The Allure of Bad Boys
Why do women fall for bad boys?
My students ask that question all the time.
Michael Kimmel, who studies men, asks his women students to choose between the charming rouge, Rhett Butler and dependable Ashley Wilkes. “Do I have to choose?” they groan. “Are those my only choices?” they plead. Because they like characteristics of both. Forced to choose, about half opt for each type. Those desiring Rhett want his gusto and charisma, minus the philandering. Change – but keep the good parts. One woman insisted, “The problem is that Rhett Butler has never been loved by me. When I love him, he’ll change.”
So not all women want bad boys — or want them to be very bad. But what about those who do? Women likely end up with hurtful men for various reasons.
Some get bored after making a “win.” One woman explained that at first she wonders, “Can I get this person? Am I good enough?” But after she wins him over she thinks, “Now I know and I’m bored.” Bad boys keep her guessing so at least life’s not dull.
Or, when a man sends mixed signals a woman can spend a great deal of time discerning his intentions. Realizing she thinks about him constantly, she may suppose she’s really into him.
A few are drawn to the drama that surrounds difficult relationships. Certainly there are no ruts.
Others simply suffer from low self-esteem and feel they deserve no better.
Some think that men who abuse them out of jealousy are showing great passion. He must really love me to get so upset! As Dr. Regina Barreca over at Psychology Today describes it, “His anger and her fear are seen as ‘proof’ of their love.” Usually they end up divorced in the end – once she gets that he’s only abusive.
Bad boys can come across as self-confident and powerful – even if it’s more bravado than real, and some feel “special” at being chosen by them.
Meanwhile, because our culture eroticizes male dominance, many internalize the notion and find it appealing. These women may not end up too happy about the reality of domineering men in the long run.
A few believe women are hard-wired to desire a strong man who can impart superior genes to her children. And so they choose cheating, abusive bullies who end up abandoning them and their children? That aids survival? Or does cruelty just masquerade as strength?
Many say their desires have changed. Their younger selves wanted bad boys, but with maturity they’ve turned toward good men. As one put it:
I did leave the cave man, regained my independence and self esteem, and found another man. To my surprise, this man is attentive, loving, tells me I’m beautiful (in sweats), and spontaneous. He picks flowers, decorates my car, cooks. . . I could keep going on, but I’ll say I feel like a queen!
To all the good guys: plenty of women want you, and more so as they grow and gain understanding. Hang in there.
Posted on January 11, 2012, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged domestic violence, feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.