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Long ago, I used to wonder how Lotharios could be so successful, since it seemed to my naive self that while it was a great reproductive strategy for a male, falling for them was a bad strategy for a female who would be left "holding the bag", and so females should be great at spotting them and should find them unattractive as mates.

But it was short-term thinking.

From the selfish-gene point of view, men who are successful at getting women to sleep with them and then move on may actually be attractive as mates *because* they carry genes for being successful *at getting women to sleep with them* -- which would be handy genes for your own offspring to have.

That is, women also have a sort of "selfish" reproductive strategy - a way of spreading their own genes far and wide - by giving birth to sons who do just that.

Which *might* be an explanation for why "bad boys" are so attractive.

(Realizing that doesn't help us SNAGs much, though.)


That's almost never the kind of man I fantasize about :-)

But yeah, I agree. There really often is a view on fantasies as something the person who have them always wishes would be real. Or that they are always driven to try to realize them. Especially when it comes to sexual fantasies. I guess that misconception is behind many people's fear of, or discomfort with, people with certain sets of sexual fantasies.

It's nonsense of course. Just as you write, there's many and varied kind of fantasies, some of which you'd want to be real, some of which you'd never in your life would ever want to see outside of your own head.

Not to mention that a lot of fantasies people have are simply impossible to make real. And I don't just mean the fact (that you also mentioned) that some things can only be just so perfect in your mind, and you realize they would never reach that level in reality. But also that people fantasize about a lot of things that actually don't exist (vampires, or mermen for example, and yeah you can dress someone up in a neoprene fishtail, but...) Or things that are physically impossible for humans. The impossibility of these things becoming real doesn't stop them from being popular fantasies, and it's rather clear then that 'making it real' is not at all the main purpose of them.

I agree fully. Imagination and fantasies are an important aspect for humans (and not to deny that some individulas sure could "get stuck" in their fantasies and have an unhealthy obsession with them) but the people who are concerned about other people's fantasies (sexual or not) to such a degree often simplifices the whole thing much too much. It's much more complicated than that.


@efrique: What you seem to be describing is a completely circular case of sexual selection -- characteristic X is good for attracting a mate, because X attracts a mate, regardless of its practical effects. This does happen in nature (the peacock's tail is a classic example), but I don't think it's the main mechanism for the bad-boy effect.

A better explanation is simply that being ruthless, dangerous, and selfish can be a good survival strategy for an individual, whether in prehistoric times or the modern world. Hence the subconscious attraction to having children with these qualities.

That said, these evo-psych effects are easy to exaggerate. Hard-wired genetics is only one of many factors influencing what we do, and not necessarily the most important. To take an obvious example, using birth control is pointless from the crude must-hump-and-make-babies point of view, but makes perfect sense considering our long-term well-being and place in society.


Well said, Greta. Although you are dangerously close to agreeing with "seduction experts" such as MTV's (or was it VH1...) Mystery on what women are actually attracted to. Does this feedback into your list of 10 things men are expected to be?


I haven't seen Mad Men, so I can only comment on the bad boys trope generally. The idea that there's something wrong with fantasizing about bad boys has always bothered me, for the same reasons you've outlined. I've never seen a criticism of girls-who-like-bad-boys that doesn't lump all those girls together, and all bad boys together. The reality is there are many different kinds of bad boys, and many different kinds of girls who like bad boys, and many different ways to like them.

I notice when I like bad boys, I can acknowledge that traits A, B and C would spoil a real life relationship, but they also have traits that are genuinely attractive. Spike is a good example. I like stubborn, assertive guys. I like guys who are passionate. I like guys in long dark coats. I like snarky guys with British accents. In real life I'd stay away from Spike, but in fantasyland I don't have to deal with the consequences of the violent vampire thing, so he stays sexy.

I like what you have to say about Don Draper's more feminist-compatible qualities. I've noticed that in a lot of the fictional bad boys I like; they may be bad boyfriends, but they are also strong characters who support strong women. I also notice the opposite problem in a lot of fictional nice guys. For some reason "nice guy" is often equated with passivity, which makes them less appealing to me. From a feminist perspective, I like men who are strong allies.



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