Social Prestige Versus Social Dominance

At yesterday’s HUS thread, commenter blogster asked for an explanation of the difference between social dominance and social prestige.

I think it’s best illustrated by an analogy. Social prestige is like a book that everybody thinks is “important.” It may not be a book that you would actually want to read. It may not be a book that anyone wants to read, or in fact that anyone has read. It simply has an extrinsic value that society has assigned to it that keeps it selling and gives some status to those who read it. (In my personal opinion, William Faulkner comes to mind.)

Social dominance is like a book that is actually enjoyable to read. It tickles your mind, gives you the and makes you empathize with its characters. The book or its genre may have a poor reputation among those who keep score in popular culture, and it may in some cases actually be an unredeeming piece of writing, but the entertainment value to the reader can’t be denied.

You can also run the analogy with music. Guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen is widely regarded as the most simultaneously technically proficient and unlistenable musician in rock and roll. (Eric Clapton has suffered a similar reputation.) Plenty of high-value recording artists release absolute tripe, I’m looking at you Christina Aguilera. Meanwhile lots of garage bands can produce wonderful and spirited records as long as you can get them in front of a recording engineer before they break up or sell out.

Social prestige is a function of social value systems - rank, royalty, salary, expertise in a given skill or sphere – and can basically be communicated on paper. Social dominance is tactical – it’s experienced as a part of someone’s personality up close. It’s almost impossible to gauge without seeing someone in action, whether in person or on screen, thus it’s very difficult to communicate to third parties.

HAS THE TRUTH HAS BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY HIDDEN FROM THE CULTURE?

The first sentence of Susan Walsh’s post begins, “It’s been less than two years since I was first introduced to the concept of female hypergamy…” This is an astounding statement, one that should raise eyebrows – and not for any failure on her part. Susan is an MBA-educated former management consultant, certainly no stranger to understanding and motivating people, and her daughter had reached marriageable age before she had been clued in on one of the key factors in female mate choice. Shirley it’s not a simple misunderstanding, that she was sick the day they taught hypergamy in psychology class? I’m afraid that’s desperate wishful thinking.

Men (and women) of knowledge recoil in disgust at realizing the massive cultural denial of the reality of the sexual marketplace. Almost every reformed or reforming beta male can locate the point at which he understood the magnitude of the disinformation campaign practiced by mass media and its water-cooler acolytes. The bitter beta turned resolute, amoral player has its roots not in making up for lost trips to the sexual buffet table, but in the backlash against cultural programming aligned squarely against the truth.

Not for no reason is Roissy’s slogan “where pretty lies perish.”

It’s a shame too, because there’s no excuse for it. Not only are we in an age where ideas can be exchanged, debated, evaluated and tested more readily than ever, in today’s over-commercialized socially lawless era, the evidence for hypergamy, the male variety instinct, and other principles of self-interest has never been more stark and under our very noses.

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27 Comments

Filed under junk culture, original research

27 responses to “Social Prestige Versus Social Dominance

  1. blogster

    Badger. I didn’t expect you to make a post out of my query, but thank you, much appreciated, as it built on comments made in HUS.

    I once read that intelligence could be defined as ‘the ability to make finer distinctions’, and I think your post has demonstrated a much needed form of intelligence.

  2. This is a very important distinction. My formulation is this:

    “Women use social prestige as a possible marker for social dominance.”

    My blog has a rather odd domain name. The reason I chose it was because I had to admit to myself that in the absence of female opinion or preference my material wants and ambitions have always been extremely modest. A roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back and plenty of time to relax.

    Women claim to want status seeking, driven and ambitious men in an era when very few westerners are actually cold, hungry or living in overcrowded conditions. We don’t lack hot and cold running water, sanitation, reliable electricity, etc.

    Dave Chappelle’s “If a man could f*** in a cardboard box, he wouldn’t buy a house” really struck a chord with me.

    I considered that in order to be successful with women (I had been single for a few months after starting this blog) I might have to take a corporate or government job that I hated just to be “respectable”. That’s assuming that any employers would hire me in the current job market!

