The ethology of attraction to bad boys
It was not only the natural selection that favored warlike men, but also the sexual selection. In archaic times, the combative behavior implied not only chances of survival, but also a more significant reproductive success. Women’s preferences for combative individuals have evolved in parallel with men’s aggressiveness. Numerous studies have shown that women manifest a higher sexual attraction towards men with a warlike reputation, towards leaders and military men. In some societies, military men who are dressed up in their uniforms are being perceived as having a sex-appeal that is superior to those who wear simple clothes [Schreiber, Van Vugt, 2008].
The women’s predilection for warriors and the military uniform’s sex-appeal represent a reminiscence of women’s ancestral preferences for men with high social status (resource owners); from times when the hierarchical position was directly associated with warlike abilities and aggressive behavior. From then, the symbol of the warlike man, who is in control and who has a combative and imposing behavior, is part of a strategy that favors men in their relationships with the opposite sex [Hardy, Van Vugt, 2006]. There are other consequences of the admiration of the masculine force, which marks the psychology of the sexual relationships of our times.
It is well known that young men who behave modestly and seem agreeable, selfless and shy are disadvantaged as regarding sexual relationships. On the contrary, those who are manipulative, arrogant, cunning, overconfident, who play hypermasculine roles, enjoy a higher number of sexual experiences with more partners . These effects are due not only to the gumption with which these men act, but also to the fact that women prefer this kind of men, with a more imposing behavior. Different studies have shown that the skillful men who have a dominant status and an assertive character are more attractive for women that those who are submissive and shy [Sadalla et al., 1987; Burger, Cosby, 1999].
At the same time, men get a higher prestige and are more attractive for women when they manifest their dominant character and their hostility towards the rivals (for example, towards the members of an opposing sport team) and not towards their colleagues or the persons who are nearby. As regarding a lasting romantic relationship or marriage, the interpersonal aggressiveness, unleashed by a man, could diminish the women’s interest (they being afraid of getting aggressively dominated) [Snyder et al., 2008]. Therefore, the assertive domination is favorable for conquests and courtship strategies for short periods of time, while the prestige (usually associated with social status and richness, but which can also include a prosocial behavior, empathy, intelligence, generosity) is going to have a long-lasting impact .
However, overall, in the course of humans’ evolution, the dominant individuals have been favored within the reproductive competition, one being able to find even today large categories of women who prefer “alpha males”, with an assertive and sexist approach  [Hall, Canterberry, 2011]. Thus, many women who consider themselves attractive prefer men with a deeper, more masculine and dominant voice [Vukovic et al., 2008, 2010]. Also, the guys with more masculine faces are preferred, them being associated with a greater physical strength therefore, with better genes [Little et al., 2011]. And, the more difficult and unstable the living conditions are, the more emphasized are these preferences [DeBruine et al., 2011]; in regions were the epidemic situation is more dangerous, where the population is more vulnerable to diseases, men with masculine facial traits are more attractive to women than those with womanish faces, due to the fact that masculinity correlates with testosterone and with high resistance to infections .
The studies which were based on the scanning of women’s brains have shown that they are sexually attracted by those male faces that inspire both fear and danger . It’s interesting the fact that women are attracted by the masculine smell, by the dominant behavior and by imposing physical traits especially during the period of maximum fertility of their menstrual cycle [Little et al., 2007]. This speaks about women’s unconscious and instinctual predilection towards dominant and virile men.
The staggering case from a prison in Baltimore, where four female guards fell pregnant to same inmate, a gang leader named Tavon White, illustrated, even in anecdotal form, the phenomenon of woman attraction for dominant men . But let’s remember how many convicted killers (like Charles Manson) capture the hearts of law-abiding women, being assaulted with love letters and other signs of adoration while sitting in prison .
That is why perhaps we should not be much surprised to find that most dreaded terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden, was considerd sexy and not a few women had testified that they had fantasies with him. For some women, he was perceived as The Original Caveman, raw, brave, basic. Other women fall for bin Laden’s supposed sensitive side, his spirituality, the mystery surrounding it, his ideological fighting.
