Women, Nice Guys and Jerks

Why It Can Seem That Women Prefer Jerks

The common belief that women are attracted to jerks and prefer to remain "just friends" with the nice guys is not necessarily true. There are, however, enough situations that would seem to support this belief, and that is probably why it often so embraced in its over-simplified form.

The truth is well adjusted, mature, women with adequate self-esteem are not in the least bit attracted to jerks; and the minute the new boyfriend (or longer term partner) begins to exhibit the behavior of a giant jerk he will find himself out the door.

The belief that woman are, in general, attracted to jerks rather than nice guys, though, is an umbrella under which all unhealthy situations and relationships are often placed. In addition to the unhealthy situations and relationships that are real, however, are the situations imagined by some boys or men who need to find a comfortable explanation for their own apparently lack of attractiveness to women.

The belief that women are attracted more to jerks may start in the teen years and in the school setting when the most physically attractive boys are the ones over whom girls swoon (either openly or secretly). As cold as this may seem, what will catch the eye of a teenage girl (and often a women of more advanced chronological age) is a boy's physical attractiveness. They need to be "cute". For the immature, cute, boy who has caught the eye of girls since elementary school there is sometimes the chance how he sees himself can be affected by his experience. He knows he's cute. He knows he catches the eyes of a lot of girls. He gets to start to think he can get any girl he wants for his date or as a girlfriend. While he may be a decent person at heart, his immaturity doesn't always remain immune to all the good feedback he enjoys. He's a kid. Girls are interested in him. He may have trouble "staying faithful" to his 16-year-old girlfriend. He is a normal teenage boy with the insecurities all kids have, and he knows he's too young to take any relationship too seriously. While the awkward boy may often be without a date or a girlfriend, the cute boy can overlap one relationship with another. He plays the hand he's been dealt just as everyone else does. He doesn't know any other way of being.

In teenagers, the cold reality is that young girls are attracted to the cutest boys and less attracted to the awkward ones. For teenagers looks are often the biggest determining factor when it comes to who wants to date whom. Not all good-looking boys are jerks, but people often don't notice the good-looking ones who don't date much. People also, however, often mistakenly believe that the good-looking boy with a girlfriend must be a jerk; because envy, competition, and the assumption that all good-looking people must be jerks are part of many teenagers' personalities.

Another factor is sometimes the kids without social disadvantage actually become more socially skilled and are happier. They may be less prone to having a negative attitude, so sometimes the reality is the good-looking kid is just more positive and socially skilled, which helps him get the girls as well as his appearance does.

The painful experience of being the nice but awkward (or even nice-faced but not sexy-faced) teenager boy has its impact, and this experience, alone, may leave him believing that women are not attracted to the nicest guys. Male ego may sometimes, too, cause a guy to believe that the guy who is different from him must be a flawed jerk. ("I'm decent and nice and have these traits. He's different from me, so he must have inferior traits and not be decent or nice. What does she see in him?") Sometimes, too, the young man who is attractive but may not appear to have as much going for him academically or in some other way usually perceived as "success-orientated" may have less of an ego than the "Math Nerd" does, and his humility - even in the face of things that may seem less than geared to success - may be found more attractive by girls.

This type of dynamic extends into adulthood to some extent. Teenage girls who mature past their teenage ways grow beyond being so taken by appearance, although appearance is always going to be what attracts women more. Women who don't quite mature out of their teenage ways may be precisely the ones who, along with the high-school experience, reinforce the belief that women prefer jerks.

Generally, what girls and women are attracted to isn't a person's crummy personality. Its his looks. For the chronologically or emotionally immature woman it is difficult to break up with a guy who is so cute. Even if she's past finding him all that cute, she may like showing up places with the best looking guy.

Well adjusted, mature, women also find themselves in unhealthy situations with a jerk, but this is not because they were attracted to a jerk. It is more often, I think, because jerks sometimes pretend to be nice guys until they no longer feel its necessary. All boys and men are attracted to appearance too. Immature boys/men can admire the attractive girl/woman and may find little to respect about the unattractive one (and the standards of immature guys are very high when it comes to appearance). Sometimes the young wife of the immature guy gains weight after the baby is born or pays too much attention to the baby, and suddenly he doesn't have much respect for her. Maybe he would not have turned into a jerk had she not become heavier or so preoccupied with the baby, but now that he doesn't think much of her he sees no need to refrain from acting like a jerk. This type of situation accounts for why a lot of very nice, decent, and even "mostly attractive although not drop-dead gorgeous" women are in relationships with jerks. Sometimes a guy isn't enough of a jerk to consider divorcing the father of children. Sometimes women are afraid they could not be financially independent with young children.

