Do you love a bad boy?
Abby OReilly // 20 June 2008
All you heterosexual ladies out there, what do you think about this? You’re in a pub. Two men are sat at the bar. One is reading a newspaper, smiles gratefully (without making eye contact) at the barmaid who passes him his pint, and returns to his crossword. He is polite, plain and inoffensive, blending into the décor like a badly painted landscape picture. Unless he spoke to you, you wouldn’t notice him. He’s single. He’s not charismatic, and he cannot sweet talk, but he’s a nice man. He slouches. He lacks confidence. He could be attractive if he wasn’t so, well, boring. He’s had a string of relationships, treats his girlfriends well, falls in love easily, and in turn is left heartbroken every time the most recent love of his life stops returning his calls, tells him he’s too intense and refuses to relinquish his copy of The Shawshank Redemption.
At the other end of the bar sits a man surrounded by ladies. He arrived with the blonde on the right, but is preoccupied with the brunette on the left while the little non-descript blonde strokes his chest and whispers to him. She fails to move him beyond nonchalance. He stares at the barmaid’s cleavage as she passes him his drink, grinning when she blushes and looks at him, embarrassed and horrified. He grins, refuses to look away and says nothing. He assumes she fancies him: he could have her if he wanted. If a woman has some flesh on show, it’s his right to look, of course. The other girls fawn over him, but when his mobile rings he stands-up, shakes them off like flakes of dandruff and takes it, no apologies or explanation offered. He has a lot of women, but is not in a relationship. He doesn’t want one woman no matter how much she begs him. He offers love sentiments like sweeties, saying what he needs in order to provoke the desired response to fellate his vanity. He’s good looking, or at least he thinks he is, and it shows. His self-assurance is compelling as much as it is repulsive. He picks up women and drops them like stones, but yet they ache for more.
So, you walk into this bar. Mr Nice Guy is still sat alone, reading the newspaper and pondering over 21 down, in a ploy to make himself look less like a loner and more like someone at ease in his own company. He’s not. Mr Bad Boy has returned, takes up his seat and finishes his drink offering nothing more than the claim of “business” as the young girls continue to paw and vie for his attention, while he’s completely preoccupied with the gorgeous young strumpet that’s just walked in (you!). What do you do? He smiles at you, you feel attractive, and yet can sense he’s callous, self—obsessed and likely to fuck you and chuck you (words he’d probably use if willing to speak openly) before you’ve had chance to catch your breath. If you had to, which one would you choose?
Now, forget the bar setting, and forget my (frankly) awful attempts at trying to epitomise this idea, but while the sensible, safe option would be to go with the crossword geek, why is it that the vast majority of us are still overwhelmingly attracted to the spiteful, vain, indifferent types who are likely to use us sexually, treat us badly and break our hearts? Not my words, the words of Mr Peter Jonason, Scientist at New Mexico State University in the United States. Well, maybe not his words exactly, but this is the essence of his argument, citing James Bond as the perfect example of the cad who gets the ladies:
He’s clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things – killing people, new women.
