Chicks Dig Jerks, Right?


Milhouse putting on his bad boy-suit for Liza.

The Bad Boy Allure

There is a widespread notion that girls and women have a thing for bad boys. Sure, they say they like nice guys, who are attentive and caring, who play by the rules, and whom you can trust. But in reality, they prefer the arrogant, self-centered, manipulative guys – the bad boys or jerks.

We find this theme in literature, films and TV shows ranging from the dark attraction of cold-blooded serial killers, the seductive charm of vampires to more light stuff like the TV show The Simpsons, where the straight-A student Lisa falls for the unsophisticated bully Nelson.

This view is also held by the boys and men of the manosphere, an online community about gender issues from a male perspective, inspired by evolutionary psychology, pick-up artistry and personal experiences. Here too the consensus seems to be that chicks dig their jerks, only with the dark, optimistic belief that you can and should learn how to be a jerk, or in their biologically inspired jargon, an alpha male.

While this consensus is intriguing, it’s not necessarily compelling. For one, consensus varies over time. We used to believe in the existence of witches but now that belief might get you a psychiatric diagnosis. And it varies by population. According to PEW, most Buddhists and Hindus embrace the theory of evolution, but only a small minority of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do so. In short, consensus is no substitute for evidence. And neither is the cynicism of the manosphere, for that matter. So is there any evidence?

Attraction Research

As one might expect, there is plenty of research on what women look for in men, and vice versa. In a huge international and cross-cultural study (possibly the largest of its kind), psychologist David Buss and colleagues asked 10 000 participants what characteristics they desire in a potential marriage partner. Most of the top ten turned out to be personality traits, things like sociability, pleasing disposition, dependability, emotional stability, ambition, refinement/neatness, and intelligence (which not everyone views as a personality trait). All of these were considered more important than things like for instance financial prospects, social status or religious and political background.

But the desirable traits listed above do not paint a picture of a bad boy – or girl for that matter, as the difference between the sexes was very small. In Big Five terms it translates to extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and lack of neuroticism. The bad boy, however, is not well captured in the Big Five model, but matches the Dark Triad (DT) traits of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. As no test of this triad was included we can’t tell for sure, but correlations between DT and Big Five are positive for extraversion and emotional stability, but negative for agreeableness and conscientiousness. And there is nothing “dark” per se about an extraverted and emotionally stable person. So it’s clear that, these findings can’t support the chicks-dig-jerks theory as correlations fail to match DT, and with “dependability” and “pleasing disposition” as two conspicuous deal breakers.

Besides these desired traits, there is also research showing that people of both genders like those similar to themselves. All Big Five show moderate correlations between how much a person likes a trait in a partner and how much he or she has of that trait. This birds-of-a-feather effect goes beyond personality, as Buss explains,

For nearly every variable that has been examined— from single actions to ethnic and racial status—people seem to select mates who are similar to themselves. Even for physical characteristics such as height, weight, and, astonishingly, nose breadth and earlobe length, couples show positive correlations. Indeed, the only characteristic on which “opposites attract” that has been reliably documented is biological sex: Men tend to be attracted to women and women tend to be attracted to men.

But as both psychologists and members of the manosphere have pointed out, women may want jerks or bad boys for short-term relationships rather than for marriage. So let’s push onwards and explore that possibility as well…

Women’s Flings

In doing so, we immediately hit an obstacle. Because if it is generally true that chicks dig jerks, it would also mean that women in general enjoy short-term relationships. There is, however, a lot of research that says the opposite. Here is some taken mostly from Randy Larsen and David Buss’ book Personality Psychology – Domains of Knowledge About Human Nature (2010) and Buss’ Evolutionary Psychology -The New Science of the Mind (2007),

As far as sexual fantasies goes here is a N=1500 study from last year, showing 83 percent of men having the fantasy of sex with someone other than their partner, as compared to 56 percent for women.

From Wikipedia: The National Health and Social Life Survey found that 4% of married men, 16% of cohabiting men, and 37% of dating men engaged in acts of sexual infidelity compared to 1% of married women, 8% of cohabiting women, and 17% of women in dating relationships (Lalasz & Weigel, 2011) (If someone has a full-text of this article please let me know.)

69 percent of men had solicited a prostitute, less than one percent of the women had done so.

Men report wishing on average 18 sex partners over their lifetime, while women want on average 4.

Four men in a lifetime. That alone gives us a hint of just how uninterested most women must be in short-term relationships – and, as a consequence, the men who provide that type of experience.

Still, some psychologists appear very fond of this idea and are conducting research into the possibility of Dark Triad traits having evolved as a strategy for short-term sexual encounters. And if this is the case they should be attractive to women. So let’s hear them out as well…

Physical Attractiveness

One idea is that women can tell just by looking at Dark Triad men, by facial or other bodily characteristics, that they have some superior genetic qualities. In a study looking into this, psychologist April Bleske-Rechek and colleagues (2008) had 102 participants (51 couples) rate how attractive and sexy they think they are compared to other people. As expected, narcissism scores correlated with how hot participants thought they were. The main finding, though, was that a panel of 17 judges of both sexes, who showed strong consensus in all their ratings, found the narcissist to be no more or less attractive than other participants. This after being shown face pictures. So it’s possible that full body pics would have produced a different result, but the authors claim that facial attractiveness is a good predictor of general attractiveness. At any rate the study lent no support to the idea of facial symmetry, a compelling gaze or whatever, as a visual indication of some biological sexiness.

