When I walk into a space occupied by other men, I get mixed results.
Some of them glance toward me, and then look away—seemingly uninterested in my presence.
Sometimes, men will quickly change directions so as to move out of my way while I’m walking by. And sometimes, albeit rarely, they’ll ‘square up’ toward me, as if getting ready for the possibility of a fight or confrontation.
Sometimes, they’ll look at me, smile, and nod their head in a polite greeting. Sometimes, they’ll even hop in front of me to hold the door open.
“Thank you,” I’ll say, nodding toward them in a friendly gesture of mutual respect.
“No problem, sir,” they’ll quickly respond.
These types of men are almost always younger than me, I notice.
Others meet my gaze for a moment, then avert their eyesight and ‘skulk’ away, their body shrunken down to appear as small and non-threatening as possible.
But the question bears asking.
Why do some men act a certain way around me, and why do others act differently?
The answer is both simple and complex at the same time.
But by the end of this post, it’ll become much clearer to you.
We all know that social dominance hierarchies exist, even if we aren’t sure how they work. As Dr. Jordan Peterson laid out in his bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (a book I highly recommend, by the way):
There is little more natural than culture. Dominance hierarchies are older than trees. The part of our brain that keeps track of our position in the dominance hierarchy is therefore exceptionally ancient and fundamental.
But how are these ‘hierarchies’ structured? And how do you know where you stand within them?
These are deeper questions. And the socio sexual hierarchy is Vox Day’s attempt to answer them.
As men, most of us tend not to think about hierarchies outside of the usual ‘acknowledgement’ of their existence. We note that rankings seem to exist, and that men tend to arrange themselves into such hierarchies naturally, as if doing so were the manifestation of a deeply-embedded and ancient social instinct.
We may acknowledge that there seem to be ‘leaders’ and ‘followers.’
We also know intuitively that our place within the social dominance hierarchy affects our life in many ways. How much respect we command from other men and how attractive we appear to women both seem to be at least partly influenced by our place within the hierarchy.
But this vague understanding doesn’t usually add up to a complete, functional awareness of how the hierarchy itself is structured and operates.
The socio sexual hierarchy separates men into 6 different rankings, based on their archetype.
These ranking are:
You’ve probably heard the terms ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ before. A lot of people still use these terms to describe men who are either successful with women (alphas) or NOT successful with women (betas).
The truth, however, is a lot more nuanced and complicated than that.
The socio sexual hierarchy describes each rank through a set of attributes, identifiable patterns of behaviors, strengths, challenges, and a relative scale of how successful they each are on the dating marketplace.
In other words, it’s complicated. But we here at The Adult Man have compiled this in-depth guide to help you understand each one of the different archetypes, how to identify them, and how to figure out where you fit amongst them.
Here’s the tricky thing, though. As men, we all want to say the same thing.
“I’m an alpha male. I’m a winner. Women want me. I’m a top-tier man. I’m definitely not a beta.”
But you may be surprised to find that the socio sexual hierarchy goes into far greater depth than just black and white alpha/beta designations.
Contrary to popular belief, most men are neither alphas nor betas.
The Socio Sexual Hierarchy Quiz
Curious about where you rank?
Find out now by taking our simple 10-question quiz. You’ll get your ranking immediately:
Let’s take a quick look at each of the archetypes’ key traits, benefits, and drawbacks. You can also follow the links to go super in-depth, with fully fleshed-out guides and explanations for each one of the archetypes.
Of course, we’ll start with the ‘king’ of the hierarchy—the alpha.
The alpha male is the ‘top dog’ of the socio sexual hierarchy. He’s a true leader. He’s the charismatic, successful, high-status man that women want, and the kind of man that other men want to be like.
He exists at the very top of the social dominance hierarchy. He’s the king, and the hierarchy beneath him is his domain.
