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Why Do Girls Like Bad Boys? (Hint: They Don’t)

Nice guys finish last. We’ve all heard it. Since the dawn of popular media, movies and books have pushed the narrative that women fall for the bad boy. You know the bad boy, the commitment-phobic jerk, whose best features are his looks and the sense of adrenaline you get from chasing him. 

In Crazy Stupid Love, notorious bad boy Ryan Gosling takes soon-to-be divorced Steve Carell under his wing to help him regain his manhood. Following Gosling’s prescription Carell gets more success with women, but the relationships are shorter and unfulfilling. I won’t spoil the ending, but to find love, both men (Carell and Gosling) have to remember how to be nice guys again because real relationships happen with nice guys, not bad boys. 

Some men have followed the advice of men like Gosling’s character. Some dating books targeted to men even go so far as to teach their readers how to create this bad boy image and how to perfect negging.

Don’t do this! Choosing to be a jerk on purpose damages your chance of forming meaningful long-term relationships and perpetuates a myth that decades of scientific research do not support. Heartbreakers are just that: heartbreakers, and you don’t want to break the heart of a special lady and your own in the process.  

A study by David M. Buss and Todd K. Shackelford found that women self-report they want men that represent good genes, economic security, parenting proclivities, and emotional commitment. Since the stereotypical bad boy is flippant, philandering, and likely under- or unemployed, women report they actually want the exact opposite of a bad boy: they want what would be better deemed as mature nice men

Sigal Tifferet and Daniel J. Kruger in their study surveyed 1,365 women, ranging in age from 14 to 68, about their preferences in a male partner. The women were asked to rate how likely they would be to have a long-term or short-term relationship with a “dad” or “cad.” (To clarify: the men labeled as “dads” didn’t necessarily have children; they were just seen as more stable/secure men, or ones women would see as more likely to become good fathers). 

Women generally preferred the “dad” type for a long-term partner and the “cad” for a short-term affair. However, older women tended to prefer the “dad” type for all relationship lengths. This makes sense since the partners we want can change over time, especially as we move our focus away from just sex and/or love to things like security, family plans, and commitment. 

The results of that study shows that “dads” find more meaningful long-lasting loves with ladies who want the same things, and that should be your goal, gentlemen! 

If you’re a stable, emotionally available, mature, nice guy, your best bet is to keep being you because you’ll be more likely to attract like-minded women. Emotionally mature women are going to want to be treasured for whom they are and do the same for their match. They aren’t going to want to bother with the mess that a bad boy leaves wherever he goes. 

In another study, the attractiveness of altruism (doing acts of selfless service) was rated. When participants read dating ads that included things like, “I volunteer at an animal shelter,” they automatically rated those individuals as more attractive than their counterparts who didn’t include such statements. It makes sense since we often assume that people who volunteer or are otherwise altruistic have good moral character, which we often look for when we are looking for a long-term mate. 

Other studies have shown that women prefer men who seem sensitive, easy-going, confident and don’t like at all men who come across as aggressive and demanding. Clearly, science shows that women actually prefer nice guys! 

It’s also important to consider what kind of women go for “bad boys” and if those women would be the kind of lady you’d like to be with yourself. Most women who are attracted to bad boys are attracted to them for some very wrong reasons. These women are often emotional adrenaline junkies who love the unpredictability and the chaos typical of these “cads.” They, just like the cads they’re chasing, are afraid of commitment, so they are attracted to men who will obviously not give them anything long-term. They also may be young and/or emotionally immature. 

Despite the stereotypes wrapped up in this ugly power dynamic, bad boys don’t win. Yes, you may get some players in your game, but you’ll likely end up feeling empty and alone. Nice guys don’t finish last because they actually finish first in the love game.

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