In another study, psychologists Nicholas Holztman and Michael Strube (2013) looked at the relationship between attractiveness and personality with a special focus on adorned versus unadorned attractiveness as well as effective adornment, which is how much your adornment will improve your attractiveness. Note that effective adornment is not merely a matter of skill as some people use adornment very skilfully for personal expression or according to what is appropriate for the occasion, rather than to make themselves attractive. While in the study mentioned above, Bleske-Rechek controlled for how much participants were smiling and for resource display, previous research has not specifically distinguished between the adorned and unadorned condition.

Holztman & Strube had 111 students full body pictures taken as they entered the lab in their normal clothes, makeup etc, that being the adorned condition, and then dressed in grey clothes with makeup, jewelry, men’s facial hair, and so on, all removed in the unadorned condition. They combined self- and peer ratings of personality, a good way to reduce measurement error, and used students of the opposite sex, not previously acquainted with the participants to rate their attractiveness. In line with Bleske-Rechek’s study, they found very small correlations between unadorned attractiveness and personality, the biggest being 0.23 for extraversion – known as a desired trait for long-term relationships. The other personality trait measures of Big Five, a Dark Triad composite measure as well as its individual scales were all below 0.1. One measure of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) reached 0.20, so extreme cases of narcissism were on level with regular extraversion.

Again, this is not much to build a chicks-dig-jerks case on, especially as the only link between attractiveness and Dark Triad was a clinical measure, and the size of the correlation was rather modest. But it would be interesting to compare the result with correlations with other clinical measures of things like schizotypy, Borderline Personality Disorder.

Peacocking and Persona

As for the adorned condition, bad boys did slightly better. The Dark Triad composite reached 0.20 and the highest correlation was for NPD at 0.26, with extraversion second at 0.25. (All other Big Five correlations were very low as in the unadorned condition.) Dark Triad was also associated with effective adornment, the ability to enhance attractiveness by adornment, which is no surprise as people with dark traits by definition put a lot of effort into portraying themselves favourably as a way to manipulate and exploit other people.

But again, the effect is not striking and it raises questions about whether women are superficial or easily tricked rather than crazy about Dark Triad people per se. An attractive veneer signals things like physical fitness and material wealth, characteristics that were considered attractive according to Buss’ cross-cultural study mentioned above. So that only means bad boys try to come across as conventionally attractive by displaying some attributes that they may or may not possess. Indeed, there would be little point of hiding their person behind a veneer if it was the person that was the attraction. And yet, many Dark Triad people go to great length to not only create a physical veneer, but also a psychological one, a persona or mask that sometimes contrasts sharply against their real personality. As an example, consider crime author Ann Rule’s description of psychopathic serial killer Ted Bundy, a man she had spent a long time with before discovering who he really was,

Ted’s treatment of me was the kind of old-world gallantry that he invariably showed toward any woman I ever saw him with, and I found it appealing. He always insisted on seeing me safely to my car when my shift at the Crisis Clinic was over in the wee hours of the morning. He stood by until I was safely inside my car, doors locked and engine started, waving to me as I headed for home twenty miles away. He often told me, “Be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Compared to my old friends, the Seattle homicide detectives, who routinely saw me leave their offices after a night’s interviewing, at midnight in downtown Seattle with a laughing, “We’ll watch out the window and if anyone mugs you, we’ll call 911,” Ted was a like a knight in shining armor.

So why would a bad boy impersonate a nice guy to attract women when it’s the bad boy they want?

A Flirt with the Devil?

But still. That’s anecdotal, and other anecdotal information goes in the other direction. As popular manosphere blogger Heartiste so charmingly puts it,

I’ve never gotten more radical, more INSTANT, positive results when hitting on cute babes than when I deliberately amped up my asshole vibe. I mean, to the point of nearly insulting them. Eyes brightened and sparkled, legs uncrossed, fingertips danced all over my arms. And these were the upper class smart chicks with multiple degrees.

Can we rule out that women are attracted to the bad boys because they are bad? It could be the thrill of a dangerous man, or they may think of these guys as the alpha male winners they see themselves as.

There are studies on this too. One is by psychologists John Rautmann and Gerald Kolar (2013), and another one by Gregory Carter and colleagues (2014). Both eliminated the veneer of physical appearance, resource display etc by using vignettes, fictional descriptions based on the so-called Dirty Dozen measure, a short Dark Triad composite questionnaire. In order to see if the vignettes were perceived as Dark Triad and to control for other traits, both studies also had participants rank the vignette characters on the Big Five. Overall, these ratings were as expected, high on extraversion, lower on agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness while more or less unrelated to openness. (There were some discrepancies however, more on that later.)

Rautmann & Kolar created vignette characters separately for each of the three DT traits which participants rated on various types of attractiveness – likeability, friendship material, general attractiveness, as a potential partner in long- and short-term sexual relationships. It turned out that these characters rated fairly low on most scales. All but two ratings were below the neutral/disinterested midpoint of 2 (going from 0 to 4) of the five point Likert scale. These were for narcissists and Machiavellians on short-term sexual relationship, scoring 2.42 and 2.05 respectively, the latter being negligibly over the neutral rating. Or as the authors sum it up – “Narcisssists are perceived as hot, Machiavellians and psychopaths not.”

