Why Women Date Assholes

It's well known that women find sexy, rebellious rogues attractive. Duh. But until now it's not really been clear why women choose to turn that attraction into long-term relationships, when they know they stand a high chance of getting burned. New research, however, reveals that the secret lies in the hormones.

Sure, a woman might choose to mate with an attractive male because evolutionarily it means attractive kids. But that doesn't entirely explain things, as there's more to life than good-looking offspring. Now, research conducted at the University of Texas at San Antonio and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that during ovulation hormones affect judgment of parenting potential. Kristina Durante, one of the researchers, explains to Live Science:

"Under the hormonal influence of ovulation, women delude themselves into thinking that the sexy bad boys will become devoted partners and better dads. When looking at the sexy cad through ovulation goggles, Mr. Wrong looked exactly like Mr. Right."

Essentially, during ovulation women are more likely to believe that rogues would make better potential fathers—so they specifically pick sexier men over obviously more dependable men—even if they're jerks.

To establish that, female participants were asked to view online dating profiles of either sexy or reliable men during periods of both high and low fertility. When asked to predict likely paternal contribution from the prospective partners close to ovulation, the women thought the sexy men would contribute most. In other words, that long-term, they'd make better dads.

The researchers backed that up with a second study, where actors played the role of sexy cad or reliable dad, and the result turned out just the same. So, if a woman starts dating an asshole, she will—at least once a month—be under the impression that he'll make a good long-term mate. One interesting aside is the fact that the effects only seem to apply to the individual. Durante explains:

"When asked about what kind of father the sexy bad boy would make if he were to have children with another woman, women were quick to point out the bad boy's shortcomings. But when it came to their own child, ovulating women believed that the charismatic and adventurous cad would be a great father to their kids."

The take-home message from the research? Timing, my friend. Timing is everything. [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology via Live Science]

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