While Ian Fleming’s fictional creation makes for good viewing, let’s not forget that Bond is a character that exists on paper – in novels, film scripts – he is not real. And to list “killing people” as a throwaway interest that apparently enhances Bond’s sex appeal (although I know he does only kill the “baddies”), can’t really be used as a prototype for real life because if such a character were to exist, rolling around the UK, killing those with facial disfigurements, disabilities, penchants for cats and clear psychological disorders culminating in their desire to take over the World, then I’m sure, aside from the fact the recruitment process for the Civil Service would be brought into disrepute, he would be arrested. He would be considered a psychopath. (Plus, wasn’t his throaway babe attitude towards women and relationships fostered by the fact he was burned by a woman who betrayed him? Isn’t he just a man launching an assault on the female sex in order to prevent himself from getting hurt once again? And did this revelation make Bond less attractive?) I’ll stop being facetious and will try to look at this logically, and assess the attributes with which Bond is invested that can be transferred to the everyday man. OK, he’s independent, confident and saturated in self-belief. He’s a charmer, intelligent, and isn’t afraid to use violence if the situation presents itself, and always wins. If you were with Bond and some other cheeky young scamp tried to woo you or feel you up you know JB would have him by the nuts. While you’re with him and he wants you, he will treat you with respect, albeit superficially. He considers women as nothing more than disposable goods, while at the same time treating the one he is with as the most beautiful sensual thing ever to exist. Other women envy you when you’re with him, but can’t handle him themselves. Sounds good and bad, no? So what’s the problem? Well, he doesn’t really mean it. He is ruled by his desire to get laid, to conquer, to be the first to have the stand-offish stunning woman who everyone wants but only a few will get. Is it true that we want strong men, men who will take what they want when they want it? Do we really want to loose control? And by default, do we find something gratifying about being treated badly? About pouring our heart and soul into a few clumsy encounters with a man we adore, only to be tossed aside like a dirty old porn mag? Or rather to we like the bad boys because we hope upon hope that somehow we will be able to change them? We hope that he will become so enamoured with us that he will be forced to change his wily ways – he’ll simply be unable not to, and in this respect is it not our own vanity that comes into play?
As part of his research Jonason subjected 200 male college students to stringent personality tests, designed to determine the strength of their so-called “dark triad traits.” These traits include self-obsession, vanity, callousness and deceit, to name a few. These men were also probed about their attitude towards sexual relationships, including the number of sexual partners they had and whether or not they enjoyed one-night stands. Putting aside the fact that sexual promiscuity is something women, as well as men, enjoy at university (and indeed can at anytime should they so wish) – sex without strings – Jonason’s results found that men who ranked highly for their dark triad traits had more sexual partners and more interest in short-term relationships and flings. I wonder also to what extent Jonason took into account the possibility of error. If these men were shown to be arrogant through personality testing (plus they were college boys, after all) is it not highly likely that these bright young things will have been stretching the truth regarding their sexual vivacity and experiences and, say, lying their arses off to impress their interviewers? How accurate can the results of any testing like this be? Jonason’s findings were supported by the work of Professor David Schmitt of Bradley University, Illinois, whose study of 35,000 people in 57 countries found a direct correlation between man’s sexual success with women and their dark triad personality traits. Schmitt said:
It’s universal across cultures for high dark triad scorers to be more active in short-term mating. They are more likely to try and poach other people’s partners for a brief affair.
“Poach other people’s partners:” Is anyone else getting flashbacks to the animal channel? Imagining fully-grown women sat in bird’s nests waiting for the male to return, his cock flying overhead like a delicious worm, as these ladies scramble for it, before some other hopeful sweeps in and takes them? Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds a bit too much like the Animal Channel. The implication that women can be passed around, used, and taken by a variety of men as a sexual commodity by the scientist involved in this research suggests the sexism inherent in the industry. This sweeping statement totally fails to appreciate a woman has her own consciousness with the capacity to make her own decisions despite what “science” considers her to find irresistible. But, back to the so-called “evidence:” in general, we are more attracted to the narcissistic bad guy, but why? The science behind it claims that we equate these negative attributes with masculinity, and therefore believe that such cads are more likely to father healthy children, the cads in turn being given the opportunity to spread their seed far and wide without the obligation of attending parent’s evening. But there is no empirical information to prove this. This is nothing more than speculation, and why is it that everything scientists endeavour to investigate regarding male-female relationships has to be entwined with a woman’s fertility and her allegedly inherent desire to procreate? Yes, we may be attracted to these men, we may have one-night stands with them, but we may also get up in the morning go home (or kick them out) satisfied that last night we got laid fantastically by someone we actually quite fancied, and think no more about it.
