February 18, 2020

What’s a Chad? Let’s Unpack This Problematic Meme

In certain corners of the internet, being a “Chad” is a thing — and it’s pretty problematic. Not sure what Chad means? We’ll explain.
Written by
Emily A. Klein
Published on
February 18, 2020
Updated on
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In certain corners of the Internet, the term “Chad” is used to describe a hyper-attractive “Alpha male” who seemingly has it all: good looks, a high income, a ripped body, and a gorgeous girlfriend. 

For certain people — particularly young men frustrated by the complicated world of dating and relationships — a Chad is an object of envy and scorn and an emblem of the injustice of unequally distributed social capital. In a culture in which ideas of gender and sexuality are shifting and growing ever-more complex, Chad embodies the type of stereotypical, swaggering manhood that many people (accurately or not) assume makes women swoon. Chad isn’t known for his sense of humor, compassion, or intelligence: he’s hot, tall, and most likely rich, and that’s all that matters. 

Where did the Chad meme come from?

The Chad meme, like many other aspects of internet culture, came about as the result of some truly messed-up, oversimplified ideas about the way the world works. Simply put, Chad is a myth. The Chad meme was invented by people who were insecure, confused about how to relate to potential romantic partners, and who felt entitled to sexual attention, in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own growth. 

Not every good-looking, tall, wealthy man automatically experiences romantic and sexual success — and most men who do not conform to stereotypical ideals of masculinity are still able to enjoy healthy, satisfying relationships.

The Chad, as depicted in countless memes

How to become a Chad

First of all: If your goal is to have sex or enter into a relationship, you don’t need to become a Chad. The vast majority of heterosexual, bisexual, and queer women (like all human beings!) are attracted to a wide variety of body types: Fat men, skinny men, men with disabilities, hairy men, men who can’t grow a beard, tall men, short men, men with crooked teeth and asymmetrical features get laid all the time. It’s a simple psychological fact that most people are drawn to those who treat them with respect. Sure, looks do confer some advantage--but they’re a lot less significant than the memesters would have you believe. And if you’re a jerk, it doesn’t matter what you look like: contrary to what “pickup artists” preach, most women just aren’t interested in men who treat them poorly.

For many young men who feel isolated and alone, however, perpetually on the outside looking in, the lure of conformity to an archetype is extremely powerful. Who wouldn’t want to be desired, worshiped, and eagerly pursued by attractive, high-status people? While the pressure to look, act, and dress a certain way is often seen as a women’s issue, the Chad meme reveals that men, too, suffer under the weight of impossible ideals.

Those who feel left out of the dating game, or who have experienced repeated rejection, may want to know how to become a Chad, so they, too, can experience the sweetness of sexual and social success. You may have been bombarded with cultural messages telling you that you must be stoic, strong, dominant, and affluent in order to experience a romantic relationship. That there’s a “right” way to be a man. When conformity to a set of predetermined norms seems to be the only “sure” way to get what you want in life, figuring out how to become a Chad can seem like an urgent necessity. Fortunately for the overwhelming majority of us who don’t conform to arbitrary ideals, the belief that you have to be a Chad to get a girlfriend or have sex is totally false!

What’s it like to be a Chad

From a certain perspective, being a Chad might seem like a dream come true. But life as a Chad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you’ve bought into the idea that your status rests on external characteristics like looks, wealth, or conformity to a one-dimensional form of “masculinity,” there’s the constant pressure to maintain a façade. All humans experience pain and suffering, and everyone, at some point, experiences self-doubt, disappointment, rejection, sadness, and failure. Being a Chad, however, entails never showing weakness, keeping up appearances at all costs, and never letting anyone get close enough to see your true self. The constant effort to demonstrate dominance and power can take a major physical and psychological toll, according to the American Psychological Association.

While various message boards and online communities claim Chads are purportedly able to summon beautiful sex partners with a snap of their fingers, for most people, sexual conquest for its own sake is not really the goal. For many young men who crave relationships with women, the underlying desire is all about acceptance and connection; they may imagine that, if they can figure out how to become a Chad, women will suddenly flock to them. The truth, however, is more complex: People like and are attracted to people who make them feel good. A Chad, even if he does get lots of superficial attention, isn’t likely to end up in a healthy, satisfying relationship in the absence of an actual personality or the capacity to care for others.

How can non-Chads get laid?

Most of the population is made up of people who do not conform to the Chad ideal — yet lots of them are happily partnered, getting laid on the regular, and in many cases, both! For the overwhelming majority of people who are not wealthy, jacked swimwear models (and even those who are) success in sex, dating, and relationships is determined not by superficial qualities like looks and money. Instead, it’s determined by who they are and how they treat others. It’s a cliché with roots in a deep truth: your personality really is the key to being appealing and attractive.

Think about the people you like and admire: your friends, family members, teachers, and coworkers. How many of them do you admire simply for their looks? Chances are that you’re drawn to people because of their sense of humor, integrity, kindness, intelligence, loyalty, and their ability to listen and make you feel good about yourself. If your goal is to attract sexual attention, your best bet is not to become a Chad, but to become a more authentic, interesting, and confident version of you.

YOU are enough

The Chad ideal is rooted in toxic masculinity. Feeling the need to become a Chad in order to experience success in sex, relationships, or life in general is a huge burden that can have negative consequences for your mental health. But becoming a Chad is not the answer: cultivating healthy friendships, working for a cause you believe in, and developing your interests will improve your own sense of wellbeing and enjoyment of life. Actively engaging with the world around you, listening to and caring for others, and focusing on how you can be kinder and more interesting (rather than physically perfect) are much more reliable ways to achieve what you desire — whether it’s lots of casual sex partners or a long-term relationship.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Emily A. Klein is a freelance writer with deep interests in science, culture, and health. As a student of cultural anthropology, she researched and wrote about kink, reproductive rights, cross-cultural medicine, and humans’ relationship with technology. She has designed and implemented a sexual health curriculum for adolescent girls, worked with foster youth and people experiencing housing insecurity, and volunteered as an emergency first responder. Her writing has appeared in The Establishment, Edible magazine, The Seattle Lesbian, Slog, and elsewhere.

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