February 04, 2004

The Good vs The Bad

In light of my sudden hankering for Kiefer Sutherland, I thought I would put aside my extremely mental worries and concerns about my visa and write about something that Best Friend brought up.

Why do women go for bad boys?

Best Friend is a good boy (er...man). He is nice, sympathetic, worries about the woman's needs, etc. Yet somehow he never seems to get the girl. Which leads me to think about the 4 men in my life that consitute my closest friends and (in a tribute to the comments discussion yesterday), I will say this: they are all men, and not one of them am I sexually interested in. And they are not sexually interested in me, either. All 4 of them I met at work and quickly became friends with, all 4 of them have had turbulent or non-existent love relationships...and all 4 of them are good guys.

First off-what constitues a good guy versus a bad boy? Using the two objects of my lust, John Cusack (a good guy) and Kiefer Sutherland (definitely a bad boy), let's compare. Again, these are just my observations and are very generalized-there are men that cover the spectrum in both examples, I leave it to you to illustrate what I've missed.

Good Guy (John Cusack):

Well educated.
Concerned about the female well-being.
Hyper-conscious about right versus wrong.
A good listener.
Someone who you can take home to mom.
Someone whom you can ask to go to 7-11 in the middle of the night when you simply must have Cheese Doodles.
Someone you can share your demons with and have them hug you and try to help you.

Bad Boy (Kiefer Sutherland):

At some point, he's been broken. Big time.
Smokes, drinks, or both. And not just socially.
Has a few tattoos.
When you tell him how you've been hurt, he nods and pushes the bottle of tequila closer to you.
Is sensitive, but unable to talk about it.
Is sexually adventurous.

Again, these are stereotypes. I mean, I would have said Partner Unit is a good guy, but then good guys don't have tempers like he has. And Kim I would've said was a bad boy, but he didn't drink, smoke, or have tattoos and he was educated. But Kim was very fucked up himself over the death of his first love, and he was also a paranoid gun freak. He had an AR-15, a few .9mm, and a very impressive and shiny shotgun. I think he counts as a very bad boy.

Good guys make the best friends. They are warm, loving, and understanding creatures. They can talk about their problems, and let you talk about theirs. And as Roger said, if they are comrades-in-arms at work, even better-not only are you friends, but you have people to help you fight your corner no matter what.

I find friendships with men (in general) more satisfying than friendships with women, as we are not competing and men (in general again) are quick to forgive and move on. On the other hand, women are good for gabbing to about problems unique to women. I can't possibly have a discussion with Best Friend, for example, on how dry and rough a tampon feels after Day 4 of my period, mostly since he never has had a cotton cork stuffed up him and so has no basis for comparison.

I think there is one thing that makes women go for bad boys, and it is thus: they are broken. Women (in general) like to fix broken things. We are all-nurturing, earth-mother, blah blah blah. We see a broken boy and think: Right. I can help him. I can heal him. I can restore him back to a loving, perfect being.

Ri-ight. The truth is, when someone is broken, no one can try to fix them. They have to be fixed over time and of their own volition. I should know-I am broken, and the only one who can fix me is myself, with munitions support from the Man in the Armchair twice a week (aka my therapist).

I think the same works in reverse-good guys like bad girls. Bad girls are projects to fix, souls to save. They have had rough lives, and good guys want to be the ones to provide them with good ones. Also, I have noticed one resounding theme: bad girls make good guys feel alive. You are with a free spirit, one who says what she thinks, does what she wants, cultural norms be damned. She makes the air more vibrant, the taste more succulent, and your adrenaline pounce.

Plus, she's into al fresco sex.

Something else that attracts women to bad boys-they make us feel safe. Picture it like this: who would you prefer to be facing a mugger with: Colin Firth or Bruce Willis? Colin (whom I also am keen on) would hand over his wallet, eyes downcast, and speaking slowly. Bruce would (in the movies, anyway), try to fight his way out of the situation, or at the very least have a snappy comeback as he handed over the goods. Bad boys make women feel like they will protect them, save them, and should the world end, be the ones to help keep them alive in our post-apocalyptic society.

