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November 15, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Stiffed and stiffer: undervalued men and the Faludis who feel their pain; Gore and the Wolf who tells him to lead the pack. Zephead Daniel in Freaks and Geeks. Fight Club. Brock.

I'm thinking it's a good time to talk about:

Bad Boys.

And the women who love them.

Who, I hasten add, are only a subset of our gender. I mean, I wouldn't kick James Dean or Johnny Depp out of my VCR, but it's not like they or their real-life likenesses conjure up my wildest dreams of ... commitment. Well, maybe I'm getting old. But really, BG honestly cannot remember a single time when a friend said,"Okay, here's the dish. He was four hours late and monosyllabic except when he insulted my work at the soup kitchen. He blew clove smoke in my face even though I told him I was allergic, and refused to pay because he "left his wallet in his van," which is also his apartment. He will be mine."

Also: (1) look at the boys we're swooning hardest for these days: Ricky Martin, the Backstreet Boys, Pikachu. They're about as Good as it gets; (2) men date jerks too (male and female). Could be it's a stupid human trick?; and finally (3) check your perspective: are all those "jerks" out there really bad people, or are they just "jerks" 'cause they got your girl?

'Cause all-bad isn't good for all of us. I dare say that for many women, our dreamiest-boat is our version of your "ideal"-combo Hooker with a Heart of Gold ("Great Cook with Abs of Steel?"). (Or Man-Guy?)

But. Now that I've duly debunked, I will also say this: Guys, when you ask me "why women date only jerks," of course I know what you're talking about. The Bad Boy thing is A Thing for a reason. Which is? Well, I'm no Helen Fisher, but it does strike me that there's a vestige here of some sort of eternal anthropolooza. Our biological imperative is to procreate (or at least go through the motions), and, well, dominance, aggression, rule-breaking and rusty Trans Ams have, over time, done the trick. If alpha-boys (who, to be fair, are not all Bad) didn't get play, we wouldn't be here. A-bit-too-simply stated, in the gene pool, "nice" doesn't float.

Of course, this leaves us with nowhere to file the bad boy sub-archetype of the shivering, brooding poet, or the fact that women love Woody Allen. Bad-boy-belles are surely making actual choices above and beyond genetics. So we ask again: 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 filip 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." (Other than, say, Pride.)



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