Alpha vs Beta: Who Runs M/F Romance?
By Talia Hibbert
What is an alpha male? What is a beta male? And how many ardent fans of both am I about to piss off with this article? Every day on the internet is an adventure, so let’s go ahead and find out.
I could write a thesis on alpha heroes vs beta heroes, if I wanted to write something other than kissing books, which I absolutely do not. So I’m here to give you guys a run-down of the alpha/beta question that you can read on your phones while finishing a Mars Bar, because it’s 2018, and that’s how we do.
For centuries (I may be exaggerating) readers have wondered: who runs M/F romance? The alpha hero, or the beta? To answer that question, we need to take a whistle-stop tour of their respective roles. I’d tell you to buckle up, but the Romance Rail Service is government-funded, so we don’t have seat belts. Just hold on to the chair in front of you and pray we don’t go off the rails at any point. You’ll be fine.
The Mighty Alpha Male
Ah, the alpha male. What would romance be without him? And I don’t mean shifter romance, where he plays a vital role in a supernatural hierarchy; I mean contemporary, historical, and other non-wolfy romances, where he exists to kiss heroines cruelly, deflower whimpering virgins, etcetera, etcetera.
Alpha heroes are fun because they are drama kings. They have no chill whatsoever. Oh, your boss is bugging you? It’s okay; your alpha hero just bought the company and fired him. Oh, you’re being hunted by denizens of the underworld? It’s okay; your alpha hero is the literal devil, only sexy, and now you’re the Queen of Hell. Also, he ate everyone who ever messed with you. You’re welcome.
Of course, all that intensity has its downside. If an alpha male wants you, he will claim you — even if that involves kidnapping you (for your own good); getting rid of your fiancé (murder is such a strong word, and really, the guy was all wrong for you anyway); ruining your reputation (so that only he wants you)… the list, unfortunately, goes on.
So why the hell are alphas so popular? Well, it takes more than aggressive bossiness and a physical inability to mind his damn business to make an alpha. They also need to be tortured, brooding, wounded — with a gooey centre hiding beneath their iron facade.
And they need a heroine capable of reaching that gooey centre. She might break down his barriers with her strength, her rage, her innocent determination, or how great she is in bed. It’s usually a combo of all four. Point is, she’s gotta bring some energy to the equation. When it comes to alphas, balance is — ironically — key.
The Lovely Beta Male
Beta males have grown in popularity recently, probably because we all realised that ladies love nice guys.
And I don’t mean guys who think being as dry as a stale loaf of bread entitles them to love. I mean actual nice guys. Men who are pleasant. Dudes who aren’t dicks. Yes, they exist! And they’re taking the romance world by storm.
Beta males ring my bell because they have this amazing asset called emotional intelligence. This means that if a beta male falls in love with you, he will probably tell you so. You know, instead of locking you in his basement, or sneaking into your bedroom to watch you snore, or running away to Guatemala to sleep exclusively with women who resemble his mother. Gotta love a guy who knows how to handle his feelings.
Beta males also know how to relax. They are not the rulers of all they survey, and as a result, they don’t have enormous branches of self-importance wedged up their arses.
Oh, and here’s my favorite part: a beta hero would rather die than intimidate his poor, dear heroine with his RAMPAGING HORNINESS. Because believe me: he is always horny, and he indulges that far less than the alpha male. This often results in heartbreaking restraint and unbelievably filthy internal monologues, plus way more masturbation scenes. A winning combination, am I right?
So Who Gets the Girl?
If you’ve been paying attention to my clear bias, you’re probably expecting me to tell you that beta males rule, and alpha males can stick their invariably enormous trouser-pythons into the surface of the sun. And I have to admit, that does sound like something I’d say — but it’s not how this discussion ends.
The thing is, both alpha and beta males have a vital role to play in the world of M/F romance. They’re not opposites, as so many people think; they’re just two literary fantasies stemming from the same societal root. (Insert ‘the throbbing root of his desire’ quote here).
See, without getting too Sociology 101, I propose that alpha and beta heroes both represent controlling or subduing the threat of patriarchy. And yes, I will totally explain how.
Reading a beta hero is like finding a unicorn: a man who wants to give you many orgasms, but doesn’t want to conquer you. Yummy!
See, plenty of women have broody-alpha-hero issues of their own. Should those women have to ease a hero out of his shell while handling their own crap, too? No. Obviously not. If I wanted an experience that weighty, I’d go to the gym. And I am never, ever going to the gym.
What those women need—nay, what they deserve — is a lovely beta male to patiently heal their wounds. They need the treatment alpha males have been getting since forever, and beta males are the ones equipped to give it to them. Over and over again. (Pun totally intended. In fact, I worked really hard on it.)
So what role does the alpha hero play? Oh, I’m so glad you (I) asked. The alpha hero represents the ability to conquer a man who does want to conquer you. He is hyper-masculine, and therefore a more explicit threat — but in the world of romance, his heroine will always tame that threat. In fact, the inevitable conquering of the alpha hero makes his messed-up behavior more satisfying. The worse he is, the sweeter it seems when he finally becomes the heroine’s puppy.
Basically, when it comes to alphas and betas, there is no real winner. Mostly because their purpose — their thematic endgame, if you will — is actually the same.
So who, then, runs M/F romance?
The heroine, of course.