And, we could ask equally, why do some men fall in love with them? I’m think we’ve posted about this question, but I can’t find anything on the blog. It is hard to believe, but we do not seem to have ever used “scoundrel,” “rascal,” or “rogue.” (We joked about “scoundrelly.”) And “cad” brought up too many hits to check. perhaps because it is a part of so many words.
So with a bit of hand waving, I’ll say there seem to me two types of explanation or answer to the opening question. There’s the very common one that says “there’s something about the women and men who are taken in by these guys.” And then we need to inquire into how bad that trait or set of traits is that sets the victims up. Further, the predominance of the literature finding failings specifically in women is the main reason why the post doesn’t address men and “bad girls”.
And then there is the much less common (in self-help books) explanation that locates the cause in the rascals themselves. And this account has increasing empirical support. There’s something about them that makes them very attractive to most people. These scoundrels are narcissists and narcissists tend to be very attractive in the short-term.
… narcissists are more popular at first sight because of the cues they produce, which people at first acquaintance can use to “thin-slice” and form an impression of that person without any further information about that person.
[Recent researchers] investigated four cues which they hypothesized based on prior research (Berscheid & Reis, 1998) would be related to the popularity of narcissists at first sight and why people often describe narcissists as having a “charismatic air”: attractiveness, competence, interpersonal warmth, and humor.
Further, if you run experiments and have strangers introduce themselves, the narcissists tend to come out highest on the “would like to get to know him/her” entry.
So that’s it. The bad boys are narcissists and narcissists tend to be very attractive on first encounter. They really, really don’t wear well, but at the beginning it’s like you have struck it lucky. You’ve gotten the prize.
Of course, the question arises why anyone stays with the narcissist. My own bet here would be that there are many different reasons. I started to look on various search engines for some idea of the range of answers, but the academic treatment of narcissism seems to have moved on. And the forthcoming edition of DSM will eliminate the category, if not the problem. It is also important to remember that staying with the narcissist may be the safer alternative if he is explosive and violent.
I found out about the research by following links from an interesting article in defense of introversion in the NY Times by Susan Cain.