I once dated a guy named “Trouble.” Why? So, I could say I dated a guy named “Trouble,” naturally. I know, I know. Dumber than a sack full of Barbies. But, I figure if I’m going to address the whole “BAD BOY” conundrum – you know, get into the whys, wherefores and all the various and sundry reasons women cannot escape the irresistible pull of the B.B., I might as well put all my business on Front Street now, so you know I’m in this thing with you. That’s right, sweet things. I speak to you not as some objective, disinterested reporter here, but sadly, as just another random casualty of the ol’ Bad Boy charm. Yes, y’all. I know. That mess is like KRYPTONITE, fo’ real. And, while I’m in my confessional mode, I may as well go on and admit that Trouble ain’t the only-est Bad Boy to have turned this sister’s head, and he probably won’t be the last **sigh**
Well, we can’t say Mama didn’t warn us, right? Bad boys are bad news! They are (or can be) cocky, arrogant, narcissistic, disrespectful, misogynistic, irresponsible, two-timing, crass, non-returning-phonecall somebodies. And, although I do not know you personally, I’ll step out on a limb and wager that at least a few of y’all have known fellas who fit the above descriptions. Hmmm? Perhaps someone you’ve dated way back in your impulsive youth? Fess up. If we were to go digging around in your proverbial Love Closet, how many of the skeletons would be rockin’ biker helmets, broken noses, gold fronts and assorted piercings on their naughty bits? Mmm hmmm. Thought so.
But, the thing is, Bad Boys are not all bad, are they – or else why would we fall for them so hard time after time? They are also (or can be) hella exciting, irresistible, sexually assertive, fascinating, extroverted, independent, protective, virile, dramatic and a challenge (ding, ding, ding, ding – a complicated woman’s favorite word!) And, the reasons why women want to be with them are as complex and multi-faceted as Bad Boys themselves. But, might as well start with the obvious…
Low Self-Esteem? Maybe Not
The easy, psycho babble answer to any question about why the women do what we do is always low self-esteem, ain’t it? Yeah, yeah. I know. In this generation full of broken homes and hearts (the children‘s), abandonment and daddy issues, many young women’s sense of self worth has taken a licking. Too many of our daughters come from homes that would be categorized as “dysfunctional.“ Too many of them internalize the unhealthy, sometimes abusive patterns they witnessed in their early lives. And, far too many of them (us) end up repeating those patterns in their adult relationships. Sure, maybe some of that is going on. I’m not even going to try to argue the point that low self-esteem doesn’t often lead to lowered expectations for what many women will accept from men in terms of bad behavior. Of course it plays some role in the Bad Boy phenomenon. But that can’t be ALL of it, can it? I know plenty of secure, smart, capable women – women who come from loving, healthy homes, who are STILL drawn to the “Bad Boy” like a bee to honey. It can leave a girl scratching her head and asking, “Why?” So, what’s up? If it’s not all about low self-esteem, then there HAS to be something else at play. And, there probably is….BIOLOGY.
The Biological Allure of The Bad Boy
Keep in mind that the extent of my “scientific” expertise here amounts to watching a couple of NOVA specials and skimming a handful of research studies……so, GRAIN OF SALT, y’all. However, having issued my disclaimer – here’s the deal: So, it turns out that most of the research over the last few decades has been pointing to the fact that women’s preference for so-called “Bad Boys” is basically hard-wired into our nature. Take a 2005 study out of Prague – which found that ovulating women preferred the scent of “dominant“ men (hyper-masculine, testosterone-rich “Bad Boys”), leading the study’s own chair to conclude that there may be “some sort of physiological mechanism that directs women to indicators of good genes.” * Ha! A similar study found that “Bad Boys” (males with so-called “dark triad traits”) tend to get more action. Surprise, surprise. In other words, the sum total of the data out there seems to suggest that we heterosexual damsels can’t help but to be attracted to the B.B. because the very defining traits of BadBoyNESS (confidence, self-assurance, independence, assertiveness, aggression, competitiveness) are the same that women have, since the beginning of time, sought in a mate for the survival of herself and her children. Contrary to being an expression of LOW self-esteem, it’s possible that some women’s “inexplicable” fondness for Bad Boys (see Rihanna/Chris Brown) might be, in part, about self-LOVE and preservation. Heartening, right? I mean, I much prefer to think that maybe women aren’t just “getting off” on being treated like dirt, but rather are, on some primal level just seeking out the men who can best protect us from the mean ol’ saber tooth. And it makes sense, physiologically speaking anyway, because today’s modern woman is not so biologically different from Wilma Flintstone as we‘d like to believe. Doubt it? In lyrics from the Destiny’s Child hit, “Soldier”, Beyonce et al crooned longingly about only wanting a dude who was “street” with “hood” status who “wouldn’t mind takin’ one for me.” :
Taking a bullet? Hmm. Sounds like survival to me. Physiologically, many of us still get hot for the man willing to kill the saber tooth for us, and often that man comes with baggage…the label of “Thug” or “Bad Boy.“ Destiny’s Child are by no means alone in their glorification of Thug Love; so many songs from the best female crooners are thinly-veiled love letters to the “Bad Boy,” (Erykah Badu’s “Other Side of the Game“, Alicia Keyes’ ”Gangsta Love”, Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”
All is not lost, though. We’ve still got a nice little thing called REASON to balance out those pesky biological urges. And reason is hella handy when the testosterone-ridden Bad Boy that has us sprung is also a no-count loser. We can weigh the biological self-interest (me want healthy, strong, alpha male) against our logic based self-interest (give me a “good guy” who’ll treat me with respect), and high tail it if the situation becomes too unhealthy. Maybe we won’t and shouldn’t ever be able to completely immunize ourselves against the many charms of the BB. The James Deans, Tupacs, Fiddys and Rhett Butlers of the world will continue to trigger those auto-responses and keep ladies’ noses wide open. But, what we CAN do is use our own keen intuition, intellect and reason to pick out the GOOD ones – the elusive, but highly coveted GOOD Bad Boy.