“Weak at the knees, biting our lips, flushing red, and holding our breath…” (or, “Why Good Girls Like Bad Boys: A Look Into Shoujo Psychology”)

WARNING: I really struggled when writing on this subject, attempting to balance levity, truth, and observation while keeping the post factual and appropriate. Also, NOT ALL OF THESE ASSERTIONS ARE THE MINDSET OF HEALTHY, ADULT PERSPECTIVES ON RELATIONSHIP.

I know I’m an adult, but I’m still quite young enough to get caught up various mindsets and/or to remember my former feelings while relating them to current truths. There will also be a lot of stereotyping, all of which is done in the interests of concise wording, humor, or both. None is intended to offend.

I also had a soapbox moment. *scratches head abashedly*

At sixteen, I was an awkward, literature-loving, naive and sheltered, hyperactive, overly-emotional potential mess (what’s changed, though?). An archetypal “good girl”* I had no idea how to get my long-time (three year!) crush to notice me…

Well, at least in any positive way that didn’t involve me coming across than a bigger mess than I eventually proved to be.

Around this time, my mother in her wisdom said that I needed to make the boys chase me. And—as an adult Shoujo with many thoughts and feelings—I now understand. As she so eloquently explained to me, (some) men like the chase.

But sixteen-year-old me was already a fan of the chase as well, and far from playing hard to get, I pulled a Tamaki on my chosen beau; it was unavoidable given my personality and desires that I should prove to be this way, and it illustrates an important point that I make herein this post. “Good girls,” too, like the chase.

We also like “temptation,” and “wounded souls,” and “antiheros.”

And, of course, there’s that age-old adage about the guy you date, and the guy that you marry…

Wait, that’s not an age-old adage? Just some little piece of Midwestern chatter that no one is going to understand? Got it. Anyway, moving on from all that preface…

I am just a lone Shoujo wondering the expanse of the Internet (and picking up some awesome anime compatriots along the way!), so I cannot claim any certainty in matters of psychological evaluation**

…but, again, as I am a Shoujothoughts, and I do possess a great very many said thoughts, I’d like to take a moment or two (or twenty, who knows) to expand upon something that deserves my totally-not-based-in-science (though-they-probably-could-be) ramblings on a topic that, after watching Wolf Girl and the Black Prince some time ago, felt very right to touch upon.

[Phew, that was one heck of a sentence. A 93 word sentence, to be exact, if one counts my hyphenated phrases as single words… Slow down, girl.]


Many girls (though certainly not all and some more than others)…appreciate...a “bad boy.”

Why is that?

What is it about a bad boy that makes us weak at the knees, biting our lips, flushing red and holding our breath? (And why didn’t I just use an Oxford comma?)

I think that the answer depends on the type of bad boy in question. Many varieties do tend to exist, after all. For purposes of simplicity and brevity (lol), I will focus only on four today. While my examples will primarily feature anime boys, these stereotypes and assertions also apply to real life, if less fantastically so.

Presented for examination and discussion today are:

(a) the cruel one, (b) the dark, sexually-liberated one, (c) the delinquent, and (d) the “emo.”

(a) The Cruel One

He’s such a jerk to her; it’s bordering on mentally/emotionally abusive if not there outright, and we all wonder… why does she stay with him? Why does she want him? Why does she put up with him? Why HIM? WHY KYOYA, WHY!?

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But like, not Ouran-Kyoya. Obviously.

Wolf Girl and the Black Prince (Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji) exemplifies this concept in extreme as Kyoya treats Erika like a dog, but it exists within our norm in more mild, daily expressions.

Good girls like this particular breed of bad boy because he’s hard to get. He doesn’t dote on you, perhaps quite the opposite, and when he does, you feel like you’ve won a prize. It’s the ultimate chase (but one you’ll never “win”), and you feel like you have to earn every scrap of praise. It’s…frustrating, but oddly exhilarating? Each minute offering of affection, attention, or praise feels like it has been hard-won and is therefor greatly deserved and that it must be sincere since you receive it so sparingly…

Just remember, ladies, that your perceptions aren’t always true. You can do (and deserve) better than abuse. If you want the thrill of a “hunt,” find yourself a nice tsun/kuudere and strike a balance between “the chase” and “being chased.” There’s a big difference between “hard to get” and “total @$$hole.”

Sorry; getting off of my (admittedly very important, guys) soap box and back to the topic at hand,

One must also consider that, in the unhealthy mindset of young love, there’s something about dealing with hardship that makes you feel that your love has been forged in the fires of Hades and proved true;

in the case of staying with an abuser, perhaps you honestly love this person enough to deal with every hurt they lob at you, and you just naturally (or will yourself to) believe that they hold a like flame. But if they did, they wouldn’t abuse you (though I about many young people recognize it as abuse at the time), and you wouldn’t feel less than worthless though their actions toward you (or lack thereof).

