Summer time is the perfect time to read out by the pool, lake, ocean or even just on the front porch, not to mention the fresh batch of summer superhero movies. All of which means we’ve got a whole new crop of book boyfriends on our minds. Those bad boys running roughshod over the pages and our hearts might even inspire some real-life dating. And you’ll want to make sure you get you a Ron, not a Draco. A Lafayette, not a Burr. A Thor, not a Loki… actually, wait. We’d take either one, there.
But what is it about the bad boys that gives us all the flutters, even while we know they shouldn’t?
It might first be worth exploring the classic things that “make” a bad boy. There’s the outer appearance, of course. Tattoos, beards, leather and a devil-may-care smile are usually good indicators that you’re dealing with a bad boy. There’s pros and cons to this stuff. Pro: it’s really, really hot. Con: one wonders if anyone with a neck tattoo is very employable. Of course, you could just become a tattoo artist, like cult-favorite Knight from BB Easton’s Skin.
Then there are the character traits.
Bad boys all seem to have a fairly healthy disdain for authority. In books, that gets them their own companies and the top position in the MC, or even their own bar, like Dare in Carrie Ann Ryan’s Whiskey Secrets. In real life, you see more CEO’s talking about the power of positive thinking than how to excel at dirty-talking in bed. But what is the era of the internet start-up but bad boys — and geeks — and bad-boy geeks — starting their own million-dollar businesses? Perhaps when considering a real-life bad boy, we should also look at whether that amazing idea they have requires us to pay for their rent in the meantime or if they’ve already got a successful crowdfunding campaign going.
Another bad boy trait, one that probably goes along with the authority issue, is bossiness. Watching a man walk into a room and own it, seeing other men scramble to do their bidding, is the kind of alpha power women are hardwired by evolution to react to. But if they order your food without asking what you want first? It might be sexy in books, but the first time your date orders you the pasta because he doesn’t yet know you have celiac, that’s a dealbreaker. We need bad boys who are good listeners. (Are you there, God? It’s us, the single romance readers of America!)
If there’s a single thing that sums bad boys up, from the aforementioned cocky smile to the way they’ve already programmed their number into your phone under Sexy before you’ve asked for it, it’s confidence. Just look at T.M. Frazier’s Preppy. Total hotness. They put their number in because they know you’re going to call. Which is the same reason they won’t return the first call for two days or bother scheduling the date until they’re already out front waiting. They will sweep you off your feet with romance-hero moves in and out of the bedroom. Seriously, just ask them. Bad boys love to talk about how good they are in bed.
Potential trouble: how do they react when they get told no? Do they understand or insist? Here, the novels go either way. Some of our fictional bad boys will take care of the problem for you, like a Drazen from C.D. Reiss’s Songs of Submission series. Got a work commitment? Not anymore, I’m now blackmailing/handling/am your CEO. Family member died? I chartered you a jet to the funeral and it will take you to my private island afterwards.
In my limited experience, these reactions (and bank accounts) are not nearly common enough IRL. The other way a fictional bad boy goes when confronted by a no is the insistence route. They know what you really need to relax, to get your mind off work, to deal with your grief, is multiple orgasms, which they will happily provide. Because they are super good in bed, remember? In real life, we have an awful lot of consent issues to unravel before that’s going to be a good idea.
And don’t even get me started on the disappointment that comes — when you don’t.
What I think we really want in a real life bad boy is the passion of a rockstar, the alpha men envy and the looks that will cause grandmothers everywhere to clutch their pearls because if that guy chose us? It means we’re even badder than they are. We’re the ones who tame the beast, to reveal the heart of gold that was beneath the ink the whole time.
So I propose the Bad Boy Checklist in any potential dating scenario:
Does he have a job, preferably one outside of a pizza parlor?
How’s his relationship with his mother?
If you say no, does his reaction make you feel bad?
Does he ask about your day, or just tell you about his?
Is he actually as good in bed as advertised?
If your new bad boy doesn’t flag the checklist, then he’s hot, and the only trouble happening is the kind you want to get in — neck tattoos and all.