Adam the Alpha Male

Adam’s been called an “alpha male” pretty often in the forums and communities I frequent, as well as on my twitter feed. I do not like it. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like it, I’ve found, either. I’ve protested to deaf ears, but I maintain that this does not work for me.

One is simply biological – humans do not have alpha males. We are not organized in packs where only one male ever has the right to mate with the females. Droit de seigneur, where the feudal lord claims the wedding night of his female vassals, is about the closest we’ve come to it, and that’s not common. And it’s only the first night, too. (Still rape, still ugly, but not exclusivity.) Okay, maybe those huge polygynous families in the LDS fundamentalist compounds also approximates this, but there are very few such compounds that only consist of the one man and his wives – usually it’s a fair number of men with the harems. They do often discard young men who might otherwise marry the younger women, but it’s still not the same.

And, let’s be serious here. That mating thing? Isn’t going to happen.

Most would say they’re saying he’s a dominant born leader. Okay, I’m not going to argue about that. Adam’s absolutely a leader (want proof? Take a look at your twitter feed today, if you have one. It probably looks very different today than it did only a couple of days ago. And that’s true even if your twitter feed, like mine, didn’t really have many people using Adam’s face as their avatar. But Adam asked us to use our own pictures, so many of us are now using our own pictures. Even if, like me, they rarely tweet Adam at all. Because Adam asked, because Adam told us we were gorgeous even before most of us had a chance to change, we showed our faces to the world – or to those following our locked twitters. And if Adam asks, we at least consider it and often do it.)

So they’re right in part – Adam has a lot of the qualities of a born leader. He’s intelligent and decisive. He has a strong personality and a lot of charm. He’s highly charismatic. He’s loyal and inspires loyalty. And since he’s a good, decent, generous person, he makes people want to make him happy. Also, who wouldn’t move the planet for one of those smiles? Thank goodness he only wants to entertain us instead of rule the world, huh?

Here’s the thing that bugs me. Tell me, please, which of those characteristics, alone or taken as a whole, are at all masculine? Or feminine, for that matter? None, right? They’re gender neutral. Oh, society approves of leadership for men more than for women, unless it’s among women, but the qualities of leadership are the same for both. So, alpha, I’ll buy, even those this is NOT Huxley’s Brave New World and I don’t think anyone was allowed to be gay anyway. But alpha male…well.

I’m afraid it’s something a bit insidious, and probably unconscious. It’s why people are saying “male” – I also see people calling Adam “uber-masculine” in the same vein. They’re certainly commenting on his leadership abilities but they’re saying something else, too. They’re saying we know he’s gay but he’s not “gay-gay” – he’s all man, nothing but man, despite the hair and the make-up and the mannerisms and speech patterns. And most of them also say pretty much out there that they prefer him without the make-up and glitter, that he looks so more masculine and better without that.

I can think of a lot of reasons for this. They’re attracted to him, and don’t want to be attracted to someone who doesn’t fit their ideals of masculinity. There’s a significant part of our culture that believes attaching the word “feminine” to a man is an insult and they certainly don’t want to insult Adam. There is also people who do see leadership as a masculine thing, and female leadership is bitchy or diva behavior. If he’s such a leader….well. Which makes the epithet HBIC – Head Bitch in Charge – rather amusing.

And, of course, there is the physical thing. Adam is a big man – tall, broad-shouldered, strong, with powerful looking upper arms and thighs. Mighty-thewed, in fact. He also has a firm jawline, only partially blurred by the muscles he has from singing and the fact that bloating from exhaustion and weight gain go to his face. He therefore has a conventionally masculine silhouette and profile. His facial features are classic and strong, as well. He has body hair that he does not remove, large hands and large feet. And,well. Yeah. Blush. That, too. No one, not even those calling him “Madam”, doubt his maleness.

But he highlights his eyes with dyed lashes, eyeliner, shadow, and glitter. He covers his lips with gloss and sometimes even pale lipstick. He constantly plays with hairstyles. He gives major thought to his cologne. He sparkles with jewelry – it’s so much of a trademark that he got loaned pieces for his Grammy look. I don’t think that happens often for men. And he has a major love affair with accessories, too. In this culture, in the culture in which he was raised, this is feminine behavior.

Also feminine behavior in this culture – politeness. Deference. Tempering statements with compliments. High-pitched speaking voices. When I quote Adam, I can feel my vocal pitch rising. He CAN lower it. He did so, at least to my ears, when he did the summit meeting. Someone with his training both in singing and acting should be able to do that easily. He chooses to not do so, to remain in his comfortable level.

Oh, he’s a gentleman – he kissing hands, he opens doors, he hands his boyfriends into cars, he had his boyfriend hold his arm, instead of the revers (that actually makes staging sense, though – big Adam holding little Sauli’s arm looks like he’s dragging him around. The reverse looks, to American eyes, right.)

