What modern women want: a beta male

Men are surrendering in the sex war, taking on the supporting role

(by Kate Mulvey for Times Online)

"Having grown up with [...] popular culture awash with fantasies of all-powerful women, from Lara Croft to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, men are not so uncomfortable with the woman in control."

[...]

The widespread view is that accomplished women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men start out by saying they want a strong, powerful woman and then end up running off with the secretary. I should know. A few years ago my Swiss banker found my conversation too arty and cast his attentions on a lovely Spanish girl who worked in his office.

Should women pander to male insecurities? Self-help guides exhort us to flatter the male ego; don't talk too much and let him make all the jokes if you want him to like you. Well I would rather skewer my eyes out than change my personality.

So what is the answer? Someone has to surrender in the sex war. Should women soften their image if they want to marry an alpha? Since the beginning of time anthropologists have told us women are programmed to seek a mate who can provide for her.

We all witnessed the implosion of the 1980s power couple. As women flexed their shoulder pads all you got were stressed couples who were battling for the same role and trying to find a slot in their diaries for dinner.

But now there is a third way. The second-generation feminists - that is, women in their twenties and thirties - have found a new way to solve the alpha-beta paradox. The 21st century sisters have a terrifyingly clear agenda when it comes to finding a mate. They map out their life plans early: rise to the top of their chosen career, get the smart house, the cute kids and curl up in bed with a loving beta male. The alpha girl doesn't need Mr. Alpha to sweep her off her feet and buy her a condo in town; she has enough money to do that herself. She is successful, confident and she wants a caring man who can pick up some of the domestic slack.

This value system recognises the trend of female supremacy, which while not as yet the norm seems to be pointing the way for future relationships."

Penelope, 34, a high-earning public relations executive, is married to an actor. They are both comfortable acknowledging that the wife is the chief breadwinner. So it makes sense that it is her career that gets fast-tracked. "John is really irreverent and playful and after I have had people kowtowing to me all day, it is nice to be brought down to earth with a joke."

Does he mind playing the supporting role? "I love it that my wife is this go-getting career woman. I have never been into status anyway, so I don't feel emasculated by the fact that she earns way more money than me."

To better understand this role reversal, we have to look at the key social changes in the past 30 years. Since 1975 the number of women entering the workforce has increased by a third and in 2005 one-third of all managers were women. Women are better educated - there are more women with advanced degrees than before - and there are now more female trainee lawyers and doctors than male ones.

[...]

Having grown up with successful women such as Margaret Thatcher and Madonna as role models, and with popular culture awash with fantasies of all-powerful women, from Lara Croft to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, men are not so uncomfortable with the woman in control. This value system recognises the trend of female supremacy, which while not as yet the norm seems to be pointing the way for future relationships.

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