What's so good about the 'bad boy'?

A discussion on whether or not the attractiveness of the bad boy is a reflection of patriarchal constraints on women

Erin Fox
8th December 2021
Image: IMDb
At some point or another, the comment “we all like a bad boy” (sound familiar?) will have been thrown into conversation, and I can guarantee that at least one person agreed with it. At the time, this overall consensus might have been brushed over, but maybe it’s time to consciously think about the ‘bad boy’ more closely.

Everyone, including myself, can recognise the ‘bad boy’ from a mile away - whether they are strutting on the big screen, breaking hearts in books, or simply catching your eye on a crowded street – they capture your attention. With their tousled hair, chiselled body, and brooding persona, what else can women do but swoon? But the question that everyone wants the answer to remains -  what makes the ‘bad boy’ so attractive when there are plenty of suitable partners out there in the world?

There is an endless list of expectations for women to abide by, and it can be considered taboo to deviate from the set-out plan created by said expectations. From having a successful career, being in a stable relationship, and the eventual dropping of hints about starting a family, women’s lives are dictated by everyone else’s desires. When all of this pressure becomes too much, who can women look to for a sense of escapism?

The attraction to the bad boy, therefore, represents the side to them that women feel is unexpressed.

Cue the slo-mo entrance of the bad boy - bringing unpredictability, excitement and rebellion into a mundane life (whilst simultaneously looking extremely hot) and changing up the game. With zero expectations and an adventurous aura, obviously a woman would want to risk it all for a chance to be with them, even if it’s not necessarily the right choice.

In fact, according to PhD psychologist and co-author of Smart Girls in the 21st Century, women do possess traits such as rebelliousness. However, these traits are suppressed during childhood, and women are socialised into being compliant and agreeable – hence the step-by-step life plan ingrained into their lives. The attraction to the bad boy, therefore, represents the side to them that women feel is unexpressed, and that when with him they have the chance to vicariously reveal their adventurous side.

Image: IMDb

Furthermore, a study published by Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012 stated that during ovulation, women found themselves thinking that sexy ‘bad boys’ were more likely to become loyal partners and better dads in the future, compared to the ‘reliable’ male counterpart. Apparently, these so-called 'bad boys’ of the world exhibit masculine qualities that may lead to some form of commitment. Yet the short time frame of this thought process indicates that when the rose-tinted glasses come off, Mr. Right is actually the exact opposite, and the bad boy persona just won’t cut it anymore.

So, the ‘bad boy’ may not be a long-term aspect of a person’s life, and romanticising them as Mr. Right might not be a reasonable expectation. However, the thrill of escaping reality even for a short amount of time breaks up the monotony women constantly experience, giving them a chance to feel free from the constraints in their lives.

And yes, you can continue to gush over the fictitious, mysteriously unavailable bad boys with a soft spot for that one girl – I know I will.

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