|Latin Mass Society Walking pilgrims enter Walsingham
I have avoided saying 'Catholics should be Alpha men' because the association between 'Alpha' and 'jerk' is so close. But the point of my most recent post was to argue that you don't have to adopt the morally bad behaviour of the jerk in order to stop being a loser. Let me make the point more explicitly.
The classic 'Alpha jerk' or 'Alpha bad boy' is someone successful with the ladies, while treating them badly. Promiscuity is part of the background to the discussion, but it possible for men to treat women badly in societies where promiscuity is not the norm (though the damage they inflict will be infinitely less). A century ago, in very different social conditions, these men were called 'cads', and two centuries ago it was all about 'leading on' women, and not (usually) going to bed with them, but the phenomenon was in essentials the same. It is a human universal, even if in some eras it is vigorously repressed. The question is: Why do women find these ghastly men attractive?
I marvelled at this baffling phenomenon when I was single, and I know I was not alone. To understand it properly is to unlock one of the central mysteries of social life, and to remove the fog of incomprehension here is one of the most important things we can do for our sons and daughters entering upon adult life.
One suggestion from the com box was that cads/ jerks are just physically very attractive, which means that they can get away with bad behaviour. But this does not ring true. Being physically repulsive is clearly a big disadvantage in the dating game, but good looking men are not guaranteed success. Nor do jerks necessarily have other advantages, like money. There is another, more subtle, magic ingredient.
Another possibility is that women are engaging in self-destructive behaviour. Going out with a succession of people who will betray them emotionally and sexually is, I suppose, self-destructive, but the phenomenon is so widespread that we need to understand rather than simply label and condemn it. It would be better to say that these women are lacking in wisdom and discernment, but the question has not yet been answered: why are these men attractive in the first place? Why is there even a temptation here?
Let's look at the other end of the scale: the losers. These are men who may be perfectly good looking, and may have other gifts of nature and fortune, but aren't successful with with ladies. Again, this is a human universal, and I noted the vivid portrayal of the type by Shakespeare, in the form of Silvius is As You Like It. We can characterise these men using the words used by women to dismiss them: 'desperate', 'needy', 'pathetic', 'weed', 'saddo', 'wet'. They are eager to please, they don't want to offend, they are willing to be walked on, humiliated and exploited, and their body language, their conversation, and their patterns of behaviour make this clear. It goes down very badly.
Why would a woman want to attach herself to a feeble man? Would she be proud to be seen with him? Would he seem like a catch? If anyone asks: why are feeble men less highly regarded than non-feeble men? here's another question. Would he be able to look after her?
Now, for all those in the com box who are influenced by the image of 'gentle Jesus meek and mild', as brought to us by 19th century sentimental spirituality, just ask yourselves whether Jesus or the saints could be categorised in these terms. Needy? Too eager to please? Weeds? I don't think so either.
The Christian ideal of manhood is not that of a doormat, a loser. It isn't that of jerk, either, obviously. But if we understand what is going on here, we can create some conceptual space for a conception of masculinity which is neither. You don't have to be a jerk to avoid being a loser.
To simplify somewhat, what it comes down to is that the jerk exhibits strength of character. Men who are too eager to please do the opposite. A man without strength of character would be no fun to go out with, and would not be much of a husband or father, either. As a matter of fact, the classic jerk has no interest in being a husband or father, because he has the alluring prospect of decades of promiscuity ahead of him, but a lot of women don't start thinking consciously about who would make a good husband or father until a particular stage in their life plans. No, in the context of (for example) student single life they are reacting instinctively to the trait of strength, which appeals not to their intellects but to their emotions.
It should be obvious that it is possible to show strength of character without engaging in the immoral sexual behaviour of the jerk. The jerk can use the immoral behaviour to reinforce the message of desirability, but it has its unattractive aspect as well, and a virtuous man who is not a weed can a appeal to a woman rationally as well as emotionally.
A lot of the debate about these issues among Christians takes this conclusion as a starting point, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, and goes on to discuss exactly what kind of behaviour truly exhibits strength of character. The problem is that many of the ideas in circulation are self-defeating, a key example in the Catholic debate being Chivalry. Many of the people promoting Chivalry want to suggest the idea of a strong man, while actually advocating the behaviour of servility - a 'bait and switch'. 'Yes', they say, 'woman want and need strong men, and here's how to show you are strong: do whatever they say regardless of the cost to you.' I need to say more about why this is happening.
Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.