Friday, July 17, 2009

The mystery of why women are attracted to Jerks

My husband and I were talking about evolution and instinct. How much of human behavior, and how much of individual, personal behavior, is driven by our DNA? I was reading somewhere, recently--and I don't remember for the life of me where it was--that the argument of Nature vs. Nurture is moot. That there is no VERSUS, because the two things are not mutually exclusive. It is ALWAYS both. And I was discussing this with my husband, and how, if it were true that it was always both, and if it was true that these behaviors were encoded in our DNA, we could effectively breed undesirable traits out of humanity by limiting who could have children and who is having children, much like we've done with dogs, cows, pigs, horses, et cetera. Obviously this is all theoretical, because there is no way in our current society that our culture and morality would allow this kind of selective breeding (although that does make me wonder why it's okay for us to do it to other animals?). There would be a huge public outcry and it would be one giant human rights violation on top of another. But the fact remains, if it is BOTH, and it is a question of genetics, the possibility of breeding out something like "evil" is totally possible, IN THEORY. But "evil" itself, he argued, is a confluence of traits-- not a trait all its own. The combination of aggression and self-involvement to the exclusion of all else. But, I said, if these things are bad, why on earth are women attracted to selfish and aggressive men STILL?

All of this threw us into a discussion about what women find attractive in men, and why.

I can only answer for myself in these debates, but the answer is always the same: Women are totally bizarre. What we find attractive in men is sometimes totally and completely at odds with anything rational. For instance: the character of Dr. House. The guy is a complete and total Dick. He's manipulative, mean, and downright awful. But even knowing that, part of me still finds him undeniably attractive (and I know I'm not alone)! So I asked my husband why the heck this is because I couldn't explain why I found myself attracted to someone who behaves like a jerk constantly, and he said "You know, I think it's instinct."

I thought about it for a minute, and he elaborated. Women find these jerks attractive, he thinks, because they're CONFIDENT and POWERFUL. It has nothing to do with how the man treats us, and everything to do with the fact that he's in charge and can provide the most protection and the best resources for our potential offspring. It doesn't matter if he's nice to me-- all that matters is that my kids will have the best chance of survival. Basically, our attraction to jerks like Dr. House (or Tony Stark) is evolutionary compulsion. Furthermore, this compulsion operates under the assumption that a woman will be parenting these children pretty much on her own-- because anyone can see that a man who is that kind of person isn't going to be any kind of father. But said woman will also have the biggest cave, with the best view, and the best shelter from storms, and plenty of guys for the husband to lead on the hunt so he can bring back the biggest hunks of meat.

Could it be? Is this, at last, the explanation for why women are inexplicably attracted to jerks? Because Jerk=Confidence and power? Are we overlooking these serious personality flaws because we think the man in question can beat the utter crap out of the next guy (or because the next guy will bend the knee to our guy instead of fighting) and provide our future children with protection from the wildlife? Do we like rich (money, power, leadership) men just because they can provide for our kids, no matter whether they're nice people or not? When it comes to perpetuating the species, does personality have ANYTHING to do with it?

Did I go against nature and nurture by marrying the nice guy? Is this a triumph of love over evolutionary imperative? AND, if it is my genes that compel me to behave the way I behave, even down to who I've chosen to marry, does it mean that my daughters will also feel compelled to pick the nice guy, even though they're still attracted to the jerks?

You know what I think?
I think the answer is ALWAYS yes.


  1. i love your analysis and in part i do agree with your assessment.


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