Why Women Find “Bad Boys” So Attractive, Even Though We Know They’re Trouble

Psychologists break down why they can’t quit the guys that are wrong for them.

Every woman has had a friend who dated a guy who was clearly bad news, but she just couldn’t resist. Maybe, that “friend” was you. And yet, despite all the warnings and red flags, the pull of dating a “bad boy” was just too strong. So, even with all of the signs that heartbreak is on the horizon, why do we still find bad boys so appealing?

It may not be politically correct to admit it, but these brooding, macho men can be compellingly attractive, with their downright seductive swagger. We reached out to experts to find out why this allure is capable of taking over our rational thoughts.

First off, what is a “bad boy,” anyway?

Evolutionary biologists would call “bad boys” hypermasculine, explains Michael R. Cunningham, Ph.D., professor and psychologist at the University of Louisville. “These men ooze testosterone, which leads to boldness and is associated with exaggerated sexuality,” he says. They may also be rebellious or emotionally unavailable, says Madeleine A. Fugère, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University and author, Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships.

In the most extreme and negative interpretation, bad guys display qualities of the so-called psychological dark triad, according to relationship researcher and coach Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., CPLC. Basically, they might be narcissistic (with a sense of entitlement and a grandiose view of themselves), Machiavellian (callous and prone to exploiting others), and psychopathic (displaying antisocial and impulsive behavior). And yet, sometimes we just can’t quit them.

Apparently, they want their sperm — but not necessarily their partnership.

Science, in particular evolutionary biology, partially explains why bad boys can be so compelling. Dr. Fugère says research shows women are more attracted to masculine men during the middle of their menstrual cycle, when they’re most fertile. “Men with very masculine traits may have better quality genes, so it could be attractive to women on an unconscious evolutionary level,” she notes.

That said, when asked what they’re looking for in an ideal partner, women tend to cite nice-guy traits, like honesty, trustworthiness, and respectfulness. “In fact, they usually say they would actively avoid partners who are rude, disrespectful, or physically aggressive,” she adds. “So, on a conscious level, I think most women recognize that bad boys don’t make good long-term partners.”

“Bad boys” free them from the pressure of being “good girls.”

“Girls possess a range of traits, like rebelliousness,” explains Robyn McKay, Ph.D., psychologist and co-author of Smart Girls in the 21st Century. “These traits are typically repressed during childhood, as females are socialized to be compliant and agreeable. If a girl’s inner life is unexpressed, she may be drawn to a bad boy as a way of vicariously expressing her own inner rebel.

Basically, “We’re attracted to qualities in others that we ourselves wish we had,” says sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, Ph.D. “A ‘good girl’ may admire the bad boy’s sense of freedom. Despite the fact that this quality makes him an unsuitable partner for the long-term, it can make him so attractive, it’s seemingly worth the potential pain associated.”

Dr. Cunningham adds, “If females don’t feel strong and independent, they might want someone like that in their lives.”

Norhanie Pangulima, a content ambassador at Hernorm, can relate. She had a “sheltered upbringing” and fell for someone adventurous. “There were times I’d lie to my mom to spend time with him, which made me feel a bit bad, yet free,” she says. Similarly, April J. Lisbon, Ed.D., an autism coach strategist, says she felt trapped growing up with a strict parent and went through a phase of dating drug dealers. “Living on the dangerous side of life was appealing for this church girl who was a ‘nerd,’” she reveals. “I wanted to shed my ‘good girl’ image and define my own freedom.”

They’re exciting, different, and “forbidden.”

“Bad boys can be a welcome change from the usual types of partners,” says Dr. Fugère. Especially if women are bored, adds Dr. McKay, these men can seem “exciting and fun” — but dating them can also come with huge drawbacks, like hurt feelings, fights, or even addictions and criminal records.

For instance, hypnotherapist Jennifer Schlueter got involved with a bad boy from another country and culture. “The energy between us was explosive, which resulted in incredible sex and adventures, but also fights,” she shares.

