Geek Girls Rule! #219 – What’s So Hot About Villains?

One of the least inappropriate examples of the gifs running rampant on tumblr right now. By VillainyforBeginners.

I talked about this a bit on the podcast, but I’d like to elaborate some on what I said here.

One of the siren calls of the “Nice Guy ™” is that women only like Bad Boys/assholes.  And when we swoon over villains like Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Jareth (David Bowie), or the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman)*, it just seems to vindicate these poor neglected creatures.  /sarcasm  Actually, no, it doesn’t.  But enough of them seem to feel it does that it gets bandied about every time there’s geek media with a particularly handsome and compelling villain in it.

I’d like to tackle this in two parts.

Part the first, as you gents like to point out when we bitch about the lack of representation for any female form other than wasp-waisted and beachball-titted:  this is fantasy. Fiction.  Those guys I mentioned up there, the ones not in parentheses, are fictional characters.  We can’t date them even if we wanted to because they don’t exist.

Now someone is going to say, “Well, isn’t that just hypocritical of you if that’s your excuse, but we can’t use that for the way women are depicted in comics?”

Well, no, because all male characters in comics/movies are not male (British) villains.  There are a lot of different male heroes (and villains), from the heart of gold Boy Scout type, to the anti-hero in it for a buck and to keep his own skin, to the reluctant hero who just wants everyone to get along, to the glory-seeker.   And, in addition to all the villains, you also have heroes, and bystanders and functionaries…

For women we have big-titted white woman, big-titted woman of color, and small titted, probably, Asian women.  With an occasional big-titted Asian woman, or adolescent white girl thrown in for good measure. Oh, and old spinsters or aunts.  Even moms have to be fuckable for the most part.

Wheee!  Look at all that variety.

I’m sorry, is my cranky showing?  And I’m digressing.

Anyway, if comics were populated solely by witty, sardonic, handsome villains you might have a leg to stand on, but you don’t.

Thing the second, fantasizing about Loki is not the same thing as dating an asshole.  TRUST ME.  I’ve dated assholes.  I know.

“See!!!!” I hear the plaintive whines already.   “You dated assholes!”

Yes, and I quit doing that because it SUCKS.

This is the thing, when I and other women (or dudes, lets not be heterosexist) fantasize about Loki, Jareth, the Sheriff of Nottingham, he can’t hurt us.  Because it’s all in our heads.  Those villains we think all the naughty stuff about will never slap us, put a cigarette out on our arm or sleep with our best friend.  Because we control, utterly, what they do in our heads, in our fanfiction, in our incredibly inappropriate gif-sets on tumblr.

We can fantasize anything we want.  It doesn’t mean we actually want those things to happen to us.  You guys fantasize about fighting in wars with sword and shield (most of us do, too), but you really don’t want to do that.  You don’t want to fight for your life in a battlefield turned to mud with the blood of combatants.  No one really wants to do that unless they’re damaged.  We fantasize about fighting starfleet battles, about fighting dragons, ghouls, ogres, orcs, but most of us freak the fuck out if someone tries to mug us.

Women like fantasizing about villains and bad boys because it’s interesting, and if you notice, the villains I listed here are all fully realized, complex characters with compelling stories, acted by guys who are mostly not conventionally handsome, well, Tom Hiddleston is, if a bit on the thin side to be a pin-up boy.  But those men are also excellent actors who draw you into the character, and who make you believe them, and for many women, also believe there’s something in there to be redeemed.** I swear, Tom Hiddleston has some of the most heart-breaking facial expressions I’ve ever seen.

I’m going to let you in on a secret.  We fantasize about villains precisely because we don’t want to date them.  Dating them sucks.  Trust me, there’s no room in your head for fantasizing about bad guys when you’re living with one.

What women want are men who are clear in their desires, respect boundaries, are smart, funny, compassionate, who share our interests, and, first and foremost, think we’re people, not a trophy, not a save point, and not a boss-fight.  Seriously, go over to the Polimicks blog and read all the posts under the “Creep” tag if you want a blow by blow of how to not treat women.  I’m not going to rehash it here, but they’re easy enough to find.

If you like the blog or the podcast, or if you would like to help fund buzzy toys to aid in the fantasizing about villains, please, please, please donate to keep us going.  Donations go to pay for the podcast hosting and website domain, primarily.

Also, we’ll have an announcement about t-shirts soon.  Really and truly.  Soon.  Damn life, always interfering.  I SWEAR IT’S COMING!!!

Oh, and Honey Badger’s first two songs are available for download here, for free or pay what you want.

Remember we’ve got the GGR Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook page.