    Then I thought, what if I take a job that I hate and I’m STILL unsuccessful with women. That would REALLY suck wouldn’t it?

    I started from the observation that some men with high status jobs and good incomes often don’t have happy relationships. My late father was a good example of that. Not happy with my mother. Not happy with his new girlfriend either.

    Of course, women do like “nice things” and “good providers”. But I’m convinced that their reasons for wanting high status men are not a simple question of provisioning and lifestyle.

    There is a correlation between social prestige and social dominance, but it is clearly not a one-to-one relationship. Women seek the former as a marker of the latter, just as both sexes seek out physical beauty as a marker of genetic health.

  3. Good post, Badger, and thanks for not taking me to the woodshed :)

    Now that I’m aware of real SMP dynamics, I find evidence wherever I look, of course. I wonder how I would have interpreted the unrestrained hypergamy in the film Leaving before I knew what it was. Probably as just one woman going nuts, without any understanding of the underlying psychology.

    Workshy Joe, I’ve wondered about your blog name and your motivation for writing it. Mystery solved!

  4. VI

    I see it like this:
    social prestige = rank
    social dominance = game

    I see disconnects between social dominance and social prestige all the time. In my little community here, I interact with a lot of people who have social prestige, but only a few of them have social dominance. The social prestige is definitely taken as a signal from girls, but unless the dominance is there, these men usually fail to get laid. The man at the top of this hierarchy doesn’t have any game, so he fails to get laid. Another man who ranks low on the hierarchy has great game, so despite his low visibility, he gets laid often. My counterpart has terrible game, he rarely gets laid.

  5. @Susan: I used to have the Dave Chappelle quote as the tagline to my blog with a photo of a man in a big cardboard box (not me) giving a thumbs up sign.

    While I found that funny, I eventually decided that it was too “in your face” and limited my readership too much. So then “sofa cat” became my motif.

  6. blogster

    “There is a correlation between social prestige and social dominance, but it is clearly not a one-to-one relationship. Women seek the former as a marker of the latter” (Workshy Joe)

    “The social prestige is definitely taken as a signal from girls, but unless the dominance is there, these men usually fail to get laid.” (VI)

    Interesting, so i take it that once the woman has established the value/status, she then seeks to confirm the dominance, dominance in the shape that will give her tingles? This would make sense of the fact Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg don’t appear to have an ‘active’ female fanbase.

    It appears these guys have dominance in a professional sense, but are unable to transfer it to the field of attraction in male/female interactions. A different set of skills appears is required – to create a feeling of dominance that resides emotionally in women as compared to actual, tangible dominance in a practical, economic sense.

    So what do people think about Tiger Woods? Did he have game or was it a case of value/status, plus buying them stuff and the validation that kept his mistresses coming?

  7. VI

    So what do people think about Tiger Woods? Did he have game or was it a case of value/status, plus buying them stuff and the validation that kept his mistresses coming?

    Once prestige is high enough, it takes a lot of anti-game to turn off the tingle. Surely, he didn’t have zero game, but it was clear from his text exchanges that he didn’t have good game.
    Think of it like this. Bill Clinton could get laid with Mark Zuckerberg’s game.

  8. (R)Evolutionary

    VI–but is the reverse true–could Zuck get tang with Clinton’s game? I’d say: “maybe,” but he certainly wouldn’t be swinging at 9′s & 10′s, even though Bill could have been. If this had been Italy, Clinton may not have engaged in such dumpster-diving. He could have had hard 10′s all-day long, had he not been married, and/or given a more European social acceptance of dominant males taking mistresses.

    I think this illustrates nicely the fact that social rank is contextually generated, and moves somewhat fluidly from social environment to social environment. A man who’s alpha at work may be a suck-ass beta on the basketball court, and vice-versa. And the environment’s male-female ratio in said environment dictates how lucrative either social dominance or prestige will be in gaining access to high-value women . And, here’s the bugger: social prestige is a massive form of preselection, nothing more. It may be the ur-preselection, the primordial selector found in all the higher primates and in other pack-oriented mammals–wolves, dolphins, etc.

    Dominance and prestige are single facets of a complex, fluid SMP, but both ultimately look at the same things in different ways.