This might look as a win for the chicks-dig-jerks theory, at least in the case of narcissists. But scoring 2.42 on a scale from 0 to 4 is not a striking result. The authors also concede that the vignettes don’t take into account that DT traits are intercorrelated. This means that real life narcissists will be somewhat psychopathic and Machiavellian as well, which should reduce their modest attractiveness ratings even further. Then there is the Big Five rating which showed that participants viewed narcissists as more normal and, as a consequence, less bad or dark, than psychopaths and Machiavellians. In terms of Big Five correlates it was the psychopaths who rated darkest, scoring lower on neuroticism and agreeableness, suggestive of a cold-blooded and hostile person. Interestingly, psychopaths also scored lowest on attractiveness – including the scale for short-term sexual interest. Again, not good news for this theory.

At Least Sexier Than Nervous Geeks?

Carter and colleagues, however, got a different result. They created a composite DT vignette character, rather than one for each part of the triad, and this character rated as relatively attractive. And unlike Rautmann & Kolar, Carter introduced a control character too so that we can see how attractive the DT vignette was compared to an average guy. Well, that would have been the obvious way to do it, but instead they went with a control character that simply lacked all DT traits. And as traits tend to be normally distributed, meaning most people are close to the average, the control in this study is just as rare and extreme person as the Dark Triad person. What kind of person?

Judging by the Big Five traits that participants rated the control with, this was an introverted, neurotic and conscientious person, or in more plain English, an unsociable, nervous, geeky guy. Not that I have any evidence that such a person would score as less attractive than most personalities, but I think we can agree that it’s reasonable to suspect that correlations between DT personality and attractiveness may have been inflated in this way. Even so, the correlation was not more than 0.37 as compared with -0.35 for neuroticism and 0.33 for extraversion. The authors also concede that the general attractiveness rating used means they know little of the sexual competitiveness of the DT personality, but they still try to imply that they do,

…we are not asserting that female respondents who rated the DT character as attractive would necessarily be willing to engage in sex with them. However, our findings do indicate that the DT personality is attractive to our participants. This in turn supports previous work that has suggested DT men are more sexually successful.

The “previous work” being based on self-reports from men who by definition are boastful and self-enhancing. That’s somewhat like two drunks leaning on each other to stay upright. Then, in a paper only a month later, the Carter reconsiders the whole idea of DT as an evolved strategy for male short-term mating when he found that women with subclinical DT traits are about as common as men,

We propose that focus on DT as a male adaptation to short-term mating has been overstated and that men’s greater preference for casual sexual encounters is not explained by DT traits.

To conclude, all research I’ve found on this fails to support the hypothesis that women like bad boys, be it long-term or short-term. It echoes earlier research showing extraversion and emotional stability to be attractive traits but does nothing to establish an effect of the Dark Triad beyond those correlates.

The Sexiest Men Alive

Women only like him because they can sense that his a complete jerk?

Henry Cavill. Women only like him because they can sense that his a complete jerk.

Still, science is rarely perfect, especially not soft science. Sometimes constructs and study designs can fail to model what takes place in the real world. Perhaps we are better off looking to popular culture for answers? It’s not controversial to say that we live in sexualized celebrity culture. It’s not uncommon for pop culture media to rate celebrities on how attractive or sexy they are. I’ve looked at some of these lists of highly desired men to see if they can shed some light on this question. First off, here is Glamour Magazine (UK) reader’s vote on sexiest men 2013 (95K voters),

  1. Henry Cavill
  2. Robert Pattinson
  3. Liam Hemsworth
  4. Tom Hiddleston
  5. Benedict Cumberbatch
  6. Harry Styles
  7. Chris Hemsworth
  8. Idris Elba
  9. Jamie Campbell Bower
  10. Justin Bieber

As an, admittedly limited, bad boy indicator, I looked at the “controversy”, “personal life”, and “public image” sections on Wikipedia entries for these boys and men. I could not find dirt on anyone but Justin Bieber, but as his stardom preceded his controversial behavior that’s irrelevant. If anything his star appears to have waned as his bad boy image emerged.

Next, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2013, not voted but with 46 million readers and ad revenues of around a billion dollars yearly, they probably know something about what celeb starved readers like,

  1. Adam Levine
  2. Idris Elba
  3. Luke Bryan
  4. Jimmy Fallon
  5. Bruno Mars
  6. Jonathan and Drew Scott (identical twins)
  7. Justin Timberlake
  8. Chris Pine
  9. Pharrell Williams
  10. Ronan Farrow

Same story here. Adam Levine has had some drug problems in his adolescence but is now sober and a successful musician and entrepreneur who is also committed to helping children with ADHD. Chris Pine has one DUI but it’s from this year so as with Bieber it precedes his celebrity status. There may of course still be some controversy to be found if you dig a little deeper, but digging deep is not what celebrity culture is about. If the popularity of these men depended on a bad boy image you wouldn’t have to look further than Wikipedia to find evidence of it.

They may seem dangerous but girls love them ; )

One Direction. They may seem dangerous but girls love them.

Then you have the boy bands – intentionally designed to appeal to girls and younger women. This genre should be overflowing with bad boys. But has there ever been a boy band of bad boys? Or even a non-cute boy band?

