The “bad boy” has a long-standing place in YA literature. He’s mysterious, alluring, dangerous, sexy—and it’s deliciously thrilling to experience the vicarious thrill of a heroine falling for him, whether it’s a good idea or not.
But I’ve always thought that, in real life, women wouldn’t find the “bad boy” image quite as appealing. It turns out I’m wrong.
A new study from the University of British Columbia suggests that women find happy guys less sexually attractive than either moody or arrogant men. From the press release:
In a series of studies, more than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex engaged in universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).
The study found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men, preferring those who looked proud and powerful or moody and ashamed. In contrast, male participants were most sexually attracted to women who looked happy, and least attracted to women who appeared proud and confident.
I’ve wrestled with creation of two different “bad boy” characters in my writing. In one case, I wanted him to be a smooth-talker who wins the girl, but is a jerk underneath; in the other, I wanted the guy to seem street-smart and untrustworthy, but be gradually revealed as a sweetheart. I want to create characters who are romantic—maybe even a little dangerous—but also real. I DON’T want to glamorize a stereotype, when real life bad boys aren’t necessary good relationship material…but reading about them can be fun.
What do you think? Do you write about the bad boy character? Is “bad boy” a veneer or a true-to-the-core description of your character?