Why Women Love Bad Boys, According to Science

Good girls love bad boys.

Women can’t resist the sly smile and dark, sexy confidence of a bad boy. You know what we’re talking about: that smoky, devil-may-care vibe of a James Dean or a Judd Nelson, cigarette hanging from the corner of their smirk, that exudes cool.

Thanks to science, we now know exactly why women love bad boys. 

You can thank evolution, partly. A new study conducted at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona analyzed data from 1,000 men and women with a broad spectrum of pathological personality traits. Participants were asked about their lifetime number of mates and children, job level, and income. The results revealed that both males and females who were pathologically reckless and impulsive attracted more lovers than people with average personalities. Even traits we think of as undesirable, like being neurotic or impulsive, tend to surface in highly successful men and women, “suggesting that such traits are not being weeded out by natural selection and actually may confer an evolutionary advantage,” as Scientific Americanwrites.So why is this? Lead researcher Fernando Gutiérrez suggests that certain traits are actually beneficial to your long-term success — and, in turn, your appeal to potential lovers. According to Gutiérrez, even obsessive-compulsive men were pretty darn successful at securing long-lasting mates because they tended to earn about twice as much as ‘normal’ subjects. We don’t even have to tell you why women love rich men.

It’s not just about finding the right partner, though; women like bad boys because they’re downright fascinating. “While [pathological men] are selfish, rule-breaking, imprudent, and rebellious, they are also brave, temerarious, independent, and self-reliant—and they live frantic, galvanizing lives,” Gutierrez says. Bad boys are fun, and like Cyndi Lauper said, girls just want to have fun.”Nice guys” just can’t offer women any of the thrills their dominant, leather jacket-wearing counterparts can.This research may apply to both men and women, but it’s especially pronounced (and often overwhelming) among the ladies. According to research published Journal of Personality and Social Psychology back in 2012, women, in the week of ovulation, tend to become attracted to”sexy, rebellious and handsome men like George Clooney or James Bond,” as study researcher study researcher Kristina Durante put it

“Under the hormonal influence of ovulation, women delude themselves into thinking that the sexy bad boys will become devoted partners and better dads,” explains Durante. “When looking at the sexy cad through ovulation goggles, Mr. Wrong looked exactly like Mr. Right.” That means when the time is right, women literally can’t help themselves around bad boys.

Stay bad, gentlemen.

Photos by Hulton Archive / Getty Images