps the universe around him. Modern gals might be titillated reading about him, but they assume that by topping from the bottom, they’d have control of the situation. For most women, the Alpha should remain ensconced in fiction, lest the wolf devour them.          

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