If girls and women really like their jerks so much, why then would they favor men who don’t have a hint of a mean streak, when voting in polls, buying music, watching movies or attending concerts? To convey a socially acceptable persona? We’re talking about teenage girls here. It seems infinitely more plausible to assume that they spend time and money on the men they do find attractive – and they’re not Dark Triad. They appear to share the DTs extraversion and emotional stability, but there is just nothing dark per se about them.

So again, we find no support for the theory. And yet people seem convinced of the bad boy allure. It would seem the real mystery then is not why chicks dig jerks, but why this belief is so popular despite of the overwhelming lack of empirical evidence, or evidence to the contrary.

Male Hypervigilance

I haven’t found any research on this particular issue, but I have found some stuff on related ideas that may explain this belief. First, Dark Triad men exist and pursuit short-term sexual relationships. To say, as Carter did in his retraction, “men’s greater preference for casual sexual encounters is not explained by DT traits” is going too far in the other direction. By all accounts these men are players, just not all that successful at what they do. But even so, they constitute a danger to other men, and men who disregard this danger may have been weeded out by natural selection. Because from an evolutionary perspective, the worst thing you can do, short of getting yourself killed, is to raise someone else’s children. Still, this doesn’t answer why men overestimate the bad boys’ attraction on women. Wouldn’t a realistic assessment lead to the highest fitness? Not necessarily. Evolutionary theorists have a concept called agent detection, according to the Wikipedia entry defined as,

“…the inclination for animals and humans to presume the purposeful intervention of a sentient or intelligent agent in situations that may or may not involve one.”

Assuming there is someone out there, an enemy, a tiger or some other danger will be a relatively little cost compared to the risk of assuming it was just the wind. Like a motion detector that will go off regardless of whether it’s a cat or a burglar on your lawn. Better safe than sorry, at least when the cost of being sorry is sufficiently high.

This agent detection mechanism should apply to any situation in which hypervigilance can pay off due to potentially high costs. And raising another man’s child will drastically reduce your fitness, so being overly suspicious may well pay off.

A related topic that lends some support to this theory is that of paternity fraud. According to an article in Discover Magazine by biologist and science writer Razib Khan, estimates of false paternity among the public is very high, ranging from 10 to 30 percent. He contrasts this with a survey of the research in this field which has paternity fraud at 2-3 percent among men with relatively strong paternity confidence (and even lower among Northwest Europeans and Jews). For men with lower confidence who have decided to take a test to settle the issue, which must be a pretty strong level of suspicion, a full 70 percent are still proven wrong.

As Khan argues, this may relate to agent detection, the logic of erring on the side of caution when a lot is at stake. It seems very likely that the chicks-dig-jerks idea is part of this hypervigilance since paternity uncertainty means worrying some smug bastard had his way with your woman, and unless she’s a complete whore it must be the man who made it happen, someone who is actively pursuing short-term sex, who sees himself as a womanizer and brags about it. Someone like a Dark Triad man. The hypervigilance will then be post-hoc rationalized as being due to the fact that chicks dig jerks.

Well, that’s my theory any way, and sad if true, since at least some of these men think of their delusion as an almost heroic form of realism. Unlike all the saps and phonies (the betas in manosphere parlance) who buy the sugar-coated, fluffy crap about human nature, they believe they alone see things the way they really are. Is there a way to snap out of that? I’m not so sure.

59 Responses to Chicks Dig Jerks, Right?

  1. Santoculto says:

    I think low testosterone men attract more higher testosterone women. Myself, i don’t know why but my two girlfriends that i already had in my life was above masculinized and one them have (had) extremely higher anxiety.

    Today, media can be very inconveniently important to influence woman choice mates. Like here in Brazil, a one italian study (if i remember very well) found that fertility rates decreased because the soap operas family model, one or two children. But i think it was more a remote correlation than correlative causality. Is a possible combination of environmental (cultural, social…) factors and bio-predispositional factors.

    I read somewhere that schizophrenia genes can make more attractive facial features in some carriers.

    The problem is ”psychopath” generalization here because every human population taxionomically separated will have their own internal diversity of combinations. Some this combinations are more adaptative than others.

    I think some (and generally, most of high functioning ones) psychopath males conquest women (prey OR not) during period of flirt, because its innate (enormous) capacity to understand what persons like, dislike.

    Geeks and nerds, acoording the theory of ”autism- extreme brain male” have ”woman mind blindness” and men within the schizophrenic and psycotic spectrum (extreme female brain) tend to be more apt to understand AND OR to have female mind.

    Psychopathy is a kind of psychotic personality is not?? Explain black male (schizophrenic spectra) and asian male (autism spectra).

    • Staffan says:

      It’s possible that high testosteron women like low testosteron men, but I haven’t seen any research on it. Keep in mind that the bird-of-a-feather effect is found in every measure except biological sex.

      I don’t think psychopathy is related to psychosis. The way it’s normall defined psychopaths are impulsive and hedonistic with a lack of empathy. They typically lack the delusions of for instance schizophrenics.

      • Santoculto says:

        Both have megalomania, a kind of desilusional thinking??

        At least for me, it’s seems a reality. High testosterone woman want cooperation, low testosterone woman look self-confident man.