    Social dominance helps create social rank over time. Social dominance can help build social prestige, if said dominance is wielded in a way that generates returns on investment of energy, resulting in a gradual accumulation of social capital. That’s building preselection. What we’re really talking about here is charismatic leadership in action, which Clinton had in spades.

    So it could be said that social prestige is a way of measuring social dominance over time, and social dominance is an instantaneous picture of social prestige.

  9. Some great observations above. I think Darth Beta has the answers here:

    http://www.theunambitiousmale.com/2011/03/darth-beta-im-such-idiot.html

  10. Dex

    11 Minutes, blogger at Alpha-Status took a crack at this one a while ago.

    http://alpha-status.blogspot.com/2009/05/rank-beats-position.html

    His distinction between socioeconomic status and social status was similar to what you’re saying. One distinction that he noted, however, was that women are attracted to the potential, rather than the actual, power or status a man has.

  11. Passer_By

    @workshy

    “The reason I chose it was because I had to admit to myself that in the absence of female opinion or preference my material wants and ambitions have always been extremely modest. A roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back and plenty of time to relax.”

    Having children changes that mentality a lot, without regard to female opinion or preferance.

  12. The link provided by Dex to Alpha Status is worth a read. He’s definitely onto something re potential. It makes me wonder if some of the bad choices women make – choosing dominant sociopaths, for example – are a case of poorly interpreting this. Potential for what? Maybe once the dominance attraction trigger gets pulled, we’re bad at evaluating short-term vs. long-term potential. Of course, the hamster is called in for overtime in these cases.

  13. @Passer_By:

    That’s another big issue right there!

    Back in 2003 I went speed dating in London and sat opposite this really hot looking woman.

    We seemed to have great rapport as well. Since she was in her thirties I figured there was a good chance that she had kids. I asked if she had any.

    She replied “no, but I definitely want some eventually.”

    GAME OVER.

    I had to respect her honesty and straightforwardness, but there was no way in hell I could date her after that.

  14. Susan,

    I think you may be projecting from your own experience here. While there’s something romantic and poetic about a woman investing her best years in a low-status but rising man, I don’t see a lot of women selecting for “potential” in my sphere. For instance, if you’re a young-20′s woman, why date a dude harried by grad school or med school when you can date a late 20′s guy who’s already arrived and you can get your dinners out and status boost instantly? Especially in today’s short-attention-span urban America where there’s an endless supply of professionals at singles bars waiting to get their sticks wet.

    You could argue as Alpha Status does that social dominance shows “potential” for social achievement, but that’s overthinking the problem – social dominance is an attraction trigger, full stop. Women aren’t rationally “selecting” for this “potential,” their psychological hardware is turning them on.

    When I hear a woman talk about her man’s “potential,” 90% of the time she’s talking about her plans to cajole and manipulate him in the man she really wants him to be (at which point he’s been betatized and she’ll get bored).

    “Maybe once the dominance attraction trigger gets pulled, we’re bad at evaluating short-term vs. long-term potential.”

    It’s a general trope of the manosphere (backed up by innumerable experience) that once the attraction trigger gets pulled in a woman, long-term strategy along with reason and accountability go right out the window. Women choose dominant sociopaths because they make them tingle and because chicks dig jerks, not because they are mis-executing some kind of potential-evaluation mental program.

  15. Badger, I’m not talking about a low-status man who has potential to mature into someone of higher status, though that obviously does happen for lots of beta guys. Potential for social dominance, which often leads to greater resources, is unlikely to be recognized in that case.

    From the Alpha Status post:

    There is something deeply sexual to a woman about a man who knows what he wants and has got what it takes to get it…Women seek out men who have a set of character traits (such as being assertive, confident and domineering) which increase their chances at climbing up the social ladder.

    It’s also contextual – guys working at CVS vs. attending Harvard Law School are going to be perceived very differently. The former may have enough dominance to get laid all he wants, but he will not be selected for his potential to marshal resources. Women select for drive, ambition, work ethic and intelligence for long-term mating, but the law student will repel women if he pedestalizes them.

