A young, shaven-headed man pulls the collar up on a black leather jacket

Why women fall for bad boys

by Fran Creffield - November 27, 2012

Are you inexplicably drawn to bad boys? Does the smell of motorbike grease or unwashed hair do it for you? Or maybe it’s the rebel, social activist or brooding dark character that gets your attention?

Why do women fall for bad boys? It may be a dating cliché, but there’s no doubt that many women are drawn to men that they know will ultimately be bad for them. Fran Creffield investigates

There are as many different types of bad boys as there are women who are attracted to them. Whether they have a wild nature or are always getting arrested for political protests, the one thing they usually have in common – and the things that makes them so attractive – are their passion and their potential.

Why bad boys?

We all know that the good girl/bad boy story rarely turns out well but nevertheless countless women are still drawn into these relationships. Many find relationships with regular, reliable, secure and emotionally balanced men boring. Even though they know the heartache involved with bad boys, they still feel compelled to date them.


Bad boys are usually very passionate and women see that this passion is being misdirected and getting them into trouble. Some women think they will be able to tame them. They believe they can become the object of that passion and their bad boy will be transformed into a good boyfriend, just like Beauty and the Beast. 

We’re lead to believe that this transformation is possible because films and books tell us it is. In Wuthering Heights, the central character, Heathcliff, is the archetype of the tortured romantic hero. Even though his all-consuming passions eventually destroy both him and his beloved Cathy, many women still find that intensity attractive. They envisage hot sensual kisses, secret trysts, deep conversations, and being desired with fiery passion.  

Dating a Heathcliff can be passionate to begin with, but you could quickly end up feeling overwhelmed, suffocated, and controlled. Heathcliff’s past made him bitter and angry. He’d rather Cathy was dead than with anyone else. Beware of anyone who lets anger and resentment fuel their passion.


Bad boys are also attractive because of their potential. Maybe they’re an artist that’s never had their big break; a misunderstood intellectual, or a lost boy that just needs love. There are many versions of this same story but the magic solution to all of them is the woman’s love. Or so we think. We believe we can love and understand him like no-one else. We’ll unlock his talents, support him, encourage him, and stand by him even when he makes mistakes. We’ll believe in him when no-one else will because we can see his true potential.

Don’t fall in love with someone’s potential. If they don’t fulfil it, you’re likely to feel frustrated and try to force solutions on them that they don’t want, such as going to rehab or anger management. If they do, then you may feel resentful if they start living their dream life and leave you behind.

When you meet someone, ask yourself if you want to share your life with them as they are or as they could be. As one woman said, ‘I knew he was right for me because he was everything I wanted to change in a man.’


Part of the allure of bad boys might be down to reproduction and the innate desire to choose a strong mate to father our children. According to research, the traits women look for in suitable mates vary according to where they are on their reproductive cycle and they’re more likely to go for a bad boy when they’re ovulating.

Childhood issues

Another common cause concerns a woman’s relationship with her father. If he was absent, emotionally distant, abusive, or rebellious then she may be subconsciously drawn to someone who shares these traits.


Approval is also connected to the father/daughter relationship. If your dad was a bit of a rebel, you might unconsciously seek his approval by taking home someone who is just like him, even if it isn’t the best choice for you. You might choose a bad boy to fit in with your social group too, even if it doesn’t feel right to you.


Be aware of your patterns. If you keep choosing to date the same type of person, you’re going to get the same result. Bad boys rarely become good partners.