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The Science Behind Our Attraction To F*ckboys​

The beard. The body. The tattoos. How can something that looks so good be so bad?

Love & Relationships

It's the struggle that every single woman over the age of 25 has gone through, at one point or another: the inevitable soft curve of the nice guy in favor of the bad boy. It's not that women are crazy, in fact, there's scientific evidence to support why women are biologically attracted to f*ckboys. But before we get all scientific, I want to get clear on the word f*ckboy. If you've ever encountered one in real life, I'm sure you have concluded what that word means to you, but for those who have not, allow me to give you a brief description.

​What Is a F*ckboy & Why am I Attracted to Them?​

Urban Dictionary has many definitions of the word, but let's sum it up with the all-encompassing description of "a boy who plays with a girl's feelings and doesn't really like them but would do or say anything a girl wants to hear to have sex with them or to get something they want." I will also introduce three categories of f*ckboys: the Narcissist, the Machiavellian and the Psychopath, which make up a sector known as The Dark Triad.

I can point to a number of reasons for an attraction to this type of guy. For starters, there's the perceived thrill of the chase or the potential risk of dating a "forbidden fruit" which also seems thrilling. It's like when we want something we know we shouldn't want, it makes us want it even more. Nonetheless, for the intent of this article, I want to stick to the facts, the scientific proof, in order to answer the age-old question: why do we find people that we know are bad for us so damn attractive? The answer lies in a number of scientific studies:

Women are drawn toward men who possess desirable traits to pass on to their offspring.

If you've ever heard of the phrase "alpha male," it dates back to evolutionary theories of mate selection in which individuals observe the characteristics of a potential mate before engaging in a relationship. This idea supports the aptly named "good genes theory" which hypothesizes women as more likely to choose a mate with strong qualities, such as physical fitness, because they are more likely to increase the reproductive success of her offspring.

Hormonal changes cause women to be attracted to certain types of men, especially "bad boys."

Specifically, during certain times of a woman's cycle, typically when she is ovulating, she's more likely to be drawn to sexually attractive qualities, such as specific facial features and dominant behaviors, according to a 2012 study by Kristina Durante. There is, however, research to the contrary, thank the Lord. Martie Haselton, Ph.D, describes in her book that outside of ovulation, women are better judges of character and may opt for a man who's more responsible, nurturing and attentive to her needs. However, the temptation to satisfy our cravings still exists...and when given the options of a slice of cheese and a slice of cheese pizza, we tend to choose the one that will best satisfy our appetites.

The Thrill of the Chase

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This metaphor refers to what psychologists and communication theorists call attachment theory. Attachment theory seeks to explain the link between behaviors in child-parent relationships and adult romantic relationships. While there are four "attachment styles," the anxious-avoidant combination best describes some women's attraction to bad boys. In these instances, the avoidant personality type sends mixed signals to their (anxious) partner. For example, he takes hours, even days, to respond to your text messages, even if it's something as simple as "Wyd".

Or, he enjoys spending time with you, as long as it's late at night and inside the house, but never out in public. Each time you engage in an interaction with him, your "attachment system" is activated and you are only comforted when your lover employs a mediocre act of affection to assure you that he cares and re-establishes your trust. However, this exercise is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a war wound as this is only a quick fix. Over time, you become fixated on the burst of emotions associated with your partner's run-of-the-mill actions. Meanwhile, your brain equates these anxiety-induced feelings with chemistry, passion and love.

The Dark Triad of Personality: The Narcissist, the Machiavellian & the Psychopathic

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I'm sure you've heard your fair share of narcissistic lovers, but have you heard of Machiavellianism and psychopathic traits? This charming cluster makes up what is known as the Dark Triad. In short, the Narcissist is known for their grandiose behavior, while Machiavellian personalities are considered to be master manipulators and psychopaths are characterized as being empathy-deficient.

Typically, individuals in this group prefer short-term flings rather than serious relationships, thus, their initial efforts to attract a mate may seem extremely attractive, as they'll pull out all the stops in the beginning. Additionally, and this may not even be fair, research maintains that individuals who possess dark triad personality traits also possess physical features that make them more attractive.

