Now I am quick to dismiss the culture of "every problem/attitude/behavior deserves a psychological name and new drug treatment." I frowned at that idea once energetic children received labels and got medicated into a stupor. I jumped ship completely when "Road Rage" received it's own designation... and yes... even it's own drug. I don't even want to talk about my reaction to the warnings on depression drugs, which include "depression" and "suicidal tendencies." Give me a friggin break.
In fact, I go so far as to suspect that most labels slapped on folks come from two major sources: Xenophobia (fear of others who aren't "like us"), which I believe leads to believing everything different must be bad, and Laziness (such as a parent who would rather use drugs than proper diet or discipline to handle a child's behavior). If I go off on that tangent, y'all will be here all day. Moving on...
But to do this series justice, I took a detour into the world of psychology to see what explanations exist for Bad Boys and the women who love them. Without injecting more of my personal opinion, yet, I offer you a few findings:
The features people talk about when describing a bad boy are closely related to those of Antisocial Personality Disorder, a specific classification of personality pathology found in approximately 3% of adult males and 1% of adult females.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition Text Revision, individuals with this type of personality pathology fail to conform to societal norms, are often unlawful and sometimes violate the rights of others. They tend to be deceitful or manipulative, especially if they believe their tactics will result in personal gain. In addition, they display impulsivity, irritability, aggressiveness, disregard for safety, continuous irresponsibility and lack of remorse. Although the bad boy or girl in your life might not meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder, the mere presence of certain features may lead to dysfunction in their school, work and private lives.
Antisocial Personality Disorder is difficult to treat and tends to be chronic, but there are some options. The first step involves helping the individual realize that they have a problem and may benefit from treatment. If they are willing to seek professional consultation, a primary care provider or mental health practitioner can assess for a diagnosis, contributing issues and make appropriate referrals for treatment. Often, treatment for antisocial features entails recommendations for one or more of the following: individual therapy - particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, psychoeducation and/or medications. [Source: April 14, 2009, Psychology Today, "A Prince Charming Your Bad Boy Is Not"]
(Okay, so how did I know I would find some type of disorder, counseling, and/or drug treatment when researching Bad Boys? ...But I digress)
Nando Pelusi Ph.D. drops his own opinion on the women who seek Bad Boys. He seems to believe that long-term vs. short-term relationship values and the "fantasies" women read about in romance novels have women... well... twisted... into wanting a Bad Boy to reform into a great mate:
A love of boldness helps women find strong males as mates. Secretly they harbor the fantasy of turning their genetically gifted cads into loving dads who stick around long-term, long enough to help raise the kids. Think Warren Beatty and Keith Richards; fairy tales sometimes come true.
But wait; don't all women want a kind, understanding guy? Of course; it's just that nice isn't a high-caliber turn-on in the short term, unlike bravado. Says Kruger, "Women want their emotions activated." And audacity grabs attention, even if only in the service of marshaling good genes.
A clue to female psychology emerges in a study examining the cheesy best sellers that set millions of women on a Harlequin high. The male protagonists are invariably studs on steeds who morph into devoted dads by novel's end. That is, the women get the best of both worlds.
When women want it all—great genes, and a reliable breadwinner—the odds of finding satisfaction grow slim. It's human nature to want it all; what man doesn't want a gorgeous young woman who is equally devoted to having sex and washing his car? But it's a slightly elusive proposition, because in reality we have forced choices. [Source: Psychology Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009, "Neanderthink: The Appeal of the Bad Boy"]
(I can't argue with the underlying implication that women can get fixated on changing their man into who they think he should be. But I don't believe the phenomenon is reserved for converting Bad Boys to Good Boys...)
Rhonda Oliver [Dallas Relationship Psychology Examiner] believes the explanation lies simply in the "roller coaster" and unpredictable nature of Bad Boys:
Bad Boys exude an arrogant, macho-istic, “gangsta” dominance of untamed masculinity (M. Fitzgerald, askmen,com) , which serves as a type of intoxicating attraction to women who like men who live on the edge. Some sport tattoos, the more tattoos the better. If muscles accompany those tattoos, watch out! The psychology of it all is the challenge of "pursuit and conquer". Women who are attracted to the "bad boy" persona tend to be extreme risk takers or seem to dangerously live on the edge. Consultant Psychologist, Petruska Clarkson posits that women have a sexual attraction to bad boys (B. Vaszily, 2006). The movies have, for decades depicted the "Tarzan" image of rescue and protection. Women tend to associate a type of "sexy ruggedness" with the bad boy image.
The thrill of unprecedented, uncertainty is an added attraction to the adventure of relating to a bad boy. The unpredictableness is much like a roller coaster ride's thrill. Remember when you embarked on a roller coaster for the first time? Lack of not knowing what to expect adds to the excitement. Women are "fixers" by nature. The challenge of taming a "bad boy's" roar to a big cat's purr will validate the bad boy's love for the attracted woman. Relationship with a real man, who seemingly breaks all the love rules or makes them appear more exciting, will attract women who are looking for adventure. Living life on the edge is attractive for some….especially the rescue part. There is a thin line between danger and passion. Instinctively, women desire to be pursued by a strong, sexy man of their fantasies and dreams. [source]
(I won't bother with the depth of the cheap stereotype that Bad Boys and tattoos go hand-in-hand. Lord how I hate that...)
One doctor, Donald M. Black, wrote an entire book dedicated to Bad Boys and Antisocial Personality Disorder. According to one editorial review of the book:
"...ample new evidence from genetics and neuroscience supports a biological cause for antisocial personality disorder (ASP), lending truth to the adage "some people are simply born bad." ASP is intimately connected to many of society's ills, including crime, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and even rape and murder. For men with severe ASP, life becomes an opportunity to break all social and moral rules without remorse. But there are ways of detecting warning signs in troubled children, and there are procedures, various combinations of medication, psychotherapy, and social institutional interventions, to prevent and treat ASP." [source]
(Damn. The definition of Bad Boy goes from tattoos to merciless criminal...)
Anyway, I hope to end the series with my personal interjections on the unfortunate stereotypes that pollute the debate, on my specific theories on why certain women seek Bad Boys, and very personal experiences with the Bad Boys I've encountered.