It appeals. You know-all that rippling testosterone.

These are generalizations, perhaps, but just meant to show how I see the world. The thing is, my first crush on John Cusack appeared years ago in a little-known movie called "Fat Man and Little Boy". He's a nuclear scientist that gets the fuck irradiated out of him when he saves the whole desert from a possible nuclear melt-down. All this, and he secretly loves nurse Laura Dern, too.

What a good guy.

I stayed with Johnny boy throughout his career-crushing him even more after "Grosse Point Blank", where he finally becomes a bad boy. Then I really crushed on him.

So what's up with Kiefer? Perhaps it's as Dane said-I just have a new cast of characters in my life, so I have new dreams. Or perhaps it has to do with watching a lot of "24", including the making-of disc where Kiefer stage fights a stuntman and they show off his luscious tattoos on his upper arms (umm...give me a minute here, ok?)

Whew...ok. Kiefer is definitely a bad boy and definitely broken. I checked out his stats: dropped out of school at 15. Married 3 times. Publicly dumped at the altar by one of my least favorite actresses. Lives on a ranch alone. Reformed alcoholic.

Yup. Bad boy.

So if you want to score right away, become a bad boy/girl. It's a simple as that. Otherwise you get moved into the "Friend" or good guy/woman scenario, and you will stay there while the object of your affection gets burned by someone else. However-you can be there to help clean them up afterwards, to hold them and cuddle them and fix them. And when you are there, at some point, the woman/man may realize how loving you are.

And you're in. If you're patient, that is.

The truth is, after a woman is burned by a bad boy, she goes to the good guys. I know it may make you feel like a consolation prize, but the truth is, it takes a woman to get burned to realize that we can't change a guy. We can't heal him, we can't help him. All we can do is follow our heart and hope it takes us in a good direction. It's the same for men-you have to suffer through the emotional firestorm that is a bad girl before you know you want a good woman. Someone calm, stable, and loving in an "I-don't-hate-myself" kind of way. And maybe those of us who have loved a bad girl/bad boy look at the sunsets just a little bit differently, maybe we remember the wild love that we had with a bittersweet smile, but at the same time, we look at our good men/women with a loving and nurturing smile.


PS-And Mr. Y...anytime you want to get that tattoo, that will be fine with me. :)

Posted by Everydaystranger at February 4, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack

This is something I've always wondered about myself. I once asked a female friend why women go for bad boys and she said "Because men are taught to go and seek out adventure in their lives. Women are taught that they have to have adventures through their men."

So far as the romance aspect of it goes, I'm one of those good boys. I'm always thinking of other people, I'm as generous as possible, and it's a matter of pride to be polite. Why am I like this? Because I'm desperate to avoid a confrontation. I'm a self defense instructor, and if anyone raises a hand to me they'd be lucky to make it to the hospital.

But, for some reason, being one of the deadlier men they're going to meet doesn't make an impression on women. They want tattoos and long hair and men who treat them like crap. Oh, well.

Good post, by the way.


Posted by: James R. Rummel at February 12, 2004 08:50 AM

Why are bad boys attractive?
Wrong question:
Why are attractive men such bastards?
Because they can be.

Posted by: ray at February 11, 2004 11:18 PM

I have a Darwinian, hardnosed take on Everyday Stranger's plaint. I suspect it has a lot to do with the peacock's tail

Posted by: woccam at February 11, 2004 09:03 PM

Unfortunately, many people equate being nice with being weak. I actually think it is the opposite. Most bad boys I've known are weak and narcissistic. That's why they seem so remote. Scratch the surface and there's not much there. Standing up for you? Only if it is in their best interest.

Posted by: mik at February 11, 2004 08:09 PM

Is good and bad not a question of definition ?

The week before I married I was at the breakfast table with my future in laws. Her mother asked me how much relationships I had before her daughter. I counted the names on my fingers stopping with her daughter as the thirteenth.

Deadly silence.

New subject.

