Do you get nervous around beautiful women? Are you known as the “nice guy” who doesn’t like to ruffle any feathers? Can’t manage to make any gains in the gym (or in your bank account)?
If so, you might be called a “beta male” in some online circles.
The term beta male is used as an insult to describe a guy who doesn’t fit into the traditional definition of masculinity. We’ll explore what that means later on, but for now, just know it’s an insult that circulates primarily in a collection of online men’s communities known as the “manosphere.”
In this article, you’ll learn how the term originated, how to spot one, and whether it has any scientific validity.
For context, we’re not claiming any of this stuff about beta males is actually true. In fact, much of it has been debunked (more on that later). We’re just here to report from the trenches of the internet.
What Is a Beta Male?
Beta male is an internet slang term for a subordinate guy who lacks “masculine energy.” That means different things depending on who you ask, but here are some characteristics of a beta male based on our research:
- Lacks self-esteem and a sense of purpose
- Riddled with insecurities
- Constantly seeks validation from others
- Regularly gets taken advantage of
- Finds himself in the “friend zone” with women
- Non-confrontational and passive-aggressive
- Worships women without expecting anything in return (AKA a “simp”)
Before the internet went mainstream, the term beta was used in animal behavioral studies to describe creatures at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy that had fewer opportunities for food and sex.
From here, people assumed the same theory would be relevant to human nature. By the early 2010s, the term beta gained popularity within the “manosphere:” a loose collection of blogs, podcasts, and online forums that promote masculinity—often controversially. The manosphere has been linked to problematic groups like incels (involuntary celibates) and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
While “beta” may seem like an accurate or acceptable word to describe an introvert or a bookish guy, scholars claim this is just pseudoscience. For example, media studies professor Debbie Ging says the internet’s theories about so-called beta males are “confused and contradictory.”
To fully understand what it means to be a beta male, we have to understand its opposite: the alpha male.
Beta Male vs. Alpha Male
An alpha male is, in theory, the opposite of a beta male: an assertive, charismatic, successful, dominant man. He’s the top dog that everyone else looks up to.
The concept of alpha men dates back to a 1999 Time magazine article and has been discussed everywhere from Urban Dictionary to Harvard Business Review. Some people attribute the popularization of the alpha male archetype to pickup artists like Neil Strauss.
Beta Male vs. Sigma Male
There’s a less-discussed archetype in the socio-sexual hierarchy: sigma males. This is usually defined as a guy who’s confident, successful, and has his shit together, but chooses to live outside the hierarchy. Sigma men are often referred to as “lone wolves.”
Sigma males share many of the same traits as alpha males, but they do their own thing and aren’t status-conscious like alpha males are.
Some examples of sigma males in popular culture include Tyler Durden from “Fight Club,” James Bond, and Keanu Reeves.
How Can You Tell if a Man is Beta?
You might be wondering, How can I identify beta men out in the wild? Here are five (hypothetical) scenarios that manosphere occupants would label as “beta behavior.”
- Staying in a romantic relationship after your girlfriend cheats on you—or worse, taking the blame for the incident and apologizing to her.
- Seeking out things to whine, complain, and get offended by on social media.
- Eating plant-based meat alternatives (this is how the term “soy boy” originated).
- Using machines and cardio equipment at the gym instead of free weights.
- Sitting down to pee.
Is There Anything Below a Beta Male?
There are three tiers below beta males in the alleged socio-sexual hierarchy, according to the manosphere:
- Delta male: So-called “normal guys” who form the backbone of society—they put in their time at blue-collar jobs, take pride in the work, and keep the system plugging along.
- Gamma male: An intellectual, romantic, idealistic guy who has big goals but lacks willpower.
- Omega male: The loners of society who are socially awkward and most likely spend their days surfing the internet.
Some guys claim it’s possible for anyone to climb the hierarchy while others claim the positions are static. Confused? Join the crowd.
The Hierarchy of Wiping Materials
We’re no sociologists, but we know a thing or two about poop—and the best way to clean it up. If there was a wiping material hierarchy, the bottom tiers would include napkins, paper towels, leaves, and of course, toilet paper.
At the top of the food chain would be DUDE Wipes, which have been used to clean more than a billion butts (for real). On top of keeping your privates poopless, they’re infused with aloe and vitamin E to soothe your sensitive sides.
Follow our lead, Charmin.