But how does this translate in the real world? Well, I’ll put my hands up to this one. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I’ve always been attracted to arrogant men. By which I mean men harbouring an inflated sense of their own self-importance and a tendency towards indifference. I don’t know why: if it’s because it poses a challenge, and I hope I can change these men, break them down and rebuild them, it can’t be helped. I find confidence a big turn-on, and I like the idea of being with a man other women covet and want. It must be an ego boost to think you’ve been chosen by someone who could have whoever he wants, even though you quickly realise you’re one of many and not even at the top of the list, but squeezed somewhere at the bottom between collecting laundry and getting a hair-cut. There is something strangely attractive about the callous man. Why? I don’t know. In reality I would not like this, I would feel used, and it would be unacceptable. In fact, I would try my best to ensure this does not happen. Yet this, like Bond, is something belonging to a dream (nightmare?) world, and while I am attracted to these men I try to have enough control over my feelings to realise that a brief fling would never be anything more than that, so why not enjoy them? I consider myself, like many women my age and older, to be an independent and confident, and surely with this independence comes the capacity to have my own fantasies, my own desires, and my own choice to act on them. This is an attraction based simply on lust and fantasy, and the belief that someone with these characteristics could satisfy my sexual desires. I’m not saying that this is the case for everybody, but having a one-night stand with a man confident enough with his body to be liberated in the bedroom and take control would, I imagine for me, be pleasurable. So while, for the sake of vanity, these men love to feel they’ve left women around the world broken hearted, is it not true that many women only really want horrible self-centred men as living sex toys rather than for keeps? Is it not true that women are now feeling empowered to take what they want? And is it not the arrogance of these men that makes them assume they are the be all and end all of any woman’s life they enter, rather than owing to any proof? While the empirical information puts emphasis on the fact these men have one-night stands, and casual relationships, what they ignore is the fact that the women they are involved with are doing the same thing! Why is it the woman always has to be positioned as the used, and the man as the user? While admittedly women are the victims of a lot of injustice in the twenty-first century (and this is by no means the worst), the fact that we are repeatedly denied our fantasies and sexual desires by the popular press means that it still remains unacceptable for us to actively pursue them.
What’s interesting (and frustrating) is the way a publication like The Daily Mail (male) deals with these findings. It almost relishes the idea that women can still be controlled by their base carnal desires to such an extent that they will give it all up for men who actually couldn’t give a shit about them. The implication is that we are weak, they are strong, that we are the victims, they are the victors, that this is the way it is, has always been and always will be. We’re painted as a victim of our need to find prospective fathers for our babies, and men championed as heroes for getting their leg over despite being self-interested, ignorant tossers. What’s more offensive akin to these sweeping generalisations is the failure to recognise the nuances of a woman’s sexual preferences. It we like the bad boy, then we can’t like the nice boy. However, while the old adage that “nice guys finish last” has been dusted off and thrust back into the gender politics circuit, is it not true that while us ladies may not want a kind thoughtful man as a shag-buddy or a one-night stand, we are more likely to want to settle down and build a life with them? Is it not true that while the patriarchal womaniser may get more action, the nice guy gets consistency and quality and love, and so is the latter not in a better position? Sort of like the tortoise and the hare: while the nice-guy has a slow start, doesn’t push himself onto the ladies and generally goes with the flow, he finally meets a woman and has a loving, meaningful relationship whereas the hare, quick of the mark, fucks everyone and everything along the way, getting de toured en route by a need to get his ego massaged once again by a cacophony of different women, and so he never gets one for keeps. While The Daily Male uses this information to infer nice guys may as well give up and start treating women as cock socks in order to get what they want, nice guys certainly do not finish last. Surely we women are allowed to indulge our sexual attractions towards men we may not necessarily like as people just to get a gratifying lay – so why is it that this has to be seen as having bigger implications than necessary? Nice guys, don’t use this as justification to launch a deceitful and downright spiteful sexual tirade against us, just be patient and give us space!
But, as always, I’d be interested to know what everyone else thinks. What do we want?