- High status
- High attractiveness
- Has his pick of the most attractive women in the hierarchy
- High stress levels
- Always needs to be ‘on’
- Zero opportunity to rest
- The buck always stops with him
The sigma is the ‘lone wolf’ of the hierarchy. He’s sometimes considered to be ‘on par’ with the alpha in terms of how attractive he is to women, and shares many similarities with the alpha.
But what makes the sigma different from the alpha is that the sigma archetype chooses to forsake the structure of the hierarchy altogether, to strike out on his own. He forfeits the benefits of the hierarchy in exchange for the freedom that comes from pursuing his own individual destiny.
- Lone-wolf mentality
- Energized by solitude
- Insatiable longing for adventure
- Strong desire for freedom
- Success with women
- An efficient lifestyle
- A life of adventure
- A lack of social status and power
- Few or no beneficial tribal connections
- Journeying alone can be tumultuous
- Assimilating back into a tribe later in life can be difficult
The beta male is the ‘lieutenant’ of the socio sexual hierarchy. He’s ‘second in command’ to the alpha, and acts as his enforcer. He takes commands from the alpha, and makes sure that those commands are carried out throughout the rest of the hierarchy.
You’ll often see beta males in close proximity to the alpha. They’re his trusted confidantes, and perform an essential role within the hierarchy.
- Loyal to the alpha
- Desire acknowledgement from the alpha for their contribution
- Attractive to women
- Strong leadership figures
- Lacks the hierarchical consciousness of the alpha
- Likes being provided with strong leadership and a vision
- Successful with women
- Power and status, thanks to their close relationship to the alpha
- They enjoy the privileges of high status without the stressful alpha responsibilities
- People enjoy them and enjoy being around them
- Feels lost if not provided with strong leadership
- Struggles to find a stable place in the hierarchy without alpha leadership
- They lack hierarchical consciousness
- They can be problematic and/or destructive if not treated loyally
The delta male is the ‘worker’ of the socio sexual hierarchy. These are the ‘normal’ men who wake up, go to work, get things accomplished, and move the entire hierarchy forward. They’re considered the most important men in the hierarchy. They’re the men the alphas lead. Without delta men, no hierarchy can exist, and no progress will be made.
- They desire respect for their hard work and competence
- Most ‘average guys’ who go to a 9 to 5 job are ‘deltas’
- An ‘uncomplicated’ life
- Freedom to chase hobbies and happiness
- Deltas enjoy security and structure within the hierarchy
- Large population numbers give them the power to change their leadership
- Not incredibly successful with women
- No ‘status’ or ‘power’ to speak of
The gamma male is the ‘intellectual’ of the socio sexual hierarchy. But they also tend to be the most troublesome. Due to their intellectual nature, they often see themselves as being more valuable and capable than they truly are.
They often lie or exaggerate the truth. They also tend to pedestalize women, and struggle greatly with sexual success, despite the fact that they’re the ‘romantics’ of the hierarchy.
- Highly intelligent
- Sensitive and introspective
- Unsatisfied with their position
- Believe that they should be in charge due to their higher intelligence
- Socially awkward
- Higher than average intelligence
- Can learn to be more successful with women
- Not very well-liked
- Usually dishonest
- Struggle with women
- Struggle to change their station due to their ‘false illusions of grandeur’
The omega is the ‘loser’ of the socio sexual hierarchy. This is the guy who never gets invited. He makes people uncomfortable, and they generally wish that he wasn’t around. He’s not attractive, and tends to be a ‘reject’ in pretty much every way.
This is the type of man who’s often rejected from the hierarchy against his own wishes. This is the most tragic and difficult of the archetypes.
- Socially weird
- Makes people uncomfortable
- Tempted to give-up on dating/friendship
- May be ‘black pilled’ or resentful of women/other people
- The only real benefit to being an omega male is that ‘there’s nowhere to go but up’
- No success with women
- Feelings of self loathing
- Complete and total rejection by almost everyone, except for other omegas
Is the Socio Sexual Hierarchy Important?
