What The Hell Is A Nice Guy™, Anyway?

Today, our favorite sex writer tackles the age-old question of Nice Guys™. Specifically, Do they really finish last? To investigate, Laura Sessions Stepp interviews Britney, a woman who spent five months dating a dude who sounds like a drug dealer.

"He wasn't...gainfully employed...legally?" says Brittany Lynch of her Bad Boy™ boyfriend. Ooookay then!

And in true Bad Boy™ fashion, he didn't make Lynch feel good about herself. "He intimidated me, and put me in a position where I almost felt lower, in some way, and for some reason, it was attractive to me," says Lynch. "I wanted to keep fighting to get to his level. He didn't treat me badly, but he wasn't overly kind." So she dumped him and moved on.

Sessions Stepp also talks to self-identified Nice Guy™ Jorge, who "pretends" to be a Bad Guy™ as a matter of strategy. "I just stopped being nice...from what I see, women like spice to a guy. They don't like overly nice guys. I know guys who are an asshole because they think that's the only approach to really get women." Jorge lives in New York, ladies. (Of course he does.) Watch out for him!

Stephen in Mason, Georgia, lies about his sexual conquests to his friends. "I tried once to have a one-night stand, but it just wasn't for me," he reports. The woman involved mocked him. Asked why he thinks women prefer Bad Boys™, he replies: "I dunno, that's a really good question...maybe they like the challenge?"

Sessions Stepp mentions two studies recently covered in the New Scientist, whose results she characterizes as "The message to guys: Be nice. But not too nice."

But, even leaving aside for a minute the question of whether these Nice Guy™/Bad Boy™ categories are actually as monolithically well-defined as Sessions Stepp (and rom coms, and chick lit, and magazines) would have it, is this actually a correct analysis of the scientific data? It would appear not.

One of the studies mentioned by the New Scientist was a survey of 200 college students — overwhelmingly, people under the age of 22 — that found that higher numbers of partners and higher numbers of brief relationships were reported by men who also were identified as "narcissistic," "deceitful," and "Machiavellian." This does not mean that women "prefer" these guys, or that they have more sex — merely that these "deceitful" young assholes claim to have more partners. And sex researchers know that studies of sexual behavior that rely on self-reported numbers are flawed. Researchers have long attributed the impossible disparity between men's claimed number of partners and women's claimed number of partners to the fact that study subjects often offer socially-desirable answers, as opposed to correct ones, and note that this disparity is so ingrained as to actually constitute a kind of "self-fulfilling prophecy." So these guys, who admit they lie more than the average population, may be lying about all the sex they're having. It's entirely possible that we've created the cultural trope of the Bad Boy™ out of nothing more than string and glue.

Strangely, the more Nice Guys™ adopt Bad Guy™ mannerisms to get ahead, and the more Bad Guys™ try it on by pretending to be Nice™, the more we stubbornly refuse to attribute these facts to a flaw in the system of categorization.

So how about this for sex advice: People are different. Find one you like, and bone him or her. Use protection. Repeat as necessary.

Friends [XKCD]
Why Nice Guys Finish Last [SexReally]
Bad Guys Really Do Get The Most Girls [New Scientist]
The Myth, The Math, The Sex [NYTimes]

Earlier: Is It Too Soon To Call SexReally The Worst Sex Website Ever?
Is There A Worse Dude To Do Than The Reformed Nice Guy?