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Those Bad Boys & The Women Who Love Them

19 Apr

The most viral answer to any question I’ve ever offered - it’s been all over the internet several times over in the past few years - was the answer I gave to “Why do nice girls fall for bad boys?”.
I answered this in my erstwhile capacity as special mental health professional advisor to that plucky superhero, Breakup Girl (“When it’s over, she’ll be right over”), created by the ingenious Lynn Harris. I was reminded of my old gig when I began working on the new CD for heartbreak, abandonment and betrayal.

I suspect one reason this was such a popular Q and A was the way Lynn so brilliantly translated my hypotheses into her own dazzling, zippy, GenX prose.  Here it is, one more time.  Breakup Girl writes:

To the degree that they do, why do women go for bad boys? Our own badass professional Belleruth has been good enough to help with some educated guesses.

  1. Jesus/Gigolo. That is, the girl version of the Madonna/Whore complex. Says Belleruth: "In order for the deliciousness of pure lust to be 'okay,' it has to be for the symbolic bad boy who has nothing to do with the rest of your life, so you can crank up your animal impulses, worry-free." Freudification: "The Oedipal/Electra urge with the opposite-sexed parent hasn't been worked out, so you can't make a guy the object of lust unless he's way, way not like dad."

  2. Steerage. "Social distance can make sex more erotic and in a sense 'safe', because you're not gonna marry this tootsie anyway. Brings out the uninhibited in a girl. So who cares if you're properly accessorized and eating with the right fork? He don't." Larger context: overall rebellion as aphrodisiac.

  3. Florence Datingale. As in: A misguided faux-noble mission to date someone back to health? To be the one to -- claim to -- find the diamond in the roughneck? "Some find rescue with a fillip of social superiority sexy," says Belleruth. (For the guy version -- call him Nightingale in Shining Armor -- see The Handyman.)

  4. "Low self-esteem." As in: some sort of "Hurt me! Ignore me! You're right, drugs are more interesting than I am! I am undeserving of anyone warmer than the Great Santini!" impulse. Maybe ... partly. But don't we shake our heads hardest over the [outwardly] strong, confident overachievers who get weak-kneed over Rebel Without a Library Card (Cf. "Freaks and Geeks")?

  5. The [car] chase. The challenge. That's got to be part of it. Would also help explain the badass babes in #5, who probably get bored with doe-eyed fawners.

So women: of course a little Bad ain't so bad. But when you make your choices, try your best to remember the difference between getting yourself picked up on a Harley once in a while and getting yourself put down all the time. At the very end of the day, settling is thrilling for no one.

As for you, non-bad boys, what to do? Nothing. Don't change. Be nice and good because you are, not because you're Trying. But don't be afraid to Take Charge now and then, at least in the area of calling and date-decision-making (as opposed to dragging-into-cave by her hair extensions). In any event, for God's sake don't try the opposite. For every guy who writes me to ask "why women date only jerks," there's another guy wonder how come when he tries to be a jerk, he still doesn't get laid. Call it The Booty Myth.

And so you should all take note of/heart in this Important Breakup Girl Maxim: For every guy wondering "why women date only jerks" there's a girl wondering "where all the nice guys are."

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award