A few months ago, back in the golden days of interning at PT, I read a blog post that changed my life. Scott Barry Kaufman, or as I affectionately refer to him, SBK, wrote: Do Assholes Really Finish First?
He discussed the phenomenon of women falling for "bad boys" or "assholes" and included various research to back such claims. I encourage you all to read his post if you haven't, but if you want my CliffsNotes version, feel free to park your mouse here for a moment.
SBK writes: "Bad boys tend to have lots of positive traits that come along for the ride of the badness, such as good looks, confidence, creativity, humor, charisma, high energy, and good social skills—all things women find attractive."
In terms of psychology, "the 'asshole' consists of the following traits: High Extraversion, Low Neuroticism (perhaps), Low Conscientiousness, Low Agreeableness, High Openness to Experience, and a bit of a dip into the dark triad traits (those with an extreme dark triad profile aren't considered sexually attractive)." The dark triad refers to three personality deficiencies: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
SBK also raised the question, why do girls want to be with the bad boy?
He found an answer from Michelle at Girlfriend's Planet, who eloquently put it like this: "[Bad Boys] don't really ever commit to you, therefore you're always chasing after them. The challenge! As women, we're kind of wired to think that we can change anyone, and bad boys are no exception."
It was as if SBK had come into the dressing room of my soul and had seen my naked psychological self. How utterly accurate his findings were!
Finally, an explanation for this crazy inexplicable attraction! I simply liked assholes...
Wait a minute.
I like assholes?
This is suddenly very depressing.
I quickly assess my past romantic interludes and wonder just how many of my gentleman callers were actual textbook-definition "assholes."
One, Two, Ten... err... None.
Sure they were outgoing, charming, open to new experiences, funny, handsome, maybe even a bit narcissistic, which all fits the psychological asshole profile, but they've never been Tucker Max mean to me.
Okay, so they've hurt me, but never intentionally. I think that most guys get faulted or called an "asshole" because they can't give the girl what she wants. I know I'm guilty of that. Trevor broke up with you? Oh, he's an asshole!
Really? Trevor is an asshole because he was honest about his feelings?
Perhaps, if Trevor cheated on you, berated you in public, gave you a couple of black eyes or called you a fat, ugly whore, he would earn the title, but for breaking up with you?
In fact, Trevor was a great boyfriend. He would call and leave stupid sappy voicemails, do a hysterical Kermit impression, and surprise visit you in France while you were studying abroad, because he knew you didn't want to be alone for the holidays.
Trevor was never an asshole. Neither were any of the guys I dated and then vilified as "assholes" in my dream journal. Even Eric, who cheated, wasn't an asshole. He was genuinely apologetic and vowed never to hurt me again. Of course, he did in other ways, but he had a good heart. Very rarely do guys actually want to inflict pain on you.
These guys weren't bad boys; they were just emotionally unavailable.
Non-committal, not ready for a relationship, whatever you want to call it—that's it! That's where the allure comes from. Not the bad boy himself, but his inability to commit. Even good guys exhibit this quality. Arguably the best guy of them all, Edward Cullen, also has commitment issues. Yes, he loved Bella, but he did leave her behind in a vampire-susceptible forest. What was up with that?
Maybe for me, it boils down to this old saying, you always want what you can't have.
Women want some chase, some drama, some intrigue. If it's too easy to get the guy, then she might think, "Wait, he just fell into my lap. This is fishy. Maybe he thinks that I'm too good for him. Cool. I'm too good for him. Wait, if I'm too good for him, then that means I could do better. Next!"
I hate to say this, but this thought has crossed my mind (and I'm sure others' as well) more than once. The allure of the emotionally unavailable guy is that he doesn't think the girl is worth committing to, not yet anyway, which can be construed as, "you're not good enough for me," which automatically makes the girl want to be "good enough." So she starts chasing the guy, when she damn well knows that she shouldn't.
This part is what Michelle refers to as "the challenge."
Oh, the challenge!
How do you overcome this challenge? Is there an eHow on this? I'd be happy to read it. Dr. Drew? Oprah? SBK? Anyone?
At the very least, it's comforting to know that I'm not inexorably drawn to assholes, just non-committals.
Wait a minute...