Vladimir Putin is notoriously alpha, John Durant notes:
Putin goes out of his way to be photographed while engaged in various masculine endeavors: bare-chested horseback riding, judo competitions, recovering ancient underwater urns, racing Formula One cars, riding motorcycles, flying jets, hunting dangerous animals, saving dangerous animals, and more. He makes James Bond look like a nancy boy.
And to many Westerners, he seems ridiculously over the top. But that’s partly because we’ve been trained to look down on displays of masculinity, and partly because we don’t understand the Russian context of Putin’s displays of masculinity.
As a result, Westerners completely misunderstand Vladimir Putin.
As with any performance, you have to know your audience. Putin’s homage to masculinity isn’t targeted at Westerners or Russian oligarchs. These special-ops photo-ops aren’t displays of Putin’s actual political power. Most of Putin’s power is invisible, and he wields it behind the scenes. He doesn’t show the public how he rigs elections, he just rigs them — and people learn the results. He doesn’t show the public how he threatens oligarchs with jail, he just threatens them privately — and if one steps out of line, he jails him publicly. He exercises most of his real power behind the scenes, but gives enough public examples to maintain his reputation. And his reputation is enough to keep everyone else in line.
Putin’s displays of masculinity are targeted to ordinary Russians.
They are intended to boost his popularity. And they work (or they did for a long time). Why?
First, in dangerous societies, women are more attracted to masculine men (study via HUS).
Ladies, if violent crime shot through the roof this year, trust me — big rugged men with lantern jaws would start to look surprisingly sexy, soft, and marriageable (even more than they already do). Russia is a dangerous society, with dropping life expectancies, high levels of drunkenness and violence, and weak rule of law. Therefore, the baseline sexual desire for masculine men is higher.
Unsurprisingly, Vladimir Putin is a big hit among Russian women — and attractive ones too. For example, Putin’s Army (SFW) is an amorphous group of attractive Russian women who claim they will do anything for their beloved Prime Minister, including wash cars in bikinis.
Second, Putin’s displays of masculinity are disciplined.
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Mastery of judo requires years of practice. Flying a fighter jet requires responsibility and training. Proper hunting and fishing requires more intelligence and patience than most sheltered urbanites think. All of these endeavors require control. He’s not doing dare-devil stunts, brawling on the street, or playing the most foolishly risky game of all: Russian Roulette. He’s taking calculated risks.
Vladimir Putin is providing an example to Russian men on how to harness their testosterone, which currently is being wasted on gambling, alcohol, suicide, and violence. Undisciplined testosterone is an incredibly destructive force. Disciplined testosterone is an incredibly productive force.
I didn’t realize, by the way, that Putin does not drink.