Meet the late Elliot Rodger, 22-year-old serial murderer and self-proclaimed “supreme gentleman,” who blamed his killing spree on his inability to attract a lover.
There’s a lot that can be said about Mr. Rodger from a sociological perspective — from whence his narcissism, his self-entitlement, his will-to-power? — but regular readers of the Orthosphere could likely anticipate such an analysis or produce a better one on their own, so I don’t feel the need to write one. Instead, this post is aimed at those in a similar situation as his (on the off-chance that any might read it), those who have ever asked themselves, “I’m a nice guy; why can’t I get a girlfriend?”
If you have ever uttered these words, you are almost certainly a beta male.
By “beta,” I mean not-alpha, i.e., not the first. The beta male is no woman’s first choice.
What is it that makes a beta male “beta”? Depending on how broadly we elect to define the term, we could include in that definition a general lack of self-confidence, of physical fitness, of social skills; a disregard for the quality of his personal appearance; emotional incontinence; a certain cloying eagerness in his interactions with women that usually spoil his own chances of romantic success. Although usually of above-average intelligence, he often cannot transcend the intellectual fashions of his age, and he typically squanders whatever intellectual gifts he has on frivolous pursuits taken to obsessive extremes.
Note the keywords above: “lack”; “disregard”; “inability”; “squanders”; etc. These traits are not properly positive in themselves, they are negatives. They are deficiencies and privations of properly masculine traits, traits like self-mastery, self-confidence, stoicism, and goal-directedness.
So “beta maledom” is really nothing more than the gaping hole where masculinity ought to be, and to be a “beta male” is simply to be deficient as a man.
Revisit that first question: “I’m a nice guy; why can’t I get a girlfriend?”
You cannot get a girlfriend because you are not especially manly.
Most women do not especially want a “nice guy”; certainly I have never heard one say that she wanted one. They want a man. Most women who want a man want one who is good to them (and, note, “good” and “nice” overlap but are not interchangeable), but in no case is it desired that manliness be sacrificed in the service of niceness.
You see, “niceness” is not a theological virtue. It’s a basic, minimum requirement for normal, human social functioning in most circumstances. Since it is so basic to social functioning, women can get niceness literally anywhere. They can get it from parents, siblings, friends, mail carriers, waiters, and so on. Hence, they don’t need it, exclusively or even primarily, from you. What they need from you (if they need anything from you at all) is masculinity, to complement their femininity. This isn’t an earth-shattering insight: man and woman are literally made for one another, after all. If “niceness” is all you offer — if you have no masculinity to offer — than you are not attractive as a man. You might still be attractive in other ways — as a friend, a confidante, a study partner, a convenient chair, or a free-of-charge toenail painting service — but not as a partner or a lover. “Nice” is cheap, and she can probably get it better from somewhere else.
In the second place, you are probably not an especially nice person, either, so in fact you probably have nothing to offer at all. Certainly, Elliot Rodger is not a nice person nor the “supreme gentleman” he imagines himself to be. Nice people don’t feel entitled to sexual or romantic validation by virtue of their niceness. They certainly don’t murder people.
If you really want to be a nice person, I suggest doing something uncontaminated by self-interest. I’m sure there is a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter nearby in need of volunteers. If you volunteer, do it without telling any of your friends about it.
“But then how will my crush know that I’m nice?”
Maybe she won’t. But that’s the point: it’s not about you.
Why are you this way? There are lots of possible reasons, beginning, in the first place, with a lack of effective modeling of healthy masculinity, both in society at large (where masculinity is demonized) and at home. Maybe your dad died, or was divorced by your mother (maybe for frivolous reasons, maybe not), or ran off to shack up with someone else, or was too mired in work or drugs or gambling, to mold you into a man. Maybe there were no uncles, cousins, or neighbors to fill the hole he left.
Maybe other forces shaped you for evil even as your father failed to shape you for good. Maybe your overbearing helicopter mother taught you always to defer to (“respect”) women. Maybe your kindergarten teacher gave you a severe scolding and a lecture on chivalry when you brazenly stole a kiss from the cute girl at recess. Maybe a few dozen romantic comedies and pop hits convinced you that emotive fawning is the way to get the girl. Maybe lectures on feminism from media talking heads, public school teachers and college professors, and other opinion leaders convinced you that men are oppressors who must publicly grovel as penance for their collective sins against the living sacrament that is womankind.
