Bad Boy Syndrome

James Dean CigaretteI work in the field of drug and alcohol treatment, especially treating addicted women. So, I see a lot of dysfunctional relationships. While I in no way excuse the behavior of women because they are consenting adults, in many cases the ladies were drug free and out of trouble until they met a “bad boy.”

The other day a parent of a young lady was lamenting that her daughter was such a good girl all through high school until she caught “bad boy syndrome” and all her troubles began.

Back in my more beta male days (we’ll call it latent alpha days), I was constantly perplexed by this bad boy syndrome that seemed to afflict almost every woman. After all, as my mom and other adults constantly told me, I was a great guy that every girl would love. I was so nice!

Just yesterday, David and I were recalling this couple that would constantly make out in the junior high hallway. She was a smart, A student from a good family, while he was a bad boy who was in and out of detention centers. At the time I’m sure we lamented her choice in guys. When we looked back at it yesterday, we simply laughed. Now we understand human (and female) nature all too well.

I realize now that girls want confident provider and protector type of guys. They don’t want boring, nice guys. They like edge, confidence, and brazenness, traits that show a guy can stand up for them if need be. And, they want guys who give them a bit of a thrill.

I have no doubt the mother of the straight A student preferred me to the jerk who was dating her precious little one. That’s because, as a parent, she wanted only the best (and safest) for her daughter. The same was true for all the adults who told me how much their daughters (and other girls) should love me.

However, a little digging into the pasts of these adults revealed an interesting fact. Many of them were married to bad boys. And, I’d be willing to bet that even those who landed stellar guys, did, at one point date an absolute jerk. They would’ve rejected me at their daughter’s age too.

As David and I teach in our “jerk talk” women want a confident provider and protector. This is the stereotypical alpha male exemplified by successful, confident, excellent men (whether it’s CEOs, athletes, musicians, etc.). But, these guys are rare. That means women are left with jerks and nice guys to choose from.

Which guy is the closest approximation to the alpha male provider and protector? Is it the squishy nice guy who lacks self confidence and is picked on or the cocky bad boy who spends time at juvie? While neither is ideal, the cocky jerk is much closer to the ideal than the nice guy. So, when having to pick between the nice guy and the jerk, most women, especially younger ones, pick the jerk.

While I felt sympathy for the parent who talked to me about her wayward daughter, my understanding of human nature made everything a lot clearer. It wasn’t just her daughter who was afflicted by bad boy syndrome. Most women, especially at a young age, get a bad case of it. Some just make it out more unscathed than others.

About Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett is a writer, speaker, dating expert, and business owner. His articles have been viewed millions of times, and he has been featured in a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal.


  1. So what would you suggest to college-aged guys who haven’t gotten established or successful in life yet but don’t want to go full assholes either?


  1. […] The Popular Man’s “Bad Boy Syndrome” […]

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