What do you think of girls being attracted to “bad boys”?

A student asked:

What do you think of girls being attracted to “bad boys”?

It’s not so much that they are attracted to “bad” boys. Rather, what they want in a partner is someone who isn’t as boring as a brick wall. And I think it’s fair to say that it applies to any gender. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone who’s as exciting as watching paint dry on a wall.

As an example, I once hung out with somebody who was incredibly one-dimensional. All she could talk about was her academic achievements and her studies. Every meet up was a discussion about her studies. There was nothing else that was of interest to her. After a while, there’s really not much you can talk about with such a person.

We do need to revisit an important question: what’s the point of a long-term relationship? Marriage counsellors will tell you that a healthy relationship is one where two whole individuals come together to ENRICH each other. It shouldn’t be two non-whole individuals seeking to be made whole by the other, because we can’t make the other whole. It is we who make ourselves whole.

There is a reason why one-dimensional and boring people aren’t attractive to most people. They make a compelling case to the other that they are incapable of enriching the other’s life. If a person is one-dimensional and boring, it’s usually the case that the person hasn’t quite understood what it means to live life to the full. I don’t mean living a life full of fun or pleasure. Rather, living life to the full means doing one’s best to realise the potential that is within his/her own being; to discover the hidden talents and strengths that one has, and know how to tap on them in order to become more of who and what one really is. I suppose you could think of it as a Pokemon evolution: and so you become a better and stronger you.

But if you can’t already do this to yourself, so as to enrich yourself, how can you expect to enrich someone else? It’s not possible.

I don’t want to subscribe to this whole “good” or “bad” boys/girls thing. It’s a bit of a false dichotomy, premised on vague senses of good and bad. It’s not very helpful.

The reason why the stereotypical “bad” boys and girls you see on TV are attractive is because of how exciting their lives seem to be, with their high risk appetites and a relaxed system of values. They’re more willing and happy to engage in extremely thrilling activities that most people wouldn’t normally try.

But we need to be very careful here. Living a life of excitement and thrill doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is living life to the full (in the wholesome sense I described earlier). Sometimes people engage in thrilling activities because they are trying to escape from themselves or runaway from the pangs of boredom and existential emptiness. Some of these adventures can be very thrilling and exciting for sure, but we must be careful to discern if they are done out of a genuine desire for self-enrichment or if it’s some form of self-destructive behaviour. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

For the rest of us who aren’t “bad” boys and girls, we must not fall into the error of thinking that if you’re not as exciting as the “bad” boys/girls, then we must be boring as hell. No. Boring is not the same as not-exciting. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, you can be both not-exciting and not-boring at the same time. And that’s where most people are anyway.

And if you think that you are one-dimensional and/or boring, then… Try not to be: go learn to expand your interests and hobbies. Try new things, and discover new interests that you can be passionate about. And when you make that step out of your comfort zone to explore, that’s when you begin to live a little more fully.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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