Since then, (we are married) I am counted as a bad or at least dubious boy in those surroundings. Slowly I get back into grace, mainly because their first grandchild is my son and that's a real charmer.

Posted by: augustijn at February 8, 2004 11:27 PM

Just remember-don't be nice! :)

Posted by: Helen at February 5, 2004 11:20 AM

Taking note:

-The mothertrucker took (some) of my advice and got several damn dates. But his niceness took over and he got dumped every time.

Sounds like a great strategy, H ...

Posted by: Best Friend at February 5, 2004 11:07 AM

Del-did you get your best friend, or still waiting for it to come?

Rob-priceless summation of how to be a bad guy. Priceless. Best Friend-take note.

Posted by: Helen at February 5, 2004 10:27 AM

for all his bad boy stuff, keifer comes from good boy stock........his grandfather was tommy douglas, who got medicare started in this country. on the flip side, keifer grew up somewhere in saskatchewan...the cold would drive anybody to drink.
personally, i just can't take him seriously, bad boy or no. his dad on the other hand, is a rugged old hot guy. and probably bad.

Posted by: hilary at February 5, 2004 06:14 AM

I'm so good, it can't be bad.

Posted by: Guinness at February 5, 2004 04:44 AM

Hey...I would be honored if Luuka can visit me in East Texas when she finishes her visit with David in San Antonio...it would only be a trip across the state...lol

Posted by: Mitzi at February 5, 2004 04:21 AM

My experience as a svengali relationship-maker will definitely add to this conversation.

Notes from experiment at work:
-Take co-worker who is a nice guy (kind of) who can't buy a date with solid gold bars.
-Tell him to grown scruffy beard. Grow out hair. never be totally clean-shaven.
-Wipe the smile off your face when you talk to a girl you like.
-Be stand-offish. Don't EVER show interest beyond a short conversation.
-When on the phone, interrupt. Also, be short. Always use profanity, even when talking to a good girl.
-Get angry. During one conversation a week with the object of your affection, start a small argument over something silly.
-Mention previous moments of crisis caused by your own short-comings...alcoholism, drugs, etc.
-Mention violent acts you have perpetrated, nothing towards women or children (of course). Only guys you have beaten to a pulp outside bars for no other reason than they looked at you wrong.

-The mothertrucker took (some) of my advice and got several damn dates. But his niceness took over and he got dumped every time.

Oh yeah...you are more right than you know, miss H.

Posted by: Rob at February 4, 2004 11:22 PM

That by far is the best breakdown of Good Guy/Bad Guy I have heard yet. It rings so true because my friend was the "bad guy" and I was the "good guy".

I swear Helen sometimes I wish you write a book of your collection of writings :)

Now I go back to bed to recover from the flu.

Posted by: Drew at February 4, 2004 10:53 PM

My fiance has some minor bad-boy tendancies, but his good-boy act far outweighs it.

He has a tattoo, has been broken, and is a real man. But he's also smart, sensitive, caring, and loving. He never leaves any doubt that he cherishes me.

Maybe there can be a balance between being boring and being irresponsible.

Posted by: cyberangel at February 4, 2004 10:37 PM

I just like to think everyone (including me) is screwed in the head and no one REALLY wants to be happy. I mean, all your theories make more sense, but I like to keep it simple. ;)

Posted by: James at February 4, 2004 09:31 PM

Thanks Chris, thats what I was going to mention and forgot, not sure how much of the ladder theory I agree with, but it is an amusing read


Posted by: dane at February 4, 2004 09:16 PM


First, pass along a hats off to Mr Y and the just say no to a tattoo stance, I mean really, why try and decorate something that's already perfect? (the human body, not just his body, heh... I'll take heat for this I know).

the good girl/bad boy thing.... we can start with a copy of "Codependent No More", and some self help books on self esteem, add to that a simple understanding of cycles of abuse, and why people tend to stay victims, and how abusers can pick them out, and suddenly we have all the makings for a classic romance. May you live in interesting times.