Osamaphily was observed not only among women in the Middle East, but also among women in Western countries, among American women, for whom Osama ought to be an enemy. According to Justin Frank, a professor of psychiatry at George Washington Medical Center, women turned on by bin Laden might have had rocky relationships with their fathers. Other specialists invoke strange attraction of women for tough guys, for misogynists, especially if they appear on TV and are somewhat popular .
In fact, the sex appeal of Osama bin Laden was more widespread than we could have imagined. A survey conducted in 2012 in the UK showed that… 47% of women felt a ‘strong’ or ‘quite strong’ attraction towards Bin Laden (the same poll showed that only 23% said the same about their husbands). After the physical elimination of Osama bin Laden, many psychiatrists in London were besieged on the phone by desperate women, wanting to express their attraction to Al Qaeda leader. This bizarre obsession was strange to see amongst housewives and respectable, educated women. The experts called it Osamour syndrome, and the phenomenon, largely remains inexplicable .
From an evolutionary point of view, we are dealing with an instinctive inclination that comes from archaic times when males inherited and, in turn, transmitted genes connected with aggressive and dominant behaviour, who provide a sexual success, and women properly, had inherited preference for such type of males. Masculine aggressive character has evolved in parallel with feminine attraction for such a character. Effects of that archaic sexual selection are still strong today.
In psychology, the term of Dark Triad is used to characterize the traits of a certain category of men who have the tendency to act violently and dominantly. The Dark Triad includes three sub-clinical traits: narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy. These men are complacent, selfish and overconfident; they manipulate and exploit others without any scruples; they are impulsive and lacking empathy; they are impudent and possessive in their sexual relationship; they have sadistic inclinations. In an apparently paradoxically way, many women adore such types of men  [Carter et al., 2014]. In fact, some women have fantasies about brutal sexual relationships, including rapes; these fantasies represent an unconscious expression of women to be sexually desirable, their wish to be possessed by men , .
It is believed that the international success of the erotic novel “50 shades of Grey” by E. L. James is mostly due to the fact that it succeeds in exploring the erotic fantasies of women who are desirous of unconventional sexual relationships with sadistic elements . By the way, it has been found out that numerous young female readers of this book are being influenced by the messages that are being transmitted by this book; they adopt an unhealthy lifestyle, some of them are more predisposed to drink alcohol and to manifest a more promiscuous behavior (they are looking for more sexual adventures) [Bonomi et al., 2014].
If we analyze the things through the prisms of human ethology and evolutionary psychology, we understand that the attraction to bad boys, who have the traits from the Dark Triad, is explained by the fact that they are being associated with warrior qualities. Those who have such personal traits are also favored in hierarchical struggles and they usually reach the top of the pyramid of power.
Therefore we understand that the natural selection has favored the formation of some masculine warlike traits that favored, in each generation, the ones who were more combative and who had an assertive character, because those were able to acquire more women, but it also has favored the women who preferred the warlike men, because they were able to gain access to more resources. A mutual strengthening of the respective strategies took place on a genetic level and they became typical for the human ethology. Maybe it is the instinctual predilection for tough and combative men that makes women not to leave their violent husbands and that explains their fantasies with forced sex .
There are testimonies of rape’s victims in which the victims affirm that they had orgasm during the imposed sexual acts (different sources indicate a different rate that varies between 5%-10% and 50% of women who admitted having had orgasmic states) . A study of 611 hospitalized women, which was made in Toronto, Canada, showed that almost 43% of them have been abused both physically and especially verbally at home in the last year, but more than half of them (54%) have declared that they would stay with their abusing husbands. The invoked motive is the feeling of safety that these women have when they are near their husbands [Panchanadeswaran et al., 2010]. All these considerations should make us look more profound at phenomenon of violence in general.
Photo: Scarface / http://wallpapers.brothersoft.com/scarface-69675.html
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