Can Women Have Friends?
Please help me out ladies
Several moons ago, my wife and I had this thing called a “date night.” Apparently, it’s when you have someone else watch your kids so you can go out with your significant other like you used to when you were courting. Imagine that!
We were driving in the early evening to a rather fancy restaurant about fifteen minutes away—it was across state lines, so it felt like a real getaway. Or a crime, like we were fleeing the law. Something out of a Christopher Cross song.
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On the ride there, we got to talking about hierarchies among males and females. It’s interesting because, as a man, you sort of realize these hierarchies instinctively. The conversation got started when the Missus made a comment about someone being an alpha versus a beta. I had a “How far down this rabbit hole should I go?” moment before I began a gentle pontification about the socio-sexual hierarchy, at least among men, and how it’s deeper than “alpha/beta.” As a man, the female side of the equation is completely alien to me, so I don’t pontificate about it. But male-male relations? You should hear me pontificate. I’m worse in person than I am online.
I proceeded to give the Cliffs Notes1 version of the socio-sexual hierarchy, or SSH, as put forth by He Who Shall Not Be Named. Okay, it’s Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, aka a much-reviled figure2 for myriad alleged sins. In any event, (1) I’m not here to defend him, (2) he doesn’t need me defending him, and (3) I’m reasonably certain he doesn’t care if the reader hates him or not. The important thing is that Mr. Day didn’t invent this, and he wasn’t the first to notice it; he was just the first to provide a concise and accurate taxonomy of observable behavior patterns, and I like to give credit where credit is due. So regardless of your personal feelings about the man, the SSH is a worthwhile addition to the discourse (as is his coining of the other observable phenomenon, that of the midwit). Anyway, I’m going to sum up the conversation I had with my wife about how men sort out our hierarchies.
For starters, when a man meets another man, he’s trying to figure out if he is an ally or a liability: Is this someone you would, say, want next to you in a foxhole, protect your village from hostile barbarians, or be of value in any other situation where things are about to go down? Is this other man going to help you survive and thrive, or is he going to be a drag, a drain, a morale killer, a traitor? Is he going to do his part and accept his part, or is he going to freeload and then demand credit and recognition? Is he going to respect other men’s boundaries or is he going to try and move in on your woman? Is he going to be a man or a politician? You get the point.
After that basic threshold question has been resolved, men tend to sort themselves into six basic groups, very briefly summarized as such:
The Alpha. Not necessarily the smartest (but is usually smart) or the strongest (but is usually strong) or the most physically fit (but is quite often physically imposing), the Alpha is not only charismatic and has that “it” quality other men rally around, and women want, he wants men to rally around him and women to want him. The Alpha is typically the guy who has the balls to make the hard decisions, and accept the consequences along with the rewards. He engenders loyalty, and is good to those who are loyal to him. You know the type.
The Bravo. The Bravo is not the stereotypical “beta.” The Bravo is—and keep in mind, these are all fractal categories—the Alpha’s lieutenant. He’s the guy that doesn’t necessary make a great leader, though he might be a situational Alpha in certain social circles. But when in the presence of an Alpha, the Bravo is usually not intimidated. Instead, he recognizes a kindred spirit, as does the Alpha. He becomes the Alpha’s right-hand man, a leader in his own right . . . but not the leader. Bravos moving into the Alpha’s position after an Alpha dies or retires or resigns usually don’t do all that well. These are the kinds of guys who need a leader to do well.
The Delta: Most men are probably Deltas. Deltas crave respect for their competence, which all men do to a degree. Men aren’t born, we’re made, and we’re often made by getting respect and recognition for our peers for being good at doing stuff. Maybe what you’re good at is engineering, or computer programming, or cooking. Maybe you’re a really good janitor. Great! Every group needs its worker types who can get stuff done, and get it done well. All the Delta wants is (1) respect, (2) recognition, and (3) a woman who loves them. These are your family man—unlike an Alpha who may be monogamous but is always flirty and often unfaithful, the Delta is faithful and loyal. Deltas, like Bravos, need leaders, want leaders, but don’t want to be the leader. Now, some Deltas might be smarter, stronger, and better looking than an Alpha, but they not only lack that “it” gene, those cojones, THEY DON’T WANT TO BE THE ALPHA. It’s simply too much work to be an Alpha! The Delta wants a wife to love and love him, children to raise, a church to go to, the house with the white picket fence, the works. We love our Deltas!
The Gamma: Now this is the kind of guy who is a true liability. This video explains it much better, but the Gamma is the guy who wants to be an Alpha, expects the upside without the downside, but doesn’t have what it takes, even though he thinks he does. The Gamma is the proverbial “Secret King” who is never wrong. He’s the midwit: smarter than your average bear, smart enough to know he’s not a genius, but resentful of those smarter, better looking, and more successful with women than he is. The Gamma is the kind of dude we all knew in high school or wherever who just wants to hang out with your girlfriend and is trying to secretly get her to leave you for him. Yet he’s hopeless with women because he puts them on a pedestal and gets “oneitis,” which creeps women out, and further turns into a raging, vengeful misogynist if his affections and grand romantic, usually creepy, gestures aren’t reciprocated. Creepy and resentful: the two perfect words to describe Gammas. Nobody likes Gammas. Don’t be a Gamma.