All of these are permutations of the same theme: there is a father-shaped chasm in your heart, and the story of your life is your struggle either to fill it in or fence it off.
“It’s not about you” should hardly need to be said, but it does need to be said, because you don’t get it, because you think you’re the hero, the “good guy,” the star of the unfolding drama of your life, and by extension you think that everyone else is supporting cast, extras, tech crew. You are following a script (but who gave you the script? who wrote it? who else follows it?), and you think if you follow it faithfully, you’ll get the girl in the end. Hence your experience of romantic failure as a cosmic injustice, a “crime,” to quote the murderer Mr. Rodger. “Every time I try to care about someone, this is what I get.”
But other people aren’t extras and supporting casts. They are people, and their lives have a reality beyond your own. You have no right to resent them for failing to follow the script for a part they didn’t want and didn’t audition for. If you understood that, you might not be such a repulsive creep.
All of this is simply to say that your problem is you. You are unattractive and weird. And you are not so special or important that you don’t need to change, or that the world would be worse off if you did.
“But other people should accept me the way that I am!”
Why should they? You won’t extend them the same courtesy. You won’t accept women’s romantic standards and expectations, especially when those standards don’t benefit you. What is so profoundly important about you that the whole world must deform itself to accommodate you?
“But I’m a nice guy–“
Stop it. No, you aren’t.
You know something is wrong, you know something needs to change, hence the question: “I’m a nice guy; why can’t I get a girlfriend?” You have two choices.
In the first place, you can retreat into escapism, into fantasies of vengeance or sexual fulfillment. You may throw yourself into video games, comic books, cartoons, or pornography, or some combination thereof. You may regress into the security of childhood: “marrying” your pillow, taking stuffed animals out to dinner (in public!), dressing up as a magical pony or a figure from a favored video game (and not just on Halloween), or Photoshopping people into your pictures and publicly advertising them as your girlfriend. You may, in other words, withdraw from a reality with which you are no longer able to cope on its own terms. There’s a word for this in psychology, and that word is psychosis. Best case scenario, you wither like a shaded plant and die joyless and unfulfilled and probably obese in the cocoon in which you’ve wrapped yourself. Worst case scenario, you wind up like Mr. Rodger.
The other, better choice is to examine and reevaluate your life. You might consider the choices you’ve made that have made your life what it is. You might stop shouting your excuses into the void and shut up for a change and listen in silence to what others have to say, however difficult the lesson might be. You might come to realize that people don’t owe you much of anything, certainly not sex or love or acknowledgment. You might accept that you are not so special that you are the first man in history that didn’t need to work on improving himself.
And then, you might change. You might give up the obsessions you can’t restrain (note: there’s nothing wrong with video games or comic books as a hobby; there’s something wrong with doing nothing but playing video games or reading comic books). You might stop going to brony conventions or Magic: The Gathering tournaments. You might extract yourself from the social circles of people mired in this same condition. You might try to learn something from history, instead of standing in judgment of it. You might work out, start playing basketball, take classes, learn French, read Aristotle, master the piano. Volunteer at that soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Invite a coworker to lunch, just to get to know them. You might try to understand that everything isn’t about you. We have a word for all this, too, but it comes from a place much older and deeper than psychology. That word is repentance.
“Why are you so mean to ‘beta males’?”
I’m just giving you the honesty you demand other people show you, especially of women who reject you. And the honest truth is that you can’t get a girlfriend because you are repulsive to women.
“But why do you care?”
Because your unmanly behavior debases the common understanding of what it means to be a man. Because endorsement of it would force me to subscribe to an impoverished notion of my own masculinity. Because I don’t want my future sons to grow up in a world where they can wind up like you just because no one ever told them to knock off the crap and grow up.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
Because you’re a social animal, and your good is bound up with the good of others, whether you like it or not. Because you don’t even want to be left alone, which is why you harass women on Facebook, etc.
“But why should I have to be ‘manly’ to get a girl?”
Because you are a man.
“But I didn’t ask to be a man!”
But you are a man. So deal with it.
“Masculinity’s just a social construct!”
So are skyscrapers; that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.
“You’re a jerk!”
A little, yeah. But I have a girlfriend.