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.