Adam himself has said that he embraces both sides of his personality – he’s both masculine and feminine and prefers it that way – he thinks that’s where sexiness lies. To deny his femininity because it makes one uncomfortable or ruins a fantasy is to deny an essential part of Adam. So would denying his masculinity, of course, but since that’s a positive, no one would do that.

And this is the other reason I don’t like the term “alpha male.” Not only does it deny women their ability to lead, to be alpha, but it also denies part of who he is and how he sees himself, and what is among the most compelling parts of a whole person. He is male, he is dominant. He is also beautiful and kind. And he’s feminine and strong. And above all, he’s proud of who and what he is, as we all should be about ourselves.


About mamadeb

I'm a devoted fan of Adam Lambert, but also of cooking, knitting, science fiction and pretty anything pop culture. I'm @_mamadeb on Twitter.
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12 Responses to Adam the Alpha Male

  1. Lissy says:

    Bravo! Could not agree with you more.

    And Adam said it himself in Rolling Stone, “Why can’t some men have strong feminine sides? Does that make them less of a man? I don’t know why our society has such an emphasis on masculinity and femininity- it’s really gross. I don’t think you’re truly sexy until you don’t care about that.”

    • mamadeb says:

      Exactly – and Adam’s personality and actions show that he lives this philosophy. And he is very sexy, indeed.

      Note, if one side is more dominant in a person – I’m pretty alpha, but also feminine – that’s fine, too.

  2. silence says:

    I loved your blog! I agree that Adam is both masculine and feminine and he’s amazing because he’s equal parts. However, I don’t think it’s an insult to Adam to say that he’s an alpha male and I think Adam would say that’s probably a pretty accurate description of him. He likes to be in control. He’s said he’s a top which means in his romantic relationships he would take on the traditionally male role of being the provider and protector. He’s also nuturing and gracious and sensitive which makes him that much better at both.

    I personally prefer Adam without the heavy make up, not because I’m put off by the make up or can’t find him attractive with it. In fact I find him very attractive either way, however I think the make up makes him look older and more worn than his years. Heavy foundation and powder sinks into the creases and lines of ones skin and flaws are highlighted. Adam has problematic skin and wearing too many cosmetics aggrevates that. I think he’s hot either way but think he’s hottest when he has just a touch of eye liner, mascara and maybe a hint of lip gloss on.

    JMO and I still think your blog was really great 🙂

    • mamadeb says:

      Actually, “top” only refers to his preference of sexual positions. It’s entirely possible to be dominant and “alpha” but prefer the bottom. He is nurturing (a culturally feminine attribute) and protective (gender neutral) as well as dominant (culturally male.) As you said.

      I gave my reasons why I dislike the term in general – we’re not pack animals. That’s not how humans evolved. But if it has to be used, I’d get rid of the gender attribute.

      And thank you for the kind words.

      • rihannsu says:

        You don’t seem to have a proper grasp of what exactly Alpha is and you are seeming to link it exclusively to male. No we are not pack animals in the way that dogs and wolves are but we are social animals just as primates are and social animals all have pecking order. Alpha is the dominant position in the pecking order. The word male simply denotes the sex. There is in any social group both an alpha male and an alpha female and sometimes the alpha female outranks the male. The problem is that society in general doesn’t tend to talk about alpha females so most people associate the term alpha only with males which is wrong. You are right in that the alpha qualities are not specifically male but the term alpha male is correct for Adam because he is male. Being gay doesn’t make him any less male. I would also state that no other male on Season 8 qualifies as a alpha no matter how “masculine” some of them were. None of them had Alpha qualities. You could just as easily simply drop the word male and call him alpha. But the term “alpha male” is not about his masculinity it is about his dominant place in the pecking order. Just because people use the term wrong doesn’t make it so. He is just as alpha when he is displaying his feminine side as when he is masculine.

      • mamadeb says:

        I do see your point (although I’m not happy with “pecking order” either.) He certainly is the most dominant person from Season 8, male or female. I would never deny that. But I often see the term coupled with “he’s very, very masculine” or “I don’t see the feminine at all.”

        Certainly his gayness has nothing to do with his masculinity or his maleness (two different things) or how dominant his personality is. That was one of my points – he IS a leader, he IS dominant, he IS in charge. He’d be exactly the same if he were straight or if he chose not to emphasize his feminine side – or chose to truly emphasize it over his masculine side.

        Actually, I’d like to address that whole “pecking order” thing along with Season 8, if I may. I first am going to retract something. I don’t like “pecking order” because we’re not birds but there is an equivalent term – hierarchy, and in this case it means essentially the same thing, so pecking order isn’t wrong – I was. Shouldn’t let my personal peeves affect arguments like that. You know, like this entire blog post.

        In terms of season 8 – Adam was the most dominant of the contestants. He had the strongest personality and what he wanted, he tended to get (not always – the story is that he wanted a different song than “Play That Funky Music” but he didn’t get it. Instead of complaining, though, he had fun.) And the other contestants seemed to respect him a lot, even when they got jealous of the attention he got. I’m not sure if there was a hierarchy among them, but Adam was one of the leaders, if not THE leader. However, in terms of show hierarchy, the contestants are pretty much ALL bottom rung. Adam just didn’t act that way.

