We slut-shame “bad girls,” yet women want to date “bad boys” and men want to be them, says Christan Marashio.
Adam Levine is considered a bad boy. Why, you ask? I have no idea. He’s looks to be about 140 lbs. soaking wet and flinches when cars explode in the background of his videos. I assume it’s his outspoken, bordering-on-dickish nature combined with his raw sexuality that elevates him to Bad Boy status. Millions of women dream of becoming his girlfriend. That’s the beauty of being a Bad Boy: People still take you seriously.
Angelina Jolie isn’t as fortunate. She answered the question about whether she stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston by bluntly stating she had plenty of lovers and didn’t need to steal another woman’s man. Almost ten years later, she’s still a polarizing topic of conversation.
While the term “Bad Boy” often refers to a man’s tendency to challenge authority, “Bad Girl” is typically a reference to a woman’s sexuality or emotional volatility. The Bad Girl moniker tends to go hand in hand with a woman being perceived as a liability of some kind.
For whatever reason, society feels the need to explain why a woman is “bad.” People go looking for the root cause of her scandalous ways rather than just accepting her as is. A man’s aggressive or inappropriate behavior is often brushed off with simple explanations like “boys will be boys.” The analysis stops there. A woman who doesn’t conform to societal standards—especially sexual ones—is often considered some kind of puzzle that needs solving. Men and women do what they can to decipher her behavior. If they fail at that, then the next best thing is to paint her as damaged goods. Like most prejudices, fear and ignorance compel people to mistrust her and place her judgment into question. If she can’t be solved, then she must be shamed.
A Bad Girl is likely to be seen as a threat by other women. As the value of sex decreases in the sexual market place, the level of difficulty in using sex as a bartering chip increases. It used to be that sex was withheld in order to procure commitment. Now, as more and more women decide to ignore arbitrary rules to which they never agreed in the first place, they pursue sex for pleasure. That means sex is more accessible to men. The end result is that men are no longer confined to playing the waiting game. They do not have to go celibate as a woman counts down the number of dates until she can have sex without fearing she’ll be considered a “slut.”
Women who only have sex once commitment is in place no longer have the power they once had. Now these women have to up their game if they wish to find a man who wants a long term relationship. The Bad Girls are believed to be taking the men that the Good Girls think they deserve. This is one reason why Bad Girls are not as readily embraced by women as Bad Boys usually are. If there are women offering men sex without commitment, thereby making sex more readily available, what can another woman use to secure a relationship?
I believe this paradigm shift in the dating landscape has contributed greatly to the rampant slut-shaming among women. Some of the ideas that women like to put in each other’s heads about sex and men is incredibly damaging. Much of this information has an underlying angle of sabotage. Either they encourage their girlfriends to bray publicly about their sexual conquests or they scare them into believing that no man will want them because they’re “too loose.”
Having a high partner count is an asset for a man. Whether most women will admit this or not, a guy’s perceived sexual experience is attractive to them. While many a woman might act shocked at a man’s admitted number of lovers, secretly she’s pleased. His “vast” sexual history tells her that he has been heavily pursued by other females. Intra-gender competition kicks in. If she can tame him, she has defeated all the women who have come before her.
Reverse the gender roles and it’s a different story. Not only do some men consider a woman with a “high” partner count a threat, but so do women. Men will throw around the precious “cock carousel” accusation. The will claim that the woman has been around too much and therefore is not partner material. The underlying fear is that they won’t measure up or be able to satisfy her. They’re afraid she’ll leave them for someone else.
The woman dating a Bad Boy probably won’t advertise that fact to her girlfriends. That is, not until she has shaped him into her ideal boyfriend. The Bad Boy is the Mount Everest of single men. Conquering him is an accomplishment. Then and only then will she come forward with the information that her man was once a player. A Bad Boy is only an asset if he can be reformed.
Most men don’t want to tame a Bad Girl. They want to experience her as is. Either she provides a welcome relief to the game playing most bachelors are used to or she is an experiment of sorts. In either situation, dating a Bad Girl comes with bragging rights.
Guys want to *be* the Bad Boy. They don’t expend much energy thinking about how unfair it is that the Bad Boy gets more attention. Only men who have a low success rate with women resent him. The rest consider him a hero.
Bad Girls find themselves almost universally disliked by their female peers, save for the other Bad Girls. She could uphold the strictest of moral codes and never pursue another woman’s man and still be considered suspect. What really inspires the jealousy is that she doesn’t care what people think. Whatever she pursues, she does so without the need to crowd source it.
That is the true sign you’re dealing with a Bad Girl. The fact that she is so unapologetic in her choices is what stirs the hornet’s nest. As a female, she’s expected to defer to others. She’s supposed to care that she is being judged negatively. That lack of concern, and not her sexually assertive nature, is what truly defines a Bad Girl. Unfortunately, so many aspiring Bad Girls are intent upon proving that they can think, act, and fuck “like men” that that distinction gets lost in translation.
I think the true disconnect that leads to the Bad Girl being less widely accepted is that many of them adapt the ugliest characteristics and examples of masculinity. They confuse aggressive with assertive and abrasive with direct. Worse, they keep trying to have sex “like men” oblivious to the fact that there’s no such thing. Men don’t have sex like men. They just have sex. They don’t justify it or apply expectations to it. The Bad Girl in Training thinks having sex like men means bragging, being detached, and not being discerning. In their attempts to be seen as equals, these women mirror actions that, regardless of gender, are unattractive and unacceptable. They’re Bad Girls trying to be Bad Boys. They do not realize that the behavior they insist upon emulating is actually frowned upon by their male peers.
The path to becoming an authentic Bad Girl is rarely an easy one. It involves disarming many an emotional landmine. Unlike her male counterparts, she’s met with more resistance. But there’s an upside to that that the Bad Boys do not experience. In an attempt to break her in some way, the criticism and judgment only makes her stronger. It’s the blowback that forces her to examine every choice. This introspection provides a sense of self-awareness that eventually propels her to a place of true self-acceptance.
A Bad Girl doesn’t need an Oscar or a partner who once held the title of Sexiest Man Alive to trot out to prove she is a Bad Girl. That’s the point. A true Bad Girl knows she has nothing to prove.
If I make a fool of myself, who cares? I’m not frightened by anyone’s perception of me. — Angelina Jolie
Christan is an NYC based writer and columnist. Her work and advice has been featured in media outlets such as Match.com, YourTango, MSN’s GLO Network and The New York Post. You can find more of her work at And That’s Why You’re Single. As a 40-something dating in Manhattan she can teach you that sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. Follow her on Twitter at @ATWYSingle