Bad Boys: Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Live Without 'Em

Unless you live under a rock (and if you do we're not judging!), you've heard about Justin Bieber and his recent arrests and visits to various brothels and *ahem* nightclubs. Despite his complete 180º turn from the chubby-cheeked, teeny-bopper, crooner who burst onto the scene more than five years ago, JB's fans have continued to stand by him. This trend is by no means surprising.  For generations, the sex appeal of the so-called bad boy has been established and seemingly undeniable. Their mysterious, suggestive, lawless behavior leaves women swooning time after time. But what is the draw? Why are women attracted to the threat of danger, to the guy who seems to always need to go against the grain?

In fact, women’s attraction to bad boys has some scientific roots. According to a 2012 study by the University of Texas at San Antonio, women believe that bad boys will become better partners and fathers. Another 2008 study conducted by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, gives a more physiological reason, stating that the more dominant personality that bad boys tend to possess is a result of higher levels of testosterone. These higher levels of testosterone cause men to be perceived as having more outgoing and charming personalities. Scientists refer to the traits commonly associated with bad boys such as coarseness, high confidence (arrogance/narcissism) and extroversion as “dark triad traits,” and have observed that although these traits typically are seen as negative and to be avoided, guys who possess these dark triad traits seem to do better in terms of number of sexual partners.

But there are other factors that go into the allure of the bad boy. For a real life example of girl who is attracted to bad boys, I talked to Carolyn Betts, a sophomore RTVF major, who admitted to falling for bad boys "every time." Betts, said that part of the attraction has to do with her own perception of herself.  “My whole life, I was considered a good girl. They make me go outside my comfort zone—just socially, I act a little crazier,” she said. She said that being with bad boys is fun but doesn’t believe that they mostly don’t date. “It really varies based on the person, and I guess the people that I’ve been with just aren’t into the whole dating thing at this point in their life,” Betts said.

While being with a bad boy can initially be exciting and enjoyable, according to Betts, these feelings are just temporary. “The fun does eventually stop. It’s hard to kind of point out when it stops. For me, the fun stops when I stop being comfortable,” she said. She went on to say, “there is a point where it crosses the line and I’m no longer comfortable with the person or the situation.”

Scientists have also taken notice of the lack of staying power that relationships with guys who fit the bad boy mold tend to have. "People high in dark triad traits tend to say what they think others want to hear. The manipulative 'it's all about me, so tell 'em anything to get sex' behavior is likely to have more short-term sexual success. However, long-term relationship survival is likely to be strongly disadvantaged in people with dark triad traits," said Everett Worthington, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in an ABC News article.

To exemplify the evolution of her relationship with a bad boy, Betts recounted the story of being with a person who she said “embrac[ed] the persona of being the a**hole.”  “This person just kind of doesn’t care what people think of him. He’s brutally honest, he smokes too much, he drinks too much,” she said. But eventually, Betts realized that the relationship was hitting a dead end and she had to call it quits. “It was fun for a while–[but] I eventually realized that I should want to be with this person, I should want to hang out with this person; hanging out with this person shouldn’t make me uncomfortable. We were always better off just friends,” she said.

While Betts acknowledged her attraction to bad boys, it did not transcend to all bad boy types. For example, she considers Justin Bieber to be a bad boy, but questions his motives for being one and ultimately, is not impressed by his new image. "I've never been attracted to Justin Bieber; his bad boy-ness isn't endearing. He's kind of just a jerk,"she said.

Still,  Betts has not allowed herself to become jaded against the idea of a successful relationship with a bad boy. “I think a successful relationship with a bad boy would be having to accept who they are. I don’t want to have to change, so why should I ask them to change,” she said.