      • Staffan says:

        They both have that, but I think the resemblance is misleading. A schizophrenic can be megalomanic because he thinks God is talking straight to him, like he is Jesus. The psychopath is megalomanic because he notices that he can break rules and hurt people without remorse – he is strong in a world of saps and cowards. The schizophrenic has a much shakier grip on reality than the psychopath whose delusions are more similar to that of common people thinking they won’t get cancer or seriously overestimating paternity fraud.

    • Yazata says:

      Autistic males actually tend to have feminised brains.

      ‘A study of individuals with ASD identified deviations in gender typicality, particularly lower overall levels of masculinity in both genders and higher levels of “tomboyism” in women with ASD [90]. Individuals of both biological sexes with ASD and comorbid GID/GD have also been reported in the literature [91, 92]. Conversely, studies of individuals with GID have identified high levels of autistic traits [93] and comorbid ASD [94, 95], though some of these results appear to be gender-specific. Deficits in empathising, a feature of ASD, are also associated with GD, especially in female-to-male subjects [96].’

  2. Live-Evil says:

    Not convinced. Most of these studies merely ask women what they want, not who they really get with (at least for short-term flings).

    • Live-Evil says:

      I meant to say, “Most of these studies merely ask women what they want, but do not show who they really get with (at least for short-term flings).” Still recovering from the New Year’s hangover, can’t type or make sentences…

      • Staffan says:

        That depends on what question you’re looking to answer. Keep in mind that Dark Triad men can still be successful at getting short-term sex by means of deception. That doesn’t mean they themselves are attractive to women.

    • Magoobie says:

      Yes, this posting is worthwhile and I thank the author for making it. But as Live-Evil says, come on now, anyone who takes the “chicks dig really bad boys” hypothesis is not likely to suppose that they will cop to this on a questionnaire!

      To give this hypothesis a worthwhile test, you would need much more sly measures of attraction and interest. And stimuli more realistic than lists of trait adjectives.

      Ramp up your game, psychologists!

      • Staffan says:

        True. Questionnaires have some validity, more than many think, even when it comes to things like self-rated intelligence.

        But I agree, questionnaires confront people with hypotheticals far from real life, and this limits their accuracy. As statisticians say – garbage in, garbage out.

  3. JayMan says:

    Good post, great way to start the new year.

    A key weakness with much of this research however is it’s based on self-report. What women say they find attractive may not be what actually is attractive to them. If only there was some way to compare the attributes of men who are bona dude more successful with women to those who were less so.

    But still, good investigation.

    • Staffan says:


      Yes, self-reports is a problem and in this case one that probably can’t be improved on with peer report. But as I said earlier, success can be a matter of deception, especially for DTs, so that’s also problematic. I can’t help feeling that the whole veneer/deception approach suggest that they know, probably from experience, that their true selves are not that attractive to women.

  4. I had the same “that’s what they say” objection. As the father of five boys, I suggest that the bad-boy effect does indeed wane as girls get older, just as your mother told you it would. The bad boys look braver and more adult when they are 14-19, but the mask slips as the actual adult tasks of getting a job and taking responsibility come into play. The ability to hack into female responses with the appearance of strength remains, but grows less powerful and females develop resistance.

    These events get remembered and put into books and movies because the other 14-19 year old boys harbor the resentment, and many of the girls retain regret and embarrassment.

    • Staffan says:

      It’s possible that there is an age effect, perhaps involving impulsivity and sensation seeking, traits that decrease somewhat over the years. And possibly a difference between populations, as with paternity fraud.

      But I would still like a teenage girl cult of at least some such individuals. They drink, do drugs, put nude pics of themselves on the internet, have unplanned sex etc – and then pretend to like Justin Bieber or One Direction? It just doesn’t add up.

      • Yazata says:

        In my experience the ’14-19 year old bad boys’ are the lads who have short-term sex with teachers and other lads mums. Then again they also take advantage of girls closer their own age, like council estate single mums in their early 20s.

        I admit my turnon is edgy young badass – Dzokhar Tsarnaev, school shooters etc.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s possible, I haven’t seen much data on this type of seduction.

        Edgy, maybe. But school shooters don’t fit the profile of bad boys, at least not Dark Triad or (as far as I can tell) manospheric alphas. They are too desperate and involved. A bad boy is supposed to play games, be cool, and come out on top – not end up in a body bag.

      • Yazata says:

        Roissy has used Dzokhar as an example of ‘chicks dig jerks’ so read into that what you will.

  5. Whyvert says:

    Interesting stuff. One thought: homophily means a bad boy vibe will attract bad girls. And bad girls are just what a pickup artist wants to attract. He doesn’t want to waste time with chaste girls. So if your goal is better pickup artistry, it may be good advice to accentuate that bad boy vibe.

    By the way, I’m not so sure about your boy band example. What about all the bad boy rock stars and their legions of groupies?

    • Staffan says:

      Yes, it could be that a subset of women like bad boys and that they share the same characteristics. Homophily seems to be a fact, at least when you look at long-term relationships, the short-term ones are less researched.

      Rock stars have groupies, yes, but their audience seems if anything more male than female. Boy bands are interesting because they are constructed with a clear intention of attracting a young female audience. Like an unintentional experiment.

