Women's attraction to "bad boys"

There are several reasons some (if not many) women are attracted to bad boys (I’ll leave the definition vague). Of the various reasons mentioned (e.g. “gentle, sensitive guys are boring, in and out of bed, while bad boys are exciting”, ), most of them have to do with the guy’s behavior and how the woman perceives it and enjoys it or hates it.

One thing I’ve recently thought is that for many women, they want to be with a bad boy, not because of his behavior per se, but because of their own perceived license to behave around bad boys.

That is, some women who are brought up to be “good girls”, but really want to be extremely uninhibited during sex, don’t feel comfortable shedding the “good girl” persona when they are in bed with a gentle/sensitive guy, and thus don’t enjoy the experience. When they are in bed with a bad boy they feel free to be as uninhibited and wild as they like to be, and so they enjoy the experience more.

So, it’s not what the various types of guys do that attracts or doesn’t attract women, it’s the license the women perceive they have about how to behave around the various types of men that attracts or doesn’t attract them to being around those men.

The above is just a WAG, based on several observations over the years. I could be completely off base.

I’d like to hear from Doper ladies who do enjoy bad boys more than gentle/sensitive guys, to see if the above has any nugget of truth to it.

Bad boys tend to be less judgmental. Nice guys badger you to stop drinking. Bad boys are impressed when you match them shot for shot. Bad boys don’t care if you swear while “nice guys” are sometimes very hypocritical about it (i.e., they swear, but they don’t like to hear women swear). Very traditional nice guys are turned off by previous sexual history. Bad boys either don’t care or thank god they don’t have to explain everything. Oh, and bad boys understand why you have lawyer’s number in your wallet and don’t think the police are honest. Basically bad boys offer a freedom to be yourself that too many nice guys don’t.

Danger is exciting! But just a certain amount of danger. Another truism is that girls want to be the one whose love can gentle their bad boy. Because bad boys are really just hurt, lonely boys who need lovin’

I am aware of more than a few women that tired of their ‘bad boys’ for various reasons (abuse addiction, bankruptcy) and dumped them, and then turned around and got another one.

(Yes, Mrs. K. B., I am talking about you)

Heck if I know how that works.

One of my cousins is a 'bad boy (heavy drinker type). His current wife (raging harpy drunk) dumped her first husband for being an abusive end stage alcoholic. My cousin, who is not all that abusive, or end stage yet, actually found the perfect solution for his needs, he married into this family of ‘worse’ alcoholics than he is.

Now suddenly, in middle age, after a lifetime of inflicting disappointment on his first family, he is part of a family far more dysfunctional, and now is viewed as ‘the responsible grown up’.
I guess everything is relative . . . .

What do we mean by “bad boy”? This is such a vague and misused term. Are we talking about a criminal? Someone who rides a motorcycle and has tattoos? Someone who spends a lot of time drinking and smoking? A rough blue-collar laborer type?

Or are we just talking about a good-looking guy who is slightly rough around the edges? If so, in what ways is he rough around the edges?

Plenty of old-fashioned domineering alpha male types want their women to act traditional even while the men themselves drink, swear, carouse, etc. I think a good deal of the guys who people on this board would describe as “bad boys” would not put up with a woman who drank, swore, and admitted to a sexually active past. You realize that the traditional, swaggering, macho, Italian/Latino/Spanish alpha-male is known for wanting his woman to be “the madonna” even if he himself is a rough, rude, crude, womanizing, hard drinking man.

I’ve known one or two girls for whom it really appeared to be an ego thing. “He’s really changed himself for me,” unspoken emphasis being on the last two words. Also sometimes a bit of a martyr complex, where she’s setting herself up in a situation where she knows she’s going to be a victim. If you have a nice guy in your life, what license do you have to feel sorry for yourself?

Frankly, I think sexual freedom is the least of it.

You realize that the traditional, swaggering, macho, Italian/Latino/Spanish alpha-male is not a bad boy. He’s actually behaving in an acceptable manner for his culture. Bad boys aren’t afraid to breakwhatever their culture’s rules are for acceptable behavior and live their lives the way they want to live.

I don’t think there really is a generalized phenomenon of women being attracted to bad boys as opposed to more clean cut guys. I think women are attracted to men who have charisma and sex appeal. It just happens that some of these people may be less straitlaced than others. Sorry if this seems like a threadshit.

Again, I would really like a definition, preferably from women, of what exactly a “bad boy” is.

There’s not an exact definition. A ‘bad boy’ is a guy you’d feel weird about taking home to meet your parents. Someone who tends to be a daredevil. Maybe a guy who has a bad habit like drinking or smoking, and maybe tattoos, but these are more of the ‘image’ than anything else. Someone who doesn’t fit into the social norms of what is expected of successful people - he’s not looking for a career where he wears a tie, 3br/2ba house in the suburbs, sports car, etc. Maybe he has a hobby or job that’s not considered mainstream, the most obvious one being riding his Harley, but it could also be skateboarding or pyrotechnics or making avant-garde films.


Every bad boy that I’ve ever dated had a soft side, usually only shown to the woman he was involved with. It can be an interesting combination in small doses, kind of like the flavors of sweet and spicy. :smiley:

I’ve only dated one “bad boy” and he was definitely into breaking any rules. He tried to appear upright and honest, but at heart he was busting at the seams to do everything his own way, damn the consequences. It was, for him, more an attitude than outward convention.

I think the whole “sexual inhibition” thing is pretty silly. When you are having sex with someone, of course you are going to calibrate your performance according to the feedback you are getting. Nobody, male or female, is going to walk into a bed scattered in rose petals with soft classical music playing and say “Awesome, let’s do rough anal in handcuffs.” Likewise you don’t start kissing drunkly in an ally way and then bust out a sensitive poem about making love tenderly. You are going to want to be roughly on the same page as your partner. So yeah, a more adventurous person is going to hold back sexually with a tamer partner, but not because of some weird shame-inhibition thing. It’s just trying to do what makes sense in the situation, even if it’s not exactly your cup of tea.

