Modern Masculinity as “Costly Signalling”

I wrote this at an old post:

I have been thinking a bit more about what game really is, and it occurred to me that “resisting a shit test” might be described by an animal behaviour expert as a form of “costly signalling”. That is, if a man can handle a woman’s demands with aplomb, and not always do as she demands; and if he can ignore or cope with her shit tests; it shows that he is strong. He signals a capacity to handle an attack without being seriously damaged. If a woman screeches at you and nags, and you just laugh in her face, she is likely to think you are tough enough to handle her, and therefore anything else you might need to handle. It is a type of Costly Signalling:

I first made this point at the recent post by Athol Kay, here:

It occurred to me today that this could be extended. In short, one could see the entire expression of modern masculinity, that is masculinity under the current social discouragement, to be a form of costly signalling. “Costly signalling” is a term from strategic studies in relation to economics and especially animal behaviour, that means a signal of fitness or strength that is costly to make. One proposed “costly signal” is the peacock’s tail. The idea is that the tail is so dangerous and expensive to maintain that it gives a strongly virile signal. In a similar way, any man who is capable of retaining his masculinity under current social conditions has also displayed a strongly virile signal.

Any man who is able to show masculinity these days – that is, who has not been cowed by female relatives, acquaintances, or the popular culture – has shown that he is able to be masculine in highly adverse conditions. This is strong evidence of genuine masculinity, and it is no wonder that such men are at a premium among women.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by fatmanjudo on April 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I like the idea. Good article. I think that women are hardwired to seek out men who will not break under adverse conditions and they have evolved strategies to test for this backbone. For much of human history, their survival depended upon their men. It is currently not really necessary, but as they say, the old becomes new. The idea is captured better in fiction as opposed to science in this regard. I think Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath shows this the best from chapter one:

    The people came out of their houses and smelled the hot stinging air and covered
    their noses from it. And the children came out of the houses, but they did not run or
    shout as they would have done after a rain. Men stood by their fences and looked at the
    ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The
    men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses
    to stand beside their men—to feel whether this time the men would break. The women
    studied the men’s faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else
    remained. The children stood near by, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes, and
    the children sent exploring senses out to see whether men and women would break.
    The children peeked at the faces of the men and women, and then drew careful lines in
    the dust with their toes. Horses came to the watering troughs and nuzzled the water to
    clear the surface dust. After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused
    perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they
    were safe and that there was no break. Then they asked, What’ll we do? And the men
    replied, I don’t know. But it was all right. The women knew it was all right, and the
    watching children knew it was all right. Women and children knew deep in themselves
    that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.

    For those women not fortunate enough to have a strong man and find themselves in adverse circumstances, a good idea may be to follow “Megan’s Way”
    (language warning)


    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on April 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks for the interesting quote and reference.

      This particularly grabbed my attention:

      “Once the few effective males in your work environment or even at the rail station or bus stop, have been identified, simply adopting a family role such as sister, mother, daughter, is usually all that is required to begin building a network of men who will actually do what was traditionally their role, before it was farmed out to the police state, which is protection; the prime component of which is deterrence.”

      I take this to mean that the girl, Megan, has affiliated with the men she needs for protection by behaving like a family member (wife or daughter or sister). And that she has been pleasant and respectful to get their support if she needs it.

      Even an average man will protect his wife or sister, or a woman whom he can put in the mental category of “wife” or “sister” or “daughter”. The problem for women is to get into those categories. The more women reject and denigrate ordinary men, the less likely ordinary men are to feel any concern for the women. Certainly, the number of women I would protect in any way these days is a lot less and a lot narrower a class than it would have been even a few years ago. My own relatives of course, and some ladies I know from church and my wife’s friends, I would protect if they needed it. After that, the list gets very short. I certainly would not help the average woman in the street these days.

      In reality, I live in a fairly safe city. The only “monstering” I have done in a long time was in defence of my teenage son.

      Of course, this discussion is about physical protection, which is not often obviously needed by women in modern safer environments, although simply having a man around may deter “bad guys”. More often, what women are looking for is emotional strength and comfort from a man.


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