An (oddly specific) study on why heterosexual male guitarists play extreme metal music points to these guys wanting to impress other heterosexual men. This American Psychological Association (APA) study was referenced by the twitter account of British TV show QI, or Quite Interesting, yesterday (Oct. 2.)
“Research shows that heterosexual men who learn to play extreme metal guitar are mostly motivated to do so in order to impress other heterosexual men,” the show tweeted, sparking some 66 or so replies (at the time of this writing) that were mostly in good fun.
The study, itself, called “Extreme metal guitar skill: A case of male–male status seeking, mate attraction, or byproduct?,” centers around the theory that artistic expression can be explained in a couple ways, “sexual selection or byproduct of the complexity of the human brain.” Translation: humans make art mainly to get laid… or for other reasons.
In a deep dive on extreme metal guitar playing, the study surveyed “44 heterosexual male metal guitarists” about their “practicing habits… sexual behavior… and feelings of competitiveness toward the same sex.” What they found was that, overall, dudes thrash cause they want other dudes to think they are badass.
“WTF?” you might say, “how is that possible?”, remembering that douchey dude from your dorm that whipped out the acoustic guitar only when the Women’s Studies group was in the quad. But the study notes that extreme metal music in particular is a slice of music that is “dominated by men” both playing it and listening to it, so the idea of making music to get laid doesn’t apply.
“Extreme metal is a genre that is heavily male-biased, not only among the individuals that play this style of music, but also among the fans of the genre… Therefore, it is unlikely that extreme metal musicians are primarily trying to increase their mating success through their music. However, musicians in this genre heavily invest their time in building technical skills (e.g., dexterity, coordination, timing), which raises the question of the purpose behind this costly investment. It could be that men engage in this genre mainly for status-seeking purposes: to intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed and thus gain social status.”
To go back to the poser with the acoustic guitar in the quad, the survey results indicated “that time spent playing chords predicted desire for casual sex with women,” but “perceptions of playing speed positively predicted intrasexual competitiveness (a desire to impress other men).”
To put a fine point on it, the study essentially says when you’re passionately belting out “More Than Words” on a picnic blanket you’re (lamely) attempting to procreate, when you’re plugged in and tearing through “Highway to Oblivion” with your amps at ear-bleed level, you’re essentially pounding your chest at the other silverbacks.