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Why we’re suckers for bad boys

Updated on July 6, 2016
Mr Darcy in breeches? Swoon!
Mr Darcy in breeches? Swoon!
We'd love to sink our teeth into True Blood's Bill Compton
We'd love to sink our teeth into True Blood's Bill Compton


A few years ago, it was all about metrosexuals. As modern women we yearned for a partner who'd happily share his emotions and his exfoliator. Or we thought we did. But we soon realised that when it comes to fantasy, what women really want is dark, brooding intensity - not a man who moisturises during Gossip Girl.

How else can we explain the entire female population's passion for RPattz? Ever since he slouched on-screen as Twilight's eternally young vampire Edward Cullen, teens and, yes, women old enough to know better, have been overcome with crazed blood-lust. Then there's True Blood's sexy 173- year-old neck-nibbler, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), who struggles to live in the human world without succumbing to his dark desires. They represent erotic fantasies that can never be fulfilled - if Edward goes too far with Bella, he might lose control altogether and sink his teeth into her flesh (spot the metaphor, anyone?).

But it's not just the undead we love - we become helplessly caught in the tractor beam of any man who appears deep, withdrawn and battling inner demons.

It all started, of course, with giant sulk-pot Mr Darcy of Pride & Prejudice who, despite his good looks and enormous fortune, hated parties, and was so mean to Lizzy Bennett, no one could believe he fancied her. Nevertheless, we all yearned to be the woman to melt Darcy's frozen heart. Why? Well, deep down, most women like a challenge - and a man who's already puppy-doggishly in love with us is no real test of our beauty and charm.

And we're showing no signs of getting over our attraction. Even Gordon Brown, who's more dancing bear than brooding sex-panther, recently compared himself to Heathcliff in a bid to win votes. As the black-hearted anti-hero of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, his balanced approach to relationships involved digging up the grave of his love, Cathy, so he could see her one last time. Ghoulish, yes, but that hasn't stopped generations of us fantasising about inspiring that kind of deranged frenzy in a man.

Unfortunately, normal men are more Harry Hill than Heathcliff. But they're also the guys who make us laugh, take out the rubbish and can actually kiss us without risking banishing us to an eternity of undead despair. That's why the gothic fantasy figures of our imaginations should stay just that. In real life, a GSOH always beats a brooding bad boy - fangs down.

Dr David Nias, a forensic psychologist at London University, says: "Ultimately, brooding men are quite scary and women's attraction to dangerous men goes back to the evolution theory. If your partner was dangerous or aggressive, it meant you and your family were more likely to survive. With the vampire characters, they come across as tortured because they're battling with their true nature - and what girl doesn't want to soothe a tortured soul?"


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