Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Women Love Bad Boys (and Why Bad Boys Hate Them)

Before I delve into my theory about why too many women love "bad boys", I feel a need to add several disclaimers.

First -- This is my opinion, based on years of observation, books and articles I've read, and conversations with both women and men about this intriguing "phenomenon." If you are offended by someone having an opinion, well, this might not be the blog post you should read. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and my opinion, as controversial as it might be to some people, is what it is. Take it or leave it. Preferably without labels on who you think I might be.

Second -- My opinion is not an indication that I think poorly of women. Far from the case. In fact, if women want to blame anyone for offering a negative view of women, they need to focus their wrath on the creators of the Sex and the City movies. I saw the first one on DVD out of curiosity and was shocked that women went to that movie (and its sequel) in huge sisterhood gatherings. The women in that film and television series perpetuate the worst stereotype of women as shallow, phony, materialist, whiny, and just as sex-obsessed as men. If women aren't offended by the way their gender was presented on the big screen, then nothing I say should even be considered remotely offensive. How about a positive portrayal of women, such as in the film Contact or the television series Commander in Chief? The women of Sex and the City are as representative of women as the men of The Hangover are representative of men. Both films perpetuate the worst gender stereotypes imaginable.

Third -- I believe honesty is important and no one should be attacked for sharing an honest opinion. I share this theory not because I have a low opinion of women. I'm just frustrated to see women fall into the same traps without realizing the harm they are causing to themselves in the long run. How many famous examples must be displayed on the front covers of various tabloids before women with a bad boy fixation get the hint?!? If we can't be honest about the peculiar quirks of our gender, when will we ever understand each other and stop the "battle of the sexes"? It truly breaks my heart when I see an intelligent woman get sucked into a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship with a "bad boy."

So...what is it about "bad boys" anyway, that has some women's hearts aflutter? Last Friday, a colleague at work and I went to lunch and I decided to ask his thoughts on the matter. He got his degree in psychology and he's a big believer in evolutionary biology. His view on women being attracted to bad boys boils down to our evolutionary instinct. We are animals, after all. Bad boys have the kind of aggressive physical prowess that women subconsciously seek out because of the need to be protected and reproduce. Nice guys are viewed as the wimps who would get sand kicked in his face at the beach by a buff stud aiming to steal the lady away.

One thing I don't understand about women is the pretending to be offended by sexuality, when a chick flick like Sex and the City revels in it. The aggression of a bad boy might fulfill the sexual yearnings of women who have a bad boy fixation, but it comes at a price. The aggressive Alpha Male type generally does not view women as an equal, but merely a thing to be conquered. One would think that women who want to be respected as equals, yet have an attraction to bad boys would realize the futility of this.

I'm not entirely convinced that the evolutionary biology is the explanation for this phenomenon. It may play a role, but so does history. This is where my opinion is considered controversial by feminists, because my theory is that historically, women had to confine their "power" to the ability to influence their husbands and in the raising of their sons. Women are the civilizing aspect of men's brutish nature. Having seen quite a few of my more macho friends tamed (or "domesticated") in marriage has been amusing to watch. Before anyone accuses me of being the originator of the belief that women civilize men, let me just say that the ancient Greeks beat me to it. Aristophanes wrote a play called Lysistrata, which is about the brilliant idea that Greek wives had to refuse making love with their warring husbands until they put an end to their killing nonsense. It could be considered the world's first anti-war play! Imagine that, though. Women refusing to have sex with their husbands until the husband does what the wife wants! In modern day parlance, that is why men are shown the couch if the wife is mad at him. You ever hear about the man making the woman sleep on the couch? Maybe in abusive relationships, not a healthy one.

