One of the more tedious ideas in dating advice is the idea of “nice guys finish last” and “girls love bad boys”. It’s a truism that never seems to fully go away – the idea that women love assholes and will pick them over the self-described “nice guy”. The idea of assholes and bad boys underpins the PUA and Red Pill philosophies of learning how to be an asshole so women will love you. The whole “alpha fucks, beta bucks” mentality, dread game, negging women in order to prove your value and so on are all ways to try to dress up in bad boy drag and convince women that you’re “alpha”.
Frustrated nice guys will point to the success of the rape-tastic 50 Shades series, articles proclaiming that studies of dubious provenance have proven the high-octane sexiness of bad boys, women of their acquaintance who say they want nice men but go for scoundrels and of course, the asshole who got to their crush before they did. “I’m doing everything right and I’m still single, so what does he have that I don’t?” demand the lonely Nice Guys.
But the key to attraction isn’t about treating women like shit, it’s about understanding the underpinnings of why women seem to go for bad boys – even when they say they want someone nice.
The Zen of Douchebags, Assholes and Bad Boys
One of the biggest mistake people make is assuming that it’s asshole behavior that makes bad boys appealing. Despite what RooshV and his compatriots may tell you, women aren’t looking for a partner who will gaslight them, neglect them and generally treat them like shit. Rating high on the dark triad of personality traits doesn’t magically make you look like a clone of Stephen Amell who also smells like freshly baked cookies.
Now to be fair, it is an understandable mistake to make. Guys who are frustrated by their lack of dating success often look to some singular cause for their failure – especially when it feels as though they’ve been following the path that society and pop-culture has told them to follow. However, in trying to reduce their lack into a single cause – women like assholes, not nice guys – they end up missing the forest for the trees. It ends up being a case of the illusion of validity, assuming that they’ve correctly understood why women seem to like douchebags and sticking to that interpretation no matter what. All other evidence gets folded into the idea, regardless of whether it actually works or not.
Take the stratospheric sales of the 50 Shades series. Men committed to the idea that women want assholes will point to Anastasia Steele as “proof” that women want to be dominated by “alphas”; after all, look at how many women got the screaming thigh-sweats over Christian Grey and his floggers. Of course for this to work, one has to ignore that what works as a fantasy isn’t necessarily something you would want to do in the real world. Horror movie fans aren’t secretly hoping to be eviscerated by Jason or impregnated by a face-hugger after all.
Nor is it a case that asshole behavior triggers evo-psych mating instincts in women. In fact, altruistic behavior is much more successful as a mating strategy – prosocial behavior benefits the group overall. While some aspects of the dark triad help with an initial impression, the advantages disappear with familiarity and become a net negative.
Instead, what makes bad boys more attractive is the behavior that tends to exist alongside the more negative traits. It’s not the asshole behavior that makes bad boys attractive, it’s what they do that nice guys don’t.
Make Your Move
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a shy nice guy has a crush on an attractive woman. He spends weeks trying to tell if she likes him back. Then… after days of building up his courage he makes his move.
That, of course, is when he discovers that she’s dating someone else.
This story is so common that it’s actually the secret origin of half the most notorious PUAs on the net1. It’s a variation on the same story: while they were waiting for the right moment, somebody else swooped in and snatched their crush out from under them. And of course, this just means that they themselves decide to treat women with disrespect because hey, assholes right?
Ironically enough, this can often result in more dating success. Not, mind you, because being an asshole is attractive but because they didn’t hesitate.
The problem for so many nice guys (and Nice Guys, for that matter) is that they are afraid of rejection. They refuse to make an approach unless they are 110% sure that they’ll succeed. They will dress it up in any number of excuses – they want to wait until the moment’s right, they don’t want to make it weird – but it all comes down to the same problem: they don’t want to take the risk of getting hurt. As a result, they freeze themselves in place. They dither and wait. Shy guys will convince themselves of the nobility of loving from afar. Nice Guys will spend time trying to collect Friend Tokens in order to pay for the Platonic Best Friend Back Door Gambit.
Meanwhile, some asshole whose interest starts at her cleavage and ends at her crotch rolls up on her. And while the asshole may well not be as good of a match for her as the dogged nice guy, he still is the one who actually asked. Because he wasn’t as worried about “making it awkward” or whether or not she’d want to be friends afterwards, he felt confident enough to actually ask her out.
Even if the woman in question liked the nice guy, she isn’t going to wait forever2 for him to make up his mind.
If you like someone, then you want to be the guy who actually makes his move. The asshole may not like her as much, but he actually took his shot. The nice guy nice guy doesn’t get a chance because, frankly, he never gets in the game in the first place.
Remember: he who hesitates, loses out.
