Why Are We So Attracted to the Bad Boy (or Girl)

     Did you ever have that one really mean boy in your elementary school class? The one who would always chase you around the playground or pretend to cut your hair in the classroom. I remember once when I was younger, that boy tricked me into sticking up my middle finger in the class. I know, how could I fall for that? Well, I was in first grade and had no idea what that meant. Unfortunately for me, I got in trouble, then as I explained to my teacher why I did it and that I didn't know it was something bad, she had the weirdest response. She told me he probably has a crush on me. Of course, little Ali was disgusted, but that really stuck with me. If he liked me, why was he always so mean?

     As adults, I have watched so many people fall for someone who is stringing them along, then it hit me. It all goes back to what they told us when we were younger. We fall for the ones who are mean to us (the general "bad boy" type) because when we were little, it meant they liked us. It seems incredibly counterintuitive, but it is proven to be true. 

     The classic "bad boy" type is someone who is a bit dangerous. According to Psychology Today, most of the people who fall under this category have what is called the Dark Triad, which is narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellism (or manipulative traits). This is all to say, "bad boys" are typically a person who is manipulative, egotistical, risk-taking, lacking empathy, and pessimistic. A study was done by Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham to gauge women's views and preferences when it comes to attraction. They presented each woman with two different people, one who possessed traits of the Dark Triad, and the other who did not. The results of this study found that more often than not, the women chose the people in the Dark Triad over the control group.

     We find the idea of a "bad boy" to be exciting and fun, regardless of how toxic or mean they can be. Think about all the "hot" tv show and movie characters people fall for (Damon Salvatore, I'm looking at you). Most often, you'll find that they were actually supposed to be the villain. How could we just set aside that major detail and still find a reason to love them?

     One reason stated as a pushing factor in the study was the bad boy's confidence. These people exude confidence, most often crossing over into arrogance. It is basic human nature to be drawn towards someone who is secure and comfortable with themselves. In Carter's study, many women said their confidence is what led them to choose the bad boy. However, the real problem comes when this confidence crosses over to arrogance and narcissism.

     Another reason that they found to be true is that these bad boy charmers are better at manipulating people. When we first meet a bad boy type, most often we'll see that they are very kind and a bit mysterious, making it easy to be drawn in. However, as time goes on, the Dark Triad begins to make itself more apparent and the charm fades away. The original allure of the bad boy has disappeared. 

     Whatever the reason may be, I do know that not everyone who is mean to you likes you, and just because they are a bit toxic, doesn't mean you should like them either. You have to find someone who will love you from the start and who is happy to be with you. Now, this doesn't mean that it has to be all fairytales and roses from the second that you meet. It simply means you have to know when the "bad boy" vibes are just too strong and know that if they continue to be mean or insulting towards you, it's probably time to leave.

     The bad boys are mysterious and a bit dangerous, but they could leave someone very hurt. It is important to realize when their toxic traits are starting to show, and then to act accordingly. We all deserve the best we can get, and while the bad boy is what we think we want, we have to make sure that they are treating us how we deserve. I am guilty of tending to like the bad boy, but in the end, I know that if what I am looking for is someone to be unconditionally kind and caring towards me, the bad boy type won't provide that. The idea of them seems amazing, but in reality, they present so many red flags that it's blinding. From the boys on the playground to the ones we come across in our day to day lives, we need to make sure we can identify the Dark Triad and know when someone is in it for the wrong reasons.