I think that the “women love douchebags” myth needs to be put to rest. My primary reason for saying this is not because I think it’s sexist or because I’m offended by it, but because I think it is, fundamentally, at the core, a vastly untrue statement.
“But Linnea,” some readers may respond. “We’ve seen the evidence. Women fall all over guys who are dominant and aggressive and cocky. They love it when they’re mistreated.”
While I acknowledge that there are many people – people, not just women, but people – out in the world that have a tendency towards masochism, I believe that the root of the “women love douchebags” issue is not that women have some innate desire to be abused. I also do not believe that this issue is specific to women, simply that we focus on it in relation to women for whatever reason you wish to insert here – patriarchy, internalized misogyny, etc.
A show of hands to see who has read Breakfast at Tiffany’s? (Or seen the movie, I suppose that counts as well.)
Great. Another show of hands to see who knows what the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is?
Awesome. Hands down, please.
The equivalent of the “women love douchebags” statement for heterosexual men is, I believe, “men love manic pixies.” That’s a phrase that nobody is going to ever use, but the evidence is there. Men will forever fall head over heels in love with a Manic Pixie. Why? Because she’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s quirky, she’s different, she’s not like the rest. Because she can save him and make all of his dreams come true.
But most of all, men fall in love with the pixie because she is not real. The pixie is an idea, not an actual person. When a man falls in love with her he is not falling in love with the actual woman that stands before him. Instead, he falls in love with a fictionalized version of who she actually is, one that only contains the parts that fit together to create what he believes to be a perfect being. Holly Golightly is the perfect example of a manic pixie – she has her own life and struggles, but men revere her and only ever let themselves see the glittering fairy that only makes up a fraction of who she actually is as a person.
“Women love douchebags” for the same reasons that “men love manic pixies”: because they are untouchable. The douchebag keeps us at a distance, allowing us to fall in love with idea of a person rather than the real version. The douchebag leads us on and pushes us away, and when he does it we think to ourselves, “if only I could get my hands on him, everything would be perfect.” But we don’t, so our dream is allowed to continue. When he hurts us, we cry and lament what could have been, and our dream is allowed to continue. If we’d gotten what we’d wanted from the douchebag, the dream would’ve died, because what we search for is metaphysical and cannot exist in the real world.
Just as it is possible to turn yourself into a douchebag, it is possible to turn yourself into a manic pixie. Women try to, constantly, or at least we are told to try to. It’s the same old story: look like the girl in the magazines, make him beg for more and then don’t give it to him, simultaneously be a Madonna and a whore. We are pressured into being something that doesn’t exist, and often times we actually can fool others into thinking that fairy dust twinkles on our skin. And when we succeed, oh boy. I understand the power that you feel playing the douchebag archetype. Playing the pixie and getting men to follow you is so incredibly exhilarating. Ultimately, however, it is also extremely lonely. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
The phrase that we should be using to encompass both men and women is: humans love the intangible. Fulfillment bores us, and we are drawn to conflict. We find the anticipation of a kiss better than the kiss itself. We watch movies and read books about lovers struggling to be together because what we find beautiful is the yearning, the longing, the reaching for each other without actually touching. We love the idea of love more than we want to actually love.
Loving a person and connecting with them is much more difficult than allowing them to stay at a distance and putting them on a pedestal. Both the douche and the pixie are defined by remaining at this distance, by living on the pedestal that we say we want them to come down from yet secretly hope they never stray from.
So can we put the “women love douchebags” myth to rest? Or, if you still want to say it, can you agree to at least do so with some clarity about the root of that so-called love?