What are "bad boys" anyway? People will say maybe good looking, comes across with a I don't care attitude, has other behaviors and traits that could be considered anti social, etc... fill in the blanks. We call it a bad boy, but if you really look, its someone with low self esteem, someone who, for whatever dark spot in their past, has not developed emotionally. They will tend to surround themseves with people of lesser intelligence, and social skills just to have a safety net, so they always have the upper hand.

As far as the "Good girls" chasing them I think Sarah hit on one reason it works out like that. Another is simple attention, If bad boy comes off as he doesn't care (because he probably doesn't know how to care), but shows good girl attention. maybe even a well practiced glimpse of his softer side, he is going to get the date. After all, his only competition is from a bunch of sensitive good guy wall flowers admiring her from afar.

I could never do the bad guy thing, my parents did too good a job making me think about how my actions could effect others, and not being ok with hurting people. On the flipside it took a long time to realize that being the good guy victim is no healthy way to live either. I think I will just cross both those groups off my list, file them under "broken people" (not your definition Helen) and go hang out with the semi-well adjusted boring people known as normies. I can make fun of their tattoos while they give me crap about my ratty hotrod =)


Posted by: Dane at February 4, 2004 09:12 PM

You should read the ladder theory:

Read the whole thing. It is amusing

Posted by: Chris at February 4, 2004 09:05 PM

Women (in general) like to fix broken things.

You know, you may have something there. I remember a similar conversation I had years ago with a friend who said it was because the bad ones were "more of a challenge," and that didn't seem to describe my reasons for liking bad boys entirely . . . but the above notion, now, I think that might be more at the heart of it.

I quit trying fix broken people after one of 'em thanked me for my efforts by breaking my nose. Tends to cure you of that pasttime in a hurry.

And considering I'm sitting here contented after finishing a simple eggs-and-toast breakfast my boyfriend cooked for me, I'd have to say I'm through selling the good guys short.

Anyway . . . great post!

Posted by: ilyka at February 4, 2004 07:58 PM

Funny, I never thought of it in the terms of being broken, but it's true in my life. I'm in love with my best friend of 6 years. It took having my bad boy breaking me first though, because Tom was always the "good guy."

Posted by: Del at February 4, 2004 07:58 PM

Nothing new said. I think I've been at both ends of the good boy/bad boy spectrum and I'm currently caught inbetween. I have a wonderful girlfriend that deserves the good boy, but there's this part of me that wants to revert back to the bad boy status. So far so good.

However, those feelings seem to be diminishing as I get older.

Pinche viejo! HA!

Posted by: AJ at February 4, 2004 07:51 PM

Personally, I think watching bad boys in the movies is great but I'd NEVER date one. I did that once, and it was very exciting at first but after a couple of months he just annoyed the crap out of me. I wanted to tell him to grow up and get over his bad self! :) I love good guys who can pull out the bad boy persona sometimes...especially if it's all an act for my benefit. Very sweet.

And don't forget "Young Guns." Yes, I know, it's so VERY 80's, but Kiefer as a sensitive outlaw cowboy? Worth two hours of my time! :)

Posted by: Lesley at February 4, 2004 06:58 PM

True enough Sean. A friend of mine always says, "You show me a good looking girl, and I'll show you a guy tired of putting up with her crap."

That applies to MOST good looking women (and men too)...super-model Mrs. Solomon is the exception to the rule.

Posted by: Solomon at February 4, 2004 06:47 PM

I have no idea why I typed all that drivel earlier.

I don't think the "why" is anything more than, we think they're hot. A hot guy / girl can be a total assmunch and will still get some, because so many want them and people are willing to put up with their crap to get the cookie. An ugly person feels they have to be nice in order to make up for their other shortcomings. When people are meeting people, they're not going through all this deep rationalizaion: "oh, I can be with this person because x y and z." They think, oh, s/he's hot. I want him/her.

Posted by: sean at February 4, 2004 06:36 PM

Actually, Paul-I watched that one this weekend and loved it. Again. But the book was better.

Kyle-damn straight, I want both! :)

Sarah (and Roger)-I hadn't thought of that either, but I think you may be bang on. That way, when it doesn't work out, we shake our heads and say: Bad Boy. He can't be fixed.