Having served on two all male ships in the Navy and one ship with a co-ed crew, I certainly learned the difference in how men and women behave. Men are often cruder towards one another when no women are present. A woman enters the equation and all the sudden, men compete with one another to impress the ladies and generally behave better. Women do have a civilizing effect on men and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe that God created men and women with unique characteristics and one of the points of a lifelong committed relationship is that both genders will "soften the edges" of the other. I had my own problems with working in an all-male environment, as I often found the joking and tastes of other guys to be coarse, crude, and unnecessarily rude. Now, having worked in a mostly female dominated office, I have encountered the other extreme: excessive cattiness, gossip, tattling, and boring conversations about celebrity scandals. Perhaps I'm far too gender balanced that women don't see me as a challenge, because there's nothing to civilize or "tame." My favourite workplace was in D.C. where there was an equal ratio of men and women in the office and the conversation was generally professional (it helped that politics was our business). I didn't have to endure the crude joking of my male colleagues nor the banal conversations of gossipy women. We were all interested in ideas and politics.

Is it an indication that women are "power hungry" because I believe that women have for far too long gotten used to the only power society allowed them to have? Its not too difficult for anyone to understand the thrill that comes when you have been a huge factor in changing the life of another person. If someone became a better person because of their friendship or relationship to someone else, isn't that a flattering indication of your ability to inspire positive changes in other people? This is a great power to have because its entirely free will. You're not forcing someone else to change. They do it because they want to.

This is probably a big part of the appeal of Avatar, and the reason why so many Baby Boomer women LOVED this movie. A "bad boy" gave up his entire species and civilization to be with the woman who changed his world and gave his life meaning. What's even more amazing is that James Cameron has a reputation for being a prick who can't stay married and who has created some of the most violent films ever made (Terminator and Terminator 2), yet he made the ultimate "chick flick" in Titanic and Avatar. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow won the first Best Director Oscar awarded to a woman for a masculine themed movie (The Hurt Locker). Perhaps this is a sign of things to come...where gender stereotypes will be blurred. However, I'm still willing to bet that there are more women who go to see a raunchy guy's comedy like The Hangover or Wedding Crashers than men who go to see chick flicks like Sex and the City or the Twilight series.

If women have the inexplicable "bad boy" fixation phenomenon, what's the male equivalent? I don't know too many guys who have a "bad girl" fixation, and even if some do, the physical threat doesn't seem as real as the one posed by potential bad boys on women. Some may say that my opinion on the matter of bad boys is biased because I've lost a few ladies I was really attracted to because of the bad boy persona that I couldn't compete with. Try as I do to understand the phenomenon, I don't think I truly ever will because my thinking is far too different. I have never been a person who tolerates mistreatment by anyone. If I don't like the way a person treats someone, I basically treat them as they don't exist. It has unnerved people who have encountered my cold, unfriendly personality. I simply can't imagine being in a relationship with a "bad girl" who is verbally or physically abusive. Perhaps I have too much self-respect and I'm not desperate enough to be in a relationship with just anyone. However, if I am attracted to a woman and lose her to a bad boy, if she came to her senses and decided that I was the right guy after all, I would have a difficult time respecting her. If a lady can't respect herself and gets sucked into an abusive relationship with a bad boy, why should anyone respect her? Is it sexist to feel this way? I don't think so. Just an indication of my disappointment.

So, let's transcend our evolutionary biology. We may have animal bodies, with the carnal desires it craves, but we also have a brain in which to override our subconscious desires. The male gender may be physically attracted to bimbos in perfect hourglass bodies, but for me, intelligence really does matter. I'm always smitten whenever I hear a lady talking about ideas rather than petty gossip. Take it from me, I would choose an intelligent woman with an average body over a brainless bimbo who looks perfect in a bikini. I would love to see more women rejecting the bad boy in favor of the nice guy for a change. Nice guys are not boring and dysfunctional relationships with the possibility of real abuse is not true excitement. Boredom is for people who lack imagination. If you are an intelligent woman, you have value and are worth more than anything some bad boy could ever give you. Besides, a bad boy would be threatened by your intelligence anyway and physical violence is the way such a person keeps you beneath him.

Life is too short to deny yourself a healthy relationship with a guy who treats you as a complete equal.