A study of sexual attraction featured single women looking at pictures of men that had been altered to make the men’s faces look more or less masculine. These women had their brains scanned as they looked at the pictures, and the areas of their brains that were more active as they looked at the pictures of the more attractive men indicated the women perceived them as also more dangerous.
Could it be that our ancestors intuitively knew that women tended to be attracted to dangerous men and took this in account in developing courtship? Historian Ellen K. Rothman’s study of nineteenth century American middle class courtship and marriage, “Hands and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America”, showed that when America was a rural land, boys and girls grew up together and selected mates from a pool of acquaintances they had often known since birth. The superficial qualities of looks and charm were intentionally de-emphasized in courtship over one’s character and shared interests. Dangerous suitors of poor character were intentionally weeded out through this process. Couples relied on open communication to protect against the the destructive tendency toward “insincerity” and “misplaced affection.”
American culture promoted the idea in that era that American women should select men who were stoic, monogamous good providers. They knew that the dangerous, prowling, transient male would make for a terrible role model for his children and would tend to abandon his wife and family once he no longer feels fulfilled. Unfortunately, a century of media glorification of these attractive rogues, from Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant to Frank Sinatra and George Clooney, has taken its toll on marriage and family life.
Dr. Carole Lieberman’s book “Bad Boys” documents how women are attracted to twelve different types of destructive men. Now that we know there is a scientific basis for women to be drawn to these bad boys, there is even greater reason to abandon today’s failed courtship that emphasizes physical attraction and charm and ultimately leads to so much pain and destructive behavior.
Source: Dr. J.R. Bruns and R. A Richards II, Psychology Today