I recently came across a couple of blogs that generated the following post. Spungeon posts at bobvis.blogspot.com and Dizzy posts at dizzydoesit.blogspot.com. Both are thirty-something women, both lawyers or aspiring lawyers, and both have written dismissively about the "alpha-male" paradigm, i.e. the pop-sociobiological explanation for female sexual selection. It is this last point that I write to address.
This post is not intended to be a comprehensive defense of either sociobiology or its application to human sexual selection; this has been done better elsewhere. Nor is it an unalloyed apologia. In fact, there may be perfectly valid criticisms of the “alpha male” paradigm used to explain female mate selection: it can sound tautological, and therefore doesn’t really predict anything; it often tries to account for more variation than it actually can; and the paradigm doesn’t really apply to women over 30. (Both Spungeon and Dizzy are over 30, so they have had plenty of opportunity to assess the market and their actual buying power in it − but this is a subject for a separate post.) But feminist (broadly speaking) objections are seldom expressed in such an analytical way. My impression is that such as Spungeon and Dizzy reject, root and branch, the idea that the choices of women might be biologically determined. They are not alone in this rejection: all the (few) feminist bloggers I have read have expressed similar hostility. Since the hostility is so widespread, I decided that it requires some examination.
Sex and Liberalism
With the exception of libertarians, those of use who came of age politically in the last 30 – 40 years accept as a matter of course the political correlation between holding traditional views on sexual morality and pro-market views among conservatives on the one hand, and sexually licentious views and pro-interventionist economic views among liberals on the other. As any student of history could tell you, these correlations are anomalous: one only need to consider the writings of a tradition-minded socialist like G. K. Chesterton and a libertine capitalism like H. L. Menken, both of whom wrote during the 1920s, to realize that these correlations once cut the other way. But during the 1960s, the sexual revolution hitched its wagon to the horses of economic interventionism, a union that ultimately drove many Democrats into a newly-traditional Republican party. These coalitions, whatever their roots in expedience, and whatever theoretical tensions may exist within them, were ultimately marketed, and purchased, as package deals. (I myself bought the conservative package back during the Reagan administration.)
So the anomaly has become established fact: interventionist, sparrow-catching liberals, for whom no human suffering is beyond the reach of government to remedy, also advocate sexual anarchy. So long as they are between “consenting adults,” not only must our sexual relations be free from the reach of the law, they must be free from the reach of convention as well. Men and women should be free to mate with whom they wish, under whatever arrangements on which they mutually agree. (I shall write a post on whether this anarchy constitutes a stable end-state, but not today.) It didn’t take feminists long to realize that this anarchy left a lot of female victims: young women, pregnant and abandoned; older women, traded out for the new model. Feminist response to these victims varied in the particulars, but the central theme was that these injustices were artifacts of the imbalance of power between men and women. Specifically, men had greater social and economic power, and therefore were able to enjoy most of the benefits of sexual liberation. Correct that imbalance, and women, too, would reap its benefits. So ultimately, “liberation” required yet more intervention: affirmative action, childcare subsidies, taxpayer-funded abortion, comparable worth, etc.
The Invisible Men
But there was a second group of victims unaccounted for in the feminist worldview. Indeed, it was not until the age of the internet ended the monopoly of the “mainstream media” that these victims found each other, compared notes, and found in sociobiology a parsimonious explanation for their plight.
Under the tradition dispensation, there was some social and economic pressure on men and women to get married and to do so relatively young. Men enjoying higher status by virtue of their wealth and power, and young beautiful women got their pick, but monogamy was the rule, and almost everyone had the opportunity to marry somebody. Under the new dispensation, monogamy was most definitely not the rule, so it was very easy for high-status men to “play the field,” and easy for the majority of women to believe that they would eventually monopolize the affections (and resources) of a high-status male (because, after all, they slept with one). So women, lacking economic pressure to do otherwise, spend their twenties ignoring the majority of ordinary men and wait their “turn” to be with the alpha.
It is possible to overstate the injustice here. As I said before, most women realize as they approach thirty that sleeping around is not a viable strategy to finding long-term happiness. Therefore, most men will eventually get a shot. And it may be difficult to have much sympathy for those men whose disappointment stems from their failure to live the playboy’s life themselves.
But even this does not account for the scorn with which feminist women hold low-status men. It is not enough for them to say simply that low-status men are unattractive. It is not even enough to say that they are socially inept (which is often the case for personalities bred in social isolation, itself a function of unattractiveness). No, these men are evil for one reason or another. Witness Spungeon’s observation that unattractive people are conveniently mean and treacherous. I say “convenient” because these qualities relieve Spungeon of any obligation to have compassion on them. The liberal worldview does not allow for distinctions like “the deserving poor” or shrugging at the realization that the free market leaves some better-off than others. No, low-status men must be morally undeserving, because if they weren’t that would mean . . . .
I will at this point officially decline to speculate what “affirmative action” or a “welfare program” would look like for men who can’t get dates. My point is that it is in this direction that left-liberal reasoning takes them. And since feminists most emphatically do not want to go in this direction, it is necessary for them to postulate something that they refuse to recognize in any other sphere of life: absolute, de facto, equality of opportunity. For the sexual anarchy of the feminist worldview to be morally coherent on its own terms, it is absolutely necessary for them to believe that, but for men’s own choices, all men have an equal opportunity to mate with all women.
And it is this postulate that runs into a fatal collision with sociobiology. Because sociobiology, as Darwinism in general, starts from an assumption of inequality. Indeed, it is precisely the inequality, and differential rates of reproduction, among individuals and groups that drive natural selection, evolution, and speciation. If Darwinism is describes reality, then the feminist worldview necessarily cannot describe reality. So in conflict with feminism, Darwinism must yield.
Update: Dizzy and Spungeon post comments that require me to issue a clarification. Both Dizzy and Spungeon, having reached their thirties, broadened their dating pool and had a number of negative experiences as a result. Dizzy in particular tells tales that beggar the imagination. Dizzy, Spungeon, and any other woman who has been treated like this has fully earned whatever feelings she has.
So in an effort to salvage my theory, I may need to restrict its explanatory power to the attitudes of women in their twenties torward men that they do not date. I had in mind such a woman when I wrote the post. I have no doubt that many "beta" males can behave abominably, especially when they try to imitate the behavior of the alpha males they see as successful. But what I attempted to explain was the willingness of women who have never dated such a beta to make gross (and, in my opinion, unwarranted) generalizations about all of them. This is most definitely not to say that they should feel obligated in some way to date anybody they do not wish to date (although she might be pleasantly surprised, as my wife was when she finally went out with me).