“Girls love guys who are assholes”

I just read the bell hooks reading “Seduced by Violence No More” in which she argues against the “rape culture” supported by “basic hetero-sexist ‘eroticism’”. Much of what she said, especially about women (and men) preferring males who display more aggression or dominance, reminded me much of a phrase I’ve heard heterosexual guys say throughout high school and college, “girls love guys who are assholes.” (I know hooks limits her scope to black men and black women but I contend this phenomenon pervades other races or interracial sexual interactions as well). Often this was a complaint. To me it generally means that girls sexually prefer the ‘alpha-male’ (he doesn’t have to be mean, simply powerful). Some observations: this statement excludes how norms dictated by the media (as seen in Dreamworlds 3) are internalized, thereby irrationally putting the blame for the ‘rape culture’ solely on women. The next logical leap is that a man has no choice but to display power if he wants to get laid!

I think men might explain this as ‘natural’. As a species we have evolved by women choosing the dominant male, who can provide for her and her offspring, and this preference is now encoded in our very DNA. While I see some merit in this argument, specifically in its emphasis on physicality, it doesn’t explain how ‘power’ nowadays, achieved through wealth and status, is completely socially constructed.

Sadly, the statement is said as an absolute; this is the game we are destined to play (and lose at). Is it that every heterosexual buys into this sexual culture to some degree? Even hooks has trouble with denying it! Is it that most will while some will get outside of it? Is it a culture present all over the world? Is it even true or partly true?

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2 Responses to “Girls love guys who are assholes”

  1. DorcyC says:

    I love transition from Hook’s idea of male dominance to the idea of an asshole in the statement “girls love guys who are assholes”. I think it is a strong indicator of what society has conditioned and what it perceives women to consider attractive. However, like the author, I completely agree that too often the blame is placed on women – that it is our fault and our partner selection that perpetuate “asshole” behavior and even sexual violence.

    To take the quote “girls love guys who are assholes” one step further, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “nice guys finish last”. The idea behind both is that women are irrational, foolish and self-condemning in their selection of partners. The blame, however inadvertently, is heaped entirely upon women.

    Too often, the phrase is used by men as a crutch for their romantic and sexual failures. The truth, however, is that the men who most frequently lament this “reality” are those who strive for women that outside of their league or with completely different interests. No woman turns down a nice guy who shares her interests and with whom she has great chemistry. No woman turns down a man only for his niceness. Women turn down men because there simply isn’t a spark or any common ground between them.

    By simply saying that girls prefer assholes or that nice guys finish last, we are reinforcing the idea that it is women who to continue to foster this environment for male dominance and violence. Worse, we reinforce the idea that women do and will continue to prefer asshole-ry and male violence. We socialize what is “normal” to desire for women and excuse male imprudence as a consequence of those desires. We teach boys that it is beneficial to be assholes and girls that it is okay to desire them. In a society where gender and desire are affected by the tiniest details and the slightest representation of gender, it is not all right that we continue to “do gender” by allowing or even suggesting that caricature statements like these represent truth and reality.

  2. jenniferl0 says:

    I think this goes back to the argument of nature and nurture, which are not mutually exclusive. In the media there’s an overwhelming portrayal of men being more aggressive and dominate than women so women assume these are the qualities of a ‘normal’ man. And the fact that pretty much everyone in the media is sexually attractive solidifies the link that ‘alpha males’ are more attractive.
    You mentioned that women evolved to choose the more dominant male because of the preference of better resources. I’m no expert on genetics or evolution, but that sounds like a reasonable explanation. Since humans only have 21,000 genes and there are just so many internal functions to regulate, the preference for dominant males may not be ingrained directly in our DNA but is a result of phenotypic plasticity. Plastic genes allow individuals to adapt to different environment, and therefore value whatever behavior that allows for survival. Dominance and aggression that were once valued in our ancestors doesn’t hold as much weight in our current society. Theoretically (at least based on my very limited biological knowledge), we should be moving away from associating dominant males with more sexually attractive ones, but the representations in the media is preventing us from doing so by telling us otherwise.

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