May 19 2017 9:30am

Survey Says: What Is It Like to Really Date a Bad Boy?

She Wants It All by Jessica Calla

Today we're thrilled to host Jessica Calla (She Wants It All) to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Jessica, like us, knows that romance readers love a bad boy—but some field research proves that actually dating a bad boy leaves much to be desired. See what Jessica found out and what that means for all the fictional bad boys we love. Thanks, Jessica!

The bad boy/good girl trope has consistently been one of romance’s favorites. From Travis and Abby in Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, to Christian and Ana in the 50 Shades series by E.L. James, to Dean Holder and Sky in Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, romance readers love their bad boy heroes.

Sure, on paper (or in your Kindle) these guys are hot. Why wouldn’t boring Ana want to hang out in the red room with Christian? He’s a gorgeous, billionaire, CEO. And Travis? Well, yeah, he has some anger management issues, but damn if he isn’t consumed by his love for Abby. And Holder has his problems, but nobody can deny how protective he is of Sky.

It got me to thinking. What about in real life? Are these the type of guys that we really want to date? Can a romance with a bad boy result in a happily ever after?

With that question in mind, I conducted a survey to find out more about people’s real life, bad boy experiences. Here are the more interesting statistics gleaned from the experiment.

Who was surveyed...

First, 94% of those surveyed considered themselves either a “good girl” or a “mix of a good and bad girl” at the time they started their relationship with their bad boy. Approximately 92% of these women were in their teens or 20s when the relationship began. Seventy-five percent of the relationships were initiated by the bad boy.

That last stat made me wonder: Are bad boys specifically pursuing good girls? In real life, my data seems to answer that question with a “yes.” And, when I thought about the books I’ve read, it did seem like the guys fell for the ladies first, with the ladies taking some time to come around.  Interesting…

Back to real life, though, when asked if their overall experience in their bad boy relationship was positive or negative, the results were pretty much 50-50. Just about half rated their satisfaction with the relationship as neutral to negative, and the other half neutral to positive.

There’s no better love story than taking a hot mess of a guy, putting him with the right woman, and seeing that tender side emerge from the darkness of his soul.

What words were associated with bad boys

On the positive side, words like “confident,” “passionate,” “sexy,” and “luscious” were used to describe their bad boy. Some described theirs as a “cuddly teddy bear,” “intelligent, outgoing alpha,” and even “horny as fu*k.” In fact, some comments on the positive side were so thoughtful and sweet that I want everyone to read them, but I didn’t have the room for them here (I posted the full results here:         ). This is one of my favorites: “The rush is addicting, and the crash is heart breaking. Such is life with a bad boy.”

Some people had downright awful experiences, using phrases like “womanizing man-whore,” “self-centered prick,” and “abusive, cruel, and sexist” to describe their bad boy. Of course, this could be partially my fault. I’m an author, not a statistician, and my informal questions didn’t define my terms. For example, one person surveyed noted that in her mind, “‘Bad’ means manipulative, abusive. ‘Bad’ does not mean ‘has a tattoo and motorcycle’—those are just fashion choices.” Fair enough.

But one participant wrote the following note: “Bad boy tropes are gross excuses for rapey books.” I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, and it actually made me a bit sad. I can’t say that I’ve read one bad boy trope romance novel that felt “rapey.” The bad boy books I’ve read all seem quite the opposite. The heroes may have anger issues, family problems, or be complete idiot man-whores, but when it comes to their heroines, they tend toward sweet, sexy, and swoonworthy.

And that is why we are so enamored by this trope in our novels. There’s no better love story than taking a hot mess of a guy, putting him with the right woman, and seeing that tender side emerge from the darkness of his soul. It’s the fact that the hero goes from one polar end of the spectrum to the other.

Average guys with good heads on their shoulders, our beta heroes, are wonderful too. But every character in any story must “arc,” or change. To be a memorable romance hero, these betas need something to keep the readers’ interest as they arc (a hot body, an awesome sense of humor, a cool career, talent at a sport) because they’re lacking that need for a burst of emotional growth and maturity that we so enjoy witnessing with our bad boy heroes.

So what does this mean for our romance heroes

Think of Christian Grey. We call him a bad boy because, although he’s a successful businessman on the outside, he’s into some funky stuff in his private life. For me, 50 Shades wasn’t about the “mommy porn” sex scenes. In fact, I found myself swiping through them. Thinking back on that series, the parts that stand out to me are when Christian lets Ana touch him, when he trusts her with the story of his past, and when he softens up to the idea of being a father. Christian’s emotional journey meant so much more to me than anything he and Ana did in the bedroom.

But, while we love to read about our bad boys, I’ll note another stat from my research: In real life, only 8% of our bad boy couples are still together. I should have asked the other 92% if they found a happily ever after with a good guy. Because as the stats show, maybe, just maybe, the good guys win in the end, and our bad boy crushes are best left to our romance novels.

*Check out the full survey results, here*


Learn more about or order a copy of She Wants It All by Jessica Calla, available now:

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Jessica Calla is a contemporary romance and women's fiction author who moonlights during the day as an attorney. If she's not writing, lawyering, or parenting, you'll most likely find her at the movies, scrolling through her Twitter feed, or gulping down various forms of caffeine (sometimes all three at once).

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