Know How To Present Yourself
One of the most famous studies on the appeal of men with high levels of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism focused on the halo effect – the way that one’s appearance affects how others perceive you. Narcissists in particular, tend to be perceived as more attractive than other people. In fact, narcissists are often seen as being nicer, funnier and more appealing overall than others.
They are, in short, taking full advantage of the halo effect; because they look good, they’re seen as being better than they are in real life.
To some, this seems like yet another unfair advantage, something that dark triad men have that leaves nice guys in the lurch. In reality, however, genuinely good guys have the upper hand.
See, the key isn’t that narcissism isn’t an inherent charisma buff, it’s that narcissists put more effort into their appearance. Narcissists spend more time grooming, working out and otherwise showing themselves off to their best effect. Their egos won’t let them look anything other than their best. This is something that literally anyone can do; getting fit and dressing sharp are very easy ways to upgrade your looks in short order. And by doing so, you actually gain a greater advantage over narcissistic bad boys. See, while narcissists seem more attractive at first, that overall effect fades very quickly. In fact, over time, people see narcissists as unpleasant, hostile dicks.
Meanwhile, legitimately good guys – people that others like to spend time around – become more appealing over time. In fact, they become more attractive regardless of their physical appearance.
So if you want to get the advantage over an asshole, take a page from their book – spend more time on your presentation and the first impressions you make. The bonuses of “well put together” and “fun to be around” stack, while the charisma boost from narcissism alone fades, giving you the net advantage.
Don’t Be Easy
Another reason why bad boys are so appealing is simple: they’re more of a challenge than a lot of nicer guys. Part of what makes the difference between sexual attraction and platonic friendship is behavior. A guy with many female friends may well be a good guy with lots to recommend to him, but he’s missing that spark or oomph that catches people’s attention. More often than not, they tend to be agreeable and eager to please… almost too eager in some cases.
In fact, for many men, that eagerness crosses the line from “easy going” to “desperate for approval” and “afraid to rock the boat”. While there is a lot to be said for somebody that’s easy to get along with, a push-over who over-values the opinions of others is, frankly, not that attractive.
Part of what makes bad boys more appealing is that they feel just a little out of reach. They’re tantalizing in their unavailability – not so out of reach as to be unattainable but far enough to require a little effort on her part. That hint of effort, the push-pull dynamic makes him that much more interesting. We tend to value the things we have to work for over the things that come to us easily after all.
Of course, as with all other aspects, it’s very easy to go too far. Part of how pick-up artists try to maintain a woman’s interest is through forced scarcity and manipulation. Negging, for example, is supposed to be part of how they show that they’re no push-over… and in doing so, make her crave his approval. They may try to inspire feelings of jealousy or competitiveness or use the loss of his attention as a way to try to prompt women to try harder to keep his interest. Going cold or trying to play to the “she can fix him” narrative are other ways that assholes go from not being easy to being manipulative pricks.
Being just enough of a challenge is appealing because it keeps things interesting. This is important because, frankly…
Boredom Kills Attraction
Straight talk: the main reason why nice guys (as opposed to Nice Guys) do poorly with women is because, quite frankly, they’re about as exciting as dry toast.
Every time a guy complains about the woman who said “she wished she could find a nice guy,” it’s because he has missed the unspoken follow-up: “…who doesn’t bore the tits off me.” Bad boys may be drama bombs waiting to go off, misery factories who are just waiting to shatter a woman’s self-esteem but they’re not boring. The edge of doing something they know isn’t good for them can be thrilling to many women – it’s a bit of excitement that comes with doing something wrong or naughty that they just don’t get from a guy who’s “safe”.
But being interesting and exciting doesn’t also mean “horrible human being”. Nice guys can be more interesting as well, without being a gaping asshole. Using a little uncertainty – building that sense of anticipation – for example, makes someone much more interesting than a guy who is Johnny-on-the-spot. That will-we/won’t-we spark and the tension between desire and release can be absolutely delicious.
So can going out of your way to lead an interesting lifestyle. Part of the reason why the “bad boy” image seems to have coalesced around a James Dean manque of rebellion is because of what it represents: a shock to the system, someone who stands outside the societal norms. They’re something new and different… and that novelty is incredibly attractive.
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean you need to invest in leathers and a pan-head Harley to be attractive.
What it does mean though is that you need to be interesting. Dating someone new should be an adventure. That adventure may be a life with fewer attachments and travel. It may mean taking more risks with your career. What it shouldn’t be is dull.
Being nice doesn’t mean you finish last. Women don’t like bad boys, they like what bad boys do. Take a page from their book and women will wonder why they never realized just how fun a nice guy can be.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Nerd Love
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