"You know what, I think I might just really like dating jerks," I told my sister. I was going through a tough breakup, and her front porch just happened to be the place where I finally reached this somewhat depressing level of self-awareness. "I make poor choices with men," I continued between puffs. My sister's response of wide-eyed silence confirmed what I already knew. Part of the reason I keep having crappy experiences with men is the fact that I'm attracted to bad boys.
I know I'm not alone in this self-sabotaging attraction, but until recently, I didn't realize that most of the reasons women like bad boys go far beyond the oddly appealing misunderstood-sexy-rebel-thing. In fact, research suggests that women may choose bad boys primarily for biological reasons.
Obviously, some of the reasons women like myself have romantically pursued bad boys probably have more to do with self-esteem issues and the fact that bad boys, for whatever reason, are usually hot as hell. (Plus, you know, let's not forget about the role booze plays in all of this.) That said, it's been scientifically proven that women choose bad boys over nice guys due to a mixture of hormonal, psychological, and evolutionary reasons.
Here's how biology influences women to pursue bad boys, and why bad boys always seem to get away with being horrible.
1. Ovulation Makes Women Think "Sexier" Men Will Make Better Mates Than "Dependable-Looking" Men
Not all woman ovulate. If you do ovulate, however, that could be part of why you keep dating bad boys. Even if you're ambivalent or uninterested in having children, ovulation hormones actually can cause you to mistake bad boys for good baby daddies. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014, ovulation hormones lead women to view "sexier," more "alpha" men as better potential mates and fathers than their less sexy, but obviously more dependable, counterparts.
These findings were reported after another study was conducted on the same topic at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Researchers showed their female subjects dating profiles of either a "sexy" man or a seemingly reliable man during periods of both high and low fertility. After viewing the profiles, the women were asked which man they thought would contribute more to parental duties — such as cleaning, cooking, helping out with childcare, and grocery shopping — if they were to have a child with them. The alpha men won. As Live Science reported back in 2014, "Under the hormonal influence of ovulation, women delude themselves into thinking that the sexy bad boys will become devoted partners and better dads." After ovulation is over, however, we tend to favor the "nicer" guys once again. Awesome.
2. Narcissism Appears To Help You Get Laid
If you've ever wondered why bad boys manage to have more sex than anyone while also being the absolute worst, I have some really upsetting news for you. According to Psychology Today, bad boys posses the "Dark Triad" (DT) personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellism. Moreover, based on a 2013 study of 128 female undergraduate students which was conducted by Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham, women tend to be attracted to DT men simply because they're typically really confident dudes. As Vinita Mehta, Ph.D., Ed.M., reported for Psychology Today, "The investigators state that 'Women may be responding to DT men’s ability to ‘sell themselves’; a useful tactic in a co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ in which men convince women to pursue the former’s preferred sexual strategy.”
So basically, bad boys are naturally better at getting laid than nice guys because of — not in spite of — their narcissistic personality traits. Additionally, not only are men more prone to narcissism than women are (surprise, surprise), but the characteristics of narcissism actually help bad boys up their number. As Psychology Today explained in their post on the topic, "The hallmarks of narcissism include dominance, a sense of entitlement, and a grandiose self-view. Studies overwhelmingly show that narcissism is greater in men, even across cultures. Moreover, it is believed that narcissism may advance short-term mating in men, as it involves 'a willingness and ability to compete with one’s own sex, and to repel mates shortly after intercourse.'"
Of course, this doesn't mean we're attracted to all, or even most, narcissists. (Cough, cough Donald Trump.)
3. Women Are Drawn To Bad Boys For Flings
As we've already discussed, narcissistic bad boys are not the commitment type, which makes them the ideal choice for flings. This doesn't mean all nice guys want to marry every single girl they date, but with bad boys, you pretty much know they're going to bail at some point. So if you habitually date the non-committal, bad boy type, it might be because you're not ready for a committed relationship yourself.
There's nothing wrong with being afraid of commitment, if that's where you're at. Personally, I'm all about ladies playing the field and "getting theirs" until if and/or when the time comes when they want to settle down with a long-term partner. That said, studies have shown part of the reason why women frequently prefer bad boys (especially when we're just looking for a fling) over genuinely nice guys is because bad boys seem more exciting and adventurous. As Psychology Today explains, "with respect to short-term mating, women may be drawn to ‘bad boys’, who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and risk-taking tendencies."
4. Some Women May Choose Bad Boys Because They Feel Vulnerable To Violent Crime
This is one of those ones that is obviously really problematic and filled with exceptions. But according to recent studies, women who believe themselves to be in greater danger of victimization — even when their likelihood of being victimized isn't significantly high — tend to prefer "physically formidable and dominant mates" (PPFDM). Across two studies on the topic, women were asked to look at images and real-life situations that varied in their risk of crime. Then, the women were asked to rate what they considered to be their likelihood of being victimized. The images included both male and female perpetuated robbery and physical assault, as well as male-perpetuated sexual assault. According to The Daily Mail:
"In both studies, the research team also administered a scale that measured women's PPFDM, and assessed the association between women's PPFDM score and their risk perception scores.The study found that women's fear of crime significantly differed in response to crime cues – for example location and time of day - and that overall fear of crime was related to PPFDM."
As Hannah Ryder, PhD and researcher from Leicester University put it, "Physically formidable and dominant mates (PPFDM) appear to be associated with women's self-assessed vulnerability." So for some women, the attraction to bad boys lies in the potential protection they can offer — whether or not the women in question actually need their protection to begin with. Alas, the patriarchy and rape culture strike again.
5. There Are Probably More Bad Boys Out There To Choose From
Yet another reason to reform our culture of toxic masculinity. As Psychology Today put it above, "Studies overwhelmingly show that narcissism is greater in men, even across cultures." Essentially, this means there may be more bad boys in the world than there are nice guys, which makes it easier to accidentally fall in love with one at some point. Statistically, it's not difficult to do.
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