It starts off ever so subtly. Your knight in shining armour, perhaps, or just a good guy trying his best to woo the girl? Like a chameleon, he immerses himself into your world; moulding himself into the man you dreamt he would be. He likes your friends, laughs at your jokes and even takes you furniture shopping.
But there’s a sinister side, the side you never see. It’s him stalking your every move on social media, watching you from the dark space in between where danger lurks. And you? You are none the wiser, still drowning in a blissful see of passion and new love.
When Netflix original series You debuted globally, it caused a furore on social media. Women were double locking their doors at night, watching who was following them, but most importantly, they were terrified that just about anyone could track their movements by geo tagging their locations on social media. The world is a scary place and fictional character Joe Goldberg just added to the paranoia of millions of women out there.
Conventional wisdom and common sense warns us against stalker, psychopathic types like Goldberg. So, why are women running towards the danger instead of against it? Villainous, murderous and obsessive, fans have developed a type of affection for a character that is beyond reproach.
Things have gotten so out of control that actor Penn Badgley, who plays the antagonist, was forced to reply to fan tweets directly. Accompanied with a broken heart emoji, a fan tweeted, "Said this already but @PennBadgley is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?" Badgley replied: "He is a murderer."
Is it the danger of being attracted to a bad boy in every sense, even the murderous type?
The Cut's Gabriella Paiella worded it perfectly in an article titled Why Does Everyone Want Their Crushes to Run Them Over?, saying that stans frequently express sentiments that convey "a catastrophic level of desire."
Okay, granted. But what is sexy about knowing that your partner might, at any minute, off you?
Sex expert Jenni Holdsworth says bad boy types have personality traits that are often dominating, even bordering on narcissistic. “In extreme doses, this is not attractive. At the beginning stages of relationships they can be extremely charming and are perceived to be very confident,” she surmises. “While her head is telling her that this man is no good, her more baser instincts are telling her that she needs to have a strong, confident man to mate with.”
A study by the University of Durham, published in Psychology Today, provides some insights into the vexing phenomenon. Men that possess the Dark Triad traits (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellism) were found to have more sexual success than their peers. The study, led by Dr Gregory Louis Carter, concluded that women found the Dark Triad personality more attractive.
The question is: Why?
Professional matchmaker and relationship coach Kas Naidoo has a few theories of her own. One includes literally taking a walk on the wild side. “Most people seek a feeling of aliveness and that’s something the bad boy definitely brings,” she adds.
But Naidoo also points out that there are healthier ways to be in relationships. “When you love yourself deeply, you don’t need someone else to make you feel alive. You live fuller and set a higher standard for your partner as well,” she concludes.