    • Robert the Wise says:

      “homophily means a bad boy vibe will attract bad girls. And bad girls are just what a pickup artist wants to attract. He doesn’t want to waste time with chaste girls.”

      All girls are bad girls.

      So-called “chaste” girls are only chaste while daddy’s watching.

  6. JS says:

    I think you’re maybe misunderstanding what the manosphere means by being a jerk. They don’t say to me mean, hurtful, and insulting (a neg isn’t an insult). They just mean don’t supplicate, act needy, desperate, or clingy. Be confident and sociable, not nervous and fearful. Maybe it’s too obvious, but so many guys have grown up on “Say Anything” showing total devotion and supplication with your boombox on her front lawn, and getting rejected. In any case there are tons and tons of guys who feel that what they have been taught by society–be nice–doesn’t work.

  7. JS says:

    Another thing, jerkiness is attuned to a women’s beauty. Mystery said a 10 may require 3 negs where’s a 6 could be hurt and turned off by only one. Pickup artists are only going for the most beautiful women who are a very small percentage of the population so it might not turn up in polls.

  8. Staffan says:

    Admittedly my experience with the manosphere is mainly from reading Heartiste. He does seem very popular though, and as you can see from the quote above, to him it’s more than not being needy or clingy. He clearly equates the term “jerk” with Dark Triad, praise these men and urge others to emulate them to be successful. (But he says nothing about why prisons are full of them.)

    But again, I haven’t looked into this community much, he may represent and extreme part of the manosphere.

  9. My previous comment was just guesswork from observation, and probably biased. I do have something from more of a professional viewpoint, however, that may be of some use. Those of us who work in psychiatric admissions have long noted that females with Borderline Personality Disorder and males with Antisocial Personality Disorder locate each other almost on sight in a group, as if it were pheromonally driven or sumpin’, and are mutually attracted. Each also locates his or her own diagnosis as well, though the results are less predictable. Those currently in a manic episode (with symptoms of impulsivity and poor judgement) sometimes act similarly, though this is less pronounced and usually more temporary.

    • Staffan says:

      Reading about psychopathy I’ve noticed this observation more than once, although I can’t explain it. Are they somehow projecting something on these men? Clearly BPDs can have a distorted view of reality, like they are in between psychotics and less serious psychiatric categories (at least that’s my impression).

      • That was the original meaning of the term, that it was neurotic defenses trying to contain psychotic processes, thus “borderline” psychotic. Pretty much everyone had discarded that decades ago, though there are some dead-enders who still see it that way. Those with BPD do indeed misinterpret reality, sometimes in psychotic fashion, though it is very different than the psychoses of schizophrenia or methamphetamine. They are about as thoroughly at the mercy of their emotions this particular second as one could be. Past and future mean little to them – except that they have some sort of time fixation on anniversaries and holidays. They live in circular time around the year. (New thought.) As they also often have long lists of triggers for their behavior, perhaps the cycle of the the year is just one more example of that.

        In terms of the attraction to sociopaths, perhaps they are simply more easily triggered – or hacked, if you will – than other females. As if they didn’t have enough problems in life.

  10. Staffan says:

    They must be easily hacked as they project so much. You wouldn’t have to keep up appearances since their fantasies will provide validation of who you really are. No doubt the fact that they are trapped in the moment will make it even easier.

  11. “According to the Kinsey Report, 50 percent of men but only 26 percent of women reported having extramarital affairs.”

    Do I seriously have to dig up the links to prove that the Kinsey Report was fraudulent? Or is this some new kind of Kinsey report that doesn’t actually involve Kinsey’s data-falsification?

  12. Re the original Kinsey reports:

    Further debunking links are available… but if I post a bunch, the comment will probably get flagged.

  13. Yazata says:

    ‘The bad boy, however, is not well captured in the Big Five model, but matches the Dark Triad (DT) traits of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.’

    Huh? Someone’s Dark Triad scores are inferrable from Big 5 and HEXACO (the HEXACO being an improvement upon the Big 5).

    The three personality traits measured by the Dark Triad scales differ from one another, but are united together by low scores regarding (HEXACO) Honesty-Humility.

    • Yazata says:

      Click to access lee2014.pdf

      ‘In two separate samples, Lee et al. found the common variance shared by the Dark Triad to be practically identical to (low) Honesty–Humility, with latent correlations ranging from .80 to .94 for self-reports and from .84 to .94 for observer reports. In the same report, it was found that the unique elements of each Dark Triad variable were also related to HEXACO dimensions: Machiavellianism overlapped with low Agreeableness (A; that is, HEXACO Agreeableness, not Big Five Agreeableness) and low Extraversion (X), Narcissism with high X, and psychopathy with low Conscientiousness (C) and low Emotionality (E). Jones and Figueredo (in press) also examined the nature of the common core of the Dark Triad, and reported a result that is largely consistent with the conclusion of Lee et al. (2013).’

      • Staffan says:

        Yes, HH is pretty synonomous with DT composite. No argument there, maybe even facets corresponding to the individual DT traits. But the research I review in the post was on B5.

    • Staffan says:

      I doubt you can infer them from B5, but to a larger extent form HEXACO, although HH is not something that distinguishes between the DT traits.

