Women Like Cads for Sex, Dads for Mating
Cads Win for Short-term Flings, Dads for Long-term Relationships
Oct. 24, 2003 -- When women think of "Mr. Right" it's
usually a kind, compassionate, and moral man who reminds them of dad. But when
it comes to picking "Mr. Right Now," it's the devilish cads that win
out, hands down.
A new study shows once again what romance novelists have
written about for centuries: women prefer bad boys for flings and good guys for
Researchers tested this evolutionary mating theory on a group
of female undergraduates by using classic dad and cad prototypes drawn from
British romance novels and asking them to pick which type they'd rather be
Not surprisingly, they found women's tendency to pick cads over
dads increased as the length of the hypothetical relationship decreased.
"About 60% of the women said they would prefer to have sex
with a cad when considering a brief affair," says researcher Daniel Kruger,
a social psychologist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social
Research, in a news release.
Sorting the Dads From the Cads
In the study, the young women read descriptive passages of
prototypical dads and cads drawn from classic British romantic novels. Waverly
from Waverly by Walter Scott and Valancourt, from the Mysteries of
Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe represented the dads, and George Staunton from
The Heart of Mid-Lothian and Clement Cleveland from The Pirate by
Walter Scott represented the cads.
In the passages, the dads were described as domestic, happy,
peaceable, bookish, moral, gentle, compassionate, frank, and shy. The cads came
off as daring, arrogant, moody, passionate, rebellious, strong, humorous,
vulgar, shrewd, and slanderous.
After reading each description, researchers asked the women a
series of questions, such as how much they thought they would like each
character, how well they would get along with the men, and how likely they
would be to have a short-term, long-term, and brief sexual relationship with
To make the choices even more clear-cut, the women were also
asked to choose which character they would be more likely to go on a three-week
road trip, a formal date, have sexual relations with, marry, and prefer to see
engaged to their 25-year-old daughter.
Bad Guys Get the Girls, Good Guys Keep Them
Overall, researchers found that the women thought they would
like the dads more than the cads. But they preferred cads for a short-term
relationship and dads for the long haul.
When forced to choose between a pair of dad and cad characters,
the dad was the top choice for a formal date, marriage, and as a
But the results were mixed on the other options. When it came
down to choosing who they would like to have sexual relations with or go on a
road trip, the women preferred cads in one comparison, but had no clear
preference in the other.
The results appear in the current issue of the journal Human
Researchers say the findings show that the dad vs. cad
distinction is intuitive to women, and when given only a brief character
sketch, women seem to be able to make informed dating decisions.