(Oops. I found the disjointed soap box again. Just remember that it’s important knowledge!)

(b) Dark, Sexually-Liberated One

Well, here you go, Anime Compatriots. Eighteen-year-old me was so flustered by this guy. Twenty-something me is still a little flustered, tbh…

No one who knew me at a glance would think this to be my “type.” And, I mean, in real life, I never would have ended up with this particular breed of bad boy, but, I mean:

“Take the pain, take the pleasure, I’m the master of both.” -Adam Lambert

Come on now, Internet, how does that NOT speak to every super naive girl’s fledgling fantasies that she herself doesn’t even begin to understand? Heck, I say fantasies like I had anything concrete in mind. Nope, I only had the idea that there was something sexual (and psudo-dangerous, though I couldn’t identify it at the time) about this video, and I liked that vague promise of sexuality enough that Ginger would make fun of me for massively blushing when we watched the music video together.

But that’s the point, I think, for a lot of us “good girls.” This “bad boy” is unrepentant, dark, and sexy in a way that we never feel that we will be, and even if we’re quite happy with our lot, there is still a deep allure of the unknown that fascinates and beguiles…

It promises that a more experienced… is about to… something… gosh, why is this so hard to write about?… intense and…

Gosh, I can’t even write these words. Let’s just leave it there, shall we? The point has been made.

I mean, now that I’m a little older, I understand more of the references and I connect a great deal of this to BDSM implication (which is a discussion for NOT HERE, thank you), but even at the time, I knew just enough to understand that I liked assertive guys in eyeliner and black nail polish. At least in theory.

(c) ThDelinquent

A delinquent doesn’t necessarily have to actually be a delinquent to fit the category (though he very well may be), but rather must be someone who fits the profile: dark, cool, unconcerned with opinions of others, strong, and used to going against the grain in all the most bad@$$ ways. Preferably, leather is involved.

A visual “delinquent” would be Otabeck Altin from Yuri!!! On Ice. (And below, before I carry on, are some gifs because otherwise I literally just CAN NOT.)

Image result for otabek altin welcome to the madness gif

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Image result for otabek altin motorcycle

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Image result for otabek altin welcome to the madness gif

A delinquent in looks as well as trait would be Houou Onigashima from Girl Beats Boys (Kenka Bancho Otome).

Image result for Houou Onigashima

Image result for Houou Onigashima

It’s important to stress that the delinquent character is different than the cruel one in that he is NOT cruel; rather, he’s bad@$$. He can be kind and caring toward the MC, but at the end of the day, he knows how to kick butt and take names; the idea of a man who can handle himself (for lack of better phrasing) while still looking out for his lady and NOT being a complete jerk about it is appealing.  He doesn’t care what other people think, his character might also boast some interestingly gray moral ambiguity, and the notion of an antihero has always been an interesting in its complexity. (That, of course, deserves a whole post of its own!)

(d) The “Emo”

This subtitle sounds like it could be so insulting, but as someone who has embraced the diminutive in the form of its original intent, I simply use it to mean “emotional.” An emo in this sense is a person or character who has a lot of feelings (potentially depressive ones at that, though not necessarily) and expresses those feelings though their musical choices, their aesthetic, and perhaps their artistry with or without intentionality.

A good example of this persona would be Zero Kiryuu (yes, the western presentation, but I watched the dub!) from Vampire Knight.

The appeal behind this character type is that it plays on the nurturing instinct. It presents the prospect that you can be the support system for someone who needs you, and that you can be the person they rely on to understand and propel them forward. The “balm to a wounded soul” mindset present in so much fanfiction is here exemplified quite heartily. Please understand that this is not an ego trip, but rather stems from a heartfelt desire to do good and bring comfort to someone that you love. In the end, it does perhaps perpetuate unhealthy implications about the purpose of romantic relationships, but it is effective in its appeal to a shoujo audience.

In the end, good girls like bad boys because they like the chase, succumb to the allure of the unknown, appreciate a good antihero, admire lack of self-consciousness, are wowed by the prowess of a bad@$$, desire to support and comfort, or some combination thereof.

The shoujo and otome market know this, and so the good girl/bad boy trope and execution continues to thrive.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about the appeal of a bad boy; what is your take on the health of certain relationship dynamics?

Until I write again,


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


*as literally voted upon by my HS psych section during an odd, class-wide “social profiling” activity

**despite being approx. a year shy of a double major in psych, tbh


3 thoughts on ““Weak at the knees, biting our lips, flushing red, and holding our breath…” (or, “Why Good Girls Like Bad Boys: A Look Into Shoujo Psychology”)

  1. That’s a pretty good analysis. Out of these, emo is probably my type the most, though I’m not particularly fond of Zero per se. Tortured antiheros…? I really agree with you that the desire to save/heal a tortured guy can also make them attractive. For me at least…maternal instincts kick in?

    Liked by 2 people

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