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


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


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


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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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