Monday, April 25, 2011


By Cathy Greenfeder

Vampires, werewolves, and warlocks, oh my! Why do women fall for the guy who seems to be all wrong for them? Literature from the popular Twilight Series to the various paranormal, urban fantasies, western romances, and classics such as Beauty and the Beast, and the YA spin off Beastly, abound with the anti-hero, the sexy villain whom the heroine falls for, or the “bad boys” that leave the girl when she needs him the most. Or, in the case of my western romance, WILDFLOWERS, the rough-hewn trapper turned trail guide who is transformed by the love of a strong and brave minister’s daughter.

Since literature often mirrors life, women of all ages have fallen for those bad boys that your mother, your friends, or your common sense warn you about.

According to Psychology Today, every decade offers an “iconic bad boy who gets the girl. The rock stars, the dudes with the smoldering eyes at the bar, the strong silent types. The template can morph, but the assessment is the same – the guy’s got genes that make women weak in the knees, and the power and confidence that signal them.”

“From a Darwinian point of view, females are the choosier sex, and males compete for their attention. The result of this competition is that men have evolved strategies such as seeking alpha status.”

Startling Statistics

A survey of nearly 1,000 women taken by Harlequin found the following:

• 21 percent of women age 35 and older would rather take a chance with a bad boy than date someone slow and steady

• 31 percent of women with children younger than 18 would take a chance with a bad boy (compared with 16 percent of women without kids)

• “A Bad Boy exudes untamed masculinity, independence, and confidence,” says Michael Fitzgerald, author and relationship correspondent for “To women, these traits – especially confidence – are an aphrodisiac.”

That Manly Smell

How often in your writing have you struggled to convey the scent of the male protagonist? Well, a research study in Prague asked 65 women to rate the smells of 48 men by smelling cotton pads that had been warn in their armpits for 24 hours. Before the study the men had been asked how dominant they felt. The women had to rate the scent of ten pads on the basis of intensity, sexiness, and masculinity. The study found that women who were at the most fertile stage of their menstrual cycle were more likely to rate the odor of the dominant man as sexy. Dr. Craig Roberts reported, “There seems to be some sort of physiological mechanism that directs women to indicators of good genes. The offspring of such a coupling would therefore be likely to have better genes.”

eHarmony Concurs

eHarmony, the on-line dating service, said that women are attracted to “bad boys” for several reasons. There’s the impulse to perpetuate what’s familiar. “Many women attracted to rogues had a father who was a little wild and rebellious. Because many girls idealize their father, they may seek a partner with similar traits.” Another reason is that there’s an attempt by the women to revise a troubled or distant relationship with their father. A third reason is that many women want to reform the rake. “It’s inflating when a woman feels like she is the only one who can transform a man.” Finally, bad boys exude a sense of excitement, adventure, and danger. Women who grew up in a family that demanded conformity and compliance with rules are intrigued by guys who scoff at rules and shrug responsibility.

IQ vs. EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

According to Dr. Robert Holden, author of Success Intelligence, “IQ is all to do with your head and the meeting of minds. You could have two incredibly intellectually sparky people who know how to stimulate each other with a fantastic debate, but this in no way means they have what it takes for a long-term relationship.” In fact, according to Dr. Holden, “people with a high IQ lack a genuine sense of self-acceptance which leads to a very tortured mental existence and constant mental self-flagellation.” This can make highly intelligent people more fearful and anxiety ridden in their relationships than the average person. The article cites several cases where women who excelled in their careers ended up in disastrous relationships with men. Dr. Holden’s advice to successful career women is to “have a plan of what Mr. Right looks like. Don’t be too quick to dismiss someone because they don’t know who ruled the Byzantine Empire, or too quick to give yourself entirely to someone just because they laughed at your joke. Don’t be too dominant or competitive because that leads to short-term safety and long-term boredom. Finally, develop your EQ. Learn to have emotional strength which is about yielding, surrender, openness, and a willingness to be vulnerable. It is unreasonable to expect other people to love you more than you love yourself.”

Is There Any Hope?

If you’re writing romance, understanding why the heroine of your novel is falling for the hero or the villain, is definitely useful. If it’s real life, you might want to understand your motives. Is it the excitement? Is it an unmet need from your childhood? Is it that “manly smell”? Are you ovulating? Maybe it’s all of these and more. In real life, these relationships often turn out poorly. Bad boys won’t change unless they want to. “Despite initial attraction, most women get tired of bailing a man out of jail, wondering if he’ll make it home from a party, or catching him with another woman. Women who sign on with bad boys enlist for endless conflict and turmoil. Ironically, the very thing that draws good girls and bad boys together is usually their undoing. Many women have learned the hard way that bad boys make bad dating partners – and even worse spouses.”

So, choose wisely! ♥

For more information, see the following websites:,,,

Catherine Greenfeder is Vice President of RWANYC. Her two latest novels include, WILDFLOWERS, a historical western romance, and ANGELS AMONG US, a paranormal romance. Visit her at  This article was first published in the RWANYC newsletter.


  1. Great article! Very insightful. Both for writers and for women in general :)

  2. Seems like the one reason a woman falls for a bad boy escaped notice in this most comprehensive collection of intel, Cathy:


    As someone who never fails to fall for a bad boy, I have learned the lessons you mention. So that's why I write romance. So I can MAKE the bad boy change his tune for the love of a good woman!