  14. roe says:

    Consider the dual mating hypothesis (research on this has been done by Hasselton, and Gangestad & Simpson) – or “ovulatory preferences shifts” – that during the fertile period of the cycle, a woman will be more receptive to short-term mating opportunities with men who show markers of outward genetic fitness (ie. bilateral symmetry, or concentration of androgens in the sweat, or a deeper voice), but during the non-fertile phase, show a preference for… well, the type of man they say they want.

    This could reconcile women’s stated preferences with manosphere theories about successful strategies in short-term mating.

    • roe says:

      Oh, also: bad boy rock stars get groupies (short-term mating) boy bands & actors get “crushes” (long-term mating)

      • Staffan says:

        Perhaps. It’s probably tricky to distinguish and compare these groups with each other. For one, you don’t see many rock stars these days. It could be argued that the boy bands are the new rock stars.

    • Staffan says:

      Well, it could be that a subset of women, possibly those with a short life history, will fall for these men during ovulation. That could be an alternative or complementary explanation to male hypervigilance. But it’s a long way from the general idea that “chicks dig jerks.”

  15. Matt says:

    “Bad Boys” not exactly.

    For women, confidence, drive and intra-sexual competition are the keys, in mates.

    If those combine with being kind to small kittens, being a sensitive intimate partner, having a keen sense of right and wrong, all the better, as far as women are concerned.

    If they don’t, oh well.

    That’s generally how women work here – confidence, drive, how much they will project over other men and how they treat the woman are all the trump cards. If they happen to have a cruel streak as well, and it’s focused on others, and there’s no risk of it shifting to them, and its not a major liability in terms of the guy getting in trouble with the authority or their community (this is a biggie in practice), well they just accept that baby’s got a temper…

    It’s not so much women’s attraction to personality is immoral, just that it is largely amoral – it’s not looking for anything that is a moral quality, just assertion, ego and success, which not infrequently combine with an amoral or immoral personality (sometimes they do).

    Women don’t go for “nice guys” but strong guys. And so to nice guys who aren’t strong it looks like they dig jerks. It’s not so, just that women don’t really care, primarily, about the nice parts of personality in their mate; primarily its the bits that make a man a machine that can feed and clothe and provide and protect and good to show off to friends. And being a nice guy is a distant second place at best.

    There are of course thresholds for this – 1SD more confident than the average, probably great, 3SDs I’m not so sure, particularly without the concomitant talent, because that level of confidence has no value and is perhaps harmful.

    At the same time, a lot of this is also not because even when a woman doesn’t strongly prefer confident men, very confident men are those who tend to achieve power and also the sort of men who approach women. That doesn’t mean they’re an ideal partner, but as women don’t approach men (perhaps for sympathetic understandable reasons, perhaps for not so sympathetic, gutless, “Princess complex” reasons) and as women value power in a mate that’s what happens.

    None of this is really half as true for men, who pretty much do just select women for looks and being nice and nurturing – they have their limits but a woman has to be pretty low on confidence and self respect before men find a turn off.

  16. Matt says:

    OT: Staffan, do you have any comment on the paper here –, reported in the press under

    This shows correlations between personality differences within the London with urban density, with personality differences in the center.

    Interestingly, the main correlations with the city center vs periphery (urban density) seem to be lower agreeableness, lower conscientiousness, higher openness.

    This seems similar to the region differences between more urbanised and less urbanised states in the USA which you’ve blogged about before. Central London seems to be an uninhibited and tempramental region, like the Northeast USA.

    Looks like some more evidence that urbanisation influences regional personality, through whatever pathway (people moving and/or culture). Some are more suited for or tolerant of urban living than others or urban living changes them that way.

    • Staffan says:

      It’s a very diverse city too, with some interesting potential ethnic correlations. White areas seem to score high on conscientiousness for instance. The center is also oddly extraverted, perhaps something to do with entrepreneurialism and gentrification? The entrepreneur profile is low on A and C. This may also be why center is more open, being higher IQ and richer.

  17. Secular Vegan says:

    I’ve never thought of Henry Cavill as a ‘jerk’, he seems like a decent ordinary approachable bloke, who uses public transport. The Daily Mail online (yes I know it’s dross) had a ‘story’ about him waiting for a bus in London. Number one in the ‘jerk’ stakes would be Russell Brand, Britain’s biggest gobshite, whose sexual attractiveness to women totally escapes me. He is tall, wealthy and a ‘bad boy’, I guess that is it.

    • Staffan says:

      I was just kidding; most people probably think of him as a decent guy. I suspect the appeal of Brand is not bad boy, he is appealing to female progs who think of his lack of judgment as a breath of fresh air. Real dark triads are rarely political creatures, possibly libertarian.

      • Secular Vegan says:

        Well some women with poor judgement find Russell Brand to be ‘cute’ If he were short, not rich and didn’t have his media connections, then they probably wouldn’t do. So-called ‘progressives’ love him as he’ll jump on any politically correct bandwagon going for the sake of his inflated ego.

  18. Bird_of_Prey says:

    Let’s hope this preference for bad men is going to disappear because it’s really unhealthy and women are indirectly responsible for the continuing existence of bad men.

    • Staffan says:

      I think it varies across populations. Cute is much more popular in Northwest Europe and East Asia. That’s where you find most boy bands, for instance. It’s harder to imagine an African or Arab boy band.