  16. Brendan

    It’s a general trope of the manosphere (backed up by innumerable experience) that once the attraction trigger gets pulled in a woman, long-term strategy along with reason and accountability go right out the window. Women choose dominant sociopaths because they make them tingle and because chicks dig jerks, not because they are mis-executing some kind of potential-evaluation mental program.

    Can be said to a certain extent to run both ways — that is, most men tend to forget long-term fitness if an 8+ is on offer, even if she’s snorting coke off the bartop. I think the main difference is hypergamy. Most men are never going to be in the situation where the 8+ is available, at all, so it’s an unrealistic scenario, even though they would probably react the same way as women do to their own 8+ equivalents being on offer (here I mean raw sexual hotness, not long term fitness).

    The problem is that in the current culture/market women’s side of this tendency to forget about reason/LT-orientation is being catered to, because of the difference in male and female sexual attraction triggers/preferences. In other words, female hypergamy is being indulged because the targets of it are indulging a lot of women in their hypergamy (and why wouldn’t they?). Men don’t get to indulge their own preferences for the 8+s of the world, because female attraction doesn’t work that way, because it’s hypergamous rather than polyandrous for the most part.

    This is why a “free sex market” can never be free. There’s a fundamental imbalance built into it due to the sloped differences between male attraction for women as compared with female attraction for men. All a “free market” does is benefit the relatively small group of men who are the targets of female hypergamous attraction, at the expense of (1) the rest of the men, (2) most of the women (who end up being used for sex, for the most part) and (3) the high-value women (who have much less power over the high-value men than they have for millennia). It’s pig heaven for men who are targets of hypergamy, however.

    Hence Game. It’s the only practical solution for men in today’s SMP. The “free market” results in a very warped market due to the imbalances in sexual attraction between men and women, but it isn’t about to be replaced anytime soon. So men need to work themselves into that hypergamously attractive group, or else be left with the table leavings, really, as they mature into their 30s.

    To be practical, I think that most guys won’t do much better than that. That is, there is a limit to what Game can do for guys who are in their mid-20s vis-a-vis women at that age range. The SMP value, on average, is so disparate, that it’s a very, very steep slope for most guys to climb vis-a-vis what should be their peer SMV women. That changes in the 30s, as time ticks along, and a lot of guys are probably just going to have to wait until they age into that timespot so that the SMVs begin to equal out and then run in their favor.

  17. Brendan, that makes sense, but of course that leaves guys understandably feeling that they don’t want the leftovers from the carousel riding years. One solution is to go way younger – 10 years, say – where the equally frustrated women are who’ve also been sitting it out, albeit for different reasons. This will be viewed as creepy at 31-21, but more acceptable at 34-24 (the point at which the magic formula kicks in: Male age /2 + 7). This will only work for a minority, but as an individual strategy I think the idea has some merit.

  18. Brendan

    Yes that’s a part of the “wait till you are in your 30s” option, I agree. It takes solid Game and pretty decent looks as well as a pretty well-established career going (more will be expected precisely because you are older at that point), but it can be done (the biggest obstacle is the substantial social criticism that gets heaped even on a 34/24 pairing). I’ve seen a few couples with that kind of gap in my own life work out reasonably well.

  19. Susan,

    I get it now, you’re talking about an entrepreneurial spirit within the guy’s personality, a gumption that suggests he’ll be resourceful even if he doesn’t have bling resources.

    Brendan,

    “This is why a “free sex market” can never be free. There’s a fundamental imbalance built into it due to the sloped differences between male attraction for women as compared with female attraction for men. All a “free market” does is benefit the relatively small group of men who are the targets of female hypergamous attraction, at the expense of (1) the rest of the men, (2) most of the women (who end up being used for sex, for the most part) and (3) the high-value women (who have much less power over the high-value men than they have for millennia). It’s pig heaven for men who are targets of hypergamy, however.”

