Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Guys?
by Jared Sichel | Tulane University
This, this phenomenon, this travesty, is the main thing about women that make men want to give up. The Internet is filled with short posts in the “comments” section of articles, most of them likely written by heartbroken and angry men frustrated that they were turned down for a punk. Of course, the question itself may be invalid. As one friend told me during my week of answer-searching, “We just notice when good girls are with bad guys because it seems so out of place, but it doesn’t actually occur at a greater than random rate.”
Perhaps, and yet most readers of this column know of at least one upstanding, attractive girl falling for an obnoxious or repugnant male. And even if this supposed phenomenon occurs too rarely to warrant mentioning, exploring why there is any pattern of good girls falling for bad guys is valuable if only as a study in psychology and female nature. My theories listed below are open to revision, and not being a student in female psychology, this topic is foreign to me. Here they are:
The Project Theory
Mothers like to fix children. Women like to fix men. Many good girls have an overinflated perception of their ability to improve other people’s character. This is not improving a violent criminal, just a schoolyard punk, a Nelson-type from The Simpsons.
To turn a Nelson into a mensch (Yiddish for “good man”) is just another exercise in changing the world for the good, confident, beautiful girl.
This theory applies to girls of high self-esteem. Only a girl with lofty sureness in her ability to improve others would date a bad guy in large part because he was a means to the end of proving her ability to improve the world. But given that many good women—and many people in general—do not have high self-esteem, I present…
The Child-Rearing Theory
Women who don’t want children but still want someone to treat as a child can always marry an immature man. Immature dependents, whether children or adults, give the caretaker something in value in return: a sense of being needed.
The value of being needed is difficult to overstate. In the case of dating a guy in need of improvement, it can provide a girl with a lack of meaning or self-esteem with a solution: babysit and ethically tutor my boyfriend and receive the satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life. Problem being that turning an actual child into an adult is far simpler than turning an adult child into an adult. If this theory doesn’t satisfy you, there is…
The Rebel Theory
Growing up with a sense that external forces will make inevitable a marriage to a responsible man, wonderful kids, and a cushy suburbia life could produce the sense of being trapped for a woman. Especially for women who were raised in a religious or otherwise conservative environment, the urge to rebel, if only temporarily, may play a large role in a woman’s decision to date bad guys. If only to see the look of horror on mother’s face when she shows him off to her.
This theory, though, also assumes that the woman is simply going through a rebellious stage and will eventually return to her senses. Unhappiness likely awaits if she doesn’t, as being married to a good man with wonderful kids in suburbia has its benefits.
The No Experience Theory
The lack of a good man (ideally the father) growing up can result in a woman who does not even know what to look for. This could in some cases explain the phenomenon of wives with bad husbands (not necessarily abusive), who choose to remain with them and in fact defend them when confronted by friends. Women who don’t know what to look for in a man are at risk of choosing a bad one, and even worse, they may erroneously think that they found a good one.
Alas, that a significant number of good girls fall for the bad guy is too bad for the good guys. And it is too bad for the good girls. Even though every good girl can rationalize being with a bad guy, people generally cannot change other people, making the “project” all but an act in futility. My sense is that most good girl-bad guy relationships do not end with a happy marriage. For the girl, better to just not venture into that territory from the start.Jared is a NGJ Voices Contributor and a senior at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was born and raised in North Potomac, Maryland, is an avid Yankees fan, a football and tennis enthusiast, and he hopes to one day have enough money to own a large cigar cabinet. Follow him on Twitter @JBSichel (https://twitter.com/#!/JBSichel) and check out his blog at www.jaredsichel.com