        The head of the show was Simon, of course, as executive producer and de facto head judge. His was the most forceful personality on that stage, but he was also the man in charge of everything. Number two in those terms was Ryan, who wielded a good amount of power as judge. Ryan is also not a submissive man. So it’s interesting that that year, Ryan (to use a metaphor that I actually hate, but works well) basically rolled over and showed his stomach to Adam, who during his tenure and despite his true lack of power, was the number two personality. He did defer to Simon, who accepted it as his due.

        We were all upset by the top 5 results show – we hated that Adam had to choose at all (although I, personally, was glad he actually made a choice – more evidence of leadership) and we really hated that he was placed in the bottom three. But what made me angry was that Ryan took him by the arm and manhandled him to stand with Matt and Kris. That he dared do that! This wasn’t the first nor the last time that Ryan would something like that, of course, so why was I upset? Because in the hierarchy of my mind, a lower ranking man does not touch a higher ranking one without permission. Technically, again, Ryan as host is far higher than a mere contestant, but in terms of personality and dominance, Ryan (again, pretty dominant in his own sphere and very much in control of the show) ranked below Adam.

        But Adam’s dominance has nothing to do with his masculinity or his sexuality, which was my point – no more than his talent or intelligence does. And it’s still not wolfpack dominance, despite my wolfpack metaphor for Ryan earlier.

  3. Charlotte says:

    I understand everything you are saying and agree intellectually, but even though I am a very assertive Aries woman who was happily married to a very assertive Leo for many years and have since dated both assertive and fairly passive men, I think of Adam as an alpha male all the time. I adore the sweet, kind, funny dorky Adam and laugh when he struts onto the stage with a boa and some attitude, but when he strides onto a stage or the set of a show like ELLEN or OPRAH, or when he puts one of those long, gorgeous legs on the 3rd step of his stage staircase and stretches forward, well, I just don’t know what to say except he is the epitome of everything male in all the best ways and the ruler of his universe.
    I may have a slightly different frame of reference than some because my ex was always a superior athlete, team leader, take charge guy, but at the same time, never forgot a birthday, changed diapers, kissed our sons and much as our daughter and was an all round great guy, not a macho jerk. So an alpha male to me is all that: strong, gentle, caring, protective, loving, and good – and will let his daughter put make-up on him at Indian Princess camp, much to the amusement of the less secure dads..

    • mamadeb says:

      It’s the term I really, really dislike because of the implications of wolfpack and hyper-masculinity. It also makes, for me, no reference to fatherhood.

      Your father and your ex sound like lovely, secure men, though.

      When Adam strides on to the stage, to me he is the epitome of dominance and strength. And he met Oprah, who has those same qualities in spades. And she’s certainly NOT male.

  4. Jaleh says:

    This is fascinating. My daughter, 15, loves yaoi, and especially loves couples where one guy is taller than the other. At that point she makes the assumption that the bigger guy is seme (top), while the little guy is uke (bottom). What bothers me is that she then goes on to assume that the top is dominant (alpha, masculine) and that the bottom is submissive (weak, feminine) in the relationship in general. I’ve had to remind her that this is not true for the gay friends we have, and that it is equally untrue for hetero couples we know. Gender, sexual positioning, size are no predictors of power in a relationship. She knows this; she sees it in her real life; she herself is alpha to the max, but it’s still easy for her to fall into the masculine=dominant/powerful/leader; feminine=submissive/weak/follower trap.

    So I agree with you that the “alpha male” is a problem. I’ve often seen this when it’s applied to Adam. It’s used as a compliment, and attached to him by fans who usually add that he is alpha because he is big, dominant, and a top. Those who use the term often underplay Adam’s femininity, as if they believed that he would be less dominant, less powerful, if he were more feminine than he is. The implication, pretty clearly, is that a femme dude or a woman can’t be alpha, which is insulting to so many people I don’t know where to start.

    Anyhow, Adam is dominant, but not because he is tall and strong, male, or a top. He could have been a tiny guy, a bottom, but with the same qualities, and would still be dominant. You mentioned Cowell and Seacrest as dominant men, and so they are…and they are also short men. Seacrest is quite feminine. Yet they are dominant. Adam’s Brad is another extremely dominant, though small and feminine male. I’d go so far as to bet that he was, most likely, the alpha in his relationship with Adam.

    So, in defense of my gender and small people, lol, thank you.

    • mamadeb says:

      As a yaoi fan myself, I understand the problem – and agree with you. There are mangas that play with that a bit – the uke is an authority figure so the power is more balanced, but it is the prevalent mode. I write slash fiction, and my normal thing is to subvert it by making the bigger guy the bottom. Doesn’t work with a canonically gay man who declares he’s a top. 🙂

      And – YES. Exactly. All three are definitely dominant despite size and temperament. Thank you!

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