It’s no mystery that the Alpha-Male character type has dominated romantic fiction. Nearly any romance you pick up will feature one of these tough, rugged, manly men out to woo their lady of choice with their muscular body and chiseled looks. I don’t mind indulging in this type of fantasy at all when reading romance, although I do enjoy the sweet, Beta-Male as well. However, lately, I’ve noticed that the trend has shifted away from the standard Alpha, which is normally a beefcake with a heart of gold, to what I like to call the Alpha-Douche. This guy is possessive, volatile, jealous, and borders on stalking the lead female. I have to wonder, why is it that this type of man has gotten so popular recently?
Obsessive, Borderline Stalker – He will almost obsessively pursue her. She typically tells him no several times while he insists that she be around him. This situation was just brought to my attention with the book Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. Dean sees Sky for the first time and follows her, demanding to know her name. He even insists on seeing her driver’s license as proof that she game him her real name. The next time they meet, he follows her while she is out jogging and offers her a drink of his water, which she accepts. So, the Alpha-Douche just stalked her and offered her a mysterious bottle of water. In real life, this would be terrifying. If some guy followed me to my car and demanded to see my driver’s license, I would be speeding off as fast as possible. If that same guy showed up again and wanted me to drink an open bottle of water he brought with him, I’d be pretty tempted to call the police. This sounds like step one of some creep’s kidnapping plan. Yet, in fiction this is somehow acceptable because the guy is hot? Sky even feels uneasy with the encounter, yet doesn’t stop herself. To quote, “My instinct is telling me to run and scream, but my body wants to wrap itself around his glistening, sweaty arms.” Ladies, if a strange man follows you and demands to know personal information about you, and you feel endangered enough to think you should “turn and run”, do it! This isn’t sexy behavior, unless you’re really in to serial killers.
Moody and Quick to Anger – I can’t be the only one who would be embarrassed if the guy I was with freaked out and got physically violent with a total stranger at the least provocation. If you want a book that is the perfect example of this behavior, just read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. Travis is the king of the Alpha-Douches. He punches a guy for touching the heroine’s arm. He starts a brawl in the cafeteria at their college that, in reality, would’ve ended in criminal charges and expulsion from the school. If I was around a man in real-life who was so quick to destruction and violence, I would feel terrified that he could turn that violence against me in a heartbeat. In Beautiful Disaster, Abbey is informed that Travis went on a destructive rampage because she left his apartment:
“Travis is a fucking wreck! He won’t talk to us, he’s trashed the apartment, threw the stereo across the room… Shep [roommate] can’t talk any sense into him! He took a swing at Shep when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! It’s scaring me! Abby, he’s gone fucking nuts! I heard him call your name, and then he stomped all over the apartment looking for you. He barged into Shep’s room, demanding to know where you were. Then he tried to call you. Over, and over and over,” she sighed. “His face was… Jesus, Abby. I’ve never seen him like that. He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door… broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Oh yeah, that is a totally reasonable reaction to Abbey leaving without telling him. Travis even tells Abbey that he would probably “end up in prison” if she slept with another guy. That little bit of murderous jealousy brings us to my next point.
Jealous – A little jealousy is human nature, breaking into fits of violence if your significant other so much as talks to another guy is unhealthy. I have too many examples of stupid, Alpha-Douche jealousy to even list here. What shocks me even beyond this jealousy is the total double-standard present. The heroines can’t so much as speak to anything with testosterone without the Alpha-Douche throw a tantrum, yet the guys in these are nearly always promiscuous. In True by Erin McCarthy, the Alpha-Douche and heroine meet because he is sleeping with her best friend. Like, he comes out post-coitus and that’s where their story starts. Travis Maddox in Beautiful Disaster has a raucous threesome one room over from Abbey during one of their on-again-off-again moments.
Controlling – The Alpha-Douche likes to tell his lucky lady (not) how to dress and wear her hair. Either because this is how he likes it or because he’s worried she might draw the attention of another male. See Christian Grey’s (the Alpha-Douche spokesperson) list for Anastasia on how to dress, exercise, sleep, eat, etc. If my significant other told me I needed to lose ten pounds, I would get my feelings hurt. If he wrote specific instructions on how many hours of sleep and exercise to get each day; I would laugh and get a restraining order. Braden in On Dublin Street tells his hostage lady love that she needs to wear her hair up so no other man will see how beautiful it is. That would sort of be sweet if it wasn’t horrifying. The Alpha-Douche also likes to tell these girls where they can go and when. Think Edward Cullen (a pioneer in the Alpha-Douche territory) ripping a chunk out of Bella’s truck so she can’t go see her friend. Beautiful Disaster is guilty of this one as well. I hate to keep harping on that book in particular but it might be the Alpha-Douche handbook.
What makes this trend even more concerning to me is that it appears most often in New Adult novels. I sincerely hope that this can’t be taken as a sign that young women consider this type of behavior appealing.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was terrible to me. It wasn’t until I was out of the situation, at the urging of many of my friends, that I realized the way he acted could be categorized as abuse. By the end, he called me names, screamed at me, demoralized and insulted me on a daily basis. I put constant effort into keeping him happy so I wouldn’t set him off. Looking back on it now, it shocks me that I was so unable to see that how he acted was wrong. The thing is, it didn’t start that way. At first, he was just controlling. He had to know where I was, who I was, and what I was doing. He caused rifts between my friends and I if they had an issue with him. He tried to tell me what to wear and frequently told me I should dye my hair to look more how he wanted me to. I couldn’t talk to other guys but he would flirt with other girls in front of me and threaten to leave me for them or cheat. He frequently expressed his anger with me through throwing or kicking things. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you have no question at all that this was a toxic situation. If you knew someone in the same type of relationship, you would tell them to get out immediately. Yet, somehow, a measure of this decidedly abusive behavior is accepted in fiction from the romantic leads in the form of the Alpha-Douche.
The idea of meeting a bad boy and reforming him to be a great boyfriend is nothing new. However, I can’t ever remember these bad boys of the past as being so psychotic. What makes women drawn to the Alpha-Douche character? In all the books I’ve read containing them, the only justification ever given is that the guy is sexy. Trust me, no amount of good looks will make up for having to be constantly on edge with your violent, stalker boyfriend. I can understand the excitement of a guy who is totally captivated by you and wants to be with you at all costs, but I think there is a line between consuming love and an unhealthy obsession.
So, tell me, what do you think the appeal is of the Alpha-Douche? Do you think they are contained only to fiction, where more leeway can be given, or is this what women are looking for in their real relationships?