1. Narcissists

Most narcissists can be spotted by behavioral features such as grandiosity, a need for admiration and an inflated self-image. According to Dr. Gregory Carter, a psychologist who specializes in Narcissistic personality disorders, narcissists, in particular exhibit charisma, charm and tend to be well-dressed. Moreover, these individuals indulge in efforts to make themselves more appealing, using these strengths to the object of their affection's weaknesses. The good news is that our attraction to people with dark triad characteristics is often short-lived once the nature of their true identity is revealed.

2. Machiavellianism

In regards to attachment styles, the Machiavellian scores high on the dismissive-avoidant scale. Studies have revealed these individuals as skilled liars, egocentric lovers and very successful in manipulative behaviors. As far as romantic relationships go, these individuals score low in emotional attachments, thus making it hard for them to invest in their partners.

3. Psychopaths

OK, moment of transparency, here. In my mind, whenever I thought of the word "psychopath", I heard full-on background music from The Twilight Zone, but that's far from the reality of what it means to be diagnosed as a psychopath. While I am not a medical doctor or licensed to diagnose or treat anyone with a mental or medical illness, I hold a Master's degree in Applied Communication and my educational pursuits have led me to research characteristics of these individuals at great length. And what I can tell you is that people on this spectrum lack the ability to care about others. They react favorably to high impulses, being in control and are thrill-seekers, according to studies I've read. This can be equated to risky behavior when it comes to "dating and mating", as these individuals often behave erratically in sexual matters.

The Reason You're Attracting & Attracted to F*ckboys

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The irony in dating a bad boy is the perception that he'll be strong enough to keep us safe. We've seen this idea of the "tough guy" in movies or adopted this fantasy from our favorite music artists and we hope it will apply to us. The sad reality is that these men aren't equipped to protect us because they are the ones causing us harm. Perhaps the most damning reason for our flawed attraction to f*ckboys is that our picker needs a tuneup. Say what now?

Hear me out…

I'm suggesting you may be more interested in a project than a partner. If I'm correct, then this would explain why we continue to carry on with men when we know they are bad for us...even when we know how it's going to end, we still hold out hope.

Sometimes, even when we see the bright red flags, we proceed, granted with caution, down a dangerous road in hopes that it will be a smooth ride. I once saw a meme that said, "She was the type of woman that makes an unprepared man ask God to prepare him", and I think that's an unrealistic idea to begin with.

At the same time, I believe that some women secretly hold on to this notion. When dating these emotionally unavailable men, we realize that the odds are against us, but we feel like if we can get them to commit, it feels rewarding to us. Moreover, if we can get them to change their f*ckboys ways, it in some way validates the power of our womanhood. The tragic end to this idea is how it substantiates our worst fears when he doesn't choose us and we end up feeling like we are not enough.

How to Break the Cycle of Attracting F*ckboys

Learning to curb this attraction is going to take time. Remember when I mentioned that your attachment system becomes activated by the drama of going back and forth with your lover? This happens over the course of weeks, months and in some cases, years, so don't expect your desires to disappear overnight. One of the first things you'll need to do is recognize when your attachment triggers are at play. Get clear about what it is you're feeling. Oftentimes, we get so accustomed to dysfunction in relationships that it seems normal. It's not. And might I interject that we should NOT normalize this behavior.

In the same way that certain activities activate your attachment system, there are also deactivating strategies that can help turn your attention away from a person. Instead of focusing on how good the sex is, replace those thoughts with how bad the communication is. When you're tempted to meet up for a "Netflix & Chill" session, remember how bad you felt the last time they ghosted you for days after you hooked up. Learn to employ these strategies so that you can outgrow your attraction to boys and finally get a man.

Be advised, the same way you're learning to break the cycle of this relationship, the f*ckboy is also taking notes, learning which strategies are most effective to lure you back in and continue with his f*ckboy behavior, so stay woke.

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