      • Lion of the Judah-sphere says:

        Hate to sound nit-picky, but have you ever heard of the Jackson 5 (lead singer Michael Jackson) or New Edition (lead singer Bobby Brown, whose daughter is drug-addict Bobbi Brown, who appears to be on her deathbed)? Blacks, in America at least, like their boy bands.

      • Staffan says:

        Sure, but it’s just two instances of Black artists in a country where they are a minority and inevitably cater to a white audience – and have a substantial European ancestry as well.

        Look at Black majority countries like Jamaica, Nigeria etc (or Eastern Europe for that matter). Compare that with the really neotenous teens of white and Asian artists dressed like some kind of Ken dolls – who often have fans that are middle aged women. Maybe there is something like that in Black cultures too, but I haven’t seen it.

  19. Herald says:

    You are quite right that the evidence for female attraction to Dark Triad is underwhelming, but to echo other posters, there is the problem of self-reports and social desirability bias. Here are some random other hypotheses (some of which have also been touched on):

    – Women don’t prefer jerks for intersexual selection, but jerks have some advantages in intrasexual competition. Extraverts definitely do.

    – There is strong evidence for a female preference for extraverted males, and extraverted males may seem like jerks to introverted males.

    – “Jerk” isn’t just about Dark Triad. It might be about other traits, like dominance. The literature for female attraction to dominance is underwhelming, and dominance is only attractive in conjunction with Agreeableness. But this literature is also mostly weak and reliant on self-reports or other methodologies with low validity.

    – Maybe women prefer men who are “jerks” relative to themselves. Since men score higher in Dark Triad traits, women are going for people who are bigger jerks merely by being heterosexual. The Dark Triad may piggy-back along with masculinity. There is that other study which didn’t find sex differences in Dark Triad, but this one looked at 3 countries.

    – During high school and early college, women who are low in sociosexuality and sensation-seeking may not be having much sex if any. So, out of the population of sexually active girls, they are likely to prefer males with high sociosexuality, sensation-seeking, and extraversion. And guess what? Dark Triad is related to both sociosexuality and sensation-seeking. This also goes along with the hypothesis that women are just doing more impulsive short-term mating earlier in life.

    – There could multiple mating strategies and bimodality in female preferences. Being a jerk and going for jerks is a common mating strategy, but there are other competing mating strategies, which noise up the data.

    – Attraction to jerks could be moderated by other variables. Check out this figure from this article.

    It shows facial attractiveness as related to masculinity, plus attributions of whether the male has the traits of a friend, enemy, or lover. The Lover factor (F2) increases with masculinity until it gets too high. Both the ideal short-term mate and long-term mate are more masculine than average. Fresh-faced androgynous-looking men are unattractive. The Lover (F3) and Enemy (F3) factors appear positively correlated with each other, and negatively correlated with the Friend factor (F1). This distance between the Lover factor and Friend factor on the right of the graph is basically the “friend zone.”

    If similar dynamics apply to behavior, then this result is pretty consistent with the claims that women go for jerks and masculine alpha males. However, it also shows that a maximally masculine asshole lowers attractiveness, which is consistent with the self-reports of women. In reality, the truth cannot be verbally described in a single sentence of “women dig X”. It is instead a relationship between multiple variables, which requires quantitative visualization.

    As for the popularity of pretty-boys, that doesn’t contradict the attractiveness of jerks at all. They could just be different mating strategies. From an old GNXP article:

    What is the more abstract trait that pretty boys and rockstars share with macho men, then? They’re exciting, risky, volatile, and take-charge. So, the proper dichotomy is not “virile vs. wimpy” as has been supposed, but “exciting vs. drab,” with the former having the two distinct sub-groups “macho man vs. pretty boy.” Another way to see that this is the right dichotomy is to look around the world: wherever girls really dig macho men, they also dig the peacocky musician type too, finding safe guys a bit boring. And conversely, where devoted dads do the best, it’s more difficult for macho men or in-town-for-a-day rockstars to make out like bandits.

    I recommend reading that article in its entirety.

  20. Maybe bad girls like bad boys?

    • Staffan says:

      Yes, the research of David Buss and others suggest a birds-of-a-feather effect. But it’s also simple logic; who’d be into a wild and dangerous guy if not someone who is a thrill-seeker herself?

      I suspect the repressed girl falling for that bad boy is more of a fantasy, expressed in movies but not real life.

  21. ravibabu888 says:

    Great post. i don’t have patiently read full post.because it has good content but long content. i have one question How do you relate your profession to your personality?

  22. apriori111 says:

    I did not get chance to read the full article properly (though it looks very interesting and I definitely will), but something jumped out at me immediately from the first few paragraphs. While demonstrating the Manosphere’s ‘females like alphas’ theory was incorrect, you quoted studies that rely on self-reported data. Everything in the Manosphere is about the fact that what women ‘say’ and ‘do’ are totally different?

    • Staffan says:

      It’s true, self-report is a problem here as in many other areas of research. In this case there is however the fact that the birds-of-a-feather effect can be seen in married couples, as mentioned in the post. This doesn’t take away the possibility that they still cheat on their partners with DTs, but that relates to cuckoldry rates, also discussed further down. As is voting results on “Sexiest Man Alive,” and similar contests that are light-hearted and shouldn’t make social desirability a problem. I think the weight of the evidence leans against DTs being sexy but I’ll admit the evidence as such is not that strong. More research is needed.

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