Why Do Girls Go for ‘Bad Boys’?

In comments the other day, Bill Q. brought up a topic that tends to slide its way into my family’s dinner conversation from time to time:

Unfortunately, what I recall in my high-school days is that many of the girls seemed to go for the good-looking guys who treated them like dirt.

Hmmm … yes, unfortunately, I remember that, too, Bill. And my 15-year-old son brings it up a lot.

My son considers himself one of the “nice guys.” He bemoans this sad truth and simply shakes his head at the fact that many of the girls he likes tend to gravitate, instead, toward the boys who are the troublemakers, the attention-getters. The boys who shrug off authority and any kind of … well … learning.

I told him that this won’t go on forever. I passed the salt and pepper shakers and said eventually girls will see “his type” as the more desirable. (I believe he gave me that “yeah, sure, Mom” look.)

But in the meantime I was faced with the question he posed to me and my tween daughter: Why do girls go for the “bad boys”? And why has that been true for generations?

At the time neither of us had an answer. (In fact, I think we both denied it.) But later, I thought about it again and remembered some discussions I’ve participated in on romance-writing blogs, where the “bad boy” is still alive and well in many a fiction setting (usually with boxing gloves, tatoos, a motorcycle and a mysterious past). I recalled that the usual explanation of the bad boy’s allure is that he is “untamed.” And the challenge many a girl can’t resist is being the one to “tame” him. Or, more specifically, to be the one to make him feel and the one to make him love.

What do you think? Does that sound right to you? Put yourself back in your high school days and conjure up some of those “bad boys” you knew — did you have a crush on them, or did you go for the “nice guy”? What was/is their allure?

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0 thoughts on “Why Do Girls Go for ‘Bad Boys’?

  1. The allure of a bad boy for a girl in high school? One big point would be that he is the opposite of everything her parents would want for her, or expect her to have. He is the epitome of rebellion and for a lot of teen girls, that is a very attractive attribute.

  2. “Bad boys???” Well, the media and cultural bad boy of the not too distant past is somebody like Dennis Rodman. Need I say more? He’s a joke now; even with money and fame the act gets old.
    Sometimes the awesome ones get initially overlooked in favor of the more flashy ones… I don’t believe New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, was the first one picked in the NFL draft-he was picked 199th overall- and now look at him. You know who was picked number 1 one year? Ryan Leaf. Ryan who, you ask? Case closed.
    I hope our son can just keep in mind that it’s stability and and maturity that ultimately are attractive to most people after they get a little older. But then again what do I know, I am neither stable or mature- not even “bad” – so I have no idea how to attract anyone. Thank God for the “pity factor” which is how I got my wife.

  3. I went straight to the horse’s mouth–my 19-year-old daughter on this one. Sheesh. I would love our kids to talk to each other. After much confusion, it turns out our terminology was very different about what constituted a bad boy and what did not. She had a friend in high school who most every parent considered the bad boy. He was good looking but he sold drugs, had no rules (I mean no rules), and loved to party. I asked if she thought of him as a bad boy and she said no~!

    So I asked her what is a good boy. She said her boyfriend. Well, he is a good boy, but you would not know that necessarily from looking at him. He looks like he belongs in a rock and roll band, which he is. Long hair, good looking, but definitely looks kind of bad.

    So then I asked her what I most parents would consider the typical good boy. She laughed at me and said most of them are the worst. She said not to be fooled by what I thought was a good boy.

    I will have to sit down with her again and ask her what does a real good boy have to do to get the girl~!

  4. Of course, I would love to have a boy answer why he does not go after the good girls come to think of it. I am so glad high school days are in the past for me and my girls.

    What I found fascinating watching my girls though is how much easier it is now for the kids that are not part of the classic high school stereotype to still have an incredible group of friends nowadays. It seemed to me watching that the kids that would have been ostracized during my high school years now have a grand time in high school. There is more acceptance of differences, not perfect, but definitely more acceptance.

    As an adult looking back at the boys, I realize I was always attracted to the ones who were confident. They did not tiptoe through school even if they did not “fit” in. Polite is one thing, but diffidence and lack of social skills is usually off-putting to everyone. My daughter loved the “nerds” and “geeks” in school because they just did not care if they did not fit in and they rocked. A confident geek. Whodathunk it?

  5. Windy A — Welcome! Yes, you’re definitely right about that — there is that simple allure for rebellion. Simple, but true.

    Chris — Those are actually great examples of how things play out in later years. And no pity here! ; )

    Kat — Yes, that’s an interesting point. I didn’t actually define “bad boy,” did I? Like does that mean “in legal trouble” or “drug seller” or “not in honors classes”? : )

    Bill said “… who treated [girls] like dirt,” and I think my son alludes to this “indifference” also. Personally, I think of it as the kid who is bucking authority in some way (classic James Dean image).

  6. I suspect part of it is that many girls at that age are often simply more concerned with looks than character. Heck, many adult men are more concerned with a woman’s looks than her character.

    If the girl is shallow enough and the guy is good-looking enough, it’s irrelevant how nice he is. Likewise, if he isn’t good-looking enough in her opinion, it doesn’t matter how nice he is.

    Of course, part of the problem is that the “nice guys” are throwing themselves at the shallow girls, who also happen to be the girls who put the most effort into looking good.

  7. As a bachelor, I have a good amount of dating experience. While many of the aforementioned motivations of girls to be attracted to “bad boys” are entirely valid, I think it also has a lot to do with the notion that she can change him and turn him into someone that can be stable and support a family. In my experience, women want to believe they are so special to you that you will become the man they want you to be simply because she is that wonderful. At that age, girls don’t realize guys don’t change and that’s the moment that they realize guys like your son have so much more to offer.

    As for me, well I’m still waiting for the girls to see that about me… and waiting… and waiting. 🙂

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