Women are often by natures strong and understanding creatures. They sometimes overlook the behavior of a jerk because they understand what makes him be that way and don't want to expect perfection from another human being. Women - more than men - are often more tolerant of imperfection. "After all, nobody is perfect." Strong women often believe they "can take it" if a guy behaves like a jerk. They don't want to see themselves as breakable little flowers that will be crushed if someone acts like a jerk. Women often see themselves as above all that.

In summary, immature women are not attracted so much to jerks as they are to looks; but looks come with a higher rate of "jerk-ness" AND a higher rate of the appearance of being a jerk AND a higher rate of the presumption of being a jerk even when the good-looking guy may not be. Mature women who end up with jerks end up that way because 1) the guy hid the fact that he was a jerk until it was too late and 2) the guy wasn't a jerk but became one later. There are those instances in which a women with mental instability or emotional problems may actually be attracted to bad treatment, but those instances are exceptions and not generally the way women are.

The statement (or worse, the belief) that women are more attracted to jerks than they are nice guys is an easy way for a lot of people to explain why a lot of nice guys don't have girlfriends or wives and why a lot of decent and attractive-enough women remain in unhealthy relationships. As with so many situations in which an explanation is sought, saying that women are more attracted to jerks allows men to see women as misguided or flawed people while keeping their own egos intact. It also allows other women to enjoy a little sense of superiority as well. There is the emotional incentive for men and women who are not involved with jerks to continue to believe that women who are must be attracted to inferior men. The truth is in most cases they are not.

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Comments 21 comments

Nice guy 22 months ago

The sad truth is nice guys are only second choice to bad boys.

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Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Mikewin123, Based on my own being a woman, and on knowing a whole lot of women over the course of my lifetime, I'm not sure I agree that "most" women are attracted to "bad boys". I agree that many are. I'm not sure they're "sheeple", though. I tend to think they have something other than that going on.

I do agree that a "quality guy" wouldn't a) be a "bad boy" type, and b) wouldn't be particularly interested in women who are most attracted to "bad boys".

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Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Based on my own being a woman, and on knowing a whole lot of women over the course of my lifetime, I'm not sure I agree that "most" women are attracted to "bad boys". I agree that many are. I'm not sure they're "sheeple", though. I tend to think they have something other than that going on.

I do agree that a "quality guy" wouldn't a) be a "bad boy" type, and b) wouldn't be particularly interested in women who are most attracted to "bad boys".

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Mikewin123 4 years ago

Let's be real. Women are mostly attracted to bad boys, and no amount of verbal gymnastics can annul that fact. Not all women, but most women. But a quality guy shouldn't be interested in "most women" as marriage potential, any more than a quality woman should be interested in "most men" as marriage potential. Almost by definition, quality is the exception and not the rule. Most people are sheeple and if you want quality, you have to go for people who don't follow the crowd.

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Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

AScott, I know that there are those women out there who, for some reason, prefer "jerks"; but every woman I know prefers nice guys too. :)

AScott 4 years ago

I married a nice guy and it has been the sexyist, most fullfilling 33 years of my life.

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Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Point taken about not really defining the word, "jerk". I probably should have been more specific when I wrote this piece in reply to a question about "why women seem to so often more prefer 'bad boys and jerks' to nice guys". However, having acknowledge my own oversight in wording, I find your comment interesting (and maybe that's only a matter of misinterpreting your choice of wording here or there).

I don't see "thinking of himself" and "holding onto masculinity" as the same thing. There's nothing wrong with having enough self-respect to take care of one's own emotional (and other types of) well-being as a human being and within the limits of what would be considered (by, say, mental-health experts) as "normal". There's also, however, "thinking of himself, as in only thinking of himself" - and that amounts to be a jerk. Mature, emotionally healthy, men (or women) don't think only of themselves.

As for the the guy who goes out of his way trying to please "an irrational or emotionally unstable woman": Such women exist, but they aren't the majority. (There's not a "'yall" when it comes to us women. We are individuals and have different personalities and thinking. The majority of us are neither irrational nor emotionally unstable - hence the term, "normal" (as in "majority of emotionally and mentally healthy individuals).

