Why Women Are Attracted to “Bad” Boys

Psychologists love to study relationships; after all, love is the foundation of human nature! And the “why do women love bad boys?” question has had us scratching our heads for centuries.

This summary of current research may explain why women are attracted to bad boys. Included are snippets of past research that describe how men and women view attractiveness differently.

Women are Less Attracted to Men Who Smile

Research from UBC’s Psychology Department reveals what attracts women to bad boys – and it’s not his smile! Here’s what makes men – and women – attractive.

According to a new University of British Columbia (UBC) study, women find happy, smiling guys significantly less attractive than swaggering or brooding men.

“While showing a happy face is considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction – few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, attractive,” says Professor Jessica Tracy, of UBC’s Department of Psychology. “This study finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles.”

Tracy and her researchers found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men (“nice guys”). The women in this study were most attracted to men who looked proud and powerful, or moody and ashamed (“bad boys”).

In contrast, the men in this study were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident. Is it safe to conclude that men like happy women, and women like unhappy men – perhaps who they have to save?

“It is important to remember that this study explored first-impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex,” says Alec Beall, a UBC psychology graduate student and study co-author. “We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife – we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction.”

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Past research shows that positive emotional traits and a nice personality are highly desirable in a relationship partner. Sexual attractiveness, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same foundation as why people fall in love.

It’s not just bad boys that women are attracted to – it’s loveless relationships! Read 5 Reasons Women Stay in Loveless Marriages to learn why.

Why Women are Attracted to Bad Boys

Past research shows that smiling is associated with a lack of dominance, as well as a touch of femininity. Men are comfortable with lack of dominance in women, as it’s consistent with traditional gender norms of the “submissive and vulnerable” woman. But, women aren’t attracted to men who are submissive. They want the strong, silent type of man who can protect them and meet their needs.

“Generally, the results appear to reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures,” Tracy says. “These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we’ve moved beyond.”

Are you a woman who is chronically attracted (or even addicted) to “bad boys”? Read Signs of a Womanizer – it may help you break the habit!

And if you think your “bad boy” has the potential to do more harm than good, read How to Spot a Man Who Will Manipulate and Control You.

Source: UBC Media Release. Happy guys finish last, says new study on sexual attractiveness. May 24, 2011.

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