    Effectively, a “free” sexual market is an unrestrained matriarchy – because women hold the limiting reagent of reproduction, in a free market they hold all the selection cards. Patriarchal monogamy worked/works by limiting general female power and the power of the top men in favor of getting more men a piece of the action and balancing that by giving most women an at least tolerable mate (and winking at sexual excesses of top males). That’s where the patriarchal part is critical – boys need to be raised to be attractive mates, and a competent man heading every household triggers automatic hypergamy within one’s class. The key byproduct (in fact the whole reason it continued) was that men were freed up from endless sexual competition and could team up to build civilization.

  20. VI

    I think most men would rather find a woman who falls in love with him when he is low status, rather than waiting until he attains a higher status. The girl who sticks with you through thick and thin is going to earn more loyalty than the one you find only after you have fame/money/power.

  21. My Name Is Jim

    Heh … 30-21 was the pairing I ended up with (and I posted that story at HUS). Happy to say nobody really said anything except for a couple of guys I used to work with, they were older guys who I guess married under the old order.

    Brendan is right on, and while it’s true some guys won’t be that happy about marrying a woman who rejected him in favor of the hookup scene for years, there’s not much he can do about that because by the time they are 21 they’ve already done a lot of that. The main thing he can do is be commitment phobic in his 30s a while and pay it back one rejection at a time. Which your average fertility clock watching female won’t like, and rant about how men are still so much more immature than her. But she won’t see the connection, carousel riders aren’t generally the type to be introspective or put themselves in men’s shoes.

  22. My Name Is Jim

    Just to clarify some more, it’s not that I think former carousel riders are somehow damaged. It’s that if I married a sex and the city age one, I feel like I’m rewarding her attitude towards me. When we were younger you thought I was nerdy (and you openly told me so), I was’t good looking enough, not popular enough, not well built enough, not whatever else enough, so I played my way up through the minor leagues alone and established myself in life and then did the work in the gym etc. Meanwhile you finally realized the alphas you craved were never going to commit to you and then you come at me with your two previous kids and tell me it’s some kind of personal immaturity on my part to prefer a younger woman instead of you? (One who was in fact the first woman in her family to go to college yet, she wasn’t going on daddy’s money like most of them did). Get lost, I’ll do as I damn well please.

  23. Lavazza

    VI: “I think most men would rather find a woman who falls in love with him when he is low status, rather than waiting until he attains a higher status. The girl who sticks with you through thick and thin is going to earn more loyalty than the one you find only after you have fame/money/power.”

    I also think that those pairings lead to the happiest and most committed LTRs. Most of the time the man will understand and appreciate that he “got lucky” and repay the woman for her belief in him, and the woman will see to it that she remains attractive, so that his improved SMV does not overshadow her’s too much.

    If the woman’s gamble does not pay off and the man treats her shitty as his SMV improves, she will at least have a better chance than her same age (or even slightly younger) competitors with men looking for a quality woman, if she has that kind of track record.

    Most of the time a woman making that kind of gamble will want kids quite early (and only make that kind of gamble with a man who wants kids early), which means that she will have the upper hand, anyway.

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  25. “Women use social prestige as a possible marker for social dominance.”

    I think this gets close to it. Women want a guy whose resume will make the other girls swoon with envy. Every girl relishes the opportunity to make the rest of them jealous on the phone after the date. In effect, the prestige works as a preselection agent so the other girls are buttered up to like him before he even meets them.

    However, a so-called paper alpha, a guy with a resume but no game, will soon extinguish his pole position (ahhh see what I did there?) once he opens his mouth. Thus the prestige does not result in dominance, but it lowers the bar because he doesn’t have to have as much dominance as a low-status guy to impress the group.

    “I think most men would rather find a woman who falls in love with him when he is low status, rather than waiting until he attains a higher status. The girl who sticks with you through thick and thin is going to earn more loyalty than the one you find only after you have fame/money/power.”

    Oh yes, this is a beta-dream ideal. Many folk tales are built around this idea.

    Put another way, a distant associate of mine used to work at a granting agency where he handed out money as his job. When he left he noted “I found out I had fewer friends than I thought.”

    A good aphorism for life, for men and women: “judge people by how they treat those who have nothing to offer them” (or who have less power than them also works).

  26. Jennifer

    “The bitter beta turned resolute, amoral player”

    A shame indeed.

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