Emotionally healthy, mature, women are most often looking for "genuine, caring, thoughtful, kind, self-respecting, and respectful (particularly when it comes to being seen as a capable, caring, kind, thoughtful person who is worthy of, and treated with, respect) because emotionally healthy and mature women will view and treat an emotionally healthy and mature spouse or boyfriend with the same respect that they want in return.

Emotionally healthy and mature men and women generally operate a human-to-human level and want to be viewed as the human being that they are - not the sex that they are, at least not when it comes to personality/behavior traits.

The well adjusted among us tend to want partners who know how to be a human being in a relationship first, rather than who have a preconceived idea about what someone of their sex ought to be like and who adjust their behavior accordingly. To emotionally healthy and mature women, the man who knows how to be "a human being first" IS masculine. Being weak isn't being feminine. It's being weak as a person. Trying to please someone who is irrational or unstable isn't even always being weak. Sometimes it's being misguided. Sometimes it's just not recognizing the difference between an unstable person and a stable one.

Men aren't the only ones who can find themselves in a relationship in which they're the ones always trying to please someone who will never be happy. They're also not the only ones who keep getting into relationships that aren't healthy because they keep being attracted to people for the same reasons.

There's a set of universally positive human traits that make up a whole, well adjusted, human being (regardless of, and separate from, one's sex). The person who can't, or won't, see himself as a human being first and his sex second will attract others who see stereotypical differences between the sexes first and then wonder why they have trouble relating to, sharing mutual respect, and understanding the heart and/or mind of the other person (who is, when all is said and done, a human being first).

Crooked 4 years ago

The problem with this article Is this it doesn't fully define 'jerk.' in my experience any guy that ever thinks of himself first or try's to hold on to his masculinity are jerks according to women.... The problem is that when the guy goes out of his way to please irrational or emotionally unstable women by becoming more sensitive (or whatever it is y'all want) ... Then we aren't manly enough for you.

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4tune 5 years ago from Michigan

Trust me Lisa they are all going to have jerk moments, even the most un-jerky loving guy will tell you it was his woman that shaped his @ss up - That's why we need to to pull out that can of whoop @ss, No kidding.

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Lisa HW 5 years ago from Massachusetts Author

4tune, from what I've seen, I think there's lots of jerks who are happy to stay with only one woman. If it's a jerk you want, I'd think finding one is pretty easy. LOL

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4tune 5 years ago from Michigan

I just want a jerk that is my jerk alone, and can take the heat when when I pull the can of whip @ss out on him, lol!

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Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Andrea, I think you made one of the most important points here, and that is that sometimes the person women are attracted to does change either after getting married or just over time. Then, someone who meets the couple will think, "Gee, she's such a nice person (and not bad looking either). I wonder what she sees in him." Or else, the guy remains "Mr. Charming" in front of everyone else and only "is himself" behind closed doors.

I'm convinced that the understanding and overlooking nature of so many people (often women) can very often be the root of what makes some women stay longer than is good for them.

Thank you for sharing your own (although difficult) situation and insight here. I hope you find that joy in your life because nobody deserves to have someone else rob them of the chance to have some joy.

I was once talking to someone about a few different situations in which women had no choice but to leave. The person I was talking with was talking about someone whose husband had clinical mental-health issues that made him actually abusive. She said how the woman had been reluctant to leave because she felt terrible leaving a person who had mental health problems. ("For better or worse" is something a lot of people take seriously, and sometimes "worse" isn't physical illness, but mental illness.) In any case, the woman in question had been reluctant to leave until she finally realize it almost didn't matter WHY the husband had been abusive. He had become more and more abusive to the point where staying wouldn't have been dangerous to her.

The person I was talking to commented on how, "Yes, it's unfortunate that the guy has mental problems; but the fact was he was dangerous to her and whether or not it was because he was sick couldn't really be the point."

You kids are still young enough that there's still some time to get them into a healthy situation, "start new", do some re-thinking, talking, looking forward, and enjoying time together, and finding some joy as a family.