Bad boys can seem taboo, which further adds to their appeal. “When we want something we can’t or shouldn’t have, our desire for it grows exponentially,” adds Dr. Melancon, who fell for a bad boy herself. “He ran his own business producing fetish films in the adult film industry, and I was in graduate school studying human sexuality. Because he was someone I shouldn’t be with, the chemistry was unlike anything I’d experienced prior! I had a number of people in my life question what I was doing with him, which, in a Romeo and Juliet sort of way, only strengthened my attraction.” But we all know how that ended for Romeo and Juliet.

They think they’ll protect them.

Women who feel besieged by threats often fall for tough guys, with their disregard for social norms and willingness to quickly escalate frustration to hostility, threats, and aggression, says psychologist Forrest Talley, Ph.D. “They desire having someone in their life who is tough enough to face the world and punch back when necessary,” he says.

“It’s likely that some women feel more protected by the tough guy and his ease with aggression,” agrees Marni Feuerman, Psy.D., licensed psychotherapist and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships. Of course, there’s no one to act as a buffer if that aggression gets turned around and comes your way.

Bad boys are projects…

Women are often into fixer-uppers, says Dr. Cunningham, “or interesting projects that use a lot of their skills, charm, and persuasiveness.”

According to psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Seide, M.D., bad boys are not inclined to settle down into monogamy so easily. “If you can convince one to commit, it can feel like quite an accomplishment,” she says. “You think that if you can land one, you must be pretty, funny, and smart enough to have won this prize. Unfortunately, due to societal pressures, women are often on an eternal quest for validation and that elusive feeling of being enough. The pursuit of bad boys is just another example of this.”

Falling for these types of men “happens to the most caring and nurturing people,” Dr. Feuerman says. “They want to see the best in others and have difficulty believing that someone can be truly bad.”

Unfortunately, as Dr. Talley points out, it can be a trap. “Seldom do these men allow someone else’s belief in them to precipitate positive change,” he says. “If they did, that would mean they’d become submissive.”

… and when they try to convert bad boys, they’re repeating old patterns.

Women with rejecting, aloof parents or other close family members might be drawn to bad boys, says psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D., who’s had “countless patients” fall for men who fit this archetype. “We don’t outgrow our wish to convert that person into a loving, accepting person,” she says. “Instead, we unconsciously transfer that wish onto new figures in our lives, hoping to get from this new person what we never got from the original person, as if that will heal the original wound. Unfortunately, it never works because rejecting people don’t suddenly become accepting. We keep playing out the same drama, putting new people in old roles.”

The bottom line: Proceed with caution.

The experts agree that men who don’t want to change in most cases will not. For instance, research shows that males who’ve cheated are more likely to be unfaithful in future relationships as well, says Dr. Fugère.

“The testosterone that makes them bold, adventurous, and rebellious will make them less willing to follow the rules of dating, relationships, and matrimony,” Dr. Cunningham adds. Instead, “they’re into conquests and looking for fresh kills.”

As Jennifer Schlueter found from her own relationship with a bad boy, “I was hoping my love would ‘fix’ him, but he taught me that I can’t change anyone who doesn’t want to change for himself.”

‘Converting’ a bad boy is a generally impossible situation, says Dr. Melancon. “If a woman were to succeed in changing him, he would no longer be the bad boy she finds so irresistible,” she says. That said, there are exceptions: Dr. Melancon’s bad boy treated her so well that, “He wasn’t a ‘true’ bad boy so to speak, which is why the relationship led to marriage.”

 

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Alice – The Stalker

Everything on Phicklephilly is true.  I can’t make this stuff up.  I wish it weren’t true, but sadly it is.

I was just told this story by my friend Alice. She is the CEO of her own IT recruitment company, and a dear friend of mine. If anyone reading this can help, please comment on this post.

