peacocksso anyway, something occurred to me at the Big Day Out, a potential answer to one of the mysteries of a young man's life, which can be expressed concisely as "why don't nice guys get laid?"
it puzzles young nerdy types, of which i suppose i was one at heart, that girls do not choose to go out with them. they say things like, how come they won't look at me even though i'm nice looking and i would treat them right? they say they want nice boys with a sense of humour, and i'm really quite pleasant and i'm very funny. (well, at least, we make ourselves laugh.) worse, we can plainly see that in our villages, the local hardman would pull the town's best-looking chick, even though he had practically nothing to offer a woman, his one talent being biffing other men in the head.
anyway, i'm at the Big Day Out, and many of the young men have their shirts off. by Queensland standards, it was not a hot day, and the numbers of shirtless men increased as the afternoon wore on, so that there were many more when it was cooler than there had been when it was warmer in the early afternoon.
curiously, most of these men were in the company of other men. they didn't seem interested in women, and weren't, so far as i could see, attracting women's attention. on other occasions that i've seen this behaviour, i've noticed that it's not sparked by the presence of women, nor are the men checking women out, approaching them, or doing anything to attract them at all. far from it. these boys are only interested in other boys.
and it struck me. women do not choose. men do.
when i was a teenager, one thing that really irritated me was how competitive other boys were. they were engaged, it seemed, in an endless game of oneupmanship, whose sole purpose seemed to be to seem to themselves greater than others, to elevate themselves at others' expense. not only were they competitive in a quite nasty way at sport (by which i mean they were not content to win, but needed to crow over victories and belittle the defeated -- rather than applauding others' best efforts, they valued half an effort that prevailed.), but also in every other thing. they would jostle for conversation space; they would wrestle if they could; they would engage in pointless dicksizing (literally sometimes), fistfights over absolutely nothing, drinking contests. basically anything that allowed one boy to be ranked higher than another, so that they could be sure how they were ranged, from best to worst, on whatever criteria they valued.
which were not, of course, who was wittiest (boys don't do wit), who was best looking (boys are poor judges, and vanity and fear of homosexuality do not permit them to express opinions on that anyway), who was smartest (being "clever" is no benefit to a boy, for reasons that should be apparent).
i am not going to go all evolutionary psychology on you, but i think it's reasonable to suggest that women, particularly young women, do choose men on the basis of their "fitness" (i don't mean physical fitness; i mean desirability from a broad point of view, and i do mean as providers, as fathers to some extent, as men defined as, if not a stereotype, then an archetype.) how do they find them? how do they judge our "man-ness"? well, it's tough, isn't it? we have many types of behaviour, which often give conflicting signals. when we're older, you can judge us somewhat by our status, our ability to wield power, our wealth or our apparent ability to acquire wealth (and however outmoded, these are all still measures of "man-ness" that count with some women to some extent -- i'm trying not to overstate it or generalise too broadly).
what better way than to allow the men to duke it out among themselves, then select whoever the men agree is alpha man?
all the boys with no shirts on are displaying themselves to other men. when they are acclaimed by other men, they will then pull. they are not trying, in any way, to attract women, because women do not choose. other men choose who the best specimens are, and then women compete for them.
i suppose i wish i had known this when i was 16. i was, objectively, good looking enough, and i was nice, or could be, charming, or could be, and obviously i am smart and sensitive etc etc. but girls wouldn't look at me twice. when i was younger by a couple of years, i was very quiet, gentle and reserved. this was a contrast from my preteens, when i had been much more gregarious, and, i suppose, competitive. i was very popular with the girls then.
but of course, the story does not end there. women are not entirely shallow. (big winky there, ladies.) boys like me do get girls from time to time. indeed, i pull them disproportionately when they know me well. how does that fit my thesis?
well, it's simple. it's not apparent that i am a man in the sense i am describing, at first glance. i don't take my shirt off on cloudy days; i don't like fighting; i don't wrestle if i can avoid it and i've never felt that my (entirely satisfactory) dick would be any better for being confirmed as bigger than another man's (because you don't actually gain any length in the process). but i'm smart and different. and given time, i start seeming to be much more alpha than i do at first glance. particularly if you are willing to downplay the whole wealth (have none) and status (i'm a copyeditor for fuck's sake) thing, which many people are in this day and age. online, i'm strongly competitive too, which gives me the shorter-term impact that shirtless boys are aiming at. am i too competing with other men so that i can be recognised as an alpha troll? fucking right i am. here is a medium that rewards my abilities, much as the "real world" of teenage rewards sporty boys who don't mind being battered in the face to prove a point. (note that people who answer trolling by saying "you wouldn't do that in real life" are missing the point. i wouldn't do it in real life because it would be inappropriate and unproductive, just as teenage boys find it appropriate and productive to punch each other but mostly grow out of it as they get older. it's not that they are afraid of punching -- i never have been, and i've been in fights from time to time, it's that it simply no longer has a context. calling someone a cunt in your local pub has a different meaning from calling some denizen of teh Uselessnet one. but if for some reason it started to be a means of ranking men that we competitively troll each other IRL, you can count on my becoming as fucking annoying in the local pub as i am in your comments.)
so that's my thesis. i realise that you could, were you uncharitable, consider this a sexist proposition. am i saying something bad or degrading about women? i don't think so. it's an idea about how they work, not a descriptive framework. and men, frankly, come out of my thinking worse. we are pathetic peacocks, willing to bicker, scratch and fight in ridiculous contests whose only meaning is that the winner gets to be admired by other men. except that those contests make sense if their prize is being chosen by women.
the key to it is that the qualities that boys judge each other on are not necessarily ones that appeal to women. far from it. women are not apes, or dogs, or whatever. they do not actually weigh up men by their ability at punching each other. my thesis is that they are simply not concerned with the nature of our competition, so long as we have one, and so long as we judge ourselves and clearly present winners and losers.