The Allure of the Bad Boy
Cishet women self-report that they want good genes, economic investment, parenting proclivities, and emotional commitment, so why do we always love the bad boys?
Have you ever seen the movie Drive? Ryan Gosling, of “hey girl” meme fame, is in it. He’s greaser-slick, all white undershirts and jeans, apple-sized biceps, and hot goddamn dimples. He’s dead silent nearly the entire movie, so you depend on reading his facial expressions and body language. Re-watching it the other day, my fiancé said, “He’s a bit of a weirdo, huh?”
Gosling, all lithe sexiness, is a getaway car driver who falls in love with his neighbor, a waifish blonde with a young son whose husband is in prison. Their falling-in-love story is all silence and smiling. They don’t even kiss until he knows that the guy in the elevator who’s packing has come to kill her. Gosling slides her behind him, grabs that tiny waist of hers, lays one on her, and then stomps the other guy’s skull until it’s all tomato paste.
Drive came out two months after I married my ex-husband. I loved it. I loved Gosling. I thought, “He was protecting her because he loved her!” even though he maybeeee could have murdered that guy in the elevator a teensy-weensy less…joyfully. There’s got to be some moderation to your carnage, and he hadn’t had it, but you know, he was just that passionately upset. I gave him a pass.
Gosling reminded me of my then husband. Our love affair had too been a lot of smiling and silence. No one would ever look at my ex-husband and peg him for a Gosling. He was more a Wahlberg, a Damon, a good all-American boy that liked his hot dogs microwaved, his bread white, his Doritos cool ranch. A good all-American boy who’d also put his hands on a fair number of people. Me too, I’d find out later.
The thing about silence is that you can make up things about someone in those gaps. You can make up whole goddamn relationships in those gaps. You can marry someone based on what you make up in those gaps. I did. I shouldn’t have.
Why do women love bad boys? Why did I?
1. You are an emotional adrenaline junkie.
Bad boys are always a little jittery, a little live-wirey, a lot unpredictable. You can hear the thunder, but never know where the lightning is going to strike.
The euphoria you get from them telling you that they love you or having sex with them is so intense that you crave it like an addict craves their next hit.
You want those highs so badly that you stick it out through the terrible lows, like when they aren’t calling, when you have a fight that was so bad it has you wondering whether it may or may not have been abuse.
Really, the lower the lows, the higher the highs feel, so to you, it’s worth it.
2. You know he has so much potential.
It’s always that fairy tale crap. You think he hasn’t met the right person. He’s listless, unfocused, drinks too much, doesn’t have the right job, and/or has some issues he needs to work out on a therapist’s couch.
What your ego tells you that he just hasn’t met you. You will be able to help him be the man you think he can be.
People who are afraid of commitment often attempt to commit to people who are inappropriate or unavailable. They choose them specifically because they subconsciously know a long-term relationship isn’t possible with them.
4. You’re ovulating.
I hate even writing that because it reads so incredibly sexist. Hormones are going to make women like bad boys?? But we are animals and thus are not immune to our bodies’ responses. In a study by Christina M. Larson and others, it was found that women are more attracted to “masculine” or “alpha” males during the ovulatory part of their cycle. The conclusion is that women (and other female animals) are drawn to “males with traits associated with fit genes that they can pass on to their offspring.”
In another study by Gregory Louis Carter and others, it was found that some men may have developed a “Dark Triad” personality as an evolutionary short-term mating strategy. The “Dark Triad” refers to men who exhibit narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Since women find “alpha” males more attractive during ovulation, they would inevitably be drawn to these Dark Triad figures who exhibit dominance, power, aggression, and assertiveness.
5. You’re young.
Sigal Tifferet and Daniel J. Kruger in their study surveyed 1,365 women, ranging in age from 14 to 68, about their preferences in a male partner. The women were asked to rate how likely they would be to have a long-term or short-term sexual relationship with a “dad” or “cad.”
Women generally preferred the “dad” type for a long-term partner and the “cad” for a short-term sexual affair. However, older women tended to prefer the “dad” type for all relationship lengths. Young women, in contrast, were more likely to consider brief sexual affairs, particularly with the cad.
The authors suggest that this effect might be due to changing fertility. Younger women may be more interested in securing “good genes” from attractive men, even if that means a short-term sexual affair. Older women, in contrast, may change focus away from sex and getting pregnant, toward securing good provisioning and resources for themselves and any existing children.
Cishet women self-reported that they want good genes, economic investment, parenting proclivities, and emotional commitment in a study by David M. Buss and Todd K. Shackelford.
So how do we overcome our desire for the dark cad and go for the hero dad instead?
The partners we want can change over time. I had my share of dark cads while I was in my 20s and I married one even, but we were separated by the time I was 33. The man I am choosing to marry this month is very much a hero dad.
If you want to stop falling for bad boys or dark cads, address your addiction to adrenaline, stop thinking you can change anyone else, shore up your low self-esteem, and start loving you.
The work starts with you. Read more about that here:
Why We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve
YOU are always the person you need to look at and hold responsible for your unhealthy relationships. You can change…
Flings with the bad boys are sexy and thrilling, but they lead to plenty of heartache.
When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing, you’ll change, and with that change, will come a greater focus on bringing someone special into your life who has the exact qualities you desire.