The socio sexual hierarchy is an interesting categorization system for how men arrange themselves naturally into hierarchies, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Intuitively, I believe that it hits very close to home and gives us an at least semi-accurate picture of what the natural human male hierarchy looks like.
With that being said, keep in mind that Vox Day’s online rabbit hole is deep—and you’ll find that he sometimes espouses ideas that definitely run contrary to mainstream opinion.
I don’t necessarily always agree with him about everything. And on the same note, I don’t see the socio sexual hierarchy as being the ‘be all, end all’ system for categorizing men.
I don’t necessarily believe that every man can be ‘pigeon-holed’ into a specific archetype, especially not in every setting. Of course, even Vox Day describes the hierarchy as ‘fractal,’ which means that it’s heavily context-dependent.
A man who’s a beta at work may be a delta at church and an alpha at home, etc.
And this leads us to a very important question.
How should we use the socio sexual hierarchy?
How to Use the Socio Sexual Hierarchy
I believe that Vox Day’s socio sexual hierarchy is useful in three ways:
- It helps us to increase our hierarchical self-awareness
- It helps us understand where we exist in the hierarchy
- It provides us with information we can use to change our rank and move upward in the hierarchy
Our mission here at The Adult Man is to help you become a better man.
As a man, you should be striving to level up your life—mind, body, and spirit.
And the socio sexual hierarchy can help you accomplish this.
By understanding where you fall within the hierarchy, you can identify not only the factors keeping you at your current rank, but also figure out what it’s going to take to help you level-up and accomplish your true purpose in life.
The truth is that we should never be content to exist at the bottom of the hierarchy.
And even if you don’t have ambitions to become an alpha, you can still use the hierarchy to figure out which archetype you are, and then work on honing your strengths while diminishing the effects of your weaknesses.
5 Key Factors That Impact Your Place in the Socio Sexual Hierarchy
The socio sexual hierarchy is based on behavioral patterns.
In other words, your place within the hierarchy isn’t determined by what you think you are or believe you are, but by how you behave and interact with others.
Your behavior, in turn, will also have an effect on how people treat you—and that completes the circle, solidifying your place and rank within the hierarchy.
This is obviously a pretty serious oversimplification. But that’s generally how it works.
With that being said, there are many factors that may dictate your rank and archetype.
Here are some of the main factors that influence your place within the socio sexual hierarchy.
Confidence correlates strongly with an individual’s place within the hierarchy.
Alphas, sigmas, and betas, for example, tend to have very high levels of confidence.
Deltas may or may not be confident, depending on what they’re doing.
Gammas and omegas have very little confidence.
2. Hierarchical Consciousness
Are you aware of how the hierarchy operates? Is spotting alphas, betas, deltas, gammas, and sigmas easy for you?
Alphas are masters of hierarchical consciousness. In fact, it’s this ‘awareness’ of the hierarchy that gives alphas the ability to intuitively understand the hierarchical structures around them, thereby enabling them to climb toward the top.
This is the biggest reason for why beta males often struggle and fail to become alphas on their own.
I firmly believe that any man can increase his hierarchical awareness.
The best way to go about this task is to start paying closer attention to how people behave and react to one-another.
Remember, the hierarchy is decided by our behavioral patterns. So how we act and react in our lives determines our station and archetype.
Responsibility, and what it means to you, will say a lot about where you’re likely to fall in the hierarchy.
- Alpha males, for example, act with complete self-responsibility. They understand that everything is their fault, and they take on the highest levels of personal responsibility. They do this because they understand how important it is for them to take their roles seriously as leaders.
- Betas answer only to the alpha. And so, their primary responsibility isn’t ‘over-arching’ like the alpha’s is. Rather, it’s direct and pointed to accomplish a specific task.
- Sigmas are only responsible for themselves. They make this choice when they choose to walk away from the hierarchy, to become ‘lone wolves’ and wanderers.
