The year 2021 has taught us, if nothing else, that we can be sure that lies, misinformation, and bullshit are post-scarce resources in modern society.
In such an information economy, it should come as no surprise–yet an abundance of disappointment–that ideas like the “Sigma Male” even exist.
What is a Sigma Male?
I’m not going to mince words.
“Sigma Male” is a ploy to recruit insecure young men into the same involuntary celibate (incel) / anti-feminist / pick-up artist trifecta that’s been making the Internet a worse place for everyone since at least 2005, and an evolution of the widely debunked “alpha male” myth.
Trust me on this one, guys: I’m a gay furry. The whole alpha/beta dynamic gets referenced a lot by neophytes to furry/kink culture. Sometimes we entertain it as harmless fun, but practically no one (especially with a canid fursona) takes it remotely seriously.
Why is This Even a Thing?
Let me tell you what’s really going on here:
When the career date-rapists and grifters behind the pick-up artist and “alpha male” circle-jerk realized that their audience was becoming disillusioned by the fact that their attempts to act “more alpha” was not resulting in healthy sexual or romantic relationships with women, they decided to invent a totally new concept–divorced of any psychological basis, of course–in order to keep their audience faithful to their bullshit and ensnare additional desperate, insecure young men.
Since trying to act “more alpha” just makes most people total jerks, which results in women running away as fast as they can, they decided to invent a more-hipster alternative for the failures in their revenue base to aspire to: One of silent edginess and marked by deliberate rejection of social structures. Since nothing comes before alpha in Greek, but video game culture places S-Rank above A-Rank, they decided to opt for the label “Sigma”.
Naturally, this results in a litany of book deals, YouTube videos, and public relations to sell their audience the idea that achieving this fictional aspiration is “what women really want”. The proposition here is, “If you know what women really want, you can get what you really want from them.” (i.e. sexual gratification).
It’s not just gross. It’s also a kind of exploitative that begets more exploitative behavior.
The same crowd that invented “Sigma Male” also conceived “negging”.
Here’s an actual list of “qualities” ascribed to a so-called Sigma Male, according to one of the peddlers of this moronic belief, only rearranged to emphasize the contradictions and meaninglessness of this description:
|“SIgma Males” are…||…but also apparently…?|
|10. He’s Incredibly Self-Aware||14. He Can’t Be Told What To Do When It Comes To Anything|
|13. He Could Be an Alpha If He Wanted||4. He Treats Everyone Around Him The Same Way|
|2. He Is a Silent Leader||9. His Social Skills Could Use Some Work|
|6. He Understands the Importance of Silence||12. It’s Hard To Understand Him|
|1. He Loves Being Alone, But He Values Other People||3. He Knows How To Adapt To Different Situations|
|11. He’s the Master of His Own Fate||8. He Hates Living Life Safely|
|5. He Doesn’t Need a Social Circle To Be Himself||7. He’s Morally Grey, Or Worse|
A lot of words could be written about these contradictory or vacuous statements.
How can you be a leader with inadequate social skills? If he really understands the importance of silence, why is it hard to understand him? Sure sounds like he’s misusing silence to me. Who isn’t a master of their own destiny? Who does need a social circle to be themselves?
The “Sigma Male” con is what happens if you take the tactics of cold reading and apply them in reverse:
Instead of starting general and drilling down to more specific based on your audience’s response, you start specific (“rarest type of male”) and then generalize the definition to become completely meaningless while also maximizing the relatability of the label to catch unaware rubes off-guard.
While we’re on the subject of some of the sleaziest pieces of shit to ever walk the earth, let’s examine some more crimes against culture by these self-aggrandizing embarrassments to the male gender.
The “Friend Zone”
If you want to doom someone to a lifetime of unhealthy relationships, convince them that there’s this tragic place called the “Friend Zone” wherein, if someone you’re attracted to views you as a “friend”, you’re doomed to never have sexual relations with them.
If you’ll notice, I omitted gender in the previous paragraph. This one is so pernicious that I occasionally encounter it in the LGBT community.
For adherents to this particular cognitive distortion, relationships exist in a linear hierarchy:
- Spouse–You want to be here
- Significant Other
- Friends with Benefits / Sexual Partner
- Friend (Platonic)–You don’t want to be here
Friendship isn’t valued on its own merits. Instead, it’s a stepping stone; a mere transitional fossil between where you are and where you want things to be. I’ve talked about this before.
When someone adheres to this belief, it shapes the way they interact with people they’re attracted to, and often creates a negative feedback loop. This in turn gives rise to the incel (involuntary celibate) mentality–except now, it’s almost always by men against women.
Failure to become an “alpha” leaves you delegated as a “beta”–or worse, a “cuck”.
Let’s put a pin on that point for a moment.
Interlude: On the Modern Usage of the Word “Cuck”
Right-wingers love to use the word “cuck” to describe someone they dislike.
