Have you been listening to Whore School with Harper? I think you should give the show a try, because I’m biased and think it’s really very good. Join the live show on Sunday nights at 11 pm Eastern, and hop into the chatroom at Community Kink, because the audience interaction is a lot of fun. The 12/20/2020 episode was a doozy, and you can stream it now, but, just to give you a taste, let’s talk a bit about the Myth of the Alpha.

The Myth of the Alpha on Whore School

Whore School with Harper The Myth of the AlphaWhore School episode 236 was the Myth of the Alpha, and we delved into the toxic and harmful stereotype of the so-called ‘alpha male’. The idea of an alpha personality arises from a book published in 1970 by David Mech, on wolf behavior! “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” documented his work with captive wolf packs that were built of unrelated wolves in enclosed spaces. Years later, in 1999, Dr. Mech published a retraction of his original conclusions, saying that you cannot generalize from a captive population to a wild population’s natural behavior. Sadly, the idea of an ‘alpha’ had entered the mainstream by then, and pop psychology had run with it.


The work that is science is characterized by careful observation, asking questions, and building testable hypothesis. As such, the process of science is a wonderful self correcting machine that move ever closer and closer to the truth about our world, and the study of animal behavior is just one of the avenues science can take a stroll down. The myth of the alpha is one of the odder ways that science illiteracy has acted to really mess with humanity. Let’s be clear, this is not Dr. Mech’s fault at all! He was working with wolves, not people, and so could not have anticipated that pick up artists and bastions of toxic masculinity would identify with wolf pack behavior so closely (and so wrongly).

The correct view of wolf pack behavior as we understand now through observation of wild packs in nature is that of a family unit. There is no need to fight for control or dominance in a wolf pack: a male and female wolf mate for life, birth and raise pups together, and older pups help out with the younger ones until they’re ready to go off and form their own pack. No fights over pack leadership, no posturing, and definitely no alpha behavior.

Why did pop psychology pick this idea to run with?

If you listen to the episode, you’ll know that I have strong opinions on this subject. In a nutshell, people love to project human behavior and motivations onto all sorts of things. We pretend that our Roombas have personalities, and we identify with wild animals. In the 1980’s, during the rise of Wall Street machismo, being a Wolf was ‘cool’, and being an “alpha wolf” was even more cool. As a self serving myth designed to explain away and normalize decidedly toxic behaviors, the myth of the alpha was latched on to and accepted as Truth. If a wolf pack behaves this way, then it’s ok for a human being to behave like this, too. And, allow me to be frank here, it’s not ok for a human to behave like a wolf trapped in a small enclosure with strangers all around and a limited food supply.

Interested in learning more?

Listen to the show! Whore School The Myth of the Alpha aired live on 12/20/2020, and you could have been there. Maybe you were there! If you’re inspired to join the audience, please feel free to join our chat during the show, and participate with us on Sundays. The podcast has been going strong for four years now, and I think it’s got legs, really going places. Drop me an email if there’s a topic you’d like to see me cover, I’m always open to suggestions!

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