Why can't we resist bad boys?
Loving rogues is in our genes, says Chrissie Russell
Published 24/06/2010 | 05:00
Some men just have it. No matter what they look like or what foul acts they commit, they still manage to generate a magnetism that sends women batty. On Tuesday night, Russell Brand walked down the red carpet at the Dublin premiere of Get Him To The Greek to a cacophony of screaming women.
The actor reckons the bad boy rocker he plays in the movie mirrors his antics in real life. Famed for shocking shenanigans like upsetting Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs, Brand has confessed to sex addiction and a dalliance with drugs, but he's still like catnip to women.
With a wedding on the horizon to US pop princess Katy Perry and a respectable, flourishing career in cinema, Russell Brand's settled-down status makes him more appealing than ever.
Ever since James Dean pulled out his packet of smokes and pulled on a leather jacket, women have had a thing for bad boys. Allison Keating, a psychologist at Dublin's bWell clinic, says part of the attraction is written in our genes.
She says: "On a purely evolutionary level, there's something about a bad boy who is very free, very masculine and confident that just sets off something in women. He's a manly man and that's something that appeals to women, especially in regard to procreation."
She adds: "But there's more to it than biology. A bad boy can be mysterious and unattainable. I often hear women who aren't happy when their partner is too available; everyone enjoys the thrill of the chase and a bad boy is the ultimate challenge. Women can think 'if I'm the one who gets him to settle down, I must be very special'. There's a lot of status and power play involved."
Of course, the key thing about bad boys is that they don't always behave the way we want them to. James Bond never showed up on time or returned phone calls, and Gone With The Wind's Rhett didn't give a damn. Allison says it's important to look at why we want a man to treat us badly.
She says: "Often, the kind of man women go for relates back to their relationship with their father. If they are constantly going for unavailable men, it could be to do with other issues, maybe it's an unconscious act to sabotage a relationship because of issues with self-esteem or intimacy."
She adds: "It depends on the 'bad boy' -- if he's just a confident free spirit, that's one thing, but if you're attracted to someone who is treating you badly that's a problem."
But according to Dublin- based counselling psychologist Dr Elaine Ryan, once we're locked into the cycle of being attracted to an unreliable man, it can be hard to break free. Elaine says: "When we're attracted to someone, a wealth of hormones and chemicals kick in. It gives us a high that we'll want to keep replicating. If a bad boy is what first provoked this response, the chances are when your brain sees someone that fits the same criteria, it will release the same reaction that can only be broken when you consciously choose to try dating a different type of person."
What makes it difficult to break the fascination is that there are examples of reformed bad boys out there before our very eyes that help fuel the belief that men can change.
Brand confesses that Perry has tamed him. He says: "I used to treat women badly, but I'm really trying my best. There's no lying or tricking. It's a nice feeling. It's easy to be an a******e, but now I've a woman who won't tolerate it."
And he's not the only one to have turned his back on the world of bed-hopping, drugs and wild ways. Johnny Depp used to be best known for drink, drugs and landing himself in jail for causing $10,000 worth of damage to a New York hotel after a spat with his supermodel ex-girlfriend, Kate Moss.
Next thing he's living with Vanessa Paradis in the south of France wanting to make family flicks so his kids can watch them.
Ireland's most famous bad boy, Colin Farrell, has famously turned his back on his hell-raising lifestyle to be a dad to sons James (with ex, Kim Bordenave) and Henry (his 8-month-old baby with current partner Alicja Bachleda Curus) and live a quiet family life in LA.
Fatherhood has similarly tamed former wild man Robert Downey Jr -- with so many working examples, surely it's clear that a woman can make a bed-hopping leopard change his spots?
Not so, says Elaine. She explains: "A bad boy will only change when he's ready. At some stage, there's likely to be a change in his chemical and hormone levels that will make him ready to settle down, but it will be when he wants to and probably not with any of the women who have hounded him or tried to make him change."
She adds: "Women often have a romantic idea that they can change a man to fit an ideal, but in a relationship you need to accept the reality of what's in front of you."
Ultimately the thrill of the bad boy, reformed or not, is the notion that underneath that hard exterior is a tenderness and warmth that just needs to be unlocked.
Even if no-one ever manages to tame a bad boy, there's an honesty to their actions that has to be admired.
Jack Nicholson's motto is "more good times" -- he's not promising to come home every night and watch Coronation Street with you before bed time.
Anyone who gets into a relationship with a self-confessed bad boy knows what they are getting, and even if it doesn't work out, it has to be better than dating someone like Tiger Woods, Mark Owen or Ronan Keating, who give off all the right signals of being good boys -- but secretly have a very bad side.