It became a meme during the 2016 Election in the United States, with some labels (“cuckservative”) being used to demonize Republicans who weren’t reactionary enough.
The origins of the insult began with a term for a sexual fetish called cuckoldry: The enjoyment of watching other people have sex with your significant other.
Most bloggers treat this as a clinical subject and stop there. I am not most bloggers.
An under-reported and unfortunate truth of cuckold fetishists is that there’s often a significant racial component to their fantasy: White couples almost always seek out a black man to be the “bull” (the person whom displaces the cuckold) of the scene. (This is as much a problem within the LGBT community as it is outside of it.)
If you thought the depraved minds of 4chan users wouldn’t pick up on this cue, you haven’t been paying attention to the Internet since 2007.
The insult “cuck” has less to do with the fetish, tangibly, than it does to do with a white supremacist worldview.
To white supremacists, white women are the “property” of white men, and any man who “allows” white women to have sex with a person of color is a cuck.
Thus, there are two kinds of people who use the word “cuck”: Those who know its intent and mean it, and the oblivious masses who mask the dog-whistle. Propagandists call the latter useful idiots.
In Want of Money and Power
If you want to find the truth behind a person’s actions, you need to first discover their incentives. This is the “follow the money” approach, but generalized: Some people don’t need money, they want power. Political power, specifically.
It should come as no surprise that pick-up artists, anti-feminists, and incels all subscribe vehemently to the “friend zone” mythos. Additionally, incels, in particular, are prone to self-loathing and projection around the “cuck” insult.
This ultimately leads to a very dark place.
The Fascist Event Horizon
Most of us, in our youth, are varying degrees of socially awkward. This leads to anxiety, insecurity, and a sense of listlessness in most young adults.
Typically, we grow out of this by building relationships, learning through a litany of easily avoidable mistakes, and acquire the understanding we lack.
Pick-up artists prey on the rest of us, convincing them that the reason they don’t have a fulfilling sex life is because they’re not adhering to some aggressive social stereotype that gives them superpowers over women.
The ones that “succeed” go on to perpetuate that cycle. The ones that fail become self-loathing incels that stew in their own awkwardness and contempt.
It’s no secret that white nationalism courts Internet nerd culture.
Once you start to head down this path, you’re almost guaranteed to internalize a lot of the beliefs that are espoused:
- “Women want strong alpha males.”
- “Alpha males are dominant, assertive, adhere strongly to evangelical Christian values, and embody tradition.”
- “Women would rather sleep with a jerk than a nice guy.”
- “If you’re friend-zoned, that makes you a cuck to the girl you deserve.”
It’s here that two competing interests will clash.
Incentives Rule Everything Around Me
People who want money and influence are incentivized to find some mental framework that allows a diverse set of personality types to somehow succeed at their relationship goals. This is why they went on to invent the Sigma Male, and insist “they’re equal to alphas, but separate from the hierarchy”.
People who want political power and true believers to perform political violence and stochastic terrorism on their behalf are incentivized to set the bar high and make everyone feel inadequate.
That’s why, immediately after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and a general shunning of his rabid supporters, the Sigma Male meme is suddenly on a rise in popularity.
Preventing the Poisonous Patriarchy
If you want to prevent a friend or family member from falling into the trappings of abusive con men, white nationalist recruiters, and toxic masculinity, there are a few things you can do to stop them from going down this road.
- Consent is sexy.
Establish good habits. “Yes means Yes” is a better framework than “No means No”, because it implies a negative default in the absence of a specific answer. There’s a lot of literature on BDSM culture and sex work that you can pull inspiration from.
- Emphasize healthy friendships.
Fuck the hierarchy worldview; friends are amazing. Whatever it takes, make sure you can appreciate your friends for who they are, not what they might later become.
If you’re struggling to make friends, I recommend reading this article.
- The only thing we have to cringe is cringe itself.
Fuck what other people think: If you’re having fun with an activity, who cares if it’s “cringe”? Authentic enjoyment becomes fleeting for many adults once you progress through puberty; and while I’m not sure if that’s nature or nurture, I do know that being shamelessly yourself at all times maximizes your enjoyment.
- Abandon tradition, embrace modernity.
Tradition is stupid. It’s literally doing what people have always done because a better idea hasn’t yet come along–even when a better idea does come along!
Instead of relying on traditions, practice creative and imaginative thinking every chance you get. Step out of your comfort zone from time to time. Introspect and plan differently for the next time you’re in a similar situation. That’s how you grow as a person.
If you practiced all of the above and are still bewildered by “what women want” and worried you’ll be alone forever, here’s my final bit of advice: Ask them! Especially if you’re close enough friends that they’ll answer in earnest, because they know that you’re trustworthy and not trying to objectify them.
Literally nobody knows what a given woman is looking for in a partner more than she does. Anyone who claims otherwise is full of shit or dangerously manipulative.