Amynah-run, my buiscuit, run. I am :)

Sean-brilliantly said. Well done...and, er...sorry.

Posted by: Helen at February 4, 2004 06:33 PM

Don't forget "Better Off Dead" and "Say Anything". Classic Cusack movies.

Posted by: Solomon at February 4, 2004 06:23 PM

Well written. Adds to the NGD.

Posted by: pylorns at February 4, 2004 06:20 PM

My friends and I have been painfully aware of your point since we first noticed girls in grammar school and suddenly realized they'd have nothing to do with us. Girls Dig Assholes (read: bad boys).

btw - I find your consisent lack of acknowledgement of Mr. Cusack's work in High Fidelity most troubling. Not only is this one of his best movies, it also showcases the unbridled asshatness that is Jack Black. Oh, and the utter hotness of Lisa Bonet. Naughty kitty.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a sudden urge to go fantasize about, uh, re-read Belle de Jour and then go to the gun range.

Posted by: Paul at February 4, 2004 06:02 PM

Hey! Sarah, I think your on to something. I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. Food for thought today. I've not thought in terms of good/bad girls/boys but more in terms of social position, money, power, competition, etc. And where families control who meets who.

A girl I knew, was dating a guy from a rich family and he was personally already a multi-millionare. Her mom had misgivings though and hinted thru my Mom that I should try for her daughter. My 7500 competing with 5,000,000? I don't think so! Besides I knew he was crawling thru the girl's bedroom window as if it were a rabbit hutch and also knew that if he found out about any attempt by me to take away his fun, some of his friends would pay me an unpleasant visit; I can fight but this one wouldn't have been fair. The girl probably never knew what unseen forces shaped the course of her life but her Mom's misgivings were warranted...

Posted by: Roger at February 4, 2004 05:55 PM

How about this one? Know when to be either because, after all, you want both. Simple. Done. End. Fini. F-off & Thank You

Posted by: AnonymousKyle at February 4, 2004 05:42 PM

I have a whole theory on this, and it's true by my life, so it must be true for the rest of the world (as it's all about me, dammit--didn't you get the memo?).

Women go for bad boys because they don't threaten a woman's self worth. If Jane goes out with JohnnyBad and it goes sour, Jane's self worth isn't damaged because JohnnyBad was bad from the start and not worthy of her.

However. If Jane takes a chance and goes out with BobbyGood, and for whatever reason, that relationship turns sour, Jane's gonna wonder why the fuck she can't keep a good man around. What's wrong with her? She's not worth a good guy? Why did BobbyGood leave her? It might have nothing to do with her at all, but being the self-deprecating creatures we are, we tend to think everything is our fault.

Dating a good guy is a much greater risk for personal failure. Dating a bad guy is a risk for failure altogether, but not one that can be blamed on the woman.

Yes, it's a fucked up logic. But I think it makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: Sarah at February 4, 2004 05:19 PM

Congradulations on figuring out what we men have known for years! Well, most of it anyways. Girls do not want to date "nice" guys. They find them boring (and not without reason.) They may want to marry a guy who is all sweet and attentive, but if they only date the assholes...guess who she's going to end up marrying? There are two sides to this tale.

So, boy grows up. He's taught endlessly to respect women and be sensitive to their feelings and work hard to win over their hearts. He comes of mating age and guess what? The girls aren't going for him, despite following everything he's been taught. The flowers and chocolates and sensitive words are falling on deaf ears. No, they're going after the ne'er do well down the street, the one with the ratty hotrod who stands her up more often than not. He probably becomes friends with a great many women, hoping, praying, waiting for that one day that she will come around and get tired of getting stood up and yelled at endlessly. But it never happens.

Meanwhile, girl chases guys with long hair, tatoos, drinking problems and an abusive tongue. Each time she gets burned she goes back to Dear Friend and cries on his shoulder. "Why can't I find a guy like you?" she says. And each time Ne'er Do Well comes back, pledging to change. She believes him for no greater reason than the fact that she really wants to believe him. And she takes him back. Eventually, she convinces herself that his screaming and throwing stuff is out of character for him. Oh, he's only like that when he's been drinking, she'll say, ignoring the fact that he drinks more than not. I deserved it, she'll think. I should have known he hates pot roast. Gradually she accepts this life as her lot, and they live not-so-happily ever after.

