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Commenter Wudang asked me to explain the following:

What do we really mean by alpha and social dominance and the man in the relationship being dominant and why is that not oppressive.

Matt King (King A) followed up with a link to Roissy’s post called Arrogance Vs. Confidence.  I think this post is spot on.  First, I would like to go through some of Roissy’s points:

Arrogant man – Gets defensive when challenged.

Confident man – Has nothing to prove.

Most have us have seen the arrogant man do this at some point.  He’s ready to fight, often at the drop of a hat, to defend his manhood.  The confident man, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the need.  He knows, without question, who is the man and feels no need to take it further.  I’ve seen this presented with humor, with aloofness, and with simple straight, no backing down, eye contact.  Now, some will say that not defending oneself might be seen as beta, but there is a vast difference.  A beta will tend to drop his eyes, give a slight slump of his shoulders or even raise his hands in a defensive position.  The confident man will do none of these things.  He will however, if the situation warrants, make it very clear through his eye contact and body language that he will, indeed, throw down should the need arise.  The arrogant man will often simple start throwing fists,  lamely walk away trying to maintain frame, or will lose himself altogether.  I am very keenly reminded of this.

Arrogant man – Childish.

Confident man – Child-like.

The arrogant man tends to come across as childish when things don’t go his way.  He sort of stamps his feet and walks off sulking.  The confident man simply fixes the situation.  His child-like ways often will come out around those he loves, when teasing and playing around with his wife and in playing with his kids.  Confident men aren’t afraid to play with kids like they are kids and have a wonderful time doing it.  The mirth one sees in their eyes is genuine and infective.

Arrogant man – Aggressive.

Confident man – Resolute.

This goes back to the getting defensive when challenged and the having nothing to prove concepts.  An aggressive man often goes into a situation looking for a fight.  He might be intimidating to a lot of people, but there is a certain weakness about him that is often perceived, but almost difficult to put ones finger on.  With the resolute man, there is none of this.  He will calmly stand his ground, will defend himself as necessary (often brutally, as it will end it quickly) but will only do so if necessary.  I am reminded of this. (Eh, this might not be the best example, but I love this scene.  Warning – language).

Arrogant man – Threatens.

Confident man – Messes with their minds (not a direct quote, modified for language)

This one is interesting to observe.  The arrogant man is quite obvious.  He hears something he doesn’t like and he will get loud and make various threats.  He is standing up for himself, but it is almost too much.  He is losing his frame in his anger and it diminishes him.  The confident man will play with someone’s head.  Often, the person on the receiving end won’t quite know for certain what happened and if it was derogatory, funny, witty, etc.  It is a very good example of the male hamster spin.  This is when you can almost see the person being messed with almost turn his head to the side in wondering what just happened?  Did he miss something? (I know there have got to be a thousand examples of this on youtube and I am drawing a complete blank.)

On to one of the biggest differences:

Arrogant man – Domineering.

Confident man – Dominant.

The definition of domineering is: Assert one’s will over another in an arrogant way (google search) or inclined to exercise arbitrary and overbearing control over others (Merriam-Webster).  A domineering man will often use some kind of threat to assert his will.  He usually has no other way to enforce it.  Therefore, people do what he wants to avoid some kind of a bad outcome.  A dominant man most often inspires people to do what he asks.  They want to do it to please him.  He is well liked, yet often has very high standards.  He will not respect anyone and everyone.  People must earn his respect and they strive to do so.  People around men like this will often go above and beyond for them and they will be respected for it.  This will drive them to continue to work in this fashion.  As an example of this dynamic, I am reminded of Mel Gibson’s character in We Were Soldier(though it’s been too long since I have seen it to pick a specific scene).

The terms dominant and domineering have been hijacked in recent years in an attempt to bolster women and put men in their perceived place.  Feminists referred to the patriarchy as domineering in their attempts to end it.  But, while there were certainly some domineering men, most men were simply dominant.  They had a family and a home to care for and they did it.  These men knew that in order to care for the family, tough decisions must be made and they were often at the expense of what their women said they wanted.  Here’s the thing, though.  Their women respected them.  They may have been hurt they didn’t get their way, but the decision was made and it was what was best.  She may not have overtly understood (though, I think far more women did understand this then) that the decision made was best for all the family members, including her, she knew on some level that things were good, safe, and secure.  She could depend fully on this dominant man, and she loved and respected that (Need I say that, obviously, not all marriages were like this and that there were domineering men?  They were still fractionally small compared to the dominant man.)

Unfortunately, many women and men now conflate domineering and dominant and cannot (will not?) see the difference.  They fear dominant men because they do not understand them.  I also sometimes wonder if some people have never really met a good, dominant man.  Some people cannot tell the difference, especially if they have not been able to garner his respect.  They will still deride him as domineering, very possibly because of this lack of respect.  It may be easier to deride than accept their shortcomings in his eyes.

Side Note: Many women are not able to perceive the difference in domineering and dominant, especially in practice. I think of so many female bosses who, in an attempt at strength in the workplace, become domineering toward their employees.  However, they can perceive it on some level as it will be the higher up male bosses, who are often dominant, whom they will often seek company.