It can be a great deal of fun to teach a less experienced partner some new tricks. But it’s no fun if they don’t show some enthusiasm. No guy wants to sleep with a girl who lays there with disinterest. Why would you expect a girl to be fine with a guy who does that (and those guys exist.)

I think both men and women can find themselves liking unstable relationships because the drama is addicting. When you never can be quite secure, you start putting a lot of mental energy into it. This ends up making a sort of cognitive dissonance where you have invested so much that you can’t see that it’s not worth it. And these relationships always give you just enough to keep you guessing. Just when you are ready to give up, you get just enough of a reward to stay hooked. It feels important and real in the way that a stable relationship often doesn’t.

And not everyone is looking for a life partner. One some level, I think a lot of women as well as men are interested in some good sex and something that will give some spice to their life. Dating an un-marriageable person takes away some of the responsibility for molding every relationship into some fairytale romance, and lets you just have fun.

See my post #7. The bad boy worth getting involved with gets that title because he doesn’t do what everybody else is trying to force him to conform to. He thinks for himself and does what he believes is right especially when it means defying the expectations of the sheeple. I am happily married to a bad boy who continues to break his mother’s heart everyday by not getting me or some other woman pregnant because he hates kids and considers overpopulation a serious problem. But we are a near perfect match for each other because of this.

Where does fidelity fit into the idea of a bad boy? I know my own personal idea of a bad boy, insomuch as a straight male can have one, is a guy who’s…let’s just say, not exactly the monogamous type. The kind of guy who’s impulsive and follows his “animal urges,” including having sexual encounters with more than just one single woman. Do some women find this kind of guy appealing? The idea, maybe, that they can be “the one” to tame him and “make him” finally be monogamous? Are some of the turned on by the idea of a guy who is desired by other women?

Bad boys are promiscuous. If the tendency towards promiscuity has any genetic link, their offspring will be more likely to be promiscuous. The female’s genes get propagated more efficiently.

Once again, the Family Circus has already covered this

If monogamy is valued in the relationship, bringing a bad boy into an emotional state (i.e., love) where he wants to commit to monogamy over the pleasures of multiple partners is definitely a greater thrill of accomplishment (for lack of a better word to describe it) than getting the guy whose always wanted to be one man-one woman to committ. Some relationships don’t value physical monogamy such as open marriages and the bad boy is perferrable for the woman who wants that kind of relationship. And some women are turned on by the idea of a guy who is desired by other women just like some men get a thrill out of thinking their friends are envious of their attractive wives or lovers.

Thanks for answering the question in the OP, unlike some of the responses that just assumed the OP was asking a general “why do women like bad boys?” question.

Regarding your points I would say:
[li]Sexual inhibition may not be a problem for you, and so you don’t need the guy to make you feel free to go crazy in bed, but I would assume there are women who do have some inhibitions about totally going wild, and being with a bad boy makes it easier on them to do so.[/li][li]Even if we take away the sexual inhibition angle, the general point stands that, if you need to “calibrate your performance according to the feedback you are getting”, as you say, then some women who like to go wild in bed cannot do that with non-bad boys, since in general it’s the bad boys that allow women to “calibrate their performance” to the wilder side of things. [/li][li]Also, I would generalize the point, in that it’s not only about behavior in bed: being with a bad boy also allows the woman to be a little more crazy in other aspects of her life/behavior[/li][/LIST]

Basically, if most women who prefer bad boys are straight-laced women who don’t go wild in bed and/or don’t want to go wild in other aspects of their lives either (drinking, smoking, drugs, etc), and just prefer the bad boys because they have attractive qualities, that would go against the conjecture I’m making in the OP.

But, if most women who prefer bad boys are women who do like to go wild in bed and/or in other aspects of their lives, and who feel restricted in their behavior if they date a straight-laced guy, and feel free to be their true selves if they date bad boys, then that would be in line with the conjecture I’m making in the OP, i.e. that it’s not the behavior of the bad boy that is attractive per se, but the behavior it allows the woman to exhibit around him.

Not sure where most women who enjoy dating bad boys lie in that spectrum.

To me personally it really honestly has nothing to do with how things are in the bedroom. I actually think being a “bad boy” or “nice guy” is by no means an accurate predictor of how they are in bed, with some bad boys being surprisingly traditional and also, the reverse…

I think the attraction lies in what I call “The Groucho Marx Theory of Dating”. Groucho said: “I do not want to be in a club that wants me as a member”. Translation to date-speak: “I don’t want a guy that wants me (too much).” Thus, to me, a “bad boy”, is not so much someone with a criminal past, or tattoos or whatnot, as much as someone who is confident in his sexuality but ambivalent about committing to a woman. Someone who is romantically unreliable, either an all out cheat, or just blowing hot and cold, in any cause, someone who is not clearly 100% there for the woman.

Why on earth would this be attractive?:

  1. Woman does not want to commit either - it suits;
  2. EvenSven’s point: the drama and thrill of conquering and re-conquering are addictive. Boredom never sets in;
  3. Tendency to want more what we cannot have. Hard to get = more desirable;
  4. Woman has low self esteem. If a guy likes her too much, then obviously he can’t be perfect, as if he were perfect he wouldn’t like her but rather, a matchingly perfect woman. Sad, but it happens and I’ve been there.
  5. A combination of 1-4.

That’s my theory. I don’t believe it is true that all women like bad boys, btw. But the above is why I think this I this is true for some women. Which I think it is.