One of the things my father used to say, a lot, was “people are not for hitting.” I just did some google searching and it appears that was coined by a Dr. John Valusek. Both my parents would remind us kids of this whenever we got physically violent with each other. And, of course, my parents applied that rule to themselves, and never once struck any of us kids. It’s a good phrase. It lives on in my house, although more often through action than word.
So I was rather taken aback, when at a large gathering in my back yard one summer, I saw my older two children physically fighting. I’d never seen that before at all, much less at a party. Instinctively, I shouted from the deck, clear across the yard, in my big baritone voice, each of my children’s first names, and STOP. They stopped. So did absolutely everything else. 100+ people all stopped whatever they were doing. Silence.
And then, behind me, I heard a woman purr, “Oh, my.”
On another occasion, I was at a picnic at a relative’s house. They had a dog, and the dog put its front paws on me. Again, without thinking, my big baritone voice came out, NO. And as at my party, everything stopped.
Across from me, a woman giggled.
And recently, a nearly identical situation happened in my own house. This time it was my dog. I issued the correction. Sudden quiet. And yet another woman there purred, “Oh, my.”
It’s worth pointing out that, although I am anything but soft-spoken, I ordinarily speak in a tenor at best, and, to be quite honest, a low alto. I can sing in baritone, but it’s not my natural speaking voice. So when I use that voice, and I use it at volume, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it gets people’s attention. What has puzzled me is that subsequent female response.
When I joined twitter, part of my education was in the culture of Dominance and Submission. Prior to twitter, my only exposure had been the movie Secretary, and, I suppose, the gimp in Pulp Fiction. But on twitter, I very quickly discovered that at least half the women on there are submissives. Of course, this isn’t really true. It’s mostly sampling error, and partly role play on the part of women who really liked the 50 Shades books. A twitter friend, who also happens to be a “Sub” in real life told me the reason for my skewed sample: “alpha” in my handle, and my profile avatar which has me wearing a tie. Without knowing it, I had signaled to that community that I am a “Dom.”
I’m not a Dom. My handle “alpha geek” is a play on the “alpha male” gorilla that Jane Goodall put into the popular zeitgeist. It means I’m the number one geek at work. And it has been my moniker for a very, very long time.
Nonetheless, my twitter persona has attracted the attention of many submissive women. Once they read my tweets, they must see that I’m not a Dom, but they seem to stick around because I’m funny, or a relatable dad, or because I clearly adore my wife.
Yet I suspect there is a latent Dom aspect to my personality. Some parts of the Dom role do appeal to me. Others, not so much. For example, from what I’ve been told, the Dom likes to make all the decisions. While that is true of me at work, that is so not the case at home. I really don’t want to ever make any decisions at home. And it’s part of the reason my wife is such a good match for me, because she is perfectly happy (I think) to make absolutely every decision. She asks my opinion, and if I have one I’ll offer it, but really whatever she wants is what’s going to happen, and I like it that way.
So what my friend, the real-life Sub, explained to me is that my “alpha voice” is a “sub detector.” For the subset of the population who are naturally submissive, a man issuing a command in an alpha voice triggers an autonomic response. In the vernacular of twitter, it’s a “panty dropper.”
I was reminded of this recently when reading The Alpha Male by another good friend I found through twitter. I have no reason to believe she is a Sub by the usual definitions, but if you read that piece, you’ll see that she does acknowledge that autonomic response to alpha males.
I suppose there is some deep irony in the fact that I started this piece with dad’s “People are not for hitting,” and wound up exploring a part of a subculture in which hitting is, sometimes, a part of the experience. That’s another distinctively not-Dom part of my personality. I can’t hit. Hitting has been programmed out of me from an early age.
I may be an alpha male; certainly I am at work, and I fill that role in certain other situations, like when I’m presiding over a board. I’m not built for the part. I’m not tall. I don’t have a square jaw. I’m extremely cuddly. But sure, alpha male fits sometimes. Dom? Nope.