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  • Writer's pictureDina McMillan

Why Do Women Like Toxic Men?

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question. Why do women like toxic men? You may even have asked why do I like toxic men? Why can’t I be attracted to a guy who’s strong, loving and loyal? Why do only bad boys give me that rush, make my heart accelerate and my mouth go dry? Why is it only heartbreakers who fill my fantasies?

If you’re reading this, you’re not alone. I published my recent book for a reason, and called it Fascination with the Devil: Why women love emotionally dangerous men (Ocean Reeve Publishing, 2023). The book walks you through the many reasons the wrong men can be appealing to many of us. It leaves you with effective instructions to fundamentally change your taste. I’m going to offer some online courses that take you step-by-step through the process to increase your chances of success.

In the meantime, let’s explore a few of the main reasons women like toxic men. When these relationship end they wonder want kind of mind fog possessed them. Because they want a decent guy, don’t they?

Why Do Women Like Toxic Men?
Why Do Women Like Toxic Men?

Why Do Women Like Toxic Men-Reason One: The Brain, Part 1

The first reason many women are drawn to toxic men is their brain. The human brain loves intensity.[i] You can tell this by studies measuring attraction levels of strangers put together on roller coasters and other adrenaline-rich activities. Even though the increased heart rate was driven by fear and speed and gravity, people tended to be more sexually attracted to whatever viable partner participated with them.

Another factor. There’s a great deal of uncertainty when dealing with toxic men. Research shows intermittent, unpredictable rewards weave a stronger, more resilient emotional bond than reliable rewards.[ii] This works in both humans and other animals. As a result, a man who’s predictably moderate and nice will not be as immediately alluring as one who’s affectionate one day and cold the next, with no clear reason for the switch.

If you haven’t figured it out yet from these examples, your brain is not necessarily your friend. And since your brain interprets what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch and desire, you should know it’s inclined to lead you astray.

Why Do Women Like Toxic Men-Reason One: The Brain, Part 2

Another powerful driver for wanting toxic men is reinforcement. Reinforcement simply means an action that increases the probability that a desired behavior will occur or recur.

The link with toxic men and bad relationships is reinforced by you.

This is something you can’t blame on other people. These are thoughts accepted within your own head and words that come out of your own mouth. If you’re emotional when you think or say them, it’s like underlining everything and putting it in ALL CAPS.

“Bad boys are more fun!” In my career I’ve heard that hundreds of times. Usually spoken by a woman who’s been in tears a short while before and is seeking help to get through another dark night of the soul. Maybe it’s just me, but heart-splitting agony and betrayal don’t look like fun to me.

I don’t share this insight with those who are still hurting because it will be interpreted as blame, and that’s not helpful. But I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit to you the importance of not reinforcing poor decision-making, claiming it as a part of your personality, even bragging about it when you’ve had some wine. In the realm of the brain, what you claim you keep, especially if you coat it in strong feelings.

If you want to move past bad relationships and toxic men, monitor what you say about them in your head. Be careful what you say. Consider it something that you used to do.

Destructive Social Norms

Your childhood is in the past, but the Beauty and the Beast archetype is alive and well. It’s too easy to find modern examples of romantic stories where the hero is strong but cruel, hypersexual and promiscuous. Once he realizes he loves the heroine, he’s able to turn his back on his wicked ways. The film Crazy, Stupid Love perfectly captures this with Ryan Gosling’s character.

Remember what I said about reinforcement a few paragraphs ago? Watching any content where the lead male is toxic just wakes up those subconscious beliefs and gives them new life. Start editing what you watch, read, listen to and promote.


I have a close friend who’s bright, attractive, ambitious, personable. She also has the worse taste in men of anyone I know. If she’s so bright, why is her taste so bad?

Her taste is due to her being incredibly resistant. Every time her current rattlesnake mean, hyper-selfish user was kicked to the curb, she’d spend endless hours going over all of his faults. At this point, she always had laser focus.

Yet, as soon as she met another guy, she’d do the exact same thing that led to her involvement and heartbreak with her previous Exes. She never seemed to learn.

Does this mean women are stuck? Are you permanently wired to like toxic men?

Of course not. But if you’ve been involved with one or more toxic men for any length of time, invite new learning and change. You have to learn to spot them early and do what it takes to avoid them like it really matters. Because it does.

Where to Go from Here

Spotting and avoiding toxic men is something I teach women to do. I talk about it in my book, Fascination with the Devil: Why women love emotionally dangerous men. I’m also going to teach brief online courses on how to do this, making it simple and effective.

I’ll give you another clue about what’s required. You have to alter your romantic fixed action patterns. These are sets of behaviors you repeat whenever you feel something strongly. Like arguing with that sibling who always pushes your buttons, even when you swore you’d keep your cool. The stimulus appears and your mind pushes an automatic response. And oops, you’ve done it again.

We tend to do it romantically, too, acting in a certain way whenever we feel sexually attracted to someone.

Disrupting it is a fairly simple process. Not necessarily easy, but simple. You have to catch yourself when you go into a heightened state whether it’s driven by anger or sexual arousal. Pay close attention to how you feel. You can even practice by visualizing realistic scenarios and allowing yourself to become immersed in the experience. In my in-person sessions we role play to really bring this to life.

Then you have to disrupt that automatic response by throwing a circuit breaker in – a sentence, a behavior, a planned action.[iii] The important thing is to retain control and keep your rational mind in charge, not the primal part of your brain that wants to jump on the guy with the dreamy eyes and the long line of babies’ mamas.

In Conclusion

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be single for life. But if you’re someone whose taste runs to passionate men who take you for granted, who cheat and disrespect you and demand their way in all things, bland and safe won’t do it for you. I’m sorry, but that’s that unfortunate bad news.

The good news is there’s another type of man who’s the best of both worlds. That’s the True Alpha Male.

My next blog will describe these guys in more detail, but let me say here that True Alpha Males are strong, exciting and have natural leadership ability. They have a deep sense of duty and personal accountability. They bond strongly and passionately to their partners.

These men are natural leaders and confident enough to have firm boundaries. They’re also protective and are usually warm and loving. They also have high standards so you won’t get away with some of the things your toxic man let slide, either because he was emotionally dysfunctional and found melodrama sexy, or because he had so much going on with other women he couldn’t be bothered to object.

You can decide to choose better, to be better. You can have the passionate, intense relationship you desire, and with someone you can also trust and love and keep for the long term. Let’s keep discussing how to make this a reality.

[i] McKinney, K. (2011). The Effects of Adrenaline on Arousal and Attraction. Scholars: McKendree University Online Journal of Undergraduate Research, 17; Chattel, A. (2015). “When it Comes to Romance, Science Has Good News for Adrenaline Junkies,” in MIC. When It Comes to Romance, Science Has Good News for Adrenaline Junkies ( [ii] Graham, C. (2022). Demystifying Toxic Romantic Relationships: Identifying Behaviors and Post-Breakup Outcomes. Arizona State University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing; Hazel, L., Barker, L. and Pronin, E. (2023) “Playing Hard-to-Get: A New Look at an Old Strategy,” in The Journal of Sex Research, 60:3, 368-383,

[iii] Cialdini, R. (2021). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – New and Expanded. Harper Business Publishers.

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