Wouldn't it be great if everyone you encountered was a kind, compassionate, and caring individual? Unfortunately, the reality is much harsher: bullies are everywhere — from a high school locker room to the cubicle next to you — and their bad behavior can have a serious impact on those around them. Although karma might come back to bite some bullies in the butt, the sad truth is that plenty of mean people never really face any consequences for their actions. In fact, they might be better off than the rest of us — at least when it comes to the amount of sex they're having, that is. According to a new study from the University of Windsor in Canada, bullies may have more sexual partners than nice people, which is all the proof we needed that life is totally unfair.
So how did the researchers come to this depressing conclusion? First, they recruited 144 older adolescent volunteers (whose average age was about 18) and 396 younger teens (whose average age was 14-15), then had them fill out a questionnaire about their personalities as a way to measure their "nice" qualities — such as how humble, honest, agreeable, and emotionally in tune they are. The questionnaire included questions that could indicate possible bullying behavior: for example, participants were asked about how well they cooperate with other people and their tendency to exploit and antagonize others. Then, participants were asked about their sexual behavior and history. According to the study's abstract:
"Previous research has shown that adolescent bullying is associated with having a higher number of sexual partners. Bullying may thus represent an effective behavior for increasing the number of sexual partners. However, bullying may be an effective behavior primarily for adolescents who possess personality traits that make them willing and able to use bullying as a strategy for obtaining sexual partners. Therefore, we predicted that individuals with antisocial personality traits would be more willing and able to engage in bullying, which in turn may increase their sexual opportunities."
As it turns out, the researchers' hypothesis was correct: having lower degrees of traits like emotionality, agreeableness, and honesty-humility had both direct and indirect effects on the bullies' sexual behavior. Compared to nice people, bullies were more likely to adopt "short-term mating strategies" — such as cheating and engaging in casual sex — and were willing and able to use their bullying ways as a means to gain access to sexual partners/encounters (can you say yuck?!).
"Males may use direct forms of bullying (e.g., physical, verbal) to facilitate intersexual selection (i.e., appear attractive to females), while females may use relational bullying to facilitate intrasexual competition, by making rivals appear less attractive to males," the study says. "However, though theory and research suggests bullying may be a tool that facilitates intrasexual competition and intersexual selection, individual differences in personality may determine whether adolescents are willing and able to employ this strategy when competing for mates."
So although not every bully is guaranteed to be having more sex than their nicer peers, it seems that there are plenty who are willing to use their bullying behavior to their advantage. As disturbing as it is to think about, though, it's not surprising that those with the tendency to exploit and manipulate others might also be willing to do the same when it comes to their love lives. If you're less empathetic to others' feelings, it logically follows that you'll be selfish enough to manipulate others in order to increase your romantic and sexual opportunities.
The one silver lining in all this? Even though bullies might be able to manipulate their way into having a lot of sex, that doesn't mean they'll be able to have healthy, fulfilling long-term relationships — so I guess us nice folks do get the last laugh after all.