Love & Sex Magazine

Bad Boys

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

Power is the great aphrodisiac.  -  Henry Kissinger

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions why women are attracted to “bad boys”, even when those men are abusive; sometimes the question is phrased the opposite way around, “why aren’t women attracted to nice guys?”  As most of my readers are probably aware, the subject recurs on the internet with monotonous regularity, and has given rise to several stupid theories among self-declared “nice guys”, a number of even stupider responses from feminists and an entire method of girl-getting known as “Game” (which I’m sure works quite well for attracting silly, immature amateur women who don’t know the true value of their favors).  So far I’ve refrained from commenting much about the subject in columns, though it has come up in comment threads a few times; however, when regular reader Dean Clark sent me a link to this recent article about an extreme manifestation of the syndrome, I felt it was time to share a few brief thoughts on it.

First Court Hearing Held For Alleged CO Movie Theater Shooter…James Holmes— the “Dark Knight” shooter who killed 12 people and injured 58 others…at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado…[has a number of female fans and] a Facebook page called ”We Care About James Holmes”…[accused murderer] Joran van der Sloot told reporters that he was being inundated  with love letters and offers to bear his children.  [Convicted murderer] Scott Peterson…received countless letters  from women proposing marriage.  Even serial killer Ted Bundy reportedly had hundreds of romantic pen pals while incarcerated.  And today, a disturbing crop of websites like PrisonPenPals, WriteaPrisoner.com, and ConvictMailbag.com has even emerged for women attracted to inmates…

…the desire to be associated with dangerous men may have evolutionary roots. Back in caveman days, men who placed themselves in dangerous situations (i.e.: fighting a saber-toothed tiger) were thought to have valuable sperm.  And there’s a chemical component too:  When people engage in…scary situations they experience a rush of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical that can feel addicting…Then there’s the fame factor…Sheila Isenberg, author of Women Who Love Men Who Kill [says]…”If you want to get together with a celebrity, Brad Pitt won’t answer your letters but Scott Peterson might well”…And finally, for women who have suffered domestic abuse, crushing on a killer could be a victim’s way of…[controlling] a relationship…[psychologist Michael Aamodt says] “When you’re dating an inmate, he needs you more than you need him. You can leverage power over him by threatening to not visit or write”…One recent study…found that men who possess narcissistic qualities and are deceitful thrill-seekers have more…sexual partners than their more stable counterparts. Researchers credit the success of these men to a mating strategy which allows them to increase their reproductive potential by having sex with many women, without bothering to stick around and help with child-rearing…

I’m very skeptical of the claim about fame, and extremely skeptical of the one about power games.  Though any celebrity is going to attract women simply because he’s a celebrity, women can’t “choose” to be attracted to someone any more than men can, and a woman attracted to Brad Pitt can’t simply say, “Gee, since he won’t answer I’ll just crush on a famous murderer instead.”  Aamodt’s theory relies on a similar belief in women’s power over their own feelings; though I believe his statement that “victims of domestic abuse are among the most passionate pen pals of incarcerated killers,” he has confused correlation with causation.  It’s not that a history of abusive relationships causes a woman to seek out incarcerated murderers to love; it’s that her psychology causes her to be attracted to violent men, either in or out of prison.

Rebel Without a CauseThe true answer is the evolutionary one: most women are attracted to strength and confidence in men, and prefer leaders to followers (which is why celebrity is attractive).  Leaders make rules, and followers obey them; therefore many women find “bad boys” who break the rules more attractive than “nice guys” who dutifully comply.  In earlier times, there were plenty of ways a man could demonstrate his leadership without being thrown in jail, but due to universal criminality that is less true every year.  The plethora of ridiculous, arbitrary laws, rules and regulations which characterize modern societies (especially the US) are extremely emasculating; the more a man adheres to them, the less attractive many women will find him.  So while in the past women had plenty of strong-but-decent men to choose from, that pool has been dramatically reduced because men hide their strength to keep jobs and avoid cops and lawsuits; women who are not themselves able to attract a member of that diminished pool will often take whatever strong man they can get, even if he’s abusive or criminal.  In other words, it isn’t that they prefer “bad  boys”; it’s just that they prefer them to boys they perceive as weak.  For any given sexual attractant, however, there are extreme forms; while many men like big tits, some men only like really huge tits.  And though most women just want a man who will stand up for himself (and her), a few are only attracted to men who make all of their own rules.  This sort of woman tends to be attracted to thugs and criminals, many of whom end up in prison; and since murderers (especially those who kill for no reason) are the ultimate rule-breakers, some women are going to find them very attractive without really understanding why.


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