One day while Alice was at Starbucks, a man came in with a very eerie demeanor. He looked like he was looking for something, or someone, and asked if anyone was sitting next to her. There was no one sitting next to her, so of course she said no. She was very consumed in her work so she didn’t really pay much attention to this man, when he peeped over her shoulder and said “Oh, I see your name is Alice.” She was a little freaked out, but figured he was just being friendly and saw her Starbucks cup, but then she realized her name wasn’t even on her cup, and he was peeping over her shoulder and was watching what she was doing. She had to meet a client at their office so she left, but it was also because she felt very uncomfortable. That was the only time she ever actually spoke to this man.

Ever since that run in with him, he appears everywhere she is. There was one time he followed her out to her car. Another time, he came into a different café she was in and sat right next to her when there wasn’t even a seat. Each encounter she pretended that she was on a call. Over the course of two years now he’s waited for her outside places that she’s been, showed up at her office looking for her, and somehow got her one employee’s phone number and reached out.

She even talked to the barista at the other coffee shop. They know who he is and have barred him from ever coming in again. When asked why, they told Alice that he has been harassing other young girls in the cafe. Like teenage girls. Thirteen and fourteen year olds. They all have told their mothers, and they have reported him as well. But nothing has been done.

One barista told Alice that he once went up to a group of young girls and said he lost his contact lens and they all got down on their hands and knees looking for it and he just stood back looking at their butts and up their skirts. So he’s not just some nut job. He knows what he’s doing. He is a diabolical menace that needs to be arrested.

He’s requested Alice on every source of social media she can think of, Facebook, Instagram, every platform she is on. Just this morning there was a silver car following her out of her development for about a mile. The car was following her closely. Almost tailgating her. Not thinking anything of it she pulled into the gas station as she normally would, got out to pay and get a coffee inside. She got a bad feeling, and when she looked behind her, it was him!

She went inside and ran to the back of the store. It was quiet until she heard the bell of the door opening. Then the sound of  approaching footsteps.

He went down each aisle looking for her. The owner of the gas station asked him if he needed anything. He said “I’m just looking around.” She said it felt like she was in a horror movie.

But it was real.

He must have gotten nervous and finally left. Alice came out of hiding and told the woman running the station, that he was the man who has been stalking her. She sprung into action, and got his license plate number.

I’m writing this because she called the police on each encounter and they told her that unless he touches her, or harms her, there’s nothing they can do. But they would put it in his file. Problem is, by the time this happens, that would mean that he harmed her.
Each time he appears, she tells herself she is going to confront him and tell him to leave her alone. But each time she sees him, every time it happens, fear takes hold and she is afraid to do so.
Today she called the police after this incident, and they said they had an incident with him back in 2013 but that was all they had on him. She told them that she’s reached out to them several times and they said because it’s in a different county they can’t even see that he has a history of stalking/harassment. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? It’s 2016 and there’s no way for one county to see a record of someone in the next county over? This man is scary; he’s in his mid 50’s and has full on conversations with himself. He’s extremely intelligent as he has requested her on LinkedIn and she saw his work credentials. She does recruitment for IT positions, so she knows that he knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s just something really off about this guy.

She is an advocate for the police system, but she doesn’t know what to do. She is really freaked out. It’s gone too far. She doesn’t want to wait like a sitting duck, but wants this man has to stop following her.

Alice is afraid he’s followed her home and knows where she lives.

Does anyone have any advice? Also, why isn’t there a way for police stations to see incidents that happened in other counties? Isn’t there some sort of CRM software they can use to track that? Any advice would be appreciated.

 

Here’s a photo of this piece of shit. If you, or anyone you know can identify this man, please contact local law enforcement.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every Monday at 9am EST.

I publish new Dating content every Monday at 9am EST. I publish Updates and bios and stories about Non-Dating related characters, such as male and female friends, on TuesdaysWednesdays at 9am EST.