Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why do men like women who are jerks? Or, do they?

I happened to come across this video (Beatrice - Electroshock) while browsing the Internet. (OK, it was a link from a Caramell video). Now there's a number of things that I quite like about it, like the extensive focus on the singer's face, and her nice smile. But it brought up something I'd like to talk about here.

The chorus is
I'm like electro, electroshock
I'm cruel, I'm cold, I'm burning hot
My reaction is "You're cruel and cold? Well, thanks for your honesty, bye-bye!" I started wondering why that isn't the obvious and overwhelmingly common reaction to such a statement, and noticed this is the mirror of the hackneyed "Why do women like men who are jerks?" question. And I think that while "Why do men like jerks?" gets very little mention, women's insensitivity or cruelty is is shown far more openly than men's.
It's a chance, gonna move
gonna fuck up your ego
silly boy, gonna make you cry
Shiny Toy Guns - Le Disko*
So, it seems that at least some singers and/or producers think cruelty or callousness from women appeals to men. I think probably less frequently than they think. But, on the other hand, it's obviously not simple myth.
She'll promise you more than the Garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding
blame it all on yourself 'cause she's always a woman to me
Billy Joel - She's Always A Woman**
I find that the idea that men like women who are jerks is, like a lot of sexist ideas, insulting to women and men both. It's insulting to men because we men aren't supposed to know any better, we're supposed to just accept it if a woman is a jerk to us; I guess because we're supposed to be so desperate for a warm hole that fits in a dress with a small size number. It's insulting to women because we men aren't supposed to care about their character at all, or even worse in the case of the Billy Joel song, the implication that lack of character is actually characteristic of being a woman.

I think that callousness or cruelty from women is shown much more openly because men are expected to be more dangerous. And when you think people are going to think you're dangerous, one reaction is to try and assure them you're not. Here you all see my most unhinged rants, in real life I'm extremely mild; and a big part of that is because I'm armed. My leather/punk/biker phase was before I started carrying a gun; now it's a 10mm under a wool cardigan that Mr. Rogers might wear. In cases like this, I think women do not feel like saying they are cruel and cold is all that threatening, and like me in the punk/biker phase, they want to be at least dangerous enough not to be pushed around. And I think that threatening words from women are given a bit more of a pass.
If I were you
I'd dare not speak
I'd run like hell
In hopes of seeing tomorrow
Dash Berlin with Cerf Mitiska & Jaren - Man On The Run***
I think that coming off as cruel, cold, or uncaring is a counterproductive action for this purpose however; if you are being dangerous by being cruel and cold, you are not encouraging people to be kind, you are encouraging them to be distant and uninvolved.

So why do some men like women that are jerks? I don't have an answer. I suppose sometimes it's a submissive thing, usually unacknowledged, though the jerk thing is repellent to my particular submissive thinking. Probably sometimes it's the fulfillment of the insulting implications I just listed. There really are men who would gloss over character the same way as I try (and sometimes fail) to gloss over looks.


* My reaction to the Le Disko lyrics is much stronger, more like "Get the fuck away before I get a restraining order!" Also, I am so glad that I don't look as vulnerable as the boy in the video and attract women with such an attitude. Which should not be taken as a criticism of those of you who are attracted to such boys and genuinely like them and want to treat them well. Or taken as criticism of those who think this video is hot; in at least one case I can guess it and understand your reasons. :)

** I always hated this song for the sentiments expressed; and I think Billy Joel being as famous as he is, he'd stop singing this song if he hated it. Billy Joel (or, say, Madonna) can probably be held more responsible for what they sing than Beatrice or Shiny Toy Guns at this stage of their careers.

*** I thought it was interesting that the singer looks a lot like my ex; she looks even more like my ex in this one, though.


  1. I think men who like jerks don't actively want to be in a relationship with a jerk; they just think the jerkiness is a form of playing hard-to-get and if they're persistent enough they'll "win" the woman. I'm sure the guy assumes that once he's "won" her, the woman will let her guard down and everything will be awesome.

    You've noted yourself that men are taught they have no intrinsic value and have to earn everything they get. If they can earn the love of a woman who comes off totally aloof, that's a major score. So I think that's where this comes from.

    And if the woman in question didn't actually start acting like an asshole until after the guy got in a relationship with her, that's not a guy liking a jerk, that's a guy who got bait-and-switched...and if he stayed, it was for the same reasons anyone stays in an abusive relationship.

  2. Mousie, you seem pretty mild here too. :)

    You also can't discount the importance of He's Nice To Me (sometimes In Private) And I Feel Special. Or possibly He's Traumatized So It's Not His Fault. And, of course, the eternal source of bad relationships I Can Fix Him.

  3. @PerverseCowgirl, that sounds plausible.

    @Ozymandias, given the context, I'm wondering why you kept the masculine pronoun. To emphasize that these mistakes are common to us all?

  4. Because I was meaning to say he/she and forgot. :P