I’m sure you’ve run into both of these breeds around campus. First there are the tall, buff, popular guys often sporting their football warm-ups with perfectly messy locks, flashing their toothpaste commercial-worthy smiles. Then there are the “beta” males. Instead of jerseys, they rock collared button-downs tucked into their khakis or T-shirts with math and video game references plastered on the front. You won’t see them strutting around campus like celebrities, as they’re usually tucked away in the library or their dorms. While you might seek them out while cramming the night before an exam, they’re not exactly the first people you call when you’re looking for something fun to do on a Friday night.
Yet these geeks, nerds, and dorks (or whatever other social label you want to stick on them) are becoming coveted for more than their brains. Beneath their glasses and moments of awkwardness lies desirable boyfriend material… or does it? Contrary to the movies we’ve grown up with of girls drooling over the hunks while heartlessly rejecting their nerdy secret admirers, people will now often tell you to forget about the hot popular guys because the geeky ones actually make the best boyfriends. But is there really any truth behind this advice and how many of us actually believe it?
According to My Calculations
In true geek fashion, let’s approach this in a logical, calculated, and organized manner, shall we? Though you probably aren’t doing a double take when you pass them on your way to class, nerdy guys do possess several qualities that girls often look for in a boyfriend.
With the exception of those slightly irritating smart alecks, intelligence is a plus. It shows that the guy has something more permanent to offer than good looks, which we know do not last forever (unless he’s George Clooney, of course). You’ll benefit from his wits if you’re ever in a pinch and feel confident relying on his support. As Wanda, a student at University of Rochester, states, “A guy who is able to hold a conversation is way more impressive than a guy who makes heads turn.” He’ll also appreciate your intelligence and “respect you, your career goals and interests.” And if you’re looking to the future, Robert from Brooklyn College also throws out the potentially high future salary earnings that geeks are likely to acquire, which, while not the most important thing to consider, is definitely not a bad thing either.
Because a typical geeky guy often hangs with a smaller group of friends instead of parading around as the big man on campus, he knows how to spend quality time with a few close people and isn’t busy splitting his time among dozens of friends and acquaintances in order to maintain his popularity. This can translate to a boyfriend who is more likely to be sympathetic and understanding, and will give you the attention you deserve. Plus, “people forget that being geeky doesn’t mean you have to live in a basement with your parents,” says Matthew from University of Rochester. “Geek” doesn’t need to imply the opposite extreme and become synonymous with hermit. Instead, it means he can be in the moment with you rather than preoccupied with a laundry list of other social engagements.
High school may be over but rumors and drama certainly aren’t. Whether you go to small school or are submerged in a sea of cliques at a larger university, we all know that people still gossip. Maintaining a level of privacy can be difficult, but dating a geeky guy who isn’t the center of attention means you can worry a little less about others talking about your personal life. Sierra, a junior at Stanford University, also warns that others might also “assume you’re a certain type of girl if you are dating the popular guy.” Less popular guys have fewer social webs and sticky situations for you to get caught in. Jamie, a junior at Hobart William Smith, has learned from personal experience: “While I saw my girlfriends being hurt by the ‘popular guys’ day in and day out, I was content with my boyfriend, who would be considered on the ‘geek’ side of the spectrum, who treated me with respect and didn’t feed into the drama that often accompanies social scenes.”
We’ve had our own personal experiences but as with any nerdy investigation, we should consider scientific evidence as well. If the stereotypes are true and those hot alpha males fit the bill as narcissists feeding off the attention their looks and confidence attract, then geeks offer the potential for a much healthier relationship from a psychological standpoint.
Judith Orloff, MD, author of Emotional Freedom, reveals that narcissists can be “so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love.” Her professional advice? “Don’t fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they’re capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. Also, don’t expect to have your sensitivity honored.” This classic symptom of the hot popular guy, especially when he’s fully aware of his reputation on campus, is a factor that pushes women to seek the geeky guy as an alternative.
A healthy and balanced relationship also “simultaneously provides us with the safety and comfort of a fall back position, while allowing us the complete freedom to figure it out for ourselves,” according to Michael J. Formica of Psychology Today. The need for both of these components can also drive us toward a geekier guy because we worry less about all the “what ifs?” and hypothetical situations that always seem to come up with hot guys who we know other girls are eyeing too. We have enough to worry about with classes and friends, so this sense of stability leads us to associate geeks with a more secure and therefore attractive relationship.
Other Variables to Consider
The final step when trying to confirm or debunk a myth, as any geek will tell you, is to consider what you haven’t accounted for. The fact is that although stereotypes are rooted in some truth, meaning many assumptions we make about geeks may be correct, they can’t be accepted without caution. Guys rarely fit perfectly into the cookie cutter labels we throw around, and college environments provide so much freedom and flexibility to constantly grow and change that it is nearly impossible to distinctly categorize guys as one type.
The geeks we think of have many qualities in common that may be attractive, but to say that all geeks make great boyfriends is still a stretch. You could consider the negative stereotypes that geeks face, including being socially awkward, not relatable, too engulfed in their own interests, and having low self-esteem, but in the end, it’s not so much about a one type versus the other as it is about the personality traits that we associate with each. Solely focusing on labels, while they may guide our love interests, blinds us to the unique traits that free people from social molds and allow us to better gauge how successful a relationship may be.
Plus, there are even several types of geeks, from those who just love what they do to those who are a little socially inept, acknowledges John, a sophomore at Princeton University, so in the end “there is always the biggest factor – compatibility. Some girls will just naturally be drawn towards the hot guy who is the life of the party, while others will be drawn towards the slightly awkward cute guy who wouldn’t mind watching a chick flick.”
We can’t forget about our own personalities because a relationship takes two and we even have our own labels to deal with. Letting our interactions with guys and personal preferences guide our relationships instead of the pressures of dating a certain type will give us the best chance to establish a successful and lasting relationship. A geeky guy will make the best boyfriend for some of us, while the hot popular guy will for others, but if you don’t keep your options open and follow your own intuition, chances are you might miss him, no matter who he is.
Do some more research on these beta males by checking out some of our favorite “Other Guys” featured by Her Campus Contributing Writer Jessica Goldstein, proving that there may be more to those overlooked guys on the sidelines than you may think.
Judith Orloff, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, author of Emotional Freedom
Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM
Wanda, University of Rochester undergraduate
Robert*, Brooklyn College undergraduate
Matthew, University of Rochester undergraduate
Sierra*, Stanford University undergraduate
Jamie, Hobart William Smith undergraduate
John, Princeton University undergraduate
*Name has been changed by request.