And oh, hey, guess who’s going to go see The Avengers for the third time in the theater?!  Awww, yeah…


*Also, why are they all British?  Is this some sort of colonial reactionary-ism?
**In real life, stay away from the ones who need redemption.  Trust me, nothing but heartbreak until they have their own personal “come to Jesus moment,” and even then, the road back is hard.  You can’t save other people, they have to save themselves or it won’t stick.


7 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #219 – What’s So Hot About Villains?

  1. Mmm, urbane villains.

    As you say, in our fantasies these bad boys would never hurt *us*…not really.
    That makes a huge difference!

  2. “Trust me, there’s no room in your head for fantasizing about bad guys when you’re living with one.”

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yesyesyesyesyesyesyes! I haven’t been as attracted to villains as other women I know but there were other things I liked in fiction that, after the last two years, give me pause now.

    Of course, in real life it can be harder to tell who the bad guy is :/

  3. I suspect the prblem may be a bit deeper than that. I mean, men really have no complaint coming about women fantazising about the villians. Any men out there never fantasized about a bad girl? Anyone? No.

    But serial killers in jail sure do get a lot of letters from women. Female killers don’t seem to get the same attention from men. I think there is some social conditioning at work there.

    Has there ever been a romace novel whose plot didn’t boil down to “love for woman tames dangerous man”? And thats…not a healthy message. In real life, dangerous man is just dangerous. I frankly think it a much more destructive message to send than vailla porn, much less geek-fare.

  4. Point 1: The women who write to serial killers are a tiny minority. They are not all women, nor are they even a sizeable minority of women. Many of them are religious which feeds heavily into the redemptive powers of women trope.

    Point 2: This article was actually about how liking the villains DOESN’T mean we want to date or save them. By we I mean most women. A far larger percentage of women than those who do. Most of us, regardless of the ubiquitousness of the ‘redemptive woman’ trope, outgrow that shit pretty quick after the first time or two we try it and it explodes magnificently in our faces.

    Point 3: No gender has the market cornered on stupid relationship behaviors or tropes. I suspect the fact that we don’t hear about men writing to female serial killers has far more to do with the fact that we have not arrested or identified that many of them (I have thoughts on this), than any inherent lack of desire to redeem them on the part of a tiny minority of the male gender.

    I mean, there are a lot of dudes out there with galloping White Knight Complexes. White Knights seek out the damaged and fucked up to “save them” just as “Redemptive Women” do.

    And romance novels are no more guilty of perpetrating harmful relationship and gender tropes than SF/F, Westerns, Horror, or any other form literature, genre or otherwise. Don’t get me started on Updike.

    Shorter: This article is about why it’s ok to fantasize about villains, even when you aren’t a “redemptive woman.” I don’t want to fix Loki, I want to have really brutal rough sex with him and leave him crying for his brother.

    And that’s ok.

  5. “And romance novels are no more guilty of perpetrating harmful relationship and gender tropes than SF/F, Westerns, Horror, or any other form literature, genre or otherwise.”

    Most modern straight-up (as in no element of spec fic) romance novels aren’t even as creepy as a majority of those Harlequin, bodice rippers used to be. Most of them now deal with a middle aged woman who has been beaten by life trying to figure out if she’s got it in her to open up to the successful man/men who has been sending her mixed signals. They have their own set of issues (they really, really do) but they aren’t about the poor, sweet woman taming the wild and brutish man.

    “The women who write to serial killers are a tiny minority. They are not all women, nor are they even a sizeable minority of women.”

    And, personally, I think it would be fair to say that to a majority of the women writing to serial killers, those men are still simple fantasies. They might exist in the real world but the woman writing to them knows she will never meet him and her reaction to seeing him – especially outside of a prison setting – could easily be completely different.

    Of course, like you said, there are individual women who are drawn to these dangerous men. Probably for completely different reasons than other women fantasize about fictional villains. But there are also individual men who always find themselves with a woman who they need to protect and/or save. We’re all people and people are fucked the fuck up.

  6. Good points. Serial killers generally never get released on parole, so even those women who do meet and marry them, with conjugal visits and all that stuff, are in very little risk of running afoul of who they really are. But really, while (a notably still small number of) women do write to convicts (not just serial killers) they’ve never met, most of them do so through PO Boxes and never, ever want to meet these guys. (There’s actually a whole culture of women who trade fantasies with convicts, with little sub-categories of women who particularly dig guys who did specific crimes).

    And romance novels have gotten WAY less rape-y than they were even ten, fifteen years ago, precisely because the women who read them started speaking up about how fucked up those tropes were. Smart Bitches Trashy Books has scads of essays about that. As women, as our view of our sexuality has changed, so has how it is depicted in this stereotypically female entertainment media.

  7. It usually is, because real life villains are usually charming as hell, and completely fool everyone else in your life.

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