Are Women Inherently Attracted to Villains?

Ever heard of the bad boy type? The type of man who's sexy yet broody, or the type of man who’s dangerous but has a sensitive side? It’s a well-known stereotype that women are attracted to villains. The question is: why are we?

Semoy Booker
Semoy Booker
September 27, 2021

Ever heard of the bad boy type? The type of man who's sexy yet broody, or the type of man who’s dangerous but has a sensitive side? It’s a well-known stereotype that women are attracted to villains. The question is: why are we? Is it the danger they impose that’s attractive or the dark vibes they give us? Here, I present three villains that to some extent have a sexy appeal to them. Let's explore what male villains have in common and if the stereotype that women are attracted to villains has some truth to it.

  1. Darth Vader

darth vader holding his red ligthsaber

Darth Vader from 'Star Wars'

Darth Vader is the first on my list because while he might not look sexy on the outside, his attempts to lure Luke to the dark side makes us wants to root for him. Darth Vader is a fan favorite villain because he’s known to be merciless and powerful--so why would women be attracted to him? For me, his ‘’attractiveness” is more seen in The Return of the Jedi (1983) where the audience doesn’t just see Vader as the evil Jedi who killed Luke’s mentor, but also Luke’s father. But that’s not what makes him attractive. Could it be that the iconic scene of Darth Vader convincing Luke to join the dark side wasn’t just convincing Luke, but also the audience? One of Vader’s iconic quotes is “you don’t know the power of the dark side.” He says this to Luke who wanted his father to be on the good side. There’s a lot of temptation happening in this scene--it’s almost like the biblical story of Eve tempting Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Watching Darth Vader tempt his son to join evil can be a turn-on for some women who find this to be an attractive quality. Another reason why some women might feel a strange attraction to Darth Vader is because they can feel Luke being tempted as well. Luke very well may have felt tempted to join the dark side so he could be reunited with his father; however, he could also be tempted by the lust of power that Vader promises him. Yes, another reason why Vader is attractive is because he represents ultimate evil and ultimate power. Lots of heroes get tempted by power, and there’s something attractive about seeing this desire for power, because we secretly yearn for power too. So in some ways, Darth Vader is letting us explore our darkest desires that many of us suppress just as Vader is attempting to release Luke’s inner desires.

2. The Phantom

the phantom embracing chrisitine, behind candles

Gerard Butler as The Phantom

The Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera (2004) is another villain like Vader who allows us to dive deep into our darkest desires. The Phantom is known for tempting Christine to be with him, which is most revealed in the song “The Music of the Night” where Christine can only belong to him if she gives in to her fantasies. Christine represents chastity (if you didn’t already know that from her famous white robe). She’s another character that has to choose between being with someone who makes her feel love and the other who makes her feel lust. I love Gerard Butler as The Phantom because he adds an erotic aspect to the villain. For example, he’s known for caressing Christine and she allows this because a part of her doesn’t mind it. We see this in the “Point of No Return” scene where Christine knows the Phantom is disguised as one of the actors in the play. In order to reveal his true identity to the audience she gives in to her lust because she knows that’s what The Phantom wants from her. She allows him to once again caress her and have their bodies become one on stage, only to remove his mask to the audience. The Phantom is without a doubt a sex symbol for women and in some way replicates Count Dracula--both men are seen as monsters to society, and they're known to be charming and dark at the same time. 

3. Lex Luthor

lex luthor holding lana lang

Micheal Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor

Last but not least, who better of a villain than the seductive and powerful Lex Luthor? By Lex Luthor, I mean the one that Micheal Rosenbaum played in Smallville. Fans of Smallville know that Lex Luthor wasn’t always a bad guy, but from season 4 and up we gradually see his dark side emerging. So why would some women find Lex Luthor attractive? After all, he’s bald. Lex might be bald but in many ways he proves himself to be a ladies’ man, if you haven’t already seen the picture above. The person he is holding is none other than Miss Lana Lang, Lex Luthor’s love interest and obsession. Of course, some Smallville fans were upset that Lana chose Lex over Clark and find it hard to comprehend what she sees in Lex. The reason why I brought Lana into this discussion is because all the reasons why Lana fell in love with Lex are the same reasons some Lexana fans fell in love with him as well. First off, Lex may be the villain, but he has a way with words--especially his words regarding Lana which give him a charming quality, although most of his words are actually lies. Second, he’s rich. Lana may have not been attracted to Lex because of his money but in some ways, she found perks to dating someone who is rich. Because Lex is wealthy, he gave Lana anything she wanted. Of course, this was to make sure she can never leave him, hence the obsession. Lex’s wealth also makes him powerful. His money is the reason why he did experiments on meteor freaks--because he can, and nobody can stop him. 

While Lana might have been not everyone’s favorite character because she was usually a damsel in distress, that quickly changes in season 6 where Lana was forced to marry Lex. To add to this, I want to briefly talk about the mythological story of the rape of Persephone. Persephone was abducted and raped by her uncle Hades (God of the Underworld) and was forced to marry him and rule in the underworld with him. In some ways, we can compare Persephone to Lana; both seem to be damsels in distress and were forced to be married. But some might argue that Hades did not completely trick Persephone into staying in the Underworld with him. In fact, there’s a good chance that Persephone chose to become Queen of the Underworld so she can have power. Similarly, while Lana was in a trapped marriage with Lex, she gained power by being his wife which allowed her to double-cross him at the end of the season. In summary, given the villains I’ve mentioned, all of them have a common denominator of power and temptation. Are women attracted to villains, or are women inherently attracted to men with power?