Meanwhile, Nice Guy is off on the sidelines holding secret a love for her that she could not possibly fathom. And she has absolutely zero physical attraction to him, because there is just no challenge there for her.

Love songs are never written about nice guys. I watch this cycle happen every single day, and every single girl insists it's not her that I'm talking about.

Posted by: sean at February 4, 2004 05:16 PM

I had a crush on a cute bank teller back in the days of meager deposits from part time work while going to school.

A word to the wise; don't have a crush on someone who has first hand knowledge of your true status in this world:-)

Posted by: Roger at February 4, 2004 05:00 PM

Well, H, as usual you have hit the nail on the head again!

I asked a girl the other day, 'What's the difference between a good girl and a bad girl?' Her answer was:

'Good girls go to heaven but bad girls go wherever they want ;)'

That's the same as saying to a guy, 'this car goes really fast ...' ... you want it! (or at least want to test-drive it!!)

So are bad girls really a bad idea, or, like salt licorice, are they something that you should at least try once?

Posted by: Best Friend at February 4, 2004 04:52 PM

A friend once told me, "We're the kind of guys girls want to marry not date." Girls seem to want to date bad boys but marry nice guys. That's great, now that I've ended up with super-model Mrs. Solomon, but it wasn't much consolation during the high school and college years.

Posted by: Solomon at February 4, 2004 03:34 PM

Not sure if I'm considered lucky for this or what. I wanted a good guy and got one, now after 2 years of being with him I realize he has quite a few bad boy tendencies, plus he's good with his fists and not at all afraid to use them (the whole protected part). I'm still trying to figure out if this means he's a reformed bad boy or a reformed good boy ;)

Posted by: Amynah at February 4, 2004 03:14 PM

Abs is right-the bad boy trying to reform and do good-while saving the world-is likely what does it for me. Definitely.

And Mr. Y gave a "hell no" to the tattoo idea.

Posted by: Helen at February 4, 2004 02:31 PM

Hey, I thought you didn't believe in Nice Guy Disease. I'm telling Don!

Myself, I'm a confirmed good guy married to a reformed bad girl. I came close to getting married to a bad girl several years ago. Boy am I glad now that she scuttled that relationship.

Posted by: Jim at February 4, 2004 01:56 PM

Um, i meant GOOD not GOD, i am afraid i am not that good!

abs x

Posted by: abs at February 4, 2004 01:44 PM

I am a god girl but broken, does that make me desirable too?! he he

Helen, while Kiefer is a baaaad boy, in 24 he is trying to do the 'right thing' maybe this appeals to you aswell?

Abs x

Posted by: abs at February 4, 2004 01:43 PM

You need to read Dostoyevski.

Start with "Notes from underground"

Posted by: leon at February 4, 2004 01:31 PM

I think I am a bad girl trapped in the body of a good girl.

Or something like that :)

Posted by: Helen at February 4, 2004 01:12 PM

... so helen, f you had to pick a hat, what would it be: are you a good or bad girl? Just wondering ;). Miguel.

Posted by: msd at February 4, 2004 01:10 PM

it's the same with bad girls... bad girls are way hotter than good ones ;)

Posted by: melanie at February 4, 2004 12:00 PM

That lucky cow.

Ahhh...Thailand. Boy do I have some luscious memories of Thailand :)

Posted by: Helen at February 4, 2004 11:49 AM

Luuka's off to Thailand now! Yay!

Completely off topic, but had to say it.

Posted by: Simon at February 4, 2004 11:47 AM

I did the "bad boy" thing. Sure, they're fun when you've no responsibilities but when push comes to shove, I'll take a "good guy" to fight the daily battles that is Real Life.

And teach him how to be bad.


Posted by: margi at February 4, 2004 11:35 AM
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