Andrea 6 years ago

Here is is guys....... I dated a guy for a year.... What a great guy he was, to both me and my kids!!! We all had a lot of fun together.He had a son who he didn't spend a whole lot of time with..... I never really understood. Probably because he was so into me and my kids. Well we decided to get married...... The day we were married.... EVERYTHING changed!!!! That day I didn't become his "wife" I became his property! His attitude changed, the tone in his voice changed, and he suddenly didn't want my kids around because it took attention away from him.

He is the most insecure immature needy jerk I have ever known.Had I known he was going to turn into a jerk.... I NEVER would have married him! I have been stuck in this hell hole for over 12 years. We have more bad times than good.I was married to him 8 years before I had ever heard him tell his own son..."I love you" I think the only reason he even said it was because I was telling him how it bothered me that he didn't show love to my kids, and that his son was screwing around with drugs because he didn't have a loving father.I told him it really bothers me that he doesn't tell the poor kid that he loves him.That was the day I heard him finally tell his son that he loved him.

In the 12 years he and I have been together..... He has never once told any one of my 4 kids that he loved them.(My two youngest kids were 1 and 2 when we started dating) They are now 14 and 15.It really makes me sad to know I have wasted 13 years of my life that I will never get back. I have set a bad example to my kids by staying in this dysfunctional relationship. I tried to overlook the jerk for many years. I was put on 6 different anti depressants, got books on relationships, started going back to church, got involved in a marriage group through the church, all trying to fix this situation.... I tried every resource.. even counceling. The counselor told my husband that he had a serious anger issue he needed to address with a psychiatrist so that he can be treated medically for a chemical imballance. So maybe some men are jerks not by choice but by unhealthy upbring, genetics,or who know what. I just hope that anyone who ends up with a jerk needs to get out sooner than later! Lisa you couldn't have said it better. I thank you all for your thoughts on this subject. I hope to soon find joy in my life.... But as long as I am with this jerk... I will not.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Ellis, thank you for sharing your thoughts and reading. It's nice to know that "everyone" isn't under the impression women prefer jerks.

(Sorry I had to do a little minor editing of your comment. On the one hand, I didn't want to deny your input over what wouldn't be an issue in offline life or on some sites. Still, it's not always clear what TOS "frowns on" and doesn't, and I wanted to stay this side of not being "frowned on" by the people who are paying a couple of my bills. :) ) (I'm sure readers will know how to fill in those blanks and get your meaning anyway. :) )

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts Author

From: Ellis 4 hours ago (edited)

"This is so true, and it makes perfect sense. I never agreed with the whole "women like ______(jerks)" (edited), because it was insulting to women, and also blatantly not true. What I see is women like masculinity,confidence,charisma, and attractive men,notice that these qualities don't mean you have to be an ______(jerks) (edited). All though admittedly, young people my age tend to be very shallow, and only care about the superficial and not the serious."

Feral 6 years ago

Yes I agree, looks are merely a superficial trait. The transition of maturity should take higher priority. Being good looking does not always pay off, because of the very irony of that fact. Trust me on that.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts Author

Feral, thank you for the kind words. I agree that it's too bad young people focus so much on looks.

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Feral 7 years ago

I must say Lisa, exceptional piece of work here. Every bit you have written here speaks nothing but truth. I have never really agreed or believed in the phrase "nice guys finish last", and this truly helps to show why that phrase is so inaccurate.

It's quite unfortunate that during younger ages, so many people are mostly focused on just the looks of the other person, and generally do not wish to be with the average guy, even though that average guy may be more loyal and considerate of one's feelings.

Thank you very much for this article. I feel you truly have shed some light on this phrase for many people.

With highest regards,


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts Author

xmido, I disagree that girls generally like jerks better, because I know lots of nice guys who don't seem the least bit needy or insecure.  I also disagree about insecurity, because a little insecurity doesn't necessarily someone is less of man (or a woman).   The world is full of "real men" who are not jerks, but if you're willing to settle for a jerk rather than hold out until you find a real man who isn't a jerk - you're never going to meet that real man who isn't a jerk.

Everyone is entitled to his opinion, though, so thanks for the comment. I appreciate it when people take the time to share their thoughts.

xmido 8 years ago

girls like jerks, coz nice guys seem needy. needy means insecure. insecure means lesser man. and girls need a real man.

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paulhastings 8 years ago

Common sense at last. One of the biggest problems that men face is in finding a mature emotionally stable woman. Another is that most young males take advice from other young males who know very little about women so the myth goes on.

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