- Deltas take responsibility for their families. They also believe that they have a responsibility to others within the hierarchy (responsibility to their neighbors, communities, state governments, etc.). But they also believe (correctly) that the hierarchy has a responsibility to them. In return, they work hard and contribute to society—and if all goes well, that relationship is mutually beneficial.
- Gammas want to be leaders because they want the glory, status, and power that comes with being an alpha. But they don’t take responsibility for anything. They tend to whine and complain all the time, which betrays their lack of self-ownership over their own lives and choices. They live as victims, and are fundamentally dishonest to themselves and others. They’re not true self-responsible leaders.
- Omegas believe that basically everyone else (including god and/or nature) is responsible for their suffering and for the crap hand they’ve been dealt in life. They live in bitter resentment because of this. They see taking personal responsibility as a total waste of time, and they blame everyone else for their problems. In fact, it’s this complete lack of self responsibility that sets them on their course into the sad, desperate, tragic negative-omega-cycle.
As you can see, each archetype directs responsibility in a different direction. Examining how you view responsibility is one of the most accurate ways to figure out which archetype you truly are.
4. Leadership Ability
Your leadership ability may tell you a lot about your station and rank within the socio sexual hierarchy.
Alphas are natural born servant-leaders. They understand the importance of leadership, and make sure that they give the hierarchy what it needs to succeed.
Sigmas don’t want the added responsibility of leadership.
Betas only lead as lieutenants beneath the alpha.
Deltas have no interest in leading.
Gammas wish they were leaders, but they want to lead for the status, power, and other benefits that leadership comes with. They don’t have a true leadership mentality.
Omegas aren’t even in the race. Plus, they’re so bitter about their lot in life that if they were given any true power at all, they would probably just use it to either force others to see how victimized they’ve been, or to ‘get back’ at others in revenge.
Another powerful predictor of where you’ll tend to settle within the hierarchy is your level of courage.
Notice that I didn’t say ‘fearlessness.’ That’s because most people (even alphas) start out in life being afraid of a lot of things. But as they grow older, they learn to overcome their fears and leave their comfort zone.
In other words, they’re willing to take risks to level up.
For this reason, alphas and sigmas tend to be the bravest archetypes, followed by the others in exactly this order:
Are you willing to take risks to rise through the ranks? The strength of your yes or no answer will give you a solid clue about where you currently sit within the hierarchy.
Things You Can Do to Rise in the Hierarchy
Not every man will want to rise through the ranks of the hierarchy.
Are you happy with your life? Are you content with:
- How much money you’re making?
- The quality and quantity of women you can attract?
- How other men treat you?
- The general level of success you’re experiencing?
- The direction your life is headed in the future?
But perhaps the most important question to ask is this:
Are you 100% completely happy and thrilled with your life, in every single way, to the point where you don’t desire to change anything?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then you probably don’t need to worry about rising through the ranks.
But if your answer was a ‘no’ to any of the above questions—then you may want to think seriously about working to level-up and improve your hierarchical station.
Leveling up to a different station isn’t easy. And to be honest, I could fill an entire book with information on how to accomplish this.
But in the following section, you’re going to learn some of the most basic and important tips for how to get this process started.
Remember, it’s all about patterns of behavior. If you can change your behavior, you can change your life.
The alpha male already sits at the top of the hierarchy—but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have any work left to do.
If you’re already an alpha, you probably came into that position in a smaller hierarchy. So the next logical step is to either expand your current hierarchy, or to start climbing another one.
For example: Maybe you’re already the CEO of a corporation. Maybe there’s no higher point to climb within that specific organization.
Well, now that you’ve mastered that hierarchy, it may be time to start looking at another hierarchy you’ve had your sights on.
Maybe it’s time to write a book, and start climbing the publishing ladder.
Maybe it’s time to start your own website, and climb the ranks of the digital marketing business to become an expert in that field.
Perhaps you’ve got a non-profit organization in mind. Well, now may be the perfect time to set your sights on starting it.
