Why do some women prefer “bad boys?”
The question arises from a reader’s commentary regarding the woman who misses her "crappy ex" despite now having a sweet, supportive boyfriend (August 23):
Reader - “One can be sexually attracted to people who are totally unsuitable. Her horrible boyfriend's looks and pheromones may have impressed her greatly, which can easily be confused with love.”
Ellie – The too-familiar attraction to “bad boys” has been studied by behaviour scientists, and long portrayed by Hollywood.
Check out these classics: James Dean as a troubled teenager who gets the girl in Rebel Without a Cause; and the many James Bond actors (Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, etc.) who always get the girls.
University of California psychology professor Dr. Martie Haselton blames hormones for the bad-boy lure.
In her 2018 book, “Hormonal: The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones -- How They Drive Desire, Shape Relationships, Influence Our Choices, and Make Us Wiser”, she shows that women are more interested in an “alpha”-type male during ovulation than at other points in their monthly cycle.
This supports the theory that women are drawn to "males with traits associated with fit genes that they can pass on to their offspring," Dr. Haselton explains. She calls this type of guy "Sexy Cad."
Fortunately, she finds that at other times in their cycle, women are better judges of character.
However, there’s more to the attraction.
A 2016 study at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona showed that a number of women considered these men captivating, though they are “selfish, rule-breaking, imprudent, and rebellious.”
The reasons they’re so compelling? “They are also brave, temerarious, independent, and self-reliant — and they live frantic, galvanizing lives,” said lead researcher Fernando Gutiérrez.
Perhaps more worrisome, a 2013 study from Britain’s University of Durham, revealed that more men than women possess “the Dark Triad personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellism.”
These characteristics may even advance short-term mating in men. Yet women find them appealing.
Warning note to those women: The hallmarks of narcissism include dominance, a sense of entitlement, and a grandiose self-view.
Psychopathy comprises callousness, lack of empathy and antisocial erratic behaviour.
Most worrisome, Machiavellism includes characteristics of manipulation, duplicity, insincerity and opportunism.
Nevertheless, 128 female undergraduates in this study found the Dark Triad men more attractive than the control group of men who lacked those negative traits.
My own response to the reader’s commentary above is this: It’s clear that some women are impressed by the looks and demeanour of men who behave badly…
But the good news is that most women get past it, whether through hormonal changes and adjustment, or growing wisdom.
And the once-heady but ultimately disappointing appeal is most frequently not “love.”
That’s why, to the woman who initially wrote me, I suggested two possibilities affecting her continued obsessive interest in her “crappy ex” and in the new woman he was now dating:
1) That her unfortunate role model for “partner” from her past, may be someone who was emotionally distant and frequently angry.
2) That she lacks self-esteem and stayed for two bad years with this distant, unaffectionate, and frequently angry guy, without just telling herself and him, “I deserve better.”
Now, I can add one more possibility: Her hormones may have been misleading her.
Neither women nor men need to put up with another’s controlling, self-consumed behaviour, for the sake of survival.
Both sexes equally need real partners in the demanding but rewarding choice of loving, co-operating, and creating a happy life together.
I’m a bride getting married soon.
It’s very important to me and my family that Grace is said before the meal.
One family member on my groom’s side starts to chat, giggle or make comments whenever someone says Grace or a prayer.
Can I ask that person ahead to not be rude and disrespectful? Can I not invite him or ask him to leave if he’s not going to be respectful?
You have the right to ask for your traditions to be respected at your wedding.
Your groom should talk to his family member unless the nature of their relationship makes it too awkward.
Either way, your feelings should be made known, firmly.
He should be told that this is so important to your family that if he cannot accept it and stay silent, he should wait until after Grace and prayers are said before joining in the celebration.
Tip of the day:
“Bad boys” are a losing bet for women who want a true partner.