The Omega: The Omega is a sad case. This is a guy who might have many socially redeeming qualities, might be a genius and super-good at something or other, and might be a Delta or Bravo in other circumstances, but is so inept, so socially clueless, he might not even realize he should shower and brush his teeth. No fooling. These guys, with a lot of help from friends, might elevate their social standing, but since they tend to keep to themselves, they have no friends. Very sad. Let’s help our Omegas!
The Sigma: So much incorrect has been written about Sigmas. The Sigma is a guy who does not care where he is on the hierarchy. He is not the “lone wolf”/”Sigma Grindset”/”digital nomad” grifter you see online. The Sigma operates outside of the SSH, doing his own thing. He usually makes a poor leader because when he gets bored of something—even if he’s really good at it—he just moves on. The Sigma is like a cat. They’re cool but also kind of annoying in their own way.
You’ll notice homosexual men aren’t discussed on the SSH. I think this is because, while gay men have many similarities with straight men, obviously, their attraction to men and not women makes them operate on a sort of parallel SSH in many respects. Much of what men do amongst ourselves involves competition for the affection of women, so if you remove that from the equation, it all falls apart as far as I can see it. I can’t presume to know about the hierarchies among the gay set, not being gay, but if anyone has insight into this, I’d love to hear them!
So you’ve read several paragraphs about this stuff which, yes, is in large part a product of the so-called “Pickup Artist,” “Red Pilled,” or “Game” communities. But these groups, as much as you might personally not like them, hit upon interesting and useful observations about human behavior that are helpful beyond the goal of scoring with ladies. “What does this have to do with the title of the post?” you’re likely asking. Let me tell you something, dear reader: when my wife started telling me about how women sort themselves out and assign status, it blew my mind and turned my idea about female-female dynamics upside-down.
Her words actually prompted me to ask her: “How does any woman have friends?”
Her answer: “You have to find other women who are aware of this.”
See, according to my lovely and intelligent wife, female status is based on what they have and what they can secure. When women meet other women, apparently the first thing they do is look at things like how big their wedding ring is, what kind of clothes they were, the house they live in, their car, what their husband does for a living, and so on. These are the types of status marker we’re repeatedly told by academics and Hollywood that men care about, but we really don’t. Men see things things as aspirational and a topic of conversation to geek out over.
“When a man meets another guy who has an awesome car, say,” I said to my wife, “the reaction of a normal, healthy, secure man is ‘Whoa, nice car bro!’ And then we start talking about cars and engines and stuff.”
“Not women,” she replied. “A woman might go ‘Uh-huh, nice’ but inside is thinking ‘That bitch’ and ‘Why can’t my husband get a car like that?’”
I mean, I’ve heard the stereotypes about women not saying what they mean to each other and hating each other more than any man could hate a woman, but damn.
I mean, men only insult our close friends. The closer the friends, the worse the insults. We act cordial towards people we don’t know very well. And if we don’t like someone, or if someone doesn’t like us, we usually know it.
I don’t think it’s controversial to say that women don’t insult each other like this.3 We’re told it’s because they are more “mature” or “civilized,” but I think they’re just “different.”
Many hypothesize it all goes back to very ancient evolutionary psychology. Based on biological differences and roles—men go fight and die and provide, women bear and rear children and were historically at the mercy of various warring groups of men—different means of interaction have developed over the millennia. Hence men trying to suss out if this new guy you just met is an ally or a liability, and women basing status on their relative security vis-à-vis their men.4 However, even nowadays when women can, and indeed are encouraged to, provide for themselves and literally don’t need men, this mode of thinking still persists.
And therefore, in response to my question, only women who can see this game being played can actually be friends, because when they meet someone they like, they don’t play it! Friendships therefore become based on normal things that people of either sex bond over, like shared values, interests, and so on.
I’m going to tie this into writing because understanding this can make a huge difference in men writing accurate, believable, sympathetic, and true-to-life female characters versus “men with breasts.” Unless you’re writing a character who is actually a man with breasts; if that’s the case, go off, king!5
Like I said, this is all totally alien to me, but I find it fascinating. I can’t wait to read all the comments calling me a clueless chauvinist.
Did you ever realize it’s “Cliffs Notes” with an S and not “Cliff Notes” or “Cliff’s Notes”? Mandela effect?
I know he’s too “toxic” for a lot of you. If my referencing him bothers you that much, fine. You can stop reading.
Maybe you do? I don’t know—let me know if you do.
Obviously, as with gay men, I’m sure lesbians have different hierarchies based on the fact that men aren’t in the picture and therefore this competition doesn’t exist. Or does it? Let me know.
Robert Paulson in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is the only such character I can think of off the top of my head.