The main point is this.
As an alpha male, you never stop learning, growing, and expanding your influence. True alpha males understand that even though they’ve reached the top of their hierarchy, there’s still plenty of room to grow.
Keep educating yourself, growing your knowledge, and taking risks.
Don’t succumb to the temptation to just ‘relax’ and exist where you are.
In the words of George W. Cecil:
On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions, who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting—died.
To continue leveling up as an alpha male, you’re going to need to increase your discipline and develop better habits. For this, I strongly encourage you to read the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear:
As a sigma male, you’ve likely already decided to strike out on your own and embrace the ‘lone wolf’ mentality.
But this doesn’t mean that your self-development is over.
Sigma males enjoy the freedom that comes from existing outside of the hierarchy.
But it’s actually still quite rare for a sigma to never assimilate back into a ‘tribe’ of some kind.
For this reason, many sigma males end up transitioning more toward the alpha male path, especially if they have entrepreneurial tendencies or the desire to start their own business.
For example: A sigma male may walk his own path, but grow his own business on the side while he wanders, explores, or travels.
Then, when the time comes to expand his new business, he may hire employees and become an alpha at the top of his own self-created hierarchy.
Powerful sigma males who don’t wish to submit to an alpha in another hierarchy may be especially prone to choosing a path like this.
As a sigma male, you want to focus on your future plan. You may not always wish to exist outside of the hierarchy. So plan ahead, and prepare to re-enter the tribal framework on your own terms.
This may mean figuring out what your passion or purpose is in life, and starting your own side-hustle with the plan to eventually turn it into a sustainable, profitable business.
To learn more about how to lead other people within the framework of a stable hierarchy, I would also recommend that you read the timeless handbook of strategy and warfare by Sun Tzu: The Art of War:
Being a beta male is arguably the best place to be within the hierarchy.
For this reason, some betas don’t ever want to change their station.
But here’s the thing that most people don’t understand.
A beta male without strong alpha leadership will struggle to find their own sense of purpose in the world.
And this can be a difficult path.
For this reason, some betas decide to level-up and step up into the alpha position.
But this is a difficult transition, for several different reasons.
Here are some steps that you may want to take to increase your odds for success if you’re a beta who’s planning to transition to the alpha position.
First off, you must strive to develop a hierarchical awareness. Most betas struggle to see the hierarchy for what it truly is. They see only the alpha above them, and everyone else below them.
The best way to overcome this limitation is to start studying people, psychology, and relationships.
Ironically, the two books I would absolutely recommend for this purpose were both written by Frans De Waal: Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes, and Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are.
Secondly, you’ll need to learn how to become a truly effective leader, who can take full responsibility for the overarching needs of the hierarchy.
For this, I would recommend that you read the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink:
Some of the most common transitions that occur between stations in the social dominance hierarchy are to or from the delta archetype.
Sometimes, gamma males succeed in rising above their station and become successful deltas. And sometimes, successful deltas decide to step up into a role of leadership as a beta or alpha.
But delta males can also leave the hierarchy and become sigma males.
The most important thing to understand about changing stations is that anyone can change their station, as long as they’re willing to change their behavioral patterns.
And the big challenge with the delta archetype is that being a delta is extremely safe and comfortable. This makes many deltas unable to mentally cope with the challenges, difficulties, and risks of rising above their rank.
To help with this, I would recommend reading the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
Changing your archetype as a delta will require you to do a few very important things. You’ll need to:
- Identify your life purpose
- Overcome the fear of stepping out to pursue that purpose
- Endure the difficulties of a harsh life outside of the delta male comfort zone
All of this will require a certain amount of mental toughness, tenacity, and focus.
If you want to read a fantastic story about a man who wasn’t afraid to step out of a delta life to achieve the life of a true champion, alpha, and massive success, read Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, by Arnold Schwarzenegger:
The bad news about gamma males is that they tend to be inherently dishonest with themselves.