If you ask 100 women what they want in a partner, you’ll get 100 different answers. Gender roles aren’t a symptom of a homogeneous population. People are people.
If anyone is truly your friend, they’re already emotionally invested in seeing you find someone that will make you happy. Trust them more than you’d trust me, or anyone who confidently claims to know “what women want” and then proceeds to totally misunderstand everything women say.
Additionally, everything I said above is also true of men and enbies. People are people, dammit!
What Do I Do if Someone Calls Themselves a “Sigma Male”?
Reply “Sigma balls“.
Ridicule might not adequately discourage participation (after all, the unscientific Myers-Brigg Type Indicator is still prevalent everywhere), but it’s cathartic.
Questions and Answers
Since I first published this article, I’ve received a lot of feedback. I’m going to attempt to respond to some of the questions I’ve received over the past few month in order to save everyone time asking the same questions.
Is the Notion of a Sigma Male as Scam or Grift?
Yes! See above for details.
The goal of the “sigma male” idea is to capture more of the “desperate and lonely single man” market segment–in particular, the ones that don’t buy the whole “alpha male” shtick. It’s pure bullshit and it’s bad for you.
Is Sigma Male “Cringe”?
Cringe culture is stupid, but I’m willing to make an exception for the whole “sigma male” meme (but only insofar as we also treat “alpha male” with the same level of earned contempt).
Science has shown that biological sex is not binary. Furthermore, sex isn’t the same thing as gender identity, which can be different from your biological sex and has to do with your role within society. This is what science has to say about the subject; it’s not up for debate.
So, with all that in mind, why do the same crowds of people who insist that sex is binary and assigned at birth (in spite of what science actually suggests) turn around and invent multiple kinds of male that someone can be, only to then arrange them in an imaginary hierarchy?
That’s pretty cringe, bro.
Why Are You Falsely Equivocating PUAs and Incels?
I’m not, and you have to be acting in bad faith to think listing two groups together is the same as equivocating the two.
Both groups are the consequence of the same harmful and false beliefs about gender, sex, and masculinity. Their beliefs about women are disgusting and they prey on the insecurity of other men to secure book deals and speaking gigs.
Pick-up artists are predators that spread predatory ideas. Incels are the desperate dregs that don’t buy the PUA books but still internalize the same values, usually expressed through self-deprecation. These are clearly not the same thing, but both groups are the consequence of the same delusional bullshit rooted in anti-feminism.
Eww, a furry!
Wow, you sure got me there.
How will I ever recover from this startling revelation?
Sigmas are REAL! They’re the introverted version of the Alpha. Period.
Nope. Alpha Males aren’t a real thing either.
The person who coined the term “alpha male” in wolf populations spent the rest of their career trying to correct the misconception they accidentally created. I covered all of this in the blog post already.
The people who purport that “being alpha” is a meaningful descriptor of humans rather than incomplete software are either delusional or trying to pull one over on you.
The unproven hypothesis of “sigma male” is predicated on debunked pseudoscience. Why bother believing something whose entire foundation is false?
The science of personality (a discipline of psychology) is extremely complicated. The people peddling the [Greek Letter Here] Male are trying to sell you on the belief that masculinity is a hierarchy of tribes. It’s just as stupid as the Myers-Brigg Type Indicators.
If you want an actual model for personality based on real cognitive science, look at HEXACO. Notably, your personality scores do not yield a reliable partitioning (“Are you an T or a P?”) nor is a hierarchy proposed.
Anything that says your entire personality or existence can be summarized as belonging to one of N groups (with N less than 100), or by a ranking in an imaginary social ladder, is bullshit–pure and simple.
Note: The header for this section is from one of the many unapproved comments submitted to this blog post with a fake email address. Comments like this aren’t an expression of introverted personalities. The word you’re looking for is “cowardice”.
Why aren’t you approving my comments on this blog post?
Mandatory reading: My blog isn’t a platform for internet randos.
7 replies on “No, You’re Not a “Sigma Male””
Gotta admit, “sigma balls” makes an excellent punchline.
This is an interesting article in an interesting blog that I probably would’ve never stumbled across if hackernews never existed: furball persona + furball lgbt community + cyber security + a pulpy style that doesn’t really distort. OTOH the genre does have its limits. It’s obvious who the villain here is but does the creation of this sigma archetype thing really attributable to some sinister plot to make a buck? Or perhaps it did come about that way… but only after it occured to a few enterprising individuals in the den of villainy you describe that some $$ could be made?…… actually scratch all that. I think this sense of ambivalence I got from this piece is likely due to the form. Drawn in by the pulpish conspiratorial tone, stayed to the end because it came off as honest, yet left feeling as if somethings missing which is likely a byproduct of a) the style and b) not being your audience. Anyway I enjoyed the piece! Cheers
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