They understand that they have high intelligence. And to their credit, they’re usually ‘smarter’ in this respect than most of the other men around them.
But this intelligence also gives them a false sense of ego. They operate with ‘delusions of grandeur,’ in which they see themselves as ‘secret kings’ who actually deserve to be in charge of everything.
(If only those pesky alphas would step down and give them the control they deserve…)
Gammas are usually hungry to change their rank and deeply unsatisfied with their lot in life. But they don’t understand how to do it effectively, and this frustrates them.
Escaping the gamma male rank will involve a few very important, but very difficult steps. Gammas who wish to climb the hierarchy will need to:
- Stop lying to themselves and others
- Stop trying to elevate themselves to ‘grandeur’
- Start adding real value to the world and helping people without the expectation of status or reward
- Start working harder and being willing to do the ‘grunt work’ required to succeed
If a gamma can successfully accomplish these four things, he can seriously level-up his life and escape the frustrating, unpopular ‘gamma male’ trap.
For men looking to escape from the gamma frame, I would recommend tuning-in to one of my favorite podcasts: The Bulldog Mindset.
I would also recommend reading The Way of the Superior Man, by David Deida:
The omega is the most tragic of all the archetypes.
If you’re truly an omega, then you know exactly what it feels like to be completely rejected by other men, women, and society.
You may even identify as an incel. If you’ve done some thinking and digging about your life woes, you may even believe in the black pill, and that there’s no chance for you to improve your life.
You also probably have a certain amount of bitterness and rage built-up within you as a result of feeling so overlooked by the rest of the hierarchy.
But, here’s the thing. There’s always hope for you to change your station and level-up in your life.
Start by reading this post, to learn how to become a better man.
Next, start reading some books. Read every book on this list.
Get some counseling. Talk to a great therapist or counselor about your problems, and start figuring out how to solve them.
Start spending time with high-value men who live the kind of life you want to be living.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
Figure out what your purpose in life is. Figure out how you want to help people and make a difference in the world, then start pursuing it.
These may seem like small steps. And to be honest, they are. But they can be instrumental in helping you to figure out how to escape the depressing omega rank, and will help you to start transitioning to the gamma, delta, beta, or even alpha or sigma ranks later on.
But in the words of the Lao Tzu:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Start taking one step at a time, and make small improvements every day to take your life in a positive direction.
Brick by brick, the castle is built. So start laying some bricks in your life that will add up to bigger and better things in the future.
I hope that this post has helped you to understand the socio sexual hierarchy, the different ranks and archetypes, and how they all fit together.
Here’s the thing, men. We’re all different. We all live different lives, and we all have our own strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and challenges.
But every man is capable of doing great things, regardless of his archetype, rank, or station in life.
I believe that every man in this world can be a massive success. All he has to do is get to work, build better habits, and conquer his demons.
For more tips and advice for men, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
Go with grace fine gentlemen, and never give up your power.
Does the socio sexual hierarchy apply to females, too?
Females operate a bit differently than men when it comes to dominance hierarchies and ranks. That’s not to say that women cannot be alphas, or that there are not ‘female deltas,’ etc.
You can certainly categorize women that way, and to a certain extent it works—but you leave out a huge portion of the information when you try to categorize women based on a framework designed to categorize men.
Women are far more likely to arrange themselves into hierarchies based on their attraction levels, how agreeable and/or disagreeable they are toward other women, how old they are, the hierarchical position of their current mate(s), and how good their future mating opportunities/prospects are.
Keep in mind that the socio sexual hierarchy is really all based around predictors of the value potential that men can bring to society. And those factors tend to be different for men and women.
Men are more often ranked by their resource potential, while women are more often ranked by attractiveness, youth, and beauty.
Is there a socio sexual hierarchy quiz or test that works?
We put together a socio sexual hierarchy quiz that we think is pretty accurate. Check it out below.